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Mahatma Gandhi’s Views On Journalism

Jaikant Tiwary

Conceptual Certification

social categorization is the beginning of constructing ‘the others’, Who are assumed to be different , based on race, religion, language, caste, gender, class, life style and so on (Van Dijk, 1987 : 196). The others may be different in physical appearance (White, Black, Yellow, Brown), of alien origin (immigrant, parasite) or of different behavioral orientation (aggressive, deviant inimical). They may be perceived to be unvalued in competition or may pose a threat to each other (Miles and Phizacklea: 1979). However, all such categorization could be negative, natural as wall as positive, depending upon different value orientation. One can visualize the nation of ‘otherness’ in terms of hierarchy as well. For instance, I like my son better than my neighbours, my neighbours better than strangers and strangers better than enemies.

Oommen (1994:162) formulated the following typologies of the others: (a) equal, (b) Internal others, (c) deviant others, (d) outsiders unequal others. The equal others may have variations in terms of culture but they are neither inferior nor superior. For instance, the French may not consider the Germans inferior or the Tamils may not accept the Bengalis as superior. The internal others are those perceived as inferior in a particular society by the superior others and vice versa. For instance the Blacks in the United States of America or the lower castes in India. It is signified that the internality of the inferior others is not questioned by the superior others. The deviant others are also insider to the system but they consist of those whose life style is drastically different form and disapproved by the cultural mainstream. For instance the drug addicts, the homosexuals. The lesbians, et. al. The outsider unequal others are cognized as superior/inferior but also defined as external to the society. For instance the colonial Britishers in India.

‘The Others’ in India.

The construction of ‘the other’ invariably assumes the existence of an unambiguous collective self identity. From the Indian nationalist perspective the Britishers were the foremost ‘the other’ during the colonial ere. The national liberation movement was in fact anti-imperialist movement agents the other. The history of national movement in India reveals quite clearly what the empire meant to India: Exploitation of India’s resources for the benefit of Great Britain. Thus, the nationalist ideology insisted on India’s inalienable right to regain her independent.

Second, India is seen as the accredited homeland of the Hindus and from their viewpoint the Muslim belongs to the religious other. The Christians, Jews, Bahais, Zoroastrians also represent the religions others category. We may say that in constructing the religious other, the basic cleavage is made out to be the one bet win those religions. Faith which originated in India and those which are of alien origin. That is why the conversion from Hinduism to Sikkim, Jainism or Buddhism have never been objected to by the Hindu mainstream as all these are viewed as being of Indian origin and there for encompassing within Hinduism. In contrast, conversation to Islam and Christianity from Hinduism has always been of a contentious nature as they represent conversion to religion of alien origin.

Third, Indian society applying Louis Dumont’s terminology, is ‘Homo Hierarchicus.’ Dumont argues that hierarchy does not stop short at the boundaries of caste or even the subcaste, but penetrates and permits its interior. Indeed the three principles of caste (hierarchy, separation and division of labour) are reducible to a single true principle, namely opposition of pure and improve. From this perspective, the Bhangis (scavenger), the Doms and the likes who were engaged in dirty and impure jobs, were called exterior castes or untouchable. The caste society treated them as ‘the others.’ The practice of untouchability in its traditional from has now declined significantly even though it has not disappeared altogether. At times we observe recurrent outburst of violence against them. Beteille (200: 367) calls it as a change when the pervasive practice of untouchability is replaced by the sporadic practice of atrocities.

There may be many distinct construction of ‘thee others’ categorizations in Indian perspective like the linguistic others, the ethnic and the tribal others, the gender others, the regional others, etc. In other to construct ‘the other’, there must exist actual or imagined differences between ‘them’ and ‘us’. Secondly, interaction with those who are different is not prerequisite to construct them as the other, other those who re not even seen are often constructed on the basis of hearsay, folklore, art, literature and the like , today this is done on the basic of reports in the mass media. Thirdly, the other need not necessarily invoke fear of hostility, but will invariably create prejudices. The transformation of the distance other into the immediate other and the perception that the latter is endangering one’s interest is the starting point for the crystallization of hostility towards and fear about the other.

Gandhi’s Response Towards ‘the others’

Gandhi’s own model of behaviour patterns towards ‘the others’ constituted a social behaviour structure impinges on Indian society as s whole. Against the British colonizer, the nationalist movements led by Gandhi were definitely imbued with an anti imperialist content. Under Gandhi’s leadership the nationalist movement spread considerably when he sought to bring within its fold not only a wider section of the lower middle class living in towns, but also the peasants and workers. But the peculiar trait of mass awakening brimmed over the limits of ahimsa of satyagraha, as the workers and peasants started organising fresh militant struggles, as the non-cooperation movement started gaining the character of violent mass uprising, Gandhi stopped the movement on the ground that the masses had resorted to violent. Of the two streams of national liberation movement – the bourgeois nationalist stream and the revolutionary democratic stream-Gandhi decidedly represented the former.

Towards the religious other Gandhi reacted “my whole soul Rebels against the idea that Hinduism and Islam Represent two antagonistic Cultures and doctrines. To assent to such a doctrine is, for me, denial of God. For I believe with my whole Soul that  the god of the Koran is also the God of the Gita, and that men are all, no matter by what name designated, children of the same God.” (Rosario, 1990: 91) Communal violence erupted in Naokhali and in Bangal on the eve of partition and his padayatra provide futile, Gandhi began his fast unto death. Slowly, violence subsided and finally stopped completely. He believed that regional is the path to union with the absolute. Union with the absolute immediately put on in relation to all humanity in such a way that all sufferings of human beings become one’s concern.

During khilafat movement, Gandhi was sought by the Muslims to address their meetings and to be a member of their commission to represent there case to viceroy. Gandhi supported the khilafat movement to secure Muslim participation in the national movement. He played on the religious sentiments of the people in order to unite them in the struggle agents the common enemy, the British colonizers. He strove to keep India one and undivided, offering to Jinnah post of prime Minister of India. On account of the division of the country on the day of Independence, Gandhi was a sad man.

Gandhi could speak in an idiom the people understood. The word Ramrajya is evocative and brings before the people a certain vision. But in using these image and symbols, Gandhi was taking the risk of being misunderstood by some. Historians like Bipin Chandra, criticizing Gandhi, offers the logic that under highly religious and saintly Mahatma, Indian nationalism spoke a language that was largely Hindu with a liberal use of the idiom and symbolism of Hinduism, that in the end. Gandhi failed to keep Muslim masses with him and that the partition of the country and the unprecedented bloodbath that accompanied it proved the final failure of Gandhi’s method in securing Hindu Muslim unity. We believe that the central problem of India secularism is that of evolving a minimum consensus about the basic values, goals, institutions and ground rules of society. What is the source of these rules and values? Gandhi derived these mostly from his Hindu heritage and it is probable that this has the consequence of alienating section of the Muslim masses from the Gandhi led nationalist movement.

Towards the internal others i.e., the shudras, the chandals, the untouchable exterior castes, Gandhi maintained that man’s duties or vocational in society did not in any way imply the nation of touchability. He used to call them Harijans (a man of god). By taking up the cause of untouchables, Gandhi was challenging much of the traditional and orthodox ideas concerning the caste system and deep rooted customer. He believed that our own fellow beings have become untouchables because of evil in us. The evil does not lie in them; rather lies in those who have reduce them to a poor miserable beastly life. He made it his life’s mission to live and die for them. He said “If I have to be reborn, I should be born an untouchable so that I may share their sorrows, suffering and the affronts leveled at them in order that I may endeavour to free my self and them from that miserable condition.”

Gandhi initiated the process leading to the liberation of scavengers and raised their status and position in society. When Gandhi attended the volunteers not to engage scavengers. Surprisingly enough, the volunteers expressed their inability to do any thing about it. Mahatma Gandhi set the pace by cleaning his own night soil with the help of a broom. It made a grate impact on the minds of the volunteers and thereafter, whenever the All India Congress convention was organized, the volunteers themselves had to take up the task of disposing of the night soil. In 1918, when Gandhi started his Ashram at Sabarmati, he advised the inmates of the Ashram to tackle the problem of disposal of night soil themselves and not to engage professional bhangis for that work. In 1984 Mrs. Indira Gandhi disclosed in the Lok Sabha during the question hour that she herself had to cline night soil while living as an inmate of the Sabarmati Ashram. It shows the concern of Gandhi about the plight of scavengers.

To the issue: were Gandhi and Ambedkar really different in their perceptions of the Harijan/Dalit problem? Nagraj (1990:79) opines that they were not different. But the general impression one gets from the external details of contemporary history is that Gandhi and Ambedkar confronted each other bitterly on the question of Harijan/ Dalit. The historical irony is that both of them perceived it as a problem of the value structure. But the root of the confrontation lies on the ground that while Gandhi did approve of a society with functional distinction of varna vyavastha, he lacked a radical critique of the caste system. Gandhi believed that both Harijans and cast Hindu society are organically intertwined; ‘the self’ and ‘the other’ are indivisible. The notion of untouchability has to disappear from the mind and heater of the caste Hindu society. ‘The other’ should change. His emphasis was on clinging to the other. To Ambedkar, on the other hand, the entire Hindu society was an anathema, an evil. Ambedkar ruled out the path of interaction with the other, of inevitable clinging to the other. His logic of separate electorate for the scheduled casts are based on his belief that if Dalit society becomes militant and aggressive, cast Hindu society will be forced to come to its senses. This mode of action rejects the Gandhian obsession ‘with the other’.


Gandhi represents a new source, a new beginning in Indian history. It was who harnessed the spiritual religion potential tolerance and endurance in dealing ‘with the others’. He had holistic approach to reality. He did not make two compartments of ethics and politics. He stood for a value based politics and an ethics that is politically oriented There were many constraints and limitations which Gandhi was subject to, especially those imposed by the struggle for the independence. He had to make tactical compromises. He had also limitations arising from his caste, class and religious background. But Gandhi sought visibility to the values which he and his action embodied and symbolized. That is how he could win belief in, and adoption and limitation of, the values of he stood for. Gandhi was seeking to transform his behavior in social structure. He died in the very process, for this very purpose, of instituting a non-violent behavioral structure as an alternative to the violent one in the interest of survival of every suspect of life. In nutshell, Gandhi’s response to ‘the others’ is a message to the mankind.


Beteille, Andre (2000), “The schedule castes”, Journal of the Indian School of Political Economy, 12 (3 and 4): 367-79.

Dumont, Louis (1966), “Homo Hierarchieus”, Paris: Gallimard.

Gandhi, M. K. (1931), Young India, 6th August, 1931.

Miles, R. and phizacklea, A. (eds) (1979), “Racism and Political Action in Britain”, London: Roultedge & Kegan Paul.

Nagraj, D. R. (1990), “Gandhi and the Dalit Question: Comparative Reflection on the Gandhian, Ambedkar and Marxist Approaches”, in Kappen, Mercy (ed), “Gandhi And Social Action Today”, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi.

Oommen, T. K. (1994), “The Changing Trajectory of Constructing the other: West Europe and South Asia”, Sociological Bulletin, Vol. 43, No 2, Sept. 161-62.

Rosario, Rupert M. (1990), “Gandhi and Secularism”, in Kappen, Mercy (ed) op. cit., pp.91.

Van Dijk, T. K. (1987), “Communicating Racism”, Sage: Newbury Park.

  1. Cuba, For Example, has a better social medical system for its citizens than any other country. Yet, it is never counted among the developed lot.

  2. This also implies that we maintain our standard of living by stealing from the future-our children, and our grandchildren.

  3. It would be interesting to note 84% of never to Farmer in Minnesota (a State in USA) was from federal subsidies and the like. That is the kind of subsidies and safety nets that farmers in the USA get to stay ‘competitive’. Who say free trade or free market is really free?

  4. Krishna Patnaik, ‘Vikalpheen nahin hai duniya’, This is a set of essays in Hindi. The title can be translated to mean ‘The world is not without alternative’.                   

Source:  “Gandhian Perspectives”, Vol. XI, No. 1&2, Jan-June & July- Dec, 2003

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