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Mahatma Jyotiba Phule-The Father of Indian Social Revolution

Context: The Prime Minister has paid tribute to Mahatma Jyotiba Phule on his birth anniversary.

Analysis

  • ‘Jyotiba’ Govindrao Phule was given the title of Mahatma by Vithalrao Krishnaji Vandekar, for his great work for the lower castes.
  • Dhananjay Keer, his biographer, rightly described him as ‘the father of Indian social revolution.’
  • Jyotiba Phule analyzed the structure of Indian society and identified the Sudra-atishudra as the leading agency of social revolution.
  • He revolted against the domination of the Brahmins and struggled for the rights of peasants and other low-caste people.
  • He is believed to be the first Hindu to start an orphanage for the unfortunate children.
  • He was honoured by the Board of Education for the work he did for girl’s education in 1852.
  • Jyotiba was an advocate of the idea of Widow Remarriage. 
  • He campaigned against the authoritarianism of the upper caste people and the orthodox Brahmins and urged the “peasants” and “proletariat” to defy the restrictions imposed upon them.
  • In 1873, Jyotiba Phule formed the Satya Shodhak Samaj (Society of Seekers of Truth).
  • The purpose of the Satya Shodhak Samaj was to decontaminate the society from caste discrimination and liberate the oppressed lower-caste people from the stigmas inflicted by the Brahmins.
  • Jyotirao vehemently condemned the Vedas, the ancient holy scriptures of the Hindus.
  • “If the four varnaswere created from the mouth, the hands, the thighs and the feet of the Brahma, then these four limbs may be termed as the respective vaginas,” wrote Jyotirao Phule in his book
  • Throughout Gulamgiri, Phule continuously asserted how lack of access to education was the reason for subjugation of Dalits.
  • Phule challenged the very premise of the racial theory of caste using his choicest weapon — reason.
  • From possibly coining the term Dalit to opening the first school for women in the country, Phule fought against untouchability and gender discrimination with equal passion.
  • However, devastating criticism was not the only weapon in Phule’s armoury of social reform. He also attempted to reform the streeshudraatishudra (women, OBCs, Dalits and tribals in today’s vocabulary)from within. The establishment of Satyashodhak Samaj (the society of truth seekers) reflected Phule’s intellectual rationalism where the primary emphasis was on ‘truth-seeking’ by positioning the individual at the centre.
  • The other vital mandate of the samaj was to conduct ‘religious’ ceremonies sans Brahman priests and to compulsorily educate the next generation.
  • When the orthodox of the times charged that the samaj could not be called a religious body because it has no religious text (dharmagranth)of its own, Phule wrote Sarvajanik Satya Dharma Pustak (Book of the Public Religion of Truth).
  • As an alternative, the emphasis of Satya Dharmawas again to outset the Brahman from his overriding position.
  • He is perhaps the first Indian intellectual who made agriculture – its process and production – a major concern for his thought experiment.
  • His book Shetkaryacha Asud (The Cultivator’s Whipcord) familiarises us with the graphic description of farmers’ conditions – their hungry bellies, rag-wrapped bodies coupled with the continuous harassments from moneylenders.
  • He openly defended Pandita Ramabai’s decision to convert to Christianity and Tarabai Shinde’s polemical monograph Stree Purush Tulana (A Comparison between Women and Men), amidst Brahmanical orthodoxy.
  • Phule was the first intellectual to realise that Brahmanism did not necessarily mean exclusively related to the Brahman caste, but a kind of ideological, religious (dharmic)(super)structure that perpetuates and naturalises the exploitation of the majority.

 

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