Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist
Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229
Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India
Civic and Social Progress – Mahatma Gandhi
I have heard of the work of your Association and I am very much pleased. You have today given me an opportunity to learn of your activities and I am gratified to find that one of the prominent among them is the effort that you are making towards the betterment of your Adi Karnataka here. Though one of the chief ways of achieving the progress of your city is by means of an association such as yours, I can tell you, there is no other punya karma than this work of uplifting your own brothers and sisters known as Adi Karnataka. But as you yourselves have stated in your address, you have done much in this direction, but much more, very much more remains to be done.
You know full well, the work would never be complete, would never be perfect so long as there is a temple in this land which shuts out your Adi Karnataka brother, and so long as there is one person amongst you who would not allow the Adi Karnataka to approach him as a brother. Of course you know the condition of the poor Adi Karnataka and you also know that it is not part of the Hindu dharma to eat the flesh of the cow. On the other hand protection of the cow is enjoined on all by the Hindu dharma. And you, who know of this, have you taught this to your brethren in the villages? Ignorance of this Hindu dharma had bred evil habits amongst them who are also Hindus, but they must be made to understand that you are really anxious to help them better their lives according to Hindu dharma. You must all open out your hearts to make them understand that. You must do your duty by them if you are true members of the society to which you belong. Do not think that you have only one duty, the duty to your country to perform. There is also the duty to society and these two are interdependent. You cannot perform the one and neglect the other. You cannot hold them as apart from each other. You will realize that in the uplift of your brethren, in the reform of your social evils, in making your society a real force in the country and in establishing communal harmony, perfect and long-lasting friendship between Hindus and Mussalmans in all these lies also your duty to country. Thus you will realize that both duties are one for you and if you are to serve your country you must also serve the society to which you belong. Having realized this you will have to turn your attention to the crying evils of early-marriage system.
Do not call it dharma or a thing supported by Shastras that you can marry a little girl fonding on the knee that it could be straightway married and asked to become a housewife. And yet, I have known many of my friends, learned lawyers and doctors, educated and enlightened men marry girls before they were thirteen. (Laughter) Friends, it is no laughing matter, it is a matter for shame and tears. I tell you, there is no sadder evil in our society than this. You must think of this seriously and not with laughter. Our youth must resolve that they would not marry girls before they are fifteen. It is they who must help in this task of reform. You must all help in this cause, both young and old. You have doubtless heard of the great name of Ganga Ram. This great man has done great things in the Punjab by his engineering skill, as your great man, Sir Vishveshvarayya has done here in Mysore. But greater than all these is the work he has done for the cause of widow remarriage. Like that you must also do your bit to help in this cause of the window. But I ask who is a widow?
A widow is a person held in high veneration amongst us but can you say that widowhood has come to a girl of 14 and 15 because she has lost her husband? If a parent, due to poverty or other causes, married his girl of 13 who loses her husband next year or immediately, can you say that she is a widow and that she has to suffer all the miseries of life ever after? Day after day this question has been arresting our attention very vitally and we cannot ignore it or afford to remain indifferent. Do not perpetuate suffering. When you men have got the right to marry again, why do you deny it to your ladies? You must recognize that you have got to restore this right and I ask, will you do this and serve your society most truly? On last word. I have known that societies like yours confine their activities to the cities. This must not be. You must extend your work beyond your cities, to the villages and hamlets. I ask you to remember this. May God bless your society and its noble efforts?
The Hindu, 25-7-1927
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