Bahishkrit Bharat (Untouchable India)
The following is from an editorial (translated from Marathi) written by Babasaheb Ambedkar for one of the issues of the newspaper Bahishkrit Bharat published in 1927! This translation was first published in July 2010 by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Research Institute in Social Growth, Kolhapur. Translated by Dr. B.R. Kamble.
I mounted on the chariot with bow in my hands and it is my satisfaction that the bravery has surcharged my body; to establish fame in the world, to enhance the prestige of one's own religion and to release the earth from its burden,Parth, now be doubtless, pay attention to this struggle. After hearing this there should be no need of saying anything more.
Friday June 3, 1927
1. Once upon a time going to a foreign country was forbidden in India. But after observing that those who return from foreign (western) countries after receiving higher education occupy higher positions, now-a-days many go to the foreign countries without bothering for the expiation that they have to undergo after returning. Thus many Indian students are spread across the universities in western countries. Some Indian students studying in a German University have recently published that there they are treated as untouchables. Their entry is forbidden in some boardings (hostels). In the University their entry is forbidden to the amusement centres. They have stated that that the exclusion and miserable condition that they are experiencing there in Germany cannot be realized by the Indians from such a long distance. These students going abroad generally come from rich families. For them study goes along with all their habits of entertainment. As a matter of fact one need not have much sympathy for them. Because they are such who support and thrive on the varna (caste) practices in India. Varna system in India is their cultural heritage. They never say that the untouchablity imposed on the so-called untouchables in India is wrong. When this is so then why should they complain when their own Varna (caste) system is imposed on them in Europe? Should they not be happy that the varna system which they regard as good in India is imposed and practiced on them in Europe by the Europeans? If Varna System is good then should they not be happy when it is spreading outside India? Why should the boys who have themselves grown in the social environment of varnashrama be angry when it is practiced on them in Europe? These people who are number one in the hierarchical system of India should think seriously when they experience that they are not number one everywhere.
2. It seems that it is difficult for Bhalakar (the editor of Bhala, an orthodox Hindu newspaper) to digest the food of thought. Puffing at a small achievement is a usual practice of Bhalakar. It is difficult for a dark coloured man to change the colour of the skin merely by the use of turmeric. Bhalakar writes that we are interested in inter-caste dining, inter-caste marriages etc., and these are the social issues based on consent. The public facilities such as the use of public tanks, public roads, public rest houses, Dharamshalas and public temples come under legal matters and we are entitled to use these by law. If anybody forbids the use of these to the untouchables they have every right to knock the door of the courts in this country to claim justice.
To enable everybody to enjoy these rights we should cooperate with each other. Those who oppose this should leave this country hiding their faces in shame or end their lives by jumping into the sea. The difference between individual practices and the law is so clear that it can be easily understood by anybody. But the understanding ability of Bhalakar does not seem to close to the ability of even a layman. There is no use in teaching him the lesson of thoughtful ideas. He is like a dog whose tail will never be straight. There is no use of wasting our time and energy to reform his thinking.
3. In this issue we have printed elsewhere about the news of Mahars and Mangs eating together in Bombay. We do not demand anything more than the political rights from the touchables. We feel it is our duty to tell the untouchables while demanding the political rights you should also think of giving equal social status in social and family customs and equal status to those who are below you in social status. Therefore, we appreciate the act of Mahar brothers for their eating together with Mang brothers. We condemn the act of those Mahars who are opposing the Mahars and Mangs coming together in social matters. There are some Mang leaders who tell the Mangs that they should not eat together with Mahars. This unnecessarily creates enmity between Mahars and Mangs instead of creating socio-political awakening among the Mangs. We very urgently feel in this matter that this kind of attitude among any community must be immediately reformed for the good of all.
4. Recently, the government of Bombay Presidency has published the report of its Education Department for the year 1924-25. There the caste-wise list of those that have been admitted to the training college for the year 1924-25 is given and it is as follows:
In this Presidency the population of the Brahmins and such others is 9%, the Marathas and such others 57% and the untouchables and such others 23%. If we take the percentage of caste wise population into account then the Brahmins and such other castes must have secured 76 seats, the Marathas and such others 510 seats and the untouchables and such others 267 seats in the training college. The statistics show that the Brahmin and Maratha castes have not lost much. But the share of the untouchables seems to have been swallowed up by the Brahmins. This is an unfortunate reality. Almost all professions are open to the touchable communities. And they can earn their livelihood in any manner of their choice. But for the untouchables there is no other profession open than the teaching profession which is as easily available. But here also they are suffering under injustice. Here too their entry is prevented. It is an injustice to the untouchables but even from a social point of view also it is wrong that the Brahmins should enter in this profession in such a big way. Teaching class is the class of the charioteers (guides) in the country. They hold the key to the path of education. Therefore who should be the teacher is an important question for the welfare of the society. Such people who regard human beings as lesser than animals and have contempt for the intellectual ability of others should not be in charge of education and this is our considered opinion. It is not a question of teaching merely the alphabets in the school. It is a question of moulding the minds of the students culturally and making them responsible citizens in society. In other words the school is a place to produce responsible citizens of the nation. The school is not a hotel where the Brahmin cook might be considered all right, but the Brahmin majority among the teachers in the changed environment is not appreciable. It is necessary that the government should think over this problem and admit the candidates from the untouchable community in proportion to their population. Does it mean that justice should not be done even though reform is not possible?
5. In Kathiawad (Gujarat) there is a village named Lathi. In that village lives a school teacher by the name of Jethala Manasur Parmar. He is an untouchable by caste. Unfortunately, that poor person faced a miserable calamity which has been reported in the newspaper recently. On the last 5th of April his wife delivered a child. And immediately after two days she fell seriously ill. At a place called Dhangdhra there was a doctor named Pranajivan. The teacher approached him but the doctor refused to visit the house of an untouchable and get himself polluted by examining the untouchable patient. Thereafter this teacher used the good offices of one gentleman called Nagarsheth on whose insistence the doctor agreed to come provided the patient is brought out of the house. The doctor came at 8 pm, he did not touch the patient, gave the thermometer to a Mohammedan who got the fever measured with the help of the teacher, and the doctor then after seeing the thermometer told the teacher that it is the case of pneumonia and went away without even touching the patient yet taking Rs. 200 as his fees. The patient died within six hours of this incident. Who will not be angry after reading this? To what extent a caste Hindu can be merciless towards the untouchables is indicated by this behaviour of the doctor. The Hindus who tell the people not to kill cows did not show any mercy towards an untouchable woman who was on her deathbed. Such merciless people cannot be found in any community in the world. The reason for this is clear. For Hindus no one is more respectable than the Brahmins and the cows (Gobrahman). The religion which produces such inhuman feelings among the high caste Hindus must perish. In western countries the medical profession is such a noble one that the doctor goes without fail wherever and whenever he is invited to attend the patient. This happens through the medium of people's association. In this country those who have become doctors by receiving western medical education have accepted the above mentioned ideals of medical ethics. But some doctors, like the one mentioned above do not follow these ethics. They should be dealt with severe punishment. When some necessary work is expected from someone but he does not do it, there are some clauses in the penal code to deal with such persons. Our view is that why not introduce a new clause in the penal code to punish and reform such kind of wicked people?