Mahatma Gandhi death anniversary: US-based Indian-American Dalit writer Sujatha Gidla has accused Mahatma Gandhi of being “casteist” and “racist”. At the Jaipur Literature Festival on Monday, Gidla claimed Gandhi wanted to preserve the caste system and, hence, paid lip service to Dalit upliftment for political gain. According to PTI, Gidla alleged Gandhi wanted to “prettify” the caste system.
“How could one say Gandhi was an anti-caste man? He really wanted to preserve the caste system, and why he paid
lip service to the upliftment of untouchables is because Hindus needed a majority against Muslims for political
representation in the British government. That was the only reason Hindu leaders ever took up caste issues,” the New York-based Dalit author said. Gidla is the author of “Ant Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and The Making of Modern India”. She made surprise claims against Gandhi during a session titled, “Narratives of Power, Songs of Resistance”.
In a bid to support her claims against Gandhi, Gidla recalled an episode from the political leader’s time in South Africa, recounting, “In Africa, when they were fighting against the British for instituting the passport… he said, ‘Indians are hard working people, they should not be required to carry these things. But, black people are kafirs, losers and they are lazy, yes, they can carry their passport but why should we do that’?”
“Gandhi was very casteist and racist indeed and any redblooded untouchable will know what Gandhi’s real intentions
were,” she added.
The US-based author also hit out at the current Dalit leaders of the country including Mayawati and Jignesh Mevani.
She slammed the two contemporary Dalit leaders because they have “chosen to work under the framework of electoral politics”.
Gidla works as a conductor in the US subway, said a party the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) can only work for the Dalit community from within the limited framework they choose to operate in. “Everyone says BSP has given rights to untouchables, it gave them self-confidence and dignity. But really nothing came out of it. Mayawati made herself very very rich, her brother made himself very very rich. And that is all that happened to Dalits,” she was quoted as saying.
Gidla praised the sincerity of Mevani but accused him of dealing in “empty rhetoric”. “Jignesh Mevani right now seems militant and his protest against Una flogging is very admirable but then again he has chosen to work under the framework of electoral politics and there is only so much he can do from within it,” she said.
She also attacked the opposition parties in India. About Congress, Gidla said the Congress was the “pioneer of communalism” in India and no different from the ruling BJP.
“Congress or any other party that ruled before BJP was not different from Modi. Just like in the US, the Democrats
are really not different from Trump… Congress is shy about their communalism. But Congress was the pioneer of
communalism,” Gudla said while citing the 1984 storming of the Golden Temple, and the subsequent riots after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in Delhi. Over 3,000 Sikhs were massacred in the riots.
“It was communal. And Congress was the one that did it. Not BJP,” Gidla said, adding, “So the only difference between them and BJP is that BJP is open about it, Modi is open about his communalism.”
The US-based author had moved to New York City after getting first-hand experience of differential treatment of untouchables in India.