Untouchables or The Children of India's Ghetto
There are many people who must be wondering as to how such an established order so full of inequalities could have survived. What are the forces, which go to support it? The forces which sustain the system the most important is the determination of the Hindus to maintain it at all cost. The Hindus are prepared to use every means to suppress the Untouchables whenever the Untouchables try to upset it even in the slightest degree. The ordinary non-violent Hindu will not hesitate to use the utmost violence against the Untouchables. There is no cruelty, which he will not practice against them to sustain the established order. Not many will readily believe this. But this is a fact. For those who have any doubt on the point, I reproduce below some cases of tyrannies and oppressions practised by the Hindus against the Untouchables as have been reported from time to time in the newspapers:
The following news item appeared in the " Tej " of Delhi in its issue of 4th September 1927:
" The Shiv Temple of Vykom has been desecrated by the Harijans by their coming too near to the temple. Now the Hindus of that area have decided that the ceremony of purifying the temple should be elaborately performed at great expense before the place is fit for worship again." The correspondent of ' Pratap ' reports the following incident which appears in its issue of 2nd September 1932:
" Meerut August 1932. On the day of Janmashtami some Harijans tried to gain admittance into Caste Hindu Temple but nothing came except widespread troubles and unrest. This year the local Dalit Association has decided that if the doors of the temples are not opened to them, they will undertake Satyagraha. When the Hindus came to know of this, they started making plans to defeat the moves of the Harijans. At last on the night of Janmashtami, the members of the Harijan community came in the form of a procession and tried to gain access to the temple Gods. The priests, however, refused them permission to enter and said, " You can have audience of the Gods standing outside on the street." Upon this a great crowd gathered at the place. The priests tried to enter the temple and thus a clash took place between the two parties and blows were freely exchanged."
The Hindus do not allow the Untouchables to enter the Hindu temples. It would be thought that they would allow the Untouchables to have their own temples and install therein the image of God. That is a mistake. The Hindus will not allow even that. It is enough to quote two instances. One is from the "Pratap" of 12th February 1923:
"In the District of Agra, a Chamar who had seen a Brahmin worshipping the image of Vishnu in his house, began to do the same himself. When the Brahmin came to know of this he was most indignant and with the help of a number of villagers caught hold of the ill-fated Harijan, gave him a sound beating saying, ' How dare you try to win over the God Vishnu '. Finally, they stuffed his mouth with filth and left him. In sheer desperation the Chamar abandoned the Hindu faith and embraced Islam." The other is from the 'Hindu' of 4th July 1939:
" A meeting of the Bellary District Harijan Advisory Board was held on 29th June 1939 at the Collector's Bunglow. Mr. A. D. Crombie, CIE., ICS., President of the Committee and Collector presided.
With regard to the grievances of the Harijans of Narayanadevarakeri including allegations of extraction of forced labour from them and harassment by moneylenders, the Committee decided to call for official report, with a view to taking action, if necessary.
The religious disabilities of the Harijans residing in Kudathini village were brought to the notice of the Committee. It was alleged that though the Harijans constructed a temple in their colony as long as twelve years ago, they could not install the image of God which was also ready in the temple, owing to the objections raised by a section of the Caste Hindus in the place to the Harijans taking ' out the image in procession in the village before the installation."
How any attempt to take water from the Hindu well is dealt with by the Hindus can be seen from the following instances. The first one appeared in the ' Pratap' of 12th February 1923:
" Mahashaya Chhedi Lalji has reported that a Chamar was going for idol worship, when on the way he felt thirsty. He cast his own iron pail into a well and drew out some water. Upon this he was rebuked by a high caste Hindu and then soundly beaten and locked up in a room. As it happened, I was passing by and when I enquired why this man was being kept under lock and key, the Diwan Saheb replied that this man cast his own pail into our well and wants to profane religion."
That even the Hindu women will not hesitate to take part in the assaults committed by the Hindus against the Untouchables who dare to take water from the Hindu well is a fact. Compare the following report which appeared in the ' Pratap ' of 26th February 1932:
"On 19th February 1932, a very tragic incident took place in the village of Pul Bajwan. This happened when Mahashaya Ramlal went to fetch some water from a well, the same well at which on 13th January 1932 some Rajputs had belaboured Mahashaya Ramlal and his companion. Pandit Bansilal. At that time, a crowd of Rajput women came up armed with all sorts of bats and sticks and gave such a sound beating to the Mahashaya that it is difficult to describe. All his body was covered with blood by the time the Rajput women had done with him. At this time, he is admitted in the hospital of Phuklian."
That even the support of an officer of Government in the exercise of their right to take water from the well will not save the Untouchables from assault is clear from the following incident which appeared in the ' Milap' of 7th June 1924:
" Some days ago, an officer of the Canal Department came to the village of Rahian in Tehsil Sabha and he ordered some Megha Untouchables to help in drawing out water from a well. At first they refused but the officer rebuked them sternly and forced them to draw water. The next day the Hindus gathered at the well and sent for the Megha through a Chowkidar and asked them why they dared to climb up to the well. One Megha replied that they were obliged to do so and it was no fault of theirs. For this cheek he was attacked by the Hindus with sticks and hands and until the time of writing this, he is lying unconscious. Although the doctor has declared that the injuries are minor ones, a report of attempted murder and unlawful assembly has been filed with the Police. This however has been ignored and the indifference of the police has created a feeling of great insecurity among the Megha people. The villagers are persecuting the Meghas very much, even their cattle are not allowed to drink water and all wells and ponds have been closed to them."
The Untouchables cannot take water from the Hindu well is not all. They must not build a pucca brick well for themselves even though they may have the money to do so. For having a pucca well for them selves means an attempt to raise themselves to the status of the Hindus which is contrary to the Established Order. The 'Milap' of 6th June 1934 reports the following incidents:
"Lala Ram Prashadji, Secretary of the Achhut Udharak Committee, Punjab, has written to the following effects:
" During this hot season, complaints are being received from everywhere that the supply of water is becoming a great problem. The Depressed Class people, who have no wells of their own sit near the well with their vessels in their hands. If someone is kind enough to pour out some water, well and good, otherwise they sit helpless. In some places, however, no one is allowed to pour out water to these people even for money and if anyone does so, mortal fights ensue. Not only is the use of the village wells forbidden to them, but they are not even allowed to make wells of their own with their own money."
To the same effect is the incident reported in the " Tej" of 21st April 1924:
" The Chamars of the village, Opad, numbered about 250. About a month and half ago, they gave up drinking water out of the leather bags of the Muslim water carriers (on the suggestions of the Arya Samaj Pandits?) and now they are in great difficulties about their water supply. The Jats of the village not only refuse to let them draw water out of the village wells but do not even let them make wells of their own. The poor Chamars are living on water from ponds and ditches. Yesterday, Dr. Sukhdevji, Secretary of Dalit Sudhar (Harijan Uplift) Committee came to make investigations in Upad and saw everything with his own eyes. He found the condition of the Chamars abject beyond words and their persecution by the Jats a real fact." The following is from the ' Times of India' dated 9th May 1931:
" In the Baroda State the Untouchables are supposed to be better treated than in the adjoining British territory, because the State has made laws recognising the equality of the Antyaja with caste people. And yet in Padras Taluka the other day the standing crop of a poor Antyaja woman was fired and she herself brutally assaulted, because she dared to send her little son to the local primary school. Now comes a tale of woe from Chanasma in Kadi Prant where an artisian well has been sunk and built with the labour of the Antayajas who were promised the use of the well. But when the well was ready for use they were first flatly told it was not for them, and when they complained to the Punch the latter generously allowed them to lay a pipe 500 feet long at the end of which they could have a tap all for themselves. Now an unexpected owner of the land at the tap had cropped up, so the pipeline was taken somewhere near to the local tank, but this meant pollution of the tank and therefore of the dirty linen washed there. So the tap was accommodated elsewhere. But did this mean the end of the trouble? No, the enraged caste people have cut the pipeline several times and the Antyajas are without water to drink. How very 'adequate' to use Mr.Gandhi's term, must the Untouchables feel the treatment given to them by their coreligionists."
Mr. Sanjana in a letter to the ' Times of India ' of the 7th November 1928 reports what Mr. Thakkar saw in the year 1927 regarding the awful plight of the Untouchables in the matter of water.
" In Balsad Taluk, Mr. Thakkar saw a Bhangi woman waiting near a well for some merciful ' people ' to give her some water. She had waited from morning till noon, and none had given her any. But the most exquisite touch of spirituality is revealed in the manner of giving water to the Bhangis; it cannot be poured direct into their potsany ' people ' doing so would get polluted. Says, Mr. Thakkar, ' once our teacher Chunibhai had shown the temerity of pouring water direct from his bucket into a Bhangi's pot and he had received a stern warning in consequence ' Master this sort of thing won't be (tolerated) here '. A small cistern is built below the slope of the well. Anyone who is moved by pity may pour some water in the cistern. A bamboo pipe just out of the cistern, and the Bhangi women must put her pot under the pipe, and it may get filled in an hour or so. For, adds Mr. Thakkar, it is only the unwanted water remaining over in the bucket of the woman drawing it that is as a rule thrown into the cistern, and that too if she takes pity on the waiting Bhangi woman."
Under the established order, the Untouchables have no right to education and certainly have no right to be admitted to the village school. Those Untouchables who have dared to make a breach in these rules of the Established Order have been severely punished by the Hindus. The following are only a few of the numerous cases that have happened:
From the ''Arya Gazette" of Lahore dated 30th June 1921:
"A Mahashaya wrote an article in the paper ' Young India", in which he reported that in district surat there is a village called Sisodri. In a very short span of time it has made such progress on the path of nationalism that it could be held up as a model of non-co-operation. With all this, however, the old contempt for the Harijan remains. The writer says that in the nationalist school of that place, I saw a Dhed caste child sitting all apart in one corner of I the classroom and proclaiming by his very looks that he was an untouchable. I asked the students why they did not let this boy sit with them and they replied that this could not be until the Harijan left drinking wine and eating meat. The Harijan boy at once said that he had already given these up. The high caste students could say nothing now."
From the 'Pratap' of 12th February 1923: " Mahashaya Santramji has reported :
It happened recently that a Brahmin teacher was appointed by the Government to go and teach in a village school for Chamar boys. When he came there, the Brahmins, Kshatrias and others boycotted the teacher saying, ' You have come here to teach the Chamars and raise them to our level. Have You?" From the 'Tej' of 11th April 1924: "Swami Shradhanandji has written: There was a nationalist school in Khatsayas which I visited towards the end of November 1921. When I enquired how many Harijan children read there, I was told only three and they too, sit outside the classroom in the verandah. In my lecture I objected to this procedure and said that in a nationalist institution, it was only proper that these boys should be allowed to sit inside the classroom. The manager of the school acted on my advice. The next day the benches of the school were all deserted and till this day the Grand building of that nationalist school stands locked out and dreary." From "Milap" dated 18th April 1924:
" Here is an incident from Hoshungabad. The district Council sent a circular letter to the schools that the Harijan children should be educated in the schools. The headmasters began to act on the orders. When one of the schools admitted some Harijan children the Honorary Magistrate took great offence at it and withdrew his children from that school; other guardians also followed suit and all together got a meeting of the school committee convened and resolutions passed in it, that the education of Harijans in the school is against the Public wishes. They said that after coming into contact with Harijans, the Brahmin children change their Janayu (a religious thread) therefore this school committee could not undertake the education of Harijan children." From "Pratap" dated 3rd April 1932:
"Ahmeda-bad, 1st April 1932: A report has been received from the village of Nawagaon, Baroda State, that ever since the Harijan schools were closed down and permission given to the Harijans to enter the ordinary village schools, the villagers have been subjecting the Harijans to endless persecution. It is reported that the thousand stacks of hay belonging to Harijan farmers, were burnt down, Kerosine oil has been sprinkled into the Harijan wells and attempts made to set fire to their houses. A Harijan boy was assaulted on his way to school and a general boycott of the Harijans has been declared."
The " Hindustan Times" in its issue of 26th May 1939 says: " Several persons are reported to have raided a night school in village Catipore in the district where Kisans and others used to be taught. The teacher was caught hold of by them, and asked to close the school on the ground that the boys of the Untouchables, after acquiring education will begin to assert themselves to treat them on a footing of equality. When the teacher refused to do so he was belaboured and the students were asked to disperse." The last instance I would like to refer occurred in the year 1935 in the village of Kavitha in Dholka Taluka of the Ahmedabad District of the Bombay Presidency. The incident occurred on 8th August 1935.
As the Bombay Government had issued orders requiring the admission of the children of the Untouchables in public schools, the Untouchables of village Kavitha thought of taking advantage of the order. What happened to them is reported below:
"On 8-8-1935, the Untouchables of the village Kavitha took four of their children to be admitted in the village school. Much caste Hindus from the village had gathered near the school to witness this. This occasion for admission passed off quietly and nothing untoward happened. From the next day however the caste Hindus of the village withdrew their children from the school as they did not like their children sitting with those of the Untouchables and getting themselves polluted."
" Some time thereafter an Untouchable from the village was assaulted by a Brahmin on 13th August 1935. The male members of the Untouchables of the village had come to Dholka to file a criminal complaint against the Brahmin in the court of the Magistrate. Coming to know that the adult members of the Untouchables were absent the Hindus of the village invaded the quarters of the Untouchables. They were armed with sticks, spears and swords. Among the invaders was caste Hindu women. They started attacking the old men and women of the Untouchables. Some of the victims fled into the jungle some shut themselves up. These invaders directed their vehemence against those Untouchables who were suspected to have taken a lead in the matter of the admission of their children in the village school. They broke open their doors and not finding them in, they broke the tiles and the rafters of the roofs over their houses.
"Terror-stricken these Untouchables men and women who were assaulted and beaten were anxious about the safety of those of their elders who had gone to Dholka and who were expected back that night. The caste Hindus knowing that the leaders of Untouchables who had gone to Dholka would be returning had concealed themselves behind the bushes and shrubs on the way to the village. Having come to know of this, an old Untouchable woman sneaked out of the village in the dark, met the leaders who were returning and informed them that armed gangs of caste Hindus were hiding themselves to waylay them and that therefore they should not come into the village. They refused to listen fearing that the caste Hindus might do greater mischief in their absence. At the same time, they were afraid that if they did enter they might be assaulted. They therefore decided to wait outside the village in the field till after midnight. In the meantime, the gang of caste Hindus who were in ambush waited and waited and finally gave up the game and retired. The leaders of the Untouchables entered the village after about 3 a.m. in the night. If they had come earlier and met the murderous gang they would probably have been done to death. On seeing the harm done to person and property they left the village for Ahmedabad before day break, and informed the Secretary of the Harijan Sevak Sangh, a body organised by Mr. Gandhi to look after the welfare of the Untouchables. But the Secretary was helpless. Not only did the caste Hindus use physical violence, but they conspired to make the life of the Untouchables intolerable. They refused to engage them as labourers; they refused to sell them foodstuffs. They refused to give them facilities for grazing their cattle and they used to commit stray assaults on Untouchable men and women. Not only this, but the caste Hindus in their frenzy poured kerosine oil in the well from which the Untouchables used to get their supply of drinking water. This, they did for days together. The result was that the Untouchables of the village had no water. When things reached this stage the Untouchables thought of filing criminal complaint before a Magistrate which they did on 17th October, making some of the caste Hindus as the accused."
"The strange part of the case is the part played by Mr. Gandhi and his henchman, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. With all the knowledge of tyranny and oppression practised by the caste Hindus of Kavitha against the Untouchables all that Mr. Gandhi felt like doing was to advise the Untouchables to leave the village. He did not even suggest that the miscreants should be hauled up before a court of law. His henchman Mr. Vallabhbhai Patel, played a part which was still more strange. He had gone to Kavitha to persuade the caste Hindus not to molest the Untouchables. But they did not even give him a hearing. Yet this very man was opposed to the Untouchables hauling them up in a court of Law and getting them punished. The Untouchables filed the complaint notwithstanding his opposition. But he ultimately forced them to withdraw the complaint on the caste Hindus making some kind of a show of an understanding not to molest, an undertaking, which the Untouchables can never enforce. The result was that the Untouchables suffered and their tyrants escaped with the aid of Mr. Gandhi's friend, Mr. Vallabhbhai Patel. IV
The Untouchables are claimed by the Hindus as Hindus. But the dead body of an Untouchable cannot be cremated in the Hindu cremation ground.
The "Free Press" of 7th June 1946 reports the following:
" Citing a recent criminal case in which two Madura Harijans were sentenced to four months rigorous imprisonment for doing an act which was likely to wound the feelings of others, Mr. A. S. Vaidyanatha lyer in a communication to the press draws the attention of the public to the 'cruel suffering which the Harijans have to bear by reason of Untouchability.'
Mr. Vaidyanatha lyer says: ' A Madura Harijan who had lost his eldest child cremated the body in the Madura municipal burning ghat in a shed which is said to be set apart for caste Hindus instead of in the one reserved for Harijans. The Harijan's plea was, he did not know of any such reservation, that it was drizzling and that the former place was better. No caste Hindu raised any objection nor was there any proof that anyone's feelings were wounded. The incident came to the notice of the Madura police who prosecuted the father of the child and another near relation on the ground that such act was likely to wound the feelings of others because the Harijans were Untouchables. Mr. lyer adds, "he brought this case to the notice of the Madras Ministry."
The 'Savadhan' of 22nd April 1945 says:
"On 18th March 1945, a sweeper died in the village Floda, District Muzaffarnagar. The Sweepers of the village took the dead body to the cremation grounds. This enraged the Tyagi Brahmins of the village who abused the sweepers for their audacity in bringing their dead to the caste Hindu grounds. The sweepers protested that they were Hindus and would cremate the dead. But the Brahmins were not at all amenable to reason and told the sweepers that irrespective of their being Hindus and Muslims they must bury their dead and if they failed to do it they (Brahmins) would themselves bury the dead body. When the poor sweepers were thus threatened and were also afraid of being beaten they buried the dead body." This is not all. There is a further point to benoted. The Touchable Hindus dispose of the dead body by cremating it. Just because it is a presumption on the part of the Untouchables to initiate the ways of the Hindus, which are marks of their superior status, the Untouchables must necessarily bury their dead even if they do not wish to do so. An instance of this compulsory burial was reported in the ' Milap' of 6th June 1924:
"The chief cause of the awakening among the Untouchables is the tyranny of the Hindus. I was not aware of this but the reports that I have received from various workers has caused me much pain. From one place I am informed that the Untouchables of that place are not allowed to even burn their dead. This, however it seems has created a new spirit among the sweepers of the place. They have started burying their dead with the head downwards probably to distinguish themselves from others who bury the corpse in a lying position. The Sweepers think that if they also act in imitation of others, it is derogatory."
The wearing of the sacred thread is evidence of noble birth. The Untouchables with the idea of ennobling themselves thought of wearing the sacred thread. The atrocities committed by the caste Hindus on the Untouchables of the village Ringwari in Garhwal District in U. P. are reported in the 'National Herald' of 6th June " After leading a fugitive life for well nigh two months as a result of persecution at the hands of the caste Hindus, ten families consisting of 33 Harijans have now been able to return to their-homes in village Ringwari of Chandkot with the help of the district authorities of Garhwal. These Harijans, it may be recalled, had taken full advantage of the social movement started for their uplift by Mahatma Gandhi and the late Swami Shradhanand. They had taken the sacred thread and made it a part of their duty to perform 'Sandhya'. But this was resented very much by the caste Hindus of Garhwal as according to them it amounted to a virtual invasion of their 'right and privileges'. The resentment found expression in a number of assaults on Harijans and persistent social persecution. They were asked to desist from using ' polies ' and ' palkies ' in their marriage procession and four of them were compelled at one place to kill a buffalo and eat its flesh. At Ringwari these atrocities reached a climax, when all the water springs, grazing grounds and other public places were closed to the Harijans who refused to submit to the caste Hindus. In consequence the above mentioned ten families had to leave their villages at dead of night, in order to avoid further persecution." Other instances of similar sort are given below:
1. "Some Arya Samajists managed to raise the caste of some Untouchables and gave them the sign of the caste, namely, the religious thread worn round the neck. But the mass of the Sanatanists could not bear even this because their religion does not allow the Untouchables to wear the thread. This is why thread-wearing Untouchables are daily persecuted by the high caste Hindus."
2. "Bhagat Harichand of Moila, District Mirpur, Jammu State was purified by the Arya Samajists and given the thread to wear. The Hindu Jats of the place began to victimize him and ask him to put off the thread. Harichand however remained steadfast on his religion. At last one day when the Bhagat Harichand had finished the Gaitri Path, he was caught hold of by the Hindu Jats and severely beaten and his thread broken. The cause of their incensement was this that wheareas before the Shudh, Shudha Meghs had addressed the Jats as ' Gharib Nawaz ' (the benefactors of the poor), now they only use 'Namastey'." From the Arya Gazette dated 14th September 1929:
"The Hindu Rajputs of the village Ramani, near the town Berhampur, Distt. Gurdaspur, called the Untouchables of their villages from their homes and ordered them to put off the holy thread at once and swear never to put it on again otherwise their lives were in danger. Upon this Untouchables calmly replied ' Maharaj why are you angry with us. Your own brothers, the Arya Samajists have very kindly put these threads round our necks and have ordered us to always protect them for they are the true symbols of the Hindu faith. If you take objection to them, you can tear them off our bodies with your own hands'. Upon this the Rajputs fell upon the poor men with their lathis and kept on thrashing them for a long time. The Untouchables put up with this persecution with great fortitude and refused to resist or protest. But their torments took no pity on their helpless condition and three or four Rajputs actually tore the holy thread off the body of a Harijan named Gori Ram and bruised his body with a hoe in mock imitation of the sign of the thread." From the 'Milap' dated 12th October 1929:
"The Rajputs of the village Bahmani have from time past launched a programme against the Untouchables. There is a case going on in the court about the breaking of a holy thread and there is another case too, about an Untouchable woman who was going on to the field to cut the harvest on 7th October 1929 when a Rajput severely thrashed her and caused serious bruises. The woman was brought home on a bed."
" Nanda Ram and Mangali Prasad of village Pachhahera, Police Post Margaon, Tehsil and District Sitapur, invited their friends and relatives for a communal feast. When the guests were sitting on cots and smoking, Thakkur Sooraj Baksh Singh and Harpal Singh, Zamindars of the village, came there, sent for Nanda Ram and Mangali Prasad and asked who the people sitting and smoking were and why they were sitting on cots. Mangali Prasad said that they were his friends and relatives and asked if only Thakkurs could sit on cots. Enraged by this, the Thakkurs beat both the brothers and their men beat the guests severely as a result of which one man and one woman became senseless and others sustained serious injuries."
The Untouchables are Hindus. They are also citizens with the same civic rights. But the Untouchables cannot claim the right of the citizenship if it conflicts with any rules of the Established Order. For instance, no Untouchable can claim lodging in an inn even though it is public. In 'Jivan' of August 1938, is reported the experience of an Untouchable named Kannhaiya Lal Jatav of Fetegarh:
"When I went to stay in Dharmashala near Allahabad Junction on 15th August 1938 at 10 p.m. there was no difficulty and I laid down on a cot after paying an advance of Re. 1. But at II p.m. when the lodgers went to the Manager of the Dharmashala to note down their addresses, and while noting down my address I put down my caste as Jatav; the Manager got wild and said that the Dharmashala was not meant for the stay of low caste people and asked me to get out at once. I pointed out to him that according to the rules of the Dharmashala, it was meant for Hindus only and there was no ban on Untouchables and asked if I was not a Hindu that he was asking me to leave. I also pleaded that being resident of Farrukabad and not acquainted with anyone in Allahabad there was no place where I could go at 11 p.m. On this, the Manager got furious and repeating the couplet from Ramayan (Shudras illiterate, cattle and women all these deserve to be beaten) said that in spite of being a low-caste he dared to talk about rules and law and will not get out unless he is beaten. Then suddenly he got my bedding etc., threw out of the Dharmashala and all of them were ready to beat me. In the face of such odds, I at once left the Dharmashala and lay down on a plank of wood in front of a shop facing the Dharmashala and had to pay annas 2 as rent to the shopkeeper for a night. I therefore appeal to my Scheduled Caste brethren to hold meetings everywhere and request Government to construct separate Dharmashalas for our people in every town or to get all the existing Dharmashalas opened for us."
Under the Established Order, the work of lifting and removing dead cattle as well as doing the scavenger's work is beneath the dignity of the Hindus. It must be done by the Untouchables. The Untouchables have also begun to think that it is derogatory to their status and are refusing to do it. The Untouchables, however, are forced by the Hindus to do it against their will. The 'Jivan' of June 1938 reports: "One day, in May 1938, Bhajju Ram Jatav of village Bipoli, Police post Baria, District Aligarh was sitting in his house at about 11 a.m. when some Brahmins namely Prithik, Hodal,.Sita Ram, Devi and Chuni, all of whom had lathis came and tried to force him to lift dead cattle; and when he refused saying that he was not used to that work and asked them to go to some one who does that sort of work, he was mercilessly belaboured with lathis."
The same journal in its issue of October 1938 gives the following news item:
"On 24th October 1938, some cattle of a Brahmin of village Lodhari, Tehsil Sadabad, District Muttra, died. The Scheduled Caste people of the village who were asked to lift it refused to do so. This enraged the caste Hindus so much that they have asked the Scheduled Caste people not to go to their fields for ablutions nor to allow their cattle to graze in their (caste Hindus) fields."
The Untouchables must not wear decent and clean clothes and they must not wear gold or silver ornaments. If the Untouchables defy these rules, the Hindus will not hesitate to bring them to book. The Untouchables have been trying to defy these rules, with what consequences will be seen from the following incidents, which have been reported in the newspapers:
"Until 1922, the Untouchable caste of Dalai in Berar District of Bundi, were forbidden to eat wheat. In February 1922, a Chamar woman was put on the Rock in Sakatgarh, Jaipur, simply because she was wearing silver ornaments on her feet. The reason given was this that only men of the high castes were allowed to wear silver or to eat wheat. The low caste people should not dare to aspire to these things. So far we had been thinking that such antiquated ideas were supposed to have had probably died out by this time." The ' Times of India' in its issue of 4th January 1928 reports the tyranny and oppression practised upon the Balais who form an Untouchable community in Central India for their daringness to wear clean clothes and golden ornaments. Says the 'Times':
"In May (1927) high caste Hindus viz., Kalotas Rajputs and Brahmins including the Patils and Patwaris of villages Kanana, Bicholee Hafsi, Bicholi Mardana and of about 15 other villages in the Indore district informed the Balais of their respective villages that if they wished to live among them, they must conform to the following rules:
3. They must convey intimation of the death of any Hindu to relatives of the deceasedno matter how far away these relatives may be living;
4. In all Hindu marriages, the Balais must play music before the processions, and during the marriages;
7. The Balais must render services without demanding remuneration, and must accept whatever a Hindu is pleased to give;
8. If the Balais do not agree to abide by these terms, they must clear out of the villages.
The Balais refused to comply; and the Hindu element proceeded against them. Balais were not allowed to get water from the village wells; they were not allowed to let their cattle to graze. Balais were prohibited from passing through land owned by a Hindu; so that if the field of a Balai was surrounded by fields owned by Hindus, the Balai could have no access to his own field. The Hindus also let their cattle graze down the fields of Balais.
The Balais submitted petitions to the Darbar of Indore against these persecutions, but as they could get no timely relief, and the oppression continued, hundreds of Balais with their wives and children, were obliged to abandon their homes in which their ancestors lived for generations, and to migrate to adjoining states, viz. to villages in Dhar, Dewas, Bagli, Bhopal, Gwalior and other states.
Only a few days ago the Hindus of Reoti village barely 8 miles to the North of Indore city ordered the Balais to sign a stamped agreement in accordance with the rules framed against the Balais by the Hindus of other villages. The Balais refused to comply, lt,is alleged that some of them were beaten by the Hindus; and one Balai was fastened to a post, and was told that he would be let go, on agreeing to sign the agreement. He signed the agreement, and was released ". The next is from the 'Arya Gazette' dated 21st January 1928:
" Up till now the tales of woe that were usually related of the persecution of the Harijans were mostly from the Madras province, but now thanks to the treatment of the Maharana of the Simla Hills, one has not to go so far to search for these stories. In the Simla district, their dwells a caste called ' Collie ' whose members are very handsome and hard working. The Hindus of that area consider them to be Untouchables although they do not engage in any such work which should render them objectionable in the eyes of the Hindu religion. The members of this caste are not only powerful and well built but intelligent also. Almost all the songs that the dwellers of the Simla Hills sing are composed by the ' Collies '. These people labour all day long and venerate the Brahmins excessively but still they cannot so much as pass near the house of a Brahmin. Their children cannot read in schools and ' Pathashalas ' (religious monastic schools). Their women folk cannot wear gold ornaments. It has even been reported that some Collies have gone to the Punjab and earned some money with which they have bought gold rings and earrings. When however they have brought these back to their homes, they have been cast into the jail and not freed until the ornaments had passed into the pockets of the State Officers."
On the 23rd of March 1926, in the evening a Chamar came to me who had recently managed to escape from the clutches of the Jats. He related to me a moving tale of the sufferings that his caste had to put up with in the village of Kheri near Faridabad in the District of Gurgaon. On the morning of 24th March I reached Faridabad in the District of Gurgaon, so as to investigate the state of affairs myself. The result of my enquiries is briefly as follows:
" On the 5th of March the marriage took place of the daughter of a Chamar called Gorkhi. The financial condition of the Chamar was comparatively good and he entertained his guests in the same way as people of the high castes do. Moreover, before handing away his daughter, he gave her three gold ornaments. This news spread amongst the Jats and was widely discussed. It was decided finally that the high castes had been insulted by the fact that the lower castes have started viewing with them. Till the 20th of March nothing untoward happened but on the morning of the 21st the Jats called a meeting of the Panchayat (village council) to consider the matter. Just at that moment a party of the Chamars of which the greater portion was composed of boys, girls and women was setting out for Faridabad on its daily duty. The party had just gone out of the village as far as the Dharmashala when the Jats attacked it. All the men of the party were belaboured and the women were thrashed with shoes. The backs of some were broken and of some the arms. Not only this, even their implements were robbed. A Muslim happened to pass along that way and the Jats took hold of him also and robbed him of his big gold ear-rings as well as of twenty-eight rupees. On the 22nd of March some groups of the Jats went into the fields of the Chamar and played havoc with them. The crop thus destroyed was estimated at about a thousand rupees. At that time, Nanwa, the son of Kori, was working in the fields. The Jats gave him also a thorough beating. On the 22nd of March again a party of the Jats sallied forth armed with flaming torches dipped in Kerosene oil, with the intention of setting fire to the houses of the Chamars but later came away. On the 23rd of March at midnight a house was set on fire belonging to the grandfather of that married girl who has been mentioned above. The house is now a heap of ashes. It contained sixteen skins ready to be made into shoes and worth 90 rupees. They also got burnt up together with the other household goods. The general situation now is that the Jats have surrounded the town and no Chamar is allowed to go out. The Baniyas also, out of fear of the Jats, have refused to sell anything to the Chamars. For three days the Chamars as well as their cattle have been starving." The following is a more recent occurrence. It has happened in Malabar. The facts of the case are revealed by the following resolution passed at the first Chirakal Taluka Harijan Conference held at Cherukunn in Malabar on 5th June 1945 with Shri K. Kannan, M.L.A., presiding:
" This Conference invites the urgent attention of the Government and the public to the increasing cases of inhuman oppressions of the Scheduled Castes of Malabar by Hindus, Muslims and Christians, particularly to the severest type of oppression now going on, almost with impunity, in the Nattika Firka, Ponnani Taluk, where something like a regular Harijan hunting is taking place every day as a result of the Harijans trying to wear gold ornaments and use clean clothes and umbrellas. In addition to numerous cases of assaults a Harijan marriage party was way-laid and assaulted and the shirts of men and the sarees of women removed by force and a Harijan student mercilessly beaten in Vadanpilly on 27th May 1945. This Conference while congratulating the progressive Thiya youths of the place under the enlightened leadership of Messrs. C. S. Gopalan, M. S. Sankaranarayan and P. C. Ramakrishna Vydier for their magnificient efforts to help the Harijans, most emphatically protests against the callous indifference of the local authorities, particularly \ of the Police Department in that the ill-treated Harijans did not get any timely protection from them.
This conference desires to state that almost in all cases of the above-said oppressions, the aggrieved Harijans have received neither protection nor justice from the police. There are instances where poor Harijans were even beaten by the Police for their coming forward to give evidence in such cases. In so far as these events have reduced the Harijans of Malabar to a very miserable plight and the situation, if left alone, is likely to develop into a crisis endangering the lives of all progressive Harijans who are trying to break the shackles of caste and economic exploitation of the vested interests in Malbar. This Conference most earnestly appeals to the Government of India, the Hon'ble Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and all the enlightened people in the country to see that the Harijans are allowed to live in this land as free citizens of a democratic country unmolested by any people and promptly protected by the administration whenever they are oppressed by others."
The Untouchables must not eat rich food even if they can afford it.
" In the State of Jodhpur at a place Chandayal, you will still see men who do not think that the Harijans have even the right to eat Halva. One of the Untouchable castes is that of Sargaroes. Sometime back on the occasion of the Marriage ceremony of two or three girls, Halva was prepared for the members of the marriage party. For this purpose, maida (white flour) was brought from the Thakur Sahib. At mealtime, the marriage party came for meals but just at that time the Kanwar Sahib of Chandawala sent orders to the Saragaroes that they could not eat Halva. Some cringing sycophants negotiated a compromise in this way that the Kanwar Sahib be presented with Rs. 200 and then permission will be given to eat Halva. At this the Sargaroes got infuriated and refused to pay the money."
To lead a marriage procession through the main streets of the village is the right of every caste Hindu. It is also in evidence that the community, which enjoys this right, is accepted as a respectable community. The Untouchables have no such right. But they have been seeking to establish such a right by taking their marriage procession through the main streets of the village with the object of establishing their social status. The following incidents show how the Hindus have dealt with this claim. From the 'Adi- Hindu' dated July 1927:
"Bangalore, 27th May 1927: Seven Brahmins were sentenced to pay a fine of hundred rupees each, by the First Class Magistrate. These men had wantonly attacked a procession of the well-known Pariah Untouchable caste when it was passing along the Mallkot Road where only Brahmins live."
From the 'Pratap' dated 25th October 1931: "In the village of Hargaon, district Garhwal when the high caste Hindus heard that a marriage party of the Untouchables was coming and the bridegroom was sitting in a palanquin they sallied forth in great numbers and surrounded the party and gave it a severe beating. In intense cold they held up the marriage party and kept it without food for 24 hours. The members of the party were inhumanly treated and were only rescued from this difficult situation by the coming of the Police."
From the 'Satya Samwad' Lahore dated 3rd November 1931: "A marriage party was passing near Delhi, carrying the bridegroom in a palanquin. The high caste Hindus took offence at this for they thought it to be an insult to them. They held up the party for two days and gave it nothing either to eat or drink. At last the police came and chased away these tyrants and rescued the marriage party."
1. "In village Sevra, the Golas (Purva Thakurs) who boast of being Congressites, have so mercilessly beaten with spears and lathis the unarmed Jatavs of that village that five of them were lying wounded in the hospital with arms and ribs broken. Bansi has sustained fracture of the skull bone and is still unconscious in the hospital. All this happened because when a marriage party came to the village the bridegroom was wearing a glittering crown (Pukka Mohar) which offended the Thakurs, who wanted to attack the marriage party; but desisted because of the party's superior strength and were therefore content with only insulting the marriage party within the Zamindari at that time."
2. " In village Dorra, Tehsil Fatechand, District Agra, a marriage party came to the house of Moti Ram Jatav from village Rampur. The bridegroom was wearing a glittering crown and the party also brought band music and fireworks. The Caste Hindus objected to the party proceeding with the music band playing and displaying fireworks. Moti Ram protested against this and said that they were also as good human beings as any others. On this, the caste Hindus caught hold of Moti Ram and gave him a severe beating and also attacked the marriage party. A sum of Rs. 15-1-0 tied in Moti Ram's turban was also removed."
3. " While a marriage party was on its way to the house of Prem Singh and Girvar Singh, Jatavs of village Khurva, Police post Sakini, District Aligarh, it was prevented by the caste Hindus from proceeding further unless the music band stopped playing, and the procession was threatened to be killed and looted if the music was not stopped. Caste Hindus were also enraged for refusal by the Jatavs to do 'Begar" and for the audacity to have music band playing with a marriage party. On the marriage party's refusal to stop music, the caste Hindus were so much enraged that they threw brick-bats and stones at the party."
" A Shilpakar marriage party of the village of Dhanuri in Lands down sub-division carrying the bridegroom in a 'palki' was proceeding to the bride's house in the village of Mall Dhangu. A man introducing himself as an agent of the Patwari of Mall Dhangu advised the party to go through an out of the way route to avoid disturbance by caste Hindus.
The Shilpakar party reached the bride's house two days later and the marriage was, it is reported, performed in the presence of the Sub-divisional Magistrate and a police party brought by him.
The Patwari has been suspended in this connection."
The Rajputs and the Harijans of the village were on hostile terms for some time past ever since the Harijans took out a procession to celebrate the birth of an heir apparent to the Gwalior Darbar. The Rajputs strongly protested against it, as according to them, Harijans were not entitled to the privileges of such celebrations.
Last month, a proclamation was issued by the Maharaja giving equal rights to the Harijans."
Here are a few cases to show how the Hindus treat with violence any attempt on the part of the Untouchables to imitate the ways and manners of the Hindus and to have a little pride in themselves. The following is from the "Bombay Samachar" of 4th November 1936:
"At Uttapalam (in Malabar) an Ezhava by caste named Sivaraman, aged 17, went to the shop of a caste Hindu to buy salt and asked in the Malayalam language for 'uppu'. In Malabar, according to custom, caste Hindus alone can use the word 'uppu' for salt; being only a Harijan he ought to have used the word 'pulichatan'. Consequently, the high caste grocer was very angry and is alleged to have thrashed Sivaraman so severely that the latter died." The following instances are collected from the ' Samata ':
(1) "At Kathi (District Poona) the people have begun to persecute the Untouchables because the latter have begun saying ' Ram, Ram and Namaskar '. Be it known to the un-intimated that these are salutations which only the higher castes have the right to employ; the Mahars, etc. must say 'Johar' or 'Paya Lagu'(I touch your feet) to the people.
(2) The Untouchables of Tanoo (District Poona) tried to behave 'like Touchable Hindu people'; the result of this impudent encroachment is that many of them have had to leave the village and some have migrated to Bavda.
(4) At Jambad (District Sholapur) the Untouchables refused to make ' Nautch ' and ' Tamasha ' for the diversion of their Touchable lords. Therefore these Untouchables were thrashed, their huts were burnt down or pulled down, and they were driven out of the village limits.
(5) At Bavda (District Poona) some Untouchables exhorted their fellow-outcastes to give up eating the leavings of higher caste people, dead animals, etc., and to refuse to do the dirty work of the people. The elders of the village have told these Mahars with new fanglad notions that it is their ' Dharma ' to eat what they have always been eating and do what they have been doing. Those Mahars who do not follow their ancient and eternal ' Dharma ' have been thrashed by the people and threatened with expulsion from the village."
The Hindu treats the Untouchables as being born to serve the Hindu community. It being his duty to serve, the Untouchables cannot refuse to serve the Hindu whenever the latter call upon to do so. The Hindus of the village hold the belief that they can commandeer the labour of the Untouchables. The system is known as ' Begar ', or forced labour. A few instances will show that dire consequences follow from the refusal of the Untouchables to submit to the system.
The Thakkurs and the Brahmins of this village used to extract Begar from the Jatavs and to harass them. The latter decided not to do Begar and do only that work for which wages were paid. Recently, a bullock died in the village and the Thakkurs and other caste Hindus tried to force the Jatavs to lift it, but they said that they could do that only if they were paid. This enraged the caste Hindus so much that they asked a sweeper to fill the Jatavs' well with excreta and make them not to go to their fields for ablutions and decided to tease them in every way. When the Jatavs prevented the Sweeper from putting excreta in their well, he called the Jats, Thakkurs and Brahmins who were all ready for an attack. They attacked the Jatavs with lathis and seriously belaboured them and also set fire to their houses as a result of which six houses were burnt to ashes and 18 Jatavs were wounded seriously and a lot of their household property was taken away by the rowdies." The same Journal in its issue of February 1939 reports:
"The Jats of village Abhaipura, tehsil Kirvali, district Agra, are used to extract Begar (Forced labour) from the poor Scheduled Caste people and beat them on demanding wages. Some three months back Sukhi Jat forced Sukh Ram, Ghanshyam and Humka, Jatavs to do work for them and did not pay any wages. These persons are so much fed up with such high-handedness that they have left the villages and lived with their relatives in other villages, while their utensils and other household goods have been taken away by the Jats and concealed in some barn." The ' Savadhan" in its issue of 3rd June 1945 reports the following incident:
" Mehraji Kori, a Scheduled Caste woman has filed a complaint in the court of Mr. Mahboob Alam, City Magistrate under Sections 376, 341 and 354-A against Brahma Singh, Suleman and Aftab, constables of Jubi Police post. It is alleged that at about 10-30 p.m. on 2nd May 1945 these three constables, Sumar, Kahar, Kallu Bibis son and some others came and searched her house and then took her to the police station and kept her there for the whole night. In the early hours of the morning these constables took her to a small room bolted it and then all three of them violated her modesty one by one. Then she was removed to another small room where charcoal and pieces of paper were filled in her private part and they put their private organs in her mouth. Her clothes were torn and saturated with blood. The following day her mother was forced to do begar work for the whole day and then both of them were left off at 10 p.m.
Murala, wife of Maharaji's husband's younger brother has also filed a similar complaint. She has alleged that the same constables took her to the police post the same night and returned her to her house. On the way she was caught by Madari Teli, near Kumar Tola, to the ruins of a house and her modesty violated. Messrs. Munna Lal, Bhushan and Ram Bharose, advocates are appearing for the complainant."
In the ' Hindustan Times' of 15th April 1945 occurs the following news item:
" For refusal to do forced labour, it is alleged, a large number of Harijans in the village of Dukheri in Ambala District were recently assaulted by a party of Rajputs. A man and a woman, both Harijans, were killed. It is also alleged that a large number of houses belonging to Harijans were set on fire. Telegrams have been sent to the Commissioner and the Deputy Inspector General of Police to inquire into the matter."
From these instances, it will be clear to anyone that the Hindus do not hesitate to use violence to hold down the Untouchables and maintain the established order and even to commit, murder. Mr. Lajpat Rai in his book '.Unhappy India' in which he tried to reply to and refute the charges levelled by Miss Mayo in her ' Mother India ' gives a lengthy and lucid description of the lynching of the Negroes in the United States and the atrocities committed upon them by the members of the Ku Klux Klan and asks:
" What however is very relevant to her to ask is: is the unjustifiable and cruel attitude of the Brahmins towards the Pariah more unjustifiable and more cruel than that of the Klansmen of America towards the Negroes?"
" What are the caste cruelties of India put by the side of what the whiteman has done to the non-white people?" Lala Lajpatrai, if he had cared to investigate could have found that the cruelties and atrocities practised by the Hindus against the Untouchables were no less than those practised by the Americans upon the Negroes. If these atrocities are not so well known to the world as are those practised upon the Negro, it is not because they do not exist. They are not known because there is no Hindu, who will not do his best to conceal truth in order to hide his shame, Some might think that this description of the Established Order and the rules made thereunder are matters of ancient past. This is a complete mistake. The Established Order subsists even today and the rules are as operative today as they were when they were made. This will be evident from the two following statements on the condition of the Untouchables which have appeared in the 'Hindustan Times '. The first appeared in the issue of 8th March 1945. The first one is written by one Kesarilaiji Bordia, Headmaster of a school called Vidya Bhuwan in Udaipur. It reads as follows:
" Many are the disabilities under which the Harijans in Mewar live. They cannot enter temples, nor can they draw water from public wells. They cannot join the caste Hindus in festivals and processions. They have to take out their Rath Yatra or Doll procession through a different route and on a different day. And they cannot ride through the village.
Even silver ornaments, let alone gold ones on their person are resented by the caste Hindus. The result is, they have to content themselves with tin and brass articles. Age-old usage prevents them from using butter or gur in wedding feasts.
In Schools and other public places, Harijan boys cannot sit with the children of caste Hindus. They are asked to absent themselves on the inspection day in order to save the Inspector from embarrassment.
A memorandum has been submitted to the State Government. If the Government chooses to declare in unequivocal terms the disapproval of these disabilities, the hands of non-official bodies which are fighting untouchability will be strengthened." The second is in the form of a statement issued by the President of the Harijan Sevak Sangh and refers to the condition of the Untouchables in the State of Mewar. It reads as under:
"The Mewar Harijan Sevak Sangh has sent a Memorandum to the Mewar Government drawing their attention to the various disabilities of Harijans in the State and their consequent hardships. The Memorandum brings out how civil liberties of Harijans are curtailed in several ways by the orthodoxy and prejudices of caste Hindus.
I enumerate below some of the unjust practices, which still persist in the State and for the rectification of which the State has taken no effective measures. They are as follows:
1. Harijans have no liberty in the selection of clothes to wear. The form of dress must follow the age-long pattern; personal tastes and desires have no place in the choice of the dress.
2. At wedding feasts they have no choice in the selection of food materials. Even on payment they cannot use costly articles.
3. They cannot ride the village on a horse.
4. They are not allowed accommodation in public vehicles.
5. On religious festivals they cannot take out procession of their idols except through specified routes.
" Three years ago in company with Thakkur Bapa, I travelled all over the State and placed before the Government and public my impressions of the conditions obtaining there and pleaded for reform. On perusal of the above mentioned memorandum and other reports sent to me, I find that the past few years have hardly brought any change and conditions are more or less static.
It is heart breaking to find that passage of time cuts no ice with us. The result is that there is hardly any change in our age-long practices and prejudices. This perversity which blinds us to the tyranny and injustices of our ways also makes us impervious to the incalculable harm we have already suffered as a result of it. Even if the ignorant prejudice of the common man is unshaken the enlightened Governments of the twentieth century ought to be more alive to their responsibilities."
The dates of these communications are important. They are of the year 1945. None can say that this Hindu Established Order is a thing of the ancient past. The fact that these latest accounts refer to the Indian States should not be understood to mean that the established Order has vanished from British India. The chapters to follow will present enough evidence to show that the same Established Order is very much alive in British India.
Chiranji, a dhobi of the village of Sarras in the District of Etah, went out as a military employee in the last war and remained out of his village for four or five years. When he was discharged, he returned to his home. He stopped washing clothes and used to go about in the village in his military uniform. This coupled with the fact that he refused to wash clothes even for the men of the Raja of Sarras the sole zamindar in the village, was resented by the villagers.
On December 31, 1947, when the dhobi was washing his clothes, four villagers, including the Raja's servants, approached him and asked him to wash their clothes which he refused. The villagers took Chiranji to the Raja's house and gave him a beating. His mother and mother's sister went there to intercede on his behalf but they too were assaulted.
The attackers then went away leaving Chiranji in the custody of one Ram Singh; finding him alone, Chiranji was alleged to have slapped him and run away. Ram Singh and other servants of the Raja chased him to his house where he had taken shelter. The villagers insisted upon his opening the door but when there was no response, his house was set on fire. A number of other huts were also reduced to ashes.
The dhobi lodged a complaint with the Police who disbelieved his story and wanted to prosecute him for a false report. He then filed a complaint in a Magistrate's Court. The accused were convicted and sentenced to three years' imprisonment, each. The High Court upheld the sentences imposed by the Magistrate. The following news item has appeared in the ' Indian News Chronicle' dated 31st August 1950.
Patiala, August 1950: "The unprovoked thrashing of the Backward Class people, inhuman insults heaped upon their women folk, indiscriminate detachment of the Harijans from the lands, the virtual confinement of the Harijans and their cattle in their mud houses for days together without any fault is a long tale of suffering whose echoes are rising in proportion to the diminishing echoes of crime in general," says a memorandum presented by the PEPSU Provincial Depressed Classes League to the State Government.
"While crime in PEPSU is on the decrease due to the vigorous efforts of the police," the memorandum adds, "it is a pity that the sector of the Backward Class should be deprived of the protection from the unsociable elements ". The Backward Classes economically handicapped as they are, find it very difficult to ventilate their day-to-day grievances to the authorities concerned who could immediately come to their rescue, and are perforce, compelled to submit to their lot, to the encouragement of the aggressor, and thus the wail of disgust against the present state of affairs grows still louder which in its turn is made stock of by the interested parties."
The Provincial Depressed Classes League further quoted an instance to show how much inhuman treatment was being meted out to Harijans in PEPSU. Chand Singh a Harijan of village Katu, district Bernala, was made to go round the village on the back of donkey with face blackened for the fault of having drunk water at the well of a high caste zamindar. " In the changed atmosphere of free India, the members of the Scheduled Castes in the PEPSU are daily finding themselves put in a tight corner as a result of the unprecedented repression let loose upon them by the members of high castes."'
The Provincial Depressed Classes League has further suggested formation of district and central special commissions in the State with wide powers to deal with the complaints on Harijans on the spot and afford them other facilities.
Concluding, the League has urged upon the State Government that pending an all-India enactment in this connection, it may, temporarily be provided that the Harijans have equal rights in the village common, to ease the situation from further deterioration.
WHY LAWLESSNESS IS LAWFUL?
The foregoing discussion [f.1]must have made clear two things, which must be borne in mind. One is the sharp division between the touchables and untouchables, the other is the deep antagonism between the two.
Every village has two parts, the quarters of the touchables and the quarters of the untouchables. Geographically the two are separate. There is always appreciable distance between the two. At any rate there is no contiguity or proximity between them. The untouchables quarters have a distinct name such as Maharwada, Mangwada, Chamrotti, Khatkana, etc. De jure for the purposes of Revenue Administration or Postal Communication, the quarters of the untouchables are included in the village. But de-facto it is separate from the village. When the Hindu resident of a village speaks of the village he means to include in it only the caste Hindu residents and the locality occupied by them. Similarly when the untouchable speaks of the village he means to exclude from it the untouchables and the quarters they occupy. Thus in every village the touchables and untouchables form two separate groups. There is nothing common between them. They do not constitute a folk. This is the first thing which must be noted.
The second thing to note with regard to this division of the village into two groups is that these groups are real corporations which no one included within them can escape. As has been well said the American or European belongs to groups of various kinds, but he "joins " most of them. He of course is born into a family, but he does not stay in it all his life unless he pleases. He may choose his own occupation, residence, wife, political party, and is responsible generally speaking for no one's acts but his own. He is an "individual" in a much fuller sense because all his relationships are settled by himself for himself. The touchables or untouchables are in no sense individuals because all or nearly all of his relationship are fixed when he is born in a certain group. His occupation, his dwelling, his gods and his politics are all determined for him by the group to which he belongs. When the touchables and untouchables meet they meet not as man to man, individual to individual but as members of groups or as nationals of two different States.
This fact has an important effect upon the mutual relationship between the touchables and untouchables in a village. The relationship resembles the relationship between different clans in primitive society. In primitive society the member of the clan has a claim, but the stranger has no standing. He may be treated kindly, as a guest, but he cannot demand "justice " at the hands of any clan but his own. The dealing of clan with clan is a matter of war or negotiation, not of law; and the clan less man is an 'outlaw', in fact as well as in name and lawlessness against the strangers is therefore lawful. The untouchable not being a member of the group of touchables is a stranger. He is not a kindred. He is an outlaw. He cannot claim justice. He cannot claim rights which the touchable is bound to respect.
The third thing to note is that the relationship between the two, the touchables and the untouchables, has been fixed. It has become a matter of status. This status has unmistakably given the untouchables a position of inferiority vis-a-vis the touchables. This inferiority is embodied in a Code of Social conduct to which the untouchables must conform. What kind of a code it is, has already been stated. The untouchable is not willing to conform to that Code. He is not prepared to render unto Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar. The untouchable wants to have his relationship with the touchables by contract. The touchable wants the untouchables to live in accordance with the rules of status and not rise above it. Thus the two halves of the village, the touchables and the untouchables are now struggling for resettling what the touchable thinks is settled forever. The conflict is centred round one questionWhat is to be the basis of this relationship? Shall it be contract or shall it be status?
This raises some very interesting questions. How did the untouchables come to have the status of the lowliest and the low? Why has the Hindu cultivated this hostility and contempt for the untouchables? Why does the Hindu indulge in lawlessness in suppressing the untouchables as though such lawlessness is lawful? To give an adequate answer to these questions one has to go to the law of the Hindus. Without a working knowledge of the rules of the Hindu Law, it would be impossible to give any satisfactory answer to this question. For our purpose, it is not necessary to cover the whole field of Hindu Law in all its branches. It is enough to know that branch of the Hindu law which may be called the law of personsor to put it in non-technical languagethat part of the Hindu law which deals with differences of right, duty or capacity which result from differences of status.
It is therefore proposed to give a catalogue of the rules of the Hindu Law which relate to the law of persons. These rules are collected from the Law Books of Manu, Yajnavalkya, Narada, Vishnu. Katyayana etc. who are some of the principal lawgivers recognised by the Hindus as persons having authority to lay down the law. A mere reproduction of the rules however interesting cannot be helpful in enabling a person who goes through them to have an idea of the basic conceptions which underlie the Hindu Law of Persons. For that purpose mere reproduction of the rules will not do. Some order is evidently necessary. What is therefore done is to group these rules under certain heads. The whole thing is cast in the form of a digest divided into sections, each section being an assembly of rules dealing with one definite matter.
DIFFERENT CLASSES: THEIR ORIGIN AND THEIR DUTIES
2. [f.3]Then the divine self-existent (Svayambhu, himself) indiscernible (but) making (all) this, the great elements and the rest, discernible, appeared with irresistible (creative) power, dispelling the darkness.
10. [f.11]The Sages have distinguished five sorts of attendants according to law. Among these are four sorts of labourers (mentioned above). The slaves (are the fifth category, of which there are) fifteen species.
12. [f.13]One released from a heavy debt; one made captive in a fight; one won through a wager; one who has come forward declaring ' I am thin ' an apostate from asceticism; one enslaved for a stipulated period.
13. [f.14]One who has become a slave in order to get a maintenance; one enslaved on account of his connection with a female slave; and oneself sold. These are fifteen classes of slaves as declared in law.
EQUALITY BEFORE LAW
1. [f.17]When two persons abuse each other, their punishment shall be equal if they are equals in caste; if one is inferior to the other, his punishment shall be double; for a superior, half (of the ordinary punishment) is ordained.
3. [f.37]For the self-existent (Swayambhu) having performed austerities, produced him first from his own mouth, in order that the offerings might be conveyed to the gods and manes and that this universe might be preserved.
10. [f.44]But let (the father perform or) cause to be performed the Namadheya (the right of naming the child) on the tenth or twelfth (day after birth), or on a lucky lunar day, in a lucky Muhurta, under an auspicious constellation.
12. [f.46](The second part of) a Brahmana's (name) shall be (a word) implying happiness, of a Kshatriya's (a word) implying protection, of a Vaishya's (a term) expressive of thriving and of a Shudra's (an expression) denoting service.
13. [f.47]Let him (a Brahmana) not dwell in a country where the rulers are Shudras, nor in one which is surrounded by unrighteous men, nor in one which has become subject to heretics, nor in one swarming with men of the lowest castes.
15. [f.49]Where a Brahmana (endowed with the qualities enumerated) cannot be had (the King) should appoint a Kshatriya or a Vaishya, proficient in the Sacred law, but the (the King) should carefully avoid a Shudra as a Judge,
16. [f.50]Whatever is done by others (as Judges) than these must be regarded as done wrongly, even if they be officers (of the King) and even if by chance the decision is according to the Sacred texts.
17. [f.51]A Brahmana who subsists only by the name of his caste (Jati), or one who merely calls himself a Brahmana (though his origin be uncertain), may, at the King's pleasure interpret the law to him, but never a Shudra.
21. [f.55]The Brahmana is declared (to be) the creator (of the world), the punisher, the teacher, (and hence) a benefactor (of all created beings); to him let no man say anything unpropitious, nor use any harsh words.
2. [f.57]Members of three Varnas can become slaves but a Brahman can never become a slave. Slavery in the case of the (three) Varnas viz., Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras is in their direct order and not in their inverse order. A Shudra could be the slave of any master of the four castes, a Vaishya of any master of the first three castes but not of a Shudra Master, a Kshatriya could be the slave of a Brahman or Kshatriya Master but not of a Vaishya or Shudra Master.
3. [f.58]Even one of the same caste (i.e. a Brahman) should not make a Brahmana work as a Slave . . . . . A man who is Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudra may occasionally do the work of slave for a man of the same caste (as his own) but a Brahman should never be made to do the work of a slave.
4. [f.59]For the first marriage of twice born men (wives) of equal caste are recommended; but for those who through desire proceed (to marry again) the following females (chosen) according to the (direct) order (of the castes), are most approved.
5. [f.60]It is declared that a Shudra woman alone (can be) the wife of a Shudra, she and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Vaishya, those two and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Kshatriya, those three and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Brahmana.
8. [f.63]A Shudra who has inter-course with a woman of a twice born caste, guarded or unguarded (shall be punished in the following manner); if she was unguarded, he loses the part (offending) and all his property; if she was guarded, everything (even his life).
9. [f.64](For inter-course with a guarded Brahmani) a Vaishya shall forfeit all his property after imprisonment for a year; a Kshatriya shall be fined one thousand (panas) and be shaved with the urine (of an ass).
11. [f.66]If a Vaishya approaches a guarded female of the Kshatriya caste, or a Kshatriya a (guarded) Vaishya woman, they both deserve the same punishment as in the case of an unguarded Brahmana female.
12. [f.67]A Brahmand shall be compelled to pay a fine of one thousand (panas) if he has inter-course with guarded (females of) those two (castes); for (offending with) a (guarded) Shudra female a fine of one thousand (panas shall be inflicted) on a Kshatriya or a Vaishya.
13.[f.68] For (intercourse with) an unguarded Kshatriya (female) a fine of five hundred (panas shall fall) on a Vaishya; but (for the same offence) a Kshatriya shall be shaved with the urine (of a donkey) or (pay) the same fine.
14. [f.69]A Brahmana who approaches unguarded females (of the) Kshatriya or Vaishya (castes), or a Shudra female, shall be fined five hundred (panas); but (for intercourse with) a female (of the) lowest (castes), one thousand.
15. [f.70]But let (a householder) offer, in accordance with the rule, to a guest who has come (of his own accord) a seat and water, as well as food, garnished (with seasoning) according to his ability.
1. [f.74]Brahmans who are intent on the means (of gaining union with) Brahman and firm in (discharging) their duties, shall live by duly performing the following six acts, (which are enumerated) in their (proper) order.
6. [f.79]To carry arms for striking and for throwing (is prescribed) for Kshatriyas as a means of subsistence; to trade, (to rear) cattle, and agriculture for Vaishyas; but their duties are liberality, the study of the Veda and the performance of sacrifices.
10. [f.83]If it be asked " How shall it be, if he cannot maintain himself by either (of these occupations? the answer is) he may adopt a Vaishya's mode of life, employing himself in agriculture and rearing cattle.
12. [f.85]A Vaishya who is unable to subsist by his own duties, may even maintain himself by a Shudra's mode of life, avoiding (however) acts forbidden (to him), and he should give it up, when he is able to do so.
16. [f.89](The King) should carefully compel Vaishyas and Shudras to perform the work (prescribed) for them; for if these two (castes) swerved from their duties, they would throw this (whole) world into confusion.
1. [f.90]A blind man, an idiot, (a cripple) who moves with the help of a board, a man full seventy years old, and he who confers benefits on Srotriyas, shall not be compelled by any (king) to pay a tax.
7. [f.105]Shudras who live according to the law, shall each month shave (their heads); their mode of purification (shall be) the same as that of Vaishyas and their food the fragments of an Aryan's meal. As has been said the society for which the ancient lawgivers laid down their ordinances consisted of two partsone part consisted of those who were comprised within the system of Chaturvarna. The other part consisted of those who were without the pale of Chaturvarna. They are spoken of in Manu as Bahyas i.e. outside the pale of Chaturvarna. They are spoken of as low castes. The origin of these low castes is a subject with which I am not concerned for the moment. It is enough to say that according to these ancient law givers of Hindus these low castes are the result of the progeny of intermarriages between those four classesthe Brahmanas-Kshatriyas-Vaishyas-Shudraswho are included within the system of Chaturvarna. How far this is true will be examined at another time. We are primarily concerned with social relationship and not with origin. So far the ordinances relating to those who were within the Chaturvarna have been given. It now remains to give the ordinances which relate to those who were outside the Chaturvarna or who were called the low castes. The ordinances which regulate the life of the low castes are strange to say very few. Few though they be they give them such a short shrift that one does not find any necessity for more detailed code of ordinances. They are as follows:
1. [f.106]All those tribes in this world, which are excluded from (the community of) those born from. the mouth, the arms, the thighs, and the feet (of Brahman), are called Dasyus, whether they speak the language of the Mlenchhas (barbarians) or that of the Aryans.
7. [f.112]By day they must go about for the purpose of their work, distinguished by marks at the King's command, and they shall carry out the corpses (of persons) who have no relatives, that is a settled rule.
10. [f.115]If one who (being a member of the Chandala or some other low caste) must not be touched, intentionally defiles by his touch one who (as a member of a twice born caste) may be touched (by other twice born persons only) he shall be put to death.
[f.1]This essay has been received from Shri S. S. Rege. It is included here as the title is identical with the earlier chapter and also seems to be continuation of the discussion in the said chapter.Ed.
[f.10]Narad V. 3:
[f.15]lbid.. V. 29:
[f.27]lbid.. VIII. 271:
[f.28]lbid.. VIII. 272:
[f.55]Ibid.. X1.35. (1) Narada V.39.
[f.81]lbid.. X. 123:
[f.105]lbid.. V. 140.
[f.115]Vishnu V. 104.