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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section XII : Unto This Last > Landless Labour and Harijans

 

81. Landless Labour and Harijans

The Kisan or the peasant whether as a landless labourer or a labouring proprietor comes first. He is the salt or the earth which rightly belongs or should belong to him, not to the absentee landlord or Zamindar. But in the non-violent way the labourers cannot forcibly eject the absentee landlord. He has so to work as to make it impossible for the landlord to exploit him.

Mahatma, Vol. VI, (1953), p. 364


Harijan means Ďa man of Godí. All the religious of the world describe God pre-eminently as the Friend of the friendless, Help of the helpless and Protector of the weak. The rest of the world apart, in India who can be more friendless, helpless or weaker than the forty millions or more Hindus of India who are classified as Ďuntouchablesí? If therefore, anybody of people can be fitly described as men of God they are surely these helpless, friendless and despised people.

Harijan, 11-2-33, p. 7


Swaraj for me means freedom for the meanest of our countrymen. If the lot of the Panchama-1 is not improved when we are all suffering it is not likely to be better under the intoxication of Swaraj.

Young India, 12-6-24, p. 195


It is idle to talk of Swaraj so long as we do not protect the weak and the helpless or so long as it is possible for a single Swarajist to injure the feelings of any individual. Swaraj means that not a single Hindu or Muslim shall for a moment arrogantly think that he can crush with impunity meek Hindus or Muslims. Unless this condition is fulfilled we will gain Swaraj only to lose it the next moment. We are no better than the brutes until we have purged ourselves of the sins we have committed against our weaker brethren.

So long as the Hindus willfully regard untouchability as part of their religion, so long as the mass of Hindus consider it a sin to touch a section of their brethren, Swaraj is impossible of attainment.

Young India, 4-5-21, p. 143


Untouchability is not a sanction of religion, it is a device of Satan. The devil has always quoted scriptures. But scriptures cannot transcend reason and truth. They are intended to purify reason and illuminate truth.

Young India, 19-1-21, p. 22


A manís Karma-2 is responsible for what he is, they say. But my Karma does not compel me to throw stones at a sinner. Religion is made to uplift and not to keep a man crushed under the weight of his Karma.

Young India, 22-9-21, p. 302


A religion that establishes the worship of the cow cannot possibly countenance or warrant a cruel and inhuman boycott of human beings. And I should be content to be torn to pieces rather than disown the suppressed classes. Hindus will certainly never deserve freedom, nor get it if they allow their noble religion to be disgraced by the retention of the taint of untouchability. And as I love Hinduism dearer than life itself, the taint has become for me an intolerable burden. Let us not deny God by denying to a fifth of our race the right of association on an equal footing.

Young India, 6-10-21, p. 319


The moment we have restored real living equality between man and man, we shall able to establish equality between man and the whole creation. When that day comes we shall have peace on earth and goodwill to men.

Harijan, 28-3-36, p. 51


The Bhangis have hitherto done their work uncomplainingly, and therefore the caste men have not cared to know how these have served society for centuries. If we had not regarded these servants of society as íuntouchablesí, we would not have shut our eyes upon them or their work. Having chosen to do so and having confined them to infernos, we ourselves daily descend to these infernos called privies and do not care to look at the dirt about us or to notice the stink that pervades these places.

Harijan, 18-3-33, p. 4


The ideal Bhangi of my conception would be a Brahmin par excellence, possible even excel him. It is possible to envisage the existence of a Bhangi without a Brahmin. But without the former the latter could not be. It is the Bhangi who enables society to live. A Bhangi does for society what a mother does for her baby. A mother washes her baby of the dirt and insures his health. Even so the Bhangi protects and safeguards the health of the entire community by maintaining sanitation for it. The Brahminís duty is to look after the sanitation of the soul, the Bhangiís that of the body of society. But there is a difference in practice; the Brahmin generally does not live up to his duty, the Bhangi does willy-nilly no doubt. Society is sustained by several services. The Bhangi constitutes the foundation of all services.

And yet our woebegone Indian society has branded the Bhangis as a social Pariah-3 set him down at the bottom of the scale, held him fit only to receive kicks and abuse, a creature who must subsist on the leavings of the caste-people and dwell on the dung-heap. He is without a friend, his very name has become a term of reproach. This is shocking. It is perhaps useless to seek the why and wherefore of it. I certainly am unaware of the origin of the inhuman conduct, but I know this much that by looking down upon the Bhangi we-Hindus, Mussalmans, Chirstians and all have deserved the contempt of the whole world. Our villages have today becomes seats of dirt and insanitation and the villages come to an early and untimely death. If only we had given due recognition to the status of the Bhangi as equal to that of a Brahmin as in fact and justice he deserves, our villages today no less than their inhabitants would have looked a picture of cleanliness and order. We would have to a large extent been free from the ravages of a host of diseases which directly spring from our uncleanliness and lack of sanitary habits.

I therefore make bold to state without any manner of hesitation or doubt that not till the invidious distinction between the Brahmin and the Bhangi is removed, will our society enjoy health, prosperity and peace, and be happy.

Harijan, 28-11-36, p. 336


1. Literally, belonging to the fifth caste; an out caste

2. Action

3. Out caste