(11th April, 1827 -28th November 1890)
Mahatma Jyotirao Govindrao Phule occupies a unique position among the social reformers of Maharashtra in the nineteenth century. While other reformers concentrated more on reforming the social institutions of family and marriage with special emphasis on the status and rights of women, Jyotirao Phule revolted against the unjust caste system under which millions of people had suffered for centuries. In particular, he courageously upheld the cause of the untouchables and took up the cudgels for the poorer peasants. He was a militant advocate of their rights. The story of his stormy life is an inspiring saga of a continuous struggle, which he waged relentlessly against the forces of reaction. What was remarkable was his ability to stand up against all kinds of pressure without faltering even once and act always according to his convictions. In 1868, Jyotirao decided to give access to the untouchables to a small bathing tank near his house. In his controversial book called Slavery published in June, 1873, Jyotirao included a manifesto which declared that he was willing to dine with all regardless of their caste, creed or country of origin. It is significant that several newspapers refused to give publicity to the manifesto because of its contents. His book ‘Slavery’ was severely criticised for its ‘venomous propaganda’ against the Brahmins. Jyotirao dedicated this book ‘to the good people of the Unites States as a token of admiration for their sublime, disinterested and self-sacrificing devotion in the cause of Negro Slavery’.
Published in Issue V, April 2014