| The absurd effort to deify Mahatma Gandhi
When people think of Mahatma Gandhi, they usually think of a kind, peace-loving man. Some people go as far as to call him the Indian messiah, or a saint. His story is well told everywhere, but is it all true?
First, I would like to acknowledge that Gandhi played a crucial part in India’s liberation from British rule. He peacefully protested British colonialism and inspired others to do so. His methods inspired Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King, and former President Barack Obama. They would go on to use his nonviolent protesting methods to fight for racial equality in their countries. But did Gandhi believe in racial equality? The short answer is no.
Whenever Gandhi referred to South Africans, he called them “Kaffirs,” which was equivalent to the n-word at the time. He not only wanted nothing to do with Africans, but he also considered them to be inferior to Indians. The reason for this is because Gandhi believed in the caste system.
The caste system separates Hindus into four different classes: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. At the very bottom of the pyramid are the “Untouchables.” In ranking order, the Brahmins are priests and academics, the Kshatriyas are kings and warriors, the Vaishyas are merchants and landowners, the Shrudas are peasants and commoners, and the Untouchables are latrine cleaners and street sweepers.
Under the caste system, social mobility doesn’t exist. One example of this can be found in the story of a man in the Untouchable class named Suraj Yengde. He went to America to get a degree from Harvard, he then became a doctor and made a good amount of money. In an interview with WGBH News, he was asked if his low caste still affected him. He responded by saying, “Yes. Like a Shadow.”Gandhi was a Vaishya and firmly believed in the caste system. If that’s not bad enough, he also thought that the caste System also applied to the rest of the world. In Gandhi’s hierarchy, he placed white people at the top and black people at the bottom. He asserted that Indians were secondary on the hierarchy. This division of racial identity on a hierarchical scale highlights Gandhi’s racist beliefs that should not be ignored from the narrative. He not only wanted to separate the Indian fight for rights from the African fight for rights but also wanted to partner with whites to subjugate other races he believed to be lower on the civilized scale. The Civilized Scale is a scale that ranks races based on how “civilized” they are. Europeans are ranked at the top of the scale, while Africans are ranked at the bottom. This should be taken with a grain of salt considering the fact that Europeans made the scale.
It’s difficult for Gandhi’s supporters to justify his deification as a saintly figure when he was a racist. Many of his supporters will argue that Gandhi’s racist quotes and sentiments were from his earlier and mid-parts of his life. In his late, he stopped saying racist remarks and his support for the caste systems and the Civilized Scale waned. However, in his later life, he began doing things that were just as evil.
It is famously known that Gandhi took a vow of celibacy, and it is also well known that he kept it for many years. His close associates documented that he had celibacy tests conducted regularly. This involved sleeping next to young, naked women without participating in sexual activities. He would often select his grandnieces for the task of sleeping naked with him. This religiously-justified molestation would continue on for quite some time and would cause a great deal of emotional trauma for his grandnieces and other young women in his Ashram — a place for spiritual and religious retreats. One of Gandhi’s infamous rules in his Ashram was to not let wives sleep with their husbands, and instead, they would have to sleep with him. He would encourage his grandnieces to be naked in his “nightly cuddles” and according to one woman he slept with, he said, “Despite my best efforts, the organ remained aroused. It was an altogether strange and shameful experience.” As he grew older, he would continue to use his position of power to sexually abuse young women.
There is undeniable proof that Gandhi abused his position of religious power to molest young women, including those related to him. There is also undeniable proof that in his younger years he was a big racist that believed in “caste systems” and “civilized scales”. While I don’t think that all of that completely overshadows the fact he played a crucial part in freeing India from British rule, I also think people have the right to not have Gandhi memorials in their parks and neighborhoods, considering all of the bad things he’s done. We often put our heroes on pedestals and sing songs of praise for them, but we often ignore the bad things they did. We can’t ignore the cries of despair from the people Gandhi discriminated against and abused, that isn’t fair, we must tell the full story of his life, the good and the bad, or nothing at all. I think this dark side of Gandhi must be taught in schools, because he wasn’t a deity, he was an imperfect human being, just like the rest of us.