The second annual Marathi Literary Conference was held on 24 May 1885 in the Sarvajanik Hall in Poona (Maharashtra) under the chairmanship of Krishnashastri Rajwade. Nearly 300 litterateurs attended the conference. Justice M. G. Ranade, the organizer of the conference, wrote to Jotiba Phule requesting him to participate in the plenary session. Phule wrote back explaining why wouldn’t be taking part in the session. Some 43 letters from those who could not attend were read out. Phule’s letter, the first one to be read out, succinctly expressed his ideology. The newspaper, Gyanodaya, subsequently published the letter on 11 June 1885. FORWARD Press is now republishing it here:
Greetings and Salutations!
I have received the copy of your invitation and the letter dated 13th enclosed with it. I was very happy to receive them. But my Bhondu Bhaiya (Ghalmodya), these people who are unwilling to realistically and openly discuss everyone’s human rights and grant them happily to all, and given the present situation, are unlikely to do so in the future – the conferences that such people have organized and the gist of the books they have authored are not compatible with our conferences and our books.
The is because their ancestors, in their fake scriptures, sophisticatedly hid the part about making us slaves with a view to taking revenge on us. Their ancient fiendish books are a testimony to this. This is why we Shudratishudras have to face many miseries and hardships. But the authors who herd goats riding camels and those who deliver long speeches as guests in their huge conventions cannot understand it. Even if they can, they have deliberately closed their eyes to it just to serve the fleeting interests of their own and of their children. They get pensions from the British government, they are diehard believers in the superiority of their caste and they are staunch idol-worshippers. Donning the mantle of phony sacredness, they consider us Shudratishudras lowly. Will these Aryan Brahmins bring about the progress of this wretched country?
We will no longer be misled by those who live off cheating us. In short, we Shudratishudras will gain nothing by interacting with them. We had better put our heads together. If these gentlemen really want to bring everyone together, they had better look for the seed that can bring about everlasting brotherly love between all and publish it in the form of a book. We can no longer keep our eyes shut. As for the rest, you are the best judge.
Please do pass on this short letter of mine to them so that they can discuss and think over it. Please accept salutations from this old man.
Jotirao G. Phule
(This is a translation of the letter found in the collected works of Mahatma Phule, published in Marathi by the Government of Maharashtra.)
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