Friday, October 17, 2014

Mahtama Gandhi, the Cleanliness Campaign and its Meaning for Lokavidya Samaj

On October 2nd, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi was observed with the launch of a cleanliness campaign. This is not the first (and probably not the last) time that such a campaign was launched or Gandhiji remembered for his thoughts  and actions on the necessity of maintaining cleanliness.
Gandhiji emphasised the cleanliness of both mind and surroundings  viz. in thought and deed. It was a holistic concept of cleanliness which has an important message and meaning for Lokavidya Samaj. If we choose to continue to remember Gandhiji, then it would be far more fruitful to understand and implement his holistic concept of cleanliness, rather than wield the broom during elections or on such other times.

We must first of all understand that Gandhiji was the foremost leader of Lokavidya Samaj in the 20th century. He recognised the latent power of Lokavidya, its contribution to building and sustaining a stable and vibrant Lokavidya Samaj; while painfully recognising and acknowledging the ills and degeneracy that demonised the Samaj. His life was devoted to promoting Lokavidya and Lokavidya livelihoods and his actions were directed at ridding the Samaj of the inequality that dehumanised it and the horrendous 'diseases', such as untouchability, that plagued it. All his actions were essentially based on a holistic concept of equality. These actions were aimed at re-establishing  equality among all sections(jatis) of Lokavdiya Samaj and re-invigorating a fraternity that was based on a recognition of  the inherent strength of different streams of knowledge within Lokavidya and therefore of  an equality between all forms of labour involved in Lokavidya livelihoods.
When Gandhiji talked (and acted) about cleanliness, he meant the 'ridding of the mind of dehumanising orthodoxies, of inequalities based on knowledge and livelihoods thereof'.

The talk about cleanliness arises because people choose to dirty the public spaces in which they live in  or use;  assuming that the 'job' of keeping these public(and many private) spaces clean is  assigned and performed by an 'outcast' section of society. Inequality, arrogance and an unfounded sense of superiority are the basis of such an attitude. The cleanliness drive must therefore encompass the cleansing the mind of such attitude alongside cleanliness of public spaces (surroundings).

Lokavidya Samaj needs to put into practise a holistic concept of cleanliness. Farmers should practise their profession in such a manner that the land, water and air is not polluted i.e they should use organic or farmyard manure, use native seeds and make sure that irrigation is carried out without destabilising the water table, without polluting the water bodies and without causing erosion of fertile top soil. Likewise artisans should also conduct their productive activity in such a manner that they do not pollute the atmosphere or surroundings where they carry out their professions, they should also keep their workplaces clean and not depend on 'outside' help.
All members of the  Samaj should take a decision on toilet habits, try to avoid open defeacation and totally put an end to manual scavenging. There should be no scope for assigning cleanliness-related activity to a section of society (dalits), the entire Samaj should participate actively in keeping the environment and living spaces clean.

This calls for a change in perception and attitude towards the hierarchical caste system. If all Lokavidya-based labour is to be treated equally, in terms of social respect and economic returns, it is also imperative that any activity that leads to a re-establishment or reinforcement of social hierarchy must be fought tooth and nail. Only then will the Samaj be able to move on the path of true equality. The cleanliness drive once again, presents an opportuinity for Lokavidya Samaj to introspect and come to a conclusion on the real meaning of equality- the first steps of which are now being taken by LJA through its demands for equal wages for all labour.


(This article was published in the October issue of Lokavidya Prapancham)

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