Friday, January 5, 2018

Mata savitribai Phuley and Indian Women Social Revolutionary and the First woman Teacherof India.

Remembering The First Woman Educationist Of India on her 188th Jyanti falling on 3rd January 2018
 Enlarged and updated Essay  
saviti bai photoIndian culture may boast about having female goddesses, saints and poets. It may boast about being the largest democracy in the world and likely hood of being a super power in near future. But the truth is that female oppression is distinctively visible in India till this day, more so in lower class than higher class. Women belonging to the lower class face problems and discrimination due to high percentage of illiteracy among the people and also due to the very orthodox religion that they follow. The discrimination faced by these women is mainly the effect of unjust ancient laws and customs passed down from generation to generation. Due to the lack of education among the lower class, these unjust laws and customs were/ are never challenged but widely accepted. One of the evil practices that is very rarely followed nowadays is female infanticide. Female infants killed in womb and not allowed to see sun light.  Declining female population much below 900 per 1000men is now worrying government agencies. It is believed that girls are a liability for the family. They would cost the family money in the end because of dowry demands. Likewise, the family may feel that they are only rearing girls for someone else, as the girls will eventually become part of the groom's household.
 Education to untouchables and all women in Hindu religion were declared as unlawful in Manu Smiriti the Hindu Law Book. Lack of education in women and untouchable( now called Dalits )made room to other  suppressive controls like untouchability,ignoring right to own property, right to protect one’s property ,sati, Devdasse, dowery, infanticide, life of dignity, slavery, atrocities, and such like inhuman treatment to majority of population by minority population of upper caste Hindus. Only  the caste and caste supported rules roasted the cake. India lost its freedom for centuries as only a microscopic minority  male khashtriyas were assigned the job of defense of the country. Only a hand full invaders came looted India , killed many and ran away with heavy booty includinf our women. With  the establishment of the British East India Company Rule, it paid  no heed towards education in India till 1813. In 1813, for the first time, the Company arranged some funds for promoting education in India. The medium of education was English. By the year 1855, there were only 1474 educational institutions that were run or aided by the government for the population of 200 million. Only 67,569 student were getting education from these intuitions. Since majority teachers in these schools were Brahmins, they refused to educate the Dalit students even  in the govt. aided schools .Even upper class students and their parents disallowed reading in the classes having Dalit students. There were about 1628 Christian missionary schools with about 64,000 students in them. Since the Wood’s Dispatch of 1854 by 1882, the government took some important steps for higher education, but primary education was almost neglected. In the economical year of 1881-82, out of 70,00, 000 rupees spent by government on education, only 16,77,000 were spent on primary education. On this background, The first women known in the Indian history which lived and died for the social upliftment of down trodden. Her name was Savitribai who was born on 3rd of January 1831 in Naya Ganj , Tehsil Khandala ,District Satara of Maharashtra. Her father’s name was Khado Ji Nevse Patil . At the time of her birth, no body could realize that the small ray of light which had descended on the earth in the form of Savitribai shall become a torch bearer for many, who were suppressed, illiterate, ill fed , ill clothed and a lightening for suppressors and oppressors inflicting tyranny in the name of caste and sex, on millions belonging to their own country and religion .                                                                                                  At the tender age of 9 years in 1840, she was married to a great social revolutionary Jyotirao Phule, who was then 13 years old. The union of two small lights later emerged as a big Light House for millions of their fellow countrymen and pulled them out of their ignorance, illiteracy and ill treatment meted out to them by upper caste Hindus. They jointly fought for   the down trodden people of India to live with dignity keeping spine erect. Jyotirao Phule, later affectionately called Mahatma Jyotirao( Jyotiba) Phule proclaimed that illiteracy the ill of all ills causes lack of intellect which in turn causes lack of moral which results in stagnation, promoting   further  loss of riches  and fortune which caused fall of Shudras. So ban of education to Shudras and women in Brahminical literature caused their all round degradation, so he gave preference to impart education to Shudras for their over all upliftment. The Education to Savitribhai was imparted at home by her husband besides in their school and in Christian Missionary school. Jyotirao Phuley had passed his Secondary Education Examination in 1847 from Scottish Mission High School Poona and  had decided not to accept any job under the government.  On reading Paine’s famous book “The Rights of Man” revolutionized the young mind of Jyotirao Phule and he in turn influenced the tender mind of Savitribhai, who also took oath to help her husband for Social Revolution even at the cost of her life and comforts.                                                                                
Phuley couple opened the very first Girl’s School on 1st January,1848 against the vicious campaign launched by orthodox upper caste Hindus for such an act of the Phule couple, as education to girls was coded as unlawful in the laws of orthodox Hindus, although they claimed to possess the most knowledgeable books called “VEDAS” but practically treating Shudras & women worse than animals. No upper caste Hindu teacher came forward to teach in this newly opened Girl’s School in which untouchables girls , besides Hindu Girl’s were admitted. Therefore, Savitribai was appointed as Headmistress of this school on I st January 1848 by Jyotirao Phule. This school was run from the house of a Brahmin in Budhwara Peth, with majority of Brahmin girl students. The orthodox Brahmins raised a great hue & cry against carrying on women education including those of Shudra girls, which stood banned by the Hindu scripture. As soon as Savitribai came out from her house to go to school, people would throw on her cow dung and mud spoiling here dress, which she washed at the school and at her residence on return. However ill treatment meted out to her by upper caste Hindus did not deter her from her strong convictions and she carried on with the noble cause for the social change. She, instead, opened another school on 15th May 1848 in untouchable’s colony and it was run by her widowed sister –in-law  Sagunabai (husband ‘s cousin  sister) Smt. Suganabai. On this again the reactionaries, raised objections and threatened Govinda Rao (Jyotirao ’s father) with dire consequences, if, he failed to dissociate himself from the activities of his son & daughter-in-law. So he asked the couple to leave his home as both of them refused to give up their missionary endeavor. Both shifted to a Muslim Mian  Usman Sheikh’s house. Smt. Fatima Sister of Mian Sheikh known as first Muslim women teacher of 19th century, started educating Dalit children in this school. This was an extremely difficult task during those days of Brahmin domination in government and social circles, but Savitribai did it by dint of her courage, determination, intelligence and her commitment to the cause of Dalit  and woman upliftment through spread of Education  She thought  this to be  the only road to their empowerment. Yotirao Phule blamed the British Government for spending profusely a large portion of the state revenue on the education of the higher castes, which resulted in monopoly of all higher offices under the Government by the Brahmins. The dedicated couple wanted to break this monopoly so as to prepare the down trodden masses for struggle of having equal rights as human beings in their own motherland. Jyotirao Phule for  loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooukthe first time. Lord Rippon appointed an education commission under the chairmanship of William Hunter. This commission reiterated the key points of the Wood’s Dispatch, though it suggested paying more attention of primary education and education to backward classes. The memorial to Hunter Commission by Mahatma Phule is a document of immense importance to understand the educational developments in Modern India. In this document, Phule argues that the theory adopted by government that education should go down from the upper classes of society to the masses is nothing but a “utopian” idea. He further goes on to ask for a single example of the truth of this theory. To quote him, the higher classes have “kept their knowledge to themselves, as a personal gift, not be soiled by contact of the ignorant vulgar.” He claims that the educational system has become a monopoly of the higher classes and “if the welfare of the Ryot is at heart, if it is the duty of the Government to check a host of abuses, it behooves them to narrow this monopoly day by day so as to allow a sprinkling of the other castes to get into the public services.” Mahatama Phuley made strong demand in memorandum submitted to Hunter Commission in 1882 for free & compulsory education to all. This plea was later accepted on the instance of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and he even incorporated the ideal in the Constitution of Free India as the “The father of Indian Constitution”.
                Widow re-marriage was banned then and the child marriages were very common among the Hindus including Brahmins. Many Hindu widows resorted to Sati (burning of the bride with the dead body of their husbands) in full public view.   In view of then prevailing of custom of Child marriage, so many girls got widows in their childhood. Many women windowed in their young age and not all of them could live in a manner in which orthodox people expected them to live particularly when their male relatives exploited helpless widows sexually. Some of the helpless widows resorted to abortion or left their illegitimate children to their fate by leaving them on the streets. Out of pity for them Jyotirao Phule established on orphanage, possibly first such Institution founded and funded by a Hindu. The Phule couple gave protection to pregnant widows and assured them that this orphanage would take care of their children and Savitribai Phule Shouldered the responsibility of managing the orphanage. It was in this orphanage where a Brahmin widow named Kashibai gave birth to a boy in 1873 and the Phule couple adopted new born as their son and heir giving him name as Yashuwant( Glory), who was imparted education to become a qualified doctor. During 1876-77 famine she feed and cared about 2000 children with the help of her doctor son free of cost. She was a great source of strength to her husband.  The widows had to get their heads tonsured for life. Phuley couple while opposing it  organized the barbers to stop shaving of heads of widows. The barbers agreed and stopped this inhuman practice.  They even when on  strike to press their resolve and oppose those who threatened them with dir consequences.
 Phuley couple supported widow remarriage and arranged on 8th March,1860 in  Gokhale garden widow re-marriage.  The copule belonged to Saini caste. This  act of Phuley’s  was also opposed by orthodox caste Hindus.
                Savitribai was not only an educationist but a great philanthropist, social revolutionary, writer and poet. Perhaps she was the first Indian woman revolutionary who worked against all odds for the emancipation of Dalits, week and downtrodden women & children.  Her poetry book first published in 1854 was titled as “KABYE PHULE” had 41 peoms . She used to recite her  peoms to heIp illiterate women to grasp the theme of her preaching. In one of her poems she makes out that the British succeeded in establishing their rule in India due to denial of Educational opportunities by the Aryans to the original inhabitants of India. During various invasions the 85% of the population were made mute spectators. When their motherland was occupied forcibly by the foreign invaders, for which nobody else but Brahmins and caste system were responsible. When she was told by her brother to follow the path shown by Bhats (Brahmins) she rebuked him by telling that she was following the just path being followed by her husband and she could not be blind follower of Brahmins like her brother. She also tauntingly said to him, “Go and love the cow and the goat and offer milk to snakes on Nagpanchmi,, even then the Brahmins shall turn you out of Puja Sathal branding you as untouchables. This shows her strong conviction and will power, when actually she was very poised lady having her heart filled with love for all.After the death of her husband in November 1890, she successfully managed for seven years the affairs of “SATYA SHODAK-SAMAJ”(  Society for the Search of Truth) established by her husband to spraed the message of oneness and unity while following righteous path.  It decried the supremacy of the Hindu Religion Prohits and falsehood of religious dogmas and rituals.  Marriages were arranged with out any Prohit services. Brahmins opposed it and lodged a law suit against Jyotirao Phuley  in Poona court spleading it effected their livelihood. This case was won by Jyotirao Phuley from higher court at Bombay( Now Mumbai)   Also the services of prohits were proposed to be  dispensed with during last rites of dead.                                                                                                                   During the spread of Cholera in Maharashtra in 1897 she opened a number of helping centers for all sufferers in rural and urban areas. She used to carry patients personally to the clinic of her son Yashuwant, who cured hundreds of them free of cost.  While carrying personally a cholera ridden Mahar boy to the clinic of her son and to get him admitted there, she got infected from the Mahar boy and she died of cholera on the 10th of March 1897.                                                                                                                                                                                    We salute the iron lady who struck hard to break the shackles of religious progeny, caste and dynasty to establish social order of Universal Brotherhood. She was first Indian women leader, who worked for the upliftment & dignity of women & children and was a staunch opponent of orthodox laws including Untouchability. She was mother to helpless orphans, a teacher to illiterates and solace to ill and suffering masses. She deserved to be honored as “Mother of Women Education in India”    other women who lent helping hand to savitribai Phuley were Pandita Ramabai, a Brahmin woman. Panditia Ramabai who was leading advocate for the rights and welfare for the women in India; Tarabai Shinde, the non-Brahmin author of a fiery tract on gender inequality which was largely ignored at the time but has recently become well-known; and Muktabai, a fourteen-year-old pupil in Phule's school, whose essay on the social oppression of the Mang and Mahar castes is also now famous.                                                                                                                    She is even now a source of inspiration for establishing a rule based on equality, justice and fraternity. Let us draw inspiration from her life& works and re-dedicate ourselves for the service of down trodden and Dalits besides those sections of society who are deprived of equal opportunities of life.                   Words:-2322                                                                                                    
                                                                                             Er. HEM RAJ PHONSA
                                                                                            Retd. Executive Engineer (from California)
        References:-      (I)  The Nagmay Sanskriti   Ujjain (MP) Dated 8-7-1997.
           (II)  Slavery By Mahatma Jotirao Phule (Vol I) Translated by Prof.P.G. Patil
                     Education Deptt.   Govt of Maharastra Bombay 1991
Jotibha Phule (Hindi) By Durga Prasad Shukal NCERT April 1991
 Dr Ambedkar & His Mission            By Danajay Keer
               v) Shoshit Samaj Ke Krantikari Pravertak ( Hindi) by C.S. Bhandari Publishars: Samyak Prakashan  32/3 Club Road Pashim Puri N Delhi                                                                                     

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