Gandhi the racist saint

31/03/2010

I’ve never been a big fan of Gandhi, even before I came to know that he was racist in his youth. I don’t know why, but it was perhaps because of my belief that all honourable men are indeed quite “honourable” …. Nevertheless, Gandhi is held up as a modern saint, the father of ‘avihimsa’. It’s truly amazing how history has overlooked the fact that he was a racist, and has made the scoundrel a saint… Gandhi has written a lot of racist stuff. Here’s one of them. This is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to an english friend of his named W.T. Stead in 1906. “As you were good enough to show very great sympathy with the cause of British Indians in the Transvaal, may I suggest your using your influence with Boer leaders in the Transvaal? I feel certain that they did not share the same prejudice against British Indians as against the Kaffir [offensive word in South Africa] races but as the prejudice against Kaffir races in a strong form was in existence in the Transvaal at the time when the British Indians immigrated there, the latter were immediately lumped together with the Kaffir races and described under the generic term ‘Coloured People’. Gradually the Boer mind was habituated to this qualification and it refused to recognise the evident and sharp distictions that undoubtedly exist between British Indians and the Kaffir races in South Africa” … A simple google search will give you many such stuff written by Gandhi. So there’s no point in me writing them all here… Gandhi believed in the Hindu caste system. Why do you think castes are called ‘varna’ in India? Perhaps as R.S. Sigh wrote, that explains his racism towards black races… The funny thing is, Gandhi even hoodwinked Luther King, Jr.

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10 Responses to “Gandhi the racist saint”

  1. chalaka Says:

    it’s a pity you had to choose this passage to illustrate your views. i don’t adore gandhi either, but calling him a racist on the basis of his use of the work kaffir is just silly. kaffir and nigger are offensive words now, but they were common parlance in gandhi’s time. sort of like thambiya was in sri lanka twenty years ago, now it’s on the way to becoming rude. don’t get anachronistic while on your high horse.

    • lefroy Says:

      It’s not the use of the word Kaffir that makes him racist. It is his belief that the Boer’s prejudice against the Kaffir races he talks about is valid that makes him racist… Person X says all thambiyas and all sinhalese are idle idiots. Person Y says that sinhalese aren’t idle idiots and that X thinks that way simply because sinhalese look like thambiyas. Now, what does that say about Y?

  2. Jack Point Says:

    More than race I think in his naive view of independence and his unwillingness to negotiate a proper transition was the cause of all the bloodshed in the partition and the wars that followed it.

    He may have called for non-violence but actions and (in certain instances) inaction resulted in a great deal of violence.

  3. pina kaludava Says:

    A good post! Careful analysis of Gandhi’s life story reveals that he was a racist of worst kind.

    He had made some racist comments against Sri Lanka too. His some of the writings against SL have inspired India to pursuit a big brotherly attitude towards us.

  4. AfriX Says:

    Didn’t Gandhi eventually turn back on his racist ways & preached equality & justice for all mankind? Of course it’s a good thing that his early racist views be exposed. Keep up the good work Lefroy!

  5. lefroy Says:

    @AfriX.. Actually no. I’m not aware of any racist remarks he made after he went back to India. Maybe I’ll find one in the future. But I’m sure he never apologised for his early racism. When early African-American leaders like Edward Carroll, Thurman visited India to meet Gandhi, he hoodwinked them by hiding his racism. Perhaps in his old age he was less racist towards black people than when he was a young man. But he did nothing for them, other than hiding his early racism.

  6. lefroy Says:

    But true, he did preach equality to all mankind. But it means nothing without that apology.

  7. Mark Says:

    So when darker skinned people today refer to the Caucasian race today as the “man” or “white people” is that not racist also? How about when people refer to asians as oriental?
    or when people refer to african american people as “black”>?

  8. joe Says:

    gandhi actually tried to abolish the caste system.

  9. vuyo Says:

    When Gandhi addressed a public meeting in Bombay on September 26, 1896, he had the following to say about the Indian struggle in South Africa:

    “Ours is one continued struggle against degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the European, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir, whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness.”

    In 1904, opposing the then white British South African government’s plan to draw up a register of all non-Whites in the urban areas, Gandhi wrote about natives who do not work:

    “It is one thing to register natives who would not work, and whom it is very difficult to find out if they absent themselves, but it is another thing -and most insulting – to expect decent, hard-working, and respectable Indians, whose only fault is that they work too much, to have themselves registered and carry with them registration badges.”

    Commenting on a piece of legislation planned by the white Natal Municipal authority, called the Natal Municipal Corporation Bill, Gandhi wrote in his newspaper, the Indian Opinion, on March 18, 1905:

    “Clause 200 makes provision for registration of persons belonging to uncivilized races, resident and employed within the Borough. One can understand the necessity of registration of Kaffirs who will not work, but why should registration be required for indentured Indians who have become free, and for their descendants about whom the general complaint is that they work too much?”

    Contrary to the liberal myth, Gandhi never once tried to help anybody else but Indians, and even then, only upper casts Indians at that. He consistently sought a special position for his people which would be separated from and superior to that of the Blacks.
    A good example came when the British colony of Natal took active steps to ensure that the Indians in that colony were deprived of the vote. “The Franchise Amendment Bill,” introduced in 1896, prohibited Indians from registering for the vote, while allowing those already on the rolls to remain. Within a few years, this eliminated the Indian as a voting factor in Natal, and it was this law that caused the Indian merchants to ask Gandhi to stay in South Africa, and against it was established the Natal Indian Congress, the first Indian political organization in South Africa. One of the first achievements of the Natal Indian Congress – which Gandhi established – was the creation of a third separate entrance to the Durban Post Office. The first was for Whites, but previously Indians had to share the second with the Blacks. The third entrance – for Indians alone – satisfied Gandhi.

    The Famous Train Incident

    In the Hollywood film made about Gandhi, much emphasis was placed on a scene where he was arrested for riding in a South African railroad coach reserved for Whites. This incident did indeed occur, but for very different reasons than those the film portrayed! For the liberal myth is that Gandhi was protesting at the exclusion of non-Whites from the railroad coach: in fact, he was trying to persuade the authorities to let ONLY upper caste Indians ride with the Whites.

    It was never Gandhi’s intention to let Blacks, or even lower-caste Indians, share the White compartment! Here, in Gandhi’s own words, are his comments on this famous incident, complete with reference to upper-caste Indians, whom he differentiated from lower-caste Indians by calling the former “clean”:

    “You say that the magistrate’s decision is unsatisfactory because it would enable a person, however unclean, to travel by a tram, and that even the Kaffirs would be able to do so. But the magistrate’s decision is quite different. The Court declared that the Kaffirs have no legal right to travel by tram. And according to tram regulations, those in an unclean dress or in a drunken state are prohibited from boarding a tram. Thanks to the Court’s decision, only clean Indians or colored people other than Kaffirs, can now travel in the trams.”

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