Gandhiji feared volcano may erupt, 4 crore untouchables could destroy Hindustan, and Ambedkar had the will to sacrifice

gandhi mahadev desai
Mahadevbhai Desai with Gandhiji

Controversy surrounding Gandhiji’s views on Varnashram Dharma continue following well-known writer Arundhati Roy’s Mahatma Ayyankali lecture at Kerala University, Trivandrum, on July 17, 2014, where she, for the second time, sharply criticized the Father of Nation for “favouring” the “most brutal social hierarchy in the world known as caste system.” Soon after Roy’s lecture was made public, social activist Nandini Oza in her blog quoted from Gandhiji’s aide Mahadevbhai Desai’s dairy to say how the Mahatma favoured removal untouchability even as maintaining the caste hierarchy (click HERE to read). Oza, in her second post in her blog, has now dug out more quotations from Desai’s diary. We reproduce:

Mahadevbhai Desai’s Diary Part 2 (Year 1933):  

Pages 9-14: On discussions concerning separate electorate: [Mahadevbhai] : “…People will come [to meet], Christian friends too will come and will say that you are finding faults with the Government, but before that why don’t you see your own [faults] first? Why is the Hindu community considering the Antyaj people as untouchables?”

“Bapu: To explain that is in my hands. It is not a big thing. It can be told to them that let us resolve our own issues, why are you interfering in the matter? Once we are left to deal with our issues, you can do whatever you want. Why are you talking after dividing us? Today there is no option left for the Antyajo but to go to you or the Muslims. The issue of women is like that of the untouchables. But women are not untouchables. Even if she wishes to become an untouchable, man will go and sit on her bed. By creating a separate electorate for her we cannot separate her. Today Antyajo have been separated for ever. What will be its result? Internal disputes will be the result. … like those are already involved. That community will be made to collect goons, atrocities will be committed on the Hindus, wells will be poisoned, any recourse will be adopted…”

[Mahadevbhai] : “Today Bhandari came with the Prime Minister’s letter…”

“Vallabhbhai said: There is a big game in the whole thing. They will keep a few untouchables and through them they will rule…”

“Bapu: …If the rot of separate electorate gets into the Hindu samaj (community), then the Hindu samaj will be fragmented… I am willing to give up my life to fight against their desire to spread this rot in the Hindu samaj. They want to remove the role of the Hindu social reformers. Are we dead? We will give those people justice. But they are telling the Antyajo loudly that you do not depend upon them, depend upon the Muslims, and depend upon the goons. Therefore, Muslims with the Antyajo will attack the temples. They will burn them and do whatever they please.”

[Mahadevbhai] : “Today morning Bapu told Major Bhandari the ethical side of yesterday’s discussion…”

“Bapu: …With my death the Hindu samaj will become aware. With my death this constitution too will die… today this judgment has the material to turn the Antyajo into Muslims or Christians. Ambedkar has neither dharma nor Hindutva and so he is dancing as per their tune.”

Page 23: [Mahadevbhai] : “Is Ambedkar a hidden Muslim or what is he?  He has no Hindutva in him. Yet if there will be pressure on him from all sides he will listen. Look at his statement today he has talked as if untouchables are a different community from the Hindus.”

Page 25: [Mahadevbhai]: “While talking about Ambedkar I said: All will flatter this man and so his impudence will get encouragement. He will tell his personal gatherings that see I made Gandhi fast…!”

“Bapu: Yes, this is an unpleasant thing. Nargis and other women will be after him. They will flatter him. This is not what one likes at all. But what does one do?”

[Mahadevbhai] : “I thought in my mind: to give rise to such a situation – is not the fast responsible for this? Why should one create a situation of complete dependence on such a man by fasting?”

Pages 144-145: “…Then the talk of untouchables started and Ambedkar said: I must say honestly that the opening up of these temples, collective eating that is taking place, I am not interested in that because we suffer in that. My people have to suffer beatings because of it… if the upper caste Hindus had the guts they would have employed the untouchables as their servants. But that was not possible. That is why I am not interested in this. What I want is to end social and economic hardships.”

“Bapu: Give me an example.”

“He [Ambedkar] said: Untouchables do not get a place to live, they are being subjected to injustice and outrageous acts…you may not be aware of the sufferings I am subjected to… I cannot stay anywhere in Mumbai except in the chawl of Port Trust…In Pune all stay with their friends but I have to stay at the National Hotel and I have to spend rupees seven plus taxi charges.”

“…Ambedkar said: Birla told me to be in the board of untouchability removal sabha. I said no, because what can I do alone? I have to agree to the work you desire to take up for untouchability removal. If we are many then we can bring about improvement as per our wish. You may wish to build temples or construct wells. We may think that this money is going waste, there is a need of a different way for this.”

“Bapu: I can understand your viewpoint, and I will keep that in mind and I will see what can be done…”

Page 301: Mahadevbhai: “… In the morning Birla, Thakker, etc came. They gave the news that Panditji is not satisfied with the Pune pact…”

“Birla said: With this pact the Muslims have received a big setback is what I gather from here and there. Skarpa came from Italy. He said that …’s plan was that if every Muslim marries 4 untouchable girls then six crore untouchables will cease to be Hindus…”

“Bapu: We deserve that…”

[Mahadevbhai] : “…while talking about Ambedkar he said…”

“Bapu: He [Ambedkar] has the will to sacrifice; he has the strength to have a headlong fight. Volcano is to erupt. If we Hindus can be truthful then we can turn the Yerwada Pact into golden ashes. Otherwise four crore untouchables will destroy Hindustan…”

“…I had agreed with Ambedkar to take untouchables in the untouchable removal sangh, but now I feel it is not proper. We have to do repentance and not them. Let them make an advisory group and give suggestions. But we will not take a single one.”

Page 297: [Mahadevbhai] : “…Five students of Pune College came to meet. All were untouchables and from their way of talking and intelligence it seemed like they are growing Ambedkars. They asked many questions to Bapu. What about scholarships and other facilities for students? …Why are you not keeping us in the administration of untouchability removal mandal…?”

“Bapu: …Ambedkar had also asked the same thing. I had explained to him that it is not possible.  You cannot make such a demand. When can you make such a demand? When you are independent. If this mandal was not established for you with the view of repentance dharma, then I would say that not 50 percent but all 100 percent should be your people. But these people are debtors. Debtors should understand how they can clear their debt.  The debtors cannot take suggestion from you as to how they can clear their debt.”

“Bhole (leader of student deputation): True, but that feeling of being in debt is in you. We do not believe others have that feeling. Others are interested in keeping an upper hand, they are interested in giving only donations to the poor, we know this and so we are giving this suggestion.”

“Bapu: That is why I am telling you that let them realize their debt…till they do not become aware, I know that you will suffer…  I tell the Harijan brothers that you become clean, leave drinking, leave eating dead meat. The reason behind this is that I talk with Harijans as a Harijan. I feel your sorrows more than you do; this is because I have suffered the condition of Dedh (untouchable)…”

Pagesw 450-51: 5th Appeal by Gandhiji: “…Bath and cleanliness: Cleaning toilets in a better way… Selfish and ignorant upper caste Hindus have made the task of cleaning human excreta in a clean way almost impossible…those Harijans who are having to this highly necessary social work, can take a bath immediately after cleaning such toilets in today’s unfavorable circumstances, and instead of using some grass for cleaning they can use soil. I claim to be an efficient Bhangi (untouchable) and my claim is true…”

“…The Bhangis should learn not to accept the cruel among the cruelest method of throwing leftover food by the landlords. Due to years of habit the refined taste of Bhangis has gone numb and so they do not find anything wrong in eating the leftover food of others. They crave to eat the good food from the plates of their customers. For having taught the children of Bhangis to not touch such leftover food but to be satisfied with the home made corn chapattis, I know of cases wherein parents have removed their children from school….”

Mahadevbhai’s Desai’s Diary  Part-3 (Year 1933)

Page 7: [Mahadevbhai]: “Meeting with untouchable students from Pune. In [response to] an appeal by them to the untouchability removal samiti. They [untouchable students] informed that if the average income of Hind [India] is low then that of untouchables is nothing at all.”

“Bapu: This talk is not proved as per experience. Many touchables are… are dying hungry, whereas there are fewer untouchables who are dying hungry. Take the example of the Bengal’s Namshudras, the Thia’s of Malabar, or the Bhangis of Mumbai. They are far happier than the touchables. Among the Bhangis, all the three – men, women and children earn. I can give so many such examples. Where are the weavers dying of hunger? The condition of the Chamars is so much better. Now take the opposite examples. The Odiyas are just skin and blood. But they will not do the work of Chamars or Bhangies… If you will take the average income of all untouchables then it will not be any less than the average income of the touchables.”

“Student Bhole: But the untouchables are undergoing slavery and are doing menial work.”

“Bapu: You are an intelligent student. Take one village and study all figures. Had I been free and had the time, I would take the villages of Gujarat and examine their economic condition. But you should ask Thakkerbapa.”

“Thakkerbapa: The impression that I have is similar to that of these young friends. But I do not have facts and figures.”

“Bapu: That may be your impression. But I have moved about among the Harijans with my eyes wide open. To prove your point without enough proof and to make such generalization is not proper is what I feel.”

Mahadevbhai Desai’s Diary Part 15 ( Year 1932):

Page 138-139: [On the issue of representation in Round Table conference] : [Gandhiji] : “…If Ambedkar has a control on all of Maharashtra, then I have a control on all of India…if there is a competition between independence and him, then I must say without bitterness that he [Ambedkar] is not the representative of the untouchables…”

Mahadevbhai Desai’s Diary Part 17 (Year 1923):

Pages 197-99: [Mahadevbhai in an article in Navjeevan dated: 29-April-23] : “… There are two debates in the ‘Mumbai Samachar’ published on the 25th.  In one of these an attempt has been made to show that Gandhiji is in favour of inter-dinning among castes and the second tries to show that he is against it… In my long association with Gandhiji, I do not remember him ever stating that inter-dining is the responsibility of the subjects…the meaning of his utterances is just that due to inter-marriages and inter-dinning, there will be no problem to Varna (caste), human being brings his Varna right from the time of the birth, however he has said that it is definitely a hindrance in the upliftment of the soul…I appeal to the reformers that they may bring about such reforms as they may wish but they should not misuse the statements of Gandhiji… Congress has never made its business to remove untouchability through inter-caste dinning. No person will be considered untouchable is all that the Congress wants to achieve…Gandhiji has not minced words in stating that it is a mistake to think that inter caste dinning can lead to unification. In one article he writes: ‘inter caste dinning and marriage is not capable of bringing unity but also it is in no way helpful in resolving disputes…’ The gist is that inter-dinning is not included in the objectives of the Congress and for the Congress to think of inter-dinning in order to remove untouchability would be wrong. The pure activity of removal of untouchability will be put under threat due to this [inter dinning].”

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