Check out our new publication for children - POLE STAR, VOLUME I, Theme-Culture & Heritage, Now Available at Amazon India, Grab your copy now!!!!! Type Pole Star Book at Amazon India

Gandhi & Inclusion – Part I Our Shame

Dr. Shruti Shankar Gaur

What is our shame as an individual? What is our shame as an Indian? What is our shame as a global citizen? The shame is that the social evils for which reformers, educationists, and visionaries across generations and continents, laid their lives; be it Socrates, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi still exists. We still face racism, communalism, regionalism, linguism, casteism, gender inequality in smaller or larger doses. Today, when imperialism doesn’t exist, and more or less democracy prevails across the globe, are the democratic ideals being followed in true sense?

Gandhi often said that Indians wouldn’t be deserving of freedom from British rule unless they rid themselves of the social evil be it casteism, religious animosity or purdah. In his words: “We resent the treatment meted out to our countrymen in South Africa. We are impatient to establish Swaraj….. What place shall the disadvantaged section occupy in our scheme of Swaraj? If they are free from all special restraints and disabilities under Swaraj, why can’t we declare our freedom now? And if we are powerless today, how shall we be powerful under Swaraj? We may shut our eyes and stuff our ears to these questions……” Yes, we have for long!!!! He raised pertinent questions, a century ago, today we need to ask ourselves again: We are humans, one of a kind i.e. The Mankind. We as the human race have been very good in classifying everything around us for cataloging and better understanding; from microbial world to plant kingdom, to animal kingdom. In our pursuit to categorize, we divided mankind on the basis of ethnicity, language, gender, religion, caste, ability or disability. The result is an everlasting pursuit towards the supremacy of one race upon the other, one language upon the other, one religion upon the other, one caste upon the other, one culture upon the other or one gender upon the other.

When will we realize that every culture, religion, language, caste, gender is beautiful in its own way? When will we attain ‘Swaraj’- our own rule of equity & equality? Describing Swaraj Gandhi had said, “It’s idle to talk of Swaraj so long as we do not protect the weak and helpless, so long as it is possible for a single Swaraj enthusiast to injure the feelings of any individual. Swaraj means that not a single Hindu, Muslim, swarna caste, male shall for a moment think he can crush with impunity meek Hindus, Muslims, dalit or women. Unless this condition is fulfilled we will gain Swaraj only to lose it the next moment. We are no better than the Brutes until we have purged ourselves of the sins we have committed against our weaker brethren……” He further reiterated that we often carry social evils in the name of tradition and customs. We forget to question. He firmly believed that every custom and tradition created at a particular time held a purpose which was very much applicable to that point of time. However, while progressing as a society we need to weed out the wilted leaves of traditions which no longer served the purpose. Quoting Gandhi, “No social evil is immortal. Some are momentary. And all can be abated by the voluntary effort …… It’s our shame so long as these evils are practiced in the name of religion, caste, gender, language, region, race or handicap; no matter to how little or great an extent. I urge every Indian, every Swaraj enthusiast to denounce all forms of evils that have corroded our society, humiliated our brothers and sisters under the pretext of customs & traditions”.

How do we open our minds to diversity? How do we recognize social evils? How do we fight? The only retort is ‘Satyagraha’. To understand ‘Satyagraha’, let us first try to know Gandhi. Who was this ‘half-naked fakir’ that took the world by storm? People came looking for him. He was a magnet for seekers of his times. Else how do you understand an intellectual like Tagore himself conferring title of ‘Mahatma’ to a freedom fighter? Gandhi was as much Indian as he was American or European or African. He had friends across continents.

He had one habit that every great man ever born on earth had: Reading. He was a voracious reader, thinker because he always questioned and a writer as he shared whatever he learned. First and foremost; his path includes accumulation of knowledge not only regional but global. In his words, “To be spiritual of any value at all, the opening has to be performed ……” That opening is the accumulation of knowledge through life – long learning. When one reads, questions and seeks; s/he is always rewarded with truth force. This enlightenment breaks all myths of superstitions in culture. Why do we need Gandhi or for that matter anyone else to tell us, the difference between right or wrong? Which way to go? What to do? We as human beings are capable of decoding ourselves. This path of self -learning, self – evolution and being self – critical is the path of Satyagraha or Soul/Truth Force which we shall discuss in subsequent articles.

Till then, question every belief, every custom, every word you read, because when one starts questioning, one starts learning, creating and curating. Our own heart, our soul shall guide us to truth and we shall become ‘Satyagrahi’ for life. We shall become Gandhi.

• World’s Greatest Speeches, published by Finger Print Classics (2018), ISBN: 978 93 8777 941 2.
• Lapierre, Dominique & Collins (Larry). (2007). Freedom at Midnight. ISBN: 978-81-259-3186-7
• Guha Ramchandra (2010). The Makers of Modern India. Published by Penguin Books India. ISBN: 978-06-7008-385-5
• Rolland Romain (2004). Mahatma Gandhi. Published by Publication Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India. ISBN: 81-230-1152-0

Let's work together

You want to contribute an article/ story, work with us, connect, suggest or share thoughts. Contact Us