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Current Affairs ( 12 Aug 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Gandhi on Religion, Cow and Caste — Part I and II

By Justice Markandey Katju

August 12, 2015

I have mentioned in many articles that Gandhi was objectively a British agent, responsible for the partition of India in 1947 with all its horrors. The British policy was divide and rule. By constantly injecting religion into politics for over three decades, Gandhi furthered this policy. If we read The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, which is a Government of India publication in several volumes, one will see that in almost every article Gandhi wrote and in almost every speech he delivered from about 1915, when he came to India from South Africa, till his death in 1948, he publicly propagated Hindu religious ideas like Ram Raj, cow protection, Varnashrama (caste system), Brahmacharya, etc.

Now, if one were a Sadhu or saint sitting in an ashram (hermitage), one can say anything. But when one enters politics and says such things in public political meetings, what effect will it have on a conservative Muslim mind? Will it not drive Muslims towards an organisation like the Muslim League? And did this not serve the British policy of divide and rule, therefore making Gandhi objectively a British agent?

India is a country with tremendous diversity. Even today, some 18 percent of its population is Muslim. Before 1947, the percentage of Muslims would have been about 25 percent. So, it is very dangerous to inject religion into politics in our subcontinent. However, our ‘Mahatma’ thought that was the only way to get mass support. This strategy did create mass support but mass support of only the Hindus, and it inevitably led to partition. Let me give some details. In his autobiography, Nehru writes:

“Gandhiji, indeed, was continually laying stress on the religious and spiritual side of the movement. His religion was not dogmatic, but it did mean a definitely religious outlook on life, and the whole movement was strongly influenced by this, and took on a revivalist character so far as the masses were concerned. I used to be troubled sometimes at the growth of this religious element in our politics, both on the Hindu and the Muslim side. I did not like it at all.

Even Gandhiji’s phrases sometimes jarred upon me — such as his frequent references to Rama Rajya as a golden age, which was to return. But I was powerless to intervene and I consoled myself with the thought that Gandhiji used the words because they were well known and understood by the masses. He had an amazing knack of reaching the heart of the people.

During my tour in the earthquake areas (in Bihar), or just before going there, I read with great shock Gandhiji’s statement to the effect that the earthquake had been a punishment for the sin of untouchability. This was a staggering remark. And if the earthquake was divine punishment for sin, how are we to discover for which sin we are being punished? For alas! We have many sins to atone for. The British government might call the calamity a divine punishment for civil obedience, for, as a matter of fact, North Bihar, which suffered most from the earthquake, took a leading part in the freedom movement.”

Now we may consider Gandhi’s view on cow protection. In his journal Young India, of 1921, Gandhi writes:

“The cow is a poem of pity. One reads pity in the gentle animal. She is the mother to millions of Indian mankind. Protection of the cow means protection of the whole dumb creation of God. The ancient seer, whoever he was, began with the cow. The appeal of the lower order of creation is all the more forcible because it is speechless.”

Does this make any sense? “The cow is the purest type of sub-human life. She pleads before us on behalf of the whole of the sub-human species for justice to it at the hands of man, the first among all that lives. She seems to speak to us through her eyes: ‘you are not appointed over us to kill us and eat our flesh or otherwise ill-treat us, but to be our friend and guardian’” (Young India, 1924).

“I worship it and I shall defend its worship against the whole world” (Young India, 1925).

“Mother cow is in many ways better than the mother who gave us birth. Our mother gives us milk for a couple of years and then expects us to serve her when we grow up. Mother cow expects from us nothing but grass and grain. Our mother often falls ill and expects service from us. Mother cow rarely falls ill. Here is an unbroken record of service, which does not end with her death. Our mother, when she dies, means expenses of burial or cremation. Mother cow is as useful dead as when she is alive. We can make use of every part of her body — her flesh, her bones, her intestines, her horns and her skin. Well, I say this not to disparage the mother who gives us birth, but in order to show you the substantial reasons for my worshipping the cow” (Harijan, 1940).

“The central fact of Hinduism is cow protection. Cow protection to me is one of the most wonderful phenomena in human evolution. It takes the human being beyond this species. The cow to me means the entire sub-human world. Man through the cow is enjoined to realise his identity with all that lives. Why the cow was selected for apotheosis is obvious to me. The cow was in India the best companion. She was the giver of plenty. Not only did she give milk, but she also made agriculture possible. Cow protection is the gift of Hinduism to the world. And Hinduism will live so long as there are Hindus to protect the cow. Hindus will be judged not by their tilaks not by the correct chanting of mantras, not by their pilgrimages, not by their most punctilious observances of caste rules, but their ability to protect the cow” (Young India, 1921).

“I would not kill a human being for protection of a cow, as I will not kill a cow for saving a human life, be it ever so precious” (Young India, 1921).

“My religion teaches me that I should by personal conduct instil into the minds of those who might hold different views, the conviction that cow killing is a sin and that, therefore, it ought to be abandoned” (Young India, 1925).

“Cow slaughter can never be stopped by law. Knowledge, education and the spirit of kindliness towards her alone can put an end to it. It will not be possible to save those animals that are a burden on the land or, perhaps, even man if he is a burden” (Harijan, 1946).

“My ambition is no less than to see the principle of cow protection established throughout the world. But that requires that I should set my own house thoroughly in order first” (Young India, 1925).

These are only some of the stupid, feudal ideas this ‘Mahatma’, this ‘father’ of our nation had. Now we may consider Gandhi’s views about caste.

Gandhi repeatedly said in the 1920s that “Hindus must follow their hereditary professions” and that “prohibition of intermarriage between people of different Varnas was necessary for a rapid evolution of the soul”. In the 1930s, he changed his tune and started saying that he was opposed to caste but supported Varna and hereditary professions, as if there is a difference between the two.

This hypocrisy was typical of Gandhi. Whenever he found his stupid feudal ideas unacceptable he tried to obfuscate.

(To be continued)

Justice Markandey Katju is an ex-judge of the Supreme Court of India



Gandhi on religion, cow and caste — II

By Justice Markandey Katju

August 13, 2015

In 1921, Gandhi said in his journal Young India: “I am a Sanatani Hindu. I believe in Varnashrama dharma. I believe in protection of the cow.” He also said, “I believe that caste has saved Hinduism from disintegration. One of my correspondents suggests that we should abolish the caste system but adopt the class system of Europe, meaning that the idea of hereditary castes should be rejected. I am inclined to think that the law of heredity is an eternal law and any attempt to alter it must lead to utter confusion. Hindus believe in transmigration of the soul and Nature will adjust the balance by degrading a Brahmin if he misbehaves to a lower caste, and upgrading one who lives the life of a Brahmin to a Brahmin in his next life.”

He also wrote: “The beauty of the caste system is that it does not base itself upon distinctions of wealth possessions. Money, as history has proved, is the greatest disruptive force in the world. Caste is but an extension of the principle of the family. Both are governed by blood and heredity. Western scientists are busy trying to prove that heredity is an illusion and that milieu is everything. The experience of many lands goes against the conclusions of these scientists but even accepting their doctrine of milieu, it is easy to prove that milieu can be conserved and developed more through caste than through class. As we all know, change comes very slowly in social life and, thus, as a matter of fact, caste has allowed new groupings to suit the changes in lives. But these changes are quiet and easy, as a change in the shape of the clouds. It is difficult to imagine a better, harmonious human adjustment. Caste does not connote superiority or inferiority. It simply recognises different outlooks and corresponding modes of life. It is no use denying the fact that a sort of hierarchy has been evolved in the caste system but it cannot be called the creation of the Brahmins. When all castes accept a common goal of life, a hierarchy is inevitable because all castes cannot realise the ideal in equal degree.”

Again, in 1921, Gandhi said: “I believe that if Hindu society has been able to stand, it is because it is founded on the caste system. A community, which can create the caste system must be said to possess unique power of organisation. To destroy the caste system and adopt the Western European social system means that Hindus must give up the principle of hereditary occupation, which is the soul of the caste system. The hereditary principle is an eternal principle. To change it is to create disorder. It will be chaos if every day a Brahmin is to be changed into a Shudra and a Shudra is to be changed into a Brahmin. The caste system is a natural order of society. I am opposed to all those who are out to destroy the caste system.”

In 1926, Gandhi writes: “In accepting the fourfold division I am simply accepting the laws of nature, taking for granted what is inherent in human nature and the law of heredity. It is not possible in one birth entirely to undo the results of our past doings.” Gandhi’s hypocrisy can again be seen by the following statement in 1927: “In my conception of the law of Varna, no one is superior to any other. A scavenger (a rubbish collector or a latrine or street sweeper) has the same status as a Brahmin.” Is this not ridiculous and farcical? Do Brahmins regard Shudras as their equals? It is like the devious doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ propounded by the US Supreme Court in 1896. Gandhi does not want the abolition of the caste system. He says all castes have the same status, which is nonsense.

In 1925, Gandhi says: “There is no harm if a person belonging to one Varna acquires the knowledge or science and art specialised in by persons belonging to other Varnas. But as far as the way of earning his living is concerned, he must follow the occupation of the Varna to which he belongs, which means he must follow the hereditary profession of his forefathers. The objective of the Varna system is to prevent competition and class struggle, and class war. I believe in the Varna system because it fixes the duties and occupations of persons. Varna means the determination of a man’s occupation before he is born. In the Varna system no man has any liberty to choose his occupation.” This statement is again obfuscation. Why will anyone acquire a skill unless he can use it to earn his bread?

In 1931, Gandhi said: “I do not believe in caste in the modern sense. It is an excrescence and a handicap on progress. Nor do I believe in inequalities between human beings. We are all absolutely equal. But equality is of souls and not bodies. We have to realise equality in the midst of this apparent inequality. Assumption of superiority by any person over any other is a sin against God and man. Thus, caste, in so far as it connotes distinctions in status, is an evil. I do however believe in Varna, which is based on hereditary occupations. Varnas are four to mark four universal occupations: imparting knowledge, defending the defenceless, carrying on agriculture and commerce, and performing service through physical labour. These occupations are common to all mankind but Hinduism, having recognised them as the law of our being, has made use of it in regulating social relations and conduct. Gravitation affects us all whether one knows it exists or not.”

The above statement really takes the cake. On the one hand, Gandhi says he does not believe in caste but, on the other hand, he says that he believes in hereditary occupations and says it is like the law of gravity. But hereditary occupations are the basis of caste. Does this contradictory statement require any comment, except to say that this man can wriggle around and say that two plus two equals four and two plus two equals five in the same breath?

In 1932, Gandhi said: “My own opinion is that the Varna system has just now broken down. There is no true Brahmin or true Kshatriya or Vaishya. We are all Shudras, i.e. one Varna. If this position is accepted, then the thing becomes easy. If this does not satisfy our vanity, then we are all Brahmins. Removal of untouchability does mean root-and-branch destruction of the idea of superiority and inferiority.” Does this statement make any sense? At least I cannot make any head or tail out of it.

In 1933, Dr Ambedkar said: “There will be outcasts as long as there are castes, and nothing can emancipate the outcaste except the destruction of the caste system.” This was the logical argument of Dr Ambedkar. But see how Gandhi replies: “Dr Ambedkar is bitter. He has every reason to feel so. Yet I do not believe the caste system, even as distinguished from Varnashrama (the scheme of duties traditionally linked to the caste system), to be an odious and vicious dogma. It has its limitations and defects, but there is nothing sinful about it, as there is about untouchability. And if untouchability is a by-product of the system, it is only in the same sense that an ugly growth is of a body, or weeds of a crop.”

Thus, Gandhi is not against the caste system but only against untouchability.

(To be continued)

Justice Markandey Katju is an ex-judge of the Supreme Court of India