History of movemnets - 24

On having started the Mission, Mr. Shinde clearly stated the problem of the Depressed Classes in India in an article published in the Times of India (1907) and also worked up the total number of them in a table as follows:—
The whole population of the continent of Hindustan, what ever its other divisions, may be divided from the point of view of our problem, into the following divisions:—1 The classes (literary and well-to-do). 2 Masses. 3 Low Castes 4 Hill Tribes. Thus the third division which forms our sub­ject is clear and definite by itself and is common all over India. It has all the disadvantages of the second division, viz., general poverty, want of education, uncertainty of wages, etc., and something more, i.e., they are for ever forbidden the ordinary social privileges of a citizen, viz. freely mixing among the higher castes for social or even economical purposes of life. They are not detached aud unconnected with the body politic as the hill tribes; but yet they have no place in the social com­munion of this body. They are not even ordinarily touched by the members of the higher castes above them. This pronounced mark of untouchableness is the standing fulcrum on which the lever of depression and degrada­tion is slowly lowered down on them, and this Titanic lever will never be made inoperative until this ominous fulcrum is completely demolished. Consciously or not the lever is set working; it is a fact and not a fiction, and whole­sale social depression of these low castes is the result. As to their material and moral condition, some people have the knock of too smoothly gliding into optimistic conclusions. But none of these optimists-at-others’-cost would ever care to exchange lots with them nor could ever get any other castes higher than the victims to exchange lots with them. Now let us estimate the number of these people in all India, so that possibly we may not make any unnecessary fuss over the scandal if it be after all a negligible quantity.

Extracted from the Indian Census Report of 1901  (For PDF Click Here)


Total Indian population               2,943,61,056.
Total Hindu population               2,071,47,026.
Total, Depressed population       532,06,632.
Total Maliomedan population       624,58,077.
Degraded Mahotnedan in Upper India  8,628,566.

Table showing the grades of Mahomedans in North India (For PDF Click Here)

(Big Table)Even if we leave out of consideration the number of the degraded Mahomedans shown above, the total figure of the depressed populations in the whole of India is more than one-fourth of the total Hindu population and more than one-sixth of the total Indian population! More than one-sixth of India is then theoretically and in most cases practically un­touchable! Are we to disbelieve the Census reports or be­lieving them, are we to still maintain our characteristic cool­ness over these appalling numbers?

Let me now hasten to the conclusion. The problem is not for any foreign agency howsoever benevolent it be. It is not again a religious problem—I mean religious in the secta­rian or denominational sense. The question is not whether these vast numbers should be saved by Christianity or from Christianity but a broader one that they have to be restored to decent humanity. It is not only an educational problem but a social and philanthropically one. Even so far as it is educational, it is not a problem for the Government of India; it will be better solved by the persuasive and privately organized philanthropy than by a mechanically compelling Government. Not is this a problem for a professional Indian patriot alone. It is the duty of every person that has a right to reside in India, Christian, Jew, Mohammedan, Parsi or Hindu, white or black, in Government service or free, to see that one-sixth of this vast country, which is untouchable, will be restored to decent humanity and free citizenship. Of course a Christian missionary or a Hindu patriot or a Government official or an Employer is each quite welcome to his own special point of view of this common problem of the elevation of the depressed and to his own separate share in its achievement. But that a pariah should become a repenting Christian or remain in the fold of renovated Hinduism, or that he should turn out an efficient national asset or a good law-abiding loyal subject or an honest and industrious labourer—these are only after results and they depend upon the pariah’s first becoming a decent human being, free to move and free to choose his vocation. It is then the duty of every Indian to see that he becomes so. But what is everyman’s concern is no man’s concern. My final word, therefore, is that if work is actually started by some body on these broad lines and with these broad aims—and such work is already started in this City of Bombay—it should meet with sympathy from all.