Mohandas Gandhi, often referred to with the Sanskrit honorific Mahatma, has been revered by millions of people for his commitment in using non-violence to promote civil rights, peace, and the liberation of India from centuries of colonial rule by the British.
In a 2000 poll by BBC News Online, he was voted the greatest world leader of the past millennium. However, as great and influential as Gandhi was, he wasn’t the flawless saint we often hold him to be. Like every other normal human being, Gandhi had a number of embarrassing skeletons in his closet that his legacy and supporters would rather forget about.
5. He was a racist
In 2003, the unveiling of a Gandhi statue in Johannesburg, South Africa prompted outrage from some citizens, who accused the former resident of racism. Gandhi had lived in the country from 1893 to 1914, working as a lawyer and challenging the country’s racial discrimination laws. It was here that he began to develop his familiar political and philosophical views, including his vastly influential concepts of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience, ahimsa and satyagraha.
Strangely, despite his commitment to civil rights, Gandhi had a rather low opinion of the country’s native black inhabitants. In articles he wrote for his newspaper The Indian Opinion, he repeatedly referred to them as “kaffirs”, an extremely offensive derogatory used to refer to black Africans. He felt greatly insulted that so many whites grouped blacks and Indians together, believing that blacks were little more than wild savages. After being imprisoned one time, he complained that “Many of the native prisoners are only one degree removed from the animal and often created rows and fought among themselves.”
Gandhi has also been accused of disliking the Dalits, lower-caste Indians who are widely discriminated against. In 1933, while the British were still ruling India, they tried implementing a law which would have given the Dalits the right to elect their own leaders like other minorities such as the Muslims and Sikhs had.
The high-caste Gandhi, while committed to the improvement of the conditions of the Dalits, opposed this plan on the objection that it would weaken and dismantle Hindu society. He launched a highly publicized hunger strike, nearly dying before Dalit leaders agreed to give up the idea. This was a very controversial decision, and many Dalits, feeling betrayed, still haven’t forgiven Gandhi for it, as you can see on such passionately named websites like http://hatinggandhi.blogspot.com/ and http://fascist-gandhi-hated-dalits.webs.com/.