Essay on “Mahatma Gandhi and Untouchability”
Gandhiji’s service to uplift the untouchables is significant. Just like Dr. Ambedkar, Gandhiji worked hard against the problems of untouchables. He himself belonged to Vaishya caste. During his early years, he was a strict believer of caste system, but with the passage of time, his views changed. He recognized the evils faced by the untouchables living in the Hindu society.
Gandhiji considered untouchability as a blot on humanity. He worked hard to improve their condition by attaining Swaraj for them. Swaraj, according to him was not only self-government or political independence but also social freedom for them.
Gandhiji set up several ashramas where people of different caste lived, worked and ate together. Thus, gradually caste rigidity disappeared. Number of mass movements like Non-cooperation movement, Civil Disobedience movement and Quit India movement were initiated by Gandhiji. Thousands of common people participated in these movements. People belonging to different castes came together and took part by forgetting their caste differences.
Gandhiji called the untouchables by the name of ‘Harijan’. meaning, `Children of God’. HarijanSevakSingh, started by Gandhiji, was a society working for the upliftment of people belonging to untouchable caste. He also started a Gujarati periodical called ‘Harijan’.
Gandhi focused on removal of untouchability with an energy and enthusiasm that was unique in the history of Indian social and political movements. Gandhi believed that if untouchability was not dealt, it could lead to the destruction of Hinduism itself.
In 1932, the British Prime Minister announced the Communal Award in which untouchables were given separate electorate in the Parliament. Gandhiji realized that this would break the unity of people. To protest it, he started fast up to death. It was during this period Dr. Ambedkar signed Poona Pact with Gandhiji where he agreed not to give separate electorates to the untouchables. However, he asked for the increase in number of seats for the untouchables.
Once Gandhiji said, ‘I was wedded to the work for the extinction of `untouchability’ long before I was wedded to my wife. There were two occasions in our joint life when there was choice between working for the untouchables and remaining with my wife and I would have preferred the first. Thanks to my good wife, the crisis was averted. In my ashram, which is my family, I have several untouchables and a sweet but naughty girl living as my own daughter.”