Historical voices against compulsory vaccination in India.
"The voice of dissent was also reflected in protests raised against the resolution regarding the introduction of compulsory vaccination in rural areas. However, while only two or three members in the Assembly were completely against the vaccination, the majority agreed to it so long as it was not made compulsory in the rural areas and remained a voluntary exercise based on people’s choice. The resolution was introduced by a private member, Qazi Muhammad Adil Abbasi, who informed the House that smallpox, a preventable disease, affected about half a million Indians every year and caused immense losses. He proposed compulsory vaccination. Against his proposal, Indra Deo Tripathy, another member, stated that going in for vaccination was not only ‘‘anti-Swaraj’’ but also an act of deception to Indian people, because ‘‘to them we have always promised that we want to establish Ram Raj’’ (The Proceedings, 1938, Vol. 7, pp. 415–416). Here Tripathy was echoing Gandhi and his campaign against vaccination where Gandhi projected vaccination as ‘‘anti-swaraj’’, i.e., against greater social and political autonomy and home rule. Gandhi also used ‘‘Ram Raj’’ as a metaphor and euphemism to mean ‘‘Swaraj’’, i.e., complete autonomy and ideal home rule. Perhaps, Tripathy was also trying to convey that they must find indigenous solution to the problem of smallpox and hinted at the role and importance of Vaids. On the other hand, Keshav Gupta argued that vaccination was not the proper solution to smallpox, as it created many other medical problems. He suggested that the government should rather concentrate on eliminating poverty and improving the standard of living and sanitation (pp. 403–405). Lal Bahadur Shastry, another member (who later became India’s Prime Minister following the death of Nehru in 1964), cited examples where despite vaccination, smallpox cases had occurred, and the patients had died (pp. 350–351). He, too, commented that good health provided greater immunity than vaccination. And Ram Swarup Gupta argued that many of the diseases were occurring because of the modern system of treatment as it weakened the natural vitality of the body (pp. 363–364). Such views, nevertheless, were few and far between and could hardly transcend the Western hegemony over the nationalist discourse. The resolution in favor of compulsory vaccination in rural areas was passed, although with an amendment that the government would go for compulsory vaccination as far as practicable in rural areas and would adopt necessary effective methods for the purpose. However weak, ambiguous, and marginalized the voices of dissent in the face of modernization as dominant paradigm, it is important to recognize them as different. They should not be ignored or merged with the voice of conformity."