From the Archives: Mahatma Gandhi on how caste Hindus can help Harijans | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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From the Archives: Mahatma Gandhi on how caste Hindus can help Harijans

Sep 30, 2023 03:58 PM IST

Gandhiji said,"The first thing is for everyone to understand the implications of the removal of untouchability in his or her own life".

The Secretary of the Servants of India Society, Poona, has released for publication the following sixth statement of Mahatma Gandhi on untouchability:---

Mahatma Gandhi collecting donations for the Harijan Fund (Assam), circa 1945. Beginning the late 1930s, Gandhi was also signing his photographs for auctioning, so that money raised could be used for the Harijan movement. “Do rupiya ek bar”, he [Gandhi] would say, the floor price is two rupees,” writes Ramachandra Guha in ‘Gandhi: The Years That Changed The World.’ (National Gandhi Museum) PREMIUM
Mahatma Gandhi collecting donations for the Harijan Fund (Assam), circa 1945. Beginning the late 1930s, Gandhi was also signing his photographs for auctioning, so that money raised could be used for the Harijan movement. “Do rupiya ek bar”, he [Gandhi] would say, the floor price is two rupees,” writes Ramachandra Guha in ‘Gandhi: The Years That Changed The World.’ (National Gandhi Museum)

"If among the Harijans. Rajbhoj has yet been the only one to have asked me as to what Harijans might do to advance the movement. I have scores of letters from all parts of India from caste Hindus, both men and women, students and others, inquiring in what way they can help without interfering with their other pre-occupations and since anti-untouchability is a movement, as applied to the masses, of merely change of heart, changing their attitude towards Harijans, the vast majority of caste Hindus do not need to interrupt their daily activities in order to serve the Harijans.

ALSO READ: ‘Treat Harijans as your brothers’, Mahatma Gandhi's advice to students

"The first thing is for everyone to understand the implications of the removal of untouchability in his or her own life and, if the answer is that he or she has not only no objection to, but is desirous of seeing them entering public temples, using public places, such as schools, sarais, roads, hospitals, dispenaries and the like, in short, Harijins being put precisely on the same footing as themselves, religiously, socially, economically and politically, he or she has personally taken the full step but this is not all that the questioners want or all that should be satisfied with.

Having done so far, they want to know what more they can do in furtherance of the cause. Such inquirers need not extend their activities beyond their immediate neighbourhood. Let them canvass the opinion of those with whom they come in daily contact, and if the former are not convinced of the necessity of removal of untouchability they should. if they have critically studied the movement, endeavour to convince their neighbours or, if they are not competent, they should procure the necessary literature, supply them with it and put them in todoh with those full-time workers who are specially qualified for such propaganda work. \

If they find that their neighbourhood is not touched by the spirit of the movement and if they have any influence, they should arrange public lectures, demonstrations and invite speakers to such meetings. So much for the work amongst caste Hindus.

Caste Hindus' Duty

"But the real work that this large body of men and women can do is undoubtedly among the Harljans. Those caste Hindus who have studied my fifth statement, could not fail to have noticed that there is a vast amount of silent and effective service to be rendered by caste Hindus without much expenditure of time, energy or money.

Caste Hindus can effectively supplement the effort of Harijan Workers in inculcating habits of cleanliness and by procuring facilities for having easy access to the required water supply. They can public wells and tanks situated near Harijan quarters and canvass the opinion of caste Hindus who may be using such wells or tanks, pointing out to them that Harijans have a legal right to the use of all such public services and they can at the same time see to it and when the consent of caste Hindus has been secured for the use ny Harijans of these services, the latter use them in a manner not offensive to the former.

"As to scavenging, they can visit the owners of houses served by Harijans in their neighbourhood and explain to them the necessity of making it easy for Harijans to do the cleaning work in a hygienic manner. To this end, it would be naturally necessary for them to study the scientific method of constructing closets and disposing of nightsoil.

They can also procure from the householders special dresses to be supplied to the scavengers and make the Harjjans feel, by unhesitatingly doing the scavenging themselves, that there is nothing low or undignified about rendering such service. Such workers should also carry on propaganda against castemen giving to their scavengers leavings from their daily food and, where they are ill-paid, persuading the employers to pay them a decent wage.

Skinning carcasses

"As to tanning, not much help can be rendered unless some one of such voluntary leisure-time workers, has humanity and enthusiasm enough to study the hygienic method of skinning carcasses and, having done so, will spread the knowledge among these tanners.

They certainly can do one thing. They can find out the custom about the disposal of such carcasses and see that the tanners are assured of a proper wage for the service they render Those who have capacity and time can conduct day or night schools, take Harijan children for picnics and sight-seeing on holidays or whenever the opportunity occurs and visit Harijans in their own homes, procure medical aid where necessary and generally let them feel that a new page has been opened in their lives and that they need no longer regard themselves as the neglected and despised portion of Hindu humanity.

"All that I have described can be most easily and efficiently done by the student world. If this work is done with silent zeal, determination and intelligence by large body of men and women, I have no doubt that we shall have taken many steps in our progress towards the goal and it would be found too that there are more things that I have described that require attention. I have but chosen a few of the many things that have come under my observations in the course of my journey.

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