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Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Part 11)
Dalitbahujan Renaissance

Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Part 11)

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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?”

Gentleman – “Before Appasaheb Maharaj of Satara got addicted to Bhagubai Tarkshani near Nimba, our household could easily earn one or two lakhs of rupees from him; we say easily saying ‘Hari, Hari’ and ate on that. Your Dayaram Atmaram was here and we were there.” I – “OK, but then what brought your footsteps to this door?” Gentleman – “I don’t have anything to ask of you, but I have heard that you have come to understand that because Brahman employees are everywhere in government departments they exploit the farmers greatly, and if farmers become employed they will not do such mischief.” I – “Yes. In my opinion, if farmers got employment according to their proportion of the population in all government departments, they would not exploit their caste-brothers as the other employees do.” Gentleman: — “How is that? Please give me some assurance of this.” I – Imagine that if tomorrow the Collectorsaheb should appoint you as a police sub-inspectore, and if there were some quarrel between your clan and the neighboring farmers of your caste, when this came before you would you address them as inferiors while giving justice?” G: — “No.” I – “Why not?” G: — “They would be my clan or caste-fellows, and since I have become great from among them, how could my tongue manage to address them as inferiors?” I – “Would you take bribes from some among your caste-fellows to decide the others to be criminals and give them a fine or imprisonment?” G: — “No, that is something I would never do.” I – “Why not?” G – “Because a position as police officer is there today but gone tomorrow, then who will take account of it? If some meddlesome fellow bends the ear of the Collector, the position as police sub-inspector can vanish. But, how could I bend before those who I intermarry and interdine with and make my sons and daughters into vaghyas and devadasis? All the life of my children is connected with their children. Their (udders) are connected to mine. Their children and my children play in the same place. We take drinking water from the same place. We share the borders of our fields. We feed our cattle in the same grazing ground. We exchange our scythes, nooses, ricepounders, plough-shares, ropes and ploughs. We give and take at our convenience each other’s buffaloes, bullocks and ploughs. Even at late night the women of our households give each other oil, salt, grains. At the time of childbirth of the women, we dig bath places and fetch wooden cots for their mother. Our customs and traditions are identical. We eat the same food and wear the same clothes. Our gods and family clan symbols are the same. Our lineage deities are the same. We help in putting out fires in each other’s houses. Since our death rituals are the same, we help with each other’s funerals, we go to each other’s houses with the bhakri and dry masala from our houses to quiet their children and eat a bitter bite with them; how should I take bribes to evoke mortal hatred from such caste-fellows?” I – “If you think carefully about that, you will see that since the Brahman employees are not of the caste of the ignorant farmers, they do all kinds of mischief and definitely cheat the illiterate farmers more than their own caste-fellows; doesn’t your own thought tell you this?” G – “Now, I don’t want to say anything about that, howevr, among today’s farmers some educated people have sprung up. These don’t even gather together and talk about the alleviation of the woes of the farmers even for publicity’s sake. Oh, these cowards run after women and only point their fingers at Brahman employees. However, in practice they become the officious servants of the Brahman employees and only wander around meddling in everything.” I – ‘Oh, when the employees of the Education Department in a concerted manner try to throw dust in the eyes of the Education Commission while giving testimony without much concern for the farmers’ education, and deceive our compassionate Governor Generalsaheb, what level of capacity will those feeble-minded educated Shudras have? Leave aside exposing the mistakes of the Brahman employees. However, if they don’t give a salute to even an ordinary insignificant Brahman clerk, they will only get some place in a crowded corner in the year darbar and finally they will get garlanded with state flowers, decomposed oil smeared instead of scented water and one or two pans without lime.. Is what I say true or now? Why don’t you answer me now? Oh well, as you please. It will be better if you make a detailed enquiry and then come to see me to debate about all Brahman employees.” G – “Now I have gotten definitely convinced that since Bhat-Brahmans are employed in all government departments, not only the ignorant farmers but also the wise government is excessively harmed. How is it that the ‘Directorsahebs’ of these government deaprtments don’t understand this?” I – “Oh, Baba, if those ‘Directorsahebs’ should make such a detailed round of enquiries, how would they manage their life of indolence and luxury?” G – “Oh, if under the reformed English government there is so much darkness, how much tyranny the farmers must have suffered under the Peshwas; it cannot even be imagined. OK, I’m going, please keep on having affection for me.” Completing so much discussion, the above-mentioned gentleman left.

2 November 1882


A Shudra Sadhu of the Kabir Panth

On the second day after finishing the third chapter of Asud, a loquacious Kabir cult Shudra sadhu, who was doing a pilgrimage to Pandharpur, came in saffron clothes with a necklace of tulshis around his throat, came and sat on a bench on my veranda in the late morning. Once the people of my house informed me, I came outside and asked, “What, Buwasaheb, why have you come here and what is your pleasure? If you just let me know, I’ll have great satisfaction.” Buwa – “Are you Jotirao Phule?” I –”Yes, they call this body Jotirao Phule.” Buwa – “Good, then, even though you are a Hindu, you have started to condemn the Hindu religion today after a little English study; therefore I want to convince you myself how the four main Vedas of the Hindu religion are given by God. It is for this purpose that I have come.” I – “Have you seen the four Vedas of the Hindu religion with your own eyes?” Buwa – “Yes, I have seen those four Vedas myself in one Brahman’s house.” I – “Can you give any convincing proof that these books were written by God himself?” Buwa – “There is no convincing proof aside from the chit-chatting of the Brahmans.” I – “Well, first of all, does God have a form?” Buwa – “Where will God get form? He is the formless supreme soul.” 

I – “Then how did the formless supreme soul make the four Vedas?” Buwa – “The Brahmans will give you an answer to that. It will be better if you ask them.” I – “Secondly, did God make the four Vedas for the uplift of human beings or for what?” Buwa – “Yes, God made the four Vedas for the uplift of all human beings.” I – “Thirdly, in what language did God make the four Vedas?” Buwa – “God made the four Vedas in the Sanskrit language.” I – “Fourthly, do all people on all the four continents along with all the islands understand Sanskrit?” Buwa – “These days people of only a very few areas on this earth understand the meaning of Sanskrit.” I – “From this it is shown that God cannot have made the four Vedas for the betterment of all human beings. Because there are people speaking hundreds of different languages on the earth. In most countries people don’t understand a bit of Sanskrit. How would you say they should be improved by the four Vedas.” Buwa – “When God made the four Vedas, all the people on the four continents must have been speaking Sanskrit and therefore he must have made the Vedas in Sanskrit. However, after some years, such various languages must have come into existence, so we must infer. I – “Didn’t God know before he made the four Vedas that such various languages would later come into existence? On these grounds, isn’t his knowledge of past, present and future and his omniscience called into question? Besides it is very surprising that among the German, Scotch and English, learned men like Max Muller who became very studied in the four Vedas did not forsake their Christian religion and accept the Vedic religion.” Buwa – “Perhaps because Max Mullersaheb was fearful of putting a white thread around his neck like the Brahmans and sitting in the cold countries of Europe to bathe morning, noon and evening he did this, that’s what I feel. He only could know the true hitch of his mind. What can I say about that?” I – “If God had made the four Vedas for the uplift of all human beings, then God would never have prevented the Hindu Shudra and Ati-Shudras from study of the Vedas. From that since they had broken the commandments of God, how did the maker of the Vedas sit secretly on the side; and were not the Shudras and Ati-Shudras harmed to a large extent from that? Therefore why should they xxx the four vedas along with the god who is supposed to have created them and call themselves Hindus?” Buwa – “The Bhat-Brahmans never forbade the Shudras and Ati-Shudras to read the Vedas. So many Bhat-Brahmans go from house to house of the Padresahebs to teach them the Vedas. And these Shudra and Ati- Shudra people of yours are so poor that they don’t have the capacity to study the Vedas. What can the Brahmans do about that? This is what so many Brahmans say.” I – “From that it seems that we don’t know the Brahmans’ secret schemes. Well, that may be, are the Padres who manage their subsistence in the name of religion rich enough to have money to study the Vedas? And are the Rajas and Maharajas among the Shudras such as the Bhosles, Shindes, Holkars, Gaikwads and others so poor that they don’t have enough money to give to the Brahmans to teach them the Vedas? Are they all more destitute than these European padresahebs, is that what you think? Buwasaheb! With perpetual advice of all the Vaidiks, Shastris, Joshis and story-tellers in their courts, the Shudra Rajas and Maharajas have such a load of devotion that some have given jagirs to the family of Ramdas, some give sweetmeal dinners to all the Bhat-Brahmans of Hindusthan ciontinuously for a month, some distribute gold statues to the Brahmans of Pune. You cannot prove from this that not all Shudras are poor! At least one Bhat-Brahman should convince at least one patron from among all these Rajas and nobles to open schools in the villages to educate one or two persons from among his Shudra peasant brothers! Oh, compared to them are the mendicant padres, though foreign and of alien religion, a thousand times better? Because to free the Shudra and Ati-Shudras from the snares of the Brahmans in which they have been caught for thousands of years, they have collected money from the Christians of their own country and educated a few of the caste-brothers of the Shindes, Holkars, Gaikwads and other Rajas and nobles to a level comparable to the Brahman students of government schools, and because of this they can work with great arrogance as lawyers or government officials along with the Brahmans. From this, can’t it be seen what our situation was originally and what it is becoming? However, the Shudras must be thought so unlucky and so misunderstood, that even with the cooperation of such a great English government they become yes-men to the Brahman employees, without wanting to be free of this noose, from the fear that the empty glory they have today will perhaps vanish; and considering this their only responsibility, become besotted with their own grandeur.” Buwa – “If that is true, then why don’t you go and pray to our Shudra Rajas and nobles to establish schools in every village for their Shudra brothers?” I – “Oh, Maharaj, with the dominance of the Brahman administrators in their courts being so great, how will they heed the complaint of such a poor man as me?” Buwa – “How can you say that? Oh, where Kusha Gongade who sings behind dancing kids of Pune who sing and strum on their instruments gets thousands of rupees from Baroda, how can you say that in such a place you can’t get your complaints heard?” I – “The basic intention of these administrators is that the Rajasaheb should become addicted to tamashas. Bcause once this happens they can get their profit out of his kingdom’s administration. Similarly, behind the back of the Rajasaheb, they give huge grants to the ‘European’ employeees. And from the advice of people like me, these administrators will be harmed, because if the Rajasaheb gives education to the children of the Shudra farmers, they will in the future do the great work of the government and the children of the Brahmans will be thrown out of the administration, and be forced to work at agriculture in the mud and dirt of the fields.” Buwa – “Up to now I had thought the Brahmans had no tactics behind what they do. However, today I am convinced; save us from them! These cunning Brahman administrators don’t even hesitate to write to the English government that because the children of the Rajas and Maharajas who come of age don’t have the wisdom to run the administration, from the present they should not be given charge; because our government is thought to be clever and they are considered to be unheeding, so we remain as administrators, tying strings around the necks of the princes like monkeys and parading them from bungalow to bungalow of the Sahebs and addicting them to liquor and dance at night. Don’t they bring them to rack and ruin? I – “Until our Rajas and Maharajas come to their senses and give education to all their Shudra nobles along with their own children, the Brahman administrators will not stop. However, there is no profit in saying all this here. The Shudras are getting the fruit of their own doing and the Brahman employees will somehow or another have to eat fruits of their doing up to now.” Buwa – “Okay, then, I’m leaving.” I – “It’s our pleasure, come again, Ram Ram.”

6 April 1883, Pune


Read Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Part 10) here.