United States Congressional Record on Gandhi
RACISM OF INDIAN FOUNDER EXPOSED
(Extensions of Remarks – December 13, 2005)
HON. EDOLPHUS TOWNS
OF NEW YORK
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2005
When the eight-foot high Gandhi statue was unveiled, portraying him as a young human-rights lawyer, many leaders attacked Gandhi’s anti-black statements. “Gandhi had no love for Africans,” said one letter in The Citizen, a South African newspaper. “To him, Africans were no better than the `Untouchables’ of India.”
Mr. TOWNS. Mr. Speaker, the unveiling of a statue of Mohandas K. Gandhi in Johannesburg, South Africa, set off a discussion about the anti-black racism of the founder of India.
As you may know, Mr. Speaker, the dark-skinned aborigines of the subcontinent, known as Dalits or “Untouchables,” occupy the lowest rung on the ladder of India’s rigid and racist caste system. The caste system exists to protect the privileged position of the Brahmins, the top caste. Although it was officially banned by India’s constitution in 1950, it is still strictly practiced in Hindu India.
Others have pointed out that Gandhi ignored the suffering of black people during the colonial occupation of South Africa. When he was arrested and forced to share a cell with black prisoners, he wrote that they were “only one degree removed from the animal.” In other words, Mr. Speaker, he described blacks as less than human. We condemn anyone who says this in our country, such as the Ku Klux Klan and others, as we should. Why is Gandhi venerated for such statements?
In addition, G.B. Singh, a Gandhi biographer, has looked through many pictures of him and never seen one single black person. Gandhi also attacked white Europeans.
Gandhi is honored as the founder of India. These statements and attitudes reveal the racist underpinning behind the secular, democratic facade of India. It explains a worldview that permits a Dalit constable to be stoned to death for entering the temple on a rainy day, that allows the murders of over 300,000 Christians in Nagaland, over 250,000 Sikhs in Punjab, Khalistan, over 90,000 Muslims in Kashmir, tens of thousands of Christians and Muslims elsewhere in the country, including Graham Staines and his two young sons, and tens of thousands of Assamese, Bodos, Dalits, Manipuris, Tamils, and other minorities. It explains why the pro-Fascist, Hindu militant RSS is a powerful organization in India, in control of one of its two major political parties.
India must abandon its racist attitudes and its exploitation of minorities. It must allow the enjoyment of full human rights by everyone. Until it does so, we should stop our aid and trade with India. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the essence of democracy is the right to self-determination. India must allow self-determination for Kashmir, as it promised the United Nations in 1948, in Punjab, Khalistan, in Nagaland, and wherever the people seek to free themselves from the boot of Indian oppression. We should put this Congress on record in support of self-determination for the people of the subcontinent in the form of a free and fair plebiscite on the question of independence. Khalistan declared its independence on October 7, 1987. The people have never been allowed to have a simple, democratic vote on the matter. Instead, India continues to oppress the people there with over half a million troops.
Mr. Speaker, reporter Rory Carroll of The Guardian wrote an excellent article on the controversy about the Gandhi statue. I would like to place it in the Record at this time.
[The Guardian, Friday Oct. 17, 2003]
GANDHI BRANDED RACISTIt was supposed to honour his resistance to racism in South Africa, but a new statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Johannesburg has triggered a row over his alleged contempt for black people. The 2.5 metre high (8ft) bronze statue depicting Gandhi as a dashing young human rights lawyer has been welcomed by Nelson Mandela, among others, for recognising the Indian who launched the fight against white minority rule at the turn of the last century.
AS JOHANNESBURG HONOURS FREEDOM FIGHTER
(By Rory Carroll)
But critics have attacked the gesture for overlooking racist statements attributed to Gandhi, which suggest he viewed black people as lazy savages who were barely human.
Newspapers continue to publish letters from indignant readers: “Gandhi had no love for Africans. To [him], Africans were no better than the `Untouchables’ of India,” said a correspondent to The Citizen.
Others are harsher, claiming the civil rights icon “hated” black people and ignored their suffering at the hands of colonial masters while championing the cause of Indians.
Unveiled this month, the statue stands in Gandhi Square in central Johannesburg, not far from the office from which he worked during some of his 21 years in South Africa.
The British-trained barrister was supposed to have been on a brief visit in 1893 to represent an Indian company in a legal action, but he stayed to fight racist laws after a conductor kicked him off a train for sitting in a first-class compartment reserved for whites.
Outraged, he started defending Indians charged with failing to register for passes and other political offences, founded a newspaper, and formed South Africa’s first organised political resistance movement. His tactics of mobilising people for passive resistance and mass protest inspired black people to organise and some historians credit Gandhi as the progenitor of the African National Congress, which formed in 1912, two years before he returned to India to fight British colonial rule.
However, the new statue has prompted bitter recollections about some of Gandhi’s writings.
Forced to share a cell with black people, he wrote: “Many of the native prisoners are only one degree removed from the animal and often created rows and fought among themselves.”
He was quoted at a meeting in Bombay in 1896 saying that Europeans sought to degrade Indians 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”.
The Johannesburg daily This Day said GB Singh, the author of a critical book about Gandhi, had sifted through photos of Gandhi in South Africa and found not one black person in his vicinity.
The Indian embassy in Pretoria declined to comment, as it prepared for President Thabo Mbeki’s visit to India.
Khulekani Ntshangase, a spokesman for the ANC Youth League, defended Gandhi, saying the critics missed the bigger picture of his immense contribution to the liberation struggle.
Gandhi’s offending comments were made early in his life when he was influenced by Indians working on the sugar plantations and did not get on with the black people of modern-day KwaZulu-Natal province, said Mr. Ntshangase.