the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action
Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338
Brahmin and Non Brahmin Question and Mahatma Gandhi
During Gandhiji’s tour in South India Non-Brahmin friends in various places sought interviews with him, and discussed the various aspects of the Brahmin-Non- Brahmin question. The same questions were often asked at various places, but the scope of the answers depended on the receptivity of the questioners at each place. I have brought all of them together, and arranged them in the form of a catechism. This covers all the talks in Tanojre, Chettiar, Virudhunagar and Tinnevelly. I was not present during the conversations at Madura, but I think the collected talks will cover the topics discussed there also. I omit, of course, the references to the question in public speeches at Cuddalore, Tanojre and Coimbatore which I have already given in these pages, and I omit also talks already summarized, as for instance the one at Tirupur on superiority and inferiority.
GANDHIJI: I want you to make your position clear to me, as I do not want to be told that I refuse to try to understand or sympathize with your viewpoint. The impression left on my mind is that the real cause of the movement is political.
NON-BRAHMIN FRIEND: The movement is older than the exponents of its political aspect. There is the social and the religious aspect as well. A CHRISTIAN FRIEND: The rise of the Justice Party is due to the feeling that the Brahmins have a monopolizing tendency and hence cannot be trusted. I am speaking in reference only to the South Indian Brahmins of today.
GANDHIJI: But should you not in considering the question consider the course that Brahmanism has taken in North India? In North India whatever status a Brahmin enjoys has been given him by the Non-Brahmins. He has no independent status. In fact the consideration in North and West India is not whether a particular leader is a Brahmin or a Non-Brahmin, but whether he can lead. In the Punjab Lalaji, a Non- Brahmin, is supreme as a leader. In the U.P. there is Malaviyaji, a Brahmin. In Bengal Surendranath Banerjee, a Brahmin was as much respected by the Non- Brahmins as by Brahmins. In Gujarat the Patel Brothers, Non-Brahmins, are as much respected by the Brahmins as by Non-Brahmins. In South India you seem to have divided Hinduism not only into two camps, but divided India into Brahmins and Non-Brahmins, which term may include Mussalmans and Christians as well. Now I want you to have a clear-cut crystallized notion of your own aims and ideals. Supposing your aim to be merely political, that of destroying the alleged Brahmin monopoly of places of power, I can perhaps understand your inclusive definition of the term Non-Brahmin, though even here I see many difficulties. But if you aim also at reform, or the removal of religious and social disabilities, I should find it difficult to follow your definition of Non-Brahmin so as to include Non-Hindus. There is the question of untouchability or temple try, for instance. With the best of motives in the world, how can a Non-Hindu effectively interfere? May Non-Muslims dictate the reform of Islam? I fear that all Non-Hindu interference in the matter of religion will be looked upon with the gravest suspicion. I want you therefore to have the issue as clear-cut as possible. So far as your disabilities are concerned, there can be no question about them. They are there, and for their removal you have to offer stubborn battle. But have no illusions about the disabilities either. As to places of power, if I had any choice in the matter, I should strongly advise all Brahmins to leave them all for you, but when you raise the cry of Brahmin monopoly in Khadi Service I simply cannot understand it. The whole movement serves primarily the Non-Brahmin masses, practically all members of the executive committee of the A.I.S.A. are non-Brahmins. In South India can you in fairness contend that the Brahmins who are in Khadi Service have joined it for material gain? And so far as voluntary service is concerned, is it at all proper to raise the cry of monopoly? But even there, give me Non-Brahmins who will satisfy my requirements, and I promise that all Brahmins will vacate their places. So far as I know, the majority are there at considerable sacrifice.