Since the time of my declaration of the conversion, our men conducted several meetings at various places and expressed their views and opinions, which I hope must have reached you. But so far we had no opportunity to gather to discuss and decide the problem of the conversion. I was very much concerned for such an opportunity. You will all agree that planning is very necessary for making the movement of conversion a success. A conversion is not a child play. It is not a subject of entertainment. It deals with, how to make man’s life successful. Just as a boatman has to make all necessary preparations before he starts for voyage, so also we have to make such preparations. Without this, it will not be possible to reach the other shore. But as the boatman does not load the luggage unless he gets an idea of the number of passengers boarding the boat, so also, my position is like him and I cannot proceed without definite facts. Unless I get an idea as to how many persons are willing to leave the Hindu fold, I cannot start preparation for the conversion. When I expressed the idea before some workers in Bombay that I would not be able to judge the public opinion unless we meet in a conference, they voluntarily shouldered the responsibility of calling this conference without putting up any excuse about expenses and labour. What pains they had to take has already been described by our revered leader and the President of the Reception Committee, Shri Rewji Dagduji Dolas in his speech. I am extremely indebted to the Reception Committee of the Conference for arranging the meeting after making such strenuous efforts
Why only Conference of Mahars ? Some people may raise an objection as to why the Conference has been called upon only of the Mahars ? If the declaration of the conversion is meant for all the Untouchables, why has not a meeting of all the Untouchables been convened ? Before starting the discussion on the issues before the Conference, I feel it obligatory to reply to these questions. There are various reasons for convening the Conference only of the Mahars. Firstly, neither any safeguards from the government nor social rights to be demanded from the Hindus through this Conference. The only question before this Conference is, ‘What should be done for the betterment of our life ?’ How are we to carve the path for our future life ? The question can be solved and need to be solved by the respective castes separately. This is one of the reasons, why I have not called a Conference of all the Untouchables. There is another reason for calling the Conference of only the Mahars. About ten months have passed since the declaration was made. During this period, sufficient efforts have been made to awaken the pubilc conscience. I feel, the proper time to judge the public opinion has come. In my opinion, to do this, meetings of each caste separately, is the simplest way to judge its opinion. In order to materialise the problem of conversion, it is very necessary to judge public opinion. And I believe, public opinion judged through meetings of each caste separately will be more representative and reliable than the opinion arrived at through a common meeting of all the Untouchables. Such a meeting, though termed as of all the Untouchables, will not necessarily be representative of all the Untouchable castes. In order to avoid this sort of situation, and to ensure the public opinion, this meeting of Mahars alone has been called. Though the other communities are not included, they are not at loss. If they do not intend to convert, they have no reason to regret for not being included in this Conference. If at all they wish to leave their religion, nothing can come in their way, only because they have not participated in this Conference. The other communities from the Untouchables are free to hold meetings like the Mahars and express their opinion. I would advice them to hold such meetings, and I will extend whatever help is needed from me, to the best of my capacity. This much is enough as an introduction. Now I turn to the main subject.
For a common man this subject of conversion is very important but also very difficult to understand. It is not an easy task to satisfy the common man on the subject of conversion. Hence, it is difficult to bring the idea of conversion into reality, unless you are all satisfied. I shall, therefore, try my level best to explain the subject as simply as possible. Material Aspect of Conversion The matter of conversion should be viewed through two aspects— Social as well as Religious; Material as well as Spiritual. Whatever may be the aspect, or line of thinking, it is necessary to understand in the beginning, the nature of the Untouchablity and how it is practised. Without this understanding, you will not be able to realise the real meaning underlying my declaration of the conversion. In order to have a clear understanding of the Untouchability and its practice in real life, I want you to recall the stories of the atrocities perpetrated against you. The instances of beating by caste Hindus for the simple reason that you have claimed the right to enrol your children in Government schools, or the right to draw water from a public well, or the right to take a marriage procession with the groom on a horse-back, are very common. You all know about such incidents as they happen just before your eyes. But there are several other causes for which atrocities are committed on the Untouchables by the Caste-Hindus which if revealed, will surprise the public outside Hindusthan. The Untouchables are beaten for putting on clothes of superior quality. They have been whipped because they used the utensils made of metal like copper etc. Their houses are burnt because the land has been brought for cultivation. They are beaten for putting on the sacred thread on their body. They are beaten for refusing to carry the dead animals and eat the carrion, or for walking through the village road with socks and shoes on, or for not bowing down before the caste-Hindus, for taking water in the copper pot while going out in the field to ease. Recently, an instance has been noticed, where the Untouchables were beaten for serving Chapatis in the dinner party. You must have heard and some of you must have also experienced such type of atrocities. Where beating is not possible, you might be aware as to how the weapon of boycott is used against you. You all know, how the Caste-Hindus have made your daily life unbearable by prohibiting you from getting labour, by disallowing your cattle to graze in the jungles and prohibiting your men from entering the village. But very few of you might have realised as to why all this happens. What is at the root of their tyrrany ? To me, it is very necessary, that we understand it.
This is a Matter of Class Struggle The instances cited above have nothing to do with the virtues or vices of an individual. This is not a feud between two rival men. The problem of the Untouchability is a matter of class struggle. It is a struggle between Caste-Hindus and the Untouchables. This is not a matter of doing injustice against one man. This is a matter of injustice being done by one class against another. This class struggle has a relation with the social status. This struggle indicates how one class should keep its relations with another class. This struggle starts as soon as you start claiming equal treatment with others. Had it not been so, there would have been no struggle for the simple reason like serving the chapatis, wearing the super quality clothes, putting on the sacred thread, fetching the water in a metal pot, riding the bridegroom on the horse-back etc. In all these cases, you spend your own money. Why then the high caste Hindus get irritated ? The reason for their anger is very simple, your behaving on par with them insults them. Your status in their eyes is low, you are impure, you must remain at the lowest rung, then alone, they will allow you to live happily. The moment you cross your level, the struggle starts. The instances given above also prove one more fact that the Untouchability is not a short or temporary feature, it is a permanent one. To put it straight, it can be said that the struggle between the Caste Hindus and the Untouchables is a permanent phenomena. It is eternal, because the religion which has placed you at the lowest level of the society is itself eternal, according to the belief of the High Caste people. No change, according to times and circumstances is possible. You are at the lowest rung of the ladder today. You shall remain lowest forever. This means, the struggle between the Hindus and the Untouchables shall continue forever. How will you survive through this struggle is the main question. And unless you think over it, there is no way out. Those who desire to live in obedience to the dictates of the Hindus, those who wish to remain their slaves, they do not need to think over this problem. But those who wish to live a life of self-respect and equality, will have to think over this. How should we survive through this struggle ? For me, it is not difficult to answer this question. Those who have assembled here will have to agree that in any struggle, one who holds strength becomes the victor. One who has no strength, need not expect success. This has been proved by experience, and I do not need to cite illustration to prove it.
Achieve the power first The question which you must now consider is, whether you have enough power to survive through this struggle ? Three types of strength are known to man. (1) Man-power, (2) Wealth, and (3) Mental strength. Which of these, you think that you possess ? So far as man-power is concerned, it is clear, that you are in a minority. In Bombay Presidency, the Untouchables are only one eighth of the total population, that too unorganised. The castes within themselves do not allow them to organise. They are not even compact but scattered through the villages. Due to these reasons, this meagre population is of no use as a fighting force for the critical dwelling place of the Untouchables. Financial strength is also just the same. It is an undisputed fact that you at least have a little bit of man-power, but finances, you have none. You have no trades, no business, no service, no land. The pieces of bread thrown out by the higher castes, are your means of livlihood. You have no food, no clothes. What financial strength can you have? You have no capacity to get redress from the law courts if injustice done to you. Thousands of the Untouchables tolerate insult, tyranny and oppression at the hands of the Hindus without a sigh of complaint, because they have no capacity to bear the expenses of the Courts. As regards mental strength, the condition is still worst. For centuries, you have not only served the higher caste but also tolerated their insults and tyranny without grudge and complaint, which has killed the sense to retort and revolt. Confidence, vigour and ambition have completely vanished from you. All of you have become helpless, unenergetic and pale. Everywhere, there is an atmosphere of defeatism and pessimism. Even the slightest idea that you can do something, does not arise in any body’s mind.
Why are you only oppressed ? If the fact that I have described above is true, then you will have to agree with the conclusion of it. The conclusion is, if you depend only upon your own strength, you will never be able to face the oppression. I have no doubt that you are oppressed because you have no strength. It is not that you alone are in minority. The Muslims are equally small in number. Like Mahar-Mangs, they too have few houses in the village. But no one dares to trouble the Muslims while you are always a victim of tyranny. Why is this so ? Though there may be two houses of Muslims in the village, nobody dares to harm them, while the whole village practise tyranny against you though you have about ten houses ? Why does this happen ? This is a very permanent question and you will have to find out a suitable answer to this. In my opinion, there is only one answer to this question. The Hindus realize that the strength of the whole of the Muslim population in India stands behind those two houses of Muslims living in a village and therefore they do not dare to touch them. Those two houses also, enjoy free and fearless life because they are aware that if any Hindu commits aggression against them, the whole Muslim community from Punjab to Madras will rush to their protection at any cost. On the other hand, the Hindus are sure that none will come to your rescue, nobody will help you, no financial help will reach you, nor will the officers help you in any eventuality. Tahsildar and Police belong to Caste Hindus, and in cases of disputes between Hindus and the Untouchables, they are more faithful to their caste than towards their duty. The Hindus practise injustice and tyranny against you only because you are helpless. From the above discussion, two facts are established. Firstly, you cannot face tyranny without strength. And secondly, you do not posses enough strength to face the tyranny. Having these two facts proved, the third automatically follows. That is, the strength required to face this tyranny needs to be secured from outside. How are you to gain this strength is really an important question, and you will have to ponder over this with an unbiased mind.
Strength needs to be brought from outside The casteism and religious fanaticism in this country, as I see it, had a very peculiar effect on the minds and morality of the people. In this country, nobody seems to be pained by the poverty and sufferings of the people. And if at all anybody is pained, he does not try to eradicate it. People come to the help of those in poverty, sorrow and suffering but only amongst one’s own caste or religion. Though this is a perverted sense of morality, it cannot be forgotten that it is prevalent in this country. In the villages the Untouchables suffer at the hands of the Hindus, it does not mean that there are no men of other religions and that they do not realise that the maltreatment to the Untouchables is unjust, or that the oppression of the Untouchables by the Hindus is most unjustified, but they do not come to the rescue of the Untouchables. What is the reason behind it ? If you ask them, why do they not help you, they reply that it is not their business to interfere and that had you been members of their religion, they would have helped you. From this you will realise one thing that, unless you establish close relations with some other society, unless you join some other religion, you cannot get the strength from outside. It clearly means, you must leave your present religion and assimilate yourselves with some other society. Without that, you cannot gain the strength of that society. So long as you do not have strength, you and your future generations will have to lead your lives in the same pitiable condition.
Spiritual aspects of conversion Uptilnow, we have discussed why the conversion is necessary for material gains. Now I propose to put forth my thoughts as to why the conversion is much necessary for spiritual wellbeing. What is Religion for ? Why is it necessary ? Let us try to understand it. You will find that several people have defined religion in a various ways. But amongst all of these definitions, only one is most meaningful and agreeable to all. ‘That which governs people is Religion’. This is the true definition of Religion. This is not my definition. Mr. Tilak, the foremost leader of the Sanatani Hindus himself is the author of this definition. So nobody can accuse me of having interpolated the definition of religion. Though I have not defined it, it is not that I have accepted it merely for argument’s sake. I accept it. Religion means the rules imposed for the maintenance of society. I also have the same concept of religion. Although this definition realistically or logically appears to be correct, it does not disclose or clarify the nature of rules which govern a society. The question still remains as to what should be the nature of rules which govern society. This question is more important than that of definition. Because the question which is religion and which is not religion, does not depend on its definition but on the motive and nature of the rules that bind and govern a society. What should be the nature of real religion ? While deciding this question; another question naturally follows. What should be the relation between a man and society. The modem social philosophers have postulated three answers to this question. Some have said that the ultimate goal of society is to achieve happiness for the individual. Some say the society exists for development of the inherent qualities and energies of man and help him to develop his self. However some claim that the chief object of social organisation is not the development or happiness of the individual but the creation of an ideal society. The concept of Hindu religion is, however, very different from all these concepts. There is no place for an individual in Hindu religion. The Hindu religion is constituted on a class-concept. Hindu religion does not teach how an individual should behave with another individual. A religion which does not recognise the individual is not personally acceptable to me. Although society is necessary for the individual, mere social welfare cannot be the ultimate goal of religion. According to me, individual welfare and progress (individual development) should be the real aim of the religion. Although the individual is a part of the society, the relation with society is not like the body and its organs, or the cart and its wheels.
Society and the Individual Unlike the drop of water that merges its existence with the ocean in which it drops, man does not lose his entity in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the service of the society but for his self development. For this reason alone, in developed countries one man cannot enslave another. A religion in which an individual has no importance is not acceptable to me. The Hinduism does not recognise the importance of an individual, and therefore it is not acceptable to me. I do not accept a religion in which one class alone has a right to gain knowledge, another has only a right to use arms, the third one to trade and the fourth, only to serve. Everyone needs knowledge. Everybody needs arms. Everyone wants money. The religion, which forgets this, and with an intention to educate a few, keeps the rest in darkness, is not a religion but a conspiracy to keep the people in mental slavery. A religion which permits one to bear the arms and prohibits the other from doing so, is not a religion but a craftiness to keep the latter in perpetual slavery. A religion which opens the path to the acquisition of property for some and compels others to depend on these few even for the daily necessities of life, is not a religion but sheer self agrandisement. This is what is called the Chaturvarna in Hinduism. I have clearly stated my views about it. It is for you now to think whether this Hinduism is beneficial to you. The basic idea underlying a religion is to create an atmosphere for the spiritual development of an individual. If this is agreed upon, it is clear that you cannot develop yourself at all in the Hinduism. Three factors are required for the uplift of an individual. They are : Sympathy, Equality and Liberty. Can you say by experience that any of these factors exists for you in the Hinduism ?
Is there any sympathy for you in Hinduism ? So far as sympathy is concerned, it does not exist. Wherever you go, nobody looks at you sympathetically. You all have good experience of it. The Hindus have no sense of brotherhood towards you. You are treated worse than foreigners. If one looks at the relations of the neighbouring Hindus and the Untouchables of a village, none can say that they are brothers. They can rather be described as two opposing armies at warcamp. The Hindus do not have the slightest affinity towards you as they have towards, Muslims. They consider Muslims closer to them than you. The Hindus and the Muslims are helpful to each other in local boards, legislative councils and in business. But is there a single instance of such sympathetic consideration being shown towards you by the Caste Hindus ? On the contrary, they always cultivate hatred against you in their minds. What dreadful effects this hatred has produced can be heard from those who have had an occasion to go to the Court for justice, or to the police for help. Does anyone of you believe that the court will give you justice or the police act rightly ? And if not, what is the reason for cultivating such sense of hatred against you ? In my opinion, there is only one reason for such disbelief. You believe that the Hindus will not use their power rightly because they lack sympathy for you. And if it is so, what is the use of living in the midst of such hatred ?
Is there equality for you in Hinduism ? In fact, this question should not be asked. The Untouchability is nothing but concrete inequality. Such a living example of inequality is to be found nowhere. Not at any time in the History of world can we find such inequality, which is more intense than the Untouchability. On account of a superiority-inferiority complex, one cannot offer his daughter to another in marriage or one cannot dine with the other. Such examples of inequality are usual. But is there a system existing anywhere in the world except in the Hindu religion and the Hindu society where a man is treated so low as not to touch another man ? Can anybody believe that there exists an animal called man by whose touch man becomes impure, water is polluted, and God becomes unworthy for worship ? Is there any difference between the treatment meted out to an Untouchable and a leper ? Though people feel nauseated thinking of a leper, they at least have sympathy for him. But people have nausea as well as hatred against you. Your condition is worse than the leper. Even today, if anyone hears words coming from the mouth of a Mahar, at the time of breaking a fast, he will not touch his food. Such a filth is attached to your body and your words. Some people say that the Untouchability is a stigma on Hindu religion. This statement, however, does not convey any sense at all. No Hindu believes that the Hindu religion is a stigma. The majority of Hindus, however, believe that you are a stigma, that you are impure. How have you been brought to this condition ? I think, you have been thrust into this condition because you have continued to be Hindus. Those of you who have become Muslims are treated by the Hindus neither as the Untouchables nor as the unequals. The same can be said of those of you who have become Christians are treated by the Hindus neither as the Untouchables nor as the unequals. An incident that recently occurred in Travancore is worth mentioning. The Untouchables called Thiya in that area are prohibited from walking in the streets. Few days ago, some of these Untouchables embraced the Sikkh religion. All of a sudden, the ban prohibiting them from walking in the street was withdrawn. All these things prove that if there is any reason of you being treated as the Untouchables and the unequals, is your relation with the Hindu religion.
In such a state of inequality and injustice, some Hindus try to soothe the Untouchables. They say, ‘Get educated yourselves, be clean, and then we will touch you, we will treat you as equals.’ In fact, we all know by experience, that the condition of educated, moneyed and clean Mahar is as bad as that of an uneducated, poor and dirty one. Let us ponder for the time being and consider, that if one is not respected because he is uneducated, poor, and not well-dressed, what should a common Mahar do ? How can one secure equality when one cannot gain education, have property or be highly dressed ? The Principle of equality as taught in Christianity and Islam has no concern whatsoever with knowledge, wealth, or dress which are outward aspects of oneself. Both these religions consider a sense of humanity as the main feature of their religion. They preach that humanity should be respected by all and none should disrespect others, none should treat others as unequals. These teachings are completely wanting in the Hindu religion. What is the use of such a religion in which the man’s sense of humanity is not respected ? And what is the good of clinging to it ? In reply to this, some Hindus cite the Upanishadas and proudly say that God is all-pervading according to the principle enunciated in the Upanishdas. It may be pointed out here that Religion and Science are two different things. It is necessary to consider whether a particular theory is a principle of science or the teaching of religion. That God is allprevading is a principle of science and not of religion, because religion has a direct relation with the behaviour of man. The principle of God being omnipresent is not teaching of religion, but a principle of science. This statement is supported by the fact that the Hindus do not act according to the above principle. On the contrary, if the Hindus insist on saying that the omnipresence of God is not the principle of Philosophy but the basic Principle of their religion, I would simply say that nowhere in the world is such a meanness found as it exists among the Hindus. The Hindus can be ranked among those cruel people whose utterances and acts are two poles apart. They have this Ram on their tongue and a knife under their armpits. They speak like saints and act as butchers. Do not keep company with those who believe that the God is omnipresent, but treat men worse than animals, they are hypocrites. Do not keep contact with those who feed ants with sugar but kill men by prohibiting them from drinking water, they are hypocrites. You are unable to imagine what bad effects their company has left on you. You have ceased to be respected. You have no status at all. To say that the Hindus alone do not pay you any respect is inadequate. Not only the Hindus but the Muslims and the Christians also consider you the lowest of the lowly. In fact, the teachings of Islam and Christianity do not create the sense of high and low. Then why do the followers of these two religions treat you as low ? The reason is only one that the Hindus consider you as lowest of the low, so the Muslims and the Christians also consider you likewise. They fear that if they treat you as equals, the Hindus will treat them also as low. Hence, Muslims and Christians also follow the Untouchability like Hindus. Thus, we are not low in the eyes of the Hindus alone, but we are the lowest in the whole of India, because of the treatment given to us by the Hindus. If you have to get rid of this shameful condition, if you have to cleanse this stigma and make this precious life graceful, there is only one way and that is to discard the Hindu religion and the Hindu Society. Have you any freedom in Hindu religion ? Some people might say that you have a freedom of trade guaranteed by law like any other citizen. You are also said to have got the personal liberty like others. You will have to think deeply over such statement to see whether they really carry any meaning. What is good in saying, you have freedom of trade to a person who is not allowed by the society to do any other business rather than an ancestral one. What is the use of telling someone such words, you are at liberty to enjoy your property, nobody else will touch your money, when all doors of acquiring property are closed to him. To tell a person, who is treated as unfit for entry into any service due to the defilement attached to him by birth, and under whom working is most contemptuous for others, that he has a right to serve, is to make mockery of him. The Law may guarantee various rights, but only those can be called real rights which you are permitted by the society to exercise. The Law guarantees to the Untouchables the right to wear decent clothes but the Hindus do not allow them to put on these clothes, what is the use of this right ? The law guarantees to the Untouchables the right to fetch water in metal pots, the right to use the metalic utensils, the right to put tiles on their houses but the Hindu Society does not allow them to exercise these rights, what is the use of such rights ? The various instances of such violations can be cited. In short, that which is permitted by the society to be exercised can alone be called a right. The right which is guaranteed by law but is opposed by the society is of no use at all. The Untouchables are in more need of social liberty than that which is guaranteed by law. So long as you do not achieve social liberty, whatever freedom is provided by law to you, is of no avail. Some persons might advise you that you have physical freedom. Of course, you can go anywhere, can speak anything you wish, subject to the restrictions imposed by law. But what is the use of such freedom ? A man has a body as well as a mind. Mere physical freedom is of no use. Freedom of the mind is of prime importance. Really speaking, what is meant by the physical freedom to a man ? It means, he is free to act according to his own freewill. A prisoner is unchained and made free. What is the principle underlying this ? The principle is that he should be free to act according to his own free will and he should be able to make the maximum use of the abilities he possesses. But what is the use of such freedom of a man whose mind is not free ? The freedom of mind is the real freedom. A person whose mind is not free, though not in chains, is a slave. One whose mind is not free, though not in prison, is a prisoner. One whose mind is not free, though alive, is dead. Freedom of mind is proof of one’s existence. What is the proof, then to judge, that the flame of mental freedom is not extinguished from a person ? Of whom can we say that his mind is free ? I call him free, who with an awakened consciousness realises his rights, responsibilities and duties, he who is not a slave of circumstances, and is always bent upon changing them in his favour, I call him free. One who is not a slave of usage, customs arid traditions, or of teachings because they have come down from his ancestors, whose flame of reason is not extinguished, I call him a free man. He, who has not surrendered himself, who does not act on the teachings of others, who does not believe in anything unless it is examined critically in the light of the cause and effect theory, is a free man. Who is always prepared to protect his rights, who is not afraid of public criticism, who has enough intellect and self-respect so as not to become a tool in the hands of others, I call such a man as a free man. He, who does not lead his life under the directions of others, who carves out his own aim of life according to his own reasoning and decides for himself as to how, and in what way his life should be led, I call him a free man. In short, a man who is his own master, him alone, I consider a free man In the light of the above observations are you free ? Have you any freedom to carve your own aims ? In my opinion, not only you have any freedom but you are worse than slaves. Your slavery has no parallel. In the Hindu religion, none can have freedom of speech. Everyone who lives in Hindu religion must surrender his freedom of speech. He must act according to the Vedas. If the Vedas do not support the actions, instructions must be sought from the Smritis, and if the Smritis fail to provide any instructions, he must follow the footsteps of great men. In Hinduism, conscience, reason, thoughts have neither any importance nor any scope. A Hindu must necessarily be a slave of either the Vedas or the Smritis or must imitate the great men. He is not supposed to use his reasoning. Hence, so long as you are a part of the Hindu religion, you cannot expect to have freedom of thought. Some people might argue that the Hindu religion did not force you alone into mental slavery, but has snatched away the freedom of mind of all other communities. It is quite true that all the Hindus are living under a state of mental slavery. But from this nobody should conclude that the sufferings of all are alike. Everyone in the Hindu religion is not equally affected by the adverse effects that this mental slavery has produced. This mental slavery is in no way detrimental to the material happiness of the Caste Hindus. Though the Caste-Hindus are slaves of the above-mentioned trio viz. Vedas, Smritis and the Great men, they arc given a high position in the Hindu Social System. They are empowered to rule over others. It is an undisputed fact that the whole of the Hindu religion is the creation of the high Caste Hindus for the welfare and prosperity of the high-castes. To which they call a religion, has assigned you a role of the slave. Every arrangement is made in the religion itself, so that you may not be able to escape from this slavery. Therefore, to you there is more need of breaking the bondage of mental slavery of the Hindu religion, so far the Hindus do not need. In view of this, the Hinduism has marred your progress from two sides. It has sacked your mental freedom and made you slaves. In the outer world also, it has doomed you to the conditions of a slave. If you want freedom, you must change your religion.
Untouchables’ organisations and conversion The present movement of eradication of the Untouchability has been criticised on the ground that the various castes in the Untouchable class practise casteism in their mutual dealings; ney they practise Untouchability. Mahars and Mangs do not dine together. Both these castes do not touch the scavengers and practice Untouchability against them. What right these people have to expect from the High Castes the non-observance of Untouchability, when they themselves practise casteism and Untouchability amongst themselves ? This question is always raised. The Untouchables are generally advised to abolish castes and Untouchability from amongst them and then come up for redress. We all have to accept that there is a truth in this argument. But the allegation made in this is false. It cannot be denied that the castes included in the Untouchables practise casteism and some the Untouchability. But it is equally false to say that they are any way responsible for this crime. The Casteism and the Untouchability have originated not from the Untouchables but from the high-Caste Hindus. They have laid down the practice of the casteism and the Untouchability. The lesson of observing the casteism and the Untouchability has been put in the practice by the high Caste Hindus. And if this is true, the responsibility of this tradition of the casteism and the Untouchability falls on the Caste Hindus and not on the Untouchables. If this lesson is false, the burden of its being untruthful falls on those who taught it, and not on those who learnt it. Though this reply appears to be correct, it does not satisfy me. Though we are not responsible for the cause due to which castes and Untouchability has taken root among us, it will be good not to condemn it and allow it to continue as it is. Although we are not responsible for the introduction of the Untouchability and the castes among us, it is our responsibility to annihilate it. And I am glad that all of us have realised this responsibility. I am sure there is no leader among the Mahars who advocate the practice of the casteism. If comparison is to be made, it will have to be made among the leaders. If we compare the educated class of the Mahar community with that of the Brahmins and one will have to admit that the educated class from the Untouchables is more eager to abolish castes. This can well be proved by deeds also. Not only the educated class of Mahars but even the uneducated and illiterate Mahars are the protogonists of abolition of castes. This also can be proved. Today, there is not a single person in the Mahar community who is opposed to the inter-caste dinning among the Mahars and the Mangs. I feel greatly satisfied that you have realised the necessity of abolition of castes, for which I extend my the heartiest congratulations. But have you ever thought as to how the efforts towards abolition of castes in the Untouchables can be made successful ? Castes cannot be abolished by inter-caste dinners or stray instances of inter-caste marriages. The Caste is a state of mind. It is a disease of the mind. The teachings of the Hindu religion are the root cause of this disease. We practise the casteism, we observe the Untouchability, because we are asked to do so by the Hindu religion in which we live. A bitter thing can be made sweet. The taste of salty and astringent things can be changed. But the poison cannot be made nectar (Amrit.!) To talk of annihilating castes while living in the Hinduism is like talking of changing the poison into nectar (Amrit.). In short, so long as we remain in the religion which teaches a man to treat other man as filthy, the sense of discrimination on account of caste which is deeply rooted in our minds, cannot be abolished. For annihilating the castes and the Untouchability from among the Untouchables, change of religion is the only antidote.
‘Change in name’ and ‘Change in religion’ So far, I have placed before you the points in favour of the conversion. I hope, this analysis will be thought provoking for you. For those who consider this discussion profound, I propose to put it before you in simple thoughts and in simple language. What is there in the conversion, which can be called novel ? Really speaking, what sort of social relations have you with the Caste Hindus ? You are as separate from the Hindus as Muslims and Christians are. As Hindus do not have interdinings and intermarriages with Muslims and Christians, so is their relation with you. Your society and that of the Hindus are two distinct groups. By the conversion, nobody can say or feel that one society has been split up. You will remain as separate from the Hindus as you are today. Nothing new will happen on account of this conversion. If this is true, then I do not understand why some people should be afraid of the conversion. Though you have not understood the importance of change of religion, you have undoubtedly under-stood the imporatance of a change of name. If any one from amongst you, is asked about his caste, he replies as being Chokhamela, Harijan etc. But he does not say that he is a Mahar. Nobody can change his name unless certain conditions demand it. There is a very simple reason for such a change of name. An unknown person cannot distinguish between the touchable and an Untouchable and so long as a Hindu does not come to know the caste of a person, he cannot bear in him hatred towards that person for being an Untouchable. The caste Hindus and the Untouchables behave in a very friendly fashion during a journey as long as they are unaware of their castes. They exchange betels, bidis, cigarettes, fruits etc. But as soon as the Hindu comes to know that the person with whom he is talking is an Untouchable, a sense of hatred germinates in his mind. He thinks that he has been deceived. He gets angry and ultimately this temporary friendship ends in abuses and quarrels. I am sure that you have gone through such experiences. You must be knowing why this happens. The names that depict your caste are considered so filthy that even their utterence is enough to create a vomiting sensation in the heart of Hindus. Thus, by calling yourself a Chokhamela instead of a Mahar, you try to deceive people. But, you know, people are not deceived. Whether you call yourself a Chokhamela or a Harijan, people understand what you are. By your actions, you have proved, the necessity of a change in name. Then I would like to ask you, if you feel the need of change in your name, what objection should there be for the change of religion ? Changing a religion is like changing a name. Change of a religion followed by the change of name will be more beneficial to you. To call oneself a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist or a Sikkh is not merely a change of religion but is also a change of name. That is a real change of name. This new name will have no filth attached to it. It is a drastic change. None will search the origin of it. The change of name as Chokhamela, Harijan has no meaning at all. In this case, all the hatred, contempt etc. attached to the original name passes on to the new name. So long as you remain in the Hindu religion, you will have to change your name. To call oneself a Hindu is not enough. Nobody recognises that there is anyone called a Hindu. So also, by calling oneself a Mahar, will not serve the purpose. As soon as you utter this name, nobody will come near to you. Instead of changing one name today and another tomorrow, and thus remaining in a state of pendulum, I ask you, therefore, why you should not change your name permanently by changing your religion.
The role of opponents Since the beginning of this movement of conversion, many people have raised many objections to it. Let us now examine the truth, if any, in such objections. Some Hindus, pretending to be religious, advise you saying, “A religion is not a matter of enjoyment. A religion cannot be changed as we change our clothes every day. You wish to leave this Hindu religion and embrace another one. Do you then think that your ancestors who clung to this religion for a long period were fools ?” Some so called wise men have raised this question. I do not find any substance in this objection. A foolish alone will say that one has to adhere to ones religion because it is that of his ancestors. No wise man will accept such a proposition. Those who argue that the ancestral religion should not be changed, seem that they have not read the history at all. The ancient Aryan religion was called Vedic Religion, in which three distinct characteristics— beef eating, drinking and merry-making—were the pan of the religion of the day. Thousands of people followed it in India and even now some Brahmins dream of going back to it. If the ancient religion alone is to be adhered to why did the people of India renounce the Hinduism and accept the Buddhism ? Why did they renounce the Vedic religion and accept the Jain religion ? It cannot be denied that our ancestors lived in the ancient religion, but I cannot say that they remained there voluntarily. The Chaturvarna System prevailed in this country for a fairly long time. In this System, the Brahmins were permitted to learn, Kshatriyas to fight, Vaishyas to earn property and the Shudras to serve; this way of life was the rule of the day. In this way of life, the Shudras had no education, no property and no arms. Those your ancestors who were thus forced to live in impoverish and defence less conditions, no man with sense will say that they accepted this religion voluntarily. Here it is also necessary to consider whether it was possible for your ancestors to revolt against this religion. Had it been possible for them to revolt and they had still not acted upon, then only we could have said that they had accepted this Religion voluntarily. But if we look into the real conditions, it will be clear to us that our ancestors were compelled to live in that religion. Thus this Hindu Religion is not the Religion of our ancestors, but it was slavery thrusted upon them. Our ancestors had no means to fight this slavery and hence they could not revolt. They were compelled to live in this Religion. Nobody can blame them for this helplessness. Rather anyone will pity them. But now nobody can force any type of slavery upon the present generation. They have all sorts of freedom. By availing of such freedom, if they do not free themselves, one will have to call them, most regretfully, as being most mean, slavish and dependent people to have lived on earth. Difference between man and animal it is fitted for a fool only to say that one should cling to ones own Religion only because it is ancestral. No wise person can have such an argument. This will be a worthy advice for animals, and not for man to tell him, to live in the same circumstances in which he is living. The difference between a man and an animal is that—a man can make progress while an animal cannot. Our progress is not possible without change. The Conversion is a sort of change. And if no progress is possible without the conversion, the conversion becomes essential. The only being a matter of ancestral religion can never occur as a hindrance in the path of a progressive man. There is still one more argument against the Conversion. It is, ‘the Conversion is a sort of escapism.’ Today, a number of Hindus are bent upon improving the Hindu Religion. They claim that the Untouchability and the casteism can be eradicated with the help of these people. It is, therefore, not proper to change the Religion at this juncture. Whatever opinion anybody may possess about the Hindu Social Reformers, I personally have a nausea for them. I have much experience of them and I feel disgust about these half-witted people. It is really astonishing that those people, who want to live in their own caste, die in their own caste, marry in their own caste, are able to fool people with false slogans, like saying they will break the caste and if the Untouchables do not believe them, they get annoyed with them. When I hear such slogans shouted by these Hindu Social Reformers, I recollect the efforts made by the American white people for the emancipation of the American Negroes. Years ago, the condition of the Negroes in America was just the same as those of the Untouchables in India. The difference between the two was that the slavery of Negroes had the sanction of the Law while your slavery is a creation of the Religion. Some American reformers were trying for the abolition of slavery of the Negroes. But can the Hindu Social Reformers be compared with those White Social Reformers in America, who emancipated the Negroes ? The White American Reformers fought battles in war with kith and kin for the emancipation of the Negroes. They killed thousands of Whites who defended the slavery, and also sacrificed their own blood for this cause. When we read these incidents through the pages of history, we are compelled to say that, the social reformers in America and in India are incomparable. (dgk¡ jktk dgk¡ iksrjktk) These so called benefactors of the Untouchables of India called reformers need to be asked— Are you prepared to fight a Civil war with your Hindu Brethren like the Whites in America who fought with their white brothers for the cause of the Negroes ? And if not, what are these tall talks of reforms for ? The greatest of the Hindus who claims to fight for the cause of the Untouchables is Mahatma Gandhi. To what extent can he go? Mahatma Gandhi who pilots the non-violent agitation against the British Government is not prepared even to hurt the feelings of the Hindus, the oppressors of the Untouchables. He is not willing to launch a Satyagraha against them. He is not even prepared to take legal action against the Hindus. I do not see any good of such reformers. The fault lies with the touchables alone Some Hindus attend the meetings of the Untouchables and rebuke the Caste Hindus. Some will advise the Untouchables from their stage saying, “Brothers, live clean, educate yourselves, stand on your own feet, etc.” Really speaking, if anybody is to be blamed, it is the Caste Hindus alone. It is the Caste Hindus who commit this wrong. Yet none will try to gather these Caste Hindus and reprimand them. To those who preach to the Untouchables to continue their agitation with the help of the Hindus and by remaining in the Hindu fold, I would like to remind them of a couple of illustrations from history. I remember to have read about a conversation between an American and an English soldier during the last World War. I find it most appropriate at this juncture. For how long the war should be continued, was the subject of their discussion. In reply to a question of the American, the Englishman said with great pride, “We shall fight the war till the last Frenchman is killed”. When the Hindu Social Reformers proclaim that they shall fight to the last for the cause of the Untcuchables, it means that they propose to fight till the last Untouchable dies. This is the meaning as I understand of their proclamation. It should not be difficult for you to decide that one who fights for the cause at the cost of the lives of others cannot be expected to win the battle. If we are to die in our struggle for freedom, what is the use of fighting at wrong place ? To reform the Hindu Society is neither our aim nor our field of action. Our aim is to gain freedom for us. We have nothing to do with anything else. If we can gain our freedom by the Conversion, why should we shoulder the responsibility of reforming the Hindu Society ? And why should we sacrifice our vitality, strength and wealth for that ? None should misunderstand the main object of our movement as being Hindu Social Reform. The principal object of our movement is only to achieve the social freedom for the Untouchables; it is equally true that this freedom cannot be secured without conversion. I do accept that the Untouchables need equality as well and to secure equality is also one of the objectives of our movement. But nobody can say that this equality can be achieved only by remaining in Hindu religion otherwise equality will not be achieved. Before me, there are two ways of achieving the equality. The equality will be achieved either by remaining in the Hindu fold or by the conversion. If the equality is to be achieved by remaining in the Hindu fold, mere removal of the polluting contact will not serve the purpose. The equality can be achieved only when intercaste dinners and marriages take place. This means that the Chaturvarna must be abolished and the Brahminic Religion must be uprooted. Is it possible ? And if not, will it be wise to expect the treatment of equality by remaining in the Hindu religion ? And can you be successful in your efforts ? Comparatively the path of Conversion is far easy. The Hindu Society gives equal treatment to the Muslims. The Hindu Society gives equal treatment to the Christians. Obviously, the social equality is easily achieved by the conversion. If this is true, then why should you not adopt this simple path of Conversion ? According to me, this Conversion of Religon will bring happiness to both—the Untouchables as well as Hindus. So long as you remain as Hindus, you will have to struggle for polluting contacts, for food and water, and for intercaste marriages. And so long as this quarrel continues, you and the Hindu will be the perpetual enemies to each other. By the conversion, the roots of all the quarrels will vanish. Then you will have no right to claim on their temples as well there will be no need for the same. There will be no reason for you to struggle for social rights such as intercaste dinning, intercaste marriages etc; and if these quarrels cease to exist, mutual love and affection will develop among you. Look at the present relations between the Hindus on one hand and the Christians and the Muslims on the other. The Hindus do not allow the Muslims and the Christians to enter their temples, like you. They also have no intercaste marriages or inter dining with them. Irrespective of this, the affinity and love which these people have, is not in between you and the Hindus. The main reason for this difference is that, as you live in the Hindu religion, you have to struggle with the Hindu Society for the social and the religious rights. But the Muslims and the Christians, having gone out of the Hindu religion, do not need to struggle with the Hindus for the religious and the social rights. Secondly, although they have no social rights in the Hindu Society, namely, they have no inter-dining and inter-marriage with the Hindus, the Hindus do not treat them inequals. Thus by conversion, if the equality can be achieved and the affinity between the Hindus and the Untouchables can be brought about, then why should the Untouchables not adopt this simple and happy path of securing equality ? Looking at the problem through this angle, the conversion is the only right path of freedom which ultimately leads to equality. The Conversion is not the path of escapism. It is not the path of cowardice, it is the path of wisdom. One more argument is put forth against the conversion. Some Hindus argue that the conversion is worthless if you do it out of frustration from the caste system. The Hindus plead that wherever you go, there is a casteism. If you become Muslim; there is a casteism. If you become Christian there is also a casteism. Unfortunately, it has to be admitted that the Caste System has crept into other religions in this country also. But the burden of nurturing this great sin lies with the Hindus alone. This disease originally sprang up from the Hindus and thereafter infected others. In their view they are helpless for this. Although the castes exist in the Muslims and the Christians alike, it will be meanness to liken it to that of the Hindus. There is a great distinction between the caste system of the Hindus and that of the Muslims and the Christians. Firstly, it must be noted that though there is a casteism among the Christians and the Muslims, nobody can say that it is the chief characteristic of their social system. If one asks, ‘who are you ?’ the reply ‘I am a Muslim’ or, ‘I am a Christian’ is enough to satisfy. Nobody feels the necessity of asking as to what his caste is. But if any Hindu is asked, ‘Who are you ?’ and he says, ‘I am a Hindu’, one is not satisfied with this reply. He is further asked. ‘What is your caste ?’ And unless this is replied to, none can have the idea of his social status. From this it is evident as to how the caste has prime importance in the Hindu religion and how negligible it is in the Christianity and the Islam. There is one more difference between the caste system of the Hindus and that of the Muslims and the Christians. The caste system in the Hindus has the foundation of the Hindu Religion. The castes in Muslims and Christian religions have no sanction in their religion. If the Hindus proclaim to disband the caste system, their religion will come in their way. On the other hand, if the Muslims and the Christians start movements for abolishing the caste system in their society, their religion will not obstruct this. The Hindus cannot destroy their castes without destroying their religion. The Muslims and the Christians need not destroy their religions for eradication of the castes. Rather their religion will support such movements to great extent. Even for the sake of argument, it is admitted that castes exist everywhere, it cannot be concluded that one should remain in the Hindu fold. If the Caste System is useless, then the logical conclusion is that one should accept such a society in which the Caste System has no severity or wherein the castes can be abolished early and easily in a simple manner. Some Hindus say, ‘What will happen by the conversion alone ? Try to improve your financial and educational status.’ Possibly some of our people will be confused and puzzled by such question. I therefore feel it necessary to discuss it here. Firstly, the question is, who is going to improve your financial and educational conditions ? You yourself or those who argue as above ? I do not think that those who advice you like this will be able to do anything except extending their lip sympathy. Nor do I find any efforts towards this direction from their side. On the contrary, every Hindu tries to improve the economic status of his own caste. His outlook is limited to his own caste alone. Brahmins are engaged in establishing maternity homes for Brahmin women, providing scholarships to Brahmin pupils, and for securing jobs for the unemployed Brahmins. Saraswats (one of the castes amongst the Brahmins) are also doing the same. Kayasthas and Marathas are doing the same. Everybody is for himself, and those who have no benefactor are at the mercy of God. You yourself have to rise, none else is to come to your aid, this is the present day condition of a society. If this is the situation, what is the purpose in listening to the advice of these people ? There is no other motive in such advice but to misguide you and kill your time. If you have to improve yourselves, then nobody need to pay any attention to that gossips of the Hindu people and they do not have any right to advice you. Although this may seem enough, I do not propose to leave this point here. I feel necessary to refute this argument. I am simply surprised by the senseless question which some Hindus ask as to what will happen by the conversion alone ? Most of the present day Sikhs, Muslims and Christians in India were formerly Hindus, majority of them being from the Shudras and the Untouchables. Do these critics mean to say that those who renounced the Hindu fold and embraced Sikhism or Christianity, have made no progress at all ? And if this is not true, and if it is admitted that the conversion has brought a distinct improvement in their condition, then to say that the Untouchables will not be benefitted by the conversion, carries no meaning; they have to think over this. Another implied meaning of the statement that ‘nothing will happen by the conversion’ means that ‘the religion is meaningless.’ I do not understand why they advocate and insist upon the Untouchables to remain in the Hindu religion when they argue that the religion is meaningless; there is neither gain nor loss. If they do not find any meaning in the religion, why should they unnecessarily argue for which religion is left and which is accepted ? Those Hindus who ask as to what will happen by the conversion alone, can be accosted with the similar question— what can be achieved by self Government alone. If it is true that the people in India, like the Untouchables, feel the necessity of the financial and educational progress, what is the good of self Government. And if the country is to be benefitted by self Government alone, the Untouchables are also bound to be benefitted by the conversion. After giving a deep thought to this problem, everybody will have to admit that the conversion is necessary to the Untouchables as self Government is necessary to India. The conversion is as important to the Untouchables as is self Government to India. The ultimate object of both the conversion and the self Government is the same. There is not the slightest difference in their ultimate goal. This ultimate aim is to attain freedom. And if the freedom is necessary for the life of mankind, the conversion of Untouchables which brings them complete freedom cannot be called worthless by any stretch of imagination.
What first ? Progress or Conversion ? I think it is necessary here to discuss the question as to what should be initiated first, whether econmic progress or conversion ? I do not agree with the view that economic progress should precede. This issue whether religious conversion or economic progress should precede is as dry as that which deals with political reform versus social reform. Several means are required to be applied for the development and progress of the society and each of these means has its own significance. No definite seriatim can be applied for the application of these means. If, however, anybody insists for such seriatim with regard to the conversion and economic reform, I will prefer conversion to economic reform. I fail to understand how you can achieve economic progress so long as you have the stigma of being an Untouchable. If anyone of you open a shop and it is known that the shopkeeper is an Untouchable, nobody will purchase anything from you. If anyone of you apply for a job, and it is disclosed that the applicant is an Untouchable, you will not get the job. If anyone intends to sell his land, and one of you propose to purchase it, nobody will sell the land once it is known that the purchaser is an Untouchable. Whatever means you may use for the economic progress of your own efforts will be frustrated due to the Untouchability. The Untouchability is a permanent obstacle in your path of progress. And unless you remove it, your path cannot be smooth and without the conversion, this hurdle cannot be removed. Some of your young ones are trying to get education and they are collecting money for this purpose from whatever source they find proper. Due to this temptation of money, some are inclined to remain the Untouchables and make their progress. I wish to ask one question to these youngsters, after completion of your education, if you do not get the job suited to your qualifications, what will you do of your education ? What is the reason that most of our educated persons are unemployed today ? To me, the main cause for this unemployment is the Untouchability alone. Your virtues are not valued because of Untouchability. Your caliber has no scope due to your Untouchability. Because of the Untouchability, you have been ousted from the Military service. You are not employed in the Police Department on account of your Untouchability. Due to the Untouchability, you cannot secure even the post of a peon. You are not promoted to the higher rank only because you are an Untouchable. An Untouchability is a kind of curse. You have been completely ruined and all your virtues have turned into dust. Under these circumstances, what more qualifications can you acquire and even if you acquire, what is its use ? So if you sincerely desire that your qualifications should be valued, your education should be of some use to you, the doors of your financial progress are to be opened, you must throw away the shackles of the Untouchability.
Doubts against Conversion The arguments put forth by the critics of conversion have been discussed so far. Now I propose to clarify the doubts expressed by some of the sympathisers of conversion. In the first place, it has been heard that some of the Mahars are worried as to what will be the fate of their Watan (hereditory rights of a village servant). It has also been heard that the high caste Hindus opposing to the conversion have threatened the Mahars in the villages that they will be deprived of their services as village servants if they leave the Hindu religion. All of you are aware that I am least worried if the Mahar Watan is abolished. During the last ten years, I have been advocating that if there is anything that doomed the fate of Mahars is the Mahar Watan alone and the day on which you will be freed from these chains of Maharki, I will think your path of liberation is open to you. However, for those who want this Mahar Watan, I can assure them that their Watan will not be jeopardised by their conversion. In this regard, the act of 1850 can be referred. Under the provisions of this act, rights of a person as a successor and property are not affected by virtue of his conversion. Those who feel this reference of law as insufficient, they have to take into consideration the circumstances prevalent in Nagar District. A number of persons from the Mahar community in this District have become Christians and at some places, in one family, some are Christians, while others still remained as Mahars. However, the Watan rights of these converted Christians have not vanished. This may be confirmed from the Mahars of Nagar. So, none should fear that their Watan will come in peril by conversion.
A second doubt is about political rights. Some people express fear as to what will happen to our safeguards if we convert. Nobody can say that I do not realise the importance of the political safeguards that the Untouchables have achieved. Nobody else has taken so much pains and has made so much efforts for securing these political rights for the Untouchables as I have taken. But I feel, it is not proper to depend solely on political rights. These political safeguards are not granted on the condition that they shall be everlasting. They are bound to cease sometime. According to the Communal Award of the British Government, our political safeguards were limited for 20 years. Although no such limitation has been fixed by the Poona Pact, nobody can say they areeverlasting. Those who depend upon these political safeguards, must think as to what will happen after these safeguards are withdrawn. On the day on which our political rights cease to exist, we will have to depend upon our social strength. I have already told you that this social strength is wanting in us. So also I have proved in the beginning that this strength cannot be achieved without the conversion. None should think of the present only. To forget what is eternally beneficial and to be allured by the temporary gains, is bound to lead to suffering. Under these circumstances, one must think of what is permanently beneficial. In my opinion, the conversion is the only way to eternal bliss. Nobody should hesitate even if the political rights are required to be sacrificed for this purpose. The conversion brings no harm to the political safeguards. I do not understand why the political safeguards should at all be jeopardised by the conversion. Wherever you go, your political rights and safeguards will accompany you. I have no doubt about it. If you become Muslims, you will get the political rights as Muslims. If you become Christians, you will get your political rights as Christians, if you become Sikhs you will have your political safeguards as Sikkhs. Political rights are based on population. The political safeguards of any society will increase with the increase of its population. Nobody should misunderstand that if we leave the Hindu Society, all the 15 seats allotted to us will go back to the Hindus. If we become Muslims, our 15 seats will be added to the seats reserved for the Muslims. Likewise, if we become Christians, our seats will be added to the seats reserved for the Christians. In short, our political rights will accompany us. So nobody should be afraid of it. On the other hand, you must think carefully on this that if we remain Hindus and do not convert, will our rights be safe? Suppose the Hindus pass a Law whereby the Untouchability is prohibited and its practice is made punishable, then they may ask you, ‘we have abolished the Untouchability by law and you are no longer Untouchables.’ You are simply poor and backward, like you other castes are equally backward. We have not provided any political safeguards for these other backward communities. Then why should you be given ? You will have to think deeply over what will be your reply to these questions. It will be very easy for the Muslims and the Christians to answerthis question. They will say, “We are not granted political safeguards and rights because we are poor, illiterate or backward, but because our religion is different, our society is different and so on. And so long as our religion is different, we must get our share in the political rights.” This will be their appropriate reply. So long as you are living in the Hindu religion and in the Hindu society, you cannot take this stand that you are entitled for politcal safeguards because your society is different. You will be able to take this stand on the day on which you liberate yourselves from the serfdom of the Hindu society by virtue of conversion, otherwise not. And unless you take such independent stand and claim the political safeguards, your political rights and safeguards cannot be consi-dered to be permanent and free from danger, I think it will be a matter of ignorance. Looking through this perspective, it can be said that the conversion is not a hindrance but a path for strenthening the political safeguards.
If you remain in the Hindu religion, you will lose your political safeguards. If you do not want to lose your political safeguards do conversion, they will be permanent only by the conversion
Conclusion For myself I have taken my decision. My conversion is sure. My conversion is not for any material gain. There is nothing which I cannot achieve by remaining as an Untouchable. Nothing but spirituality is at the base of my conversion. The Hindu religion does not appeal to my reason. The Hindu religion does not appeal to my self-respect. However, for you, for spiritual as well as for material gains the conversion is must. Some persons mock and laugh at the idea of the conversion for material gain. I do not feel hesitant in calling such persons as fool. A religion which preaches what will happen or what will not to soul after death, may be useful for the rich. They may entertain themselves by thinking over such religion at their own leisure. It is quite natural that those who have enjoyed all sort of pleasures in their lifetime, may consider such religion as a real religion, which mainly tells them the pleasures they are to get after death. But what of those who by remaining in a particular religion have been reduced to the state of dust, who have been denied the basic necessities of life such as food and clothe, who have not been treated even as human beings, are these people instead of thinking of religion from a material point of view, expected to look at the sky by merely closing eyes ? What is the use of this rich and idle people’s Vedanta to the poor ? Religion is for man I tell you specifically that man is not for religion, religion is for man. To become human, convert yourselves. To get organised, convert yourselves. To achieve strength, convert yourselves. To secure equality, convert yourselves. To get liberty, convert yourselves. To make your domestic life happy, convert yourselves. Why do you remain in that religion which does not treat you as human beings ? Why do you remain in that religion which does not allow you to educate ? Why do you remain in that religion which prohibits you from entering a temple ? Why do you remain in that religion which prohibits you from water ? Why do you remain in that religion which obstructs you from getting a job ? Why do you remain in that religion, which insults you at every step ? A religion which prohibits righteous relations between man and man, is not a religion but a display of force. A religion which does not recognise a man as a human being, is not a religion but a disease. A religion which allows the touch of animals but prohibits the touch of human beings is not a religion but a mockery. A religion which precludes one class from education, forbids to accumulate wealth, to bear arms, is not a religion but a mockery of the life of human being. A religion that compels the illiterate to be illiterate, and the poor to be poor, is not a religion but a punishment. I have tried here to the best of my knowledge to analyse and explain all the probable problems arising out of the conversion. This discourse might have become a lengthy one, but I had decided to elaborate it thoroughly right from the beginning. It was necessary for me to reply the points raised by the opponents about the conversion. I am of the opinion that nobody should convert without knowing importance of the declaration of conversion, and hence I discuss this problem in such detail so that nobody should have any doubt about it. I cannot say how far you will agree with my views, but I hope, you will deeply brood over them. I feel that to please the masses and gain the popularity is good for a common man but not for a leader. I consider one as a leader who without fear or favour without popular accusation tells the people what is good and what is bad for them. It is my duty to tell you, what is good for you, even if you don’t like it. I must do my duty. And now I have done it. It is now up to you to decide and discharge your responsibility. I have divided this problem of the conversion into two parts. Whether to leave the Hindu religion or to remain in it is the first part of the problem. If the Hindu religion is to be abandoned, what other religion should be adopted or whether a new religion should be established, this is the second part of the problem. Today, I have to decide the first part of the problem, unless the first part is decided, it is futile to discuss or prepare for the latter. Therefore you must decide the first point. It will not be possible for me to give you another apportunity to decide this. What decision you take in this conference, accordingly I will chalk out my future programme. If you decide against the conversion, this question will be closed for ever. Then whatever is to be done for myself, I will do. If at all you decide in favour of the conversion, then you will have to promise me for an organised and enmasse conversion. If the decision is taken in favour of the conversion, and the people start embracing any religion they like individually, I will not intervene in your conversion. I wish you all to join me. Whatever religion we may accept, I am prepared to put all my sincere efforts and labour for the welfare of our people in that religion. You should not, however, be led away by emotion and follow me only because I say so. You should consent only if it appeals to your reason. I will not at all feel sorry if you decide not to join me. Rather I will feel relieved of the responsibility. You have to keep in mind that this is, therefore, a crucial occasion. Your today’s decision will carve out a path for prosperity of your future generations. If you decide today to get liberated, your future generations will definately be liberated. If you decide to remain slaves, your future generations will also be slaves. Hence yours is the most difficult task
Be thy own light While thinking over what message should I give you on this occasion, I recollected the message given by the Lord Buddha to His Bhikkhu Sangh just before his Mahaparinirvan and which has been quoted in Mahaparinibban Sutta. Once the Bhagwan, after having recovered from illness was resting on a seat under a tree, His disciple venerable Ananda went to the Buddha, and having saluted sat beside Him, said, “I have seen the Lord in illness as well as in happiness. But from the present illness of the Lord, my body has become heavy like a lead, my mind is not in peace, I can’t concentrate on the Dhamma, but I feel consolation and satisfaction that the Lord will not attain the Parinibban unless the message is given to the Sangh.”
Then the Lord replied thus, “Ananda! What does the Sangh expect from me ? Ananda, I have preached the Dhamma with an open heart, without concealing anything. The Tathagata has not kept anything concealed as some other teachers do. So Ananda, what more can Tathagata tell the Bhikkhu Sangh. So Ananda, be self illuminating like the Sun. Don’t be dependent for the light like the Earth. Believe in yourself, don’t be dependent on others. Be truthful. Always take refuge in the truth and do not surrender to anybody.” I also take refuge in the words of the Buddha. “Be your own guide. Take refuge in your own reason. Do not listen to the advice of others. Do not succumb to others. Be truthful. Take refuge in truth. Never surrender to anything. If you keep in mind this message of Lord Buddha at this juncture, I am sure, your decision will not be wrong.”
BAWS 17 vol. part 3, WHAT WAY EMANCIPATION ?