Swami Sharddhananda Complete Biography Part 4


Swami Sharddhananda and Untouchability

Our country history is full of leaders who are from dalit background and have devoted their life for dalit upliftment but we found rare personalities like Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Swami Sharddhananda ji who were not from dalit background but worked for whole life for dalit upliftment from the platform of Aryasamaj. Swami Dayanand reputed work Satyarth Prakash was first to declare equal rights for lower castes, the right for education, right for reciting Vedic mantras, right for interdinning, right for marriage, right to fetch water from common wells. According to Swami Dayanand ji any caste or Varna was purely based on characteristics not on the basis of birth. Aryasamaj from its beginning propagated this Vedic teaching of Swami Dayanand.

Since his joining politics swami ji was continuously motivating Indian national congress to deal with the problem of untouchability at national level with extensive measures. In his chairman address of Amritsar congress (1919) he strongly expressed his feelings as “Is it not true that so many among you who make the loudest noises about the acquisition of political rights, are not able to overcome their feeling of revulsion for those sixty millions of India who are suffering injustice, your brothers whom you regard as untouchable ? How many are there who take these wretched brothers of theirs to their heart?…give deep thought…and consider how your sixty million brothers-broken fragments of your own hearts which you have cut off and thrown away- how these millions of children of mother India can well become the anchor of the ship of a foreign government. I make this one appeal to all of you, brothers and sisters. Purify your hearts with the water of the love of the motherland in this national temple, and promise that these millions will not remain for you untouchables, but become brothers and sisters. Their sons and daughters will study in our schools, their men and women will participate in our societies, in our fight for independence they will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us, and all of us will join hands to realize the fulfillment of our national goal” (Quotations from original Hindi texts of the swami’s Amritsar conference address obtained from Gandhi memorial museum, Delhi)

Swami Ji difference with Gandhi Ji increased with the passage of time when he draw attention of the congress towards the harassment of Christian chamars by police in environs of Delhi who had accepted Suddhi and returned back to Hinduism by Aryasamaj. In April 1919 he published a booklet of eighty pages entitled ‘jati ke dinon ko mat tyago’ (do not abandon the poor of our nation). Books first seventy pages dealt with the methods used by Christian missionaries in India. Nearly half of the book was taken up by translations from an article in the theosophist about the nefarious activities of Portuguese missionaries and the inquisition, followed by an indictment of protestant missionary work, in particular that of the Delhi Cambridge mission. Thus nearly ninety percent of the pamphlet was aimed at demonstrating missionaries had always used unfair, immortal and underhand mean. The last ten pages deled with constructive point. Since the untouchables were becoming Christians for other than religious reasons, the way to prevent those happenings was by educating their children, by protecting them from the police, and by helping them to achieve social uplift. Since the orthodox would not take up that task, it had become a duty of the aryas to be a crucial one because the greatest danger of the conversion of the untouchables to Christianity was that they became denationalized and supporters of the raj. The swami wrote “if the seven crores of untouchables of India, exasperated by the attitude of the twice born, become Christian , then our orthodox leaders, supporters of independence, will not be able to do anything, except be very sorry.” (Jati ke dinon ko mat tyago. P-72)

In 1920 Calcutta congress session Swami Ji proposed three-point program with special section on the untouchables, but congress declared consideration of this inopportune.(shraddha 13 august,14,17 sept. 1920). Swami Ji writes in liberator that “even Mahatma Gandhi had not realized its importance and was taken up with his resolution of non-violent non-cooperation resolution had been passed by the khilafat committee and Mahatma Ji threatened to sponsor it outside the congress, if it was not passed there. I thought it to be a misfortune if Mahatma Ji would be obliged to sever his connection with the oldest political movement in India” (INCON-p 121)

Swami Ji was surprised on hearing Maulana Shaukat Ali’s doings in Calcutta session in hearing of more than 50 persons, while the merits of non-violence were being discussed. Maulana said “Mahatma Gandhi is a shrewd bania. You do not understand his real object. By putting you under discipline, he is preparing you for guerilla warfare. He is not such an out-an-out non-violencist as you all suppose” (INCO P-122) Swami Ji forwarded his message to Gandhi Ji secretary that his motives were being misrepresented by his trusted colleagues. The next year 1921 Nagpur session Swami Ji again noticed the same pranks being played by the big Ali brothers. In Delhi the Aryasamaj had been working for the depressed classes, and the swami tried to get the local congress to allow them access to the wells. But it was in vain………..

Swami Ji reached Delhi on 17th august, 1921 and found that the question of removal of untouchability was becoming very acute. He called a few of chief chaudharies and asked the full story. They gave the following story- “The secretary of the Delhi congress committee called the chaudharies of the chamars and requested them to give to the congress as many as four-Anna paying members as they could. The reply of the elders was that unless their grievance as regards the taking of water from the public wells was removed, they could not induce their brethren to join the congress. The secretary was a choleric man of hasty temper and said they wanted Swarajya at once but the grievance of the chamars could wait and would be removed by and by. One of the young men got up and said-our trouble from which we are suffering for centuries must wait solution, but the laddu of Swarajya must go into your mouth at once! We shall see how you obtain Swarajya immediately!!”

He wrote to Gandhi Ji after Nagpur session in sept. 1921-
“I wired from Lahore that I would apply for financial aid through the Delhi provincial congress committee but on reaching the deli I found that the uplift of the depressed classes through the congress was difficult. The Delhi and Agra chamars simply demand that they be allowed to draw water from wells used by the Hindus and Mohammedans and that water be not served to them through bamboos and leaves. Even that appears impossible for the congress committee to accomplish. Not only this; a Muslim trader of sadar went to the length of saying that even if Hindus allowed (these man) to draw water from common wells, the Muslims would forcibly restrain them from drawing water because they (the chamars) ate carrion. I know that there are thousands of these chamars who do not either drink wine or eat flesh of any kind and few of them who eat carrion are being weaned by the aryasamajists from that filthy habit. But I ask – do Hindu and Muslim meat eaters devour flesh of living cattle? Do they not eat the flesh of the cattle when they are dead?
At Nagpur you laid down that one of the conditions for obtaining Swarajya within 12 months was to give their rights to the depressed classes and without waiting for the accomplishment of their uplift, you have decreed that if there is a complete boycott of foreign cloth up till 30th September, Swarajya will be an accomplished fact on the 1st of October. The extension of the use of Swadeshi cloth is absolutely necessary but as long as six and half crores of our suppressed classes are taking refuge with the British bureaucracy so long will the extension of Swadeshi be impossible”. (INCO.P-134,135)

Swami Ji in his letter dated June 30th 1922 wrote to general secretary of all India congress committee that the following demands of the depressed classes ought to be complied with at once namely that –

  1. They are allowed to sit on the same carpet with citizens of other classes
  2. They get the right to draw water from common wells and
  3. Their children get admission into national schools and colleges and are to mix freely with students drawn from the so-called higher castes.

Swami Ji went to the Lucknow A.I.C.C. meeting of June 1922 especially to push a plan of action for the removal of untouchability. His proposal to appoint a sub-committee on untouchability was accepted, but some parts of it were amended. The sum of two lakhs of rupees was first substituted for the original five lakhs proposed and then even that was watered down by substituting the phrase ‘as much as could be spared’. But misunderstandings kept cropping orally, but when he started preparatory work and asked for some money, he was informed that the working committee had appointed until a report had been received from the sub-committee. It was all a sorry mess, letters came and went, nothing was being done, and the swami resigned in disgust. His postscript to the whole story as follows- The subcommittee did no business in placing the annual report of the congress before its session at Gaya; the secretary simply remarked that no work could be done by the sub-committee as no substitute for Swami Sharddhananda could be found. (INCO.P-181) Swami Sharddhananda did not receive any support from the congress and Mahatma Gandhi for eradicating the sin of untouchability. Instead of that he received the message from cocanada session of congress in which Maulana Mohammad Ali the president of that session proposed to divide the so-called untouchables in equal halves between Hindus and the Muslims. (INCO.p-188)

Swami Ji and South India

Swami Ji first tour to south India was between 27 April to 5th June visiting Bangalore, Cochin, Mangalore, Calicut and madras. The main theme of his lecture was untouchability. In Poona he pleaded with the Hindus to abolish immediately the untouchability and raise the depressed classes to the status of kshatriyas or protectors of the Hindu religion (leader, 5 may 1924) he presided Andhra untouchable’s conference at Bangalore and went on to observe Vaikom Satyagraha. He made it clear that he could not personally take part in the struggle as he was not a member of congress. He argued against Gandhi’s directive that the struggle should be kept local, and suggested that a deputation be sent to the Mahatma to see if he could at least allow the committee to receive outside help. If the congress gave up the struggle, he said, it should be continued independently. He offered help and money and even, in that case, to take up the struggle under the auspices of the Hindu sabha. (Leader -12 may 1924)

Vaikom Satyagraha

Aryasamajists working in the area had converted some depressed class members. At first these were allowed to use the roads previously closed to them, but then the authorities, under orthodox pressure, announced that conversion to the Aryasamaj did not take the convert out of the depressed classes,. The Swami and Pt. Rishi ram issued a manifesto of protest, “it means that a member of the depressed classes cannot have his social disabilities removed unless he forsakes the Hindu society and religion.” The manifesto invited the whole of Hindu society and in particular Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya as head of Hindu Mahasabha to take action. (Leader 11, 12 may 1924)

Distressed by the condition of the Hindus of south India he wired Mahatma Gandhi “Kindly propose that every Hindu member of the all India congress committee who can afford should engage at least one servant from among the untouchables for personal service, those not conforming to this rule to vacate office. If even this is impossible then leave the question of the removal of untouchability for the Hindu Mahasabha” (leader 27 June 1924)

Palghat Court Verdict

On 13th Nov. 1925 name of Aryasamaj and swami ji published in all major newspapers of south India. On the opening day of car festival the divisional magistrate promulgated an order prohibiting aryasamaj converts from entering the orthodox Hindu streets. This led to a public protest meeting, which passed among others the following resolution. That “this meeting begs to express its unqualified condemnation of the utterly illegal procedure and policy of religious interference adopted by the madras government in extending its order of prohibition to the aryasamaj converts from the depressed classes while such converts to Christianity and Mohammedanism are not so prohibited ” (leader 19.nov,1924)

The leader of 21st Nov., 1925 condemned the intolerant and wholly short sighted attitude of the orthodox Hindus and praised Swami Sharddhananda for taking up their cause and valiantly leading the movement.

Swami Ji in response started a new weekly name liberator in English for special purpose of communicating his views to the intelligentsia of south India where the evil of untouchability existed in most objectionable and inhuman form (leader 5, April 1925) Its aim was strongly stated by swami ji- The uplift of the untouchables and their assimilation in the Hindu polity is the very plinth on which alone the edifice of free India can be constructed. Therefore, the liberator will make the cause of the so-called untouchables its main concern. This doctrine of untouchability is the gangrene of Hindu polity. Diehard vanity, deep- rooted prejudice, degenerating ignorance and doping superstition are the germs that feed this gangrene. Each one of these has to be attacked for getting rid of this gangrene. (Leader 4, April 1926)

Thus we reach an inference that the later part of swami ji life was devoted entirely for the upliftment of the depressed Hindus.

The Khilafat and Mahatma Gandhi

Swami Ji has seen the difference in attitudes of Muslims during 1920-1922 on khilafat movement. Swami Ji got a clue from changes that this movement will change the focus of Swarajya to Islamic radicalism among Muslims and he was very much right in his views.

In khilafat conference at Nagpur the ayats (verses) of the Quran recited by Maulanas on that occasion contained frequent references to jihad against and the killing of kafirs. But when Swami Ji drew Gandhijis attention to this phase of the khilafat movement he smiled and said-“they are alluding to the British bureaucracy.” in reply swami Ji said that it was all submersive of the idea of non-violence and when revulsion of feeling came, the Mohammedan Maulanas would not refrain from using these verses against the Hindus.(INCO.P-123)

Mohammad Ali telegram to sultan of Kabul was deemed a very unwise move by swami Ji. In this telegram he had urged sultan to not to make peace with the British government. (INCO.P-126)

Later In khilafat The Musalmans were not in a mood to listen to the advice of Mr. Gandhi. They refused to worship the principle of non-violence. They were not prepared to wait for Swaraj. They were in a hurry to find the most expeditious means of helping Turkey and saving the Khilafat. And the Muslims in their impatience did exactly what the Hindus feared they would do; namely, invite the Afghans to invade India. How far the Khilafatists had proceeded in their negotiations with the Amir of Afghanistan it is not possible to know. But that such a project was entertained by them is beyond

Wooing Of the Muslims At Any Cost

For a long time the congress had been engaged in wooing the Muslims to their side. The Congress was very anxious to bridge the gulf between itself and the Muslim League. The ways and means adopted in 1916 for bringing about this consummation and which resulted in the Lucknow Pact signed between the Congress and the Muslim League have been graphically told by Swami Sharddhananda in his impressions of the Congress Session held in that year at Lucknow. Swami Ji in Liberator, 22nd April 1926 writes “On sitting on the dais (Lucknow Congress platform) the first thing that I noticed was that the number of Moslem delegates was proportionately fourfold of what it was at Lahore in 1893. The majority of Moslem delegates had donned gold, silver and silk embroidered chogas (flowing robes) over their ordinary coarse suits of wearing apparel. It was rumored that these ‘chogas’ had been put by Hindu moneyed men for Congress Tamasha. Of some 433 Moslem delegates only some 30 had come from outside, the rest belonging to Lucknow City. And of these majorities was admitted free to delegate seats, board and lodging. Sir Saiyad Ahmad’s anti-Congress League had tried in a public meeting to dissuade Moslems from joining the Congress as delegates. As a countermove the Congress people lighted the whole Congress camp some four nights before the session began and advertised that that night would be free. The result was that all the “Chandul Khanas” of Lucknow were emptied and a huge audience of some thirty thousand Hindus and Moslems was addressed from half a dozen platforms. It was then that the Moslem delegates were elected or selected. All this was admitted by the Lucknow Congress organizers to me in private.

“A show was being made of the Moslem delegates. Moslem delegate gets up to second a resolution in Urdu. He begins: ‘Hozarat, I am a Mohammedan delegate.’ Some Hindu delegate gets up and a call for three cheers for Mohammedan delegates and the response is so enthusiastic as to be beyond description.”

To those Hindus who wanted to give their support on the condition that the Muslims give up cow killing, Mr. Gandhi in young India 10th December 1919. said “I submit that the Hindus may not open the Goraksha (cow protection) question here. The test of friendship is assistance in adversity, and that too, unconditional assistance. Co-operation that needs consideration is a commercial contract and not friendship. Conditional co-operation is like adulterated cement which does not bind. It is the duty of the Hindus, if they see the justice of the Mohammedan cause to render co-operation. If the Mohammedans feel themselves bound in honor to spare the Hindu’s feelings and to stop cow killing, they may do so, no matter whether the Hindus co-operate with them or not. Though therefore, I yield to no Hindu in my worship of the cow, I do not want to make the stopping of cow killing a condition precedent to co-operation. Unconditional co-operation means the protection of the cow.”

Soft Corner for Muslims

In 1921 Gandhi ji decided boycott of English cloths. He decided mass burning of foreign cloths. When swami ji came to know about this he wired to Gandhi ji saying to not to generate hatred against foreigners and to allow the discarded cloths to be distributed among the starving and the naked poor of India. (INCO. P-139). C.R.Das, Nehru and others made a bonfire of cloth worth thousands while the khilafat Muslims got permission from Gandhi ji to send foreign cloth for use of their Turkish brethren. This again was a great shock to swami ji. While Gandhi ji stood adamant and did not have the least regard for Hindu feeling when a question of principle was involved, for the Muslim dereliction of duty there always a very soft corner in his heart. Swami ji said that “I could not, for the life of me, understand the ethics of depriving our own poor millions of the means of covering their nudity, and sending the selfsame cloths to a distant land” (INCO P-141)

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