Maulana Ali Hussain 'Aasim Bihari': Father of the first Pasmanda Movement and Freedom Fighter

 

Faiyaz Ahmad Fyzie

Maulana Ali Hussain "Aasim Bihari" was born on April 15, 1890, in Mohalla Khas Ganj, Bihar Sharif, Nalanda district, Bihar, in a devout but poor Pasmanda weaver family. In 1906, at the young age of 16, he started his career in the Usha organization in Kolkata. While working, he pursued interests in studies and reading. He was active in many types of movements. He quit his job as it was getting restrictive, and for his livelihood he started the work of making beedisHe prepared a team of his beedi worker colleagues who would discuss issues that concerned nation and society. There would also be sharing of writings.

asim bihari

In 1908-09, Maulana Haji Abdul Jabbar of Sheikhpur tried to create a Pasmanda organization which wasn't successful. He felt a deep sense of grief about this. In 1911, after reading "Tarikh-e-Minwal wa Alahu" (History of Weavers), he was prepared completely for the movement. At the age of 22, he started a five year shceme (1912-1917) for educating adults. During this time, whenever he went to his native Bihar Sharif, he would keep make people aware by organising small gatherings.

In 1914 , at the young age of 24 years old, he started a Society called "Bazm-E-Adab"(Chamber of Literature) that started a library under its aegis, in his native location of Khasganj, Bihar Sharif in Nalanda district. In 1918, a study centre called "Darul Muzakra"(House of Conversation) was established in Kolkata, where labourers and others used to gather in the evening to discuss writings and contemporary issues - these meetings would sometimes go on all through the night.

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Miller Committee Report 1919 (Adequate Representation of Communities in Public Service)

 

free school mysore[An anti-caste movement led by the backward communities under the banner Praja Mitra Mandali launched a focused movement to bring pressure on the king of Mysore for reservation in recruitment and education. The Miller Committee was constituted by Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, the Maharaja of Mysore in the year 1919. This committee's findings provided a fact based report on the actual situation of overrepresentation of brahmins in education and government positions and the non-representations of other communities. The report was based on the caste-wise demographic and English literacy data from the census 1911. Its recommendations included scholarships for backward classes, relaxation of age limit for public service appointments and changes in the merit-based examinations.

Wadiyar championed many progressive endeavors such as compulsory education for women, but the strong measures he took to ensure educational, employment and political representation of the backward communities was met with stiff resistance from his own Dewan, Visvesvaraya, who was strongly opposed to the idea of reservations. Visvesvaraya rejected the recommendations of the Miller report, Wadiyar overruled his objections, leading to the former's resignation. 

The Miller report laid the foundation for proportionate representation of all citizens of Mysore in education and government jobs. This report became the blueprint for subsequent policies and is one of the important documents referenced by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar while framing the policies for proportionate representation to depressed classes at the national level.~ Round Table India] 

Miller Committee Report: Report of the Committee Appointed to Consider Steps Necessary for the Adequate Representation of Communities in the Public Service

1. Our committee was constituted under Government Order No. E. A. G. 308, dated 23rd August 1918, in which it was desired that a report should be submitted to the Government in two months from the date of the order. We held meetings on the 3rd September 1918, 11th and 12th March and 24th and 25th June 1919. At the first meeting it was due to the length of time required for their compilation that an extension of the period allotted to our deliberations had to be obtained. After the meetings in March at which some members of the Committee were absent, it became necessary to circulate a draft of the resolutions arrived at those meetings, and this produced some fresh suggestions and opinions, it then became necessary to hold another meeting and this could not be held before June owing to the absence of the President of the Committee from the State. Our best thanks are due to the Government for the information supplied to us. The tables containing the information are printed at the end of this report as appendices.

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'Slavery' by Mahatma Phule: Preface

'Slavery' 

by 

Mahatma Phule

~

Preface 

by The Author Himself

~

jotiba signature 

"The day that reduces a man to slavery takes from him the half of his virtue,"
 

- Homer.

"Our system of Government in India is not calculated to raise the character of those subject to it, nor is the present system of education one to do more than over-educate the few, leaving the mass of the people as ignorant as ever and still more at the mercy of the few learned; in fact, it is an extension of the demoralizing Brahmin-ridden policy, which, perhaps, has more retarded the progress of civilization and improvement in India generally than anything else."
 

- Col. G.J. Haly, 'On Fisheries in India'

"Many ages have elapsed since peculiar resources were afforded to the Brahmins; but the most considerate cosmopolite would hesitate to enroll them amongst the benefactors of the world.

They boast of vast stores of ancient learning. They have amassed great riches, and been invested with unbounded power, but to what good end? They have cherished the most degrading superstitions and practised the most shameless impostures. They have arrogated to themselves the possession and enjoyment of the rarest gifts of fortune and perpetuated the most revolting system known to the world. It is only from a diminution of their abused power that we can hope to accomplish the great work of national regeneration."
 

- Mead's 'Sepoy Revolt'.

Recent researches have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that the Brahmans were not the aborigines of India. At some remote period of antiquity, probably more than 3000 years ago, the Aryan progenitors of the present Brahmin Race descended upon the plains of Hindoostan from regions lying beyond the Indus, the Hindoo Koosh, and other adjoining tracts. According to Dr. Pritchard, the Ethnologist, they were an off-shoot of the Great Indo-European race, from whom the Persians, Medes, and other Iranian nations in Asia and the principal nations in Europe like-wise are descended. The affinity existing between the Zend, the Persian and Sanscrit languages, as also between all the European languages, unmistakably points to a common source of origin. It appears also more than probable that the original cradle of this race being an arid, sandy and mountainous region, and one ill calculated to afford them the sustenance which their growing wants required, they branched off into colonies, East and West. The extreme fertility of the soil in India, its rich productions, the proverbial wealth of its people, and the other innumerable gifts which this favoured land enjoys, and which have more recently tempted the cupidity of the Western nations, no doubt, attracted the Aryans, who came to India, not as simple emigrants with peaceful intentions of colonization, but as conquerors. They appear to have been a race imbued with very high notions of self, extremely cunning, arrogant and bigoted. Such self-gratulatory, pride-flattering epithets as 'arya' 'bhudev' etc., with which they designated themselves, confirm us in our opinion of their primitive character, which they have preserved up to the present time, with, perhaps, little change for the better. The aborigines whom the Aryans subjugated, or displaced, appear to have been a hardy and brave people from the determined front which they offered to these interlopers. Such opprobrious terms, as Sudra 'insignificant,' 'Mahari' - 'the great foe' atayanj, chandal etc. with which they designated them, undoubtedly show that originally they offered the greatest resistance in their power to their establishing themselves in the country, and hence the great aversion and hatred in which they are held. From many customs* traditionally handed down to us, as well as from the mythological legends contained in the sacred books of the Brahmins it is evident that there had been a hard struggle for ascendancy between the two races. The wars of Dev and Daitya, or the Rakshas, about which so many fiction are found scattered over the sacred books of the Brahmins, have certainly a reference to this primeval struggle. The original inhabitants with whom these earthborn Gods, the Brahmins, fought, were not inappropriately termed Rakshas, that is the protectors of the land. The incredible and foolish legends regarding their form and shape are no doubt mere chimeras, the fact being that these people were of superior stature and hardy make. Under such leaders as Brahma, Purshram and others, the Brahmin waged very protracted wars against the original inhabitants. They eventually succeeded in establishing their supremacy and subjugating the aborigines to their entire control. Accounts of these conquests, enveloped with a mass of incredible fiction, are found in the books of the Brahmins. In some instances they were compelled to emigrate, and in other wholesale extermination was resorted to. The cruelties which the European settler practised on the American Indians on their first settlement in the new world, had certainly their parallel in India on the advent of the Aryans and their subjugation of the aborigines. The cruelties and inhuman atrocities which Purshram committed on the Kshetrias, the people of this land, if we are to believe even one tenth of what the legends say regarding him, surpass our belief and show that he was more a fiend than a God. Perhaps in the whole range of history it is scarcely possible to meet with such another character as that of Purshram, so selfish, infamous, cruel and inhuman. The deeds of Nero, Alaric or Machiavelli sink into insignificance before the ferocity of Purshram. The myriads of men and defenseless children whom he butchered, simply with a view to the establishment of his co-religionists on a secure and permanent basis in this land, is a fact for which generations ought to execrate his name, rather than deify it.

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Dnyanajyoti Savitribai Phule - II

 

Prof. Hari Narke

Continued from here.

(This is the second part of his essay 'Dnyanajyoti Savitribai Phule', published in the NCERT booklet on the 'Savitribai Phule First Memorial Lecture' in 2008. You can read the first part here)

savitribai_copy_copy

In 1877, Maharashtra was facing a severe drought. It was not possible for Savitribai and Jotirao, who were always keen to help in the face of adversity, to stay inactive, and more so, during such times the couple collected funds, going from village to village. They started the 'Victoria Balashram' in Dhankawadi with the aid of friends like Dr Shivappa where one thousand poor and needy were given meals everyday. Savitribai, with the help of her friends, would cook all this food herself. At the same time, 'epoch-making thinkers' of Maharashtra like Vishnushastri Chiplunkar were engrossed in writing essays on the deteriorating condition of the grammar of Marathi language.

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Dnyanajyoti Savitribai Phule - I

 

Prof. Hari Narke

(This is the first part of his essay 'Dnyanajyoti Savitribai Phule', published in the NCERT booklet on the 'Savitribai Phule First Memorial Lecture' in 2008)

savitribai1

 

"More than Jotirao, his wife deserves praise. No matter how much we praise her, it would not be enough. How can one describe her stature? She cooperated with her husband completely and along with him, faced all the trials and tribulations that came their way. It is difficult to find such a sacrificing woman even among the highly educated women from upper castes. The couple spent their entire lifetime working for people."

– Narayan Mahadev alias Mama Paramanand (31st July 1890)

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Memorial Addressed To The Education Commission

[Jotiba Phule's deposition before the Education Commission in 1881 (also known as the Hunter Commission) is reproduced here from the book, Selected Writings of Jotirao Phule; this extract is recorded between pages 140-145 in Education Commission, Bombay, Vol II, Calcutta, 1884 - Round Table India]

~~~

My experience in educational matters is principally confined to Poona and the surrounding villages. About 25 years ago, the missionaries had established a female school at Poona, but no indigenous school for girls existed at the time. I, therefore, was induced, about the year 1854[1], to establish such a school, and in which I and my wife worked together for many years. After some time I placed this school under the management of a committee of educated natives. Under their auspices two more schools were opened in different parts of the town. A year after the institution of the female schools, I also established an indigenous mixed school for the lower classes, especially the Mahars and Mangs. Two more schools for these classes were subsequently added, Sir Erskine Perry, the president of the late Educational Board, and Mr. Lumsdain, the then Secretary to Government, visited the female schools and were much pleased with the movement set on foot, and presented me with a pair of shawls. I continued to work in them for nearly 9 to 10 years, but owing to circumstances, which it is needless here to detail, I seceded from the work. These female schools still exist, having been made over by the committee to the Educational Department under the management of Mrs. Mitchell. A school for the lower classes, Mahars and Mangs, also exists at the present day, but not in a satisfactory condition. I have also been a teacher for some years in a mission female boarding school. My principal experience was gained in connection with these schools. I devoted some attention also to the primary education available in this Presidency and have had some opportunities of forming an opinion as to the system and personnel employed in the lower schools of the Educational Department. I wrote some years ago a Marathi pamphlet exposing the religious practices of the Brahmins and incidentally among other matters, adverted therein to the present: system of education, which by providing ampler funds for higher education tended to educate Brahmins and the higher classes only, and to leave the masses wallowing in ignorance and poverty. I summarised the views expressed in the book in an English preface attached thereto, portions of which I reproduce here so far as they relate to the present enquiry:

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Jotiba Phule: The Universal Religion of Truth

 

Gail Omvedt

(An excerpt from her book 'Buddhism in India: Challenging Brahmanism and Caste')

JotiraoPhule_copy

Jotirao Phule (1827–1890) is considered a founder not only of the anti-caste movement in India as a whole, but also of the farmers' movement and even the women's movement in Maharashtra. He was born in a Mali (gardener caste) community of Maharashtra, and educated first in his village, then at Pune, at that time the centre of cultural and political stirrings. While he was for a time inclined to nationalism, he quickly became disillusioned with its Brahman leadership, and instead embarked on a career as social reformer intending to awaken the 'Shudras and Ati-Shudras' to the reality of their slavery and their destiny. His initial efforts involved starting schools for untouchables and girls in 1849 and 1851. Then in 1875 he founded the Satyashodhak Samaj or 'Truth-Seekers' society, which was his answer to the various organised groups, such as the Prarthana Samaj and the Brahmo Samaj of the elite. Its purpose was to fight priestly domination, especially by organising social-religious ceremonies without them; it also encouraged the education of both boys and girls and promoted gender equality with a quite radical version of the marriage ceremony. This movement gained some influence in Bombay and in Pune district, and he collected around him a group of young radicals, led mostly by Malis in the city and Maratha-Kunbis from the rural areas, but including a wide range of Shudra castes, while maintaining links with emerging Dalit leaders.

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