Liberals and the complicity in casteism – Part 2

This is a continuation of my rant about the casual casteism of liberals from Part 1 . I am sorry for the long gap in between, but well; I was busy with work – to compensate for the end-of-the-year vacation that I am gonna take. Like I mentioned earlier, I am an ex-liberal. Like most liberals, I also was a follower of Gandhian values. However, on reading Arundhati Roy’s introduction “The Doctor and the Saint” to AoC; truth hit me hard and how! As I realize, M.K.Gandhi was ultimately not a very different person in character from Nathuram Godse; the man who assassinated him. He was an astute politician from the beginning to the end; earning the titles “Mahatma” and “Father of the Nation” while in reality setting benchmarks for casteism,racism and misogyny.

As far as Gandhi’s journey in South Africa is concerned, most of us only know about his being thrown out of a ‘Whites only’ first-class coach of a train in Pietermaritzburg. However, there was a lot more to it. Gandhi was never bothered by racial segregation – he was only offended that ‘passenger Indians’ (Indian merchants who were mostly upper caste Hindu or Muslim) were treated on par with the native black Africans (whom Gandhi called ‘Kaffirs’ – a racist slur that can today get you punished by law). The Durban post office had only two entrances: one for Blacks and one for Whites. Gandhi petitioned the authorities and had a third entrance opened in 1895, so that the Indians didn’t have to use the same entrance as the ‘Kaffirs’. However, this was just the tip of the iceberg.

In 1899, there was a brutal Anglo-Boer war in which the British fought the Dutch settlers. Thousands of Black Africans and bonded Indian labourers (of the subordinated castes) were dragged into armies on either side. Gandhi and a group of passenger Indians fought for the British. Tens of thousands of Boer civilians (mainly women and children) perished in concentration camps (precursor to Auschwitz camps during the Holocaust). 7 years after this war, Gandhi was again on the wrong side of another murderous war. Zulu chief Bambatha kaMancinza led an uprising against the British government’s one-pound poll tax.  The rebellion was forcefully suppressed – Bambatha was beheaded and 4000 Zulus were killed; thousands more beaten and imprisoned.

The same year, Gandhi and his fellow passenger Indians led a protest against another draconian British law; which required every male Asian to register himself/herself and produce on demand a thumbprinted certificate of identity; else risk deportation. Gandhi was attacked mercilessly and imprisoned. However, for him – the worst part of it was to share a prison cell with the hated ‘Kaffirs’. These were his views on the African natives – “We could understand not being classed with the Whites, but too be placed on the same level with the Natives seemed to be too much to put up with. Apart from whether or not this implies degradation, I must say it is rather dangerous. Kaffirs as a rule are uncivilised – the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live almost like animals.” This speech from the ‘Mahatma’ would have made Ku Klux Klan or any other White supremacist or Neo-Nazi group today in the West proud!

Apart from his blatantly racist statements, Gandhi actually petitioned the White authorities for separate wards in prisons, separate blankets (“a blanket that has been used by the dirtiest of Kaffirs may later fall to an Indian’s lot”), prison meals tailored for Indians (rice with ghee)  and separate toilets for Indian prisoners. Moving on from racism to casteism, these were Gandhi’s views on caste “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 inter-dining and inter-marriage… These being my views I am opposed to all who are out to destroy the Caste System.”

Gandhi narrowed down the issue of caste and untouchability to ‘Bhangis’ aka manual scavengers. Throughout his life, he wrote a lot about the importance of scavenging as a ‘religious duty’ (again, justifying the caste system and its slavery!) “I like the path of service; therefore, I like the Bhangi. I have personally no objection to sharing my meal with him, but I am not asking you to inter-dine with or inter-marry him.” Congress leader and Gandhi’s deputy C Rajagopalachari summed up Gandhi’s views in a speech to upper-caste Hindus during the Vaikom Satyagraha against untouchability  in 1924 ” Mahatmaji does not want the caste system abolished but holds that untouchability should be abolished… Mahatmaji does not want you to dine with Thiyas or Pulayas (Untouchables). .Mahatmaji wants you to look upon so-called untouchables as you do at the cow and the dog and other harmless creatures.”

Gandhi himself made an arbitrary arrangement with the Brahmin priests of the Vaikom temple and the Queen of Travancore, to ensure that the roads (which the Shudras and  ‘Untouchables’ used) were re-aligned so that they were no longer within ‘polluting’ distance from the temple. Thus, Gandhi; far from helping the lower castes gain entry into a temple of privileged castes, actually ensured that the road for the lower castes was diverted away from the temple – continuing to deny them temple entry rights! This was the great Gandhian Satyagraha for you! While Gandhi was a proponent of Satyagraha, he was against sweepers (generally Dalits) practising satyagraha “Just as a man cannot live without air, so too he cannot exist for long if his home and surroundings are not clean. One or the other epidemic is bound to break out. especially when modern drainage is put out of action… A Bhangi (scavenger) may not give up his work even for a day. And there are many other ways open to him for securing justice.” What other peaceful methods  can you suggest to protest against discrimination, Gandhi?

The very worst of Gandhi’s deeds was the now infamous Poona Pact of 1932. Babasaheb had proposed a system of positive discrimination within the electoral system. He wanted a separate electorate for Dalits (like the religious minorities), so that they could develop into a political constituency with a leadership of its own; without interference from orthodox Hindu leaders. In addition to this (and also so that Dalits retained their connection with mainstream politics) he had suggested that they be given the right to vote for general candidates as well. The British government under Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald eventually awarded the Dalits a separate electorate for a period of 20 years (double the period Babasaheb had proposed as a memorandum to the British). In response, Gandhi actually blackmailed Dalits and their leader Dr. Ambedkar by threatening to commit suicide if the provision of separate electorates was not revoked!

It was only after Dr. Ambedkar pleaded with Gandhi to break his fast (on the grounds that many Dalits would suffer violence from upper castes if Gandhi died) that he eventually relented. Thus, the Poona Pact was signed; and according to it, Dalits would have reserved seats in general constituencies instead of a separate electorate for themselves. This ensured that the leadership remained in the hands of the privileged castes, as the Pact ensured that the Dalit leaders who were to be selected; had to be acceptable (read: meek and subservient) to their privileged-caste-dominated constituencies. Gandhi never truly saw any role for Dalits in society, apart from being victims in need of assistance. The Poona Pact was thus a ploy to kill or at least delay the political consciousness of the Dalits.

Moving on from casteism to misogyny, many of you might have read or at least heard of Gandhi’s famous autobiography “My Experiments with Truth” . But how many of you actually know his experiments with women (yes, you read right!) ? His wife as well as other young women! In fact, as an old man in his 70s; he slept with two young girls – Manu (his 17-year old grand niece) and Abha; and used them as ‘walking sticks’! Gandhi also shamelessly justified this perversion, by saying that he did it in order to gauge the degree of success or failure; of his conquest over sexual desire! Apart from being a sexually repressed pervert, Gandhi actually viewed women as not people but objects! Also, at his famous Tolstoy farm; Gandhi slept with young boys and girls spread around him – taking care to arrange the order of the beds!

Gandhi even once sent the mischievous boys and innocent girls to bathe in the same spot at the same time, claiming that he did it as a part of his duty of ‘self-restraint’ and Satyagraha; and that “he loved them with a mother’s love”! While Gandhi was fomenting trouble between boys and girls this way, it eventually happened – one day a boy made fun of two girls. Gandhi’s response to this was to put pressure (by winning over the elderly women of the farm) on the young girls to “cut off their fine long hair”. Once the girls were coerced to come around to this ridiculous decision, Gandhi himself cut off their hair! And he never thought of a similar punishment for the boys!

This is the “Mahatma” and the “Father of the Nation” that you liberals all love and want to die for (by self-admission of a Congress supporter on Twitter). The shrewd and cunning lawyer and politician, who was nothing but a racist and casteist pervert. It is ironic that he was supposed to have stood up for “Truth and Non-Violence”, when he fabricated many stories to cover up his racism and casteism; and when he collaborated with the Whites in their brutal wars against the native Africans. It is impossible to talk about liberals’ involvement in casteism, without a discussion about the casteist Gandhi who was supposedly the best of the Hindus; and an icon for many Indian liberals. With this, it is time to bring an end to this rant of mine on liberals, though of course; I will definitely start another rant about casteism in another blog post with a different heading! 😛 Be prepared!

PS: I declare that I don’t own most of the stuff here. It belongs to the true Father of the Nation – Babasaheb Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, and of course also to Arundhati Roy for the introduction to AoC!

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