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100 years after Gandhi landed in Mayavaram...remembering 1st May 1915

I am listed as a speaker to address a meeting to commemorate the 100 years of Gandhiji's visit and address at Mayavaram on 1st May 2015. He spoke of the 4 hypocrisies that he saw at that time - caste discrimination, gender bias, lack of pride in local language and lack of usage of Swadeshi products, particularly the local handloom products. What has changed? We have created several newer forms of castes in this society, making the rules of social upward movement even more difficult, gender insensitiveness has given way to actively perpetrated gender violence, not just the elite our village children too don't want to learn their native language any longer leave alone use it with pride and the entire state wears plastic clothes...if these were practiced as hypocrisy by the elite (leaders) in the midst of freedom struggle, they are practiced as a willful choice by the majority now. 

Ram, 29th April 2015
Mahatma Gandhi at Mayavaram 1st May 1915, speech (as reported in the HINDU) - Mahatma Gandhi at reception at Mayavaram, “I am exceedingly thankful to the people of Mayavaram for presenting this beautiful address to me on the occasion of our simply passing through your town or village whatever it may be called, on our way to places where I had hoped to see two widows of men who were shot during the struggle that went on for eight years in South Africa. I was able to see only one and I was not able to see the other whom I hope to see before I leave this great Presidency. It is therefore a matter of greater pleasure to me that you would not allow us to pass unnoticed even though it was simply a passing tour through Mayavaram.

But if we have appreciated or if we have received this great and warm welcome from you, may I, for the first time after my return to the sacred land, commence to make a return for the great love that has been shown to us and with your permission I shall try to do so this evening. It was quite by accident that I had the great pleasure of receiving an address from my Panchama brethren, and there they said that they were without convenience for drinking water, they were without convenience for living supplies and they could not buy or hold land. It was difficult for them even to approach courts. Probably, the last is due to their fear, but a fear certainly not due to themselves and who is then responsible for this state of things? Do we propose to perpetuate this state of things? Is it a part of Hinduism? I do not know; I have now to learn what Hinduism really is. In so far as I have been able to study Hinduism outside India, I have felt that it is no part of real Hinduism to have in its hold a mass of people whom I would call “untouchables”. If it was proved to me that this is an essential part of Hinduism, I for one would declare myself an open rebel against Hinduism itself But I am still not convinced and I hope that up to the end of my life, I shall remain unconvinced that it is an essential part of Hinduism. But who is responsible for this class of untouchables? I have been told that wherever there are Brahmins, it is they who are enjoying supremacy as a matter of right, but today are they enjoying that supremacy? If they are, then the sin will fall upon their shoulders and that is the return I am here to declare and that is the return I shall have to make for the kindness you are showing to me; often my love to my friends, relations and even to my dear wife takes devious ways.

So my return here for your kindness is to suggest a few words which you were probably not prepared to listen to and it does seem to me that it is high time for Brahmins to regain their natural prerogative. I recall to my mind the beautiful verse in the Bhagavad Gita. I shall not excite the audience by reciting the verse, but give you simply a paraphrase. “The true Brahmin is he who is equimindedness towards a Pundit and a Pariah.” Are the Brahmins in Mayavaram equimindedness towards the Pariah and will they tell me if they are so equimindedness and, if so, will they tell me if others will not follow? Even if they say that they are prepared to do so but others will not follow, I shall have to disbelieve them until I have revised my notions of Hinduism.

If the Brahmins themselves consider they are holding a high position by penance and austerity, and then they have themselves much to learn, then they will be the people who have cursed and ruined the land. My friend the Chairman has asked me the question whether it is true that I am at war with my leaders. I say that I am not at war with my leaders. I seemed to be at war with my leaders because many things I have heard seem to be inconsistent with my notions of self respect and with self respect to my motherland. I feel that they are probably not discharging the sacred trust they have taken upon their shoulders; but I am not sure I am studying or endeavouring to take wisdom from them, but I failed to take that wisdom. It may be that I am incompetent and unfit to follow them. So, I shall revise my ideas. Still I am in a position to say that I seem to be at war with my leaders whatever they do or whatever they say does not somehow or other appeal to me. The major part of what they say does not
seem to be appealing to me. I find her words of welcome in the English language. I find in the Congress programme a Resolution on Swadeshi.

If you hold that you are Swadeshi and yet print these in English, then I am not Swadeshi. To me it seems that it is inconsistent. I have nothing to say against the English language. But I do say that, if you kill the vernaculars and raise the English language on the tomb of the vernaculars (“Hear, hear.”), and then you are not favouring Swadeshi in the right sense of the term. If you feel that I do not know Tamil, you should pardon me, you should excuse me and teach me and ask me to learn Tamil and by having your welcome in that beautiful language, if you translate it to me, then I should think you are performing some part of the programme. Then only I should think I am being taught Swadeshi. I asked when we were passing through Mayavaram whether there had been any handlooms here and whether there were handloom weavers here. I was told that there were 50 handlooms in Mayavaram. What were they engaged in? They were simply engaged chiefly in preparing sarees for our women. Then, is Swadeshi to be confined only to the women? Is it to be only in their keeping? I do not find that our friends, the male population, also have their stuff prepared for them in these by these weavers and through their handlooms. (A voice: There are a thousand handlooms here.) There are, I understand, one thousand handlooms; so much the worse for the leaders! (Loud applause.) If these one thousand handlooms are kept chiefly in attending to the wants of our women, double this supply of our handlooms and you will have all your wants supplied by your own weavers and there will be no poverty in the land. I ask you and ask our friend the President how far he is indebted to foreign goods for his outfit and if he can tell me that he has tried his utmost and still has failed to outfit himself, or rather to fit himself out with Swadeshi clothing and therefore he has got this stuff, I shall sit at his feet and learn a lesson. What I have been able to learn today is that it is entirely possible for me, not with any extra cost to fit myself with Swadeshi clothing.

How am I to learn, through those who move or who are supposed to be movers in the Congress, the secret of the Resolution? I sit at the feet of my leaders, I sit at the feet of Mayavaram people and let
them reveal the mystery, give me the secret of the meaning, teach me how I should behave myself and tell me whether it is a part of Swadeshi, whether it is a part of the national movement that I should drive off those who are without dwellings, who cry for water and that I should reject the advances of those who cry for food. These are the questions which I ask my friends here. Since I am saying something against you, I doubt whether I shall still enjoy or retain the affection of the student population and whether I shall still retain the blessings of my leaders. I ask you to have a large heart and give me a little corner in it. I shall try to steal into that corner. If you would be kind enough to teach me the wisdom, I shall learn the wisdom in all humility and in all earnestness. I am praying for it and I am asking for it. If you cannot teach me, I again declare myself at war with my leaders.”