Confronting Gandhi’s Racism

In the following brief video, Indian activist Arundati Roy challenges the way the global elite has repackaged Mohandas Gandhi as a hero to be worshiped and adored. She delivered her talk shortly after the publication of The Doctor and the Saint, a book length introduction to a new edition of The Annihilation of Caste. The latter was written in 1936 by Dalit (aka Untouchable) lawyer and activist Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar. Gandhi bitterly fought Ambedkar and his ideas during his lifetime. This, according to Roy, was based on Gandhi’s entrenched beliefs about racial superiority, both towards Dalits and black South Africans.

Under Hindu’s rigid caste system a Dalit is limited (by virtue of birth) to occupations regarded as ritually impure, such as those involving leatherwork, butchering, or removal of rubbish, animal carcasses, and waste. Because these activities are considered polluting and contagious, by tradition Dalits are banned from full participation in Hindu social life. Discrimination against Dalits is still prevalent in rural India, as regards access to eating places, schools, temples and water sources.

Prior to the 1900s, hundreds of thousands of Dalits escaped their caste roles by leaving the Hindu religion and converting to Islam or Christianity. With the move towards representative government that occurred in the early twentieth century, an upper caste Hindu reform movement formed to ensure that India’s fourteen million Dalits (about one quarter of India’s population) remained outside the political process.

Gandhi, a member of the higher Banias caste, was part of this Hindu reform movement. He specifically opposed the movement started in 1904 to guarantee Dalits access to education. In the following video, Roy reads what he wrote about the Dalits he encountered during his time in South Africa (1893-1914):

“Whether they are Hindus or Mohammadans, they are absolutely without any moral or religious instruction worth a name; they are not learned enough. Plus thus they are adapting to yield to the slightest temptation to tell a lie. After sometime lying with them became a habit and disease. They would be lying without any reason, without any proper, prospect of bettering themselves materially in deep whom knowing what they are doing. They reach a stage in life when the moral faculties has completely collapsed owing to neglect.”

Gandhi launched his first non violent civil rights campaign in South Africa to protest the treatment of Indian immigrants as second class citizens. In 1906, he took the side of the British government when they declared war against the Zulu Nation in Natal and encouraged Indians to enlist with the British. Here are his views on Kaffirs [black South Africans) following his first arrest for civil disobedience:

“We were all prepared for hardships, but not quite for this experience. We could understand not being classed with the Whites, but to be placed on the same level with the Natives seemed to be too much to put up with. I then felt that Indians had launched our passive resistance too soon. Here was further proof that the obnoxious law was meant to emasculate the Indians…Apart from whether or not this implies degradation, I must say it is rather dangerous. Kaffirs as a rule are uncivilized—the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live almost like animals and scavengers.”

Roy goes on to describe the caste system in modern day India, where caste has merged with capitalism so that higher caste Hindus control all the major corporations and media outlets. Dalits continue to experience major discrimination and oppression, in both rural and urban areas. According to India’s National Crime Bureau, a crime is committed against Dalit by non Dalit in every sixty minutes. Every day four Dalit women are raped by upper caste men. Every week thirteen Dalits are murdered and six are kidnapped. In most cases, these crimes go unpunished.

Roy also points out that the Indian military is deployed on a daily basis to enforce the supremacy of upper caste Hindus:

“From 1947, whether the Kashmir, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Telangana, Punjab, Goa, every day of the year, the Indian Army is fighting its own people. And who are the people? Think about it. Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Adivasis, Dalits.”

13 thoughts on “Confronting Gandhi’s Racism

    • Roy is right about the way the ruling elite repackaging historical figures for us to admire as saints. I just learned about the “death camps” Eisenhower operated in Nazi Germany – he pulled the same stunt Bush II did in reclassifying Prisoners of Wars as Disarmed Enemy Forces so he wouldn’t be bound by the Geneva Convention regarding the treatment of POWs. He also refused to allow the Red Cross to visit his POW camps.

      In all, 800,000 German prisoners died in US and French POW camps, many of deliberate starvation.

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      • Humanity never ceases to surprise us for the worse. It’s getting to a point where you can’t believe anything you read or hear because chances are it might turn out to be misconstrued or disgustingly biased.

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  1. I am not surprised and this is the second time today that I have written about not being surprised. I am just extremely glad that I have not run around quoting Gandhi’s racist ass. And I thank this woman in the video for putting it out there that Gandhi was indeed a racist. So people have been hailing a ‘racist’ as a saint. When will we realize that everyone has his or her own agenda just as with Gandhi and stop idolizing everything that seemingly walks and talks a good game? All is not as it might seem, this we continue to find out.

    Thanks for posting this Dr. Bramhall.

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    • I, too, am extremely glad that I haven’t run around quoting Gandhi’s racist ass. I have always been extremely skeptical of the way his view on nonviolence are idolized. Nonviolence was only part of the war for Indian independence. It was just that the English preferred to negotiate with Gandhi rather than the armed opposition that was bombing trains and assassinating British officials.

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  2. Great post Doc – I for one am not surprised by Gandhi’s attitude toward “untouchables”. He was a higher caste Hindu and was born with the myopia of his caste when it came to his own beliefs. I haven’t been to India in 20 years but at that time the local papers were filled with marriage ads – “Our beautiful, Oxford educated daughter, physician, ready for marriage to eligible man – (fill in the blank) caste – light skinned – she is the color of wheat”.

    I doubt much has changed. Dalits converted to Islam and Christianity by the millions to escape their birth fate. That didn’t help them much with the Hindus – just as a Jew in Germany was still a Jew notwithstanding that he or she had been a Catholic for several generations. Regards.

    P.S. I read this post at that other place! 🙂

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  3. Hey DrB. as depressing as it is Hindus are Hindus, Catholics are Catholics, Jews are Jews Moslem are Moslem and Protestants are Protestants. Religion was created for social control, PERIOD! So no surprise when Gandhi turns out to be a shit!

    And yes, Tubularsock IS GOD but forget your soul, just send cash!

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  4. I have visited the subcontinent and Bose is the nationalist hero while Gandhi is remembered mostly in the west and the upper castes who no longer have quite the same control over every aspect of life as they once did the Dalit are still having trouble in most of the country

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    • I have even more concerns about Prime Minister Modi, a high profile member of the Hindu nationalist movement Roy refers to in her talk. He’s directly implicated in the instigation of mob violence against both Muslims and Dalit.

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