Post Prayer Speech 1947-11-23


Mahatma Gandhi


Gandhiji apologized to the radio men for his occasional breach of the rule that his speech should not exceed twenty minutes, not even fifteen, if possible. He said that he could not always observe the rule for his main purpose was to reach the hearts of the audience that was physically before him. The radio came next. He did not know whether there was any arrangement whereby the radio could record longer speeches. He was not in the habit of speaking without purpose or for the sake of hearing his own voice.²

A gentleman writes to ask me whether one should take to violence if one’s rights are not granted. We cannot secure our rights through violence. I would even say that we can secure nothing through violence. Apparently, it seems we can get our things that way. But how? Supposing a child is having a rupee. If I slap him twice and take away that rupee, I may have the satisfaction of having got the rupee, but how much would I have lost in the bargain? What could the poor child do? But it would prick me that I snatched away the rupee from the poor child by beating him. Of course there are any number of such rogues in the world. But I cannot do such a thing. I have no right to deprive anyone like that. Snatching away something would have a bad result. That is why I say that we cannot demand rights with violence. There is only one way of securing our rights which I have already explained.³ Everybody approved of it. I have stated my view about the rights of the people and how they can be achieved. I would say that there is nothing like a right. For the one who has no duties there are no rights either. In other words, all rights emanate from duties—if there is no duty, there is no right either. When I do my duty, it brings some result and that is my right. For instance, I eat because it is my duty to do so. If I eat for pleasure, I fall victim to some disease or other. If I eat because it is my duty to eat, if I pray to God, if I serve the world, that itself is my right. What is my right? It is the right to serve. You would ask me how that can be called a right. But you would understand this if you thought over it a little. I would say that that itself becomes the right. Suppose I work for the whole day and earn eight annas—I get those eight annas as my right. How did I have that right? Because I worked. If I do not work and take eight annas, I appropriate that amount, I do not have it as my right. I can have a right only when I fulfil my promise to work and that too sincerely in thought, word and deed. But if I do not work with my heart in it, if I exploit the employer and deceive him because he is not noticing it, then it is a sin. When I know that everybody is getting a rupee I too want to have a rupee for myself. But when can I have it? Only when I have the employer’s permission. I would ask him why, when everybody is getting one rupee, I should work for eight annas only, and would ask for at least fifteen annas. He may say that I should work for eight annas or leave. What should I do in that case? Should I burn his property? Obstruct his work? Do picketing? Go on fast? If I say that I would resign but not work for eight annas, then I would be acting like a gentleman. I would say that whatever you do, you must do in a decent way. Decency means following one’s religion, doing one’s duty and earning one’s rights non-violently by performing one’s duty. Let us not try to get anything through violence—that is the only way to sustain the world. Otherwise things go wrong in the world.

I have already talked to you about the Christians. Today I will tell you about the Harijans. It is a matter of shame for us that there are Harijans in Rohtak, or, say, in Rohtak district—they were there everywhere before and are still there. There are the Jats and perhaps Ahirs too. They felt that the Harijans were their slaves and they could get any work done by them. Once again the question of their rights came and they felt that the Harijans were born slaves. They may be given water and food but they can get nothing by right. I regard this as arrogance. This was prevalent during the days of the British and now it is all the more there. These poor Harijans are timid, so they came to me and asked me what they should do in the face of harassment. Should they remain slaves or die or leave Rohtak? It is quite understandable that they cannot leave the place. If they leave Rohtak, other people would suffer, because their work would be affected. But this means that Harijans have to remain slaves forever. And so, those poor people came. Some of them study in schools, some are studying further and some lag behind; some even learn crafts, but what can they tell those who are harassing them? We have now reached a stage when we do not stop to think where we are going. During the British days we used to be afraid of being beaten or killed. Now that the alien rule has ended we think that no one can do us any harm. We feel that we can even intimidate a judge if we are brought before him. We think that the judge can do nothing to us. We have become so arrogant. The result is that the Harijans are ruined. So, I suggested to them that they should go to Thakkar Bapa⁴. He was born just to serve the Harijans and the tribals. He does everything for the Harijans. So those people went to him and came back to tell me that he was not doing anything for them. I knew what they wanted. They are seated right here. I told them that they should go to Dr. Gopichand⁵. What if he has become the Premier now? He used to attend to every work of the Harijan Sevak Sangh at one time. I decided to meet him since he was coming here today, and I met him. But what can be done when the people there have become such tyrants, resort to coercion and refuse to listen? The British rule is no longer there, and the people cannot behave like that. Then what should the Harijans do? So, I thought that today I should talk about the sad plight of the Harijans. Can we not do even this much? What is our duty today? So far we have acted against dharma in regarding the Harijans as untouchables and slaves. We committed that mistake, that sin, and the Harijan Sevak Sangh came into being⁶ by way of expiation. The Sangh has done considerable work. But not all Hindus have taken the same stand. Millions of Hindus have not even accepted the Sangh. If all Hindus had accepted it, where was the need for me to narrate this sad tale? During the days of the British we used to abuse them and say that we would become good if the British did not rule us. Now the British have gone. But have we become good or bad? I would say that there is more degeneration now than before. We used to commit excesses and are committing them even now. First we oppressed the Muslims. This too was a sin. Forget that Pakistan has come into being, don’t think of it. If one man commits a sin should we also do the same? You will realize that it is bad if you think over it. One wrong leads to another. We have killed a large number of people. We have acquired false courage and we are determined to kill the Christians, and then we want to have Jatistan, Ahiristan and so many separate states. But no one is keen about building up India. We must accept the Harijans. They too are Hindus like us. They are not the fifth caste. Hinduism has no fifth varna; there are only four, and these four varnas are not graded as high or low. Among these four varnas the first teaches religion, the second protects people, the third practises trade— to collect millions of rupees, not for personal use but for the welfare of the people—and the fourth serves the society. But people belonging to the four varnas can mingle with one another. It is not as though a Shudra, if he became a barrister, could not practise law. He can serve even after becoming a barrister. One who teaches religion serves, so does the one who practises trade and is in employment and also the one who sweeps. All these four are fields of service. The one who teaches religion has to learn more. But that does not mean that he commits a sin by giving up his profession and going in for another. It is not that he cannot do that. Similarly, we created so many castes and now are creating the fifth varna. This is wrong, it is an act of wickedness. Everything will be all right if each follows his religion. Now, when we are having the reins of power in our hands, it seems to me that things would be all right if the Hindus and the Sikhs followed their respective religions. I have finished for the day and the meeting is also over.

[From Hindi]
Prarthana Pravachan—II, pp. 109-12


  • 1. Gandhiji exhorted the audience to observe silence which was being disturbed by the murmur among women who were present in a large number. Complete silence was then restored.
  • 2. This paragraph is from Harijan.
  • 3. Vide Vol. LXXXVIII, pp. 230-2 and 236-8.
  • 4. A. V. Thakkar (1869-1951); joined the Servants of India Society in 1914; established the Bhil Seva Sadan in 1922; General Secretary, Harijan Sevak Sangh; President, Gujarat Antyaja Seva Mandal ; Secretary, Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust, 1944-51; established the Bharatiya Adimjati Sevak Sangh
  • 5. Gopichand Bhargava (1889-1966); President, Harijan Sevak Sangh in the Punjab; Chief Minister of the Punjab, 1947-51
  • 6. On October 26, 1932, initially under the name of Anti-Untouchability League, with G. D. Birla as President and A. V. Thakkar as General Secretary


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