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

RSS wanted Constitution 'replaced' by Manusmriti which abused Dalits, women

By Shamsul Islam* The Constituent Assembly of India finalized the Constitution of India on November 26, 1949 which is celebrated as the Constitution Day This Constitution promised new born Indian Republic a polity based on democracy, justice, egalitarianism and rule of law. However, RSS was greatly annoyed. Four days after the historic event of approval of it, the RSS English “Organiser” in an editorial on November 30, 1949, complained:

Dalits 'celebrate' Constitutional Power Era in 12,500 villages of 16 districts on Nov 26

By Pradip More*  It is a fact that the majority of the people do not have much knowledge about the law, and especially the Constitution. Yet, today's younger generation is becoming increasingly aware of its rights. One wished it would have been good if it was taught about the Constitution well in the schools.

Critics of your government should not be in jail: PUCL shoots open letter to Modi

Counterview Desk In an open letter, Ravikiran Jain, national president, and Dr V Suresh, general secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) have taken strong exception to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s view that raising human rights issues can ‘tarnish’ the country’s reputation, stating, those who raise human rights concerns do it “through established United Nations mechanisms such as the UN Human Rights Council, the Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights.”

Mysterious death of Kishenji 'triggered' series of splits in Maoist camp in India

By Harsh Thakor* On November 24 fell the 10th death anniversary of Kishenji, a prominent Maoist leader, he was also a poet, a scientist, and a soldier. Since his school days he dreamt of planting the seed to create new man. Born in 1954 in Peddapally town (in Karimnagar district, north Telangana), Kishenji was raised by his father Venkataiah (a “freedom fighter”, he called him) and a progressive mother, Madhuramma.

Covid taught us: Exams are cruel process of 'eliminating' those seeking education

By Sandeep Pandey, Seema Muniz, Gopal Krishna Verma* Some people are disheartened with the disruption in children’s education due to the menace of Covid and the successive lockdowns. While a number of children are getting used to attending online classes, their counterparts from the weaker socio-economic backgrounds continue to struggle either because of unfamiliarity with technology or because of having to share a single device with their siblings and/or parents. More unfortunate ones have been completely pushed out of the system which has resulted in the virtual drop in the rate of enrolment.

Book on Bhil rebels offers other side of history, neglected by 'nationalist' historians

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  One of the major accusations against Indian historians is that of neglecting and ignoring the role of the marginalised in the freedom struggle. Most of the time, we are ‘informed’ that there were some ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ of the freedom movement, all of them belonging to the same stock of caste as well as ‘power’ positions as their opponents.

Govt of India responsible for 71% delays in NREGA wage payments, say economists

Counterview Desk  In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, more than 70 economists have urged the Government of India to release “adequate funds” for implementing the rural jobs guarantee scheme under the MGNREGA immediately, pointing out that the pandemic continues to adversely affect the living condition of working families.

'We are scared to even raise our voice': Delhi sewer workers tell roundtable

By Our Representative  A roundtable attended by more than 100 sewer workers in Delhi, saw sharp voices against the contract system, poor wages and lack of any social benefits. Organised by the Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM), which has refused to reveal the identity of the sewer workers who spoke on the occasion for fear of retaliation from the authorities, saw workers complain that have been working for more than 10 years, hoping that someday they would be made permanent.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Govt of India's 'narrative' of hate, 'clarion call' for onslaught on civil society: Ex-babus

Counterview Desk  Addressing “fellow citizens”, the Constitution Conduct Group (CCG), having former prominent civil servants as it members, has said that recent assertions by National Human Rights Commission National Human Rights Commission Justice (retd) Arun Mishra, the Prime Minister and General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defence Staff, portent a deliberate and disturbing strategy to “deny civil society the space and wherewithal for its operation.”