Skip to main content

Like Hindu-Muslim binary, Brahmin-non-Brahmin binary 'denies' women their rights

Jyotiba, Savitri Phule
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
For anyone to understand Jotiba Phule, it is essential to understand that change begins at home. We speak a lot, lecture others about change, and communicate with people in such a language unknown to them or not understandable to them. Many a time, I have found, people display their 'knowledge', without understanding the needs of the audience.
In India, the biggest challenge for those who claim to be intellectuals or are in public life is the vast gap between their 'public image' and their personal life. Not that we want to know about everyone's personal life, but the gap in perception and ideological framework is huge. When your ideology in public is different than what you practice in person, then the ideological framework turns into an illusion and will collapse anytime.
I am saying so because we all remember our great leaders and philosophers, remind others what they did and read out their 'biographies', but rarely do we attempt to learn from their life and mission, which is important for all of us.
Seen in this context, Jotiba Phule remain the biggest revolutionary of India, an ideal person who not only built leadership qualities in his wife Savitri Phule but also encouraged her to take up the leadership.
One wonders: How was it possible to allow a woman to lead from the front some 240 years ago when people are not able to do it even in today? If Jotiba could do it two centuries back, there is reason to ask: Why has not been followed subsequently? Why women are out of sight and thought of our movements?
The answer lies in the deeply-entrenched Brahminical thoughts in our minds which keep women subjugated and those who still think that women don't have any mind of their own and need to be controlled. This is the biggest failure of our movements. We continue to despise independent women.
One of the weaknesses of our movements has been to turn everything into a Brahmin-non-Brahmin binary. Like the Hindu-Muslim binary, this Brahmin-non-Brahmin binary too is an attempt to deny women and other segments their right and space. The binaries are often created to help the dominant and vocal communities, and leave others out of representation.
A sweeping generalisation is dangerous, and therefore Brahminism has to be understood the way Baba Saheb Ambedkar described it: Graded inequality, leading to increased differences among the oppressed, a division among them.
We need to address the issue of participation and representation, and not look at issues from narrow minds. Each community seeks representation, but binaries deny the most marginalised this space. Every time an issue comes up, challenging the monopoly of a leader or a community, we come up with numerous conspiracy theories.
This has resulted in stagnation and dominance of self-proclaimed leaders, who want to lead, not in a collective spirit but in a highly individualised way, imitating the Brahminical politics of brand building.
If anyone has to learn from someone's life and mission, we have to look beyond and see how the Phules operated and acted. He remained down to earth, and not only provided an extraordinary critique of Brahminism, but also gave humanist alternatives to all.
It is not enough to critique an ideology, one must provide alternatives. Jyotiba's concern was not merely women from the most marginalised sections, but Brahmin widows, too, who were victims of the oppressive Brahminical system. Indeed, Brahminism victimised Brahmin women, too, with the highly oppressive social structure, which had no space for widows; they were ostracised.
Jotiba was a master communicator. His works "Gulamgiri" and "Kisan Ka Koda" are masterpieces and must be dramatised and popularised in India's northern belt. My complaint is addressed to those friends and politicians in the north who speak about Bahujans but have nothing to promote and encourage the wonderful and path-breaking work of Jotiba Phule. It is the need of the hour that our children know not only what is discrimination but, most importantly, what is the alternative.
Today, a number of people are demanding 'justice' from those who are violators. We seek space in media, but if we want to learn from Phule-Ambedkar-Periyar, then we should create our own autonomous spaces, and not get licence of legitimacy from the mainstream media.
Can we build a narrative against the 'external' enemies, ignoring the exploitation of the 'internal' caste imperialists?
Unfortunately, our farmers' movement does not remember Jotiba, or his "Gulamgiri" or "Kisan Ka Koda", because kisans too have their castes. They might join hands when we talk about problems of kisans, but at the same time when issues of Dalits or land reforms are highlighted, the same kisans fall into caste identity.
It is essential therefore that we build movements on the historic legacy and the analysis provided by Phule. Savarna leaders of the kisan movement have actually carefully delinked the current condition of the farmers and the "wrongs" that have been committed in history.
Bahujan political forces rarely highlight farmers' or land reforms issues; they mostly confine themselves to identity issues, thus leaving the field and leadership of these huge segments to be captured by the savarna elite, which does not want to talk about caste oppression.
Can any movement related to farmers and other communities succeed without speaking of annihilation of caste, even as respecting the autonomy of communities? Can movements be built without understanding the historical wrongs committed against the Bahujan samaj? Can we build a narrative against the 'external' enemies, ignoring the exploitation of the 'internal' caste imperialists?
Jotiba was far ahead of his time. A revolutionary who understood the pains and miseries of women, he at the same time realised that it won't be possible to build a strong movement without women's participation and representation at all level.
Baba Saheb Ambedkar followed Phule's path and the movements that he built in different parts of the country, including the historic Mahad movement, had a huge representation of women leaders and participants. Disturbingly, after the demise of Baba Saheb, we have not seen the same zeal to build women leaders in our organisations, and those who have brought women in are seen wanting to control them, too.
A true tribute to Jotiba Phule would be possible and real when we support Dalit Bahujan women's leadership in our structures, whether political, social or cultural, otherwise Brahminical forces would grab things in the name of feminism. Dalit Bahujan leaders should know that if they fail to support Dalit Bahujan women's initiative in their organisations and social spaces, they will have none to blame except themselves.
A change has to start from within, and has to be encouraged fully till the goal is achieved. Jotiba not only encouraged Savitri Mai but stood with her through thick, and thin and both became complimentary to each other. Let us celebrate the wonderful work of Jotiba and Savitri Phule, promote it, feel it and follow it to build a democratic and equitable society.
---
*Human rights defender. Source: Author's Facebook timeline

Comments

TRENDING

Whither Govt of India strategy to reduce import dependence on crude oil, natural gas?

By NS Venkataraman*  India presently imports around 80% of it’s crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements . As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern. This is particularly so, since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating / increasing in the global market due to geo political factors, which are beyond the control of India. India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which mean that the level of emission has to start declining at slow and steady rate from now onwards. It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur

Muslim intellectuals met Bhagwat, extra-constitutional authority 'like Sanjay Gandhi'

By Shamsul Islam*  In a significant development a delegation of five Muslim intellectuals namely former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi; former senior bureaucrat Najeeb Jung; former AMU vice-chancellor and Lt Gen (retd) Zameer U Shah; politician-cum-journalist Shahid Siddiqui (presently with RLD); and businessman Saeed Shervani [Samajvadi Party] met RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat at RSS Delhi headquarters. The meeting was kept secret for reasons known to the participants and was held in August. According to the Muslim intellectuals the meeting held in “a very cordial” atmosphere continued for 75 minutes whereas time allotted was 30 minutes! In a post-meeting justification of the parleys Quraishi stated that their main concern was “the insecurity being increasingly felt by the Muslim community in the wake of recurring incidents of lynching of innocents, calls by Hindutva hotheads for genocide and the marginalisation of the community in almost every sphere”. This delegation consistin

'Massive concern for people': Modi seeking to turn India into global manufacturing hub

By Shankar Sharma*  The news item quoting Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet, "Want to turn India into a manufacturing hub: PM Modi at SCO Summit" should be of massive concern to our people. One can only continue to be shocked by such policies, which can be termed as ill-conceived to say the least. Without objectively considering the environmental and social impacts on our communities in the medium to long term, such policies will also result in massive economic impacts because a lack of environmental and social perspective cannot be economically attractive either. In order to become the global manufacturing hub, India will have to meet an enormous demand for energy of various kinds, and in order to meet this much energy demand the economy has to manufacture enormous number of appliances/ gadgets/ machineries (to generate and distribute commercial forms of energy such as coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, and renewable energy (RE) sources such as so

Denying dissent democratic space in Gujarat: 'sad narrative of eroding ethical values'

By Sandeep Pandey*  A padyatra (foot march) was to be taken out between 26 September and 4 October, 2022 from Randhikpur village in Dahod district of Gujarat to Ahmedabad to apologise to Bilkis Bano. Randhikpur is Bilkis Bano’s village. In 2002 Gujarat communal violence she was gang raped, her 3 years old daughter, another child in womb and a total of 14 family members were killed. 11 people were convicted and sentenced for life in 2008. However, on 15 August, 2022 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a speech from Red Fort appealing to people to change their attitude towards women and treat them with respect, a district level committee of Panchmahal decided to release the 11 rapists and murderers. A Bhartiya Janata Party leader described four of these criminals as virtuous Brahmins. Before the padyatra could begin from Randhikpur, on 25 September night, 7 activists were picked up from Godhra corporator Hanif Kalandar’s house where they had gone for d

Pesticide companies' lobbying 'seriously impairing' basics of governance, regulation

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi*  The Indian agricultural sector is grappling with low incomes, shortage of natural resources, increasing pest incidence and low public investments in research and extension. Pest attacks are increasing. Previously unknown pests are attacking crops. Farmers, indebted as they are due to various market mechanisms, are finding it hard to protect their crop investments. Thus, farmers are pushed into the conundrum of pesticide usage by pesticide markets and companies. Pesticide usage in India is increasingly becoming a regulatory problem. Regulation has not been effective in the face of such challenges. Scientific expertise on pesticides is often subsumed in the policy tradeoffs that, in the ultimate scenario, encourage production and marketing of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs). Expert Committee reports, which are recommending withdrawal of certain HHPs, are not being acted upon. Lobbying by pesticide companies has seriously impaired the basics of governance an

Kerala health bill public hearing? Here the minister 'ensured' cameras were turned off

By Our Representative  On Friday, September 30, 2022, about 100 members of the general public gathered at the conference room of the collectorate at Ernakulam, Kerala, to express their apprehensions about the Kerala Public Health Bill, 2021, which the state assembly referred to a 15-member select committee chaired by state health and family welfare minister, Veena George. Minister Veena George asserted at the outset that this was a sitting of the select committee, and all cameras would need to be turned off. Advocate PA Pouran, general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in Kerala, stood up in protest, arguing that the meeting was a public hearing and should ideally be televised to reach vast numbers of people. Other members of the audience protested too, but the minister insisted that the gathering was part of a sitting of the select committee.  “Why then did you invite all of us?” protested George Mathew, who had arrived from Aluva and earlier served as a member of t

How Gandhian values have become 'casualty' in India under majoritarian BJP rule

By Sandeep Pandey*  A Muslim youth was beaten recently when he tried to witness the famous garba performance during the Hindu religious nine days festival of Navratri in Gujarat. There was a time when Muslims could easily participate in Garbha events in an atmosphere of cordiality. Bilkis Bano was gang raped in 2002 Gujarat communal violence, her 3 years old daughter, the child in womb and a total of 14 family members were killed. 11 accused were awarded life term. However, recently a District level committee has decided to release all the culprits. A ruling Bhartiya Janata Party leader has described some of these criminals as virtuous Brahmins, the highest among the Hindu hierarchical caste system. In a communally polarized Gujarat today most Muslims feel offended by the decision of the government and BJP supporters either justify the release of rapists and murderers or just ignore the ignominious decision. Mahatma Gandhi came from the Guj

GoI 'feeling threatened' by forces which can potentially fight 'Brahmanical fascism'

Counterview Desk  A network of civil rights and people’s organisations , Campaign Against State Repression (CASR)*, has characterised the recently-imposed ban on Popular Front of India (PFI), National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO) and other organisations as “Brahmanical Hindutva fascist” move of the Government of India (GoI), calling it “onslaught on democratic dissent”. In a statement, CASR said, the move is aimed at terrorizing and vilifying the Muslim community, adding, at the same time, the GoI is curbing any protest and demonstration against the “fascist diktat of ban”, with peoplebeing “detained and arrested.” It added, “This kind of attack on right to oppose or criticize any step of government should be conceived as an attack on the very democratic values of the people.” Text : On 28 September 2022, Central Government led by BJP-RSS banned the Popular Front of India, National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations, Campus Front of India, National Wom

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”