INTERVIEW WITH Ms.NEETATAI HOLO PHULE, the fifth generation heir of mahatma jotiba phule
Are you just the fifth generation of the great Mahathma Jotiba Phule or following in his footsteps of social emancipation?
I am the fifth generation descendant of Phuleji. In his will, only Dr. Yashwanth Phule his second generation has been mentioned as the legal heir. I am the wife of his third generation grandson. I have taken up the propagation of Phuleji’s ideals as my life’s mission on the philosophic lines as they have made a great impact on us.
Is the Organisation started by Phule active today? How does it function?
The Organisation started by him is Sathya Sodhak Samaj. Many are its members today. No one wants to approach or include us, his descendants in that. Our family members ourselves have therefore started a separate organisation to propagate his ideals and are continuing the service.
Please say something about the progressive social changes caused by the ideals of Phule, in the State of Maharashtra.
Response: His service belongs to the whole humanity. But the present generation that has benefited by his efforts appreciates him but does not come forward to carry on his ideals to render social service. His first priority was each one should be educated and help others to get the same. The people at bottom end of the society should get all the good opportunities and increase their comforts. The students of today got their share of education but did not try to carry forward his ideals as a social movement, which itself is very regrettable.
The house of Phule remains today just a memorial and many visit and pay obeisance. But on returning home they worship Vinayaka! This reveals their ignorance. Therefore as my top priority, I work among women propagate rationalism. For example, women for a fewdays in a week, observe as worship fasting and penance.They say they fast for Lakshmi whose husband Vishnu is said by the Puranas to be very rich. In what way is it relevant to fast for the sake of that rich family? Some women even remove their ‘thali’ (a thread round the neck for married women) and place it on that statue. I do not understand what kind of holiness is this. I am propagating such ideals among them.
How far has the social service rendered by Phule and Savithri Bai helped women in Maharashtra in their education and employment?
Because of their service the Maharashtrians have particularly received education but even these have not been liberated from superstitions. There has been remarkable progress in the education of women but they have not come forward yet to convert it enough into a social movement.
How is the support of the political parties in Maharashtra to the movement of Phule?
All the political parties use the name of Phule but do not evince any interest in promoting his ideals. The Finance Minister of Maharashtra Mr. Sudhir Munghetivar is very helpful to me and also to my family but I do not get assistance as much as I expected from any side to publish Deen Bandhu of Phule on the basis of propagating his ideology and to start educational institutions.
Please tell us some pleasant memories that you can recollect which you might have heard about your old generations.
My father in law is the great grandson of Phule but the society did not accord due recognition to him. On hearing about his ancestry, the owner of the Kirloskar Company, offered a watchman’s job in his brother’s bungalow! My father in law dolefully narrated this episode to me on our present pathetic condition.
Please tell us about the opposition to Phule’s doctrines and the challenges met by you today.
Many political parties claim that they follow Phule’s ideals. Some of the individuals who have imbibed his doctrines are propagating them on their own but they do not come forward to accept us the direct descendants of Phule and to include us .They seem to promote only their names and therefore there is a danger of Phule’s ideologies getting dissipated in future.
What are the meetings/ conferences conducted recently by your organisation?
The birth Day of Phule falls on April 11. He was conferred the title Mahatma. We celebrate both these days in a very grand manner and we gather at his Memorial. There is a chance these might create some awareness among the public.
How is the infra-structure of the Movement of Phule in Maharashtra today?
Because of our continued efforts and the good office of the Finance Minister Mr. Sudhir Munghetivar the University of Pune was named after Savithri Bai in 2014. We consider this as our great achievement. We assist poor children to pursue their college education if they are unable to do so.
How are the activities of your Organisation among the youth, students and the present young generation? How are the ideals followed?
There has not been the expected progress in it but when we talk about Phule they all grasp well and listen with great enthusiasm. They talk about Phule for having received education and extend a lot of co-operation to us.It is a great happy news but they do not come forward to render the social service which Savithri Bai desired. This is the consequence of the society having been converted into a consumeristic one.
What do you think about the Rationalist and Self-Respect Movement founded by Periyar in Tamil Nadu and Dr. Veeramani, its present leader?
The achievement of the Self Respect Movement founded by Periyar is stupendous. The rare kind of activities and the briskness of Dr. Veeramani really surprise me much. I witness for the first time in my life such a tremendous Conference so that people can know in detail about the great social architects of the country like Mahatma Phule. Sahu Maharaj, Babasaheb Ambedkar, and Narayana Guru. I watch standing stunned wondering at the phenomenal changes brought about by Periyar in Tamil Nadu. By carrying forward these ten leaders whose portraits are exhibited here to the whole of India, our services will be increased 10 or 15 times. Dr. Veeramani who performs this duty as his life time mission surprises me much.
In what state is the joint effort of the Movement of Phule and the Dravidian Movement of Periyar? Is there any plan for it?
It is of very great importance today that the ideals of Phule and Periyar are merged and should take them forward. This is high time we worked together. Whenever you call me, I shall turn up immediately and join you in the propagation mission. In the same way, you also should join us in all the events conducted by us in Maharashtra. This is an organisation that fights for social justice. Here human kindness is important not the linguistic differences.
You have participated in this Conference of Social Justice and Eradication of Castes and Untouchability. Please tell us about your experiences about it.
I consider it a great honour to have participated in it and have spoken in it. All those who have gathered here are those who have devoted themselves for the cause of eradication of castes. There is no politics here. This is a social movement. Caste Eradication Conferences of such magnitude are not convened in other parts of our country. Therefore my experience about this Conference is something that I can never forget. I am greatly indebted and thank Dr. Veeramani .
You have visited the educational institutions run by the Periyar Self –Respect Movement in Tiruchy and the Periyar Maniammai University in Vallam Thanjavur. What are your experiences there?
The kind of education which Phule and Savithri Bai desired to start is found there to our great joy. Instead of running these institutions merely on the ideals of Periyar, they are all realized in practice which has to be emulated by other social reformative organisations. In women’s education the service rendered here is to be appreciated very much. It is great joy and surprise that there is a building on the University campus named after Savithri Bai. On behalf of the descendants of Mahatma Phule I express our hearty gratitude to the Dravidar Kazhagam in honouring Phule and Savithri Bai. They presented to us in the Conference some of the books of Periyar. I came to know so much about the Dravidar Kazhagam and the multifarious activities of its leader Dr.Veeramani. Both Phule and Periyar are not mere individuals but very great movements that roused the people creating awareness. They are like two lines of the railway and should travel together a long distance. Our movement will start our efforts publishing books for this purpose. Our steadfast desire is that Dr.Veeramani should help us to bring them out in English. Soon those efforts will bear fruits.