Vivekanand used to call the Panchamas
‘suppressed classes.’ There is no
doubt that Vivekanand’s is a more accurate adjective.
We have suppressed them and have consequently become
ourselves depressed. That we have become the
‘Pariahs of the Empire’ is, in Gokhale’s
language, the retributive justice meted out to us
by a just God. A correspondent indignantly asks
me in a pathetic letter reproduced elsewhere, what
I am doing for them. I have given the letter
with the correspondent’s own heading. Should
not we the Hindus wash our bloodstained hands before
we ask the English to wash theirs? This is a
proper question reasonably put. And if a member
of a slave nation could deliver the suppressed classes
from their slavery without freeing myself from my own,
I would do so to day. But it is an impossible
task. A slave has not the freedom even to do
the right thing. It is a right for me to prohibit
the importation of foreign goods, but I have no power
to bring it about. It was right for Maulana Mahomed
Ali to go to Turkey and to tell the Turks personally
that India was with them in their righteous struggle.
He was not free to do so. If I had a truly national
legislative I would answer Hindu insolence by creating
special and better wells for the exclusive use of
suppressed classes and by erecting better and more
numerous schools for them, so that there would be
not a single member of the suppressed classes left
without a school to teach their children. But
I must wait for that better day.
Meanwhile are the depressed classes
to be loft to their own resources? Nothing of
the sort. In my own humble manner I have done
and am doing all I can for my Panchama brother.
There are three courses open to those
downtrodden members of the nation. For their
impatience they may call in the assistance of the slave
owning Government. They will get it but they
will fall from the frying pan into the fire.
To-day they are slaves of slaves. By seeking Government
aid, they will be used for suppressing their kith
and kin. Instead of being sinned against, they
will themselves be the sinners. The Mussalmans
tried it and failed. They found that they were
worse off than before. The Sikhs did it unwittingly
and failed. To-day there is no more discontented
community in India than the Sikhs. Government
aid is therefore no solution.
The second is rejection of Hinduism
and wholesale conversion to Islam or Christianity.
And if a change of religion could be justified for
worldly betterment, I would advise it without hesitation.
But religion is a matter of the heart. No physical
inconvenience can warrant abandonment of one’s
own religion. If the inhuman treatment of the
Panchamas were a part of Hinduism, its rejection would
be a paramount duty both for them and for those like
me who would not make a fetish even of religion and
condone every evil in its sacred name. But, I
believe that untouchability is no part of Hinduism.
It is rather its excrescence to be removed by every
effort. And there is quite an army of Hindu reformers
who have set their heart upon ridding Hinduism of this
blot. Conversion, therefore, I hold, is no remedy
Then there remains, finally, self-help
and self-dependence, with such aid as the non-Panchama
Hindus will render of their own motion, not as a matter
of patronage but as a matter of duty. And herein
comes the use of non-co-operation. My correspondent
was correctly informed by Mr. Rajagopaluchari and
Mr. Hanumantarao that I would favour well-regulated
non-co-operation for this acknowledged evil. But
non-co-operation means independence of outside help,
it means effort from within. It would not be
non-co-operation to insist on visiting prohibited areas.
That may be civil disobedience if it is peacefully
carried out. But I have found to my cost that
civil disobedience requires far greater preliminary
training and self-control. All can non-co-operate,
but few only can offer civil disobedience. Therefore,
by way of protest against Hinduism, the Panchamas
can certainly stop all contact and connection with
the other Hindus so long as special grievances are
maintained. But this means organised intelligent
effort. And so far as I can see, there is no
leader among the Panchamas who can lead them to victory
The better way, therefore, perhaps,
is for the Panchamas heartily to join the great national
movement that is now going on for throwing off the
slavery of the present Government. It is easy
enough for the Panchama friends to see that non-co-operation
against this evil government presupposes co-operation
between the different sections forming the Indian
nation. The Hindus must realise that if they wish
to offer successful non-co-operation against the Government,
they must make common cause with the Panchamas, even
as they have made common cause with the Mussalmans.
Non-co-operation with it is free from violence, is
essentially a movement of intensive self-purification.
That process has commenced and whether the Panchamas
deliberately take part in it or not, the rest of the
Hindus dare not neglect them without hampering their
own progress. Hence though the Panchama problem
is as dear to me as life itself, I rest satisfied
with the exclusive attention to national non-co-operation.
I feel sure that the greater includes the less.
Closely allied to this question is
the non-Brahmin question. I wish I had studied
it more closely than I have been able to. A quotation
from my speech delivered at a private meeting in Madras
has been torn from its context and misused to further
the antagonism between the so-called Brahmíns
and the so-called non-Brahmíns. I do not
wish to retract a word of what I said at that meeting,
I was appealing to those who are accepted as Brahmíns.
I told them that in my opinion the treatment of non-Brahmíns
by the Brahmíns was as satanic as the treatment
of us by the British. I added that the non-Brahmíns
should be placated without any ado or bargaining.
But my remarks were never intended to encourage the
powerful non-Brahmíns of Maharashira or Madras,
or the mischievous element among them, to overawe
the so-called Brahmíns. I use the word ‘so-called’
advisedly. For the Brahmíns who have freed
themselves from the thraldom of superstitious orthodoxy
have not only no quarrel with non-Brahmíns as
such, but are in every way eager to advance non-Brahmíns
wherever they are weak. No lover of his country
can possibly achieve its general advance if he dared
to neglect the least of his countrymen. Those
non-Brahmíns therefore who are coqueting with
the Government are selling themselves and the nation
to which they belong. By all means let those
who have faith in the Government help to sustain it,
but let no Indian worthy of his birth cut off his nose
to spite the face.
AMELIORATION OF THE DEPRESSED CLASSES
The resolution of the Senate of the
Gujarat National University in regard to Mr. Andrews’
question about the admission of children of the ‘depressed’
classes to the schools affiliated to that University
is reported to have raised a flutter in Ahmedabad.
Not only has the flutter given satisfaction to a ‘Times
of India’ correspondent, but the occasion has
led to the discovery by him of another defect in the
constitution of the Senate in that it does not contain
a single Muslim member. The discovery, however,
I may inform the reader, is no proof of the want of
national character of the University. The Hindu-Muslim
unity is no mere lip expression. It requires
no artificial proofs. The simple reason why there
is no Mussalman representative on the Senate is that
no higher educated Mussalman, able to give his time,
has been found to take sufficient interest in the
national education movement. I merely refer to
this matter to show that we must reckon with attempts
to discredit the movement even misinterpretation of
motives. That is a difficulty from without and
easier to deal with.
The ‘depressed’ classes
difficulty is internal and therefore far more serious
because it may give rise to a split and weaken the
cause no cause can survive internal difficulties
if they are indefinitely multiplied. Yet there
can be no surrender in the matter of principles for
the avoidance of splits. You cannot promote a
cause when you are undermining it by surrendering
its vital parts. The depressed classes problem
is a vital part of the cause. Swaraj is as inconceivable
without full reparation to the ‘depressed’
classes as it is impossible without real Hindu-Muslim
unity. In my opinion we have become ’pariahs
of the Empire’ because we have created ‘pariahs’
in our midst. The slave owner is always more
hurt than the slave. We shall be unfit to gain
Swaraj so long as we would keep in bondage a fifth
of the population of Hindustan. Have we not made
the ‘pariah’ crawl on his belly? Have
we not segregated him? And if it is religion
so to treat the ‘pariah.’ It is the
religion of the white race to segregate us. And
if it is no argument for the white races to say that
we are satisfied with the badge of our inferiority,
it is less for us to say that the ‘pariah’
is satisfied with his. Our slavery is complete
when we begin to hug it.
The Gujarat Senate therefore counted
the cost when it refused to bend before the storm.
This non-co-operation is a process of self-purification.
We may not cling to putrid customs and claim the pure
boon of Swaraj. Untouchability I hold is
a custom, not an integral part of Hinduism. The
world advanced in thought, though it is still barbarous
in action. And no religion can stand that which
is not based on fundamental truths. Any glorification
of error will destroy a religion as surely as disregard
of a disease is bound to destroy a body.
This government of ours is an unscrupulous
corporation. It has ruled by dividing Mussalmans
from Hindus. It is quite capable of taking advantage
of the internal weaknesses of Hinduism. It will
set the ‘depressed’ classes against the
rest of the Hindus, non-Brahmíns against Brahmíns.
The Gujarat Senate resolution does not end the trouble.
It merely points out the difficulty. The trouble
will end only when the masses and classes of Hindus
have rid themselves of the sin of untouchability.
A Hindu lover of Swaraj will as assiduously work for
the amelioration of the lot of the ‘depressed’
classes as he works for Hindu-Muslim unity. We
must treat them as our brothers and give them the same
rights that we claim for ourselves.
THE SIN OF UNTOUCHABILITY
It is worthy of note that the subjects
Committee accepted without any opposition the clause
regarding the sin of untouchability. It is well
that the National assembly passed the resolution stating
that the removal of this blot on Hinduism was necessary
for the attainment of Swaraj. The Devil succeeds
only by receiving help from his fellows. He always
takes advantage of the weakest spots in our natures
in order to gain mastery over us. Even so does
the Government retain its control over us through
our weaknesses or vices. And if we would render
ourselves proof against its machination, we must remove
our weaknesses. It is for that reason that I
have called non-co-operation a process of purification.
As soon as that process is completed, this government
must fall to pieces for want of the necessary environment,
just as mosquitos cease to haunt a place whose cess-pools
are filled up and dried.
Has not a just Nemesis overtaken us
for the crime of untouchability? Have we not
reaped as we have sown? Have we not practised
Dwyerism and O’Dwyerism on our own kith and
kin? We have segregated the ‘pariah’
and we are in turn segregated in the British Colonies.
We deny him the use of public wells; we throw the
leavings of our plates at him. His very shadow
pollutes us. Indeed there is no charge that the
‘pariah’ cannot fling in our faces and
which we do not fling in the faces of Englishmen.
How is this blot on Hinduism to be
removed? ’Do unto others as you would that
others should do unto you.’ I have often
told English officials that, if they are friends and
servants of India, they should come down from their
pedestal, cease to be patrons, demonstrate by their
loving deeds that they are in every respect our friends,
and believe us to be equals in the same sense they
believe fellow Englishmen to be their equals.
After the experiences of the Punjab and the Khilafat,
I have gone a step further and asked them to repent
and to change their hearts. Even so is it necessary
for us Hindus to repent of the wrong we have done,
to alter our behaviour towards those whom we have ‘suppressed’
by a system as devilish as we believe the English
system of the Government of India to be. We must
not throw a few miserable schools at them; we must
not adopt the air of superiority towards them.
We must treat them as our blood brothers as they are
in fact. We must return to them the inheritance
of which we have robbed them. And this must not
be the act of a few English-knowing reformers merely,
but it must be a conscious voluntary effort on the
part of the masses. We may not wait till eternity
for this much belated reformation. We must aim
at bringing it about within this year of grace, probation,
preparation and tapasya. It is a reform
not to follow Swaraj but to precede it.
Untouchability is not a sanction of
religion, it is a devise of Satan. The devil
has always quoted scriptures. But scriptures cannot
transcend reason and truth. They are intended
to purify reason and illuminate truth. I am not
going to burn a spotless horse because the Védas
are reported to have advised, tolerated, or sanctioned
the sacrifice. For me the Védas are divine
and unwritten. ‘The letter killeth.’
It is the spirit that giveth the light. And the
spirit of the Védas is purity, truth, innocence,
chastity, humility, simplicity, forgiveness, godliness,
and all that makes a man or woman noble and brave.
There is neither nobility nor bravery in treating
the great and uncomplaining scavengers of the nation
as worse than dogs to be despised and spat upon.
Would that God gave us the strength and the wisdom
to become voluntary scavengers of the nation as the
‘suppressed’ classes are forced to be.
There are Augean stables enough and to spare for us