Dissertation Abstracts

Rural Dalit Youth and Their Perception of Mahatma Gandhi

Author: John, Adaikalaraja , adaikalarasa@gmail.com
Department: Department of Gandhian Thought and Peace Science
University: Gandhigram Rural Institute, India
Supervisor: Dr. S. Narayanasamy
Year of completion: 2010
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Rural , Dalit , Youth , Mahatma Gandhi
Areas of Research: Youth , Stratification , Community Research


Youth are considered to be a problem in the society, but they are not. They are the solutions to the millions of problems found in society. It is the power of the youth which can change the society. Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda believed them to be agents of social change. The plight of the poor rural youth, with less economic bargain, lower levels of education, and little political power, are prone to be victims of domination and social evils. This victimisation makes them anti-social elements in the society wherein they can truly be social transformers.
Caste has been sustained and reinforced to decide every aspect of an individual and community life because of the sanctions of all the vital institutions of the society: social, religious and legal. ‘Untouchables’ were considered so impure and polluting that they were not even included in the system by Manu. This has translated into their complete exclusion from society. Illiteracy among rural Dalits is very high and this is exploited in more ways than one. The forms and expressions of untouchablity and discrimination based on castes are widespread, including the use of ‘two tumblers’ in tea shops. Smoking in front of ‘caste Hindus’ or walking in the main streets of the village wearing footwear can trigger violence. Often their right to vote is taken away through violent means. Moreover, the religious rights of the Dalit are often severely restricted. The police have often been brutal in their dealings with Dalits; the administration has been insensitive, to say the least. Atrocities against Dalits and instances of Dalit assertion are treated essentially as law and order problems, and not as social ones. These deprivations and discriminations make the Dalit youth violent and their assertion is often termed as anti-social.
In the context of the today’s Dalit youth, Gandhi is misunderstood as one who was a stumbling block to their emancipation. That he had serious misunderstandings with Ambedkar and Periyar are interpreted as anti-Dalit by some of the Dalit political parties for their own political gain.
Mahatma Gandhi needs to be understood in his own times and in his own context. When the caste discriminations were at their worst, Gandhi’s efforts to eradicate untouchability were remarkable. The many facts about Gandhi remain hidden to present day youth. The fact that he was ready to sacrifice the help offered by his own sister, wife and many well-wishers for the sake of the welfare of the untouchables was remarkable. The fact that he indeed demanded structural change from hierarchical to linear, need to be understood as a practical or realistic approach to the problem of untouchability. His ideas of Satyagraha and Ahimsa and social reconstructions are still valid in today’s context.