Leading Peaceful Agitation
In 1927 Babasaheb presided over a conference at Mahad in Kolaba District. There he said: -It is time we rooted out of our minds the ideas of high and low. We can attain self-elevation only if we learn self-help and regain our self-respect.”
Because of his experience of the humiliation and injustice of untouchability, he knew that justice would not be granted by others. Those who suffer injustice must secure justice for themselves.
The Bombay Legislature had already passed a Bill allowing everyone to use public water tanks and wells. (We have seen how Bhim was denied water at school, in his office, and at other places. Public water facilities were always denied to ‘untouchables’ because of the superstitious fear of ‘pollution.’)
Mahad Municipality had thrown open the local water tank four years earlier, but so far not one ‘untouchable’ had dared to drink or draw water from it. Babasaheb led a procession from the Conference on a peaceful demonstration to the Chowdar Tank. He knelt and drank water from it. After he set this example, thousands of others felt courageous enough to follow him. They drank water from the tank and made history. For many hundreds of years, ‘untouchables’ had been forbidden to drink public water.
When some caste Hindus saw them drinking water, they believed the tank had been polluted and violently attacked the Conference, but Babasaheb insisted violence would not help – he had given his word that they would agitate peacefully.
Babasaheb started a Marathi journal Bahishkrit Bharat (‘The Excluded of India’). In it, he urged his people to hold a satyagraha (non-violent agitation) to secure the right of entry to the Kala Ram Temple at Nasik. ‘untouchables’ had always been forbidden to enter Hindu temples. The demonstration lasted for a month. Then they were told they would be able to take part in the annual temple festival. However, at the festival they had stones thrown at them – and were not allowed to take part. Courageously, they resumed their peaceful agitation. The temple had to remain closed for about a year, as they blocked its entrance.