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Indian renaissance and Bahujan heroes

If renaissance means bringing people from darkness to light, then the Bahujan heroes were the ones to usher in renaissance in India. This renaissance did not mean resurrection or reformation of Hinduism

The literal meaning of Bahujan is “the majority of people” or a “large population”. Who are these people who form the majority? This huge Bahujan society is born out of the caste system of Hindu society. Hindu society is the aggregation of castes, in which all castes do not enjoy equal social and economic status. The Hindu religious system has deprived a huge population of independence and opportunities for progress. These include the Shudras, who are at the bottom of the ladder, and outside the caste system are Chandals and others, who are called the Untouchables. It is the Shudras and Untouchables who comprise Bahujan society. Bahujan society is on the margins even to this day, and it depends on the upper castes for its socio-economic redemption.

In Indian history, Gautam Buddha first used the term “Bahujan” in the 6th century BC. He said, “Charit bhikkhave Bahujan hitai bahujan sukhai” (Work for the welfare and well being of the Bahujans). According to A. Satyanarayana[1], a reference of Bahujan is found in the 1921 Census of Madras Presidency. It mentions literacy rates of four selected communities; first, the Dwijs; second, the upper Shudra castes; third, the Bahujan (productive) castes; and fourth, the Dalits. Bahujans were classified into two categories; first, the craftsman castes, goldsmith and weaver; and second, nine castes such as yadavs, fishermen, barber, washerman, potter and mangta.[2] A. Satyanarayana writes that the Dalit activists had rejected the term “Harijan” as being patronizing and humanitarian. But the term “Bahujan” was gaining wider acceptance among social activists and scholars in the context of social and citizens’ movements. This term not only implies shared suffering and shared exploitation but also calls for a joint battle to achieve self-reliance, dignity and equality. Needless to say, it is the lower and backward castes that constitute the vast Bahujan society.[3]

Mahatma Jotirao Phule had made a path-breaking attempt to conceptualize the theoretical construct of this vast Bahujan society in the 19th century. Anupama Rao[4] has rightly observed that “Phule endowed elements of popular culture with a radical caste consciousness, connecting economic, social, and political domination to the outcome of a race war. His story revolved around the defeat of Dravidian Kshatriyas (warriors), who constituted the bahujan samaj (majority community), through the trickery of Aryan Brahmins. Indeed, Phule’s rewritten history of caste conflict and his sustained offensive against the inhuman and inegalitarian caste order became political common sense.” No doubt, Phule conceptualized a vast Bahujan community of the Shudra-Atishudra castes, but he has employed the term “Shudra-Atishudra” for the Bahujan community in his writings, which was perhaps necessary for his mission. Phule never used the term “Hindu” in his writings; instead, he used Arya or Aryan. Actually, he was creating a delicate religious-cultural society. He always wrote against those Brahmins who were the enemies of the Bahujan community.[5] In the words of Anupama Rao, “Phule’s strength lay in Bahujan community’s claim in projecting itself as its own representative.”[6]

Awakening is common in society, resurrection isn’t. However, in India, Brahmans turned this law on its head. There was resurrection, not awakening. Resurrection essentially is for safeguarding the religious institutions by awakening its followers. The Muslims came here and established their sultanate. Social equality of Islam appealed to the Untouchables greatly, and the exploited, humiliated sections of the Hindu community began adopting Islam with alacrity.

Embittered Brahmanism saw its ship sinking because its enslaved castes were being released from bondage. Hence, to protect itelf from the hurricane of Islam, Brahmanism erected a barricade of Vaishnavite devotional movement and tried to convert the Untouchables to Vaishnavism by relaxing the caste rules. But by then a large number of Dalit and backward people had adopted Islam and an educated generation had come into existence. Islamic madrasas were open to all, from where renowned thinkers of resistance emerged. Therefore, it is appropriate to conclude that the first brahamanical “resurrection” movement launched during the Mughal era, was not only to rescue the Ved shastras and the Vedic religion but also to prevent the Dalit and backward castes, particularly the Untouchables, from embracing Islam.

Perhaps, Acharya Shankar (688-720 AD) was the first Brahmin, to be distressed by the rising influence of Islam. He was born in Kerala. This was the period when Turks had begun their invasion in India. Rahul Sankrityayan has observed that Shankar took ideas from Buddhism to put together an “arsenal” but it remained unused until the Buddhistphilosophers escaped to the Himalayas or overseas countries in the wake of the Turkish invasion.[7] This resulted in Buddhism spreading to foreign lands. But the Brahmin religion in India was in danger. The objective of the Muslim invaders, as observed by Dr Ambedkar, was to destroy the idols and the Hindu belief in many gods.[8] The Muslim invasion of India began with the invasion of Sindh by Mohammad bin Qasim in 712 AD. But Islam had already entered India before that. Political power follows religion. This is a rule. Muslims preachers had arrived here as Sufi saints. Dinkar has noted that Islam was barely 80 years old when its flag reached the Indian border.[9]

A painting of Buddha

Shankar, who had put together an ‘arsenal’ of Buddhist ideas, aimed at demolition of various prevailing religions and philosophies and establishment of Advait faith along with the resurrection of the Hindu religion.[10] Shankar had formed two armed wings of soldiers, named Nirvani and Niranjani, whose objective was to reconvert the forcibly converted Muslims to Hinduism.[11] Shankar’s Advait faith – ekohun dwatiyonasti (there is only one God, none other) – also has a shade of Islam. (It has nothing to do with Buddhism, as Buddhism is materialistic and atheist.) To be precise, ekohun dwatiyonasti bears the stamp of la-ila h illalallahu, which means nobody but Allah is venerable. But he was faced with this question: If Brahmins and Shudras had one God then how could the caste-based differentiation be justified? Promptly, he prescribed that birth in a given caste was the inevitable outcome of the deeds in the previous birth and those born in higher caste (varna) alone could understand the difference between Atma and Brahma.[12] The second resurrection of Brahmanism took the form of the Bhakti movement of Ramanand, which was a counter-revolution against Islam to protect the Vedic religion. As Islam had no caste distinctions, Ramanad’s slogan was: “Jaatpaat mane nahi koi, Hari ko bhaje so hari ka hoi.” (No one should believe in the caste system. Everyone is equal before god.) But, in reality, the Vaishnav sect established by Ramanad never became casteless. The basis of this movement was devotion to Ram, an incarnation of Vishnu. Thereafter, Brahmins also launched a movement of devotion to Krishna. This movement never rejected reincarnation, rebirth and the varna system. The Untouchables who were converted to Vaishnavism under this movement did not have the right to enter garbhagriha (innermost part of temple). All Vaishnavites practised untouchability. ‘Chaurasi Vaishnawan ki Varta’1[13] and ‘Do Sau Baban Vaishnawan ki Varta’, which glorify Vashnavite Shudras partaking of the leftover food of the Brahmins, are proof.[14]

A painting shows Kabir weaving cloth

These Vaishnavite movements were opposed by the creators of a new consciousness, such as Kabir and Raidas, hailing from the lower castes. They not only rejected Vaishnavism based on the vedic religion, but also proffered creation of a casteless, egalitarian society. For the first time in India’s medieval history, low-born thinkers refused to regard the Brahmin as guru. They also negated the physical form and sterling qualities of God, his incarnations and his superlative deeds. Kabir held that a Brahmin living within the confines of vedic thoughts can never be the vishwa guru.[15] Raidas, like Kabir, rejected the Brahmin’s supremacy and held that the Brahmin and Chandal are equal.[16] Raidas went to the extent of lambasting the Brahmin living off the labour of others. He said that the sram (labour) is God and by respecting sram (labour) alone can society be contented and prosperous.[17] It is thus clear that brahmanical renaissance (resurrection) was only a movement to preserve the Vedic religion and its varna system. The unprecedented resistance by the low-born thinkers produced path-breaking enlightenment (renaissance) among the Bahujans.

Brahmins had reconciled with the Islamic rule in India. This reconciliation was arrived at through an understanding that Muslim rulers would not attempt to undermine the brahmanical religious institutions, be it the the varna system, sati, untouchability, or barring the shudras-atishudras and women from education. As a quid pro quo, Brahmins would fully cooperate in the establishment of Muslim rule in India. This is how Muslim rule lasted about 800 years in India. During these 800 years, the Brahmins did not launch any movement to drive the Muslim rulers out of India. They did not do so because they and their institutions were safe and secure under the Muslim rule. But the British turned everything upside down. Brahmins were dazed. The British rule was established following the downfall of the Mughals. Karl Marx had made a succinct comment in the Indian context:

How came it that English supremacy was established in India?” And he himself provides answer. “The paramount power of the Great Mogul was broken by the Mogul Viceroys. The power of the Viceroys was broken by the Mahrattas. The power of the Mahrattas was broken by the Afghans, and while all were struggling against all, the Briton rushed in and was enabled to subdue them all. A country not only divided between Mahommedan and Hindoo, but between tribe and tribe, between caste and caste; a society whose framework was based on a sort of equilibrium, resulting from a. general repulsion and constitutional exclusiveness between all its members. Such a country and such a society, were they not the predestined prey of conquest?[18]

After the East India Company established its authority in India, it took two important steps. One, it made everybody equal before law, and two, it threw open education to all. Then, it enacted some strict laws, banning untouchability and sati, and legalizing Hindu-widow remarriage.[19] These laws were enough to demolish the brahmanical supremacy in India. Enraged by these laws, the Brahmins collaborated with the local feudal elements and engineered a gadar (revolt) against the government of the East India Company in 1857. The regiment of Untouchables formed by the Company government crushed the revolt.[20]

A painting representing the Mughal era

Just as the challenge from Islam had given birth to the Bhakti movement, Christianity gave birth to Brahmo Samaj during the English rule. Raja Ram Mohan Roy founded the Brahmo Samaj in 1827 in Bengal. Roy is considered the founder of the Indian “renaissance”.[21] He tried to spread the socio-religious reforms of Brahmo Samaj throughout India, but he was not successful in Bihar, and Northwestern and Awadh provinces.[22] Many thinkers treat Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s renaissance as the succeeding link of the Bhakti movement.[23] According to K. Damodaran, Raja Ram Mohan Roy wrote in 1828, “In my opinion, Hindu religion must be reformed, at least for the reason that we make some political gains and the people get social benefit.”[24] There is no doubt that the concept of a single God in Christianity and Islam had a deep impact on his thinking, because of which he opposed the concept of multiple Gods, idol worship and sati. But his fundamental viewpoint was based solely on Hindu religion. He found an alternative of single God in Brahmavaad of Vedant philosophy, or “Brahmajaal”. He was so enamoured by the Upnishadas that he regarded them as the last word.[25] Following his death in 1833, his followers Devendranath Thakur (1817-1907) and Keshav Chand Sen (1838-1884) presided over the movement. They released a document of pledges of Brahmo Samaj, which did not oppose the varna system. It said:

“God is the universal authority, which is equipped with supreme moral values. Reincarnation of God has never happened. God listens to prayers, and answers, too. It is unnecessary to earmark a place of worship and follow rituals. Individuals of every caste and creed have the right to worship God. Ultimately, nature and intuition are the sources of enlightened knowledge. No scripture is authentic.”[26]

After Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Dayanand emerged. He founded the Arya Samaj in 1875 and gave the slogan “Return to the Vedas”.[27] Is that renaissance? Taking the Hindus back to the Vedas? In reality, Dayanand was not awakening the Hindus, but was taking them thousand of years back to the age in which there existed the varna system, sexual exploitation of women, slaughtering of innocent animals in the name of yagya[28]and enmity with and killing of those who held dissenting opinion. In the words of K. Damodaran, “Every work of Dayanand Saraswati was old-fashioned and reactionary. Though he criticized the belief in many Gods, idol worship and child marriage, and advocated emancipation of lower-caste Hindus and upliftment of women through education, his main objective behind all these ideas was to strengthen the Hindu religion.” [29] If renaissance means bringing people from darkness to light, then it is the Bahujan heroes who have done that. This renaissance did not mean reformation of Hinduism, in which Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Swami Dayanand, along with non-Brahmins like Swami Vivekanand, played active roles. It urged rejection of Hinduism and its scriptures; it was a call for liberation and emancipation of Shudras and Atishudras. Some leading figures who made this call were Chand Guru in Bengal, Jotiba Phule and Dr Ambedkar in Maharashtra, Swami Achootnand “Harihar” in North India, Ramasamy Naicker (Periyar) in Tamil Nadu and Narayana Guru in Kerala.

Jotirao Phule (11 April 1827 – 28 November 1890)

Bahujan renaissance was renaissance in the true sense of the word. It was pioneered by Jotirao Phule (1827-1890) in Maharashtra. His biographer Dhanjay Keer has observed that he was the first Indian to begin the new era of emancipation, dignity and liberation of the Untouchables, Shudras and the women in modern India. He was the first Indian to open a school for the Untouchables and girls. He removed illiteracy and superstition from among the Shudras, Atishudras and women to unshackle them from slavery. He showed fearlessness in opening up knowledge to the lower castes and Indian women. His objective was to reconstruct the social system on the basis of social equality, justice and discretion.[30] He attacked the concept of reincarnation in Hindu religion in his book Gulamgiri, tearing apart the brahmanical construct and stimulating the growth of a new, equitable sytem. G.P. Deshpande had rightly termed it as the Shudra interpretation of history.[31] Undoubtedly, Bahujan heroes had reinterpreted and reconstructed history with a view to bring the Bahujans from darkness to light.

Narayana Guru (1854-1928)

Around the same period, Narayan Guru (1854-1928) emerged as a Bahujan hero in Kerala. He came from the untouchable caste, Ezhava. He declared “One Caste, One Religion and One God” for everyone. Reason: the upper castes in Kerala despised the male and female deities of the lower castes. Therefore, he attempted to unite the public by promoting one god in place of multiple gods and godesses. In the words of K. Damodaran, “The attack of Narayan Guru on the feudal system was extremely effective. Shri Narayan Guru opposed the caste system and encouraged modern education and culture. His movement was an integral part of the renaissance going on throughout India and played sterling role in the anti-feudal struggle in Kerala.”[32]

A postal stamp issued by the Government of India to commemorate Guru Ghasidas (1756-1850)

In the area known today as the states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, Guru Ghasidas (1756-1850) opposed feudalism and the tradition of caste and launched a movement for self-respect, dignity and emancipation among the Dalit and backward castes. Even though the movement of Guru Ghasidas was religious in nature, it was based on the philosophy of Kabir and Raidas, which had ignited fierce revolt against Brahmanism. Similarly, in Bengal, Chand Guru (1850-1930), a Chandal, launched the Namo Shudra movement. Among the Chandals, education meant misfortune. Due to this supersitition, Chand Guru could not get an education. But he challenged this notion and himself opened a school for the Untouchables. In 1891, he launched a movement against the use of the term “Chandal” for the community. The movement was so effective that the English government had to issue an order to ban the use of this term. He launched “Matua Dharm” and renamed the Chandal community as “Namah Shudra”. In 1912, he also published a magazine by the same name, which had Aditya Chaudhary as its editor. He opposed Untouchables’ visit to Hindu temples and established his own temples. He boycotted the menial work performed by the Chandals and taught them to live with self-respect and dignity.[33]

Periyar Ramasamy Naicker (17 September 1879 – 24 December 1973)

In Madras province, present-day Tamil Nadu, the renaissance of Periyar Ramasamy Naicker (1879-1973) aimed at eradication of the varna system, Brahmanism, idol worship and theism. He stated, “You may forgive someone who conceived the idea of God; he was ignorant and he was compelled to devise this notion due to his intellectual limitation. But the person who created religion, religious scriptures (soul, heaven, hell, etc) could not have been an honest person. He did this only to create fear psychosis among the populace.”[34] He launched a movement of self-respect among the Dravidians against the unholy alliance of religion, caste and nationalism.[35] Exhorting the Dravidians, he said, “An exhaustive description of Hindu religion is available in the Vedas, Shastras and the Puranas. Certain mythical stories are interwoven in its history. According to this religion, our caste occupies the fourth or the fifth rung. Accordingly, we are not even permitted to read the aforementioned scriptures. The Vedas, Shastras, Puranas, history, etc all have demeaned us, portayed us as dishonest and we have been humiliated in various ways. That is why we state that our faith in god, religion, religious doctrines, Puranas, history, etc has to end.”[36]

Swami Achootanand ‘Harihar’ (1879-1933)

As stated earlier, in north India, the Adi Hindu movement of Swami Achootanand (1879-1933) also played an important role in the awakening of Bahujan society. He identified Dalit and backward castes as Adi Hindu. He was the first poet, playwright, editor, journalist and preacher all rolled into one. In his short life, he set up the first Hindu Press and published the first Adi Hindu newspaper. Through poetry and drama, he gave the Bahujan community the real picture of Brahmanism. His plays Mayanand Balidan and Ram Rajya Nyaya Arthart Shambhuk Vadh awakened the Bahujan society to the injustice to which it had been subjected .[37]

Founders of Triveni Sangh (from left): Yadunandan Mehta, Sardar Jagdev Singh and Shivpujan Singh (Painting by Lal Ratnakar)

In Bihar, the Triveni Sangh was founded in 1933. It is said that it was an organization of three castes, but Manish Ranjan has repudiated this claim. According to him, it was a federation of Dalits, Backwards and businessmen. The Sangh held, “Until religious imperialism, social imperialism, political imperialism and economic imperialism do not end, it is simply not possible to achieve Surajya”.[38] Manish Ranjan writes, “In Bihar, the battle for liberation from Brahmans and Brahmanism was initially fought by Triveni Sangh only. It initiated practices different from the brahmanical tradition such as weddings with jaymala and vows, and beginning a shradh (memorial) with an open feast (bhandara), in which the Brahmin’s services were not required.[39] Triveni Sangh also opposed anti-shudra diktats in brahmanical scriptures. For example, “Brahmins have gone to the extent of mandating ‘shaktenapi cha shudren na karyon dhansanchayah’ (Even if a Shudra possess resources to accumulate wealth, he should not do so). That is it, revered gentleman! If Shudra becomes wealthy then who will slave for you? Who will plough your field? We are blessed indeed! As if this was not enough, you have further prescribed:   

Visrabdham brahmanah shudrat dravyapadanamacharet.

Nahi tasyastrim kinchitaswam bhatraharya dhanohisah.

(If Shudra has acquired wealth, then a Brahmin can appropriate it through his owner (raja, landlord).

This will no longer happen, dear sir! Triveni Sangh is determined to eradicate such injustices, exploitation and misappropriation of wealth and wants to give equal rights (with regard to accumulation of wealth) to one and all. Triveni Sangh wants to make that man – who grovels before a mere peon or a moneylender of moderate means or a petty landlord, addressing them as ‘my lord’, ‘master’ – stand up. It wants to infuse him with a sense of freedom, so that India achieves independence sooner.”[40]

The activities of the federation were confined to Shahabad and its surroundings. Though it organized Bahujan society against Brahmanism and casteism to bring them on board the Congress-led Swaraj movement, it was an important development from the perspective of Bahujan renaissance.

Dr Ambedkar (14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956)

Babasaheb Dr B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956) launched a renaissance from Maharashtra. It had the widest sweep, giving rise to a new epoch and new India. The French revolution had influenced him and he led a large movement against social inequality in Mahad. During the French Revolution, the Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen was issued in August 1789. Babasaheb released a manifesto of the Rights of Hindu Citizen in Mahad in 1927. There are many similarities between the two declarations. Along the lines of the French declaration, Ambedkar’s manifesto stated: “All Hindus have the same social status from birth. This equality of social status is an attribute which they retain till death. There may be distinctions and differences between them in point of their functions in society. But that must not cause differences in their social status. This Conference is therefore opposed to any action—whether in the political, economic or social field of life — which would result in producing a difference in social status. … Law is not a command of an individual or a body of individuals. Law is the peoples prescription for change.”[41] In the same conference that Dr Ambedkar had organized in Mahad, a clarion call was sounded against social inequality by burning copies of the Manusmiriti, the Hindu law which established inequality. The resolution of the conference stated: “Taking into consideration the fact that the laws which are proclaimed in the name of Manu, the Hindu lawgiver, and which are contained in the Manu Smriti and which are recognised as the Code for the Hindus are insulting to persons of low caste, are calculated to deprive them of the rights of a human being and crush their personality. Comparing them in the light of the rights of men recognised all over the civilized world, this conference is of opinion that this Manu Smriti is not entitled to any respect and is undeserving of being called a sacred book to show its deep and profound contempt for it, the Conference resolves to burn a copy thereof, at the end of the proceedings, as a protest against the system of social inequality it embodies in the guise of religion.”[42]

Dr Ambedkar has said that in establishing varna system and untouchability, Hindu religious scriptures, venerated by the Hindu populace as sacred, have played a crucial role. He has said that unless these scriptures are dynamited, the varna system and untouchability cannot be annihilated.[43] In the entire history of Indian renaissance, nobody barring Dr Ambedkar could think of the revolutionary idea of destroying the shastras. He regarded casteism as an anti-national concept, and maintained that until the caste system is annihilated, India can never be a united nation. Casteism is an essential and inseparable part of Hindutva. That is why Dr Ambedkar opposed Hindu Raj, which the leaders of Hindu Mahasabha wanted to establish. He said: “If [the] Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.”[44]

A painting shows Jotirao Phule and Savitribai Phule at work in their school for girls (FP on the Road, 2017)

Bahujan heroes led the renaissance of the widest sweep among women in India. If Jotirao Phule set up schools to open up education to women, Dr Ambedkar, byintroducing Hindu Code Bill in the Parliament gave right of divorce to women and inheritance from paternal property. It was the path-breaking revolution in women’s emancipation.

In north India, Bhadant Bodhanand was the founder of the renaissance against Brahmanism and feudalism, whose Nav Ratna (Nine Gems) Committee made vigorous attempts to rouse Dalitbahujan society from the slumber of slavery. This committee had Swami Achootanand, Ram Sahay Pasi, Ram Charan Mallah, Shivdayal Singh Chaurasia, Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu, Madhav Prasad Dhanuk, Vaidyaratna Badlu, Ram Rasik, Gauri Shankar Pal and himself as gems. Bodhanand was a Brahmin by birth, but he was deeply disturbed by brahmanical superstitions, evil traditions and hypocritical rituals prevalant in Hindu religion. He tried hard in vain to bring about reforms. Eventually, he embraced Buddhism and became a monk. He acquired a plot of land in Risaldar Park, Lucknow, and set up a Buddha vihar and library.[45]

Bhadant Bodhanand

Had Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu, Bodhanand’s disciple, not written the book Bhadant Bodhanand Mahasthavir on his life and works, nobody would have known about his contribution in awakening of Bahujan society. Jigyasu’s book is the only source of information on the lifelong battle that Bodhanand fought. Jigyasu writes, “A Nav Ratna Committee was set up in Lucknow in 1928, which had many lawyers and enlightened people from Dalit and backward castes. Eventually this committee expanded into an organization, which came to be known as ‘Hindu Backward Classes League’ or ‘Mool Bharatvasi Society’, which had Shri Swami ji Maharaj (Bodhanand) as the founder.” This organization created awareness – not only social but also political – among the Dalit and backward castes. After Bodhanand, we observe a continuous, wholesome evolution in Bahujan ideology in the writings of his disciple Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu. In 1937, he published the book Bharat Mein Adi Niwasiyon Ki Sabhyata, through which he established the doctrine of the Bahujan community. He addresses the labourers, and suppressed, exploited and backward castes. He writes in the introduction:

“Report on the glorious ancient culture regarding 80 per cent Indian farmers, labourers, craftsmen and others of the suppressed backward Hindu castes corroborated by Vedas and Puranas and established by social science and linguistic research and archeological findings and historians.[46]

He ends the introduction with the following stanza:

Adi niwasi bandhu! lijeye, yeh nij gauravshali itihas.

          ‘Arya jati ne chal-kaushal se jisekar diya tha sab nash.

Padhiya ise mitakar man ki sab durbalta, bhram, tam, tras.

Hriday-kamal yeh khila karega navjeean ka divya Prakash.’ [47]

[Dear Adi Niwasi (Bahujans), get to know our glorious culture of India. Aryan culture has destroyed this culture through skilful deceit. Read this book with an open mind, without bias and baggage of tradition. The outcome would be liberation from bondage.]

Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu

Jigyasu termed the 80 per cent suppressed, exploited untouchable and backward castes as the “Bahujan community”. He wrote, “These castes have sufficient merit, but Brahmins have not given them the opportunity to progress. It is a big hurdle, which prevents India from becoming a powerful nation comparable to other powerful nations. Here, the ruling minority group is always active and alert in keeping the 80 per cent of Bahujan community as its obedient servants. And Brahmins are deeply anxious in ensuring their overlordship, patronage and veneration intact.”[48]

Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu established “Bahujan Kalyan Prakashan” (Bahujan Welfare Publisher) to propagate the literature of Bahujan ideology and through it the thoughts of Kabir, Raidas, Buddha, Dr Ambedkar, Periyar and other progressive thinkers under the series titled Bahujan Kalyan Mala. In 1961, he wrote Babasaheb ka Jeevan Sangharsh (Babasaheb’s lifelong battle), which made the new generation of Hindi readers aware of Dr Ambedkar and his leadership. Besides, he had several of Babasaheb works translated and published in Hindi. Among them are Babasaheb ke Pandreh Vyakhyan (Babasaheb’s 15 Lectures), Achooton Ki Mukti Aur Gandhi (The Freedom of the Untouchables and Gandhi), Shudron Ki Khoj (The Search for the Shudras), Achhut Kaun Aur Kaise (The Untouchables: Who and How), Jatibhed Ka Ucched (The Removal of Caste Discrimination), Babasaheb Ka Updesh Aur Aadesh (Babasaheb’s Advice and Orders), Babasaheb Ki Bhavishya Vaani (Babasaheb’s Prophecy), Poona Pact Banam Gandhi (Poona Pact Versus Gandhi), Gandhi Ambedkar Vivad (The Gandhi-Ambedkar Debate), Congress Aur Gandhi Ne Achooton ke liye Kya Kiya (What the Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables), Bharat Ka Vibhajan Athwa Pakistan (Pakistan, or the Partition of India), Hindu Naari Ka Utthan Aur Patan (The Rise and Fall of Hindu Women), Gandhiwad Ki Mimansa (Reflections on Gandhism), Bharat Me Jaativad (Casteism in India), and Rupaye Ki Samasya (The Problem of the Rupee). He had published these important books by Babasaheb in Hindi two decades before the Maharashtra government published all of Babasaheb’s works. In addition, Jigaysu published books Shiv Tatva Prakash, Ravan Aur Uski Lanka (Ravana and His Lanka), Ishwar Aur Uske Gudde, Pichde Varg Ke Vaidhanik Adhikaron ka Sarkar Dwara Hanan (The Abuse of the Legal Rights of the Backward Classes by the Government), Sant Pravar Raidas (Saint Raidas), Bauddh Dharm Hi Bharat Ka Saccha Dharm (Buddhism is India’s True Religion), Shambuk Vadh Natak (A Play on Shambuk’s killing), Adivansh Ka Danka, Arya Niti Ka Bhandaphod (Denunciation of Aryan Policy), Hindu Sanskriti Mein Varna Vyavastha Aur Jatibhed (Varna system and Caste discrimination in Hindu Culture) and Manusmriti: Ek Pratikriya (Manusmriti: A Reaction). He himself was the author of most of these books. His writing was revolutionary in Hindi literature, but Brahmans did not take notice of it.

Lalai Singh Yadav (1 September 1921 – 7 Februrary 1993)

Lalai Singh Yadav, who was from Kanpur, also joined the Bahujan movement. He stood for social equality against Brahmanism. In 1933, he was recruited as a guard in the armed police force in Gwalior. But he was expelled from service following his support to the Swaraj movement of the Congress. He appealed against his dismissal and was reinstated. In 1946, he founded the “Non-Gazetted Mulajiman Police and Army Sangh” in Gwalior and was elected unanimously as its president. Through this federation he took up the issues of the employees of the police department with his superiors. When the Indians in America formed the Gadar Party under the leadership of Lala Hardayal, a book titled Soldier of the War was written to enlist the support of the Indian soldiers to fight for India’s independence. Similarly, Lalai Singh wrote Sipahi ki Tabahi (The Swindling of the Soldier) in 1946. It was not published. Nevertheless, the material was typed and distributed among soldiers. But as soon as the inspector general learnt about this book, he had it confiscated through special order. Sipahi Ki Tabahi was written in the form of a dialogue. Had it been published, it would have been comparable with Jotiba Phule’s books Kisan Ka Koda and Achuton Ki Kaifiyat.

After retirement, Lalai Singh embraced Buddhism and renounced the title Yadav. He established a publisher named Ashok Pustkalaya and set up his own printing press named Sasta Press. He began publishing literature to awaken the Bahujan community. He composed five plays: Angulimal Natak (The play on Angulimal), Shambhuk Vadh (The Killing of Shambuk), Sant Maya Balidan, Eklavya and Nag Yagya. He also wrote three books: Shoshiton Par Dharmik Dakaiti (The Religious Robbery of the Exploited), Shoshiton Par Rajnitik Dakaiti (The Political Robbery of the Exploited) and Samajik Vishamta Kaise Samapt Ho? (How to End Social Inequality). Besides, the pamphlets that he published from time to time with commentaries on society, politics, the economy and so on that went by the name “Rocket” were matchless. This was the literature of the parallel, novel ideological revolution in Hindi literature, which altered the view of Dalit classes regarding Hindu heroes and Hindu culture. It began a discourse that was lacking in Hindi literature. Lalai Singh’s writings created a sense of revolt against Brahmanism and reawakened Shraman culture and Shraman ideology among Bahujans.

Raisaheb Ramsahay Pasi, Shivdayal Singh Chaurasia, Changa Lal Bahelia, Bhulan Prasad, Dr Gaya Prasad Prashant, Narayan Das, Ramswaroop Verma, Jagdev Prasad, Mangal Dev Visharad, Maharaj Sigh Bharti, Kshetrapal Singh Yadav, Mahavir Prasad Banaudha and others also form part of this chain of revolutionaries and have left their mark on Bahujan doctrine.

Translation: Parmanand Baiga; copy-editing: Anil

[1] Satyanarayana A., Dalit and Upper Castes: Essays in Social History (2005), Kanishka Publishers, Ansari Road, Dariyaganj, New Delhi, p 52

[2] ibid

[3] ibid, p 118

[4] Anupama Rao, The Caste Question (2010), Permanent Black, Ranikhet, p 12-13

[5] ibid, p44

[6] ibid, p48

[7] Rahul Sanskrityayan, Darshan-Digdarshan, Kitab Mahal, Allahabad, 1998, p 663

[8] Dr B R Ambedkar, Pakistan, or the Partition of India, Translation: Dayaram Jain, Bahujan Kalyan Prakashan, Lucknow, 2nd Ed 1992, p 48

[9] Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Sanskriti ke Char Adhyay (1962, 3rd Edition), Udayachal, Arya Kumar Road, Patna, p 266

[10] Vachaspati Gairola, Bhartiya Dharm Shakhaye Aur Unka Itihas (1998), Chaukhamba Sur Bharti, Varanasi, p 237

[11] ibid, p 237

[12] K. Damodaran, Bhartiya Chintan Parampara (1979, 2nd Edition), Translation: G. Sridharan, Peoples Publishing House, New Delhi, p 270

[13] Goswami Gokulnath, Chaurasi Vaishnavan ki Varta (2008, 1st Edition), compiled by Dr Kamla Shankar Tripathi, Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sansthan, Lucknow, p 116-118

[14] Vithhal Nath, Do Sau Baban Vaisnavan ki Varta (1st Edition, 2045 VS), Venkateshwar Press, Mumbai, p 89

[15] ‘Brahaman Guru Jagat ka, Sadh ka Guru Nahi/Urjhi-Purjhi kari mari rahya, chariu veda mahi’. Kabir Samagra (2nd Edition, 1995), compiled by Dr Yugeshwar, Hindi Pracharak Sansthan, Varanasi, p 280

[16] ‘Ravidas Brahmanmat pujiye, Jo hove gun heen/ Pujiye charan chandal ke, jo ho gun parveen’, Sant Raidas: Ek Vishleshan (2nd Edition, 2000), Kanwal Bharti, Bodhisatva Prakashan, Rampur, p 169

[17] ‘Shram kau ishwar jani ke, jo pujahi din ren, Ravidas tinhi sansar mah, sada milhi sukh chain’, ibid, p 162

[18] K. Damodaran, p 341, (Karl Marx, ‘The Future Results of British Rule in India’, New York Tribune, 8 Aug 1853).

[19] Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches (1st Edition, 1993), Vol 12, The Untouchables and the Pax Britannica, Shiksha Vibhag, Maharashtra Sarkar, Mumbai, p 126-132

[20] ibid

[21] Veer Bharat Talwar, Rassakashi : Renaissance of 19th century and Northwest Province (1st Edition, 2002), Saransh Prakashan, Delhi, p 143

[22] ibid

[23] K. Damodaran, p 363

[24] ibid, p 364

[25] Ramvilas Sharma, Swandhinta Sangram: Badalte Pariprekshya, Hindi Madhyam Karyanvya Nirdeshalay (1st Edition, 1992), Delhi University, Delhi, p 96

[26] K. Damodaran, p 369

[27] ibid, p 388

[28] ibid, p 388-89

[29] ibid, p 389

[30] Dhananjay Keer, Mahatma Jotirao Phule: Father of the Indian Social Revolution (2nd Edition, 1974), Popular Prakashan, Mumbai, Preface, p vii

[31] G.P. Deshpande, Selected Writings of Jotirao Phule (1st Edition, 2002), Leftword Books, New Delhi, Acknowledgements, p 7

[32] K. Damodaran, p 386-387

[33] See Dalit Vimarsh ki Bhumika (2nd Edition 2002), Kanwal Bharti, Itihasbodh Prakashan, Allahabad, p 56-57

[34] Periyar ke Pratinidhi Vichar (2016), ed Pramod Ranjan, The Marginalised Publication, Delhi, p 68-69

[35] ibid, see Braj Ranjan Mani’s essay, p 34

[36] ibid, see, Ishwar ka Ant, p 69

[37] see, Swami Achootanand: Rachna Sanchyan (2011), compiled by Kanwal Bharti, Mahatma Gandhi Antarashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, Wardha 2011

[38] Triveni Bandhu Chaudhary, J.N.P. Mehta, Triveni Sangh ka Bigul (1st ed 1940), uploaded on the internet by Manish Ranjan, 18 August 2018, Triveni Shakti Karyalaya, Jitaura, Shahabad,.

[39] ibid

[40] ibid

[41] Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, Volume 5 (1989), Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, Mumbai, p 253-254

[42] ibid, p 254

[43] ibid, Vol 1, 1989, ‘Annihilation of Caste’, p 74-75

[44] ibid, Vol 8, 1990, ‘Thoughts on Pakistan’,p 358

[45] Uttar Pradesh Mein Dalit Andolan (2011), Dr Angne Lal, Gautam Book Centre, p 28-29

[46] Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu Granthawali (2017), ed Kanwal Bharti, Vol 1, p 33

[47] ibid, p 42

[48] ibid, Vol 3, ‘Bhartiya Charmkaro ki Utpatti, Stithi Aor Jansankkya’, p 160

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About The Author

Kanwal bharti

Kanwal Bharti (born February 1953) is a progressive Ambedkarite thinker and one of the most talked-about and active contemporary writers. Dalit Sahitya Kee Avdharna and Swami Achootanand Harihar Sanchayita are his key books. He was conferred with Dr Ambedkar Rashtriya Award in 1996 and Bhimratna Puraskar in 2001

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