the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

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


Social Reforms and Mahatma Gandhi


It is my firm conviction that some of the most imperceptible laws of economics are at work in satyagraha. In this sense I believe satyagraha to be a practical method. Maybe it will take some time before people accept it as such, since, being a new method in the sense indicated above, they may not understand it. Is it any wonder, besides, that, when we are working for the best results, the thing should take some time? When satyagraha has become an accepted method in India, political and social reforms, which at present take such a long time to bring about, will be effected in a much shorter period; the distance between the rulers and the ruled and their distrust of each other will disappear and in their place will grow love and trust. It will be the same, we may be sure, as between the different sections of society. 1

The hope of India lies in satyagraha. And what is satyagraha? It has often been described. But just as the sun cannot be fully described even by the myriad-tongued sheshnaga, so also the sun of satyagraha cannot be adequately described. And though we always see the sun but know really very little of it, even so we do ever seem to see the sun of satyagraha but we know precious little about it. The spheres of satyagraha are swadeshi, social reforms and political reform. And in so far as these are based on satyagraha, so far only, and no further, is their permanence assured. The way of satyagraha is distinct from the beaten track and it is not always easy to discover it. Few have ventured along that path and the footprints on it are few and far between and indistinct, and hence the people's dread of it. And still we clearly find people taking that course, be it ever so slowly. 2

Shri Jamnalalji’s speech as President of the Agrawal Mahasabha deserves to be read and pondered over. He has displayed the greatest freedom and courage in it. If the Marwari community can follow Shri Jamnalalji’s advice, it will lead in effecting essential social reforms as it leads in acquiring wealth. The reforms advocated by Shri Jamnalalji are equally necessary for the other castes among Hindus all over the country. Abuse of the pure weapon of boycott, dishonest and antinational commercial practices, love of pleasure among the rich, adoption of western ways by women, child-marriages, heavy burden of marriage-expenses, proliferation of sub-castes, neglect of children’s education, these and other evils prevail in some measure among Hindus everywhere. They not only sap our vitality, but obstruct our progress towards swaraj. In his speech, Jamnalalji laid the fullest stress on the eradication of these evils as also on the removal of untouchability, on khadi and on improving the methods we adopt for protecting the cow. Let us all hope that the Agrawal members present at the meeting will act on Jamnalalji’s suggestions and facilitate the task of other Hindu communities. 3

The others were daughters or sons of friends and co-workers, all having lived before like you and me. In order to hearten you, I must mention them. Vallabhbhai was a barrister with a first-class practice. His son was married the other day at the Ashram with nothing but the simple religious ceremony. No dinner was given and not one single piece of ornament was given to the bride. The other case was that of Dastane, the erstwhile leading lawyer of Bhusaval. His daughter was given to a co-worker. She had no ornament except a few yards of yarn of my own spinning round her neck. Dastane had a few friends who imposed themselves on him when he gave his daughter in marriage, and who had to be fed for one or two days. I do not think that they were more than 10, if that number. He had many more friends. But he had warned them against attending. Naturally he had sent no invitations. I could give other similar instances. In our struggle for freedom these social reforms have really become extremely necessary. 4

And now let me repeat what I have said in other places in Tamil Nadu about the social reforms which await fulfilment at our hands. Men’s lives must become pure. Faithfulness on the part of the husband towards his wife is just as much a sacred obligation as faithfulness on the part of the wife towards her husband. It is wrong, no matter what authority may be cited from the so-called Shastras, for a man to have more than one wife. It is wrong to sell daughters in marriage. It is a sin to have a child widow in one’s house and it is equally sinful to give away a child in marriage or to refuse to call all such contracts or ceremonies as an absolute nullity. And it is wrong also to keep our boys and girls without proper education and it is a heinous crime to regard a single human being as untouchable because he is born in a particular group of family. If we had a true awakening in our midst we would deal with all these social evils and deal also with the insanitation around us. 5 I hold that without the social reforms that I am advocating, thank God, in common with many of our distinguished countrymen, Hinduism is in danger of perishing. 6

Let us examine what the Conference can do. Khadi, the service of the untouchables, social reforms, etc., are of course there. By taking up these activities the Conference should nurture democracy. Administrative problems are not few prohibition, education, the railway department, storage of rain water for the whole of Kathiawar, preservation of trees and their multiplication, introducing uniformity in the excise levy throughout Kathiawar as well as uniformity in its administration. Other matters, too, which would be advantageous to both the ruler and the ruled can be enumerated. Such matters are of the utmost importance and Kathiawar can subsist on these alone. By disregarding them Kathiawar will bring about its own ruin. 7

In the resolution Lalaji has been mentioned as the guardian of the poor and there is significance in it. His heart melted wherever he saw misery. His language was certainly strong, but there was no contempt in it. Lalaji’s heart was full of universal love. He concealed nothing from the people, why should he conceal anything from his co-workers? Lalaji was such a kindhearted person that his heart melted if he saw anyone unhappy either in India or abroad. He did not have the slightest enmity towards the Muslims. It was his innermost desire that the Hindus and the Muslims should live as brothers. He wanted that in India there should be neither Hindu rule nor Muslim rule but a rule of all the people. Lalaji’s life began with religious activity and social reforms but he felt that as long as India did not get independence, nothing could be done about religious or social reforms. Like Lokamanya Tilak, he was compelled to plunge into politics. 8

The reader is not llikely to know Motilal. Well, he is an unassuming, ignorant social reformer among the Bhils of Rajputana. His passion is to wean them from meats and drink. At one time he exercised among them very great influence. And now though it is not as great, his name commands respect among his tribesmen. who owe so much of their social transformation to him. I have had the privilege of meeting Motilal after my discharge from Yeravda. He is no man of letters and hardly talks to anyone. But he means business and believes in himself and his people. I am afraid that there is a colouring of truth in the imputation that I had disowned him in 1922. I had said that he had no authority to use my name which he was alleged in 1922 to have done. But after that and when I had come to know something of his mission I had strongly recommended that he should be pardoned. I had flattered myself with the belief that Sir R. E. Holland’s recommendation had something to do with the Young India paragraph. Be that as it might, I had hoped that Motilal was pardoned, and that the incident of 1922 was wholly forgotten by the States concerned. If therefore surprises me that Mewar States has arrested and detained him not for anything he has done since but for the offences alleged against him in 1922. Apart from every other consideration, surely the Mewar State will avoid the charge of bad faith which the simple Bhils will bring against it, if their beloved leader is now detained under custody for what they have been led to believe had been pardoned. So far as I am aware Motilal has done nothing to deserve detention. I trust therefore that this simple and sincere reformer will be released and encouraged in his prosecution of social reforms among his own people. 9

I find all this in the above letter according to my lights. The writer is a good man but in a fit of anger he has forgotten what has been written in Navajivan. All of a sudden he has become incapable of judging whether articles on social reforms can appear in a newspaper which exists only for swaraj. 10 I expect every human being to be virtuous, because I expect the same thing of myself. In this world no one is perfect. By trying hard all can become virtuous. Some: rulers are immoral, but that is because the subjects are also wanting in morals. Therefore, let us not be annoyed with the rulers. Rather, when we think of the princely system let us not confuse the issue by mixing up in our deliberations thefaults of individual rulers. This, then, is a theoretical appraisal of the aforesaid subject. But from this let no one think that according to my belief nothing should be done regarding the princely order or regarding matters like the immorality of the rulers. Whatever efforts are made to wipe out social evils in India must have some impact on the rulers as well. We have no means of measuring this impact. The truth of the matter is that our efforts at social reforms are very feeble. So the pace of social betterment is also very slight. There can be a special way of dealing with immoral rulers and that is the non-co-operation of his subjects with his rule. It is sad that this kind of awakening or strength is almost absent among the public. Not only this; the officials of the ruler, guided by self-interest, give full support to the ruler in his misdeeds. 11 

It is all very well for you to say that you do not want to coerce anybody, but your position cannot but compel some people to act against their will. Some of us have no respect for your religious views or your social reforms, but we want you to live for your political power, and, therefore, if you persist in fasting, we will have to pocket our convictions and help you in your fight for temple-entry. If this is not coercion, we do not know the meaning of the word. 12 Katjuji had written to me. We may look upon the Jaipur affair as having ended well. Our workers should not be impatient. If they have to make public speeches, they should talk about khadi. There is time enough for economic and social reforms. 13




  1. Navajivan, 14-9-1919
  2. Young India, 5-11-1919
  3. Navajivan, 21-3-1926  
  4. Letter to Satcowripati Ray, June, 12, 1927
  5. The Hindu, 29-9-1927 
  6. Young India, 15-12-1927
  7. Navajivan, 29-1-1928
  8. Prajabandhu, 25-11-1928
  9. Young India, 29-8-1929
  10. Navajivan, 20-10-1929
  11. Hindi Navajivan, 28-11-1929
  12. The Bombay Chronicle, 29-11-1932
  13. Letter to Jamnala Bajaj, June 1, 1940







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