How the name "Harijan" came to be applied to the '"Untouchables" by Gandhiji'is related by Shri S. R. Venkataraman in the Thakkar Bapa Jayanti Commemoration Volume. He says:
During his visit to Madras in December 1933 when the Harijan leaders met Gandhiji and
told him that they resented the word "Harijan", Gandhiji replied to them as follows :
"You say that the Depressed Classes were not consulted. They consulted me. That is the
point. I have visited all parts of India. 'Why are we called Harijans?' I am
asked. Why should they not have a better name? That is the generality of the
feeling. ‘For heaven’s sake do not call us coolies,’ they pleaded. At one time
this word had a particular significance. A whole race was called by that name.
If it was not now used, it does not mean there has come about a change of heart.
The offence to the ear has been removed. That is what the new name has
achieved. It is not, as I said, my coining. An untouchable pleaded with me not
to be known by ‘Suppressed’ reminds me of slavery,” he very rightly said. ‘I
have no name to suggest; will you suggest?’ I asked. Then the man suggested ‘Harijan’.
He quoted in support from Narasimha Mehta, the Gujarati poet, who had used it in
his works. I jumped at it. I knew also the Tamil saying ‘Thikkatravanukku
Deivamay Thunai'. Is not 'Harijan' a paraphrase of it? They are God's chosen who
are outcastes. That is what 'Harijan' signifies as applied to suppressed