Gandhi and the Dalit controversy: The limits of the moral force of an individual / Waging Nonviolence – People-Powered News and Analysis

A protest sign at an anti-Gandhi rally in San Diego last year reveals the tensions that still exist between India’s independence leader and minority groups.

When I first heard that Gandhi was viewed as “the enemy” by many Dalits in India (formerly called “untouchables”), I was dumbfounded. How and why could Gandhi be seen as having betrayed the Dalits when he opposed untouchability even in the face of active discomfort on the part of close associates?

Last month, while I was in India teaching Nonviolent Communication to 120 people, including a significant number of Dalits, I had the opportunity to explore this question further. During a session called “Gandhian Principles for Everyday Living,” a topic about which I have written at length, one of the 60 people present expressed anguish, pain and anger towards Gandhi. He was a Buddhist, like many other Dalits who had chosen to follow the Dalit leader Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in leaving behind centuries of mistreatment under Hinduism.

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