by Lala Lajpat Rai

PART 5 -- ["Untouchables" and "Kafirs"]

[A] The considerations urged in the last article are so important .and relevant that I will not apologise for laying further emphasis upon them. Every possible effort should be made (a) to integrate the different religions as much as possible by emphasizing the points [[189]] on which they agree, by eliminating non-essentials, and by restricting essential differences within the narrowest limits; (b) to remove all barriers to free social intercourse between the communities, which do not go to the root of anyone's faith.

[B] Let us take the question of untouchability. I find no sanction for it in the Hindu Shastras. I find no mention of it in history. As far as the Hindu untouchables are concerned, most sensible Hindus are agreed that in their case, at least, it is senseless, inhuman, and intolerable, because of the fact of their being followers of the same religion and members of the same community as the so-called higher castes. Some of the advanced reformers like the Arya Samajists are prepared at once to raise them high in the social scale by investing them with the sacred thread and starting inter-dining and inter-marrying with them. Even the most orthodox are in many cases prepared to let them [walk?] on their floor, to admit them in common schools, and to remove all outward and palpable signs of pollution by touch. In their case, at least, untouchability is doomed, and will, I believe, disappear in a very short time.

The ultra-orthodox will no doubt foam and fret, oppose and resist. Here and there they will outcaste, and break social relations with, the reformers. But the number of the latter is so large already, and is growing so much larger and larger, as to reduce the orthodox to impotence. Take the case of Mahatma Gandhi or of Seth Jamnalal Bajaj or of Swami Shraddhanand or of Lala Hans Raj. Has the orthodox Hindu community the will and the power to excommunicate them and throw them out of the pale of Hinduism? I am not in favour of forcing [the] pace and wounding the feelings and the susceptibilities of the orthodox, but I know that in this respect at least orthodoxy is doomed. Its days are literally numbered.

[C] In the case of non-Hindus, untouchability takes a different shape. In their case, no pollution by touch is recognised. But it is not allowed, to eat or drink food or water touched by them. This practice is also doomed. As I have said, I can find no authority for it in the Hindu Shastras. It was probably based on the idea of non-co-operation with foreign rulers who happened to be beef-eaters. It was good and effective as long as the Muslims in India [[190]] were the enemies of the people or their conquerors, and the Hindus could hope to turn them out by establishing a Hindu Raj. It is no longer possible. The enemies of the 8th to 16th centuries form an important and intergal part of the Indian population today. They are neither foreigners nor rulers. Racially they are, in the vast majority of cases, the bone of our bone and the flesh of our flesh.

Formerly, a Hindu who once drank water or ate food touched by a Mussalman was immediately lost to Hinduism, never again to return to its fold. Thanks to Guru Gobind Singh, Swami Dayanand, and other reformers, that idea has been exploded and exploded for good. Even born Muhammadans can now bc admitted into Hindu society. Under the circumstances there is no excuse now for continuing or perpetuating this prejudice. But prejudices like these take time to die. Die it must; why not then hasten to destroy it by active efforts? I know that some distinguished Hindus will take exception to my statement, and may even denounce me for it. But I am out to speak what I believe to be the truth and the whole truth.

It is absolutely necessary for producing an atmospbere of neighbourly goodwill, and for creating a United India, that the existing prejudice should be given up. You cannot make a united nation of communities between whom such barriers in the matter of social intercourse are recognised and enforced. Moreover, the abolition of the practice wil be useful to Hinduism in another way. It will remove all fears of forced conversion by making a Hindu drink water or eat food touched by a Muslim. It may be noted that I am advocating the removal of the restriction as a barrier and not the necessary introduction of interdining.

[D] Take another case, an equally important matter. There was a time when in the eyes of the Muslims all Hindus were Kafirs, and it was implicitly believed that the property and the women of a Kafir were legal prizes of war for a Muslim. The times are changed, and with it the conception of a Kafir must be changed. No Hindu who believes in and worships one God, can by any stretch of language be called a Kafir unless the definition of a Kafir be that every non­Muslim is a Kafir. In the eyes of a large number of Muslims the latter is the right definition of a Kafir; and according to Ulemas, even those Muslims are Kafirs who, although believing in Allah and His prophet, do not follow other tenets of Islam as understood and interpreted by them.

For example, they pronounced Sir Syed [[191]] Ahmed to be a Kafir, and they denounce the followers of Mirza of Qadian also as Kafirs. If they are right, then H. H. the Aga Khan is the biggest Kafir, and so are Ghazi Mustafa Kamal Pasha and Zaghlul Pasha also. If then their definition of a Kafir is right, there can be no peace between them and the rest of the world. In that case all this talk of Hindu-Muslim Unity is superficial, absurd, and hypocritical.. In the course of the Non-co-operation campaign, some of the Ulemas cited particular "ayats" (sections) of the Quran to prove that Muslims could enter into lawful agreement with such non-Muslims as were friendly towards them, against those who were inimically disposed towards them, brought fire and sword into the home of the latter, and otherwise injured them. Now to be frank, this kind of special pleading does not appeal to my intellect. It is not a mechanical union of this kind that will make a nation of us. What is needed is a chemical union. Are the Hindus "Kafirs"? If they are, all talk of unity between Hindus and Mussalmans is absurd.

[E] No Mussalman or body of Mussalmans in India or outside has any legal right or authority to bind other Mussalmans. Leaders come and go; there is no one in India who can speak in the name of the whole Muslim community. The pact of Lucknow had no value or binding force unless it was accepted by Government and embodied in law. No agreement made or arrived at a meeting of the Congress or Khilafat has any binding legal value. Anything agreed to by the present leaders or even the Jamiat-ul-Ulema/11/ can he questioned by any other Muslim, and with even greater force by the succeeding generations. Even an agreement embodied in law, or forming part of a declaration of rights, is of no binding value on the future generations of Hindus and Muslims. Laws change with the law-makers. A law made today may be of no value fifty years hence. Under the circumstances, agreements or pacts won't take us sufficiently far. What is needed is a "change of heart." All efforts of the present generation of Muslim leaders should be directed to rernoving thc idea that the Hindus are Kafirs.

[F] Ordinarily,  the relations of Hindus and Mussalmans in villages and small towns are most cordial. The present tension is the development of the last fifty years. But what has happened during the last three years has beaten all record. Some people are of opinion that special efforts have been made to bring about the state of [[192]] things to prove that India is unfit for Swaraj, and that no further advance is safe in the matter of political reforms. In certain quarters there is a tendency to throw the entire responsibility on the officials of the foreign Government. While sharing the belief that the latter have had a hand in it, I cannot help saying that Muslim Maulavis, Maulanas and Associations have had a much larger, in fact a lion's share, in it, though, of course, it is not meant that the Hindus are quite innocent.

The fact that wherever there have been riots between Hindus and Mussalmans, the latter have looted the former, desecrated their temples and assaulted their women, betrays the widespread diffusion of the idea that the Hindus are "Kafirs," that the Muslims are in a state of war with them, and that in fighting them, their property and women are "halal" for the Muslims. There are some persons who maintain that this has been the work of Goondas. I say, no! The riots have been inspired by cleverer brains than those of the Goondas, they have been encouraged and supported by influential people. It is only the actual outrages that have been committed by Goondas, fanatics, and poor people.

[G] An esteemed Muslim leader has propounded the theory that the fact that the Hindus are rich and Muslims are poor, explains these riots. Assuming the explanation to be correct, how does he explain the irrebuttable [=irrefutable] fact that poor Mussalmans do not loot their rich fellow-religionists? The real explanation is that the latter are Muslims and the Hindus are Kafirs. This notion has been rubbed into the mind of the Muslim masses and Muslim middle classes, by clever propagandists and influential leaders. It is the duty of the Muslim nationalist leaders to inaugurate and carry on an extensive propaganda to destroy this notion and to impress on the minds of their co-religionists the truth that Hindus are not Kafirs, and that even on the occasion of fights and quarrels, their temples, their women, and their property are inviolable and unassailable.


/11/ Jamait-ul-Ulema-i-Hind, [a] religio-political association of Muslim divines (Ulemas), was founded in 1919 in the wake of the Khilafat movement. It was set up with the object of safeguarding the 'Shariah" and giving the Muslims religious and political guidance according to the tenets of Islam. During the days of the Non-co-operation movement the Jamait worked for Hindu-Muslim accord. See Ziah-ul-Hasan Faruki, The Deoband School and the Demand for Pakistan (Bombay, 1963), pp. 67-69.

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