If you want a house, you may build one. If you want a new shirt, you’ll buy one. If your child is of school-going age, man, you’ll send him to school. But in the small hillside town of Dasgaon in the Raigad district of Maharashtra, overrun by the British military in the late 19th century, these were bold ideas with threat to life and limb. For a Dalit.
By erecting a single-storey house, Vitthal Hate Joshi, a Mahar, who made his living as a typist, passed into local legend. To his fellow-men, he became ‘Madi-wala Joshi’ — the man with the single-storey. His relative, Babaji More, was sent to jail on the charge of stealing wood to build it.
His son, Ramchandra Babaji More, born an untouchable and, given up to rebellion, perhaps in the same hour, began sending letters, by the age of 11, to the government to cancel grants to his school for denying him admission for being a Dalit. Till the late Twenties, he worked with BR Ambedkar. By the Thirties, he had joined the undivided Communist Party of India.
Dr Ambedkar (seated fourth from left) with prominent leaders of the first Mahad satyagraha in Bombay, 1927. RB More (circled) of Dasgaon suggested the idea of a conference at Mahad to Ambedkar. From the Thirties, More joined the undivided Communist Party of India. (Photo courtesy: Subodh More)
Surbanana Tipnis, an upper-caste, had been RB More’s classmate. His was a 33-year-old working relationship with Ambedkar, says his grandson Milind Tipnis, 60, a social worker. In spite of being a landlord, he joined the Ambedkar-led anti-landlord (‘Khot’) agitation, the first instance of a successful peasant agitation leading to a law. The Congress opposed the movement due to its Brahmin/landlord base then.
Continue reading “The story of India’s caste blues”