JAMES SCHALLER, MD: INDIA DALIT WRITER REPORTS THE DALIT POOR UNTOUCHABLES DO NOT LIKE GANDHI
As someone trying to very quickly understand the 1/4 billion Dalits or the oppressed and despised of India before I go help those more experienced, please recall Dalits in India do not rate above rodents or ants. And in my reading I was confused by Thomas Mountain's report Dalits do not feel Gandhi stood with them. Indeed, they do not like him, when in the West he is seen as saintly. This writer seems to be accepted in wide Dalit circles. Does he have a point—do the untouchables have real grounds to ignore Ghandi?
He writes some select comments summarized below:
In India the rapidly growing Dalit movement rejects Gandhi.
Gandhi was a so-called "high caste". High castes are a minority in India yet dominate Indian society in much the same way whites ruled South Africa during the official period of Apartheid. Dalits often use the phrase Apartheid in India when speaking about their problems.
The Indian Constitution was authored by Gandhi's main critic and political opponent, Dr. Ambedkar, and is the first Dalit in history to receive an education.
In Gandhi's hunger strike in 1933. The matter which Gandhi was protesting was the inclusion in the draft Indian Constitution, that reserved the right of Dalits to elect their own leaders.
Dr. Ambedkar had come to the conclusion that the only way Dalits could improve their lives is if they had the exclusive right to vote for their leaders, that a portion or reserved section of all elected positions were only for Dalits and only Dalits could vote for these reserved positions.
Gandhi was determined to prevent this and went on hunger strike to change this article in the draft constitution. After many communal riots, where tens of thousands of Dalits were slaughtered, and with a leap in such violence predicted if Gandhi died, Dr. Ambedkar agreed, with Gandhi on his death bed, to give up the Dalits right to exclusively elect their own leaders and Gandhi ended his hunger strike.
Later, on his own death bed, Dr. Ambedkar would say this was the biggest mistake in his life, that if he had to do it all over again, he would refuse to give up Dalit only representation, even if it meant Gandhi's death.
As history has shown, life for the overwhelming majority of Dalits in India has changed little since the arrival of Indian independence over 50 years ago.
Indeed, the laws written into the Indian Constitution by Dr. Ambedkar, many patterned after the laws introduced into the former Confederate or slave states in the USA during reconstruction after the Civil War to protect the freed black Americans, have never been enforced by the high caste dominated Indian court system and legislatures.
Dalits are the victims of economic embargos, denial of basic human rights such as access to drinking water, use of public facilities and education and even entry to Hindu temples.
Currently, most Indians still believe, even most Dalits, that Dalits are being punished by God for sins in a previous life. Under the religious codes of Hinduism, a Dalit's only hope is to be a good servant of the high castes and upon death and rebirth they will be reincarnated in a high caste.
Dalits feel that if they had the right to elect their own leaders they would have been able to start challenging the domination of the high castes in Indian society and would have begun the long walk to freedom so to speak. They blame Gandhi and his hunger strike for preventing this.
In conclusion, Thomas Moore recommends viewing of the film "Bandit Queen" as the best example of life for women and Dalits in India's villages, which is the story of the life of the late, brutally murdered, Phoolan Devi, who worked for advances in India.
[DR. SCHALLER NEITHER SUPPORTS NOR OPPOSES THIS INFORMATION. HE ASSUMES YOU WILL DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH].