To wake a sleeping community up from age-long slumber, the great religious teacher and social reformer Guru Chand Thakur (1812-1877) gave a historical call in the year 1881 in the condolence meeting (Shraadh) of mother of Ishwar Gain at Duttadanga of Khulna district of undivided Bengal in the presence of the Pradahns of Namashudras of several districts.
Suppression and deprivation are the lethal fruits of the tree named Caste system which had spread its strong roots all over India for so many decades and centuries. Undivided Bengal was not spared this curse too. Superstition, ignorance, inferiority complex used to run in veins of the deprived part of the society. So many prejudices and prohibitions were imposed on these suffering people by the elites of Gentlemen of Bengal whom we can name as the BABU community.
Being debarred from entering in any educational institute was one of the forms of deprivation. Anger, pain, frustration and deep agony, these negative feelings were churning up among the deprived people, which was about to blast like a volcano, it was just a matter of time. The intolerance became organized and channelized in a positive way, for that the Namashudra community will always owe more than a big thank to the Great Guru Chand Thakur.
His noble mission created a ‘Renaissance’ among the Namashudras of Faridpur, Jessore, Barishal, Dhaka, Khulan and of other districts of undivided Bengal. It was the beginning of the emancipation of the vast presidium from age old persecutions, hatred and jealousy launched by the so-called Elite clan.
History acted as nemesis when the down-trodden Namashudras started to gain the result of their honest labour. A new era opened up when near about 1812 schools were established for Namashudras in the rural Bengal. Donations both in cash and kinds poured in as the effusion of emerging section of society.
They, who had nothing to pay, came forward with high hope and physical labour to pave the way for the enlightenment of future generation, for buds to bloom in the orchard of education. Some of the admirers of Guru Chand Thakur like, Bhegai Haldar, Upendra Nath Mallik, Rai Chand Mahalder, Suren Roy, Anukul Chandra Nashkar of Barishal, Jessore, Khulna and 24 Parganas respectively, dedicated their whole life to fulfill the mission of their beloved leader.
It was a crusade against all odds, injustice and sufferings gained from the so-called high class and higher caste people. This infinite justice movement was very unlikely of the ‘Sarva Siksha Abhiyan’ of modern India, financed by the Government to abolish illiteracy which looks nothing but a hollow mockery. To collect students from various parts of rural Bengal even from the remote villages, the inhabitants circling the newly formed schools were ready to give free boarding and lodging to those outsiders with honest affection so that the pupils could not feel the absence of parental love and caring.
Munshi Premchand gave a generous account of the lives of the suppressed and deprived people of Northern part of India. In Bengal we had Katha Shilpi Sarat Chandra Chattopadyay. In his short story named ‘Mhesh’ we can see a real picture of suffering, where the poor Muslim people had no better condition than the Namashudra community. Inspite of many differences in their habit and rituals, they shared one common thing, suffering. The great Muslim leaders, Sher-E-Bengal A.K.Fazlul Haque came forward to rescue them from the debt-trap in 1930 and onwards.
And then came the independence, in 1947, along with the greatest and immigration the world had ever seen.
Suffering came in many forms. Once the Namashudras used to be ill-treated by the so-called higher caste Hindu people, they never got equal rights, but ironically they also had to leave their motherland because of being Hindu. They became refugees, ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed. Places like Andaman-Nikobar, Nainital, Dandkaranya etc were their new destination. Even there, they made land fertile by virtue of their inheritance, honest labour as most of them used to have their livelihood by farming. The history of Marichjhanpi is the history of the loss of identity of the suffering humanity.
The third generation of the Namashudra community threads the avenue to reach the goal and at the same time it was walking on the edges; one mistake and you are finished. It is deplorably true that a section of Namashudra has forgotten the teachings of our beloved leaders like Dr.B.R.Ambedkar, Guruchand Thakur, Jananayak Mukunda Bihari Mallik. Fellow feeling, philanthropic outlooks on their suffering brother, sense of helpfulness are now at a discount. Self-centredness is dominant over the sense of fraternity.
It is the onerous task of the fourth generation of the Namashudra born and brought up since 1980/1990 to traverse the slipply path to reach the ultimate destination, the threshold of life and light, to be torch bearer of emancipation from this opportunity resulted in the creation of new, enlightened middle class intellectuals among the Namashudras in the era of
1881 – 1947. This effort meant a lot, it resulted a lot, it helped Baba Sahed Ambedkar to enter in the Constituent Assembly in 1946, although Sardar Ballabh Bhai Patel tried his best to resist the entry of Dr.Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly from anywhere in India. It was toughly challenged by Mahapran Jogendra Nath Mondal by inviting Baba Saheb to come to Bengal by following the great Guruchand Thakur.
He played a noble role for the cause of whole Dalits of India and by assuring the votes of the M.L.As belonging to Namashudra and Rajbanshi community, taught by great leader Roy Saheb Thakur Panchanan Burman, another hard working SC community of North Bengal. the subsequent chapter is a history in which epoch – making roles were played by the so beloved leaders, the outcome of which is the dignified status of people belonging to S.C. and S.T.
The era after partition of Bengal presents the glooming picture of the worst suffering of the Namashudra and other backward communities like Rajbanshi and Panda Kshatriya, resulted from being uprooted from their motherland when the ray of hope for these exploited communities was visible at the formative period of their up – liftment caused by the British rulers, they were uprooted from their own motherland where they were born and brought up peacefully with the suffering Muslim brothers who had esteemed leader like A.K. Fazlul Haque, who felt sorrow for the sufferings endured by the ‘Gafurs’ throughout Bengal which reflected age – old bondage, exploitation, deprivation and untold suffering.
Mutual respect for each other will be held the young generation to be cosmopolitan. Sanctimony which was salient feature of our ancestral womanhood ought to be brought back in the anarchical tendency. The venomous fruit of modern aristocratic society. Chastity is the prime need of our age to bring forth the coming generation. The Great possibilities of development should not be allowed to be nipped in the bud. Let the teaching and sacrifices of our beloved leaders are beacon light to us and endless source of inspiration to arise, awake and not to stop until the goal is reached.