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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')

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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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The Revolt Of The Untouchables

 

(On 20th March, 1927, Babasaheb Ambedkar launched a Satyagraha at Mahad for the right to draw water from the Chawdar Tank. This excerpt from his 'Essays on Untouchables and Untouchability' describes the agitation)

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The movement of the Untouchables against the injustice of the Hindu Social Order has a long history behind it, especially in Maharashtra. This history falls into two stages. The first stage was marked by petitions and protests. The second stage is marked by open revolt in the form of direct action against the Hindu Established Order. This change of attitude was due to two circumstances. In the first place it was due to the realisation that the petitions and protests had failed to move the Hindus. In the second place Governments had declared that all public utilities and public institutions are open to all citizens including the Untouchables. The right to wear any kind of clothes or ornaments are some of the rights which the British Indian Law gives to the Untouchables along with the rest. To these were added the rights to the use of public utilities and institutions, such as wells, schools, buses, trams. Railways, Public offices, etc., were now put beyond the pale of doubt. But owing to the opposition of the Hindus the Untouchables cannot make any use of them. It is to meet the situation, the Untouchables decided to change the methods and to direct action to redress their wrongs. This change took place about 1920.

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A paradigm shift called Kanshi Ram

 

Kancha Ilaiah

[This article was first published in two parts, 'A paradigm shift called Kanshi Ram' and 'Dalits and the horizontal ladder', in 2003; we have combined the two parts into one single piece of writing. We, along with our readers, celebrate the memory of Manyawar Kanshi Ram on his birth anniversary- Round Table India]

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Kanshi Ram suffered a brain stroke on September 15 when he was travelling from Rajahmundry to Hyderabad. Since then he has remained immobile. For a few days he lost his speech but gradually regained his speech. Now both for the reasons of stroke and also for reasons of advanced age he may remain inactive in politics in his future life. In anticipation of that situation Mayavati took over as the president of the Bahuajan Samaj Party (BSP). That is an indication that he may not play an active role in Indian political sphere in the future.

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The Chamcha Age (An Era of the Stooges)- 2

by Kanshi Ram

Continued from here.

Part—I

Prelude to Poona Pact

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The Initial Efforts

kanshi_ram_061009From the very beginning of the 20th century, India witnessed great changes. In this changing India, the oppressed Indians were not to lag behind. The High Caste Hindus were fighting for Swarajya. The Oppressed Indians were struggling for self-respect. The slaves were shouting for freedom and self-rule, whereas the slaves of the slaves were creating counter-noise for relief from the age old bondage, serfdom and humiliations unknown to the rest of the world. The High Caste Hindus were building their organisation and developing techniques to coax the rulers, the British, for an early transfer of power into their hands. The depressed classes were getting frightened by the very thought of such a thing happening without relief for them and adequate safeguards for their honourable living in the future where their age old oppressors were to be the rulers of India.

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The Chamcha Age (An Era of the Stooges) - Preface

 

by Kanshi Ram

 

(Released on 24th September, 1982, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Poona Pact)

 

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Dedicated to Mahatma Jotirao Phule

 

Whose initiation of cultural revolt in colonial India, later taken up by Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Periyar E.V. Ramaswamy and many other rebellious spirits brought us to this level, where we are thinking, planning and struggling to put an end to the Chamcha Age and usher in a Bright Age for the Shudras and Ati-Shudras.

 

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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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