In a move that should have come long ago from other Maharashtra CMs, Devendra Fadnavis has written to Prime Minister i recommending the names of India’s great social reformer couple Mahatma Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule for Bharat Ratna. This is the highest civilian award that is bestowed in India.
An official disclosed, “The Centre has sought the state’s list for the Padma awards by August-end. It then is scrutinised by the panel after receiving the list of all candidates across the country.”
Although Bharat Ratna is not clubbed with other civilian awards, each state gives its own own recommendations to the Centre. In the letter to Modi, Fadnavis has explained the pioneering social reforms undertaken by the couple who belonged to the “mali” community in fighting against the twin evils of gender bias and untouchability. Later they also espoused the cause of Brahmin widows, their sexual exploitation and offered refuge for children born to them. In fact, they adopted the child of one such Brahmin widow and brought him up as their own son.
At a time when the Prime Minister has launched a “beti bacho, beti padao” Savitribai’s contribution is worth recalling as rising above the orthodox society she was the first to start a girls school and advocate widow re-marriage, Fadnavis wrote.
Sources in the government said, “Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule’s name should not be seen in narrow prism of caste and party politics. They were social thinkers whose work is great inspiration for generations to come.” (Babasaheb Ambedkar, father of Indian constitution had openly aknowledged Jyotiba as his source of inspiration though he was born after Mahatma Phule’s death – in the same year co incidentally).
According to Fadnavis, “It is highly notable to see how 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. It is only in recent decades that there is a increasing appreciation of his services and sacrifices in uplifting the masses.”
While outlining the struggle, the letter mentions, “In those days there was conflict between the rationalist and the orthodox. His period can, therefore, be aptly described as the dawn of revolution in the history, not only of agriculture, economic, upliftment of the social status of women and widows, human rights, untouchability and social equality. Savitribai’s work in the field of education and her contribution to the Satya Shodhak Movement (a movement seeking for truth ) is well known.”
The couple founded the first women’s school at Bhide Wada in Pune in 1848. In other moves unsurpassed as courageous and humane gestures this couple made their well open to untouchables and started a ‘Bal Hatya Paritbandhak Griha’ also in their own home. They motivated the barber community of Maharashtra to stop shaving the heads of upper caste widows, as was the custom.
Earlier this year, On 20 March 2015, former Indian Youth Congress President and Congress MP from Hingoli, Maharashtra Rajeev Satav demanded Bharat Ratna award for Savitribai and her husband Jyotirao phule in Parliament.