“Hinduism is not a religion; it is a disease.”
One of the few men who have risen from the malodorous sink which is below the lowest caste of India is Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, No. 1 Untouchable. This plump, cheery, bespectacled man of no caste, whose very shadow would outrage high-caste Hindus, managed to get a good education in Indian Government schools, was staked to courses at the University of London and Columbia University by the highly democratic Gaekwar of Baroda. Dr. Ambedkar is probably the only man alive who ever walked out in a huff from a private audience with the Pope of Rome. His Holiness Pius XI having heard from Dr. Ambedkar about the miseries of Indian outcastes, replied: “My son, it may take three or four centuries to remedy these abuses, be patient.”
Impatient Dr. Ambedkar summoned 10,000 raggle-taggle Untouchables to Nasik near Bombay last autumn, said de liberately: “I had the misfortune of being born with the stigma of Untouchability. But it is not my fault. I will not die a Hindu, for this is in my power. I say to you, abandon Hinduism and adopt any other religion which gives you equality of status and treatment.”
Thereupon the 10,000 adopted a resolution advising India’s Untouchables—some 60,000,000—to desert Hinduism en masse. Then a mob of Untouchables made a mighty bonfire of the most sacred Hindu books they could find. At Lucknow volunteers were solicited to force entry into Hindu temples, from which Untouchables have been barred since time immemorial. At Barabanki 28,000 Untouchables shouted their support of Dr. Ambedkar, laid plans for an All Indian Untouchable Conference. Millions of leaflets bearing Untouchable Ambedkar’s message began fluttering out over India.
To what faith the Untouchables should turn for “equality of status and treatment,” Dr. Ambedkar did not hasten to explain. Since he was reported dallying with Mohammedanism, Christian leaders in India exhibited pious skittishness. Declared the National Christian Council of India: ”The harvest is ripe for the gathering in many quarters and we urge that volunteer bands be sent forth to gather it.”
This week in Zion’s Herald, New England Methodist weekly, appears the first interview with Dr. Ambedkar to be published in the U. S. since he made his Nasik speech. To get it, able Editor Lewis Oliver Hartman went to India, sought out its No. 1 Untouchable, plied him with practical questions. Wrote the editor of Zion’s Herald:
“The [Untouchable] leader was rather critical of Christianity’s constant emphasis upon personal experience at the expense of any wider reference. ‘Why have you not seen the importance of a religion that reaches out into all life and all relationships?’ he asked. Continuing, he declared with deep feeling, ‘If you are going to compromise with evil conditions while you stress personal religion exclusively, I tell you now I am not with you.
. . . . “I pointed out in answer that, so far as the Methodist Episcopal Church was concerned, our watchword was this: ‘Nothing that has to do with human welfare is foreign to Methodism.’ This seemed to please him. . . .” Of Hinduism the man whom Editor Hartman calls “India’s Lincoln” said: “Hinduism is not a religion; it is a disease.”
Editor Hartman’s interview concluded thus: ”This much is settled,’ he said to me, ‘we are through forever with Hinduism. We are going somewhere, but are not ready yet to say in what direction ‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘you are not strong enough yet to announce a decision. If you compromise with the Hindus, all is lost; if you choose Mohammedanism, the Hindus will crush you; if you go Christian, both the Hindus and the Moslems will be on your back.’
” ‘Exactly,’ replied Dr. Ambedkar. ‘We are not ready—yet.’ “