(The following is a post by Jonathan Loar, South Asia Reference Librarian, Asian Division.)
The Library of Congress has digitized and made available online one of the more unique items in the Asian Division’s South Asian rare book collection: a handwritten draft of the essay, “A Common Platform,” by Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), one of India’s foremost messengers of peace and nonviolence. The six-page essay, which was written around 1933, concludes with the signature of “M. K. Gandhi” (i.e., Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi). This draft was donated to the Library of Congress in 1965.
In the decades before Indian independence from British rule in 1947, there was a great deal of debate among India’s political leaders about the future direction of Indian society. “A Common Platform” is part of this debate. It is Mahatma Gandhi’s reply to an earlier piece of writing by C.V. Kumaraswamy Sastriar, a judge on the Madras High Court. Gandhi interprets Sastriar as representing the traditionalist view, the “sanatanists,” who argue that it is impractical to use laws to combat untouchability, i.e., the segregation and oppression of lower-caste people by upper-caste people in Indian society. On the other hand, Gandhi notes that while the “reformers,” who represent another view, will agree that legislation cannot singlehandedly solve this problem, they also insist that traditionalist laws upholding untouchability must be removed. Gandhi acknowledges that both sides want to help disadvantaged communities—their common platform—but legal protections for upper-caste violence against low-caste peoples must be uprooted, too. “A Common Platform” was published in the November 10, 1933 issue of the English-language journal “Harijan.”
The digitization of Gandhi’s handwritten draft of “A Common Platform” is part of the commemoration of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary on October 2. On this day, the Library of Congress and Embassy of India invite the public to the Library for an exhibition on Gandhi’s life and legacy, as told through the Library’s vast collections. This exhibition will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday October 2, 2019 in the Whittall Pavilion, which is on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about Mahatma Gandhi’s life and contributions to the promotion of peace and nonviolence in India, the United States, and around the world.
Stay tuned to the Library of Congress 4 Corners of the World blog for a longer piece on Mahatma Gandhi later this month!