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The South Asian Rare Book Collection has 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. It was digitized and made available online ahead of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary on October 2, 2019.
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.