Mahatma Gandhi’s signal contribution to annihilation of untouchability is unprecedented. Frankly speaking, no serious attempt was ever made to root out the inhuman and senseless practice of untouchability before Mahatma Gandhi. It is beyond our comprehension as from when the practice of untouchability started in the Hindu society. It is also a matter of great surprise that how the Hindu society which considers itself to be so tolerant and magnanimous think of perpetuating this sinful, outrageous and atrocious practice of untouchability?
The present generation may not even be able to imagine that how horrendous it was in nature and practice only a few decades ago. If we go by the historical books written by reformers, we find the hair-raising and heart-rending saga of the nefarious practice. It is said that untouchables were not allowed to tread or traverse on the paths that was being used by caste Hindus. If at all any untouchable thought of going on that path, he or she had to tie a broom in his or her waist from behind so that once he or she had moved on the path, it had to be swept by the broom. So much so, an untouchable was not allowed to use footwear even at the time of festivals or marriages. Untouchables were not allowed to cross the path of any caste Hindus.
If one goes by the Vedic scriptures, one finds that the classification of Hindu society was existent but there is no trace of untouchability in any scriptures at least in theory. Let it be hastened to be added that this does not mean that society as found during Vedic period was in any way the ideal one. It was vicious and rotten to say the least. It is, therefore, difficult to exculpate the Vedic literature or society for perpetrating atrocities on untouchables. In one of the texts has been ordained that if a Shudra was found to be reading Vedas or Vedic literature his tongue should be cut and if he hears it then molten glass should be poured into his ears and there was no harm if he was blinded for witnessing the Vedic rituals. The authenticity of these terrible injunctions is not very confirmed. But if one goes by other sources, one finds its authenticity is dubious. However, this does not in any way exonerates the Vedic society for its rigours against Shudras. Infact, it conducted itself in most intolerable and condemnable manner.
It is yet another enigma how four Varnas got split into thousands of castes, layer after layer, each caste and sub-case considering it superior or inferior in relation to other ones. Over the years it became so fossilized that it was an easy task for any fissiparous force to take advantage of the divisions and sub-divisions among Hindus.
This type of crime can be committed only by a race which is destined to self-destruction. It hardly needs to be said that this weakness of Hindus was the reason for their downfall. Hindus, who have been geographically associated with vast expanse of South East Asia, were defeated and humiliated number of times by the foreign aggressors. The assailants although were never very strong, intelligent or superior in arms as compared to Hindus but they were certainly more cohesive and united vis-à-vis Hindu adversaries. What is even more shocking is that even after repeated aggressions by the external forces, Hindus never realized and analyzed their weaknesses.
This actually requires dispassionate research in most objective manner as to how casteism grew and became monstrously strong. The tragedy is that it is very difficult to find objective researchers. Most of the persons who claim, rather deceptively pose themselves, to be researchers suffer from the disease of heavy jaundice and order to obtain the certificate of secularism they find the easy way of blaming one or the other caste of Hindus particularly caste Hindus.
Their (Researchers) aim is not to root-out the evils but to further perpetuate it by arraigning one section against other and in the process further weaken or divide the Hindus. The need is to annihilate caste with roots and branches. But how to achieve the goal is most pertinent question and is to be seriously pondered over.