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Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Part 4)

Translated by Gail Omvedt and Bharat Patankar

Chapter 2

Since the white government bureaucrats are mostly in a stupor due to their life of luxury, they have no way of getting any information about the true condition of the farmers, and their overall carelessness allows Brahman employees to dominate all the government departments. Between the two, the farmers are so much looted that they have no bread to fill their stomachs or clothes to cover their bodies.

Previously, since the foreign Badshahs and so many indigenous Rajas-Maharajas throughout Hindusthan all had in their service sardars, nobles, generals, soldiers, bombardiers, elephant drivers, and camel drivers from among the Shudra farmers and grooms from among the Ati-Shudra farmers, the millions of farm families felt no great obstacle in paying land revenue. In most farming families at least some persons had a big or small service with the government. However these days, the former Badshahs, Maharajas and all have all been dislodged and around 25 lakhs Shudra and Ati-Shudra farmers have become unemployed, and the burden of all this has fallen on those who do agriculture.

It is true that the strategy of our heroic English government has brought peace everywhere, ending the slaughter of human beings in the turmoil of constant warfare throughout India. However, the end of campaigning and hunting in the country has destroyed the heroism and courage of nearly everyone, and because today the Rajas and sardars dress themselves like pusillanimous "Bhagyu bhaiyas" and remain stupefied in religious pujas during the day and immerse themselves at night in the mania of useless production of children, the population has increased immensely. As a result the sharers in all peasant families have increased so much that each has to eke out a bare subsistence by sowing eight or ten plough-widths of land. And since they have no capacity to keep bullocks for those eight to ten plough-widths, they give their land on sharecropping or lease to their neighbors and take their families with them to go somewhere outside the village to find work to fill their stomachs.

Previously those farmers who had very little land or who could not maintain themselves on their land used to go to the hills to eat fruit from figs or jambhuis or other trees, and they could scrape together a bit of money by selling fruit and leaves from the trees and wood cut form the forest, or by grazing one or two cows or three or four goats on the village pasture. Through this they could get enough subsistence to live happily in their own villages. However, the European administrators of our "mai-bap" government, in their comprehensive British wisdom, set up for the first time a gigantic Forest Department. Since they have included all the mountains, hills, peaks, glens, dales and all the uncultivated lands and pastures as "forest," this Forest Department has risen to such a pinnacle of power that the poor helpless paralyzed farmers have an inch of ground left on earth for their goats to even inhale the wind of the fields.

They may try to find petty work in the workshops of the weavers, saddlemakers, blacksmiths, carpenters and other artisans to fill their stomachs. But because the working class in England today has begun to manufacture such attractive liquor of different flavors and taste, bread, biscuits, sweets, butter, halwa, pickles, needles of all sizes, knives, axes, sewing machines, bellows, stoves, brightly colored glass goods, thread, rope, cloth, shawls, gloves, socks, pants, hats, sticks, umbrellas, brass, copper, iron plates, keys, locks, coal and charcoal, various kinds of vehicles, harnesses, saddles, bridles and even shoes, and have been selling them cheaply here, all the production here has fallen into recession. So the cotton weavers, silk weavers, Juliyas and Momims have become so destitute that some of the weavers, beginning to starve in days of extreme unemployment, try to live by eating bran of dal or rice or wheat, or mango pits secretly to protect their prestige. Many silk weavers have become so upset at seeing the condition of their wives and children starving inside the houses that they become senseless by evening and drink two or three pennies worth of shindi liquor on credit, go in the house and fall down unconscious. So many silk weavers sell the clothes they have sewn out of silk from the Gujars and Marwadis at whatever price they can get, feeding their children and giving the bunch into the hands of the Gujars and Marwadis and flee from the village. How will the unemployed farmers get any help from such artisans who are running to fill their own stomachs?

Also, in order that the domination won by their forefathers over the Shudras and Ati-Shudras by great exertion and fraud in ancient times should be indefinitely maintained, so that they would only serve them like horses, bullocks or other animals giving them happiness, or like lifeless land providing them with necessary and luxury foods, the Brahmans inserted into the Hindu religion that warning that no Hindu should go an inch beyond the Atak river, and if they went they would become polluted. While the evil intention of the Brahmans was achieved by this, the rest of the people were greatly harmed. Since they could not get an idea of the customs of foreign people, they began to consider themselves as animals and not truly humans. With trade and commerce with people of other countries destroyed, they became destitute. It is absolutely without a doubt that because they realize the flaws in the above religion, the reformist Brahmans are now outwardly raising a clamour that "our country must be reformed, our country must be reformed." Due to these artificial religious strictures, the weavers, carpenters and all artisans have been greatly damaged. Only a true well-wisher of the country can guess the terrible situation they will face in the future.

If anyone should ask why the poor farmers cannot gain their subsistence by working as labourers for those farmers with plentiful land, the fact is that since the population has increased everywhere, there are no farmers left with enough land to let fields go fallow in rotation. As a result the land has become infertile and has no capacity remaining to give abundant crops as before. When they become exhausted simply trying to provide subsistence for their families, how can they provide wage labour to feed their poor peasant brothers? Thus most farmers, facing obstacles on all sides, have no capacity left to send their naked ragged children to school, and in spite of the fact that all our farsighted government employees know this very well, they collect lakhs of rupees as local fund in the name of giving education to the ignorant farmers, and give only a third of this amount to the education department to open a few stray schools here and there. To some degree, farmers send their children to these schools. However, since the teachers who are giving them education are not themselves farmers, how can they have the sympathy required for their work? It is no wonder that the children of the farmers remain as dull as before, that they do not get up-to-date education from the very same people who display the greatness of their selfish religion by regarding the farmers as inferior, and are continuously bathing and keeping themselves pure. Up to today, have the local funds collected form the farmers helped anyone from among them to get employment as government workers? If this has happened anywhere, let the clever Directorsaheb of our Education Department prepare a report giving their names, what kind of work they do, and publish it in the Government Gazette, and the farmers with great enthusiasm will bless their mai-bap government because the Government Gazette will have opened its eyes! Whatever teachers there are in the villages are all of Brahman caste. Their pay is not above eight to twelve rupees, and their merit is unlike that of the four to six rupee employees of Pune city. Such stomach-filling ignorant Brahman teachers, conscious of their crafty religion and their artificial caste purity, openly advise the children of the farmers in their schools, "If you don't get employed as clerks through your education, do you expect to take almanacs in hand and go begging alms from house to house as we do?"

While surveying the land of such ignorant farmers every thirty years, the European employees who pray to our virtuous government with blind eyes don't say "Amen" without increasing the burden of tax on the farmers. And, as this work goes on, since the hunt-addicted European employees are besotted with luxury and high living, don't the cunning Bhat-Brahmans who work under them harass the ignorant farmers more than a little? And do the European employees ever keep a close watch on them?

Whenever there is a quarrel among the ignorant and doltish farmers about bunds and demarcating boundaries on their fields or the turns of clansmen to take water from collective wells, and some fighting breaks out, the mischief-mongering Bhat Kulkarni goes to the lanes of farmers on both sides and gives them all kinds of advice. The next day he takes the side of one group and prepares a petition on their names and sends it to the Mamletdar. Then the petitioners and witnesses take the peon who brings the summons to the Kulkarni's mansion to get the summons approved, and after approving the summons, the Kulkarni stands his servants outside the door and takes both parties separately to the side and tells them, "You come to meet me at this time, you come at that time, so that we can get the best decision out of this." Then when the petitioners and their parties come to the house at the decided time they are told, "You may do whatever you want, but if you make your minds great enough to give such and such an amount, then I will tell the Mamledarsaheb's clerk to give some kind of punishment to your opponents. Because he is in the hands of the clerk. If whatever you want doesn't happen, I will take your amount back from him and give it to you; you may give me whatever the god Bhiroba suggests to your mind. Or if you don't give anything, there's no worry. I have no complaint about that at all. If you succeed, it means we have all won. Then from the opposing party he takes twice the amount and makes a contract with them that, "You give a complaint just as I suggest and give two or three false witnesses, so that I can tell the clerk and let no adverse blow be given to your case; you know what weight he has with the Mamledarsaheb. And if you work doesn't get done according to the deal I have made with you now, I will take the amount back from him and return it to you. However, I tell you now that I won't give a bit of the money due for my labour back to you; otherwise my hearth will not go out if I don't do such exertions."

Then, when the Brahman employees in the Mamledar's office take the statements of the illiterate petitioners and accused, they throw in some suggestive questions and make a favorable statement on behalf of the contenders who have greased their palms. But if some contenders leave their hands empty, then they mix up all the points at the time of taking the statement, and prepare it in such a way that those who read it or listen to it will never get a realistic picture in their minds and will be prejudiced against them. Some Brahman clerks completely throw out the points of the ignorant farmers at the time of writing the statement. Some take the statement of the farmers to their homes at night and make a second statement, and put it in the government records. With all of this, even an impartial administrator is likely to do an injustice. Later, when the embezzling lawyer-shark makes an appeal to the European collector, the Collector's clerk prepares the statement according to the degree to which his palms are greased, and when the falsified statement without its effective points is read to the Collector by the clerk, he utters the pure golden sentences, "your complaint is ridiculous." Then, if the clerk can't get the decision according to his wishes, he writes a statement according to his fancy in scrawled Marathi, and since the Saheb-Bahadur is in a hurry to go with his Madame Saheb for some fresh air in the evening, or is in the tumult of preparing to go hunting, or the bossy Saheb who understands Marathi is in a stupor of sleepiness and sluggishness because of keeping awake the previous day with some party, he gives his signature on the affair exactly as the report is written.

Since the crafty clerk is helpless before some surly Collectors, he does not prepare the silly ignorant farmer's case at the main office, but humiliates him by making him wander with his aching bones, eating leftover food and trampling from village to village behind the Collector's procession. And some, not merely content with stalling the petitions of the ignorant farmers for one or two days, get some extra scratch from the opponent and throw their petition out. In the end, by the time the side, which puts up the most money has won the victory, nearly the whole village has been drawn into the quarrel and has fallen into factions. After that a huge fracas takes place between the two factions over who will be on the right side of the bull on the day of the Polya festival, or over who will give half the sweet chapati into the fire at Holi; and when out of this fight many get split heads and become wounded, the Bhat Kulkarni (very few examples can be found in all the civil and criminal cases in which he is not the Narad who incites the quarrel) gives a superficial pat on the back to both parties and secretly, with the complicity of the spineless police patil, brings it to the attention of the main gang of police in the taluka. Then, with an Indian cloth tied around his loins but wearing English black and yellow pantaloons and boots and an embellished vest and turban, the peon comes from there to the village, with a brightly colored stick in his hand and one or two doltish intoxicated constables with blunted swords hurrying after him under their arms; and with the help of the Mahar and the police patil, he arrests all the people of both sides, bringing them as prisoners to the village square. Except for the guards, all the other officers and peons, with the help of the ignorant patil, take liquor and food in whatever amount they want from the Marwari's shop, and swill it while returning to the village square. There they eat in a state of intoxication and, after cooling down, bring all the imprisoned men with a little pomp and show to the main police station and present them to the criminal magistrate; and according to his order keep them in the regular jail until the time of their full examination.

After this, we can see how the family members of the imprisoned farmers have to bring whatever money they can get by selling the miscellaneous trinkets off the bodies of their wives and children, in order to prod the understanding of the employees in the criminal court. If people on one side have been heavily wounded, the cunning employees take some amount from the other side with the help of the Kulkarni, and delay sending the case to the Magistratesaheb until all the wounds have been healed. Sometimes if the crafty employees are bribed, they contact their moneylenders to prevent the witnesses from the other side from appearing to give their testimony. Sometimes, before the witnesses have their presentation ready, they give all kinds of awful threats through the Kulkarni and force them to flee the village. And if some foolish ignorant farmer should disregard the suggestions of the Brahman employees through the Kulkarni, and come to the government office to give his own testimony, since on the one hand he is illiterate his memory is not good, and on the other since he has no habit of replying to questions coming one after another out of context, the crafty employees frighten him so much when he gives the testimony that he simply wants to hide under the earth. Sometimes while taking the statements of the ignorant farmers, they make them so fearful with their mocking and taunting that they lose all capacity to give even a simple narration of the things they have seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. Besides this, so many arrogant, bold employees, after getting a plentiful amount in their hands, prepare false proofs according to the legal requirements with the help of the Kulkarni, and are able to give whatever fine or punishment they wish to the ignorant farmer.

Then, since none have sufficient money to pay the fines, most farmers take loans from their relatives or fiends, and after paying the fine and returning home, they find when they have to pay back the borrowed money and need more to release the other jailed people, that asking the moneylender for a loan is useless, because due to the government's partisan law regarding peasant indebtedness, no self-respecting moneylender is ready to even open his door to them. The reason is that after giving their money as a loan to the farmers, when they try to get the final judgement they are humiliated by the Shudra bailiff in front of the ignorant farmers they have brought to court.

Many young gentlemen who are able to memorize and parrot various kinds of lawbooks and give answers in examinations are given enormously powerful positions as judges by our credulous government. However, these people who have broken all important links to their social roots, considering themselves the legitimate heirs of the Bhoodevs, shameless treat even the elderly and weak people of other castes as inferior. First, after telling all the witnesses to be present at 10 AM according to the government rules, they come themselves around noon to the court, and after lounging around for half an hour or so in some room, they come out, ruBhat-Brahmansing their eyes, and sit in a square thronelike chair. They put some pan from their pockets into their mouths, and chewing like a monkey with one leg crossed over the other, take out a tin from their pockets, and while stuffing a bit of snuff in their nose, throw a sidewise glance with half-closed eyes at the group sitting below. At this moment the pink-turbaned, black-coated pleader in pantaloon and boots comes, gives a twist to his mustache, and utters the call "Your Honour!" like a mace-bearer. This Bhoodev Judgesaheb, ruBhat-Brahmansing his hand on his stomach, asks his lawyer caste-brother, "What is your position?" with this the Vakilsaheb puts his hand in his pocket and says, "Today we have to attend a murder case in the session court. With your graciousness, we ask today for an adjournment." After the Magistrate nods his head to this, the Vakilsaheb takes to the road in a fancy horse and carriage, and the Magistrate begins his other work.

I will give only a few examples of that. Many Bhoodev judges, in the arrogance of their high-caste pride or hangover of yesterday's drinks, speak only in familiar degrading terms with people of other castes when giving judgements. If any swaggering gentleman does not salute these kingly Bhoodevs after coming to the court, he is tormented without meaning at the time of his testimony. If some great gentleman who is a member of a Samaj opposed to Brahmanic religion should come a little late to the court, in revenge (why should the reformist group bellow against the government about his?) he is mocked in full session of the court when he gives his statements, without a bit of thought to his wealth or to his age. It is universally known how these Bhoodevs humiliate the Buddhist Marwaris. Sometimes when the sly Bhoodev cannot get the significance of the claimants and counter-claimants into his head, this so-called cultured pure man gnashes his teeth like a dog taking a bite of their hearts, with harsh words: -- "You have no sense, you should get twenty lashes. You are three hundred times more dissolute than a monkey's brother." If anyone murmurs at this, his case is thrown out of court. Not only that, but if this murderous Magistrate's temper is a bit off, doesn't he take all the statements to his house and take some points from those to get another fresh statement prepared and on the basis of this give whatever judgement he wants? Because these days the practice of getting the signature or thumbprint of the person giving a statement has been abandoned.

In conclusion, since most Bhoodev Magistrates have begun to give judgements according to their whims, just like Ghashiram Kotwal, many traditional aristocratic wealthy savakars have given up their profession. Still, most Brahman and Marwari savakars, without heeding the insulting conditions, carry on business with illiterate farmers. It is done in this way: -- without giving even a broken coin to the farmers who have fallen into difficulty, they take a document of loan bonds from them, and on they bring a statement to the arbitration tribunal embellished by decrepit retired pensioners; then after cutting the interest, give the remainder to them. These days, many Brahman and Marwari moneylenders tell the barren illiterate farmers that "Due to the government laws, we cannot give you anything on mortgage. However, if you sell your land to us, then we can give you loan, and once you have repaid the debt we will sell the land back to you, and you can take it in your possession." But the vow given is only in words. In fact, the lands of the uneducated, naïve family-loving farmers are very rarely gotten back from these pure and nonviolent moneylenders. Besides this, while giving loans these extremely religious moneylenders do all kinds of harm to the illiterate farmers. They give proof of falsified expenses of all kind along with the accounts, so that when the case is brought to the court of the munsif Brahman, the uneducated farmers have to sell their jewelry in the hope of getting justice. Since there are no educated men and judicious gentlemanly lawyers of their own caste to give them counsel, the final decision goes against them, and then these mindless people, incited by four pot-bellied shark lawyers, appeal their case to the higher court in the hope that they will get justice. However, since most of the European employees in the high court are besotted by idleness and luxury, the Brahman employees of all these courts can cheat the uneducated farmers so much that if we take even a small note of it here, it will be as follows: First the crafty lawyers take on stamped paper from the ignorant farmers a statement of power of attorney, and then take from them the earnest money and a certain amount of expenses in advance for the cost of the suit. Then many cunning lawyers go to the house of the domesticated concubine of the head clerk, and make the concubine sing in front of the head clerk and force the farmer to give her some amount in front of the head clerk saheb.

~~~~

Read Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Part 3) here. And (Part 5) here.

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