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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]

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jyotiba-phule

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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Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Part 11)

APPENDIX

A So-Called True Maratha

Just while I was taking up some other work after finishing the second part of Asud, a gentleman with a wide Brahman turban, seating himself upon a bolster in front of me, started intensely inspecting everything around him. I was wondering whether to call this gentleman a Marwari, but he didn't have three tufts hanging out of his turban. I would have thought him to be a Shimpi, but there were no needles stuck here and there in the turban. I would have thought him a Sonar, but his chest was not stuck out. And I would have called him a Brahman, but I hadn't heard him speak even two or three words. From this I couldn't tell how to classify him, so I was sitting there guessing, and at that moment he turned his face in my direction and himself asked me the question, "Do you know me?" I said, "No, Maharaj, I don't recognize you. Excuse me." The gentleman said, "I am a Marathi of Marathi lineage." "I – "You may be Marathi, but what is your caste?" Gentleman – "My caste is Maratha." I – "In Maharashtra all, from Mahars up to Brahmans, call themselves Maratha. Whatever caste you may be does not become clear." The gentleman – "Then you can say that I am a Kunbi." I – "OK, what is your occupation?"

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Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Part 10)

Translated by Gail Omvedt and Bharat Patankar

Chapter 5

Our suggestions to the Arya Bhat-Brahmans regarding the Shudra farmers and the remedies which the current government should follow: --

Before beginning this final chapter, I would like to make some suggestions to the greatly cunning Arya Bhat-Brahmans of the country, with the aim that they should not obstruct these matters. I would ask God that not only our learned foreign government, but our domestic ignorant "Dasyu" Shudra brothers, should open their eyes and become conscious of the situation. These days these stalwarts of purity have been hiding their sword of religion, with all the ritual weapons that cut the throats of all the creatures of God, under the guise of being great lovers of swadeshi, and without even a glance towards the Mahars and Mangs, have been telling the frolicsome promising offspring of Shudras, Parsis and Muslims through their books, newspapers, Sabhas and similar methods that they should put aside all grumbling about the hierarchies and distinctions among those in the country and become united; and without becoming one, this unfortunate country will never make progress. Such is the instruction they give us. I am making a small effort here so that the illiterate farmers will not listen to this and carry out any adverse actions. On that lies their fate.

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Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Part 9)

Translated by Gail Omvedt and Bharat Patankar

Well. These days the farmers have to subsist on a bit of leftover bhakri with some red chutney for breakfast; at noon fresh bhakris with some cooked balls of lentils or weak sauce of spiced lentils; at night some jawar or corn granules soaked in clear dal juice; in between, occasionally carrots or rutabagas if they are ripe, and he also doesn't even get bhakri on time. Because of this, if he gets hungry between meals he puts up the plough and grabs some green mangoes, figs, plums, overripe tamarind or whatever edible thing he can find near the fields and gulps a little water to splash it down, and then again takes plough in hand; and whenever he gets sufficient bhakri he eats it in such a hurry without drinking water, and due to that for the whole day he has so many burps and belches that he gets indigestion and many kinds of diseases. And he cannot even get dill seed or ginger and supari as a cheap remedy! Because of this, he finally gets a fever or ague and has to go to the realm of Yama. On festival days, for many houses "superior" food means puran poli made with jaggery, a bit of vermicelli fried in oil, papds etc. and finally rice with watery spiced lentils. In most houses lentils and roti and for sweetening the mouth, dried spicy balls. The remaining destitute farmers who can't get credit with the Gujars and Marwaris have to make out with nacni or jawari bhakris.

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I, E.V. Ramasamy

 

[On the occasion of Periyar's death anniversary (24th December), we remember him through some select quotes from his speeches and writings-- Round Table India]

Periyar

'I, E.V. Ramasamy, have taken upon myself the task of reforming Dravidian Society so that it shall be comparable to other societies of the world, in esteem and enlightenment, and I am solely devoted to that service.

I express, plainly and openly, thoughts which occur to me, and which strike me as right. This may embarrass a few; to some this may be distasteful; and a few others may even be irritated; however, all that I utter are proven truths and not lies.

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Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Part 8)

Translated by Gail Omvedt and Bharat Patankar

Chapter 4

We begin this chapter not by discussing at first the ruined and pitiable state of the toiling ignorant farmers who labour night and day on the land, but rather will give on the occasion an idea of the true condition of those arrogant parading, indebted ignorant Kunbis who, because of having some mother's grandfather's aunt or father's great-grandfather's daughter given in marriage to an excellent expensive son of the Shindes or Gaikwads, beat the drums of being "Maratha" among the farmers of Mali, Kunbi, Dhangar etc. castes. 

One landowner was returning to his village in great anger from the tent of the Collector Saheb's office, pumping his arms and legs furiously, clashing his teach and chewing tobacco as he strode among the thickly grown airy mango groves along the airy banks of the river. Aged around 40, his spirit showed few signs of breaking down. Though he had a white, well-wrapped turban on his head, a torn cloth was tied over it. He was dressed in breeches and an undershirt of khadi and old fancy Satari blunt-nosed shoes on his feet. A coarse cotton cloth was flung on his shoulder and a red cotton bag hung over that; nearly all these clothes were sprinkled with drops of reddish yellow Holi colors. While the heels of his boots were thick and strong, he was limping a bit because they had cracked open in some places from the heat. The bones of his hand were thick and his chest broad. His big mustache and beard covered his two decayed teeth. His forehead and eyes were expansive and his irises were a reddish brown color. He had a light skin and a fine overall countenance, though his face was a bit round. After reaching his house around two o'clock and finishing his meal, he went into the middle room with the intention of taking a little rest, and took a rug from the swing, threw it to cover the ground covering his face with linen, lay down to sleep with a coarse woolen shawl. But troubled since he had awoken in the morning, had met the Collectorsaheb, and "since he was stupefied in the throes of his tea and dining, he did not hear my true story and fix a time limit for my installment," he could not sleep. So lying supine with his two hands on his chest, he began to almost rave to himself in his mind: --

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