Resolution Banning Untouchability in Kochi: Dakshayani Velayudhan

[Speaking in the discussion on a resolution demanding a ban on untouchability through a Royal Proclamation. Proceedings of the Cochin Legislative Assembly 11 August 1945, 635-36 . This is originally in Malayalam; I have translated it below.]

Dakshayani Velayudhan (1912-1978), the only dalit woman member of the Constituent Assembly of India, was born in Kochi. She distinguished herself early in life as the first dalit woman in Kerala to obtain a college degree, which she remembers, was won in the face of continuing caste discrimination in college and outside. She worked as a teacher after her education and also served in the Cochin Legislative Council during 1945-48, actively participating in the debates. At the age of 34, she became a member of the Indian Constituent Assembly.

Mrs Dakshayani Velayudhan:  Sir, like the respected Nambutiri says, if you let the His Highness the Maharaja know that the Nambutiri community does not object to this, there is no doubt that this will be realized.

Mr Ittyravi Nambutiri: Is that community the main obstruction in the course of this?

Dakshayani Velayudhan: In truth, that is the perception.

Mr Puthur Achutha Menon: Six years back, members of the same community had argued for this.

Mrs Dakshayani Velayudhan: We are not demanding entry into [the Nambutiri brahmin’s] kitchen. The root of all our oppression  lies in this practice, ayitham or untouchability. It is untouchability that obstructs all our progress. Now this is not just a community’s issue; it has become a political issue. So, even when viewed from that angle, the Government is duty-bound to end this. In truth, this is a great injustice wreaked upon this community. Whichever community foisted this injustice on humanity in general, it is that very community that must find a solution to it. If the members of the oppressed communities remain silent in the middle of this, the Government may misunderstand that they do not need this. The respected Government has been doing much to ensure our flourishing. If these measures are to bear fruit then the matter raised in this resolution must be attained. Mahatma Gandhi says — [in English] “He has said a thousand and one times that if Hinduism is to survive, untouchability should go.” It will be better not to make him repeat it a thousand and second time. If we have to be able to stand up straight before other Princely States and say that we are a civilized Government,  such disabilities imposed upon certain communities have to be removed. These disabilities suffered by my, our community, the oppressed communities, which obstruct our progress, must be removed by the authorities without any effort from us, without any agitation by us.  This must be urgently done — the practice of ayitham that obstructs our dignity, the hubris of the people who believe that observing it is a matter of pride, should be eliminated by responsible authorities.

I am a subject of Kochi; I am also a subject of Travancore. When I go there, I do not suffer untouchability. But here I have to suffer it. Matters of jati are the same in both places. We are not demanding something similar to the entry into temples granted by Travancore. Our demand is the removal of untouchability. If it is removed all other issues will also be resolved. In time [we may] also enter [privileged-caste] kitchens.  We don’t insist on entering [these places] right now. If this is removed, then all our infirmities will automatically recede. Therefore I pray that this reform must be implemented.

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