untouchables and gandhi

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Sarah  Bosworth
Peace  and  Justice
October/1/2013
I've  not  only  been  intrigued  by  the  untouchables,  but  India's  entire  cast  system;;  it  has always  baffled  me  how  people  could  refuse  to  interact  with  someone  based  on  their  social status.  Thankfully,  there  was  a  man  powerful  and  influential  enough  to  persuade  the thoughts  of  many  and  change  how  Indians  viewed  these  untouchables;;  Gandhi  believed  it was  unfair  and  wrong  to  treat  people  this  way.  I’m  glad  there  are  people  like  him  in  the world  who  are  willing  to  stand  up  and  work  towards  a  good  cause.The  book  we  are  reading in  class,  Gandhi:  His  Life  and  Message,  by  Louis  Fischer  is  an  eye  opener  to  whom Gandhi  was  and  what  he  believed  in.  Gandhi  was  apologist  against  the  caste  system of  India  and  the  British  government,  he  truly  believed  in  abolishing  the  caste system.  In  this  essay  I  will  talk  about  the  untouchables  and  how  Gandhi  fought  for  them  to be  equal.

“Gandhi  never  sought  to  humiliate  or  defeat  the  whites  in  South  Africa  or  the  British in  India  .  He  wished  to  convert  them.  He  hoped  that  if  he  practiced  the  Sermon  on  the Mount,  General  Jan  Christiaan  Smuts  would  remember  he  was  a  Christian.”  (Fischer,  pg. 35).  Gandhi  was  a  Christian  who  advocated  for  the  Brahmins  and  the  Untouchables  to wed,  he  hoped  that  it  would  demolish  the  caste  system.  Even  though  he  was  raised  Hindu, Gandhi  did  not  view  the  caste  system  this  way,  he  died  believing  that  the  Untouchables deserved  equality.

“In  the  early  years  of  his  Mahatma  Hood,  Gandhi  favored  the  case  system.  ‘I

consider  the  four  divisions  to  be  fundamental,  natural,  and  essential,’  he  said  in 1920,  and  on  October  6,  1921,  he  wrote  in  Young  India,  ‘prohibition  against intermarriage  and  interlining  is  essential  for  the  rapid  evolution  of  the  soul.’  This defense  of  an  ignoble  aspect  of  Hindu  orthodoxy  stands  as  a  quotable  charge against  him,  but  he  actually  reversed  himself  in  word  and  deed.  ‘Restriction  on  inter caste  dining  and  inter  caste  marriage,’  he  declared  on  November  4,  1932,  ‘is  no part  of  the  Hindu  religion.  Today,  these  two  prohibitions  are  weakening  Hindu society.’  ’  (Fischer,  pg.  111-­112).  Gandhi  died  believing  that  all  Hindus  deserved  to be  treated  equal.

An  “untouchable”,  also  known  as  a  Dalit,  is  the  lowest  you  can  be  in  India's  caste system;;  it  deems  anyone  impure  and  less  than  human.  There  are  currently  more  than  160 million  people  in  India  that  are  considered  Untouchable’s.  These  people  work  the  hardest and  are  given  the  lowest  jobs,  such  as,  dealing  with  human  and  animal  waste. Untouchables  have  almost  no  human  rights;;  Dalits  may  not  drink  from  the  same  wells  or attend  the  same  temples  as  the  upper  castes,  nor  are  they  permitted  to  wear  shoes  in  the presence  of  an  upper  caste  or  drink  from  the  same  cups  in  tea  stalls.  Dalits  are  beaten, raped  and  publicly  humiliated  just  because  of  the  family  they  were  born  into.  Daily,  three Dalit  women  are  raped,  two  Dalits  are  murdered,  and  two  Dalit  homes  are  torched.  It  is scary  to  think  there  are  places  in  the  world  where  they  could  treat  anyone  this  way,  Gandhi felt  the  same  way.

It  was  Gandhi  who  first  called  the  untouchables  “Harijans”  ,which  translates  into “children  of  God”.  This  really  struck  with  me  because  it  makes  me  think  of  my  grandmother

who  always  used  to  call  mentally  handicapped  people  “Gods  children”.  It  takes  a  lot  of courage  to  stand  up  for  what  you  believe  in,  but  Gandhi  believed  in  equality  for  all...
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