So learn and break the chains of Caste, Throw away the Brahmin’s scriptures fast! – Savitribai Phule
Today in Dalit History, we celebrate Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule, a Bahujan woman who dared take knowledge to all those to whom Brahminism had forbidden it.
Savitribai, along with her partner Jyotirao, were revolutionaries of their time- a young couple who wanted their love for one another to manifest as work for a society they felt was ill with Brahminism. They committed to its annihilation through education for women and “lower” Caste peoples.
It is important to understand how significant this was. To try to educate women, Dalits and Adivasis meant that you intended to break religiously sanctioned social order against the Hindu scriptures
As soon as they began their work, they were thrown out of their home by their family who could not bear to interact with Dalits in their premises. None of the other “upper” castes would stand by them either.
It was a Muslim family that offered them refuge. A woman named Fatima Sheikh shared their vision and allowed them to use their home to start a school. Here, Savitri, Fatima, and Jyotirao started, For the first time, a school that allowed women, Adivasis, Shudras, and Dalits into its fold. They proudly called it the “Indigenous Library”.
Retaliation from Caste society continued. Savitribai dealt with verbal and physical abuse from “upper”- Castes. Wherever she went, she would carry an extra sari with her because the sari she was wearing be soiled from villagers spitting and throwing dung and mud at her.
But in Savitribai Phule’s mind, her path was clear. She began programs for the prevention of infanticide, for the protection of widows against Sati (widow burning) and neglect, and even for the health care of single mothers or women who had become pregnant through rape. She shared water, space, food and learning with Dalits to make the public assertion that all were equal and that Casteism would not be tolerated in their work.
Savitribai, was one of the first contemporary South Asian feminists in a true sense of the word, At a time, when the English-speaking, “upper”-Caste “anti-colonials” only campaigned for a limited education for women to enable them to be better wives, Savitri, the pragmatist, the educator, the anti-caste crusader, – wanted none of that. She wanted only that the people genuinely arm themselves in the battles against their oppression. Savitribai, WE SALUTE YOU!
From – Dalit History Collective