“….But they killed you, the naked you,
Your blood with mud was gooey goo.
Sadist fool, you killed your body
Many times before this too.
Bapu, bapu, you big fraud, we hate you.” (Meena Kandasamy)
Utter the phrases my opinion, freedom of expression and speech, many will pounce upon you to skin you alive before satiating their ire by guillotining you; some may be content in treating you like vermin. The above mentioned verses are from Meena Kandasamy’s anthology of poems. This poem on Gandhi was crafted by her when she was seventeen. And the poem recently fluttered and ruffled many and some turned away their gaze in disdain. For, she blasphemed Gandhi the “Mahatma”! Poet SugathaKumari refused to chair a function that she was to attend to release some works of Ms.Kandasamy. The former sighted the poem as priggery and accused Ms.Kandasamy of calumny. She lamented that such irreverence to an icon and symbol of greatness like Gandhi made it impossible for her to morally accept the invite and share the stage with Ms.Kandasamy. She, Ms. Meena Knadasamy the firebrand poet has committed a sacrilege!
I was directed by a fellow Blogger to the Google and advised to search for “The Poona Pact” to know more on Ms.Kandasamy’s premises of ire against Gandhi.
I would like to take a dispassionate view on the matter, i.e. neither pro Gandhi nor reserve expletives for him. And I do not want to accuse Ms.Kandasamy of intemperate language or of cussedness. She has certainly borrowed the strong views Ambaedkar reserved for Gandhi. However, the allegation that Gandhi was a caste Hindu peddler, vile and masochist, out to perpetuate the dire life and social ostracisation of the untouchables or Dalit is rather a queer contention. To me it seems like aspersing motives on Nelson Mandela or Ang San Su Kui. It is also a strange allegation that Gandhi was against social emancipation of Dalit. Glancing around us would tell much about the nations born on premises of religion and administered on the theocratic Mumbo jumbo and one could easily accede to Gandhi’s lamentation against further alienating people through partition and separate electorate based on caste. Why he acceded to the demand for separate electorate for Muslims is not understandable as the perplexing endorsement of the Khilafat movement, something that should have had no bearing on us- whether a Caliph rules the remnants of the old Ottoman Empire.
Here are the gist of the events from the past.
Poona Pact ( Sept 24, 1932), agreement between Hindu leaders in India granting new rights to untouchables( low-caste Hindu groups).The pact, signed in Poona, resulted from the communal award of Aug.4,1932, made by the British government on the failure of the India parties to agree, which allotted seats in the various legislatures of India to the different communities. Mahatma Gandhi objected to the provision of separate electorates for the scheduled (formerly “untouchables”) castes, which in his view separated them from the whole Hindu community. Though in prison, Gandhi announced a fast unto death, which he began on Sept 18.
Ambaedkar made an official demand for separate electorate system on an all-India basis. At the London Round Table Conference (II) he sparred verbally with Gandhi on the question of awarding separate electorates to untouchables. A fierce opponent of separate electorates on religious and sectarian lines, Gandhi feared that separate electorates for untouchables would divide Hindu society for future generations. “It passes my comprehension why Mr. Gandhi should stake his life on an issue arising out of the communal question which he, at the Round Table Conference, said was one of comparatively small importance.”Ambaedkar said on a later day.
Exhorting orthodox Hindu society to eliminate discrimination and untouchability, Gandhi asked for political and social unity of Hindus. Gandhi’s fast provoked great public support across India and orthodox Hindu leaders, fearing communal reprisals and killings of untouchables in the event of Gandhi’s death, Ambaedkar agreed under massive coercion from the supporters of Gandhi to drop the demand for separate electorate and settled for reservation of seats. This agreement, which saw Gandhi end his fast, in the end and achieved more representation for the untouchables, while dropping the demand for separate electorates that was promised through the British Communal Award prior to Ambaedkar’s meeting with Gandhi. The former later criticised this fast of Gandhi as a gimmick to deny political rights to the untouchables and increase the coercion he had faced to give up the demand for separate electorates.
Ambaedkar said,,”There was nothing noble in the fast. It was a foul and filthy act. The fast was not for the benefit of the Untouchables. It was against them and was the worst form of coercion against helpless people to give up the constitutional safeguards of which they have been possessed under the Prime Minister’s Award and agree to live on the mercy of the Hindus. It was vile and wicked act. How can the untouchables regard such a man as honest and sincere? Gandhi is the greatest enemy the untouchables have ever had in India.”
To circumambulate the opposing ideas of two of the greatest social reformers of the twentieth century India is to exercise incessant arguments and contentions. It is best to understand the following expression of Gandhi and leave the rest to one’s individual faculty to infer.
“I gave support to the caste system because its stands for restraint. But at present caste does not mean restraint, it means limitations. Restraint is glorious and helps to achieve freedom. But limitations are like chain, it binds. There is nothing commendable in castes as they exist to- day. They are contrary to the tenets of Shastras. The number of castes is infinite and there is a bar against intermarriage. This is not a condition of elevation. It is state of fall.” Mohandas.K.Gandhi 1925.