In the interview with you, Flanders ends with a comment and cluck on Gandhi at 70 years of age, sleeping naked with his young grand niece! The distinct impression the viewer is left with is that you have created and backed a view of Gandhi as a racist, a caste supporter, and with your statements and visible agreement with Flander’s comments, that Gandhi was a dirty old man.
You told True Grit’s Laura Flanders how surprised you were that you could not find any response from Gandhi to Ambedkar about the 1927 Mehad satyagraha in which you claimed thousands of untouchables militantly marched to get drinking water from a well restricted to “touchables” only. This indicated to you that he was not really concerned about untouchable work done by Ambedkar. The problem is, your historical facts are wrong. You did not even look to find his response. It is easily found through the indices of the Collected Works. When Gandhi finally learned of the incident, more than a month later, he wrote about it in his public newspaper, Young India on April 28, 1927:
To define caste to Flanders, you said, “Caste is essentially a question of entitlement and ancestral occupation.” However, this is not the meaning of the word caste that Gandhi referred to in his day. Here again, I see your lack of understanding the root principles that provide the philosophical basis of Indian culture. I hope you will take the time to deeply examine those principles. They provide an inspiring standard for living life. Universal and inherent, they cannot be brushed off because people are ignorant about their application.
Your comments on his article, “My Ideal Bhangi” show that you do not understand the tremendous effort Gandhi was making in every direction to eradicate caste thinking. He was stuck with his rigid peers, who saw scavenging as a caste. The elite were not about to give up power, privilege and most importantly, servants. By the way, do you have any? It’s hard to live in India without `help’, although I managed. As a middle class American, the very idea of having servants is sickening.
Besides trying to convince people that Gandhi supported the caste system, you have declared him to be racist, based upon quotations you have taken from his early days in South Africa. You omit whom he was addressing, and why.
When you make aspersions that Gandhi supported killing Africans because of his ambulance corp work in the 1899 Anglo-Boer war, and then again in the 1906 Bambata Rebellion (Zulu Uprising for Independence), you neglect to note that his Ambulance Corp was the only medical relief that reached the suffering and mortally injured Zulus; no European would even touch them. Gandhi’s group was gratified to be able to help the Zulus. His experiences of being able to serve the suffering and disgust with the senseless bloodshed in both wars strengthened his resolve to wholly dedicate his life to service, leading to his vow of lifelong effort towards brahmacharya.
... By 23 December 1927 tremendous interest had been aroused in the Mahad tank issue,and some 10,000 to 15,000 Dalits gathered under a pavilion decorated with a photo of Gandhi……… Page 32 Ambedkar : Towards an Enlightened India By Gail Omvedt