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.”