121. Origin of name 'Harijan'

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 classes."