PRINCE AND OUTCAST AT DINNER IN LONDON END AGE-OLD BARRIER
Gaekwar of Baroda is Host to 'Untouchable' and Knight of High Hindu Caste.
SCHOLAR WARS ON STIGMA
Dr. Ambedkar Leads Fight to Free 43,000,000 in India From Ancient Fetters.
TELLS OF OWN SUFFERINGS
He Braved Ostracism by Teachers and Pupils and Won Degree at Two Universities.
By CHARLES A. SELDEN.
Special cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES.
LONDON, Nov. 29. -- His Highness the Maharajah Gaekwar of Baroda had as his dinner guests the other evening at the Hyde Park Hotel Rao Bahadur Sir Annepu Patro and Dr. Bhom Rao Ramji Ambedkar. It was one of many social gatherings incidental to the Indian round table conference, and the society editors of London newspapers paid no attention to it.
But if Indian correspondents had telegraphed it to their home papers it would have been one of the biggest pieces of news coming out of the conference. Dr. Ambedkar is an "untouchable." He is a man of the despised Mahar caste of scavengers, and he sat at the table with a Prince and a Knight.
It is true that none of these men is typical of his own caste and class, so the table set for three was more a sign of an isolated miracle than a symptom of any material change as yet in India's 5,000-year-old social system.
Gaekwar's Views Advanced.
The Gaekwar is a most unusual Maharajah, having introduced free compulsory education, village libraries and free medical dispensaries through out his principality.
Sir Annepu is a most unusual Hindu, the Brahmin Knight being the head of an organization to substitute friendship for hatred between Hindus and Moslems. And Dr. Ambedkar is a most unusual "untouchable," having the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy from Columbia University, New York, and Doctor of Science from the University of London.
All three are here as delegates to the conference. Dr. Ambedkar's special mission is to see that the future welfare of the 43,000,000 people of India's depressed classes is safeguarded by the terms of the new constitution which may emerge from the negotiations.
. . . .
At the end of all this study abroad he [Dr. Ambedkar] returned to India as an "untouchable," as when he left. He could not enter a temple or drink at a public well. He was allowed to teach economics at Sydenham College, but could have no social relations with the students or the other professors of the faculty. Neither was her permitted to take any part in politics, and for that reason he resigned his post, because his purpose in returning to India was to fight for the removal of the stigma on his depressed classes.
"Our program," he said today, "is first to break down the barriers against intermarriage and inter-dining between caste and no-caste. The matter is largely psychological. Prejudices of thousands of years' standing have assumed the fixity of principles pertaining to the deepest concepts of life. If we can get a decent Brahmin or other high caste Hindu to eat a meal with an 'untouchable' who is just as decent and well educated as he is, that is a great accomplishment in the way of reform.
Organized Equality League.
"I have organized in Bombay the Social Equality League for the purpose of dining together monthly, alternating between the homes of 'untouchables' and caste Hindus. So far we have about 200 members, nearly half of whom are men of caste. Our 'untouchable' members are all very poor men, many of them are so poor they cannot afford to give dinners in their own homes. In such cases the guests pay for the food they eat. But the main point is to get them all round the same table and into each others' homes.
"The movement is growing very slowly,but it is growing. The Liberal Hindus who have joined us have got beyond the point of seeming self-conscious when accepting the hospitality of an 'untouchable' host, but they suffer estrangement from the orthodox membes of their own caste. That is the chief obstacle to our progress.
"The plight of our 43,000,000 depressed people is not the problem of India alone. It should be international, for it affects the economic and social welfare of the entire world, and it is a case for the League of Nations just as slavery or the drug traffic is. 'Untouchability' is far worse than slavery, for the latter may be abolished by statute. It will take more than a law to remove this stigma from the people of India. Nothing less than the aroused opinion of the world can do it.
95 Per Cent Illiterate.
"Our 'untouchables' are 95 per cent illiterate. Why? Because they are all desperately poor; and they are poor because practically all trades and industries are closed against them by their social status. They can't have shops, because none would buy from them. They can't enter industrial plants, because other employees would not work in the same room with them. They can own no land but must work as laborers off by themselves in the fields of farmers who despise them. Except for occasional isolated jobs in which a man may work without coming in physical contact with other human beings, there is nothing for 'untouchables' but the most menial and humiliating tasks, with hopeless poverty and degradation.
"Just now, with the London round table conference in progress, there is some slight indication of a better attitude on the part of the Hindus. But we are afraid it may not be sincere or lasting. It may be only a temporary political expedient for the sake of proving to Great Britain that all Indians have a common cause and are unanimous in their demand for self-government. If they win, perhaps the Hindus will forget again that we 'untouchables' are human beings and will see no reason for removing caste slavery because they have gained political freedom. But we are trusting them and taking our chance by merging our cause with theirs in these London negotiations."