Harijan (Hindustani: हरिजन (Devanagari), ہریجن (Nastaleeq); translation: "person of Hari/Vishnu") was a term popularized by Indian political leader Mohandas Gandhi for referring communities traditionally considered so called "Untouchable" (formerly called "acchoot" अछूत in Hindi ). The term was later considered derogatory and patronising, hence the term Harijan is no longer used by people belonging to the castes that were kept backward in medieval and modern India.
They are now called Dalits, though even this term is banned in some states of India such as Kerala. The term Harijan is regarded as condescending by many, with some Dalit activists calling it insulting. As a result, the Government of India and several state governments forbid or discourage its use for official purposes.
Though Gandhi popularized the term harijan, which literally meant children of god, some contested that as per certain religious texts, brahmins are said to be children of God. The term may have been suggested to Gandhi based on the term used in the works by the Gujarati Bhakti era poet-saint Narsi Mehta. It has been claimed that in Narsi's work, the term refers to the children of Devadasis., however the claim cannot be verified. According to other source the medieval devotional poet Gangasati used the term to refer to herself during the Bhakti movement, a period in India that gave greater status and voice to women while challenging the legitimacy of caste. Gangasati lived around the 12th-14th centuries and wrote in the Gujarati language.
Harijan, Mohandas Gandhi's publication
Gandhi started publishing a weekly journal called "Harijan" on 11 February 1933 from Yerwada Jail during British rule. He created three publications: Harijan in English (from 1933 to 1948), Harijan Bandu in Gujarati, and Harijan Sevak in Hindi. These newspapers found Gandhi concentrating on social and economic problems, much as his earlier English newspaper, Young India, had done from 1919 to 1932.
- Indian Opinion (Gandhi's newspaper originally published during his time in South Africa)
- Gandhi Heritage Portal
- अछूत कोन और कैसे : डॉ. भीमराव अम्बेडकर, 1949
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- Labelling Dalits ‘Harijans’: How we remain ignorant and insensitive to Dalit identity, The News Minute
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- Archives of Harijan 11 February 1933
- Harijan Bandu
- Harijan Sevak
- Gandhi As A Journalist Archived 2007-08-04 at the Wayback Machine
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