the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Removal of Untouchability and Mahatma Gandhi-IV

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229


Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India



Removal of Untouchability and Mahatma Gandhi-IV 



I do not agree that inter-dining and intermarriage can bring emancipation to anyone. Inter-dining and intermarriage are a separate question. It has no connection with caste or untouchability. It has a separate code. In any case, removal of untouchability as we have defined it today does not include inter-dining and intermarriage. 1 In spite of my statement of 4th November last, I would say that inter-dining and inter-caste marriage are in no way essential for the promotion of the spirit of brotherhood or for the removal of untouchability. At the same time, a super-imposed restriction would undoubtedly stunt the growth of any society, and to link these restrictions to varnadharma or caste is undoubtedly prejudicial to the freedom of the spirit and would make Varna a drag upon religion. But having said this, I would like to say to this diligent reader of my writings and to others who are interested in them that I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my search after Truth I have discarded many ideas and learnt many new things. Old as I am in age, I have no feeling that I have ceased to grow inwardly or that my growth will stop at the dissolution of the flesh. What I am concerned with is my readiness to obey the call of Truth,’ my God, from moment to moment, and therefore, when anybody finds any inconsistency between any two writings of mine, if he has still faith in my sanity, he would do well to choose the later of the two on the same subject. 2 

One must not however under any condition be angry with the villagers. What after all can they do? They have been taught adharma in the name of dharma they are, if anything, to be pitied. That the removal of untouchability is a religious act has been realized by no more than three young men there. The rest of the villagers continue to languish in the well of ignorance. Under the circumstances, it becomes the duty of the three young men by their firmness, purity, tapasya, sacrifice, patience and generosity to change the hearts of these villagers lost in darkness and at the same time to teach the Harijans the habits of cleanliness. They can under no circumstance take the matter to a court of law. 3 The work of removal of untouchability is not merely a social or economic reform whose extent can be measured by so much social amenities or economic relief provided in so much time. Its goal is to touch the hearts of the millions of Hindus who honestly believe in the present-day untouchability as a God-made institution, as old as the human race itself. This, it will be admitted, is a task infinitely higher than mere social and economic reform. Its accomplishment undoubtedly includes all these and much more. For it means nothing short of a complete revolution in the Hindu thought and the disappearance of the horrible and terrible doctrine of inborn inequality and highland lowness, which has poisoned Hinduism and is slowly undermining its very existence. Such a change can only be brought about by an appeal to the highest in man. And I am more than ever convinced that that appeal can be made effective only by self-purification, i.e., by fasting conceived as the deepest prayer coming from a lacerated heart. 4 

My first constructive act on return to India in 1915 was to found the Satyagraha Ashram for the purpose of serving Truth. The inmates are under the vows of truth, ahimsa, celibacy, control of palate, poverty, fearlessness, removal of untouchability, swadeshi with khadi as the centre, equal respect for all religions and bread-labour. The present site for the Ashram was bought in 1916. It conducts today certain activities mostly through the labour of inmates. But it does need to supplement that labour with ordinary paid labour. Its principal activities are: khadi production as a village industry without the aid of power-driven machinery, dairy, agriculture, scientific scavenging and literary education. The Ashram has 107 inmates at present (men 42, women 31, boys 12 and girls 22). This number excludes those who are in prison and those who are otherwise engaged outside. Up to now it has trained nearly 1,000 persons in the manufacture of khadi. Most of these, so far as my knowledge goes, are doing useful constructive work and earning an honest livelihood. 5

I am not so much concerned over the feared unhappy split on the temple-entry question as over the dangerous beliefs to which the professor refers. Suffice it to say that I shall leave no stone unturned to avoid a split. But my goal is quite clear. It is not to have Harijans regarded as a separate body in Hinduism or outside it. I shall be satisfied with nothing less than complete removal of untouchability as it is known to us today. The beliefs, however, to which the professor refers, seem to me to be most dangerous. No doubt imagination goes a long way in making us do certain things and to refrain from doing certain other things. People have been known to die of fright because they have mistaken a rope for a snake. But it would be highly improper to cultivate the habit of entertaining such imaginary beliefs. 6 As to the temples, I refer to my description of the model temple! I am trying to think that my model temple more than fulfill the requirements of my correspondent. But my reason for reproducing from the letter the reference to new temples is to emphasize the fact that Western thinkers are watching this movement for the removal of untouchability and that they would have us not merely to be satisfied with the mere destruction of the outward form, but they would have us to carry out a thorough-going reform so as to revolutionize many old-rooted ideas and so to purify Hindu society as to affect the whole of mankind. 7

There is no doubt that workers in a cause are as a rule tempted more by quantitative than by qualitative results of their labours. And though the volume of work done throughout India, as a result of anti-untouchability movement represented by the Servants of Untouchables Society, is not by any means unsatisfactory as a whole, it looks insignificant when it is distributed over the respective provinces and when it is considered relatively to the goal which is complete removal of untouchability, that is, of the high-and-lowness mentality that pervades Hinduism. There was, therefore, despondence markedly reflected at the meetings of anti-untouchability workers that were called during my convalescence after the recent fast. I did not share the despondence myself. 8 But I have now understood through Mr. Andrews that the difficulty in the way of Government carrying out the orders of the Government of India to which I have already referred is that instead of being a State prisoner I am now a convicted prisoner. If that be the cause for a radical departure from a policy explicitly laid down by the Government, not by way of concession, but as the Government of India have admitted, ‘‘because it is necessary that he (I) should have freedom in regard to visitors and correspondence on matters strictly limited to removal of untouchability”, ‘‘there being no restrictions on publicity”, I cannot understand how what was considered to be necessary for me becomes any the less necessary now, by reason of my being a convicted prisoner. Just as Government have recognized my physical wants and satisfied them in spite of my being a convict, even so, I venture to submit, do my spiritual wants regarding untouchability demand full recognition from Government. 9

It would be enough if they realize the wider significance of Goseva. Much can be done through such awareness itself. It would only mean that you had taken up one special aspect of Goseva. It is in this sense that I claim to be doing Goseva work while working for the removal of untouchability. 10 You make no mention of the various constructive activities of the Congress. They became an integral part of the Congress programme that was framed after mature deliberations in 19201. With civil resistance as the background we cannot possibly do without the constructive activities such as communal unity, removal of untouchability and universalization of the spinning-wheel and khaddar. I am as strong as ever about these. We must recognize that whilst the Congressmen can be counted by hundreds of thousands, civil resisters imprisoned have never amounted to more than one lakh at the outside. I feel that there is something radically wrong if paralysis has overtaken the remaining lakhs. There is nothing to be ashamed of in an open confession by those who for any reason whatsoever are unable to join the civil resisters’ ranks. They are also serving the cause of the country and bringing it nearer to the goal who is engaged in any of the constructive activities I have named and several other kindred activities I can add to the list. Ordinance or no Ordinance, if individual Congressmen and Congresswomen will learn the art of contributing their share to the work of building of the house of independence and realize their own importance, dark as the horizon seems to us, there is absolutely no cause for despair or disappointment. 11 

This is no new advice. Swami Shraddhanandji used to lay very great emphasis on the necessity of caste Hindus employing Harijans as domestic servants precisely on the same terms as any other. But I fear that receiving Harijans as domestic servants will be, when it becomes at all general, not a spur to the removal of untouchability, but a sign of removal. Nevertheless, it is the duty of every reformer who has got rid of untouchability from his own household to have a Harijan domestic servant. No doubt, for the reformer it would be better still if he would take a Harijan boy or girl, not as a servant, but as a member of his family. 12 Removal of untouchability does not mean merely that we should touch the people whom we regard as untouchables. Of course we should touch them, whenever necessary, with love. But removal of untouchability means much more than that. It means that we should give up the feeling of high and low. In a sense the feeling of high and low is found prevailing in all countries. But it cannot be said that this feeling is part of any religion. It is asserted that it is part of Hinduism; but if we examine objectively the fundamental principles of Hinduism, we can see that it too does not sanction such a feeling. It is true; of course, that our daily conduct is strongly influenced by this notion, and we have been taught to believe that it is a special feature of Hinduism. One of the principles of Hinduism is that we should not do to others what we would not like to be done to ourselves. In another verse having the same meaning, it is stated that we should regard all living creatures as we regard ourselves. How the feeling of high and low crept into such a religion is beyond my understanding.  13

The question is repeatedly asked whether the reform includes inter-dining. Though I have answered this question repeatedly, I must continue to repeat the answer as long as the question continues to be asked. Everybody knows what my personal views are. Since my youth upward I have consistently dined with all so long as the rules of cleanliness have been observed. But that has nothing to do with the present movement. Interdining and the rest is a question for each individual to determine for himself. The movement organized by the Servants of Untouchables Society stands for simple removal of untouchability in every shape and form, in so far as it is special to the so-called untouchables. They would have the same public rights and facilities as are enjoyed by every other Hindu, that is to say, they should have access to all public institutions, such as wells, schools, roads, temples, etc. 14 Its acceptance alone will ease the situation in the world and stop the mutual jealousies between nations inhabiting this globe of ours. You have said truly that in taking up this war against untouchability, I have not confined myself to Hinduism. I have said more than once that, if untouchability is removed in its fullness from the Hindu heart, it will have far-reaching consequences, in as much as it touches millions of human beings.

As I said last night to the great meeting in Nagpur, if untouchability is really removed from the Hindu heart, that is, if the high-caste Hindus purge themselves of this terrible taint, we shall soon discover that we are all one and not different peoples, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, whatever we may call ourselves. We shall feel the unity, once the barrier of untouchability is removed. As I have often said, untouchability is a hydra headed monster, appearing in many shapes. Some of them are very subtle. If I have jealousy for any human being that also is a species of untouchability. I do not know if my dream about the removal of untouchability. I do not know if my dream about the removal of untouchability will be fully realized while I am living. All those who are religiously inclined, those who believe not in formal religion but in the essence of religion, cannot but believe in the removal of a subtle type of untouchability that affects the lives of a vast mass of humanity. If Hindu hearts can be purged of this evil, our eyes of understanding will be more and more opened. It is not possible to estimate the gain to humanity when untouchability is really removed. You can now have no difficulty in understanding why I have staked my life for this one thing. 15

It gladdens me to find both Congressmen and non- Congressmen working together in this movement. Since questions are being asked as to how far Congressmen can join this movement, I would like to reiterate what I have said before. The Congress adopted removal of untouchability as an integral part of its programme in 1920. It is, therefore, the duty of every Hindu Congressmen to fight untouchability and help Harijans in every way open to him. But, if the movement were confined to Congressmen alone, it could not make the headway we all desire. Every savarna Hindu has to do his bit in the movement. But whilst every Congress member is expected to fight the evil, he or she is not expected officially to join the Harijan Seva Sangh. If they are active civil resisters, they ought not to hold office in these organizations. And no Congressmen who believe in and wants to offer civil resistance need in any way feel constrained to suspend or give it up altogether. The case is wholly different with those who feel the call to give up civil resistance for the sake of Harijan service or who have lost faith in the former. In this movement of self-purification as in Satyagraha there is no room for camouflage. Harijans have complained that some self-seekers have crept into the movement. In a purely religious movement there is no room for such people. Only those can or should take office that have the spirit of service in them. Some of the ladies of this place have offered me ornaments and the little children have given me a little silver casket which I wish to put for auction. I shall accept money from you all, be it even a cowries but it should be given with a pure heart. I assure you that it will make you happy and will be helpful to the Harijans. 16

For me, the removal of untouchability is fundamentally a religious question. Hinduism could not hold me if I believed that untouchability, as it is practised today, was an integral part of it. That it has been handed down to us as a custom is an undoubted fact, but so are many other bad customs among which untouchability is the worst. It becomes necessary, therefore, to show that it has no sanction in religion. 17 Whilst the Servants of Untouchables Society has very wisely limited the scope of its corporate activities, it does not regulate or restrict individual practice about inter-dining. The removal of untouchability does not require inter-dining with Harijans. Inter-dining is not a universal obligation. A Harijan worker must be left free to dine with whomsoever he pleases, and, therefore, with Harijans, without in any way being regarded as being on that account a less effective worker. My own practice is well known, and I should personally feel a hypocrite if I suppressed it ‘in the larger interests of the reform’. I should undoubtedly refrain, if inter-dining were a mere matter of convenience or indulgence for me. Far from being either, I regard it as a desirable and an inevitable social reform. But it should not be mixed up with the drive against untouchability. The central point in the untouchability movement is the removal of social and religious injustice towards those who, being regarded as untouchables, are debarred from public utilities and spiritual comfort within the religion to which they belong. I should feel no deprivation if no one in the world took food that might be cooked or touched by me. But it would be a great deprivation to me if I could not send my children to the public school, or could not rent a house in any locality open to the other members of the public, or could not seek spiritual comfort in a temple designed for the other members of my faith. 18 

Let them; therefore, begin with a thorough removal of untouchability. It will be a great step towards communal unity. Once the bar sinister against Harijans is removed, the way will be open for a wider unity among Hindus, Mussalmans and other sister communities. 19 I would ask you to believe me when I say that there is no political motive behind my Harijan work. The political consequences of the removal of untouchability have no attraction for me. Indeed, I believe that, if we approached this question with a political motive, we should fail to serve the Harijans and we should damage Hinduism. That real removal of untouchability will have political consequences is true enough. A duty religiously performed carries with it many other important consequences. ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be added unto you’, is to my mind a scientific truth. 20 All my past and present actions have been in accordance with religion as I have understood it. I have no doubt that the present endeavour for the removal of untouchability has Vedic authority behind it. I must, however, admit that there are two schools of thought on this question. Both claim to be sanatanists and base their opinions on the Hindu scriptures. 21

You express regret that, barring a few individual efforts, you have done little yet for the removal of untouchability. Happily the best of our ability requires the purification of our own hearts. If we really mean that on God’s earth there is no one low and no one high, we shall accomplish the mission that has brought me here today. This belief in the distinction between the high and the low has eaten into the very vitals of Hinduism and what I have stated from a thousand platforms is but this simple truth that, if we do not now get rid of this canker, there is the impending danger of Hinduism itself perishing. I therefore hope and pray that every one of those who are here present at this meeting will realize the truth of what I have said and will make the best possible effort to get rid of this curse of untouchability. 22 Keenly and deeply as I feel the taint of untouchability and deeply as I feel convinced that, if this untouchability is not removed root and branch from Hinduism, Hinduism is bound to perish, I would not have untouchability removed by force or show of force or compulsion of any kind whatsoever. Removal of untouchability is not a matter of law or of compulsion. Removal of untouchability is a matter of change of heart, perfect purification on the part of millions of Hindus. And that can only be brought about by the sacrifice of thousands of workers themselves, and not by causing injury to other people. Hence has every scripture that I have read pronounced from the house-tops that religion can only be defended by tapascharya? I will, therefore, beseech every one of you, who crowd round me wherever I go, to remember that this movement is a movement of personal, individual self-purification and self-conviction. And if you cannot approach this question from that point of view, I would far rather that I was deserted by you and that all the meetings were deserted by you. And if any man or woman is eager to come and listen to me or to give me an ounce of milk, he or she should do so, provided he or she has got that complete identification with the cause and a perfect spirit of self-purification. 23 

The message on the eve of leaving Tamil Nadu is that every one of us should cleanse our hearts of the sin of untouchability. We must regard all Harijans as our own blood-brothers and sisters. That means that we must forget all distinctions of high and low. We are all children of one and the same God, and, as such there can be no distinctions of high and low amongst us. Harijans should have the same rights and privileges that other Hindus have. Their children must have access to public schools. They must have access to all public wells, tanks and such other places of utility. All public temples should be flung open to them precisely on the same terms that they are open for Hindus, and if we succeed in doing these things, the natural result will be that we shall realize the essential brotherhood of man. For, removal of untouchability does not merely mean restoration of the privileges and rights of Harijans, but it means the removal of distinctions between man and man, no matter where they exist. I would like you to justify the spirit of brotherliness towards the sufferings of Bihar. I know that collections have been made amongst you, but they were only for Harijans. I hope that you will, all of you, do whatever you can towards the relief of the distress of tens of thousands of people who are homeless and foodless. 24 

And remember, too, the magnificent result that we intend, or we expect, to achieve from this removal of untouchability it is no less than the realization of the Brotherhood of Man. You cannot millions of caste Hindus cannot do reparation to several million Harijans, whom they have suppressed for centuries, without setting free a power, a force, that will envelop the whole of the human family and knit all its members together into one. And it is because I have never lost sight of this goal that I have called this movement a deeply spiritual and exclusively religious movement. And it is because I realize to the fullest extent how untouchability, as we practise it today in the name of religion, is a stumbling block in the realization of this brotherhood that I have not hesitated to say that, if we do not cleanse ourselves of this cursed untouchability, Hinduism and Hindus are bound to perish. As I, therefore, leave you tonight, I should like to leave you with the full hope that you will endeavour to realize to the fullest extent the ideal that I have sketched before you. It is easy enough to do so, if we will but change our hearts. May God help you to do so! I know that there are people among us who still cling to the belief that untouchability is not only a sin, but is an obligation imposed upon us by the Shastras. As against that, I can but give you my own personal experience based upon uniform conduct for the past fifty years, and that experience is backed by a study of our Shastras such as is possible for a layman, and at that, a busy man like me. After that prayerful study, after discussion with learned Shastris who believe in untouchability, I have come to the deliberate conclusion that untouchability has no warrant whatsoever in the Hindu Shastras. It is a sin before God and man. The sooner we get rid of this sin, the better it is for us, for the whole world. 25

I therefore rejoice to see in the municipal address that there is a change of heart on the part of the citizens of Mangalore in connection with untouchability and, as their address says very properly, without the opening up of temples to Harijans removal of untouchability cannot be said to be complete. If Harijans are an integral part of Hinduism, they must have the same rights and privileges as to temple-entry as the caste Hindus enjoy. No amount of economic betterment can possibly bring Harijans on the same platform as caste Hindus without the same rights and privileges for temple-entry as caste Hindus. But temple-entry is not a matter that can be forced. It can only be brought about by educating caste Hindu opinion. I hope therefore that you will make ceaseless efforts to educate caste Hindu opinion in the right direction. You have saved my time considerably by giving me the information that you have understood your duties by the sufferings of Bihar. But I would like the volunteers to spread in the midst of the audience and if those who have not given at all to the Harijan purse will kindly give their coppers or whatever they would like to give, it would be indication to me of your own wishes in the matter. Meanwhile I shall conduct a sale of all the numerous things on behalf of the Harijans. 26

Whenever, therefore, I spoke on the question, I contented myself with giving my opinion that it was the duty of every Hindu reformer to press for legislation, if the pledge given at Bombay in 1932 was to be redeemed. But if the vote of the savarna Hindus in general was not to be taken, what was to be done? I came to the conclusion that those only could properly have any opinion on the question who were conversant with parliamentary procedure and functions. They could appreciate how, under certain circumstances, for the very preservation of religious neutrality and freedom of conscience, on which sanatanists very properly insist, legislation might be imperatively necessary. Such bodies were, first of all, lawyers’ associations and, then, societies of Shastris, Harijan Sevak Boards and other representative bodies who could claim to have a say in such matters. I hope, therefore, that all associations who are interested in the removal of untouchability and who have a right to be heard will make their opinion known to the public and the authorities concerned. 27

Removal of untouchability implies that we shall get rid of all this high-and-lowness and accord equal treatment to all human beings as children of one and the same God, and thus have a real brotherhood of man. I have no hesitation in saying that there is no warrant in our Shastras for the untouchability that I have described to you and that we are practising more or less all over India. I ask your blessings and co-operation in this one of the noblest of all causes. 28



  1. I am interested in the Harijan cause for the sake of purifying myself of the taint of untouchability and doing penance for the sin; and, being jealous of the reputation of the faith I profess, I am anxious that fellow-members of the faith should also purge themselves of the same.
  2. Not only are the Christians entitled, but it is their duty, to combat untouchability in their own midst. But if the question is that Christians should combat untouchability in Hinduism, my answer is that they simply cannot do it, because untouchables of Hinduism should not be untouchables to Christians. The Antiuntouchability movement means weaning Hindus from their error. This cannot be effectively done by non-Hindus, even as Hindus cannot bring about religious reform among Christians or Mussalmans. If the question means that Christians should combat untouchability among Hindus by converting untouchables to Christianity, they do not advance the cause in any shape or form, the cause being reformation among caste Hindus. If the latter repented of their sin, the Harijans would be delivered from the yoke of untouchability in a moment. Conversion can never do it. It can only add to the prevailing bitterness and introduce a disturbing factor in a situation which is already bad but which, owing to the work of the Harijan Sevak Sanghs and other movements of internal reform in Hinduism, is steadily improving, untouchability being daily undermined.
  3. In many ways. I enumerate some below: (i) Caste Hindus will be purified by their repentance. (ii) The economic, moral, social and political status of Harijans will be improved at a bound by the removal of an artificial barrier which has been stunting their growth all along. (iii) Untouchability that is imposed on untouchables is such a poison that it has overtaken those living within its zone. And therefore, Hindus, Christians, Mussalmans and others have become untouchables to one another. Real removal of untouchability must bring us all together and thus promote a heart-unity of the different communities of India. (iv) Removal of untouchability with all its implications must mean a great contribution to the promotion of universal brotherhood.
  4. Harijans need not enter Hindu temples, if they do not wish it. But they should, if they have faith in them. The temple-entry movement has for its object, not the entering by Harijans into Hindu temples, but the opening of these temples to all those Harijans who wish to enter them for worship. In other words, it is a movement of repentance and change of heart in caste Hindus.
  5. I should be sorry if I found that the Hindu deities oppressed Harijans, and if they did, they were certainly not beneficent deities, but evil ones to be shunned.
  6. He would be a bold man who is able to say today with any degree of success who is Arya and who is un-Arya. Historians tell us that a blending of the two took place centuries ago. If now a sharp division is attempted, it will harm not only Hindus, both caste and outcaste, but it will harm the whole of India and, by implication, the whole of humanity.
  7. When untouchability practised by caste Hindus is radically removed, its offshoot among untouchables will automatically wither.
  8. I should assert the statement again. But the present propaganda is directed only to the purification of caste Hindus and, therefore, of Hindus. And when that purification is demonstrably attained, not only swaraj but many other desirable results will follow, as day follows night. The word “swaraj” as here used does not mean a mere legal status but something far better and more lasting. I would call it an organic status evolved from within.
  9. Whatever meaning may be given to the word “swaraj”, removal of untouchability will be a fraud if it does not carry with it the enjoyment by the freed Hindus of precisely the same rights as the other Hindus and all other communities may enjoy under it.
  10. It is beyond me, a single, poor mortal, to make provision for the livelihood of millions. That can only be achieved by their whole effort and God’s grace. But, if temples are flung open to Harijans and untouchability is eradicated, the dead weight that is grinding them down will have lifted, and they will have an equal opportunity with the rest of their fellow-men for earning an honest livelihood. 29

I have shown you what the removal of untouchability should mean to you. I am of course taking this money you have offered; but along with it I wish to carry away the hearts of the Parsi men and women, and seek your blessings that God should grant me rapid success in this work. 30 It is my first duty to give Panditji an opportunity to speak. At this time I shall say only one word more. I am very grateful for the address of welcome given to me by the Kashi pundits. I consider it your blessings to me. I am thankful for the money presented to me. Although it is a small sum, I have been promised that efforts will be made to collect more money. Kindly remain quiet and listen to Panditji with attention and follow the dictates of your reason as regards the removal of untouchability. I hope you will all listen to Panditji’s speech with due respect. 31

We have also to remember that one of the objects of the Ashram is the abolition of untouchability; it is one of our eleven vows. Now an effective observance of that vow is impossible without an observance of the other vows, especially of truth and non-violence. In fact, no worker in the cause of removal of untouchability and we are all workers in the cause is fitted for it, unless and until he is pledged to observe truth and non-violence in thought, word and deed. In a word, no service is possible without self-purification. If, therefore, we think more and more of self-purification as a result of this fast, we should be able to bring about the proper atmosphere. I shall be constantly thinking of you this whole week and I want you to cooperate with me. I am hoping that God will pull me through this ordeal, and I know that all of you will help me with your prayers. 32 Well, well, no legal quibbles. There ought not to have been a protest meeting, at all. You might have approached the preacher in the first instance; you might have gently asked him to address a meeting of the Hindus for the removal of untouchability or to appeal to the Hindus in the course of his kirtan itself to admit the Harijans to a religious function to which they had every right. You might have asked the other Hindus to boycott the function altogether. Even now, if you have sufficient energy in you, you may serve on the temple trustees notice asking them to show cause why they prevented Harijans from entering even the precincts of the temple and thus from listening to a religious sermon. That would be a good test case; whilst temple-entry may be prohibited in law, entry into the precincts may not be. But the protest meeting and the other things you did were, perhaps, an exhibition of excessive zeal. The method of our work is unadulterated non-violence, and non-violence alone will succeed. Force is sure to fail. 33

The caste system, as it exists at present, is certainly the bane of Hindu life. Its rigour is unmitigated by the British rule. On the contrary it gains force because of the so-called neutrality necessarily observed by the ruling power for the sake of itself. The great movement of removal of untouchability is an attack on the evil underlying the caste system. 34 I do preach to the Harijans cleanliness, abstention from carrion-eating and intoxicating drinks and drugs, necessity of taking education themselves and giving it to their children, also abstention from eating the leavings from caste Hindus’ plates, etc. Only, I do not put these before Harijans as condition precedent to the removal of untouchability. On the contrary, I suggest to caste Hindus that the shortcomings are not inherent in Harijans but that they are due to our criminal neglect of—even deliberate suppression of these brethren of ours. Therefore, the disappearance of these shortcomings will take place sooner for our fraternizing with Harijans even as they are and then helping them to become better men and women. That is the least penance caste Hindus can do for the past wrongs. We must approach Harijans as penitents or debtors, not as their patrons or creditors extending generosity to the undeserving. 35

As for the third question, the removal of untouchability as between the various sects of untouchables will progress almost, if not entirely, in the same ratio as the removal of untouchability on the part of caste Hindus. For, the observance of untouchability among untouchables is a direct result of its observance by caste Hindus. 36 I cannot change my mind on the cardinal doctrines of the charkha, Hindu-Muslim unity and removal of untouchability, without which you cannot even understand the principles of non-violence or free the Congress from greed and selfishness. These fundamental things, which are part of our creed, should come naturally to us. I may be told that I am asking human nature to give me too much. That may be so. It does not show that I am wrong in not being able to remain in this institution. 37

No doubt it would be true criticism if I were told that the columns of Harijan were not as interesting as they might be made. There are causes for this which is inherent in the movement itself. It must be confessed that removal of untouchability is not a popular cause in the sense in which great political movements have been and become popular all over the world. Removal of untouchability is a mighty social reform. But it cannot furnish sensations. It is a plodder’s work. And record of the work of plodders requires editorial gifts of a high order to make it interesting. Plodders can only attract plodding editors. Therefore, the only way before those who are intimately connected with the Harijan movement is to continue to work with an ever increasing faith in the cause and leave the result to take care of itself. 38 However, it is no use talking of one’s ambition. Everything will depend on us, workers. No work will suffer for want of money that much I can say, from my own experience of several institutions. Remember that we are debtors and Harijans are creditors. We have until today delighted in mounting on their backs, like ‘the old man of the sea’. We have exacted labour from them and have not scrupled to belabor them, and even to kill them, when they raised a voice of protest. A Meerut zamindar is said to have seriously injured [some Harijans] and one has died. In Kathiawar, a similar thing happened, and there, too a Harijan died. The poor folks would seem to have been born in order to toil and moil for us! We have been guilty of a heinous sin, and it is time we expiated it. It is for that purpose that the Sangh was created.

It is a stupendous task, but it has to be done. I have said it several times, and shall repeat it today, that, unless we discharge our debt, Hinduism will perish. Untouchability must be destroyed, or else it will destroy Hinduism. That is why I am giving myself no rest. Not that I do not need it. I may say that I have several years of arrears of rest to cover, but how can I have rest? How can one have rest with a raging fire within? How can any Hindu, knowing that Hinduism is on the brink of an active volcano, afford to have a moment’s rest? Not, surely, until the volcano is extinguished. In a stupendous task of this character, a gift of Rs. 3,500, like the one given by Ghanshyamdasji today, is as a drop in the ocean. Hundreds of millionaires like him will have to empty their treasures for this sacred task. If only you are consumed with a passion for it, the task will be done. There is no lack of money, as Ghanshyamdasji said. There will be none. All that is needed is the will and passion for it. The service of the Harijans is the service of Hinduism, and the service of Hinduism is the service of humanity. Hinduism is no exclusive religion, it tolerates no intolerance. Intolerance it holds to be a sin. But unless and until we befriend the Harijan, unless and until we treat him as our own brother, we cannot treat humanity as one brotherhood. The whole movement for the removal of untouchability is a movement for the establishment of universal brotherhood, and nothing less. 39

It is all implied in my non-violence, Hindu- Muslim unity, the removal of untouchability and giving back to the villagers what belongs to them. The Harijan activity and the movement for the revival of village industries come naturally to me because of non-violence. It is cruel, it is sinful, to think of mechanization in a country of 350 million human beings. Every human being is a machine, only it should be kept oiled and in proper trim. That is what I am trying to do. 40 When I was addressing a mixed conference of Harijans and non-Harijans the other day, I happened to deplore the fact that at railway stations one heard the cry ‘Mussalman milk, Mussalman water’; ‘Hindu milk, Hindu water’. ‘Hindu chapati’ and ‘Mussalman chapati’ I could bear, though I did not believe in anything like it; but Mussalman and Hindu milk, with the making of which man had nothing to do, I could neither understand nor tolerate. I added that those who believed in the total removal of untouchability had to be free from superstitions like ‘Mussalman and Hindu milk and water’. I have already remarked in these columns that those who refuse to take water and the like touched by Harijans may not claim that they are free from the taint of untouchability. It would be preposterous to justify the practice of differentiating between Mussalman and Hindu water and milk, when we do away with the difference between Harijan water and milk and non-Harijan water and milk. The great movement for the removal of untouchability would lose all its charm if it became a mere salve for conscience without truth behind it. The virus of untouchability is all-pervasive, and those who believe in it cannot be said to be free till they have ceased to regard any single individual as untouchable or in any way inferior in status by reason of his birth, community or faith. 41

I have already remarked in these columns that those who refuse to take water and the like touched by Harijans may not claim that they are free from the taint of untouchability. It would be preposterous to justify the practice of differentiating between Mussalman and Hindu water and milk, when we do away with the difference between Harijan water and milk and non-Harijan water and milk. The great movement for the removal of untouchability would lose all its charm if it became a mere salve for conscience without truth behind it. The virus of untouchability is all-pervasive, and those who believe in it cannot be said to be free till they have ceased to regard any single individual as untouchable or in any way inferior in status by reason of his birth, community or faith. 42 Of course there are many ways of reaching God and yet all are derivable from the same source. One who prays for the removal of untouchability may be doing more effective work than the one who goes among Harijans. My point is that for millions prayer without work is a mere vocal effort. 43

I gave it as my opinion that I was free as an individual to advocate in the pages of Harijan views which I may know to be contrary to the views of some members or maybe in advance of the official policy of the Sangh. In my opinion, any member of the Sangh is entitled to the same freedom so long as his views do not in any way tone down the Sangh’s objective. Its policy represents the highest common factor between the views of the moderate reformer and those of the radical. We have in the Harijan Sevak Sangh both the sections well represented. There are sanatanists who would restrict removal of untouchability to the mere touch. There are others who would extend it to inter-dining and intermarriage. The membership pledge lays down the minimum which every member has to subscribe to and practise in his or her life. It does not prevent any member from going further so long as he or she does not advocate the advanced view as the policy of the Sangh. At its very origin all sections of Hindus had met and, in order to carry the largest number of Hindus with them, that representative gathering passed a comprehensive resolution that would secure the hearty assent of the largest number present. The wisdom of the course was justified in that there was, thanks to Pandit Malaviyaji, practical unanimity. It is obvious that if the resolution had contemplated the suppression of advanced views and practice by members acting in their individual capacity many members would not have subscribed to such restriction. But on the other hands not even a majority of the members of the board could change the constitution so far as its objective is concerned. That can only be done by a general representative meeting of Hindus convened specially for the purpose. Therefore whilst the most cautious reformer may rest secure about the fundamental policy of the Sangh, the extreme radical is in no way hampered in his advocacy, as an individual, of the views which in his opinion may promote the purity and health of Hinduism. 44

I should be satisfied if your Sangh became a register of workers who have complete faith in all activities which are a concrete expression of truth and non-violence, or rather simply of nonviolence (for the practice of non-violence is impossible without acceptance of truth). Thus let no member say that he believes in truth and non-violence, but does not believe in handicrafts or khadi and service of the villager’s there through, or that he believes in truth and non-violence but does not believe in Hindu-Muslim unity, or in the removal of untouchability. If your meet such a one you may tell him that it is possible that he is a believer in truth and non-violence according to his own conception, but not according to Gandhiji’s conception of them, and that he cannot therefore be a member of the Sangh. Beyond this, your Sangh has no creedal, regional or institutional limitations. Your members may belong to any caste or creed, any race or nation. 45

This wonderful loyalty of Harijans and their unexampled patience render it imperative for every savarna Hindu to see that Harijans receive the same treatment that every other Hindu does. The course before savarnas is, therefore, on the one hand not to interfere with Harijans wishing to leave the Hindu fold by trying to keep them within it by the offer of bribes in the shape of finding employment or scholarships and, on the other hand, to insist on full justice being done to Harijans in every walk of life. Indeed reformers should anticipate the Harijans ‘requirements and not wait till they begin to complain. The Harijan Sevak Sangh is the biggest institution for the removal of untouchability. It has wisely adopted a most liberal policy of giving scholarships to deserving students. It employs as many Harijans as possible. But it is in no sense a bureau for finding jobs for unemployed Harijans. Generally speaking, there, is no dearth of jobs for Harijans who are fit for the jobs for which they offer themselves. The

Views: 9


You need to be a member of GANDHI IN ACTION network to add comments!




Ahimsa. 5 Replies

My own finding is that first and foremost action in nonviolence (Ahimsa) is the personal aspect of turning to become a vegetarian. It is kind-of easy if not other-intentional to be non violent with…Continue

Started by JP Cusick in Ahimsa (non-violence). Last reply by Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav Mar 15, 2012.


    The statement in Gandhitopia News Digest of Nelson Mandela saying that his hero was not M.K.Gandhi but J.Nehru sounded to me almost as strange as if M.K.Gandhi had said " teacher was not…Continue

Started by Arthur Bogomil Burton in Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave. Last reply by Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav Mar 14, 2012.


 SEVENTEEN SOCIAL SINS:wealth without WORKpolitics without PRINCIPLEScommerce without MORALITYeducation without CHARACTERpleasure without CONSCIENCEscience without HUMANITYworship without…Continue

Started by Arthur Bogomil Burton in Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave. Last reply by Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav Mar 14, 2012.



Started by Arthur Bogomil Burton in Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave Nov 25, 2010.

© 2019   Created by Sevak - network creator.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service