Without strengthening and involving women in our movements we can’t build a strong Bahujan movement as espoused by Jotiba Phule

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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strengthening and involving women in our movements we can’t build a strong
Bahujan movement as espoused by Jotiba Phule

For anyone to understand Joti Ba Phule, it is the pre-essential quality that change begins from home.

We speak a lot, lecture others about change and communicate with people in such a language unknown to them or un-understandable to them. Many times, I found, people speak of their ‘knowledge’ and not what the audiences want.

In India,
the biggest challenge for those who claim to be intellectuals or in public
life, is the vast gap between their ‘public image’ and their personal lives.
Not that we want to know about every one’s personal life but the gap in
perception and ideological framework is big. When your ideology at public is
different than what you practice in person, then, the ideological frame is just
an illusion and will collapse anytime.

Why I am
saying so because we all remember our great leaders and philosophers, remind
other what they did and read out their ‘biographies’ but rarely attempt to
learn from their life and mission which is important for all of us. And that
way, Jotiba Phule remain the biggest revolutionary of India, an ideal person
who not only build up the leadership qualities in his wife Savitri Phule but
also encouraged her to take up the leadership.

How was it
possible to allow your woman to lead from the front some 240 years ago when
people are not able to do that even in today’s time. And when Joti Ba did it
two centuries back, then why it was not followed subsequently. Why women are
out of sight and thought of our movements? And the answer lies in deeply
entrenched Brahmanical thoughts in our minds which keep women subjugated and
those who still think that they don’t have any mind of their own and need to be
controlled. This is the biggest failure of our movements that we despise independent

One of the
weaknesses of our movements have been to turn everything into Brahmin-non-Brahmin
binary. Like the Hindu Muslim binary, this Brahmin- non-Brahmin binary too is
an attempt to deny the 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 the representation. A sweeping generalisation is dangerous and
therefore Brahmanism has to be understood in the way Baba Saheb Ambedkar
described as graded inequality which actually create further differences among
the oppressed, a division among them. We need to address the issue of
participation and representation and not to look issues from narrow minds. Each
community will seek representation and binaries actually deny the most
marginalised their space. Every time, an issue come up and challenges the
monopoly of a leader or a community and we come up with numerous conspiracy
theories. This has resulted in a stagnation and dominance of self-proclaimed leaders
who want to lead but not in a collective spirit but in a highly individualised
way, imitating the Brahmanical politics of brand building.

If anyone
has to learn from the life and mission, then we have to look beyond and see how
the Phule’s operated and acted. He remained down to earth and not only provided
an extraordinary critique of Brahmanism but also gave humanist alternative to
all. It is not enough to critique an ideology but provide your alternatives
too. His target was not merely women from the most marginalised sections but
the Brahmin widows too who were victim of the oppressive Brahmanical system. It
was clear that the Brahmanism victimised its women too with highly oppressive
social structure as there was no space for widows and they were ostracised.

Jotiba was a
master communicator. His work Gulamgiri and Kisan ka koda are master pieces and
must be dramatized as well as popularised in the northern belt in particular.
My complain with all those friends and political parties in the north who speak
about Bahujan but did nothing to promote and encourage the wonderful and
path-breaking work of Jotiba Phule. It is the need of the hour that our
children should know not only what is the discrimination but most importantly
what is the alternative.

Today, a
number of people are demanding ‘justice’ from those who are the violators. We
ask for space in media but if we can learn from Phule-Ambedkar-Periyar then
please understand to create your own autonomous spaces and not to get a licence
of legitimacy from the Manu stream media. Unfortunately, our farmers movement
does not remember Jotiba and Ghulamgiri or Kisan ka koda because the Kisan too
have their castes. They might join hand when we talk about the problem of the
kisans but the same time when the issue of Dalits, land reform come, the same
kisan fall into his ‘caste’ ‘identity’. It is essential therefore that we build
these movement on the historic legacy and the analysis provided by Phule. The
Savarna leaders of the Kisan movement have actually carefully delinked the
current condition of the farmers and historic wrong. The Bahujan political
forces rarely brought the issue of farmers and land reform and mostly confined
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

Can any
movement related to farmers and other communities which are nature worshipers
succeed without speaking of annihilation of caste and respecting the autonomy
of the communities? Can these movement be built strongly without understanding
the historical wrongs committed against the Bahujan samaj? Can we just build these
narratives against the ‘external’ enemies and ignoring the biggest exploitation
of the ‘internal’ caste imperialists?

Jotiba was
far ahead of his time. A revolutionary, who understood the pains and miseries
of women but at the same point of time realised that it won’t be possible to
build a strong movement without their participation and representation at all
level. Baba Saheb Ambedkar followed Phule’s path and the movement that he builds
in different part of the country including historical one at Mahad, 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 up the women’s
leadership in our organisations and those who brought women independently
wanted to control them. 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 the Brahmanical forces are ready to
grab things in the name of feminism. I want to warn the Dalit Bahujan leaders
that if they fail to support the Dalit Bahujan women initiative in their
organisations and social spaces, they will have none to blame except them. 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 mai, promote it, feel it and follow it
to build a democratic and equitable society.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

November 29th, 2019 


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