श्री गणेश आकाजी गवई

Ganesh Akaji Gavai Esq., representing the Depressed India Association.
Written Statement)

2639. ...I beg to submit, on behalf of the Depressed India Association the following memorandum in connection with the Indian Constitutional Reforms for favourable consideration by the Franchise Committee.

2640. ...The distinguished authors of the Report do not seem to have taken sufficient heed of the social cleavages in Hindu Society while dealing with the problem of Communal representation. It has been laid down as an unimpeachable truth that the Communal System stereotypes existing relations between different classes. It is difficult to see how this holds true at least in the case of depressed classes. Bringing together all communities at one polling booth does not mean smoothing, but on the contrary embittering their relations towards each other by enabling the strong to beat the rest, which is sure to produce ill-feeling in the minds of both, especially the vanquished. The only way to avoid this is to make special separate provision for the representation of the untouchable classes instead of forcing them to participate in an unequal and unfair competition which is sure to drive them to the wall.

2641. ...The contention that the system of responsible Government has developed only in those countries where “the territorial principle had vanquished the tribal principle" is beside the point. This may be urged against the grant of responsible Government to India where tribal feeling is notoriously rampant but not against the recognition of the existing feeling by the concession of separate electorates. The right remedy to lessen and eventually to remove it is to improve the status of the lower communities and thus enable them to merge successfully in the higher castes. The necessary stimulus will be forthcoming only under a system which ensures genuine and adequate representation of all classes and creeds. The argument in the Report would apply only if the severa communities in India occupied approximately the same level educationally and socially. As it is, the wide gulf that separates the depressed from the rest of the population renders extremely undesirable any such arbitrary and compulsory placing of all in one and the same category.

2643. ...It cannot be said that the depressed classes do not stand in need of communal representation in as much as their interest will be adequately cared for by the enlightened members of the advance classes. For though we very much appreciate the value of the advice tendered by the authors of the scheme, in paragraph 151 that, if caste exclusiveness takes even harsher shape towards the outcastes it is the business of the enlightened leaders of the community to explain to them that they are only retarding a cause that ought to be dearer to them than their own sectional interest. But the opposition made by the non­official members of the Imperial Legislative Council to the resolution which was brought by Mr. Dadabhoy for the amelioration of the depressed classes, their support to the Kulkarni Vatan System in the Deccan in their political meetings and in the Legislative Council notwithstanding that the masses were in great disfavour of the Kulkarni Vatan, the resolution brought in the Central Provinces Legislative Council against the Vatan of Mahars in Berars, and the movement of the Izardars against the anti-lzara tenants for the ejectment of the latter by the former, all these and such other precedents cannot allow the depressed classes to rest satisfied with such an advice which has hitherto produced very little response. It would be more prudent to secure to these unfortunate people a position in the Councils from where they can successfully urge their own claims and also induce in their high-born fellow country-men a state of mind better calculated to receive the above advice.

2644. ...The suggestion involved in the sentence “Communal representation has been actually proposed for the benefit of a majority community in Madras” seems to have arisen from a misunderstanding of the real state of things. The fact is that, so far as the several castes of Hindu Society are concerned minorities are generally far better off than the majorities. For example, the Brahmins though forming less than four or five per cent of the total Hindu population are a hundred times better off than the Marathas who form the bulk of Hindu Society in the Marathi speaking provinces and infinitely better placed than the untouchables who comprise about one-fourth of the total Hindu population! When voters’ lists come to be prepared it will be found that the untouchables’ votes did not form even an infinitestimal fraction of the total number. I am therefore unable to understand how, in the absence of separate electorates for the depressed classes, the authors of the Report propose “to make the best arrangements that we can for their representation.” (paragraph 155)

2645. ...Perhaps it is intended to secure representation of these classes by means of Government nomination. I beg to suggest that this mode of representation is very unsatisfactory, to be resorted to only under exceptional circumstances. I believe that a suitable electoral machinery could be devised for the representation of the depressed classes. In spite of their general Ignorance and helplessness it should not be difficult to find a sufficiently large number of persons among them fit to exercise the franchise.

2646. ...Reserving of seats in “plural constituencies but with a general electoral roll", has been suggested in the concluding portion of paragraph 232; but I solemnly object to it as the so called representatives thus returned will be pure nominees of those classes who have a majority of voters in the constituencies. Nor can I comprehend the wisdom of the curious proposal of the Depressed classes Mission, that representatives of the untouchables should be “returned to the several councils by co­option by the elected members of the councils concerned, and not by nomination nor by election by any communal separate electorates”. The proposal is absurd in view of the fact that there will in all probability be a serious conflict of interest between the caste Hindus and the outcastes in several important matters. To say that the depressed classes can be best represented by men nominated by the representatives of the touchable classes is to abjure the very fundamental principle of representative government.

2647. ...The classes of people whom this association claims to represent feel very strongly on the question of separate electorates. I therefore earnestly pray for due recognition by the committee of this widespread desire of separate electorates on the part of the depressed classes.
* Mr. G. A. Gavai, called and examined.

2648. ...(Sir Frank Sly) : He was a Mahar by caste and a resident of Amraoti. He had read upto but had not passed the matriculation examination. He was the Secretary of the Depressed India Association which had been started to safeguard the interest of the depressed classes with headquarters at Amraoti. It contained 500 members from Berar, the Central Provinces and the Bombay Presidency. There was a member’s subscription of 8 as a year and there were branches in Bombay and Poona. By "depressed classes” was meant classes who were not touched by the Hindu Community.

2649. ...If a scheme of Franchise was introduced they wanted separate representation for the depressed classes whose interests otherwise would not be safeguarded. Their interests differed from those of the higher castes particularly because of social difficulties. For instance they were refused admission to public schools; even in some Government and municipal schools they were refused admission.

2650. ...(Mr. Dube) In the Bombay Presidency they were not admitted to Government Service and in Berar they were not allowed to use public wells. If they had a representative of their own they could urge their claims in the Council.

2651. ...The qualifications of the depressed classes electorate must be lower than in other cases. He would prefer election to nomination. Many Mahars were sufficiently educated and a few would stand for election. In the Bombay Presidency there was one graduate. In the Central Provinces and Berar there were 4 matriculates. They asked for three members because the Muhammadans were to get three seats and their community was six times as large as the Muhammadan Community. They numbered more than 30 lakhs in the Central Provinces. They had assisted the British Government in the time of the Peshwas and in the present war had supplied as many as 2000 recruits.

2652. ...(Mr. Hailey) His Association represented all depressed classes except Gonds and Bhils, i.e., about 1/6th of the population of the province.

2653. ...By lowering the qualification so as to include sub-tenants, more than a thousand voters would be obtained in Berar on a Rs. 50 rent standard.

2654. ...(Mr. Sastri) They were refused admission to schools by the head masters.

2655. ...If the depressed classes were given an electorate of their own they would elect members of their own class and not missionaries or persons of higher classes who had taken interest in them.

2656. ...(Mr. Banerjea) There might not at present be members of the depressed classes fully qualified to stand for the Council but their view was that they might elect somebody in the hope that he would become qualified by experience. In Nagpur there was not a single clerk in Government service who belonged to the depressed classes. The Brahmin head clerks had all the power and applications for appointment from candidates of the depressed classes were refused because the Wicants had not passed the matriculation examination, although Brahmins who had not passed the examination were accepted.

2657. ...(Mr. Hogg) He thought that a representative in the Council would bring their grievances to notice with more effect than the Publication of articles in newspapers or the passing of resolutions.

2658. ...(Mr. Wills) Some of the depressed classes were higher and sorne lower, but their interests were the same and the three representatives should represent them jointly.

The following persons were called and examined at Bombay between 24 January 1919 and 31 January 1919.

(1) L.C. Crump, Esq, I.C.S. representing the Govt. of Bombay (24 Jan. 1919).
(2) The Hon’ble Major C. Fernandez, M. D. I. M. S. (Temporary) (24 Jan. 1919).
(3) The Rev. Cannon D. L. Joshi, representing the Bombay Indian Christian (Protestant) Association (24 Jan, 1919).
(4) Lieut. Colonel H.A.J. Gidney, I.M.S. (Retired), representing the Anglo-Indian Empire League (Bombay Branch) (25 Jan. 1919),
(5) Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, BART (25 Jan. 1919).
(6) W. A. Haig Brown, Esq., representing the Bombay Br. of the European Association (25 Jan. 1919).
(7) Mr. D. D. Sathaye, representing the B’bay National Union (25 Jan. 1919).
(8) The Hon’ble Mr. M. A. Jinnah (25 Jan. 1919).
(9) Mr. C. N. Wadia, representing the Bombay Millowners’ Association (27 Jan. 1919).
(10) Mr. V. R. Shinde (27 Jan. 1919).
(11) M. K. R. Koregawkar, representing the Maratha Aikyecchu Sabha (27 Jan. 1919).
(12) The Hon’ble Mr. M. A. Jinnah (27 Jan. 1919).
(13) Mirza AN Muhamad Khan (27 Jan. 1919).
(14) Bhimrao R. Ambedkar Esq. (27 Jan. 1919).
(15) The Hon’ble Mr. V. J. Patel (28 Jan. 1919).
(16) The Hon’ble Sahib Hiralal Desaibhai Desai (28 Jan. 1919).
(17) The Hon’ble Mr. Chunilal V. Mehta (28 Jan. 1919).
(18) A. B. Latthe, Esq. (28 Jan. 1919),
(19) The Hon’ble Mr. R. P. Paranjpye (28 Jan. 1919).
(20) Mr. V. R. Kothari, representing the Deccan Ryots’ Association
(28 Jan. 1919).

(21) Messrs Umar Sobhani and S. G. Banker, representing the Bombay Home Rule League (29 Jan. 1919).
(22) H. N. Apte Esq. representing the Deccan Sabha, Poona (23 Jan- 1919).
(23) N. C. Kelkar Esq. (29 Jan. 1919).
(24) The Hon’ble Mr. D. V. Belvi (29 Jan. 1919).
(25) Rao Bahadur Thakorram Kapilram (29 Jan. 1919).
(26) N.M. Joshi Esq., Member of the Servants of India
Society (30 
Jan. 1919).
(27) The Hon’ble Rao Bahadur Venkatesh Srinivas Naik (30 Jan. 1919).
(28) Pandit R. Chikodi (30 Jan. 1919).
(29) The Hon’ble Mr. S. J. Gillum and Sir. Thomas Birkett, Kt., representing the Bombay Chamber of Commerce (30 Jan. 1919).
(30) Mr. Ambalal Sarabhai with Mr. Kasturbhai Lalbhai Dalpatbhai representing the Ahmedabad Millowners’ Association (30 Jan. 1919).
(31) Devidas Madhavji Thakersey, Esq., representing the Bombay Native Piece-goods Merchants, Association (30 Jan. 1919).
(32) The Hon'ble Mr. Ghulam Hussain Hidayatulla (31 Jan. 1919).
(33) Mr. B. V. Jadhav (31 Jan. 1919).
(34) The Hon'ble Sir Pazulbhoy Currimbhoy, Kt., C.I.E. (31 Jan. 1919).
(35) H. P. Mody Esq. (31 Jan. 1919).
(36) Sardar V. N. Mutalik representing the Inamdars’ Central Association, Satara (31 Jan. 1919).