Eradication of untouchability

Given below is an English translation of Savarkar’s assorted views on eradication of untouchability


Why should untouchability be eradicated?

To regard our 70 million co-religionists as ‘untouchables’ and worse than animals is an insult not only to humanity but also to the sanctity of our soul. It is my firm conviction that this is why untouchability should be principally eradicated. Untouchability should go also because its eradication is in the interests of our Hindu society. Even if the Hindu society were to partially benefit from that custom, I would have opposed it with equal vehemence. When I refuse to touch some one because he was born in a particular community but play with cats and dogs, I am committing a most heinous crime against humanity. Untouchability should be eradicated not only because it is incumbent on us but because it is impossible to justify this inhuman custom when we consider any aspect of dharma. Hence this custom should be eradicated as a command of dharma. From the point of view of justice, dharma and humanism, fighting untouchability is a duty and we Hindus should completely eradicate it. In the present circumstances, how we will benefit by fighting it is a secondary consideration. This question of benefit is an aapaddharma (duty to be done in certain exceptional circumstances) and eradication of untouchability is the foremost and absolute dharma. (1927, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, vol.3, p.483)

The meaning of Savarkar’s contention that ‘eradication of untouchability is essential for Hindu consolidation and in national interest’

On many occasions, it is difficult to grasp the true meaning of religious principles. It may also be difficult to understand some abstract concepts. Under such circumstances, we need to preach differently. We therefore say, “Worship God for your prosperity, to beget children and to obtain health, wealth and other worldly pleasures.” Similarly, if people have not been enlightened enough to reject untouchability for the sake of justice and humanism, it is desirable to ask them to eradicate the evil of untouchability as an exceptional if not an absolute duty; indeed asking them thus is also a justifiable and principled duty…many times, we need to tell people that if they do not believe that rejecting untouchability is justifiable, they should at the very least reject it only because it is suicidal to the nation and its eradication cannot possibly wait till they get convinced of its importance. Taking such a stand is not only inevitable but also a sacred duty under the circumstances. (1927, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.483, 484)

Untouchability - a political calamity

The problem of untouchability has ceased to be merely a social question. It now threatens the very integrity of our Hindusthan. It now promises to be an important political calamity. (1947, Akhand Hindusthan ladha parva or phase of the battle for Akhand Hindusthan, p. 370)

Untouchability and poverty are two separate problems

Untouchability and poverty are two separate problems. It is not as if untouchables alone are poor. Many castes that are not untouchable, Brahmins included are poor. (1940, Hindu samaj sanrakshak Savarkar or Savarkar, the defender of Hindu society, p. 333)

No profession is lowly

As for profession, I consider every profession to be honourable as it is necessary for smooth functioning of society. (1930, Jatyuchchedak nibandh or essays on abolition of caste, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.448)

…Scavenging cannot be considered a lowly profession as it is in the interests of society and inevitable. A reformer should show by his actions that a scavenger is worthy of equal treatment as other professionals provided he is as clean as them. (1935, Hindutvache panchapran or The Spirit of Hindutva, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.73)

Drawing water at public places and entering public temples

The demand of untouchables to be allowed to draw water at public places and enter public temples is extremely modest and justified. Those who champion these demands will be initially boycotted but that has to be squarely faced. An agitation would have to be launched against the boycott. Agitation should prove effective in our internecine disputes. But if need be, we should be ready to have our skulls broken. (1924, Hindu samaj sanrakshak Savarkar or Savarkar, the defender of Hindu society, p. 52)

All important holy places, temples, holy and historical sites (such as the Ram temple at Panchavati in Nashik, Sethubandh Rameshwar etc.) should be open with the same regulations to all Hindus, irrespective of varna or caste. (1931, Jatyuchchedak nibandh or essays on abolition of caste, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.480)

Is it not an atrocity on our part when we deny temple entry to so-called untouchables when God Himself threw His doors open to so-called untouchable saints such as Chokha and Ravidas? (1924, Hindu samaj sanrakshak Savarkar or Savarkar, the defender of Hindu society, p. 68)

He who is polluted by darshan (glimpse) is no God. (1927, Hindutvache panchapran or The Spirit of Hindutva, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.47)

I can understand impurity but not untouchability. If a Brahmin is impure he may be denied temple entry. On the other hand, even a Mahar who is pure should be allowed temple entry. (1928, Shraddhanand weekly, 01 November)

Patitpavan is the most favourite name of God. (1927, Hindutvache panchapran or The Spirit of Hindutva, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.44)

No separate temples or schools for untouchables

Building separate and exclusive new temples for untouchables is not the right way of eradicating untouchability…What to speak of temples, having separate schools for untouchables is also, in a sense harmful…The liberation of untouchables is not theirs alone, it is also the liberation of those touchables whose hands and minds had been soiled by this injustice.
It is desirable in the extreme to build pan-Hindu temples that are freely open to all Hindus irrespective of their caste rather than build separate and exclusive temples for untouchables…While it is important to build new pan -Hindu temples, it is equally important to throw open old temples to all Hindus. (1929, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.491-493)

Savarkar named the new pan-Hindu temple at Ratnagiri as ‘Patitpavan Mandir’ (‘one who purifies the degraded’), so did he consider the untouchables as degraded?

That race which has no strength to protect its existing temples has forfeited its right to build new ones. The objective of this temple is to build that strength. Today, it is not just the Mahar, Chamar or the untouchable community that is degraded, the entire Hindu society, slave that it has become of foreign rule is degraded. I will call Him who raises this entire degraded Hindu nation as Patitpavan. I will call only Him who restores all that we Hindus have lost as Patitpavan. (1929, Hindu samaj sanrakshak Savarkar or Savarkar, the defender of Hindu society, p. 196)

Agitation in support of just demands of untouchables

…Henceforth if the caste Hindus deny the so-called untouchables their lawful rights, then one cannot blame the untouchables if they resort to civil agitation (satyagraha). Of course, such an agitation may be launched only if all efforts to change the minds of the caste Hindus into granting lawful rights fail. Often, it is possible to convince the caste Hindus that it is necessary to at least publicly reject untouchability in principle and practice. This I say from experience and I can vouch that in most cases the problem resolves through such fraternal love. I appreciate that on the rare occasions when the problem is not resolved; our untouchable brethren will be forced to launch civil agitation for the protection of their lawful rights. Agitation is not a permanent policy but an inevitable and bitter weapon, a last resort. (1927, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.485)

The untouchables also consider some other caste untouchable

Each abuse that the untouchable hurls at the touchable to express the horror of untouchablity returns back to him. This is because every untouchable caste considers some other lower caste untouchable. Finding out the lowest caste is like digging deep into the bowels of the earth! (Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.519)

Criticism should be unbiased

Just as one should expose the atrocities perpetrated by caste Hindus on untouchables, the fact that there is a rapidly increasing class of caste Hindus that is selflessly engaged in eradication of untouchability should not be brushed under the carpet…The empathy shown by these caste Hindus is not shown among the untouchables by the Mahars for the Chamars or the Dhors. It is also in the interests of the untouchables to express their gratitude. (1936, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.2, p.670)

The seemingly impossible task of untouchability eradication can made possible by change of heart

Easy as it is, the task of eradicating untouchability lends strength to Hindu consolidation. If we destroy the belief that we should not touch our brother in dharma because he took birth in a particular caste and eradicate untouchability in the next five years by alleviating the economic and social hardships faced by our brothers in dharma, that will be an achievement as momentous as victory on the battlefield. By a simple change of heart, the seemingly impossible task can be achieved. (1942, Hindu Rashtra Darshan or six presidential addresses to the Hindu Mahasabha, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.6, p.499)

Don’t wait for others; touch and untouchability shall go

Oh Hindu! Wherever you are and perhaps alone you may be, without waiting for others, pledge that you shall touch millions and millions of your untouchable brethren, that you will accept those re-converted and be assured that the twin momentous national tasks of ‘liberation of untouchables and re-conversion’ have been achieved!
Say, my hand that I use to caress my dog with affection, I shall with brotherly love place on the back of he who has been called untouchable, my brother in Hindu Dharma, my brother in nation, my blood brother! Say I will touch! And lo! Untouchability shall be dead. (1927, Hindutvache panchapran or The Spirit of Hindutva, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p.29)

When will the squalor in the Maharwada (*colony of Mahars located outside the village precints) go?

The squalor in the Maharwada (*colony of Mahars, an ex-untouchable caste; usually located outside the village precincts) will not go while you recline in your armchairs. It is only when you go there and make efforts to remove it in the spirit of ‘serve man, serve God’…And what if the squalor in the Maharwada remains? In that case, it will pollute not only the environment in the Maharwada but also the pristine environment of your armchairs. We will all end up as victims of a horrendous social malaise. (1925, Balwant weekly, 29 April)

An untouchability eradication programme for each village

Gather all Hindus in the village on a few auspicious days in a month and start mass prayers for at least half an hour…On a Sunday, take along a couple of volunteers and roam around the village chanting slogans of re-conversion (* bringing back converted Hindus to the Hindu fold)and asking for handful of grain. From the proceeds of its sale, help our untouchable brethren. Open a school for them. Go to their locality, organize singing of devotional songs and teach them the importance of cleanliness. Alleviate their grievances; protect them from the evil designs of other religionists. Convince people to remove obstacles to the public use of lakes and wells. (1927, Shraddhanand weekly, 23 June)