Monday, November 23, 2015

133. Meghs from the pen of shradhdhanandji

RECLAIM THE STRAYED SHEEP AND TO PURIFY THE DEPRESSED CLASSES who were ready to go out of their religious fold whieh, when pure, had given consolation to their souls for centuries. The uplift of the so-called Untouchables appeared to be an impossible feat on accouut of the bitter opposition of Hindu orthodoxy to the movement. But the Arya Samaj put its hands to the plough and and the ground was gradually prepared for sowing the seeds of reform. The first mass purification began with the SHUDDHI OF RAHTIAS. a sect of Sikhism who were not allowed to sit on the same carpet even by the Khalsas, the religious founder of whose sect, the great Ouru Grovind Singh had himself boptized them with the Amrit of the Sword. In the middle of 1896 A. D. they applied for their Shuddhi and withiu the next few months a thousand and more were taken in the Arya Samaj as brethren, entitled to full social and religious rights. At first there were great persecutions in which the Arya Samaj ists had to suffer social ostracism even, but by lhe end of 1898 A. D. all opposition died out and the Rahtias, consisting of some thousands, were all absorbed in the Hindu society. In 1903 the Arya Samaj at Sialkot (Punjab) took up the question of the UPLIFT OF MEGHS who were considered to be untouchables. There, too, opposition was at first very strong, evenMuham- madans joining the Hindus in their work of persecut ing the new Arya Makashayas; but when more than half a lakh had been raised to an equality with other Aryas the opposition died its natural death. And then the Odes in the Mnzaffarnagar and Multan districts, the Domnas in the Punjab hilly tracts and others were purified in their thousands. At present a great movement for the uplift of the Meghs in the Cashmere state is workjng its way in Jammu and other places and more than 40 thousands have enter ed the Aryan fold and the rest are coming round in their thousands. So Punjab has been leading the way and the late census (of 1921) shows that in the U. P. of Agra and Oudh the Christian Missionary has begnn to complain of the obstacles put in his way by the Arya Samajists in his work of conversion. In and around Delhi lhe Arya Samaj has recon verted hundreds of so called untouchables who were Christians in name only, and thousands of Dhanaks, Chamars, Rengars and even Bhangis have been made safe from the inroads of Pauline Christianity for the future. The Christian Missionary had almost given up the -work of conversion in despair when they received help frem a very unexpected quarter. The Muhammadans had left off being very keen about mass conversion of Hindus and their work was proceeding imperceptibly by doles. It appears from Census reports that since 1911 the number of Muslim Bhangis have decreased and that of Hindu Bhangis has proportionately increased in the Punjab and some other places. As regards the United Provinces, in 1911, the Census Superintendent says on page 54 — " Conversions to Islam are so infrequent here as to be negligible." But during the heydey of the Non-Co operation movement, when Mahatma Gandhi laid down that one of the conditions for obtaining Swara- jya was the uplift and absorption by the Hindus of the so-called Untouchable class, the Muslim leaders saw their chance and nursed an idea of converting the Hindu untouchables to Islam. For me the question of uprooting the curse of un rehability was the 'sine qui non' of Nationality in India. Speaking on 27th December 1919 at Amrit- sar as Chairman of the Reception Committee of the
34th session of the Indian National Congress, I laid stress on National education and removal of Un- touchability as the two-fold means of evolving nationality out of chaos. As regards the latter my address read as follows : — " The nation lacks one thing. What is that ? Genl. Booth-Tucker of the Salvation Army stated be fore the Reform Scheme Committee that the six and a half croros of untouchables in India should be given special concessions because they were the an- chorsheets of the British Government. I would ask you to reflect and find out how six and a half crores of untouchables could be the anchorsheets of Govern ment. I would also request you to take a vow, while you are within this sacred Pandal, to so be have towards these so-called untouchables that their children may read in schools and colleges which your children attend, that they be allowed to mix with your families as your families do amongst themselves and that they may be allowed to put their shoulders along with your own to the wheel of political acti vity and advancement. Ladies and Gentlemen ! Do pray with me that this dream of mine may be re alized v After the Amritsar session of the Congress was over I again took charge of my work at the Gurukula, but when a Special Session of the Congress was called at Calcutta I joined simply for the reason that I had sent a resolution to the Reception Committee asking the Great National Assembly to make the uplift of the so-called untouchables a plank in the Congress programme. But unfortunately that resolution was not allowed to be discussed even in the Subjects' Committee. Before the Nagpur Congress met Mahatma Gan dhi had been to Madras where the depressed classes heckled him with questions about their position and Mahatmaji was obliged to make it one of the condi tions of obtaining Swaraj within 12 months that the curse of untouchability be removed. It was on the 15th August, 1921 that after plac ing the management of the Gurukula in other hands, I reached Delhi and found that the question of the depressed classes was becoming acute. I then orga nised the Dalitoddhar Sabha at Delhi and wired to Mahatma Gandhi for monetary help from the Working Committee. But I found later that the Congress could do nothing and on the 9th September 1921, I wrote a letter to Mahatmaji in Hindi from which I cull the following : — " I wired from Lahore that I would apply for financial aid through the Provincial Congress Committee but on reaching Delhi I found that the uplift of the depressed classes through the Cong ress was impossible. The Delhi and Agra Cha. mars simply demanded that they be allowed to draw water from the wells used by both Hindus ',' and Mahomedans and that water be not served to themthrough leaves. Even that appears impos sibles for the Congress Committee to accomplish. Not only this but a Mussalman Congressman whom I asked for assistance replied that even if Hindus allowed the untouchables to draw water out of common wells, they (the Mussalmans) would forcibly exclude them from those wells because the chamars ate dead carcase (murdar). I know thafthousands of these chamars do not touch wine or meat and those who were addicted to the eating of murdar are relinquishing the dirty habit as a result of the Arya Samaj preachings. I have written this letter to inform you that I . cannot apply, now, to the Working Committee for finan cial aid. I shall do whatever I can according to my limited means." An occasion arrived again when I moved the A.I.C.C. at Lucknow to take up the question of the removal of untouchability in right earnest, but no thing came out of it as the correspondence which I published sometime ago under the heading of " My parting advice " would show.
Pages 87 to 92
Edition 1926, pages 87 to 92

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