In the novel Untouchable, written by Mulk Raj Anand in the year 1935, there are various vivid representations of the social injustices that the Untouchable castes are exposed to daily. In such a case, the main character of the novel, Bakha, is an ideal example. This novel is set to explain the caste system in one single day and does an exceptional job to help the readers understand how the low caste citizens were treated. Bakha is an eighteen year old boy who was born into being a Bhangi, which also means his job is to clean the latrines leaving him in the lowest level of the caste.
This novel depicts the protagonist to aspire to be part of the British culture that he is not, because he sees how respected they are and wishes to be a part of a caste that others favor. Bakha’s family tends to think he’s forgotten where he’s come from, but Bakha just solely wishes he was from a higher caste.
Humiliation and abuse play a huge role with social injustices in the novel because Bakha shows a love for life and continuously gets ridiculed and becomes depressed and tired of all the events that are repeatedly occurring in his life. Another message the novel gives the readers is the message of hope and to have faith. (Ravi) Bakha has so many reasons to give up but his perseverance and determination are what help him survive his lifestyle.
The first social injustice that Bakha is forced to deal with, is his father’s constant abuse after his mother’s death. Bakha stated, “He always keeps abusing me. I do all his work for him. He appropriates the pay all right. He is afraid of the sepoys. They call him names. He abuses me. He is happy when they call him Jemadar. So proud of izzat! I don’t take a moments rest and he abuses me.” Bakha receives degrading treatment even at his own home, not only in the community. Bakha has a job in the community for his father as a street sweeper and cleaning the latrines that people use to relieve themselves. The job is not exactly ideal but it’s the castes position that he was born into. The author stated that, “he knew he was weak and infirm so he bullied his children, to preserve his authority, lest he should be repudiated by them, refused and rejected old rubbish he was.” This statement explains the family of Bahka impeccably without any flaw.
Not only was Bakha faced with the injustices but his sister Sohini was as well. Sohini went to fetch water from a well when an upper class woman began to attack her with negative words and terrible unnecessary treatment. The woman felt as though Sohini was a “potential rival” because she was beautiful with her innocent and honest face. Although the woman would never admit to being jealous of a sweeper girl, she thought she would scare her off with her negative energy instead. Gulabo stated “Think of it! Think of it! You bitch! You prostitute! Wanton! And your mother hardly dead. Think of laughing in my face, laughing at me who am old enough to be your mother. Bitch!” All of this occurred because Sohini had to wait at the water pump for a higher caste member to give her water. If Sohini had touched the water pump herself, she would have polluted both the pump and the water inside of it because she was an “untouchable” who had to beg for enough water to get her family through the excruciatingly hot days of hard labor.
According to National Geographic, “Discrimination against India’s lowest Hindu castes is technically illegal.” Tom O’Neil explained that in severe cases of discrimination, some Hindu’s are lynched, gunned and murdered just for being born into a low caste. One in every six Hindu citizens is born into a title that they did not choose, nor can they free themselves of. These people’s lives are run by prejudice and have no control over how they run their lives. “Untouchables are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down.” (National Geographic) In the novel Bakha does not want to accept the life that has been chosen for him because he believes that he’s capable of being better than what he is assumed to be. Bakha shows that he isn’t ashamed to let people know that he does not believe in the Untouchable customs.
Bakha was intelligent, he even convinced the Babu’s son to give him lessons in the English language for a small amount of money. Bakha stated, “Do you think it would be too much trouble for you to give me a lesson a day? …I will pay you an anna per lesson.” This shows the determination that Bakha has to get out of the caste that he is stuck in. According to a scholarly article by Dr. B.R Ambedkar, the old orthodox Hindu believes that being treated like an Untouchable is normal and that nothing is wrong with the treatment they receive. On the other hand, a modern Hindu in today’s generation would begin to realize that the treatment is unjust, inhumane and discrimination. In Bakha’s case, this observation is reversed. He seems to believe that the treatment is unbearable while all the other Untouchables grin and bear the torture because that’s what they were taught to withstand.
This novel coincides without other short stories that we’re assigned in class. The short story “The Price of Milk” shows the social injustice for the Bhangi women of the lower caste. Bhangi women are generally presuming over childbirth, and changes of this stigma seem to be unusual. Babu Mheshnath would rather have had a doctor take care of his child but with money restraints he was forced to have Bhungi instead. His wife had not a drop of milk in her breasts so Bhungi acted as a midwife and a “wet nurse” to their newborn. Although it seems that Bhungi had become of some importance in the Babu’s life, he laughed it off as though it had been a joke. Babu stated, “Whatever else changes, Bhangi’s will remain Bhangis. It’s difficult to make humans of them.” This gives the readers a perception and an overview of how important women were to the development of society, but were looked down upon when they were born. Babu and his wife would have been mortified if they had brought another daughter into the world, because they are worth less rupees. The Babu stated that rules for the upper class are different than they are for the lower classes because they are entitled to more prosperity and are able to bend the rules when they please. Babu looked at the newborn drinking the Bhangi’s milk as a moment of crisis when he had no other choice because he could not afford to sell all of his land to pay for a lady doctor.
Babu stated, “Rules are different for the king and for the subjects, for the rich and for the poor. Kings can eat whatever they choose, eat with whomever they choose, and marry whomever they please. There are no restrictions on them. They are powerful men. Rules are for the middle class.” In the novel, Untouchables, the author makes valid points that greatly relate to this short story. The treatment of Sohini was as though she was born just to be born. The novel never showed any real purpose besides her being abused and treated like she worth nothing, especially when she was molested. This short story shows no real use for the Bhangi besides the power to bare children and become a wet nurse. The idealizations depicted for women in this society were that their worth was next to nothing. Boys were favored in this caste because they could do the sweeper work and clean the latrines.
Gandhi helped incorporate the Nationalist Movement in India which is a direct result of modern India today. Gandhi valued the lower castes and set his sole goal on wanting to make improvements in their lives. According to Principle Girish R Arabbi, Gandhi worked for the abolition of untouchability. He also “loved the poor and oppressed and won over their sympathy and support.” (Arabbi) Bakha found the topic of Gandhi’s opinion to be exciting, and interesting, while waiting to hear what he had to say about the abolishment of the caste system and how he planned to diminish it. An Alla from the novel stated, “Now Gandhi Mahatma will talk about us! It is good that I came. If only he knew what happened to me this morning. I would like to get up and tell him.” Bakha is eager to hear that there is faith for the Bhangis because he is tired of the unruly treatment he has received throughout his lifetime. The most powerful and uplifting statement that Gandhi had delivered to his audience was direct proof that he wanted only for the outcastes to prosper in their culture.
This novel depicts a conscious effort and brilliant ideas to remove the caste system from the Hindu society. Iqbal Nath Sarshar, a young poet from the novel, gives a life changing speech to the public about diminishing the caste system and the best way to do it. Gandhi has the peace and love approach that will change the world, but this poet, had completely changed Bakha’s hopes for humanity. Iqbal Nath Sarshar believes that adopting the “machine” into the Hindu society will help rid the caste system. In order to rid the system, the machine will take the place of the outcaste Bhangi’s jobs of cleaning the feces out of the latrines without having to touch it. The machine was called “the flush system”. This system would relieve the sweepers of the duties and free from the assumption of being “untouchable” because they would no longer have to touch the dung in the latrines, they would no longer have to do the dirty work. The untouchables would be able to do jobs that included manual labor like the middle class, and then they would not have the title of being untouchable any longer.
The diminishment of this caste and class system had Bakha confused and uneasy with the feelings of not being able to predict the outcomes of the machine, or of Gandhi’s efforts to make everyone equal. Bakha is torn between believing whether or not technology will fix the Hindu civilization or if Gandhi’s movement will fix civilization, or if both of them will perhaps work. The idea of hope still exists with our protagonist at this point in the novel, after you think he has given up, he stumbles upon Gandhi’s speech and opens his eyes up to a whole world of probable positive change to come his way. Although, according to Wikipedia, Gandhi’s movement brought Nationalism to the country, but unfortunately India’s independence was not. Bakha’s attitude changed throughout the novel immensely. He started off obeying his Father and his castes duties but after being tormented and beaten, he finally realized he had had enough. Gandhi and the poet helped Bakha to keep his faith alive and to keep hoping for a better tomorrow, even if today wasn’t as sunny as he had hoped because there is faith in humanity left.
Cite this Social Injustices of the Untouchables
Social Injustices of the Untouchables. (2016, Jun 27). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/social-injustices-of-the-untouchables/