Doom of the Untouchables
Hitherto when Indians have been talking about
the reconstruction of Indian social and economic life they have been talking in terms of
individualism versus collectivism, capitalism versus socialism, conservatism versus
radicalism and so on. But quite recently a new 'ism' has come on the Indian horizon. It is
called Gandhism. It is true that very recently Mr. Gandhi had denied that there is such a
thing as Gandhism. This denial is nothing more than the usual modesty which Mr. Gandhi
wears so well. It does not disprove the existence of Gandhism. There have been quite a
number of books with the title of Gandhism without any protest from Mr. Gandhi. It has
already caught the imagination of some people both inside and outside India. Some have so
much faith in it that they do not hesitate to offer it as an alternative to Marxism.
The followers of Gandhism who may happen to
read what is said in the foregoing pages may well ask; Mr. Gandhi may not have done what
the Untouchables expected him to do; but does not Gandhism offer any hope to the
Untouchables? The followers of Gandhism may accuse me of remembering only the short, slow,
intermittent steps taken by Mr. Gandhi for the sake of the Untouchables and of forgetting
the potential length of the principles enunciated by him. I am prepared to admit that it
does sometimes happen that a person, who enunciates a long principle takes only a short
step and that he may be forgiven for the short step in the hope that some day the
principle will by its native dynamics force a long step covering all who were once left
out. Gandhism is in itself a very interesting subject for study. But to deal with Gandhism
after having dealt with Mr. Gandhi is bound to he a tedious task and therefore my first
reaction was to leave out the consideration of Gandhism and. Untouchables. At the same
time, I could hardly remain indifferent to the facts that the effect of my omission to
consider the subject might be very unfortunate. For
Gandhists, notwithstanding my exposure of Mr. Gandhi, might take advantage of it and
continue to preach that if Mr. Gandhi has failed to solve the problem of the Untouchables
still the Untouchables will find their salvation in Gandhism. It is because I wish to
leave no room for such propaganda that I have overcome my original disinclination and
engage upon discussion of Gandhism.
What is Gandhism ? What does it stand for ?
What are its teachings about economic problem ? What are its teachings about social
At the outset it is necessary to state that
some Gandhists have conjured up a conception of Gandhism which is purely imaginary.
According to this conception Gandhism means return to the village and making the village
self-sufficient. It makes Gandhism a mere matter of regionalism. Gandhism, I am sure, is
neither so simple nor so innocent as regionalism is. Gandhism has a much bigger content
than regionalism. Regionalism is a small insignificant part of it. It has a social
philosophy and it has an economic philosophy. To omit to take into account the economic
and social philosophy of Gandhism is to present deliberately a false picture of Gandhism.
The first and foremost requisite is to present a true picture of Gandhism.
To start with Mr. Gandhi"s teachings on
social problem. Mr. Gandhi's views on the caste systemwhich constitutes the main,
social problem in Indiawere fully elaborated by him in 1921-22 in a Gujarathi
Journal called NavaJivan. The article 6[f.1]7 is written in Gujarathi. I give below an
English translation of his views as near as possible in his own words. Says Mr. Gandhi:
"1. I believe that if Hindu Society has
been able to stand it is because it is founded on the caste system.
" 2. The seeds of Swaraj are to be found
in the caste system. Different castes are like different sections of military division.
Each division is working for the good of the whole.
"3. A community which can create the caste
system must be said to possess unique power of organisation.
"4. Caste has a ready made means for
spreading primary education. Every caste can take the responsibility for the education of
the children of the Caste. Caste has a political basis. It can work as an electorate for a
representative body. Caste can perform judicial functions by electing persons to act as
judges to decide disputes among members of the same caste. With castes it is easy to raise
a defence force by requiring each caste to raise a brigade.
"5. I believe that interdining or
intermarriage are not necessary for promoting national unity. That dining together creates
friendship is contrary to experience. If this was true there would have been no war in
Europe... Taking food is as dirty an act as answering the call of nature. The only
difference is that after answering call of nature we get peace while after eating food we
get discomfort. Just as we perform the act of answering the call of nature in seclusion so
also the act of taking food must also be done in seclusion.
"6. In India children of brothers do not
intermarry. Do they cease to love because they do not intermarry ? Among the Vaishnavas
many women are so orthodox that they will not eat with the members of the family nor will
they drink water from a common water pot. Have they no love ? The Caste system cannot be
said to be bad because it does not allow inter-dining or intermarriage between different
"7. Caste is another name for control.
Caste puts a limit on enjoyment. Caste does not allow a person to transgress caste limits
in pursuit of his enjoyment. That is the meaning of such caste restrictions as interdining
"8. To destroy caste system and adopt
Western European social system means that Hindus must give up the principle of hereditary
occupation which is the soul of the caste system. Hereditary principle is an eternal
principle. To change it is to create disorder. I have no use for a Brahmin if I cannot
call him a Brahmin for my life. It will be a chaos if every day a Brahmin is to be changed
into a Shudra and a Snudra is to be changed into a Brahmin.
"9. The caste system is & natural
order of society. In India it has been given a religious coating. Other countries not
having understood the utility of the Caste System it existed only in a loose condition and
consequently those countries have not derived from Caste system the same degree of
advantage which India has derived.
These being my views I am opposed to all those
who are out to destroy the Caste System,"
In 1922, Mr. Gandhi was a defender of the caste
system. Pursuing the inquiry, one comes across a somewhat critical view of the caste
system by Mr. Gandhi in the year 1925. This is what Mr. Gandhi said on 3rd February 1925
"I gave support to caste because it stands
for restraint. But at present caste does not mean restraint, it means limitations.
Restraint is glorious and helps to achieve freedom. But limitation is like chain. It
binds. There is nothing commendable in castes as they exist today. They are contrary to
the tenets of the shastras. The number of castes is infinite and there is a bar against
intermarriage. This is not & condition of elevation. It is a state of fall."
In reply to the question: What is the way out
Mr. Gandhi said:
"The best remedy is that small castes
should fuse themselves into one big caste. There should be four such big castes so that we
may reproduce the old system of four varnas."
In short, in 1925 Mr. Gandhi became an upholder
of the Varna system.
The old Varna system prevalent in ancient India
had society divided into four orders : (1) Brahmins, whose occupation was learning; (2)
Kshatriyas whose occupation was warfare, (3) Vaishyas, whose occupation was trade and (4)
Shudras, whose occupation was service of the other classes. Is Mr. Gandhi's Varna System
the same as this old Varna system of the orthodox Hindus
? Mr. Gandhi explained his Varna system. in the following terms[f.2] :
'"1. I believe that the divisions into
Varna is based on birth.
"2. There is nothing in the Varna system
which stands in the way of the Shudra acquiring learning or studying military art of
offence or defence. Contra it is open to a Kshatriya to serve. The Varna system is no bar
to him. What the Vavna system enjoins is that a Shudra will not make learning a way of
earning a living. Nor will a Kshatriya adopt service as a way of earning a living.
[Similarly a Brahmin may learn the art of war or trade.. But he must not make them a way
of earning his living. Contra a Vaishya may acquire learning or may cultivate the art of
war. But he must not make them a way of earning his living.
"3. The varna system is connected with the
way of earning a living. There is no harm if a person belonging to one varna acquires the
knowledge or science and art specialised in by persons belonging to other varnas. But as
far as the way of earning his living is concerned he must follow the occupation of the
varna to which he belongs which means he must follow the hereditary profession of his
"4. The object of the varna system is to
prevent competition and class struggle and class war. I believe in the varna system
because it fixes the duties and occupations of persons,
"5. Varna means the determination of a
man's occupation before he is born.
"6. In the Varna system no man has any
liberty to choose his occupation. His
occupation is determined for him by heredity."
Turning to the field of economic life, Mr.
Gandhi stands for two ideals:
One of these is the opposition to machinery. As
early as 1921 Mr. Gandhi gave vent to his dislike for machinery. Writing in the Young
India of 19th January 1921, Mr. Gandhi said :
"Do I want to put back the hand of the
clock of progress ? Do I want to replace the mills by hand-spinning and hand-weaving ? Do
I want to replace the railway by the country-cart ? Do I want to destroy machinery
altogether ? These questions have been asked by some journalists and public men. My answer
is: I would not weep over the disappearance of machinery or consider it a calamity."
His opposition to machinery is well evidenced
by his idolisation of charkha (the spinning wheel) and by insistence upon hand-spinning
and hand-weaving. This opposition to machinery and his love for charkha is not a matter of
accident. It is a matter of philosophy. This philosophy Mr. Gandhi took special occasion
to propound in his presidential address at the Kathiawad Political Conference held on 8th
January 1925. This is what Mr. Gandhi said:
"Nations are tired of the worship of
lifeless machines multiplied ad infinitum. We are destroying the matchless living machines
viz., our own bodies by leaving them to rust and trying to substitute lifeless machinery
for them. It is a law of God that the body must be fully worked and utilised. We dare not
ignore it. The spinning wheel is the auspicious symbol of Sharir Yajna body labour.
He who eats his food without offering this sacrifice steals it. By giving up this
sacrifice we became traitors to the country, and banged the door in the face of the
Goddess of Fortune."
Anyone who has read Mr. Gandhi's booklet on
Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule) will know that Mr. Gandhi is against modern civilisation.
The book was first published in 1908. But there has been no change in his ideology.
Writing in 1921 Mr. Gandhi said [f.3] :
"The booklet is a severe condemnation of
'modern civilisation.' It was written in 1908. My conviction is deeper today than ever. I
feel that, if India would discard 'Modern civilisation' she can only gain by doing
so." In Mr. Gandhi's view [f.4] :
"Western civilisation is the creation of
The second ideal of Mr. Gandhi is the
elimination of class-war and even class struggle in the relationship between employers and
employees and between landlords and tenants. Mr. Gandhi's views on the relationship
between employers and employees were. set forth by him in an article on the subject which
appeared in the NavaJivan of the 8th June 1921 from which the following is an extract :
"Two paths are open before India, either
to introduce the Western principle of 'Might is right' or to uphold the Eastern principle
that truth alone conquers, that truth knows no mishap, that the strong and the weak have
alike a right to secure justice. The choice is to begin with the labouring class. Should
the labourers obtain an increment in their wages by violence ? Even if that be possible,
they cannot resort to anything like violence, howsoever legitimate may be their claims. To
use violence for securing rights may seem an easy path, but it proves to be thorny in the
long run. Those who live by sword die also by sword. The swimmer often dies by drowning.
Look at Europe. No one seems to be happy there, for not one is contented. The labourer
does not trust the capitalist and the capitalist has no faith in the labourer. Both have a
sort of vigour and strength but even the bulls have it. They fight to the very bitter end.
All motion is not progress. We have got no reason to believe, that the people of Europe
are progressing. Their possession of wealth does not argue the possession of any moral or
"What shall we do then ? The labourers in
Bombay made a fine stand. I was not in a position to know all the facts. But this much I
could see that they could fight in a better way. The millowner may be wholly in the wrong.
In the struggle between capital and labour, it may be generally said that more often than
not the capitalists are in the wrong box. But when labour comes fully to realise its
strength, I know it can become more tyrannical than capital. The millowners will have to
work on the terms dictated by labour, if the latter could command intelligence of the
former. It is clear, however, that labour will never attain to that intelligence. If it
does; labour will cease to be labour and become itself the master. The capitalists do not
fight on the strength of money alone. They do possess intelligence and tact.
"The question before us is this: When the
labourers, remaining what they are, develop a certain consciousness, what should be their
course ?' It would be suicidal 'if the labourers rely upon their numbers or brute-force,
i.e., violence. By so doing, they will do harm to industries in the country. If, on the
other hand, they take their stand on pure justice and suffer in their person to secure It,
not only will they always succeed but they will reform their masters, develop industries
and both master and men will be as members of one and the same family."
Referring to the same theme on another occasion
Mr. Gandhi said [f.5] :
"Nor was it otherwise before. Indians
history is not one of strained relations between capital and labour."
Particularly noteworthy are the views of Mr.
Gandhi on strike as a weapon, in the hand of the workers to improve their economic
condition. Mr. Gandhi says [f.6] :
"Speaking, therefore, as one having
handled large successful strikes, I repeat the following maxims, already stated in these
pages, for the guidance of all strike leaders :
(1) There should be no strike without a real grievance.
(2) There should be no strike, if the persons concerned are not
able to support themselves out of their own savings or by engaging in some temporary
occupation, such as carding, spinning and weaving. Strikers should never depend upon
public subscriptions or other charity.
(3) Strikers must fix an unalterable minimum demand, and declare
it before embarking upon their strike.
"A strike may fail in spite of a just
grievance and the ability of strikers to hold out indefinitely, if there are workers to
replace them. A wise man, therefore, will not strike for increase of wages or other
comforts, if he feels that he can be easily replaced. But a philanthropic or patriotic man
will strike in spite of supply being greater than the demand, when he feels for and wishes
to associate himself with his neighbour's distress. Needless to say, there is no room in a
civil strike of the nature described by me for violence in the shape of intimidation,
incendiarism or otherwise.. .Judged by the tests suggested by me, it is 'clear that
friends of the strikers could never have advised them to apply for or receive Congress or
any other public funds for their support. The value of the strikers' sympathy was
diminished to the extent, that they received or accepted financial aid. The merit of a
sympathetic strike lies in the inconvenience and the loss suffered by the
Mr. Gandhi's view on the relationship between
landlords and tenants were expounded by him in the Young India of 18th May 1921 in the
form of instructions [f.7] to the tenants of U.P. who had risen against their
landlords. Mr. Gandhi said:
"Whilst the U. P. Government is crossing
the bounds of propriety, and intimidating people, there is little doubt that the Kisans
too are not making wise use of their newly found power. In several Zamindaries, they are
said to have overstepped the mark, taken the law into their own hands and to have become
impatient of anybody who would not do as they wish. They
are abusing social boycott and are turning it into an instrument of violence. They are
reported to have Stopped the supply of water, barber and other paid services to their
Zamindars in some instences and even suspended payment of the rent due to them. The Kisan
movement has received an impetus from Non-co-operation but it is anterior to and
independent of it. Whilst we will not hesitate to advise the Kisans when the moment comes,
to suspend payment of taxes to Government, it is not contemplated that at any stage of
Non-co-operation we would seek to deprive the Zamindars of their rent. The Kisan movement
must be confined to the improvement of status of the Kisans and the betterment of the-
relations between the Zamindars and them. The Kisans must be advised scrupulously to abide
by the terms of their agreement with the Zamindars, whether such is written or inferred
from custom. Where a custom or even a written contract is bad, they may not try to uproot
it by violence or without previous reference to the Zamindars. In every case there should
be a friendly discussion with the Zamindars and an attempt made to arrive at a
Mr. Gandhi does not wish to hurt the propertied
class. He is even opposed to a campaign against them. He has no passion for economic
equality. Referring to the propertied class Mr. Gandhi said quite recently that he does
not wish to destroy the hen that lays the golden egg. His solution for the economic
conflict between the owners and workers, between the rich and the poor, between landlords
and tenants and between the employers and the employees is very simple. The owners need
not deprive themselves of their property. All that they need do is to declare themselves
Trustees for the poor. Of course the Trust is to be a voluntary one carrying only a
Is there anything new in the Gandhian analysis
of economic ills ? Are the economics of Gandhism sound ? What hope does Gandhism hold out
to the common man, to the down-and out ? Does it promise him a better life, a life of joy,
and culture, a life of freedom, not merely freedom from want but freedom to rise, to grow
to the full stature which his capacities can reach ?
There is nothing new in the Gandhian analysis
of economic ills in so far as it attributes them to machinery and the civilisation that is
built upon it. The arguments that machinery and modern civilisation help to concentrate
management and control into relatively few hands, and with the aid of banking and credit
facilitate the transfer into still fewer hands of all materials and factories and mills in
which millions are bled white in order to support huge industries thousands of miles away
from their cottages, or that machinery and modern civilisation cause deaths, maimings and
cripplings far in, excess of the corresponding injuries by war, and are responsible for
disease and physical deterioration caused directly and indirectly by the development of
large cities with their smoke, dirt, noise, foul air, lack of sunshine and out-door life,
slums, prostitution and unnatural living which they bring about, are all old and worn out
arguments. There is nothing new in them. Gandhism is merely repeating the views of
Rousseau, Ruskin, Tolstoy and their school.
The ideas which go to make up Gandhism are just
primitive. It is a return to nature, to animal life.
The only merit is their simplicity. As there is always a large corps of simple
people who are attracted by them, such simple ideas do not die, and there is always some
simpleton to preach them. There is, however, no doubt that the practical instincts of
men---which seldom go wronghave found them unfruitful and which society in search of
progress has thought It best to reject.
The economics of Gandhism are hopelessly
fallacious. The fact that machinery and modern civilisation have produced many evils may
be admitted. But these evils are no argument against them. For the evils are not due to
machinery and modern civilisation. They are due to wrong social organisation which has
made private property and pursuit of personal gain matters of absolute sanctity. If
machinery and civilisation have not benefited everybody the remedy is not to condemn
machinery and civilisation but to alter the organisation of society so that the benefits
will not be usurped by the few but will accrue to all.
In Gandhism the common man has no hope. It
treats man as an animal and no more. It is true that man shares the constitution and
functions of animals, nutritive, reproductive, etc. But these are not distinctively human
functions. The distinctively human function is reason, the purpose of which is to enable
man to observe, meditate, cogitate, study and discover the beauties of the Universe and
enrich his life and control the animal elements in his life. Man thus occupies the highest
place in the scheme of animate existence. If
this is true what is the conclusion that follows ? The conclusion that follows is that
while the ultimate goal of a brute's life is reached once his physical appetites are
satisfied, the ultimate goal of man's existence is not reached unless and until he has
fully cultivated his mind. In short, what divides the brute from man is culture. Culture
is not possible for the brute, but it is essential for man. That being so, the aim of
human society must be to enable every person to lead a life of culture which means the
cultivation of the mind as distinguished from the satisfaction of mere physical wants. How
can this happen?
Both for society and as well as for the
individual there is always a gulf between merely living and living worthily. In order that
one may live worthily One must first live. The time and energy spent upon mere life, upon
gaining of subsistence detracts from that available for activities, of a distinctively
human nature and which go to make up a life of culture. How then can a life of culture be
made possible ? It is not possible unless there is sufficient leisure. For it is only when
there is leisure that a person is free to devote himself to a life of culture. The problem
of all problems which human society has to face is how to provide leisure to every
individual. What does leisure mean ? Leisure means the lessening of the toil and, effort
necessary for satisfying the physical wants of life. How can leisure be made possible ?
Leisure is quite impossible unless some means are found whereby the toil required for
producing goods necessary to satisfy human needs is lessened. What can lessen such toil ?
Only when machine takes the place of man. There is no other means of producing leisure.
Machinery and modern civilisation are thus indispensable for emancipating man from leading
the life of a brute, and for providing him with leisure and making a life of culture
possible. The man who condemns machinery and modern civilisation simple does not
understand their purpose and the ultimate aim which human society must strive to achieve.
Gandhism may be well suited to a society which
does not accept democracy as its ideal. A
society which does not believe in democracy may be indifferent to machinery and the
civilisation based upon it. But a democratic society cannot. The former may well content
itself with life of leisure and culture for the few and a life of toil and drudgery for
the many. But a democratic society must assure a life of leisure and culture to each one
of its citizens. If the above analysis is correct then the slogan of a democratic society
must be machinery, and more machinery, civilisation and more civilisation. Under Gandhism
the common man must keep on toiling ceaselessly for a pittance and remain a brute. In
short, Gandhism with its call of back to nature, means back to nakedness, back to squalor,
back to poverty and back to ignorance for the vast mass of the people.
The division of life into separate functions
and of society into separate classes may not be altogether obliterated. Inspite of many
social and economic changes, in spite of the abolition of legal serfdom, legal slavery and
the spread of the notion of democracy, with the extension of science, of general education
through books, newspapers, travel and general intercourse in, schools and factories there
remains and perhaps will remain enough cleavage in society into a learned and an ignorant
class, a leisure and a labouring class.
But Gandhism is not satisfied with only
notional class distinctions. Gandhism insists upon class structure. It regards the class
structure of society and also the income structure as sacrosanct with the consequent
distinctions of rich and poor, high and low owners and workers as permanent parts of
social organisation. From the point of view of social consequences nothing can be more
pernicious. Psychologically, class structure sets in motion influences which are harmful
to both the classes. There is no common plane on which the privileged and the subject
classes can meet. There is no endosmosis, no give and take of life's hopes and
experiences. The social and moral evils of this separation to the subject class are of
course real and obvious. It educates them into slaves and creates all the psychological
complex which follows from a slave mentality. But those affecting the privileged class,
though less material and less perceptible, are equally real. The isolation and
exclusiveness following upon the class structure creates in the privileged classes the
anti-social spirit of a gang. It feels it has interests ' of its own ' which it makes its
prevailing purpose to protect against everybody even against the interests of the State.
It makes their culture sterile, their art showy their wealth luminous and their
manners fastidious. Practically speaking in a class structure there is, on the one hand,
tyranny, vanity, pride, arrogance, greed, selfishness and on the other, insecurity,
poverty, degradation, loss of liberty, self-reliance, independence, dignity and
self-respect. Democratic society cannot be indifferent to such consequences. But Gandhism
does not mind these consequences in the least. It is not enough to say that Gandhism is
not satisfied with mere class distinctions. It is not enough to say that Gandhism believes
in a class structure. Gandhism stands for more than that. A class structure which is a
faded, jejune, effete thing a mere sentimentality, a mere skeleton is not what Gandhism
wants. It wants class structure to function as a living faith. In this there is nothing to
be surprised at. For class structure in Gandhism is not a mere accident. It is its
The idea of trusteeship which Gandhism proposes
as a panacea by which the moneyed classes will hold their properties in trust for the poor
is the most ridiculous .part of it. All that one can say about it is that if anybody else
had propounded it the author would have been laughed at as a silly fool who had not known
the hard realities of life and was deceiving the servile classes by telling them that a
little dose of moral rearmament to the propertied classesthose who by their
insatiable cupidity and indomitable arrogance have made and will always make this world a
vale of tears for the toiling millionswill recondition them to such an extent that
they will be able to withstand the temptation to misuse the tremendous powers which the
class structure gives them over servile classes.
The social ideal of Gandhism is either caste or
varna. Though it may be difficult to say which, there can be no doubt that the social
ideal of Gandhism is not democracy. For whether one takes for comparison caste or varna
both are fundamentally opposed to democracy. It would have been something if the defence
of caste system which. Gandhism offers was strong and honest. But his defence of the caste
system is the most insensible piece of rhetoric one can think of. Examine Mr. Gandhi's
arguments in support of caste and it will be found that everyone of them is specious if
not puerile. To run through the arguments
summarised earlier in this Chapter [f.8].
The first three arguments call for pity. That
the Hindu Society has been able to stand while others have died out or disappeared is
hardly a matter for congratulation. If it has survived it is not because of caste but
because the foreigner who conquered the Hindus did not find it necessary to kill them
wholesale. There is no honour in mere survival. What matters is the plane of survival. One
can survive by unconditional surrender. One can survive by beating a cowardly retreat and
one can survive by fighting. On what plane have the Hindus survived ? If they can be said
to have survived after fighting and beating their enemies the virtue ascribed to the caste
system by Mr. Gandhi could be admitted. The history of the Hindus has been one of
surrenderabject surrender. It is
true others have surrendered to their invaders. But in their case surrender is followed by
a revolt against the foreign ruler. The Hindus have not only never withstood the onslaught
of the foreign invader, they have never even shown the capacity to organise a rebellion to
throw off the foreign yoke. On the other hand the Hindus have tried to make slavery
comfortable. On this one may well argue the contrary namely that this helpless condition
of the Hindus is due entirely to the caste system.
Argument in para 4 is plausible. But it cannot
be said that caste is the only machinery for discharging such functions as the spread of
primary education or the judicial settlement of disputes. Caste is probably the worst
instrument for the discharge of such functions. It can be easily influenced and easily
corrupted. Such functions have been discharged in other countries much better than they
have been in India although they have had no caste system. As to using the caste as basis
for raising military units the idea is simply fantastic. Under the occupational theory
underlying the caste system this is unthinkable. Mr. Gandhi knows that not a single caste
in his own Province of Gujarat has ever raised a military unit. It did not do it in the
present World War. But it did not do so even in the last World War, when Mr. Gandhi toured
through Gujarat as a Recruiting Agent of British Imperialism. In fact under the caste
system a general mobilisation of the people for defence is impossible since mobilisation
requires a general liquidation of the occupational theory underlying the caste system.
Arguments contained in paras 6 and 6 are as
stupid as they are revolting. The argument in para 5 is hardly a good argument. It is
quite true the family is an ideal unit in which every member is charged with love and
affection for another member although there is no intermarriage among members of a family.
It may even be conceded that in a Vaishnava family members of the family do not interdine
and yet they are full of love and affection for one another. What does all this prove ? It
does not prove that interdining and intermarrying are not necessary for establishing
fraternity. What it proves is that where there are other means of maintaining fraternity
such as consciousness of family tieinterdining and intermarriage are not
necessary. But it cannot be denied that whereas in the caste systemno binding
force exists intermarriage and interdining are absolutely essential. There is no analogy
between family and caste, Inter-caste dinner and inter-caste marriage are necessary
because there are no other means of binding the different castes together while in the
case of a family there exists other forces to bind them together. Those who have insisted
upon the ban against interdining and inter-marriage have treated it as a question of
relative values. They have never elevated it to the level of a question of absolute value.
Mr, Gandhi is the first one to do it. Inter-dining is bad and -even if it was capable of
producing good it-should not be resorted to and why ? Because eating is a filthy act, as
filthy as answering the call of nature ! The caste system has been defended by others. But
this is the first time I have seen such an extraordinary if not a shocking argument used
to support it., Even. the orthodox may say, "Save us from Mr, Gandhi," It. shows what a deep-dyed Hindu Mr. Gandhi is. He
has outdone the most orthodox of orthodox Hindus. It is not enough to say that it is an
argument of a cave man. It is really an argument of a mad man.
The argument in favour of the caste system
outlined in para 7 is not worth much in terms of building up moral strength. The caste
system no doubt prohibits a man from satisfying his lust for a woman who is not of his
caste. The caste system no doubt prohibits a man from satisfying his craving for food
cooked in the house of a man who is not of his caste.
If morality consists of observing restraints without regard to the sense or
sensibility of restraints then the caste system, may be admitted to be a moral system. But
Mr. Gandhi does not see that these easy restraints are more than balanced by vast
liberties permitted by Hinduism. For Hinduism places no restraint upon a man marrying
hundred women and keeping hundred prostitutes within the ambit of his caste. Nor does it
stop him from indulging in his appetite with his castemen to any degree.
The argument in para 8 begs the whole question.
The hereditary system may be good or may not be good. It may be agreeable to some. It may
be disagreeable to others. Why elevate it into an official doctrine ? Why make it
compulsory ? In Europe it is not an official doctrine and it is not compulsory. It is left
to the choice of an individual most of whom do follow the profession of their ancestors
and some don't. Who can say that compulsory system has worked better than the voluntary
system ? If a comparison of the economic condition of the people in India and the people
of Europe is any guide there would be very few rationally-minded people who would be found
to support the caste system on. this ground. As to the difficulty in changing nomenclature
to keep pace with frequent changes in occupation it is only artificial, it arises out of
the supposed necessity of having labels for designating persons following a particular
profession. The class labels are quite unnecessary and could well be abolished altogether
without causing difficulty. Besides what happens today in India ? Men's callings and their
class labels are not hi accord. A Brahmin sells shoes.
Nobody is disturbed because he is not called a Chamar. A Chamar becomes an officer
of the State. Nobody is disturbed because he is not called a Brahmin. The whole argument
is based on a misunderstanding. What matters to society is not the label by which the
individual's class is known but the service he offers.
The last argument set out in para 9 is one of
the most astounding arguments I have heard in favour of the caste system. It is
historically false. No one who knows anything about the Manu Smriti can say that the caste
system is a natural system. What does Manu Smriti show ? It shows that the caste system is
a legal system maintained at the point of a bayonet. If it has survived it is due to (1)
prevention of the masses from the possession of arms; (S) denying to the masses the right
to education and (3) depriving the masses of the right to property. The caste system far
from natural is really an imposition by the ruling classes upon the servile classes.
That Mr. Gandhi changed over from the caste
system to the varna system does not make the slightest difference to the charge that
Gandhism is opposed to democracy. In the first place, the idea of varna is the parent of
the idea of caste. If the idea of caste is a pernicious idea it is entirely because of the
viciousness of the ides of varna. Both are evil ideas and it matters very little whether
one believes in varna or in caste. The idea of varna was most mercilessly attacked by the
Buddhists who did not believe in it. Orthodox or the Sanatan Vedic Hindus had no rational
defence to offer. All that they could say was that it was founded on the authority of the
Vedas and that as the Vedas were infallible so was the varna system. This argument was not
enough to save the varna system against the rationalism of the Buddhists. If the idea of
the varna survived it was because of the Bhagvat Gita, which gave a philosophical
foundation to the varna system by arguing that the varna was based on the innate qualities
of man. The Bhagvat Gita made use of the Sankhya philosophy to bolster and buttress the
varna idea which would have otherwise petered away by making sense of a thing that is
absolute nonsense. Bhagvat Gita had done enough mischief by giving a fresh lease of life
to the varna system by basing it upon a new and plausible foundation, namely that of
The varna system of the Bhagvat Gita has at
least two merits. It does not say that it is based on birth. Indeed it makes a special
point that each man's varna is fixed according to his innate qualities. It does not say
that the occupation of the son shall be that of the father. It says that the profession of
a person shall be according to his innate qualities, the profession of the father
according to the father's innate quality and that of the son according to the son's innate
qualities. But Mr. Gandhi has given a new interpretation of the varna system. He has
changed it out of recognition. Under the old orthodox interpretation caste connoted
hereditary occupation but varna did not. Mr. Gandhi by his own whim has given a new
connotation to the varna. With Mr. Gandhi varna is determined by birth and the profession
of a varna is determined by the principle of heredity so that varna is merely another name
for caste. That Mr. Gandhi changed from
caste to varna does not indicate the growth of any new revolutionary ideology. The genius
of Mr. Gandhi is elvish, always and throughout. He has all the precocity of an elf with no
little of its outward guise. Like an elf he can never grow up and grow out of the caste
Mr. Gandhi sometimes speaks on social and
economic subjects as though he was a blushing Red. Those
who will study Gandhism will not be deceived by the occasional aberrations of Mr. Gandhi
in favour of democracy and against capitalism. For Gandhism is in no sense a revolutionary
creed. It is con-servatism in excelsis. So far as India is concerned, it is a reactionary
creed blazoning on its banner the call of Return to Antiquity. Gandhism aims at the
resuscitation and reanimation of India's dread, dying past.
Gandhism is a paradox. It stands for freedom
from foreign domination, which means the destruction of the existing political structure
of the country. At the same time it seeks to maintain intact a social structure which
permits the domination of one class by another on a hereditary basis which means a
perpetual domination of one class by another. What is the explanation of this paradox ? Is
it a part of a strategy by Mr. Gandhi to win the whole-hearted support of the Hindus,
orthodox and unorthodox, to the campaign of Swaraj ? If it is the latter, can Gandhism be
regarded as honest and sincere ? Be that as it may there are two features of Gandhism
which are revealing but to which unfortunately no attention has so far been paid. Whether
they will make Gandhism more acceptable than Marxism is another matter. But as they do
help to distinguish Gandhism from Marxism, it may be well to refer to them.
The first special feature of Gandhism is that
its philosophy helps those who have, to keep what they have and to prevent those who have
not from getting what they have a right to get. No one who examines the Gandhian attitude
to strikes, the Gandhian reverence for Caste and the Gandhian doctrine of Trusteeship by
the rich for the benefit of the poor can deny that this is upshot of Gandhism. Whether
this is the calculated result of a deliberate design or whether it is a matter of accident
may be open to argument. But the fact
remains that Gandhism is the philosophy of the well-so-do and the leisure class.
The second special feature of Gandhism is to
delude people into accepting their misfortunes by presenting them as best of good
fortunes. One or two illustrations will suffice to bring out the truth of this statement.
The Hindu sacred law penalized the Shudras
(Hindus of the fourth class) from acquiring wealth. It is a law of enforced poverty
unknown in any other part of the world. What does Gandhism do ? It does not lift the ban.
It blesses the Shudra for his moral courage to give up property ! ! It is well worth quoting Mr, Gandhi's own
words. Here they are[f.9] :
"The Shudra who only serves (the higher
caste) as a matter of religious duty, and who will never own any property, who indeed has
not even the ambition to own anything, is deserving of thousand obeisance. The very Gods
will shower down flowers on him.
Another illustration in support is the attitude
of Gandhism towards the scavenger. The sacred law of the Hindus lays down that a.
scavenger's progeny shall live by scavenging. Under Hinduism scavenging was not a matter
of choice, it was a matter of forced What does Gandhism do ? It seeks to perpetuate this
system by praising scavenging as the noblest service to society ! ! Let me quote Mr. Gandhi : As a President of a
Conference of the Untouchables, Mr. Gandhi said [f.10]:
"I do not want to attain Moksha. I do not
want to be reborn. But if I have to be reborn, I should be born an untouchable, so that I
may share their sorrows, sufferings and the affronts levelled at them, in order that I may
endeavour to free myself and them from that miserable condition. I, therefore prayed that
if I should be born again, I should do so not as a Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, or Shudra,
but as an Atishudra.
"l love scavenging. In my Ashram, an
eighteen years old Brahmin lad is doing the scavenger's work in order to teach the Ashram
scavenger cleanliness. The lad is no reformer. He was born and bred in orthodoxy. But he
felt that his accomplishments were incomplete until he had become also a perfect sweeper,
and that. if he wanted the Ashram sweeper to do his work well, he must do it himself and
set an example.
"You should realise that you are cleaning
Can there be a worse example of false
propaganda than this attempt of Gandhism to perpetuate evils which have been deliberately
imposed by one class over another ? If Gandhism preached the rule of poverty for all and
not merely for the Shudra the worst that could be said about it is that it is a mistaken
idea. But why preach it as good for one class only ? Why appeal to the worst of human
failings, namely, pride and vanity in order to make him voluntarily accept what on a
rational basis he would resent as a cruel discrimination against him ? What is the use of
telling She scavenger that even a Brahmin is prepared to do scavenging when It is clear
that according to Hindu Shastras and Hindu notions even if a Brahmin did scavenging he
would never be subject to the disabilities of one who is a born scavenger ? For in India a
man is not a scavenger because of his work. He is a scavenger because of his birth
irrespective of the question whether he does scavenging or not. If Gandhism preached that
scavenging is a noble profession with the object of inducing those who refuse to engage in
it, one could understand it. But why appeal to the scavenger's pride and vanity in order
to induce him and him only to keep on to scavenging[f.11] by telling him that scavenging is a noble profession and
that he need not be ashamed of it? To preach that poverty is good for the Shudra and for
none else, to preach that scavenging is good for the Untouchables and for none else and to
make them accept these onerous impositions as voluntary purposes of life, by appeal to
their failings is an outrage and a cruel joke on the helpless classes which none but Mr.
Gandhi can perpetuate with equanimity and impunity. In this connection one is reminded of
the words of Voltaire who in repudiation of an 'ism' very much like Gandhism said:
"Oh ! mockery to say to people that the suffering of some brings joy to others and
works good to the whole I What solace is it to a dying man to know that from his decaying
body a thousand worms will come into life?"
Criticism apart) this is the technique of
Gandhism, to make wrongs done appear to the very victim as though they were his
privileges. If there is an 'ism' which has made full use of religion as an opium to lull
the people into false beliefs and false security, it is Gandhism. Following Shakespeare
one can well say: Plausibility I Ingenuity ! Thy name is Gandhism.
Such is Gandhism. Having known what is Gandhism
the answer to the question, 'Should Gandhism become the law of the land what would be the
lot of the Untouchables under it,' cannot require much scratching of the brain. How would
it compare with the lot of the lowest Hindu ? Enough has been said to show what would be
his lot should the Gandhian social order come into being. In so far as the lowest Hindu
and the Untouchable belong to the same disinherited class, the Untouchable's lot cannot be
better. If anything it might easily be worse. Because in India even the lowest man among
the Caste Hinduswhy even the aboriginal and Hill Tribe manthough educationally
and economically not very much above the Untouchables is still superior to the
Untouchables. It is not he regards himself as superior to the Untouchables. The Hindu
society accepts his claim to superiority over the Untouchables. The Untouchable will
therefore continue to suffer the worst fate as he does now namely, in prosperity he will
be the last to be employed and in depression the first to be fired.
What does Gandhism do to relieve the
Untouchables from this fate ? Gandhism professes to abolish Untouchability. That is hailed
as the greatest virtue of Gandhism. But what does this virtue amount to in actual life ?
To assess the value of this anti-Untouchability which is regarded as a very big element in
Gandhism, it is necessary to understand fully the scope of Mr. Gandhi's programme for the
removal of Untouchability. Does it mean anything more than that the Hindus will not mind
touching the Untouchables ? Does it mean the removal of the ban on the right of the
Untouchables to education ? It would be better to take the two questions separately.
To start with the first question, Mr. Gandhi
does not say that a Hindu should not take a bath after touching the Untouchables. If Mr.
Gandhi does not object to it as a purification of pollution then it is difficult to see
how Untouchability can be said to vanish by touching the Untouchables. Untouchability
centres round the idea of pollution by contact and purification by bath to remove the
pollution. Does it mean social assimilation with the Hindus ? Mr. Gandhi has most
categorically stated that removal of Untouchability does not mean inter-dining or
inter-marriage between the Hindus and the Untouchables. Mr. Gandhi's anti-Untouchability
means that the Untouchables will be classed as Shudras instead of being classed as
Ati-Shudras[f.12] There is nothing more in it. Mr. Gandhi has not considered
the question whether the old Shudras will accept the new Shudras into their fold. If they
don't then the removal of Untouchability is a senseless proposition for it will still keep
the Untouchables as a separate social category. Mr. Gandhi probably knows that the
abolition of Untouchability will not bring about the assimilation of the Untouchables by
the Shudras. That seems to be the reason why Mr. Gandhi himself has given a new and a
different name to the Untouchables. The new name registers by anticipation what is likely
to be the fact. By calling the Untouchables Harijans Mr. Gandhi has killed two birds with
one stone. He has shown that assimilation of the Untouchables by the Shudras is not
possible. He has also by his new name counteracted assimilation and made it impossible.
Regarding the second question, it is true that
Gandhism is prepared to remove the old ban placed by the Hindu Shastras on the right of
the Untouchables to education and permit them to acquire knowledge and learning. Under
Gandhism the Untouchables may study law, they may study medicine, they may study
engineering or anything else they may fancy. So far so good. But will the Untouchables be
free to make use of their knowledge and learning ? Will they have the right to choose
their profession ? Can they adopt the career of lawyer, doctor or engineer ? To these
questions the answer which Gandhism gives is an emphatic ' no. [f.13] ' The Untouchables must follow their hereditary
professions. That those occupations they are unclean is no answer; That before the
occupation became hereditary it was the result of force and not volition does not matter.
..The argument of Gandhism is that what is once settled is settled for ever even if it was
wrongly settled. Under Gandhism the Untouchables are to be eternal scavengers. There is no
doubt that the Untouchables would much prefer the orthodox system of Untouchability. A
compulsory state of ignorance imposed upon the Untouchables by the Hindu Shastras made
scavenging bearable. But Gandhism which compels an educated Untouchable to do scavenging
is nothing short of cruelty. The grace in Gandhism is a curse in its worst form. The
virtue of the anti-Untouchability plank in Gandhism is quite illusory. There is no
substance in it.
What else is there in Gandhism which the
Untouchables can accept as opening a way for their ultimate salvation ? Barring this
illusory campaign against Untouchability Gandhism is simply another form of Sanatanism
which is the ancient name for militant orthodox Hinduism. What is there in Gandhism which
is not to be found in orthodox Hinduism ? There is caste in Hinduism, there is caste in
Gandhism. Hinduism believes in the law of hereditary profession, so does Gandhism.
Hinduism enjoins cow-worship. So does Gandhism. Hinduism upholds the law of karma,
predestination of man's condition in this world, so does Gandhism. Hinduism accepts the
authority of the Shastras. So does Gandhism. Hinduism believes in avatar or incarnations
of God. So does Gandhism. Hinduism believes in idols, so does Gandhism[f.14]. All that Gandhism has done is to find a philosophic
justification for Hinduism and' its dogmas. Hinduism is bald in the sense that it is just
a set of rules which bear on their face the appearance of a crude and cruel system.
Gandhism supplies the philosophy which smoothens its surface and gives it the appearance
of decency and respectability and so alters it and embellishes it as to make it even
attractive. What philosophy does Gandhism propound to cover the nudity of Hinduism ? This
philosophy can be put in a nutshell. It is a philosophy which says that "All that is
in Hinduism is well, all that is in Hinduism is necessary for public good." Those who
are familiar with Voltaire's Candide will recognise that it is the philosophy of Master
Pangiloss and recall the mockery Voltaire made of it. The Hindus are of course pleased
with it. No doubt it suits them and accords with their interest. Prof.
Radhakrishnanwhether out of genuine feeling or out of sycophancy we need not stop to
inquirehas gone to the length of describing Mr. Gandhi as * God on earth.' What do
the Untouchables understand this to mean ? To them it means that: " This God by name
Gandhi came to console an afflicted race: He saw India and changed it not saying all is
well and will be, if the Hindus will only fulfil the law of caste. He told the afflicted
race, ' I have come to fulfil the law of caste.' Not a tittle, not a jot shall I allow to
abate from it."
What hope can Gandhism offer to the
Untouchables ? To the Untouchables Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horrors. The
sanctity and infallibility of the Vedas, Smritis and Shastras, the from law of caste, the
heartless law of karma and the senseless law of status by birth are to the Untouchables
veritable instruments of torture which Hinduism has forged against the Untouchables. These
very instruments which have mutilated, blasted and blighted the life of the Untouchables
are to be found intact and untarnished in the bosom of Gandhism. How can the Untouchables
say that Gandhism is a heaven and not a chamber of horrors as Hinduism has been? The only
reaction and a very natural reaction of the Untouchables would be to run away from
Gandhists may say that what I have stated
applies to the old type of Gandhism. There is a new Gandhism, Gandhism without caste. This
has reference to the recent statement[f.15] of Mr. Gandhi that caste is an anachronism. Reformers were
naturally gladdened by this declaration of Mr. Gandhi. And who would not be glad to see
that a man like Mr. Gandhi having such terrible influence over the Hindus, after having
played the most mischievous part of a social reactionary, after having stood out as the
protagonist of the caste system, after having beguiled and befooled the unthinking Hindus
with arguments which made no distinction between what is fair and foul should have come
out with this recantation? But is this really a matter for jubilation ? Does it change the
nature of Gandhism ? Does it make Gandhism a new and a better 'ism' than it was before.
Those who are carried away by this recantation of Mr. Gandhi, forget two things. In the
first place all that Mr. Gandhi has said is that caste is an anachronism. He does not say
it is an evil. He does not say it is anathema. Mr. Gandhi may be taken to be not in favour
of caste. But Mr. Gandhi does not say that he is against the Varna system. And what is Mr.
Gandhi's varna system ? It is simply a new
name for the caste system and retains all the worst features of the caste system.
The declaration of Mr. Gandhi cannot be taken
to mean any fundamental change in Gandhism. It cannot make Gandhism acceptable to the
Untouchables. The Untouchables will still have ground to say :
"Good God I Is this man Gandhi our
[f.1]It is reprinted in Vol. 11 of the series called Gandhi Sikshan as No, 18,
[f.2]The extracts are taken from an article by Mr. Gandhi on the
subject and is reproduced in the Varna
Vayavasthaa book which contains Mr. Gandhi's writings in original Gujarathi.
[f.3]Young India, 26th
[f.4]Dharma Manthan, p.
February 23, 1922.
[f.6]Young India, 11th
August, 1921. Italics not in the original.
[f.7]Italics are not in the original. Kisan means a tenant and
zamindar means landlord.
[f.8]See pages 275-277
[f.9]Quoted from Varna
Vyavastha, p. 51.
[f.10]Young India, 27th
[f.11]Some of the Provinces of India have laws which make refusal
by a scavenger to do scavenging a crime for which be can be tried and punished by a
[f.12]Young India, 5th
[f.13]See supra, pages
275-77 for Mr. Gandhi's views on the subject.
[f.14]Mr. Gandhi's articles of faith have been outlined by him in Young India of 6th October 1921.
[f.15]Hindustan Times, 15th April 1945.