Selected Writings of Gandhi

Journalist Gandhi

(Selected Writings of Gandhi)

Table of Contents

About This Book

Compiled by : T. K. Somaiya
Gandhi Book Center,
Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal,
299, Tardeo Road,
Nana Chowk, Mumbai 400 007
First Edition : August 1994
Published by : Jitendra T. Desai,
Navajivan Publishing House,
Ahemadabad - 380 014,
Printed by : Yash Printers
140/L, Kalbadevi Road,
Mumbai 400 002



Chapter 8: Right of Minority

A sanatanist asks:-
"As a sanatanist I have a difficulty about temple entry by Harijans. Supposing among temple-goers of a particular temple there is a majority of 99 to 1 in favor of Harijans entering the temple and the temple is opened. What about the minority of one who has objection to worshipping in a temple visited by Harijans? If reformers have their way, will it not be an undue inference with the right of worship which belongs to the sanatanists from time immemorial?" There may be a public church of the Roman Catholics s well as a public Church of protestants in an English town. Even if the Protestants be in a majority they would not interfere with the conduct of affairs in the Roman Catholic Church. Why then should the reformers (even though in the majority) interfere with the conduct of affairs in a public temple belonging to the sanatanists.
I should answer the questions by putting another. If the one solitary sanatanist has the right, as he undoubtedly has, what about the majority? Have they no rights? The parallel quoted does not apply. The questioner has imagined the existence side by side of two churches belonging to different denominations. It would be a monstrous impertinence on the pad of Protestants to interfere with the rights of Roman Catholics or vice versa. But suppose all the Protestants but one decided to admit to their temple persons whom they had ex-communicated for ages. Surely, they would have every right to lift the ban. Here there would be no question of changing one's religion, as there is in the case imagined by the questioner. In the temple entry movement, reformers do not seek to alter their faith. If they did, in theory at least, not even a unanimous decision of temple-goers of a temple should entitle them to use a temple for purposes never intended by the founders. Here the reformers claim that the faith they profess in common with the sanatanists permits the use of their temples by fellow-Hindus, the Harijans. It is, therefore, a question of interpretation, and in such matters, the opinion of a majority must prevail. If it did not, it would amount to the coercion of a majority, by a minority, and there would be an end to all progress. Indeed, the doctrine the questioner propounds would mean decay and death to a society that subscribes to it. It should be remembered that the minority is free to build a temple for itself. And so far as I am concerned, I have given my opinion that even a minority of one should have its prejudices so far respected that a special hour may be set apart so as to enable it to offer worship free from the intrusion, whether of reformers or of Harijan.

Harijan 9-11-1934