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Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Part 9)
Dalitbahujan Renaissance

Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Part 9)

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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.

Most dependent farmers who are incapable of paying the land revenue installment without going into debt also cannot arrange the marriages of their daughters without taking at least 25 rupees. The sons of the extremely indebted farmers who can’t get loans for weddings from the Brahman or Marwari moneylenders, in order to still their desires by different means, often become sick after coming into full youth and fall sick of consumption and get wasted. About that, with proofs from a renowned doctor, I will at some time in the future write an independent supplementary essay by the name of The Cultivator’s Strop. Many youths become heedless and start going by stealth to beds in houses of ill repute, become quarrelsome and give up their lives in a short time, and the remaining ones become addicted to thievery or revolt and lose their lives.[18] And since the father of the bride who has somehow taken out a loan to pay the wedding expenses does not have sufficient money left, nearly all youth among the Malis, Kunbis and Dhangars work during the day in the fields and have begun doing all kinds of work, spending the whole night milling jawari and doing all the rest of the work, sitting next to one another singing women’s songs like hijras.[19]

Similarly, the young women in the villages go along with their mother-in-laws and cut up onions, breaking turmeric pieces and grind powder of some roasted bajri seeds. Due to this the dust of the above material gets mixed in the green color of the sari of the bridegroom’s mother, whose body, after working the whole day, gets such a musty stink that anyone nearby her finds it hard to bear. Some shade in name only is created by planting posts for a small wedding pavilion made of shrubs in the front yard near the house and putting mango branches on a frame made of small twigs crosswise over it. From drums beaten discordantly by Mahars and Mangs comes their gaiety! The ceremonial meal for the boy groom consists of a bit of jaggery and a drop of ghee in half or a quarter measure of rice in a brass plate; and this is gulped up wolfishly by the boys who wander with the bride and groom to wipe the plate clean in a minute. The wedding meal is always served to people sitting in lines without the usual mats spread on the road. On this day of “god’s ceremony” everyone brings brass plates from their own house, and everyone considers it fortunate if there is a daub of meat, with four or five bones and entrails falling out, along with jawar, corn or bajri bakris. Because the fore and hind limbs of nearly all the goats are kept hanging beside the house to feed the children along with the wedding party. Dinner for the villagers is jaggery water served in a small leaf dish set up in a little mound of rice on dried sewn leaves, which they eat with polis fried in oil and crumbled up, putting vegetables such as carrots or potatoes in their mouths; finally after eating the last rice with some watery dal, drinking a full pitcher of water and giving a loud burp, the farmers’ meal is finished. In all that dining not even a drop of ghee is available for a thousand people.

With such being the pomp of a farmer’s wedding, all of the misinformed wise Brahmans here raise dishonest canards in their Sabhas that the farmers spend unnecessarily for the marriages of their children and are indebted because of that. Ho! Have these falsely named “sarvajanik”[20] Samajes ever taken in Mahar or Mang farmer members and sat next to them? Or has any swami among these gentlemen who show their knowledge of the Vedas from village to village ever put his foot on the chest of casteism and sat in a line with Shudras and eaten some of the morsels of food there in order to have some experience to say that they are extravagant? They sit in their farcical dramas, making a show of concern, drumming the strings of a tabor and singing songs about farmers, enjoying themselves and leave it at that. However, if anyone has seen rough bajri and wheat being milled by them for their children’s weddings, I would be grateful to them if they would stand there and inform us all. Have any of them done the work of farmers with their own hands? Do they know what a leather strop of farming is?

The women in their houses never do the sort of work done by the women of the farming households who, after applying cowdung to their house, go with their husbands behind the drill plough, breaking up the clots of earth, digging up the weeds, putting the seedlings in the pits and stacking a bit of dirt up around them, treading the corn, winnowing the grain, taking up the winnow and giving it to the man, taking on their head pans of heaps of ashes, dung or manure, bundles of grass or other chaff, and labouring as hired labourers for the full day in the hot season when there is less work on their own lands. In contrast, without ever having laid a hand on a plough or grindstone or giving such laborious help in the fields, the wives of our Bhat-priests do their hair after waking up, finish the cleaning and cooking in the house, and for the whole day sit listening to the reading of religious verses and fables and then throw shawls over their shoulders and go to weddings. There, they parade in shoes with great conceit of their glamour, exposing themselves to the public in the light of torches held by Shudras under the ceremonial umbrella. Unlike the farmers’ weddings, the Bhat Brahmans hold their meetings, distribute hundreds of rupees in prizes, with electric lights for the pavilion and meals of ghee and sweet chappatis for their caste brothers and then, without a thought for the daughters and daughters-in-law of their own households, sit shamelessly at the dances of the wanton women of the villages and hear their ugly songs giving them money. Have they and the white bureaucrats ever left so much capacity with the farmers that ever once in their life, even at the time of a festival, they could serve ghee, crisp parched rice, jeelabis, basundi, shrikhand or sweet ladus to their wives and children in their hovels? Who will lift a hand to stop this chattering? Oh, it was their cunning ancestors like Manu who established the fabrication of casteism in the filthy books of the Dharmashastras, while in contrast if the farmers had not checkmated them with the English, today an unprecedented miracle would have been shown.

It is this, that since the women of the Governorsaheb are as delicate as velvet flowers so that they should not be vexed by giving them any work, ten or fifteen European Collectorsaheb madams should be given an invitation and brought to farmers’ weddings along with their children; and if they had to join the farmers’ women and finish all the work of the wedding and then join the wedding procession, and then if they could see all this chaos, the bad smell, the plates for eating, the hurry and scurry of spreading out mats for guests, the clanging of the hymn-singing and chanting and all, on the morning of the following day if they did not run away leaving their own children exactly where they were,[21] then those cunning people can change my name; so I pray with a twist to my mustache and my hand on my chest, to those boorish meddlesome greasy mace-bearing attendant Shudras who put great winding turbans on their heads and wander about with a yellow bamboo stick in their hands.

That set of black and white bureaucrats, in order to enjoy their leisure day and night, have deceived the British government and set all kinds of proliferating burdens on the ignorant farmer, and have stripped him so thoroughly that the Governorsaheb or his agent feels ashamed to call him for a meeting in his office. Oh, it is his labour[22] that supports the government’s military, its ammunition, the unreasonable luxury of the white bureaucrats, and the unreasonable pay, pensions and purity freaks of the black bureaucrats; wouldn’t it be proper to give him a little respect or even offer tea or bettle leaves? Oh, he who is the foundation of all the happiness of the people in the country has such misfortune! What can we say at a time when he can’t get food to fill his stomach or clothing to cover his body, when his state becomes so pitiable it wouldn’t be born even by the hunting dog of the Sahebs, when even then the government tax is held dangling over his chest! How could he manage to improve his agriculture with the help of books in other languages on agriculture he can’t even read the alphabet of his own language? When he is continuously starving,[23] how and on what basis will he send his children out of the village to large cities to study in agricultural colleges?

Now let us look at the current agricultural condition of the farmers. From the day that the administration of our compassionate English government was established in this land of purity, they started killing the bullocks who pull the carts along with their robust cows and immature calves without doing the rites of sacrifice and started eating along with Muslims, Mangs Mahars; the farmers began to face a shortage of “acharyas” sturdy to have strong bullocks for heavy work in agriculture. At the same time, due to a lack of rainfall, hundreds of thousands of bulls were sold and destroyed because there was nothing to feed them during the drought. On the other hand, the decrepit bulls remaining with the farmers were left without sufficient fodder due to the uncontrollable harassment of the Forest Department and the lack of grazing land; and their lineage day by day began to diminish. With disease thousands of the farmers’ bullocks began to die every year and so many farmers found themselves left only with ropes torn off the stakes in their sheds. After that, since the farmers lacked abundant animals to be used for cultivation, and they lacked their dung to be used as fertilizer for spreading on the fields at the proper time, the primary fertility of the soil decreased and they couldn’t get the crops they previously could on their irrigated fields.

Besides, once our government in collaboration with the cunning Brahman bureaucrats began making a survey of the fields of the ignorant fearful farmers every thirty years and increasing the land revenue according to their whims, the farmers’ capacity began to break down and they could not get the full fruit of their labour in their fields; in fact millions of farmers became deprived of food for their stomachs and clothes for their bodies. And as the farmers became feeble, they fell prey to epidemics and every year thousands of farmers began to die. Along with this lakhs of farmers have taken the road to Yama as a result of starvation during drought years. And even with such blows falling on so many households, still the increase of their land revenue kept growing, and since they had to keep on taking crop after crop from their fields without every giving the land respite by leaving it fallow, the rainfed land has become exhausted. At the same time thousands of maunds of grain, cotton, leather and iron were exported every year, and due to the misinformation or mischievousness of the white engineers and doctor bureaucrats in sprawling municipalities like Mumbai, lakhs of maunds of fertilizer have been dumped into the ocean and the pith of the soil is destroyed and now all the fields have become barren. Oh, these white English engineers in concord with the white doctors have, with the intention that the commodities manufactured in their country should find a market here, undertaken various schemes to draw coals across our stomachs, extravagantly spending wealth collected relentlessly from the farmers to implement these schemes; and are free to have their names given to buildings by so many of their subordinate black bureaucrats. They have no care if afterwards the farmers along with the buildings are devastated. Once they have filled their bowls and won fame; that is, they have bathed their horses in the Ganges.

With all of this, if rain fails in any one year, the fields cannot give any crop at all. Sometimes since bullocks are insufficient and seed corn cannot be sowed at the time when there is proper soil moisture, the sprouting is badly affected. Sometimes so many have their crops ruined because moneylenders don’t give funds at the proper time to buy seeds, or since old seeds gotten on credit previously are sown. And when the crop fails from various types of manmade or natural calamities, the farmers go alone to inform this to the houses of the Brahman government employees to tell their stories of land and water, and then one employee will have just taken his bath and ruBhat-Brahmansed ashes on his body and has set his holy black stone on its platform and is sitting doing puja becoming passionate with the fragrance of some incense, while another will be sitting reading some faded book of religious verses in his hand, while another will be chanting with his eyes fast shut, putting his hand in a cow’s mouth of metal, wood or stone. And when the noise of the farmer’s feet on the veranda outside falls to his ear, without opening his eyes under the pretence of chanting but remembering the prostitute’s area, this pure employee asks him, “who is it?’ The farmer replies, “Raosaheb, I am a farmer.” “What business do you have at the time of the divine puja here? If you have brought some vegetables, without touching the children in the house give them to the mistress and go away. Come to the office in the afternoon with a written petition on your name and I will go myself to the Saheb and explain it to him. Now go.”

Then when the farmer plods along putting one foot after another to the Collectorsaheb’s tent in a thick grove, saluting the guard, constable and butler and standing looking from afar towards the door of the tent, then one Saheb with a Kashmir carpet on the ground beneath his feat and wearing a princely Mughal robe is seated on a throne-like chair, engrossed in his eating and drinking amid the fragrance of lavender; another lies supine on a couch, unsociable due to being lost in a rosy description of some book and the chaprassi there throws him (the farmer) out. Then the farmer has to return mutely home without telling his grievance. In all this process since the ignorant weak farmers’ wives and children have no social intercourse with the reckless wives and children of both types of bureaucrats, due to the customs, disdainfulness and courtesies of the white bureaucrat and the grand wealth, authority, high-caste arrogance and knowledge of the black bureaucrats, there is no way at all for the white and black government employees to know anything at all about the real obstacles faced by the farmers. Everything about these two types of government bureaucrats is alien,[24] and yet it is these foreign bureaucrats who are to survey the Shudra farmers’ fields and give him relief!

At the time of doing the survey, the white bureaucrats often spend their time sleeping excessively in their tents, being tired from hunting. And the holy bureaucrat, with the help of the pitiless Kulkarni and the illiterate fearful Patil of the village, does the survey along with three or four local drunken thugs, and after glancing through all the related papers, whose who are going give relief to white bureaucrats beyond the sea!

With so much painful toil, when the farmer does not get relieve on time, he will have to go to the Marwari for a loan to pay the tax, or else pay it by robbing someone![25] How else? However, when the ignorant farmer after becoming indebted goes to pay his tax, some doltish fellow lies in the path right in front of him and with the usual Bhat pomp obstructs him, saying “Yajman, may you always prosper,” and extracts some bit of money from him. If the rain falls punctually and some kind of crop can be harvested, because our worldrenowned government’s cowardly white bureaucrats have snatched away the ignorant helpless farmers’ rifles and daggars, much of his crop is lost to pigs eating it at night, and the remaining is obstructed by the Brahman and Marwari moneylenders and the Lingayat and Gujarathi agent-traders, and the middlemen of other castes who keep their eyes on him to grab it. Not only that, the obstructing Gujarati and Brahman cooks of the agent-traders have begun to snatch a sher of jaggery out of every measure. Aho, after the farmer finally does his marketing and re-enters the boundary of the village, you can be sure that if he doesn’t give a bit of liquor to one or two dissolute village thugs and drunkards including the police patil, he will be summoned in a few days to the village square. Such is this prosperous and educated dharma raj of today!

However, in this dharma raj there has been no objection to the competence of the dedicated Brahman bureaucrats who have tied gold to sticks and wandered from Rameshwar to Punjab. Since the Laxmi of today cannot get food for the stomach or clothes for her body in the farmers’ houses, she has wearied of it all and gone in full daylight to the house of her oceanic father; and as her English brothers from beyond the sea have thrown away their indolence and strive after industry according to her wishes, and keep their estate properly, giving equal respect to the young and aged women in the house, she (Laxmi) has become their slave and collects whatever wealth they want from the conquered Shudra farmers. It is true that they speak very softly and sweetly to them, however they deliberately refrain from giving them education. The main reason for this must be that if the farmers gain knowledge they will not stop from throwing their whipcords across their shoulders and bring Laxmi to live in their own houses; out of fear of this the farmers are kept ignorant. Because if this happens, the Englishmen will all be forced to go to America and fill their stomachs by toiling day and night. And if the farmers’ Laxmi had not up to now been so silent in her birthplace, the Bhat-Brahmans would have become so insolent in their holiness that even the mothers and fathers who had given birth to them would have had to move far off! They would not have stopped from saying “We have now put on our purity, don’t touch us, don’t even let your shadow fall on us.” It cannot be imagined how miserable these Bhats gods on earth would have made the ignorant Shudra farmers. However, I can say with assurance that they would have buried Mahars and Mangs alive in the foundation stones of their new buildings.

Now if the Mahars and Mangs become Christians and try to improve their situation to make a claim to humanity, so many scholarly black Bhat Christians cling night and day to the white missionaries so that these helpless ones cannot achieve their purpose. Here also it has been evident that the Christians coming from high castes maintain so many types of discrimination. Not only this but today so many learned Bhat-Brahmans,26 keeping aside their restrictions of purity, have begun to go to England. There they go to the centre of grandeur and become besotted with the Laxmi taken form the farmers’ houses. Without giving a care for anyone they can go on telling all kinds of mischievous tales, anywhere, anytime, about the Shudras and ati-Shudras to the English people who are dallying with the “Laxmi” snatched away from the (Indian) farmers’ houses and are careless about anyone in the enticement of that “Laxmi.” Even our helpless Governor Generalsaheb himself could not understand the logic of this. Because since the Bhat-Brahmans in the administration of our extremely energetic former Governor Templesaheb’s administration were those who supervised the farmers who toiled on canals and reservoirs during last year’s drought, the Bhat-Brahmans kept such regulation over the farmers that the horrible condition of the fearful African people who were kidnapped and taken to be sold in America was better than theirs. If I wrote enough to give you assurance of this it would take a second superior book after Asud. In fact I will later have to see about this. However, if instead of prating night and day in London about India, Mr. Fawcettsaheb would somehow awaken Mr. Gladstonesaheb and take him along with him and on coming here, if the pair could live for a week in the huts of Mahars and Mangs, upon seeing their current situation right in front of their eyes they would not return to England to go on prattling but would not stop without running away to America. If this is not so, the offspring of the Bhat-Brahmans can unleash whatever ridicule they want on my writings and fill their stomachs by publishing whatever they want in their magazines and books and newspapers.

In short, since none of the Mali, Kunbi, Dhangar and other farmers have any book like the Bible or Koran worth being called divine, while the great heroic Bhosles, Shindes, Gaikwads, Holkars and other rulers among them who are farmers’ children, cannot even read Sanskrit basics because of the obstruction of the Arya Bhats, these “fathers of the cow” have not the slightest understanding that they are human beings or what their rights are. If we shouldn’t say this, then would the farmers go on eating the dust from the dirty feet of the Arya humans of their own species? Or would they, simply because the Brahmans tell them to do so, have go on doing puja to the stone statues put up by their forefathers, treating cows, snakes and tulshi plants like gods? Since they have been kept bereft of knowledge by the self-interest of the Arya Brahmans, they don’t have the capacity for all-around thinking; they keep blind faith in the ghosts of the fields and go on pilgrimage and throw their bodies to whatever heroes are put up. Since they have no confidence in medical remedies, they become addicted to crafty deva-rishis and lose their lives. Oh, we will be able to say more about this some other time.

Due to being robbed on all sides, due to the custom of child marriages among them, the ignorant farmers are rendered vigorless. Each and every farmer’s immature courage is degraded and their progenitive power becomes ever more feeble day by day. Previously not even the Pindaris could stand up to the stones hurled by the farmers’ slingshots. However, in today’s English regime their grandchildren and great-grandchildren have become so sparkless that not even the Devadasis in the villages give them alms, and due to child marriages so many vagrant dandyish sons of the roaming farmers cast away their innocent wives after coming of age, because each other’s qualities, shape, behavior, proclivities or nature alienate each other; the helpless things have to somehow carry on their live sin their parents home, while those remaining become despondent and miserable with bare subsistence and finally go to Yama. The farmers’ parents marry them off in childhood without their consent. Because of that, if they don’t like their wives and marry again, they may not be legally culpable, but when they marry one after another and end up with four or five wives then should we say this tyranny is legitimate? In my opinion, when they marry the fifth wife then their sons are released from the responsibility of doing the traditional rites after their death.

If many Kunbi farmers can read the “Vyankateshstotra,” the “Tulshiakyan,” the “Rukminiswayamvar,” then after two or three marriages, while doing the headman’s work in the villages, they fall in the trap of the cunning Brahmans of the village and give their testimony one day to false bonds and the next day put their signature to false receipts, and harass all the poor people of the village to snatch whatever payment they want. The Malis, not knowing even a little of the alphabet, feel dizzy at this devastation going on under the name of reading. They parade as learned pandits and sit on horses waving banners in front of them after they could get some saint poetry and pieces of stories by heart after continuously listening to various presentations of religious verses! By flinging out a bit of chant they get the illusion in their minds that they can do anything, and take one or two concubines on top of their properly married wife. With rings made of rupees of all sizes on their fingers, pearl pendants stuck in the right ear, a low pink hat, they sit on a small piece of sack with a dirty pouch placed in front and beside it a small brass spittoon filthy enough to make anyone who goes to spit in it after chewing betel upon his urging throw up. Sitting along with their companions nearby on the mat, squeezing the ganja and getting strength from being crowded together, they tell hollow tales of Raja Vikram and calls themselves the pure Hangojirao, son of some Topaji Maurya and becomes a Karbhari. Any helpless wife whose husband brings such a slovenly Karbhari to dinner has to give pan and tobacco along with food from her earnings. Leaving the house after a heavy sleep in the afternoon, they throws their legs about and thrust out their chest like a Sonar, weaving from side to side going through the village square, twisting their mustache as a Karbhari of two women, and while wandering in the alleys and lanes of the hamlet they gather gangs and ridicule the young women of the village, and while sitting on the panchayat to judge the factions they have created they cause splits among most relatives and poison the ears of so many people, causes so many daughters-inlaw and daughters to get blocked from going to their parents’ homes. Finally these valorious Karbharis threatens the poor and take enough money from them for liquor and go to their houses in the evening, and eat leftover fruit from their wives’ baskets.. These idle vagrants go to funerals and swoop down upon every village wedding. When such insolent illiterate vile Karbharis are leaders of the farmers, how will it be possible for either the uneducated farmer or his agriculture to improve?

Well. I have set before you a few examples selected from whatever information I have gotten up to now; if you can examine the situation for yourselves you wil be satisfied that huge misfortunes and calamities have befallen the Shudra farmers. And these details may appear sparse, but please don’t expect there to be any correspondence with whatever information about farmers our industrious government has collected for their white Gazeteers from the black Bhats and mamletdars. Because not a single government department can be found which is not dominated by Bhats. The foundation of all this excessive sorrow is that for thousands of years until today the Brahmans have kept the Shudras deprived of education. To prevent the farmers from acquiring knowledge, the puranik and story-telling Bhats have impressed upon their minds that it is a great sin to get their children educated. As everyone has experienced, since they have become so dependent these days, they have lost even the capacity to educate their children. Therefore, just as our versatile religious government collects various types of taxes, cesses, local funds and so forth from the farmers, they should, after closing down all the government Marathi and English schools in the village, give an examination to the farmers and select from among them teachers for training, and use a bit of the local fund balance to provide food and clothing, books and other necessities and set up boarding schools in every taluka to train these farmers’ children as teachers. And after this training, there should be a law that farmers should send their children to school up to a specified age to study only in these schools. Only with such laws, and if the farmers’ children get a bit of true knowledge, will the hold the cruel Brahmans have over their minds be lifted. Without this the farmers will never become conscious. However, even if our wavering government uses all the Local Fund to staff its Education Department with Brahmans and appoints the unwanted and useless men from among the Brahmans as professors and directors, the farmers’ children could never get real education from them. Because the thorn sticks that the Mahars have laid for fencing the farmers’ field go away with the wind. These (Brahman teachers) after all are like hired ponies, they would stand in front of the poor asymlum for travellers! Telling this softly in the government’s ear, I complete this subject.


18. Many ignorant Shudras and Ramoshis getting fascinated by the Bhudev Vasudev Phadke have gone beyond the black water and many have been hanged.

19. The son of Brahman, some xxxx

20. A Sepoy Revolt, by Henry Mead, page 234, 270 and 271

21. A Sepoy Revolt, by Henry Mead, page 44

22. A Sepoy Revolt, by Henry Mead, page 198

23. A Sepoy Revolt, by Henry Mead, page 334 and 356.

24. How is it that this is not known to the Shudra “Tikoji” who give instructions from red or green guardens here? How is it that he continues always to take the illusions of madness?

25. A Sepoy Revolt, by Henry Mead, page 29.

26. A Sepoy Revolt, by Henry Mead, page 286.

Read Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Part 8) here. And (Part 10) here