There are certain matters in which strikes would be wrong. Sweepers' grievances come in this category. I do not want to go into others here. My opinion against sweepers'' strikes dates back to about 1897 when I was in Durban. A general strike was mooted there and the question arose as to whether scavengers should join in it. My vote was registered against the proposal. Just as man cannot live without air, so too he cannot exist for long if his home and surroundings are not clean. One or other epidemic is bound to break out especially when modern drainage is put out of action.
An impartial tribunal for settling disputes should always be
accepted. Refusal is a sign of weakness. A Bhangi may not give up
his work even for a day. And there are many other ways open to him
of securing justice.
Townspeople should, on the other hand, forget that there is such a
thing as untouchability and learn the art of cleaning their own and
the city's drains, so that if a similar occasion arises, they are
not nonplussed and can render the necessary temporary service. They
may not be coerced. I go so far as to say that the military who know
this work should be used for such emergency. If Swaraj is round the
bend, we can now look upon the military as ours and need have no
hesitation in taking all the constructive work we can from them. Up
till now they have only been employed in indiscriminate firing on
us. Today they must plough the land, dig wells, clean latrines and
do every other constructive work that they can, and thus turn the
people's hatred of them into love.
New Delhi, 15-4-'46