Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society: The Non Brahman Movement in Western India, 1873 to 1930 [1 ed.]

A revision of the author's thesis, University of California, 1973.

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Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society: The Non Brahman Movement in Western India, 1873 to 1930 [1 ed.]

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CULTURAL REVOLT IN A COLONIAL SOCIETY The Non Brahman Movement in Western India : 1873 to 1930





Published by Scientific Socialist Education Trust * Shramik / Piot No. 31 Vincent Sq. Street No. 3 Dadar, Bombay No. 14 ( Maharashtra)

Trustees Yeshwant Chavan, Chairman S. K. Limaye, Secretary B. B. Kam at, Treasurer D it t a Deshmukh Santaram Patil A. D. Bhosale Bhaskar Jadhav

© Rights Reserved

First Edition : January 1976

Copies : 2500

Price Rs. 40

Printed by G. Y. HIrve Sathidar Printers 461/1, Sadashlv, Poona 30

TABLE OF CONTENTS Forward Preface Map of Maharashtra Chapter I : Introduction page 1 Historical Significance of the Non Brahman Movement Interpretations: “ NonBrahman ” and “ Bahujan Samaj ” The Focus of the Study in the Context of South Asian Scholarship. Sociological Concepts and the Problem of Modernization. The NonBrahman Movement in the Colonial Setting. Chapter n : Towards a Model of Colonialism The Development of Leninist Theories of Colonialism. New Classes in the Colonial Society The Plural Society : Community and Culture UnderColonialism.

page 15

Chapter in : Caste in Traditional India Caste as a Cultural System The Historical Origins and Functions of Caste The Political and Economic Effects of Caste Cultural Revolt in Indian History.

page 35

Chapter IV : Maharashtra : The People and Their History Geography. The Early History of Maharashtra Maratha Historiography and Brahman-NonBrahman Disputes. Conclusions Appendix I : Castes of Maharashtra Appendix II : Marathi Proverbs and Caste

page 49

Chapter V : The Development of Maharashtrian Class Stractnre, 1818 to 1991 The Commercial Bourgeosie in Maharashtra. The Intelligentsia. Decline of the Aristocracy. Peasants and workers. Elites and Masses within Colonial Maharashtra. Chapter V I: Jotirao Ptattle and the Ideology of Social Revolution fa India Phule and the Indian Renaissance Brahman Ideology and Organizing 3

page 73

page 98

Jotirao Phule : A Reformer Becomes a Social Revolutionary The Moral Basis of Society : Revolutionary Values Aryans and Non-Aryans : the Problem of Indian National Culture. Economic and Political Dilemmas Conclusions ; A Heritage of Social Revolution Unfulfilled Chapter VII: Shahu Maharaj page 124 Descendent of Shivaji, Protector of NonBrahman Development of the NonBrahman Movement in Kolhapur The Satyashodhak Movement of Kolhapur Social Effects of the Kolhapur Movement: the Marathas Political Effects of the Kolhapur Movement : Non Brahmans and Nationalism Conclusions : Phule and Shahu Chapter VIII : The Satyashodhak Samaj 1873 to 1919 The Spread of the Satyashodhak Samaj. Who Took Part ? Ideology and Activity.

page 137

Chapter IX : Caste Conferences, 1910 to 1930 Satyashodhak Activists and the Caste Conferences. Social Unity and Reform within the Conferences. The Malis : Internal Conflicts. The Maratha Education Conference Conclusions.

page 163

Chapter X : NonBrahmans Organize Politically The Context of British Policy. Early NonBrahman Conflicts with Nationalism. The Emergence of NonBrahman Politics, 1917-1920. NonBrahmans in the Legislative Council. Local Boards. Conclusions.

page 177

Chapter XI : The Satyashodhak Samaj and Peasant Agitation Mukundrao Patil: Peasant Spokesman Satyashodhak Tamashas The Satara Rebellion. Effects of the Rebellion. The Small Holdings Bill.

page 207

Chapter XII : NonBrahmans and Nationalists in Poona Poona: The Social Base of Politics. The First Challenge, 1917-1920. Radicalism Among the Marathas.

page 228


The NonBrahman Challenge in Poona, 1922-1926. The New Politics of Poona—and Maharashtra. Chapter XIII : NonBrahmans and Communists in Bombay page 248 Social Organization in Bombay City. Early NonBrahman Labor Organization The New Labor Movement: Communists and NonBrahmans Dinkarrao Javalkar: The Revolution Against Caste and Capitalism. Chapter XIV : Historical and Comparative Perspectives on The NonBrahman Movement The Turbulent Decade. India : Phases of Peasant Unrest. Development of the NouBrahman Movement in Maharashtra: Sumnary. Conclusions.

page 268

Chapter XV : Peasant Rebellion and Cultural Revolt Economic Correlates of Peasant Communism in India Caste and Cultural Correlates of Peasant Communism Patterns of Communist Mobilizing Success Peasant Rebellion and Cultural Revolt.

page 285

Footnotes Glossary of Marathi Terms Appendix; Leaders of the “ Bahujan Samaj " Bibliography

page 305 page 368 page 370 page 375


FORWARD : A CONTINUING JOURNEY The Scientific Socialist Education Trust has great sense of happiness in presenting this book, “ Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society—The Non-Brahman Movement in Maharashtra, 1873 to 1930 ”, by Dr. Gail Omvedt to readers. It is on a very significant period in the history of modern Maharashtra. It basically and essentially deals with a very vital aspect of the Maharashrian life of the period-the cultural one. The publication of the book was to coincide with the centenary celebration of the Satya-shodhak Samaj, last year and was to be a sort of a tribute to that great, valiant effort of late Mahatma Jotirao Phule, to institutionalise a cultural movement of revolutionary potency. A few well-wishers had rendered monetary help to us, so that we could rea­ lise our intention. Though the help was not mean, it was insufficient. Our inex­ perience became an added factor and we could not keep the promise to publish the book in time. We take this opportunity to express openly our heartfelt and grateful thanks to all those who have made the publication possible and hope that they would excuse us the delay. The trust has multiple activities before it, publishing literature being one of them. However, we are not professional publishers. The trust is a committed body as regards objectives and importantly so, in the matter of ideology. The Trust has a firm conviction that no society can launch on the venture of socialistically organising itself, unless the scientific truth of the revolutionary principles of Marxism-Leninism adequately informs the movement of the most advanced class of the day-the working class. This is no less true of the Maharashtra people; a constituent of the mosaic of the Indian Union. We are thus voluntarily bound to the publication and promotion of litera­ ture, which subscribes to the basic aim of the Trust’s multi-form activities. We undertook the publication of the book since we felt that the book will contribute positively to the efforts the Trust yearns to 'make, to prepare the Maharashtrian people—its working class, its rural toiling masses, its middle class masses-to parti­ cipate in the nationally accepted venture of organising itself in a socialist fashion. We undertook to publish the book even when the ideological stance of the writer was not Marxist-Leninist. Her stance simply could not be that. The book is a doctoral dissertation by Ms. Gail Omvedt. The University of California conferred the doctorate on Gail Omvedt for she research she went in to prepare the dissertation. The doctorate puts the stamp of scholarship, but mere scholarship is not always necessarily illuminating. Gail Omvedt has marshalled in the book, with meticulous care all the deta­ ils that are necessary to understand men and events of the period in their historic setting. She has revealed herself superbly as a historical analyst in tackling the very difficult task of choosing, discriminating and correlating men and events. 6

Marathi is totally an alien language to Gail Omvedt. But the fact has proved no bar to her, to understand the flourishes, the subtlties and the nuances inherent in every literary style and are peculiarly, charactristically and separately native to each and every language. Any serious student must have competencc, aptitude, capacities to qualify oneself for such a job. Gail has them in abundance. But this does not mark out Gail. What marks her out is that she has succeeded in so blending them, that her book has got invested with crystal objectivity. Scholarship with such sort of objectivity is illuminating and this book by Gail Omvedt illumin­ ates the cultural treasure of this particular period of modern Maharashtra. Social life is a contradictory process. It has both negative and positive aspects, it has continuity and breaks, has continuity and leaps. This holds true of all the constituents of social life, so of culture too. Culture reflects conscious­ ness that human society attains at a particular state and hencc culture plays quite a decisive role in the course of moulding the social formation that is continuously going on. Marxists-Leninists are not cultural nihilists. In their eflorts to prepare' the onrushing social forces to engage in self-conscious revolutionary activity to change society. Marxists-Leninists have to pick up all those progressive strands, in the culture of the earlier period, that have necessarily to go in the building of the spiritual make-up of the newly emerging productive forces. In the crucial period of transition from one stage to another many a knot mushrooms in the cul­ tural field. The new social forces that forge forward to domiante the social stage from their own narrow, sectarian point of view are very much interested in)nursing such mushrooming. And thus it becomes a key task for the next-day revolution­ aries to unravel such cultural knots. In today’s context it is no more just a specialised task of the activists on the cultural front. It is a political task which ought to have precedence, over all others, in the cause of the ideological prepara­ tion of the revolutionary forces. Nevertheless, very often, the task remains negle­ cted. In the Maharashtrian section of the Indian Revolutionary Movement this task suffered nearly a total neglect. This book by Gail Omvedt does a splendid job in unravelling many a knot in the cultural life of Maharashtrian people. These have been clogging and are clogging the selfemancipatory endeavour of the Maharashtrian toiling people. Canonize the most representative person of the reballiously rising people, sap the vitality of their spiritual being and benumb them into inaction : such has been the age-old subterfage of the vested interests. Maharashtra is undregoing presently a phase of similar social experience in the case of the late Mahatma Jotirao Phule and the late Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. Mahatma Phule is naturally focal figure in the book. The unbiased investigatory activity of Gail Omvedt separates the grain from the husk and the militant advocate of the cause of the downtrodden, the untou­ chables and women and the spiritual inspirer of the basic social forces of Maharashtra that Mahatma Phule was, stands out in a very clear form. While undertaking the research Gail Omvedt might not have meant it but the book establi­ shes a lineal relationship of Mahatma Jotirao Phule with the present-day revolu­ tionary movements of the working class and rural toiling masses of Maharashtra. 7

In effecting this discovery of the cultural ancestry of the labouring masses of Maharashtra Gail Omvedt has discovered herself too. Gail had done, earlier in the sixties, a short stint, as a Lecturer in a Nagpur College. Again in 1971 she returned to India to Maharashtra, as a research scholar in the field of Sociology with the title of the book, as the topic, for her study. She, an Ameri­ can, a product of a bourgeois American University did her job efficiently as an American scholar is expected to do. But she did not stop at merely studying. She started knowing too and the classical Marxist-Leninist precept, that knowing is doing, stirred her, made her a restless soul and inevitably in her spiritual sear­ chings she journeyed to Marxism-Leninism. We of the Trust and Gail Omvedt have become mates in the common journey. There is disorder all over the world and American Imperialism is the spring stream of this disorder. The revolutionary effort is to be world-wide and is indi­ visible. America, Gail Omvedt’s homeland does not lack in deep social discontent nor in conscious mass rebeliousness but she found her revolutionary indentity, in her career as a research scholar, in the social enviroments of Maharashtra. It will not be strange if she feels a naturalised Maharashtrian, and if she prefers to act as a Maharashrian with revolutionary purpose for the revolutionary cause. Gail Omvedt owes absolutely nothing to us in the preparation of her dissertation and still we felt it an obligation to volunteer to publish the book. The print-copy of the dissertation contains some changes or improvements but the basic structure of the dissertation has remained unaltered. We are publishing this book in English though it is thoroughly marathi in content and spirit. Thereby we feel the book can reach a wider audience and can stimulate basic discussion of cultural issues that haunt the peculiar, casteridden society of India. Neither the publishers nor the author take the book as the final word on the evaluation of men and events of the period or interpretation of the activities of the dominant personalities of the Period.

Board of Trustees, Scientific Socialist Education Trust.

PREFACE A book is published under the name of an individual, but like all other human products it represents, to a significant degree, collective labor. It is there­ fore important that all those who helped should receive credit. This book is a slightly revised version of a Ph. D. dissertation accepted by the Department of Sociology of the University of California, Berkeley, in March 1973. It is based upon field research carried out in Maharashtra between January 1970 and August 1971. I owe thanks to my Indian advisors during this period, to Dhananjay Keer, the main Indian biographer of Phule, to Professor Y. B. Damle of Deccan College and Professor M. P. Mangudkar, to Professor Y. A. Wadaskar in Nagpur, and most of all to Professor Ram Bapat of Poona University who was a never-failing source of inspiration and insight and an important interpreter of Maharashtrian culture. I would like to thank those who helped me, both formally and informally, as interpreters : Manohar Aswale, Rajashri Bhat, D. S. Deshpande, Virmila Dixit, Mohan Dravid, Rambhau Kolhe, S. Y. Patil, R. Y. Ranzane, E. Shirke, Jayant Sohon:, and many others. I have greatly benefited also from discussion with both American and Indian colleagues during this period and the following year of writing : I would like to thank Donald and Rhoda Attwood, Daniel Berman, Carolyn Elliott, Peter Hook, Chandra Mudaliar, Michael and Shantabai Metelits, Donald Rosenthal, G. S. Suryavanshi, Richard Tueker Shyam Yedekar, and Eleanor Zelliott. I am grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Senapati of Poona, to Dr. D. D. Jadhav of Kolhapur, and to K. K. Savant and the rest of my “ Indian Family ” in Bombay for providing not simply food, houseing and friendship, but something more than this, a home in India. Above all, I owe thanks for help during this period to the non Brahman and Satyashodhak leaders who made my year and a half of field research a rich and re­ warding experience, who provided not simply interview information but also friend­ ship and hospitality, who communicated to me their vision of an Indian society freed from the bonds of caste and poverty. Their names are too numerous to list here, but special thanks should be given to Ganpatrao Bapurao Shinde and Y. D. Ghate of Poona, to K. K. Savant of Bombay, to P. K. Bhapkar and Hirabai Bhapkar of Ahmednagar, to Hari Piraji Dhaygude of Baramati, to Jotirao Bayajirao Phalke of Satara, among many others. The nonBrahman movement as whole ' perhaps owes special gratitude to those who preserved the documents and records of the movement, without which no historical research is possible. Special thanks should be given to Madhavrao Shripatrao Shinde for the use of the files of Vijayi Maratha, to Ganpatrao Jadhav for Kaivari to Madhavrao Mukundrao Patil for the files of Din Mitra, to Shamrao Desai for the records of Rashtravir; to Appasaheb Jadhav, Jotirao Phalke, K. K. Savant, and D. S, Zhodge, who have preser­ ved important books and documents; and finally to Gopinath Eknathrao Palkar whose collection of Satyashodhak conference reports and the 19th century copies of Din Bandhu were of the utmost value. 9

A dissertation is a result not only of the immediate years of field work but also of the years of training that go to the education of the researcher herself. My years at the University of California, Berkeley, were among the most stimulating of my life, and I would like to thank Professors Wolfram Eberhard, Erving Goffman, Ellen Gumperz, Eugene Irschick, Leo Lowenthal, Bruce Pray and Franz Schumann, as well as the numerous graduate students of the departments of history and sociology who provided education as important as the formal classroom trai­ ning itself. I owe special thanks to those whose involvement with my education was both as teachers at Berkeley and as guides and critics during the writing of this dissertation. Professor Thomas Metcalf has given me much of my training in Indian history, has been a friendly guide in India as well as in the U. S. and has been a careful and critical reader of the long historical body of this dissertation. Professor Reinhard Bendix has provided, through my years at Berkeley, the support to take on the broader issues of comparative-historical sociology, and has cared deeply enough about his responsibilties as chairman of my dissertation committee to spend many long hours of critical written and verbal discussion of the major theoretical issues involved. While our theoretical differences have widened, he has nonetheless been a major sociological mentor whose far-ranging work has encoura­ ged my own attempts to combine sociology and history. These attempts have led me, finally, to Marxism as the most accurate theory for both understanding and affecting human society. Here it has to be said that the most crucial parts of my education in Marxist theory were received not in the academy in the U. S. but in India itself, an education which is perhaps only partly reflected in this book. For this I owe thanks to Yeshwant Chavan, D. S. Deshpande, Bhaskar Jadhav and S. K. Limaye. In addition I am grateful to Ram Bapat, Kumar and Urmila Saptarshi, Suresh Gavali, Nagesh Chaudhuri, K. B. Patankar, Nevrutti Gaikwad and many others who engaged me in discussion and debate and gave me my introduction to the ongoing anti-caste and anticapitalist struggles of the People of India. Finally, my year and a half of field research was supported mainly on a grant from the American Institute of Indian Studies which dispersed to me, as a Junior Fellow, a few of the millions of American-owned rupees of the PL-480 funds. Thus the ultimate source of the surplus that made this book possible was the labor of Indian peasants and workers, and it is to them that this book is dedicated. It is my hope that this will be one work of scholarship that will serve not the needs of colonial rulers to understand the people they try to govern, but rather the needs of the masses of the oppressed to understand their own history, their own strugg­ les, and the effects of colonialism, class and caste.



Chapter I Introduction India is a strange place which collects all sorts of social groups, guided by different religions, thoughts, practices, and understandings. But broadly speak­ ing, this can be categorized into two— the masses ( bahujan samaj) who have been devoid of humanity for centuries, and a handful who take their pleasure, call themselves superior, and live at the cost of the masses. One’s welfare is another’s misery— that is their connection ll W ho can say that the Satyashodhak movement which gave the power of thought and the drive of progress to the majority classes of society was not a movement of the bahujan sama] ? What are our rights, whoever and whatever is doing injustice to us and treading us underfoot, we must tread these injustices underfoot— it was the Satyashodhak Samaj which set ablaze the flame of this conviction in the numerous lower class majority I 2

Historical Significance of the Non-Brahman Movement Beginning in the nineteenth century, against a background of the increasing poverty of the lower classes under British rule and the domination of the largely Brahman native elite, a movement of cultural revolt rose in Maharashtra, a region of approximately 50 million Marathi speakers in western India. Often described as the “ non-Brahman movement ”, it took its rise from 1873 when a leader of middle caste status, Jotirao Phule, founded the Satyashodhak Samaj ( “ Truthseekers’ Society ”) as a rationalistic and equalitarian socio-religious reform organi­ zation. The Samaj, which attained its greatest strength between 1911 and 1930, represented the aspirations of a wide range of non-Brahman castes from Untoucha­ bles to the large agricultural caste of Maratha-Kunbis; in class terms it drew some support from non-Brahman intelligentsia and members of the commercial bourgeoisie, but was by and large peasant-based. While the Maharaja of Kolhapur, a Maratha ruling prince, provided important patronage for the move­ ment and some basis for its more conservative forms, and while the non-Brah' man political party which sprang up in the 1920s was primarily an organization of the non-Brahman elite, it was the Satyashodhak Samaj that gave a reality to the claims of the movement as a whole to represent the Maharashtrian masses. Because of the samaj, the “ non-Brahman movement ” represented not simply the struggle of contending elites ( as such movements are usually analysed) but also a form of attempted social revolution against the Indian intelligentsia and bour­ geois elites. Leaders of the non-Brahman movement were initially opposed to the Brahman-dominated national movement, which they saw simply as an effort to replace 1

British rule by Brahman rule. Thus in 19It, when the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms gave a wider representation to Indians on the legislative councils, non-Brahmans organized a separate and loyalist political party. However, after 1920 the nation* alist aspirations of many non-Brahmans began to be expressed within the movement, and young radical leaders attacked the Brahman elite not simply for its social dominance, but for its ineffective leadership of the national movement. Similarly, while the first expression of the movement was that of “ cultural revolt ” in focussing on the traditional caste system and the religious roots of Brahman domi­ nance, it gained an increasing economic content with peasant agitation against moneylenders and landlords. By the end of the 1920s, then, an extensive rural leadership had developed under the auspices of the movement, based not on traditionalistic authority patterns but rather on an ability to express the economic, cultural, and educatio­ nal demands of lower class non-Brahmans. In this decade, this leadership and the movement as a whole came into contact and conflict with a changing national movement under Gandhi’s leadership and with emerging Communist organization among the Bombay working class. The fact that it was the Gandhian Congress, rather than a more radical Communist or Socialist mobilizing party, that managed to absorb the movement, was decisive for the ability of the Congress to consolidate its power in Maharashtra. Corresponding to this conservative conso­ lidation of nationalist forces, the forces of economic radicalism in peasant and working-class movements were held ir check, and the Satyashodhak Samaj itself died away as an organization after 1930. The non-Brahman movement itself contained both an elite-based conservative trend and a more genuine mass-based radicalism. With the fading of the move­ ment in the 1930s, it would appear that only the more conservative goals have been attained. The Maharashtrian Brahman intelligentsia, though still dominant in educational and cultural institutions, has been swept from political power by a rich peasant non-Brahman elite with strong roots in the villages and with an institutional basis in rural co-operatives and educational societies. The existence of a class elite in almost every caste group, including Untouchables, has meant a significant degree of opening up of the society and a dispersal of castes along the economic ladder. Yet caste traditions, including the relegation of Untouchables to separate living areas, remain strong in the villages and religious practices which the Satyashodhak Samaj opposed, including reliance on Brahman priests, remain in existence. More important, perhaps, a recent study on “ Poverty in India *' showed that 61*04% of the rural population of the state was below the line of poverty ( only Kerala and Andhra had a higher percentage); 30% of rural house* holds were agricultural labor households (only five States, Andhra, Bihar, Kerala, Madras and West Bengal were higher) and only four States (Andhra, Kerala, Madras and Punjab) had a higher concentration of landholding.8 Thus, in terms of economic inequalities, Maharashtra can still be called a society in which, as the Satyashodhak leader Mukundrao Patil argued, “ a handful take their plea­ sure, call themselves superior, and live at the cost of the masses.” However, while the more radical goals of the movement have not been attained, it lives as a tradition of mass revolt, the first one of Maharashtra and 2

still the most important to its largely peasant society, it is this movement of cultural revolt in a crucial linguistic state of India that will be the focus of this dissertation. The general perspective of most scholars is that modern Indian society has to be understood in terms of the impact of the West on a tradi­ tional, but not undynamic, caste society; that is, both internal and external social structures have to be taken into account. With this we agree, but the analysis used here differs in two crucial respects. First, the interpretation developed of traditional caste society gives weight not only to the special integrative features of the oaste system, but also the forms in which it generates rebellion, and seeks to analyze caste in its historical and ethnic context. Here emphasis will be given to the cultural aspects of integration and revolt, since it was the culture of caste, rather than its economic and political bases, that survived into the colonial era. Second, the analysis of the *western impact ’ will emphasize that in its concrete 'historical form of capitalist colonialism, it was not simply *modernizing ’ but functioned in crucial ways to warp and delay Indian development, politically, culturally, and economically. More precisely, colonialism involved not simply the imposition of new forms of social organization upon the traditional one, but the transformation of the very basis of Indian society, creating new forms out of ‘ traditional ’ materials. Hopefully, then, an analysis of movements arising in this context of the colonial society of western India will contribute not only to an understanding of modern India, but also to the development of a sociology of colonialism. Interpretations: “ Non-Brahman ” and " Bahujan Samaj ’’ Two trends existed within the movement studied here, the one more ideo­ logically conservative and upper-class-based, the other radical in its opposition to caste and primarily peasant-based. Organizationally the trends might be said to be expressed in the non-Brahman political party and in the Satyashodhak Samaj, but these were overlapping, not parallel organizations. The non-Brahman Party was the only pollitical organization of the movement; it drew upon the Satyashodhak Samaj for some of its ideological emphasis and for mass contacts and its upperclass leadership at times yielded to poor peasant pressures. The Satyashodhak Samaj was the only fully ideological organization; though there was a - more conservative trend among upperclass non-Brahmans in what may be called the ‘ Ksatriya ideology, ’ the latter never found an organizational expression and represented rather a kind of intermediary point between Satyashodhak radi­ calism and caste orthodoxy it was the' sanskritizing ’ aspect. There are, however, two linguistic categorizations that represent the two aspects of the movement. The first is that expressed in the dichotomy ‘ Brahman/ non-B rahm anthe second in the Marathi categories of bahujan samaj/shetjibhatji. While ‘ Non-Brahman ’ and its Marathi equivalent brahmanetar were and are widely applied to the movement, this was done so by non-Brahmans them­ selves without enthusiasm, almost as if the term was one imposed from outside ( and indeed, the term came into use partly through extension from the more powerfully organized movement in Madras Presidency-through the medium of 3

English).* People preferred to speak of the Satyashodhak Samaj and after a period of time it became clear that there was in fact another set of linguistic terms, expressing a categorization of Maharashtrian society and the forces involved significantly different from the terms 4 Brahman' and ‘ Non-Brahman.1 Although it arose only in the late colonial period (around 1906 and from within the Satyashodhak movement, evidently), bahujan samaj is more clearly a Marathi term, and has no precise English equivalent. Literally it means 44 the majority community ” or “the majority of society” and tends to be used as an equivalent of “the masses ”. It has thus a kind of class content that “non- Brah­ man” lacks, referring to lower class peasants and workers; it is populistic in its implications. It can be seen as a sort of lower class equivalent to the Bengali term bhadralok.4 In caste terms it often substitutes for “ non-brahman”, but more accurately it applies to much the same groups as the term shudra did in the nine­ teenth century. That is, it excludes not merely Brahmans but also other education­ ally advanced castes as well as merchant castes. (Thus, while a CKP or a Marwari , is technically a “non-Brahman” he is not part of the bahujan samaj).^ It also tends to exclude the aristocratic and wealthy among non-Brahmans, though if upper-class non-Brahmans come from a primarily peasant or poor non-Brahman caste they may identify themselves in terms of their social roots and style of life as part of the bahujan samaj. The “ meaning ” of the term is also expressed by its “ opposite” or the enemies of the bahujan samaj, characterized as shetji bhatju Here too we see an important departure from the “ non-Brahman” conceptualization. In the earliest period of the movement the enemy elite was seen primarily as Brahman and refe­ rred to with the demeaning term bhat, especially connoting a village priest. An­ other term sometimes used was pandharpesha, roughly meaning “ intellectuals ” and again implying primarily Brahmans. But as the movement gained economic content with peasant opposition to moneylenders and landlords, the enemy began to be understood in class as well as caste terms. Shet is the Marathi word for merchant, and while it applied primarily to merchant castes, it was also used as an occupational title applied regardless of caste. Shetji-bhatji thus meant u mer­ chants and Brahmans.7’ What is important to stress here is that while neither the opposition of “ Brahman-nonBrahman ” or shetji-bhatji / bahujan- samaj was “ traditional to Maharashtrian society ( both were outgrowths of the colonial period )$ they divided up social reality in significantly different ways. From the view point of the bahujan samaj categorization, the non-Brahman political party itself could be *The following linguistic discussion and comments about '* preferred ” terminology are drawn from discussions throughout my period of field research. It was only gradually that I came to realize the importance of the bahujan samaj conceptualization, and more detailed study Is really necessary to clarify fully the application of the term. •(• See Appendix to Chapter IV for a discussion of these and other Maharashtrian castes, j The •' traditional ” categorization would be brahman/ktatriya/vaishya/shudra, and in these terms it is linguistically “ strange ” , as Tilak among others argued, to include the three latter varn ai within the one category of “ non-Brahman."


( and is ) seen as a “ deviation ” from the truer and more radical thrust of the movement, since it was elite-based and included merchants and aristocrats along with urban professions. It should also be stressed that while “ non-Brahman” awakens in part negative connotations ( it tends to be associated, for the Indian elite as well as for Western scholars, with the viewpoint that the movement simply represented the “ caste ” interests of a rural-based elite opposing an al­ ready dominant elite ), bahujan samaj retains widespread positive and powerful connotations in Maharashtrian social and political life today. Linguistic categories express assertions about reality held by the members of that society. The bahujan samajjshetji-bhatji dichotomy expressed in this sense the belief that the primary contradiction in Maharashtrian colonial society was that between the largely non Brahman peasant masses (including here rich peasants who may be described in other context as '* elites ” ) and the moneylender-landlord-bureaucratic intelligentsia network within which Brahmans were dominant. As we shall argue in Chapters II and V, this was by and large an accurate depi­ ction. The bahujan samaj category also expressed a degree of unity among nonBrahmans that was to a degree mass based and capable of overcoming caste diffe­ rences although these continued to exist among them. This was also a fairly accurate characterization of the movement. First in terms of caste, while differences remained and were expressed in the somewhat special position of Untouchables and in continual surfacings of a “ Maratha-nonMaratha ” conflict, nevertheless, there was a wide degree of participation by the different bahujan samaj castes at all levels of the movement. Second, the ambi­ guous position of the more upper-class non-Brahmans in terms of the bahujan samaj categorization was expressed in their somewhat ambiguous position in the movement. Upper-class non-Brahmans, specifically professionals and intelli­ gentsia as well as members of the commercial bourgeoisie, tended to be involved in its more conservative forms, dominating the non-Brahman Party and tend­ ing towards assertion of a “ Ksatriya ideology.” Nevertheless, many of them were involved in the Satyashodhak Samaj, though the latter organization had primarily a peasant base ( and a base among artisan castes in the cities ) In terms of class, the upper-level leadership of the Satyashodhak Samaj ( those known at a level wider than one district or region of Maharashtra) fall into three basic catego­ ries. First were the urbanized professionals, men such as Bhaskarrao Jadhav and A. B. Latthe, who had a more cosmopolitan orientation and very little actual affinity with village life. Second were members of the commercial bourgeoisie and lower level intellectuals, including some village school teachers. An important example of the latter was Keshavrao Jedhe, whose family was a wealthy brassfactory-owner in Poona. Among this latter group, however, many had very close ties with peasant society. These included Jotirao Phule himself, the founder of the movement, and Dinkarrao Javalkar, who was next to Jedhe the most impor­ tant leader of the 1920s. Phule, while he made his living as a contractor, was barely a generation removed from village life; his grandfather and great-grand­ father were peasants, his father a fiower-shop owner in Poona with some land and many relatives still in the villages. Javalkar, basically an intellectual-an itine­ rant writer and joumalist-was born in a poor peasant family in Poona. Again, 5

Bhaurao Patil, founder of the most important educational institution of the move­ ment, came from a peasant family in the south. Third, important leaders of the movement were peasants not only in origin but also in occupation. These included above all Mukundrao Patil, another ideo­ logue of the movement who supported his press out of his earnings as a rich pea­ sant in an Ahmednagar village, and Anandaswami, a poor peasant who became a wandering guerrilla leader of somewhat charismatic quality ( see Chapter X I). Also crucial were over 30 peasant organizers of tamashas, who transformed the traditional rural folk dramas of Maharashtra into a kind of Satyashodhak guerrilla theater to spread the themes of the movement far and wide through Maharashtrian districts in the 1920s; these were primarily middle peasants. Given the fact that due to their lack of access to resources ( material and educational) peasants are rarely found at the top levels of even recognized “ peasant move­ ments ”, the intimate village links of so many of the important leaders of the Satyashodhak movement is a significant fact. The degree of unity implied in the “ mass ” aspect of the bahujan samaj conceptualization should be looked at in terms of Satyashodhak influence and organization. In what respect can we say that the Samaj was a mass-based organization ? Here the relativity of numbers should be remembered : what seemed to be a small percentage of the population was enough, in the Indian context at the time, to provide a powerful lower class element of pressure on higher cen­ ters of power and on upper class organizations such as the Indian National Con­ gress. When Gopal Krishna describes the early 1920s as the period of develop­ ment of the Congress as a “ mass ” organization, he cites claimed membership figures of 45,668 for Bombay City, 79,489 for western Maharashtra, and 52,940 for the Marathi-speaking areas of the Central Provinces.' Similarly, when the Kisan Sabhas developed in the 1930s under Marxist leadership, their height in this period was 546,800 members, of which nearly half ( 250,000) were in the state of Bihar; yet these numbers were sufficient to worry Congress leaders concerned about “ hordes of peasants ” on the march ( see Chapter XI for a discussion of this period). To the present, the largest figures claimed for a state Kisan Sabha have been 400,000 claimed for the CPI ( M )-organized leagues in West Bengal in 1968; yet these figures underlay a situation in which the CPI (M ) received 19.9% of the popular vote in 1969 and 33.8% in 1971.* It is in the context of such figures that the Satyashodhak Samaj’s “ mass ” character should be assessed. The difficulty in doing even this, however, lies in the fact that the Samaj as an organization did not enroll members and almost never made claims to member­ ship figures. In assessing the one such claim on record, it is important to stress first that there is sufficient evidence for the extensiveness of the organi­ zation, the degree to which it had a widespread basis in Maharashtrian villa­ ges. The newspaper Din Mitra here is our greatest source, for it had a habit of reporting not only tours of leaders and of tamashas ( village folk dramas), but events, problems, ceremonies and meetings in remote villages, often chosen for their “ exemplary ” quality. From a rough sample of about five years of the news­ paper between 1910 and 1924, we have on record 207 named villages in 60 6

tahikas of 20 districts of what is now Maharashtra ( this was the majority of the present 24 districts and over one-fourth of the present talukas) . These named villages represent only a fraction of the total villages touched, though it is im­ possible to estimate the denominator of the fraction.* And these were from the period before 192S, that is, before the organization got its greatest spread in many districts, and before most of the tours of the peasant folk dramas or tamashas began. The one claim to membership numbers was made in 1926, when Bhaskarrao Jadhav claimed 25,000 members in the district of Satara. If we extend this to all the Marathi-speaking districts on the basis of the strength of the organiza­ tion’s influence estimated in terms of the village meetings, etc., discussed above, we can arrive at a figure of something like 200,000 for all of Maharashtra.'1 This compares favorably to both the Indian National Congress at its early 1920s height as a “ mass” organization ( membership figures as Gopal Krishna notes, declined after 1923 as the fervor of the non-cooperation campaign died away ) as well as to the Kisan Sabha figures of the 1930s and later. No peasant organiza­ tion in Maharashtra upto the present has equalled this even in terms of claimed figures ( and it must be remembered that all cases of peasant league membership, whether within India or outside, represent “ claims ” and not “ scientifically asse­ ssed ” membership figures ); it is for this reason that we can call it the most important mass movement of the State. Therefore, to take the Satyashodhak Samaj and the bahujan samaj concept­ ualization as one of the major foci of this dissertation implies that in Maharashtra the largely peasant, lower and middle-caste “ masses ” have a social reality and a historical tradition of their own which is in opposition at crucial points to elite tradition ( including the tradition of aristocratic non-Brahmans). It implies that peasant villagers are not simply linked to other castes within their own villages by social relationships, not simply to other members of their caste on a wider regional basis, and not simply to elites and wider political centers through various mediators. It implies that they also have an involvement and an identification with a very large number of lower and middle castes over a wide geographical area, and that this linkage has been historically actualized by social relationships, events, organizations and means of communication that are characteristically part of “ mass culture ” and express forms of opposition to caste orthodoxy and its dominant groups. Finally, while it was most often upper level villagers ( probably rich peasants) who were involved in the creation of this consciousness and tradition in many recorded cases it took form in opposition to dominant village groups and in other important cases it involved the mobi­ lization of poorer peasants to exert pressure on the upper class leaders of the nondrahman movement ( see Chapter XI). Under the auspices of the Satyashodhak ♦For instance the State of Kolhapur, while reporting “ hundreds of villages *' involved in the organization, never named them; the same was true of talukas like Khed ift4>oona, which had widespread activity in certain periods but rarely named villages. Again it was often said that peasants from “ many ” sometimes “ hundreds '* of surrounding villages gathered at meetings, or that local or touring higher-level leaders visited “ thirty to forty ” villages in an area. These unnamed villages are excluded along with villages mentioned in other sources.


Samaj, a tradition of mass revolt and a rural leadership group based on an invol­ vement with this tradition were created during the 1920s. The Focus of the Study in the Context of South Asian Scholarship Most analyses by scholars of India do not grant to the Indian “ masses ” as such any form of social reality. Studies may take as their focus villages (as is the case with most anthropologists ), national or regional elites,8 local or regio­ nal units of particular castes,9 or a generally described political or social system.10 On a broader scale they tend to see Indian society as having one “ Great Tradi­ tion ” (seen primarily as the Sanskritic and Brahmanic Hindu tradition) oppo­ sed only by isolated “ Little Traditions the dominant image is one of center and periphery in which the lower classes or villagers are linked primarily to elites at various centers rather than acting or identifying as a “class ” themselves.* The conservative and functionalist bias of most studies is reflected in a recent publication from the influential “ Chicago school ” of South Asian studies In India : Social Anthropology o f Civilization, Bernard Cohn describes the various approaches to the study of Indian civilization as focussing on the catalogue of “ distinctly Indian ” traits, the discovery of the “ essential process ” or style, the study of the “ underlying system of communication and structural integration of Indian civilization,” and India as an example of a universal type .“ And he writes that : The study of processes such as the cultural emulation of higher groups by lower groups, the maintenance of the local hierarchy of status and power, the incorporation of Western scientific thought into indigenous thought, and the past and present effects of indigenous political syste­ ms on modern politics have become the goal.1* With its emphasis on harmony, incorporation, the maintenance of tradition and of traditional power elites, and of emulation as the primary relationship of lower to higher castes, this is of course a highly conservative approach. Little is heard either of class or conflict, either in a general sense or in their specifically Indian forms. More specifically, we may note the lack of studies of peasant movements, working class organization, or broad-scale anti-caste movements. Although pea­ sant rebellion and unrest has been important in modern Indian history, and although peasant support for the National Congress was crucial to the success of the national movement, these have been inadequately studied. Some recent studies of peasant movements have begun to appear,1* but so far there has been little attempt to link isolated studies together for a theoretical understanding of the role and development of peasant unrest in the colonial or modem Indian contexts, and the occasional efforts to do so have made little impact on the field.14 As a result, the involvement of peasants with the Indian National Congress tends still to be understood in terms of Gandhi’s ability to use traditionalist appeals to a presumed traditionalist mass, and the widening of political involvement is seen ^Discussions of “ regional great traditions ” ( such as that of the Marathas in Maharashtra fall within this category; such a tradition certainly exists but was quite separate from the bahufan farnaj tradition discussed here.


almost entirely as a shift from urban elites to rural-based “ dominant caste ” groups.1' We shall show here that both versions are inadequate, at least for Maharashtra. Similarly, there have been almost no studies of social organization and poli­ tical formations among the Indian working classes. Almost all the existing studies of Communist or trade union movements deal primarily with the upper levels of party or union activity.1®In regard to Bombay, two recent works on working class organization by Richard Newman and Ravinder Kumar break new ground in attempting more detailed analysis of social and political organization among workers,111 but they are vitiated by reliance on only English language materials and by failing to discuss the Maharashtrian working class in its general relation­ ship to the broader scale non-Brahman social movement. Finally, while there are many studies of castes and caste movements, these are almost all described either in isolation or with a conservative emphasis that focusses on status uplift, “ Sanskritization ”, and the emulation of higher castes as the primary aspect of lower caste activity. “ Tradition supporting modernity ” continues to be the primary motif, and the elements of rebellion, rejection of tradi­ tion, and opposition to uppercaste dominance are neglected. In contrast, this study will have a focus that is regional in scope, lowerclass based, and a theoretical emphasis that stresses movements of opposition. The geographical scope will be on the linguistic-national region of what is now Maharashtra, for it was the arena of Marathi speakers which defined the limits of the movement. The non-Brahman movement itself contained “ elites ” as well as “ masses ”, elements of accommodation as well as opposition to the prevailing social system, and patron-client, factional political forms as well as elements of revolt and mass mobilization. However, we will focus on the latter, because mass-based movements of revolt have been underemphasized and neglected in studies of India, and because these elements to a large degree provided the context to which the non-Brahman upperclasses were responding. Chapters II and III will establish the theoretical background with an analysis of colonialism as the main “ external ” social feature and the caste pattern of society as the pri­ mary “ internal ” social structure to 19th and 20th century India. Chapter IV will sketch the pre-British social history of Maharashtra and Chapter V will describe the specific changes brought by British rule, the new classes created out of the prior social structure. Chapters VI through XIII will present the historical deve­ lopment of the movement: some of these (e. g., Chapter IX on caste conferences and Chapter X on the non-Brahman Party) will describe the more upper-class or “ non-Brahman ” aspects of the movement; others will focus on its “ bahujan samaj ” aspects in dealing with the organization of the Satyashodhak Samaj, popular means of communication such as village tamashas, peasant agitation, and the writings of intellectuals from lower caste and peasant backgrounds, urban agitational politics, and working class organization. While some superficiality may result from such a broad coverage, its necessity is indicated in the fact that all of these aspects were interrelated in the complex social and political turmoil affecting large numbers of Maharashtrians in the early twentieth century. Finally, the concluding two chapters will summarize the movement and its significance in 9

the broad historical context of Asian social-political development and will attempt to present comparative evidence on movements in India to back up our conclu­ sions regarding the outcome of the movement. Sociological Concepts and the Problem of " Modernization” In contrast to the generally functionalist orientation of “ modernization theory ” approaches to the study of non-Western societies, this dissertation will draw upon a Weberian and Marxist perspective. In Weberian terms, three basic types of social relationships or processes of group formation may be said to exist within a society. As this approach has been summarized by Randall Collins, The primary analytical concepts of the Weberian approach are the material and ideal interests of individuals, and the group and organ­ izational structures developed by individuals to further these interests... Individuals and groups are coordinated on two analytically distinct principles which correspond to the spheres of “ society ” and “ state.” In the sphere of “ society ”, groups are formed as “ constellations of interests ” in which the parties act together voluntarily for what they feel is their mutual benefit. Such groups are formed on two base : coinci­ dence of interests in the economic market, and feelings of identity with others who hold a common culture or ideal. In the sphere of the “ state ”, coordination is based on dominance, in which one individual or group is placed in a position to enforce his will on others. Such coordination is based on an organizational apparatus of dominance and on some kind of principles of legitimacy.18 In terms of social action, the three types may be described as (1) Cultural or communal action in which individuals relate to one another in terms of what Weber called “ affinity ”, a shared sense of identity, a common tradition and way of life; (2) economic action in which they relate in terms of rationally-oriented exchange behavior; and (3) political action in which they relate in terms of the distribution of power within a given society and the rules governing the exercize of that power. Cultural action gives rise to groups that may be described as communities or communal groups, including family or tribal groups, ethnic groups, and nationalities. Economic action produces, above all, the groups descri­ bed as classes, whose basis is defined in relation to a common market situation ( in Weber’s formulation1 or in terms of position within the means of production (in the Marxist definition). Within the sociological tradition, groups based on cultural affinity and rational economic position are often contrasted in terms of “ community ” and “ (civil) society” or in Toennies’ terms, gemeinschaft and gesellschaft, oriented to affective and rational behavior respectively. Political action in the modem era is expressed primarily in the institutions of the state, defined in Weberian terms as the institution holding the monopoly of legitimate violence within a given territory, and which comprises the bureaucracies which administer power and the institutions for decision-making, often parliamentary bodies. Also included within this category are the mobilization parties of the modern era, including both classes and communal groupings. Marxist sociology, 10

in contrast, sees the primary division as between the economic base, comprising the forces of production and relations of production ( roughly, technology and class organization), and the “ superstructure ” which includes political as well as cultural or ideological factors. Weberians, as well as most other sociologists, criticize Marxism for seeing political and ideological factors as simply dependent forces and in reaction emphasize the analytical distinctivene&s of such intitutions as the state. To some extent this is a valid criticism of Marxist analysis which has often given insufficient weight to political and ethnic-communal factors and which still takes as its forte the analysis of the economic roots underlying political and communal conflict. At a broader level, however, the criticism misses the fact that in the last fifty years Communist theory and practice has in fact given weight to political and cultural factors, from Lenin’s emphasis on the organizational role of the vanguard party and theories of imperialism to the Maoist emphasis on ‘ national liberation ’ and ‘ cultural revolution. ’ Thus, in broad Marxist as well as in Weberian terms we can begin with the analytical distinctiveness of the three types of social relationships and groupings. From either point of view, the types of social relationships may be seen as ‘ sociological universals ’, while the specific institutions or groups which arise from them are concrete, historically limited forms. These three types of relationships may help to clarify the problems and aims of a society involved in social development or “ modernization ”—in Marxist terms the movement from a “ feudal ” to a capitalist and then a socialist order, in “ modernization theory ” terms the movement fiom a “ traditional ” to a “ modern ” society. Modernization goals, the criteria used by either individuals within a society or social scientists in seeking to evaluate a society’s development, may include the following : (1) in economic terms, the development of an indu­ strialized economy and the provision of an adequate standard of living for the majority of the society’s population—in other words, both development and dis­ tribution, though these are sometimes seen as conflicting; ( 2 ) in political terms, the development of a political organization that is both effective, i. e., capable of maintaining the interests of its members within the arena of modem nation-states, and democratic providing for widespread political participation and a role in decision-making by citizens conceived of as equals within the political sphere; and ( 3 ) in cultural terms, the formation of a rational, scientific, and universalistic ( i. e., equalitarian) culture which will over-ride the hierarchical status order of the “ traditional ” or “ feudal ” society as well as inequalities within the society as a whole among different racial or ethnic communities. The Non-Brahman Movement within the Colonial Setting For non-Western societies, however, it is generally recognized that such soc­ ial development or “ modernization ” takes place in the context of the special constraints represented by their relationship with the “ developed ” Western nations ( and more recently with the Soviet Union), in other words, within the framework of the colonial setting. However, in terms of a concrete analysis of this colonial situation, tbat is of the effects of imperialism upon these societies, there is a tremendous amount of disagreement remaining among scholars regard­ ing the primary barriers to social change and the role of the different classes 11

within the colonial society. 19 Without delving into these issues here, we will use an analysis of colonialism that draws upon ideas from Marxism-Leninism sup­ plemented by the work of J. S. Furnivall on colonial “ plural societies.’1 This analysis of colonialism will be developed in Chapter II. Here it may be noted that the Leninist perspective distinguishes three types of movements within colonial societies : the anti-imperialist movement is national-revolutionary and draws from all sections of society, including the “ national bourgeoisie ” as well as peasants and workers. There are two types of “ social revolutionary ” move­ ments, an anti-capitalist movement based among the working classes and the rural proletariat, and directed against the native bourgeoisie, and an anti-feudal movement based among the peasantry and directed against native landlords. Each of these may be seen as a type of “ modernization revolution,” and in fact the framework of analysis and types of modernization goals outlined above can provide a more neutral but parallel terminology for classifying social movements in colonial societies. Thus we may analyze in these terms three categories of move­ ments of political, economic and cultural revolt. The national movement develops first as basically a political revolt, aiming at the transfer of power to a native ruling class and the destruction oi the power of the alien colonial elite. Opposed to this, “ social revolutionary ” forces aim at the destruction of native elite domin­ ance, but this may take two forms : economic revolt focusses on the elite defined in “ modern99 terms as an emerging bourgeoisie, while cultural revolt opposes the elite defined in its “ traditional '* aspect, e. g., as a caste elite within India. Peasant movements (crucial in all non-Western societies) are involved with both economic and cultural revolt, and using the term “ cultural revolt ” rather than “ antifeudal movement ” fits in with the argument developed here that while the basic agrarian structure of colonized societies can be called a “ semi-capitalist ** one, “ feudal ” elements survive in their cultural aspects. A truly effective nationalist movement has to appeal to social revolutionary impulses in order to mobilize masses of the population; it is for this reason that Marxists have argued that a strong national movement must be led by the wor­ king class and its party since the vacillating “ national bourgeoisie ” will com­ promise with imperialism out of fear of social revolution. Conversely - and Wes­ tern scholars will stress this-an effective social revolution in colonized societies has to represent the impulses of nationalism to consolidate its power. We may say that the strength of a colonized society’s revolutionary forces depends upon the unification of both national and social revolutionary impulses. Thus, analysis of colonized societies requires an assessment of the strength of the various types of movements as well as the way in which they are combined with one another. Maharashtra, including Bombay city, was one of the three areas of India where British power was consolidated earliest. While strong political, cultural and economic movements arose here, their most radical expressions developed initially at cross purposes. The national movement arose first as a movement of the upper caste and bourgeois elites, with initially limited aims involving the transfer of administrative power to an Indian ruling class ( " Indianization ”) and the exten­ sion of the political arena to give the Indian elite a share in decision-making power. Because of this, the initial social revolutionary forces which aimed at the 12

destruction of native elite power afose in antagonism to the national movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But the “ social revolution v itself comprised differing emphasis; thus the non-Brahman movement rose with an emphasis on cultural modernization aimed at the destruction of the old caste system as a base of Brahmanic power, while the economic revolutionary Comm­ unist movement developed later with a focus on the " bourgeois ” identity of the elite. Since the non-Brahman movement was led by upper-class leaders who tended to neglect the class aspect of dominance, while both Communism and socialism found their first leaders among primarily Brahmans who tended to neglect the caste and cultural aspects of dominance, these two movements became aliented from one another. At the same time, there were strains towards unification of all three movements. Among the Maharashtrian lower classes, both peasants and workers, there was a good deal of pressure for anticolonial, anti-caste, and anti-capitalist goals ( “ capitalists ” including not only the industrial bourgeoisie but also the commercial bourgeoisie, especially moneylenders and landlords). However, neither Communists nor Socialists managed to develop an organization to mobilize this unified radical impulse. Instead, the Indian National Congress managed by the 1930s to appear to represent the economic and cultural goals of the masses sufficiently well to absorb the larger part of the non-Brahman move­ ment in Maharashtra, in spite of the fact that bourgeois and uppercaste dominance was maintained well up through independence.* Other linguistic-national regions of India differed to the degree to which radical political, economic, and cultural movements were developed. Two rea­ sons for this exist, first the cultural differences between the regions resulting from geography, history, and the nature and strength of the caste system in each; and second, the uneven development due to the nature and timing of British imperial conquest. They also differed in the degree to which political leadership was able to unite such movements in one direction or another. Thus, for example, Kerala and Bengal represent cases in which the Communist party was able to develop and maintain a wide mass base, largely on the basis of uniting political, economic and cultural radicalism, and in fact in the modern period Communist gove­ rnments have been elected to power in these states, and overthrown only with the help of pressure from the Congress government at the center. In Tamilnadu, on the other hand, the DMK ( Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), representing a “ cultural revolutionary *' movement aided by an anti-north Indian “ Dravidian nationalism”, was able eventually to gain state political control. In almost all other cases, however, the conservative consolidation represented by the Indian National Con­ gress retained sufficient support to divide its opposition and remain in power. Thus India compares to China, the other major Asiatic society, as one in which a movement of ‘ national liberation * developed in conservative rather than revolutionary form. Like China, India attained formal independence under a mobilizing party that managed to establish roots in the villages; unlike China, whose revolutionary Communists penetrated the village through mobilization of the poor peasantry in a social revolution directed against the village landlord ♦To quote D r. Ambedkar, India’s brilliant Untouchable leader, Congress, shot) i-bhat| inch i rakheli (rand) ahc, “ Congress is the kept woman of the merchants and Brahmans.*’


elite, the Indian National Congress established its base from the top down, solidi­ fying the position of the village upper classes or rich peasantry. As a result, the process of political revolution was halted at the stage of formal independence and India remained open to Western pressures primarily in the economic field but to some extent also in foreign policy. Political revolution has also been halted if we consider ‘ democratization ’ to mean not simply the mechanisms of parliamentary democracy, but a genuine opportunity for the rural poor to share in the governance of their villages and if we define political effect­ iveness to mean not simply the ability of a ruling party to maintain itself through accommodation to diverse and complex interests but rather an ability to be a genuine force for mobilizing development. The process of economic revolution was halted. A certain amount of capitalist industrialization has occurred but not as great as that of China,10 and while capitalist entrepreneurship in agriculture in the form of the ‘ Green Revolution ’ has penetrated the countryside, the benefits of this have gone primarily to the upper classes (including the rich peasantry) and rural poverty has, if anything, increased.11 Serious class tensions have resulted, and increased agitation of poor and landless peasants in the last few years has resulted in such things as the formation of the ‘ Naxalite ’ movement, the Com­ munist Party of India ( Marxist-Leninist), though rural rebellion has so far been kept in check. Finally, cultural revolution has been halted. In spite of large-scale anti-caste movements of the lower classes and Untouchables, in spite of a certain degree of achievement in opening up social positions to members of all castes with some resulting differentiation of most caste groups along economic lines, the caste system retains its power; traditional forms of caste dominance remain in the villages, particularly as regards Untouchables, and the force of religious tradi­ tion remains strong, as much among the ‘ Westernized ’ elite as among the masses. Thus Maharashtrian (and Indian) society does not represent a state of achi­ eved, gradualistic change, but rather one containing often violently conflicting elements whose basic goals are still to be achieved. Modern India is not simply a > nation of contending ethnic groups and caste factionalism, but rather one of classes in conflict and of the opposition of movements whose basic values and goals are fundamentally at odds. In this context, the Maharashtrian bahujan samaj movement represents a form of cultural revolt which has had a limited but signi­ ficant impact on the overall structure of society, which has failed to achieve its basic goals, but nevertheless has left a tradition of opposition that remains alive today.


Chapter 11 Towards A Model of Colonialism ‘ Imperialism ' will be defined, for the purposes of this dissertation, as the economic, political, and cultural domination of one or more ‘ nationalities ’ or ethnic-cultural groups by another; ‘ colonialism ’ as referring to the same pheno­ menon but as viewed ‘ from below.’ In other words, where ‘ imperialism ’ focuses on the relationship between a subjugated society and its alien rulers, ‘colonialism’ focuses on the typical social structures created within the colonized society by these imperialist relations. These definitions depart from some common usages. For instance, while Lenin defined imperialism in economic terms, as more or less equivalent to ‘mono­ poly capitalism' ( and not all Marxists follow him in this)1 our definition emphasizes what may be called the ‘ nationalist ’ contradiction, the fact that the basic social relationships of imperialism include racial differentiation, and that even the elites of a conquered society are treated as inferior and excluded from equal participation in power and privilege. On the other hand, while defining ‘ imperialism ’ in ‘ racial national ’ terms, we would stress that causally modem imperialism is in fact an outgrowth of the development of capitalism in Western Europe, and that the growth of a ‘ modem ’ industrial society in the West was intimately related, in all its stages, to what is called the ‘ development of under­ development ' in Asian, African and Latin American societies.* Similarly, “ colonialism ” is generally defined by non-Marxist and a few Marxist scholars as relating only to the era of “ formal imperialism ”, when Western nations held legally defined sovereignty over non-Westera societies; it is seen as one subtype of “ imperialism ” which came to an end with the establish­ ment of formal national states in the “ ex-colonies.” The most important reason for rejecting this approach is that even within ‘formal’ colonialism there was a gra­ dation in the legal and bureaucratic froms of rule varying from the most intense forms of “ direct rule ” to “ indirect rule ” and varying types of “ protectorates’’; in this respect what was called “ free-trade imperialism ” in the nineteenth century and what is known as “ neocolonialism ” today represent not a qualitatively different type but rather one point on a gradated scale. In developing a model of colonialism, we will use data referring primarily to “ officially ” ruled societies, but the justification for a broad definition of colonialism will lie in the degree to which the model applies as well to the more unofficial and “ indirect ” forms of IS

rule.* There is a difference relating to the degree and legal forms of domination, a difference expressed by the use of such terms as “ free trade imperialism ” or “ semicolonialism ” yet as long as the relationships of domination exist and re­ sult in the development of similar colonial social structures, it seems sociologically appropriate to classify such societies under the general rubric of “ colonialism.” This chapter will attempt to develop a model of the typical social structures of colonies as so defined. We will draw upon ideas from a basically Marxist Leninist perspective, but will not be concerned so much with the issues of the economic forces behind imperialism as the basic assumptions regarding the deve­ lopment of classes within colonized societies as a result of imperialist domination. The first section therefore will discuss the development of Lenin’s theory in rela­ tion to Marx’s own work, the experiences and orientation of the Bolsheviks, and the Comintern debates and experiences that shaped the theory. The second and third sections will utilize general historical and sociological work to present gene­ ralizations about first, the typical classes created within a colonized society, and second, the role of different ethnic, cultural and religious groups in what is often described as a “ plural society ” situation. These generalizations, then, will func­ tion as the basic hypotheses or model underlying the analysis of the particular case of social change under colonialism discussed in this dissertation. The Development of Leninist Theories of Colonialism It was in the 1920s, in the process of Comintern debates and involvement with non-Western nationalist movements, and informed generally by the perspec­ tive of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, that what is called a ‘ Marxist-Leninist ’ theory relating to colonial societies was developed. Later ‘ Maoist1 theories involved primarily an elaboration of this approach, not a basic revision of it. However, since there were some departures from Marx’s own perspective, it is important to begin by looking at the relation of Lenin’s theory to that of Marx himself. While Marx was perhaps unique among European social scientists in stress­ ing the important role of early imperialism in the creation of European capita­ lism^ nevertheless his model of the capitalist system and the contradictions that would lead to a socialist revolution stressed factors internal to advanced European *“ Neocolonialism’*, for instance, may be defined as a form of indirect rule in an era of formal national sovereignty, in which a native bourgeoisie controlling a modern administrative appa­ ratus replaces traditional chieftains or princes as the primary instrument of indirect rule, and a consortium of international powers and multinational corporations replaces the single dominant European imperial state. Issues of “ Soviet imperialism ** may also be discussed in these terms, and here two types of questions must be asked (1) does Soviet domination over Eastern European societies and minority nationalities within the USSR involve the same type of “ racialnational** contradictions and the development of the typical colonial classes and ethnic " plural society ” relations stressed in our model ? ( 2 ) does it lead to the “ development of underdevelopment ” , i. e , increasing economic inequality between the dominated nationality and Russia itself? ( 3 ) in ten rs of the causal issue of the relationship of imperialism to capita­ list development, can changes in forms of Soviet domination be related to the resurgence of Mcapitalistic ’* forms within the USSR ? t Imperialist trade and plunder was the primary source of the “ primitive accumulation " th at allowed capitalist development to begin, and it was in fact in connection with his discussion of these issues that Marx used the famous phrase, “ force is the midwife of history,” referring to the violence involved in European relations with non-European societies.*


societies. Thus, Marx’s famous articles for the New York Tribune on China, India and other non-Western societies have been described as expressing a “ moder­ nization theory viewpoint because they stressed the positive role of imperialism, which in spite of the brutalities and costs involved, did non-Western societies the favor of breaking up their traditional stagnating social orders and laying the foun­ dations for economic development.4 Marx’s tendency to use a concept of “ Asiatic society ”, derived from an ethnocentric Hegelian approach, also implied that such societies were outside the normal stages of social development (primitive societyslavery-feudalism-capitalism), and thus required external intervention to be set on the road to modernization.* However, there were important elements in Marx's thinking which could be seen as seeds of Lenin’s later theoretical claboiation, quite aside from the general framework of class contradictions and development of the mode of production which provided the underlying framework of both “ Marxism ” and “ Leninism”. First, as Hobsbawm argues, Marx and Engels always insisted that they were not creating a universalistic system valid for all times and societies but a concrete historical one, and in spite of the focus on European capitalism, both had increa­ singly a tendency to see a crucial role played by revolution in Russia,6 a view which implied an interaction between the more “ backward ” and “ advanced ” sections of world capitalism. Second, particular classes were not analyzed in the abstract, but in terms of a particular historical period. Thus, Marx had stressed the original progressive role of the bourgeoisie in the process of breaking through feudal bonds to create capitalism; in Lichtheim’s formulation the bourgeoisie was at that stage a “ national class ” embodying forward-looking social forces.7 Both Marx and later Lenin felt that the European bourgeoisie had passed this stage by their time, but in several articles on Asian events Lenin argued that the “ young 99 Asian bourgeoisie, in contrast, was still playing a progressive role.8 In such a situation it was by no means heretical for an emerging proletariat to ally with a bourgeoisie that embodied, even if in a vacillating way, “ national " and progressive tendencies. Third, once Marx and Engels came into contact with a concrete colonial situation, they changed their viewpoint of the role of imperialism. This was the case of the Irish, and here, far from stressing the positive aspects of imperialist development, both Marx and Engels asserted that it was the ‘ first duty ’ of an Iiish workingman to work for national independence, and that liberation from England would have to precede any general social revolution in Ireland. As Marx wrote in 1869, I long believed it would be possible to overthrow the Irish regime through English working class ascendancy •• More thorough study has now convinced me of the exact opposite. The English working class will never accomplish anything before it has got rid of Ireland. The lever must be applied in Ireland. That is why the Irish question is so important for the social movement in general.9 It was this that provided a direct precursor to the later Leninist argument (based theoretically on the analysis of the intimate relations between imperialism and monopoly capitalism) that liberation of non-Western societies from the control ...2


of world capitalism would strike by itself a crucial blow to the system. The later Communist emphasis on working class revolution in the West and mass-based nationalism in the non-Western world as of equivalent revolutionary value — ‘ workers and oppressed peoples of the world, unite !’—was thus a strong depar­ ture in emphasis from Marx’s own theory and the outlook of the first and second Internationals, but it did have a precedent in Marx’s thinking. It was the Bolshevik analysis of the Russian situation, however, that provi­ ded a more direct foundation for the interpretation of colonized societies.10 In contrast to the involvement of Marx and Engels in advanced European countries, the Russian Social Democrats faced a ‘ mixed ’ historical situation. On the one hand, industry and the concentration of the Russian working class was relatively highly developed in the large cities, and Lenin argued also that capitalist rela­ tions had penetrated even the countryside sufficiently to call Russian society as a whole ‘ capitalist. ’ 11 On the other hand, Russia was undeniably primarily a peasant society, and Tsarist autocracy was a formidable barrier quite different from European parliamentary democracies. It thus seemed as if it were the ‘ bourgeois-democratic ’ revolution, and not socialism itself that was immediately on the agenda. When the Russian party split, it was partly over the issue of how to deal with this situation. Lenin stressed that the Russian working class and its socialist leaders should not limit their demands to economic rights or to lying in wait for a future socialist revolution, but rather should take the lead in the bourgeois-democratic revolution itself, since the Russian bourgeoisie was seen as too weak and backward even to carry through the complete destruction of Tsarism. It was in regard to his analysis of the peasantry that Lenin undertook a significant departure from Marx.1* Where Marx had tended to see the peasantry as a whole, and as backward, Lenin (following Kautsky’s lead) argued that capitalist relations in the countryside were stratifying the peasants into rich or ‘ bourgeois ’ peasants, on the one hand, and poor and landless peasants on the other, the latter constituting a ‘ rural proletariat ’ or ' semiproletariat. ’* The rural poor, he argued, should form class-based organizations of their own in union with industrial workers; but in the first stage of the revolutionary process they would ally with rich peasants in the fight against landlord power and the remnants of feudalism. Thus, even when the Bolsheviks proved unable to organize the poorer peasants, he stressed that peasants as a whole (rich and poor in alliance) were revolutionary in their opposition to feudalist remnants : they were a *democratic ally’ of the working class. Because of the importance of the pea­ santry and the weakness of the bourgeoisie, the first stage of revolution in Russia would take the form of a ‘ democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. ’ Only working class-based Communist leadership could make such a revolution possible, and it was capable of carrying it through to the second stage of socialism. * David Mitrany’s argument that Marxists act “ against the peasantry " in trying to turn them into proletarians misses the point that to Lenia and later Marxists capitalism itself was having this effect; with or without a socialist revolution the classic peasant small-holder was passing into history. The question is whether the latter analysis is valid; general studies on Latin American and Asian societies indicate that it is.


It was this basic analysis that was applied to colonial areas.1* The differ­ ences were that greater weight was given to the “ national bourgeoisie " (an expression of the recognition of the crucial “ national ” factor involved in the basic relationship of domination), and internal class relations were linked with relations to the external colonial poweis. Three types of revolutionary movements were depicted in colonial societies : an anti-feudal revolution directed against traditional autocracy and landlord power; an anticolonial nationalist revolution, and the future working class socialist revolution. But as the comprador bourge­ oisie, previous traditionalist elites and ‘ feudal ’ or mercantile landlords came to be increasingly tied in with Western penetration, and as this penetration came to cause greater agrarian impoverishment and indebtedness, the anti-feudal and anti-colonial revolutions were seen as empirically linked. Thus the colonies were seen as facing two stages of revolution. The first, that of ‘ national liberation ’ involved a mass-based multi-class alliance including the national bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie, the working class and the peasants. Its tasks were the overthrow of foreign rule, the establishment of full democratic rights for the native popula­ tion, the abolition of feudal or mercantile domination on the land, radical land reform, and industrial development; this was called variously the ‘ bourgeoisdemocratic ’, later the *new democratic ’ or ‘ peoples’ democratic ’ revolution. Only after this was achieved would the second stage of the fight against native capitalism, including both industrialists and rich peasants, come to the fore, and the struggle for full socialism, including collectivization of the land, begin. Corresponding to Lenin’s analysis of the role of the Russian peasantry and bourgeoisie, it was stressed that while the ‘ national bourgeoisie ' could be a full ally in the first stage of revolution, it could never be trusted to lead it : because of its weakness and fear of social revolution from below, the bourgeoisie would vacillate and show tendencies to betray the nationalist movement itself by alliance with imperialist powers against the lower classes. In contrast, the peasantry was seen as playing a crucial revolutionary role, and over and over again in Comin­ tern documents ( and in Comintern advice to early Communist leaders)14 it was stressed that the ‘ agrarian revolution ’ was the crucial pivot of the nationalist movement. Therefore, it was argued, only mass-based Communist parties could lead a true nationalist movement, and complete even the first stage of revolution. These, then, were the basic assumptions that constituted the “ paradigm ” of a Leninist approach. As such, they did not involve a fully worked-out theory, and they left countless questions unanswered about the application of the analysis to any concrete historical situation and about the application of various strategies of alliances. It should be noted that many of these issues were formulated first in debates with Asian leaders themselves and then out of Asian experiences. For instance, while Lenin played the primary role in drafting the original colonial theses of the Second Comintern Congress of 1920, they were modified at certain points through the arguments of the Indian leader M. N. Roy, who insisted on a more optimistic assessment of the working class and a more pessimistic view of the bourgeoisie than Lenin.1* Again, in the most important 1920s attempt at a multiclass alliance, while Russian national interest played a role in their recognition of Sun Yat-sen and the Kuomintang, it was in fact the Indonesian experience (as mediated through the Dutch Communist Maring) out of which 19

grew the ‘ bloc within ’ strategy in which CCP members joined the KMT.*® Second, it should be stressed that the Leninist varsion of Marxism gave an increa­ sing weight to the non-European section of the Communist movement: one of the clearest points at issue between the Second and Third Internationals was that while European socialist tended to take a ’ reformist’ view (following Marx’s early notion that the working classes in power in Europe could best support the interests of non-Western societies), the Communists pushed their European sect­ ions to support colonial independence movements against their own countries,” at least until the ‘ united front ’ period of the 1930s. Finally, mention must be made of the issue that will be discussed below in terms of the colonial *plural society ’: the relationships of different ethniclinguistic-religious groups within one colonial territory. It should be noted that much Western social theory has taken the political legal form of the ‘nation-state’ for granted. Thus, while a ‘ society ’ tends to be defined as the largest self-reproducing self-sufficient social system, in fact when sociologists refer to ‘ societies ’ at this level, they refer in practice to the ‘ nation-state.’ Behind this is the general acceptance of the idea, growing out of European social development, that the * nation ’ is the appropriate basis for the state, and vice versa. This legalistic assumption has led to two tendencies regarding colonialism. First is the tendency to assume colonial rule comes to an end with the formation of a legally sovereign state, an assumption not made in Leninist theory, whose characterization of the bourgeoisie as a class of vacillating interests makes it easy to argue that ‘national liberation movements’ are still relevant even after formal independence is achieved and the native bourgeoisie appears to be in control. Second, along with many non-Western ‘ nationalist elites’, Western scholars have tended to take for granted the colonial territory as the framework or arena for anti-colonial nationalism. As a result, after independence emphasis is laid on ‘ nation-building ’ in terms of the creation of sentiments of nationality focussed on the already achieved state framework, and ethnically or racially based movements of opposition to the new state are seen in negative terms as representing ‘ tribalism ’, ‘ regionalism ’ or ‘ communal ’ or ‘ primordial ’ sentiments. ' Nationalism is the acceptance of the state as the impersonal and ultimate arbiter of human affairs,’ according to one of the new definitions; but this, as was pointed out, was a reversal of the classic nineteenth century European meaning of the term which stressed that ‘ nationa­ lism ’ involved the efforts of a ‘ people ’ ( an ethnic-linguistic community or ‘nationality ’) to achieve political control over its own existence.1* In this sense, the legalistic focus on the nation-state has become involved in contradictions. In contrast, from the Leninist viewpoint, not only is the 4 nation-state ’ not taken as the model of social development ( the multinational USSR is), but Communist organizers have been ready to utilize the 4nationalist ’ demands of diverse ethnic groups within a single political framework. Support of minority national groups has been crucial not only for the Russian revolution, but also for the Chinese and, to a significant extent, the Vietnamese.18 The Communist approach stressed the rights of national groups to self-determination (while adding that a proletarian ‘ party would not necessarily suport the interests of its own ’ bourgeoisie), though after the revolution was consolidated in both the Soviet Union and China, secession was resisted and self-determination changed 20

to *cultural autonomy \ Communist sensitivity to such issues and ability to base themselves on minority or sub-nationalities has contrasted with a more general insensitivity and inability on the part of more • bourgeois * nationalist forces. This appears, for example, in the case of India, where the Communists were the first to recognize its diverse linguistic groups as ‘ nationalities ’ (whereas Western theorists continue to speak of them as ‘ regions ' and ‘ regionalisms ’) while the Congress Party under Nehru resisted, after Independence, the formation of even separate linguistic states.*0 However, while there were constant attempts by Lenin, Stalin and others to define 4nationalities ’ and analyze the strategic connections of subnationalisms within general social revolutionary movements, there was no development of a theoretical approach that related ethnic-cultural conflict within colonial territories to the processes of imperialism in the same way as the development of classes was related. Therefore, the theoretical perspective that underlies the discus­ sion of ‘ plural society ' elements in the final section of this chapter is drawn primarily from J. S. Furnivall, who as a Fabian socialist was perhaps sufficiently influenced by Marxism to stress that imperialist economic interests did not nece­ ssarily coincide with colonial welfare and that basic economic forces underlay the plural phenomena he described. It may be concluded that viewing the colonial dynamic only in terms of the paradigm of nationalism becomes contradictory, and that it is necessary to develop an analysis of the characteristic class structure of colonized societies as the basis within which to understand both the operation of national movements and ethnic or ‘ plural society ’ conflicts. We shall want to ask here : what are the processes by which social groups or categories are defined in colonial areas, and what are the interests that provide the basis of their actions in unity with or opposition to one another ? New classes In the Colonial Society There is not really too much disagreement among scholars about the fact that the colonial system generates new classes. Where the disagreement exists is in the relationship of class categories to ‘ traditional ’ categories such as *tribe * or ‘ caste 1 or other social structures, and in the relative importance of ‘ modern' classes versus traditional categories in understanding colonial dynamics. (In Mar­ xist discussion, this disagreement is expressed in the debate over whether a colo­ nial agrarian structure is ‘ capitalist' or * feudal' in modernization theory, similarly, it is often the ‘ modern ' city and its educated elites posed against the * traditional * countryside.) Accordingly, we shall first outline the typical class structure of colonial areas and then take up the question of its relation to traditional socio-cultural categories. Of all the new classes growing up in colonial societies, a true industrial burgeoisie is small and often non-existent, not because of the inability or unwill­ ingness of colonized peoples to invest in modern industry, but because discrimi­ nation by colonial rulers and the nature of the colonial economic system itself protected the monopoly position of European businessmen and kept native capi­ tal confined to moneylending and trading sectors11. Nevertheless, where such classes 21

did arise, they provided an important (because of tbeir financial power) but ambi­ guous (because of their dependence on foreign capital for supplies, services, etc.)'* support to nationalism. Further, although this class was itself small, it became a model; most nationalist politicians and members of the commercial bourgeoisie backing national movements aspired to the development of full industrial capita­ list ism.53 Thus, Indian nationalists took up the movement for swadeshi ( boycott of English goods and buying Indian-manufactured products) earlier and with more enthusiasm than they supported Gandhi’s program of traditional hand-spin­ ning; in Indonesia, even when the spokesmen of the Sarekat Islam * were condemning capitalism, they were careful to distinguish between ‘ Western ’ and ‘ Eastern ’ capitalism. The latter was permissible; against the former they waged an incessant fight.’** Barred generally from industrial investment opportunities, the trading or commercial bourgeoisie became a dominant force in all colonies, living on the opportunities that the colony’s integration into the market economy brought. The establishment of legal property rights in land, the necessity of cash for the pay­ ment of government imposed taxes, the importance of trade as European goods penetrated remote areas, all produced a class of merchants, moneylenders and middlemen ranging from powerful urban merchants down to the petty money­ lender or trader in the village : The most striking single feature of this socio-economic stratum is its s;ze. No one who has ever set foot in China of old, in South-east Asia in the near East or in pre-war Europe can have failed to notice the staggering multitude of merchants, dealers, peddlers, trading stand operators, and people with non-descript occupations crowding the streets, squares and coffee-houses of their cities,s With the basically mercantile capitalist economy that dominated rural as well as urban colonical areas, the commercial bourgeoisie, big and little, was not simply an urban class but merged into the rural class of rentier landlords as “ the cre­ ditor became a de facto landlord and the debtor a permanent serf.”*6 The section of the elite that has most attracted the attention of western scholars as “ the new middle class ” is what we may call, for want of a better term, the intelligentsia. Colonial rulers could man only the height of the bureau­ cracy; for the rest they needed to rely on native administrators and, accordingly, colonial education was geared to the production of a clerical class. The intelli­ gentsia was defined, as an elite stratum, by their western education. They aimed at positions in the colonial bureaucracy or public services and the professions, law, journalism, teaching. As bureaucratic servants, they were the most impor­ tant collaborators in foreign rule; as lawyers, they were associated with the inte­ rests of their clients, whether bankers or landlords. They frequently derived from groups holding interests in land or invested in land themselves, and so also mer­ ged into the class of rentier landlords. Finally, in spite of distinctions sometimes drawn between Western-educated intelligentsia and more traditionalist elites,*'1 in almost all colonized societies these categories overlap to a large degree Thus in South-east Asia the intelligentsia were drawn largely from, and their style assi­ milated to, that of the old ruling strata of prijaji in Indonesia, mandarin in 22

Vietnam; in India the elites were clearly drawn from upper castes; and in Africa in most cases new elites legitimized themselves in terms of traditional symbols, and the offspring of traditional rulers made up a significant proportion of pro* fessional and business elements.** Thus, the most “ modern ’’ elites derived from and had an interest in maintaining traditional status hierarchies. However, as members of the intelligentsia found their way blocked to ad­ vancement in the colonial bureaucracies, as they faced huge pay differentials be­ tween themselves and European administrators and suffered from the racism of colonial ideology and practice, as they found insufficient scope for their services and an increasingly tenuous economic position, they turned to opposition to colonial rule and sought to become “ nationalist ” spokesmen. Most studies of anti-colonial nationalism have focussed on the role of this intelligentsia and the evolution of national movements out of their original moderate, western-style associations. However, it has to be emphasized that in their earliest stages, these “ national ” movements not only had no mass support but put their main en­ ergy into the class demands of the intelligentsia for greater representation in the public services and the expansion of legislative bodies to include elite participa­ tion. In doing so, they saw themselves as intermediaries in rule rather than as leaders of a nationalism that sought to revolutionize the political structure, let alone the social structure.*' Very often scholars draw a distinction between the higher sections of the intelligentsia and a “ sub-elite ” of clerks, lower level teachers and traders who became in fact the leaders of later more radical nationalism.80 These groups, (the petty-bourgeoisie) were least likely to have rentier connections with land or a foothold in commerce to give them security; they were the most economically pressed, the “ educated unemployed ”; they were more likely to be drawn from precolonial lower classes and have kinship relations with the peasantry. As white collar employees, they represented an “ intellectual proletariat ” that might itself be a part of the trade union movement.*1 Thus they could more freely turn against the higher elite classes collaborating with imperialism and ally with pea­ sants and workers in a more radical nationalist movement. Frequently class distinctions in colonial areas are seen in terms of a distin­ ction between a more " modern ” urban bourgeoisie and intelligentsia, and “ feudalist ” interests on the land. This, however, is largely erroneous. Important elements of the traditional aristocracy did, it is true, survive. Nobles, rajas, chief­ tains had frequently led resistance to initial European conquest or “ post-pacifi­ cation revolts " after the early establishment of colonial rule. To win over this element of resistance, the new rulers often confirmed their status and sought to use them as administrators in one form or another of indirect rule. In India, for instance, one-third of the territory was left under control of “ native princes ”, and throughout Africa and Asia the British, the French and the Dutch attempted forms of indirect rule through native chiefs or noblemen. Even in areas of direct rule they were frequently awarded ownership rights over very large areas of land, for instance in the zamindari or large landlords settlements of northern and eastern India. But their relationship with their former subjects or dependents was revolu23

tionized by colonialism even in areas of indirect rule. Europeans interfered increa­ singly in succession to the “ throne ” of a native prince or the position of a chieftain, and exerted strong influence over their administrations. With European armies behind them their status was “ frozen "; natural processes of political change were halted. And in areas of direct rule, where administration was divor-' ced from landholding, the old feudal elites were completely transformed. As Metcalf describes the changing role of the taluqdars of north India, they had little interest after 1860 in retaining the deferential respect of those living on their estates in comparison to gaining as much income as they could from cash rentals; they had undergone a metamorphosis “ from Raja to landlord.”3* However much such elites tried to maintain an aristocratic style of life and use traditional custo­ mary privileges to get forced labor from the peasantry, they no longer performed a political function but had become part of the colonial mercantile system as rentier landlords. Thus they could be described as a section of the commercial bourgeoisie. In many cases, where land had been immediately put on the market they were in fact “ new men ” in origin-civil servants, merchants, bankers who had used their connections with the Europeans to buy up rights in land.” It was this class of so-called “ traditional aristocrats ” , actually a class of landlords in most areas, who formed a major support structure for European rule and who are thus compared to the “ modern intelligentsia ” which originated anti-colonial movements. But the reason for the difference was not the innate conservatism of a “ feudal ” landed class against a “ modern ” urban one, but the fact that the status of the higher landed elite or the chieftain in an area of indirect rule was secured by foreign power, while the economic position of the intelligentsia be­ came increasingly insecure. Thus we can see that it is impossible to draw a distinction between a “ modern ” or commercialized city and the “ feudal ” or traditional countryside; interests and classes overlapped, among the elite as well as among the peasants and workers (as will be seen). On the land the ruling class was one of rentier landlords. These derived in some cases from the old-style aristocracy who had been given large grants of land, in others from the wealthier bourgeoisie or civil servants who were able to buy up these rights. In other cases, where land rights had been awarded to village-level peasants, land was lost through indebtedness and mortgage to smaller moneylenders or to lower level native civil servants or pro­ fessionals. In the words of Kathleen Gough, the agrarian system of colonialism was not one of “ feudalism ” on the land but of a “ colonial-style merchant capitalism.” * This brings up the position of the peasantry in colonial societies. " Peasant societies” as Robert Redfield has noted, are “ part-societies”; but whereas in pre­ colonial days they were “ part ” of a “ pre-industrial city ” or a traditional small state, in colonial times they are part of a world market and empire. Prior to colonial rule, in almost all cases, land was not a commodity but, in the words of Eric Wolf, an ‘ attribute of the community ’ to which the peasant belonged claimed by a community, a clan, or a tribe or lineage as a whole. In India, though * This does not imply that it was a fully-developed agrarian entrepreneurial capitalism.**


the British asked the question “ who owned the land ? ” It was in fact the wrong question; no one owned it, rather, certain groups, from cultivators and artisans in the village up to feudal overlords, had a claim to shares of the produce on the basis of their performance of functions for the society. But colonial rule most typically established land as a market commodity in a form of what Wolf describes as mercantile domain over the peasantry : “Here land is viewed as private property of the landowner, an entity to be bought and sold and used to obtain profit for its owner "3i The result was that, no matter to whom land rights were immediately awarded, land had the tendency to pass out of the hands of the cultivators to those able to buy it, and these were primarily members of the commercial bourgeoisie or the intelligentsia, who became the rentier land­ lord class described above. Thus the most typical rural class structure in colonial societies became, in terms of relations of production or types of agrarian enterprise, what Arthur Stinchcombe describes as a system of “ family-size tenancy.” Landlords include, here the money-lending classes to whom the peasants may be indebted and who often control both decisions about growing and the marketing of the crop : In family-size tenancy the operative unit of agriculture is the family enterprise, but property rights in the enterprise rest with rentier capi­ talists. The return from the enterprise is divided according to some rental scheme, whether in money or in kind. The rent may be fixed, fixed with modification in years of bad harvest or share. The formal title to the land may not be held by the non-cultivator—it is quite common for the rent on the land to be, in a legal sense the interest on a loan secured by the land.38 This analysis helps in dealing with the problem of stratification within the peasantry. Colonial development typically coincides with a large growth of population and the impoverishment of the masses at the low end of the social scale, who become increasingly landless laborers working for others or poor pea­ sants having to supplement their meager income from their own land by working for others. Thus a wide degree of stratification develops even within the cultivating peasantry, and they can be classified in the Leninist categories of landless laborer, poor peasant (those who have some land but must also work for others), middle peasant (those with just sufficient land)and rich peasant(those who may employ labor as well as work themselves), all opposed to the non-cultivating landlords. Furthermore, in a complex society such as India there have been important status differences between the lowest groups and the upper-level substantial village pea­ sants. Many of the lowest cast^formerly had serf or slavelike relations to the land. Their low position and bondage is maintained under colonialism, though basically now by indebtedness and the economic inability of the laborer to escape from his servitude.8^ As Wolf notes, “ Capitalism cut through the integument of custom, severing people from their accustomed social matrix in order to transform them into economic actors, independent of prior social commitments to kin and neighbors.”88 25

Even the continuance of traditional forms was not a matter of custom but of the relative economic and political power of the groups involved. The question is, does this intravillage stratification represent class conflict as crucial as that between the peasantry as a whole and the landlord class ? To the extent that a true agrarian capitalism (i. e., entrepreneurial investment in the land) develops, it would, since rich peasants and landlords alike would becomecapitalist farmers and the remainder of the rural population primarily free agricultural wage laborers. But as long as the " family size tenancy ” sysiem prevails it does not—at least in Stinchcombe’s analysis. Rich peasants not only share a community life and kinship ties with poor peasants, they also face the same enemies in moneylenders, the bureaucracy and (in cases where they are legally substantial tenants with protected occupancy rights) the landlords. They repre­ sent simply that section of the peasant community which was able to pull itself above the general process of impoverishment and was continually threatened (often because of land division among heirs) with sinking back into it. As Stinchcombe writes : The leaders of the rural community, the rich peasants, are not vulner­ able to expulsion by the landowners....The rich peasant shares at least some of the hardships and is opposed in his class interests to many of the same people as are the tenants. In fact, in some areas where the population pressure on the land is very great, the rich peasants them­ selves hold additional lands in tenancy, beyond their basic holdings. In this case the leadership of the local community is not only not opposed to the interests of the tenants, but has largely identical inter­ ests with the poor peasants.89 Thus, “ the lower class tends to develop a relatively skilled and relatively invulnerable leadership in the richer peasantry and a relatively high degree of political sensitivity in the poorer peasantry. It is of such stuff that many radical populist and nationalist movements are made.”*0 Therefore, as long as the landlord-tenant relationship is the predominant form maintained by colonial economy, the primary conflicts of interests are not within the peasantry, but between the peasants as a group and the landlord and bureaucratic elites. It is not appropriate to see the mercantile agrarian system of colonialism as a “ transitional ” form between feudal relations and an entrepreneurial agrarian capitalism, though it may historically appear as such. The first transition was not a natural evolution but was a result of a “ revolution from without ", the conquest of an alien capitalist power. In the second case, agrarian mercantilism may just as well be a “ transition ” to a socialist system via a process of revo­ lution, and in cases where agrarian capitalist relations have to some extent emerged, it is most often in response to the pressures of strong peasant agitation, often as a part of a national movement (see for example any study of India’s land reforms since independence). Generally it appears that the emergence of full-fledged capitalist enterprise on the land is halted, not by survival of “ traditional ” or “ feudal ” forms but rather by the nature of colonial mercan­ 26

tilism itself. As Rothermund notes, the system which turned the traditional feudal intermediaries. “ into parasitic rent collecting agents__ without giving them an opportunity of turning this property into capital investment__ was not conducive to the growth of capitalist agriculture leave alone the transfer of capital from agriculture to industry."41 It was not simply more suitable to his status honor but also more profitable for the rentier landlord to turn his capital into moneylending or purchase of more land rather than investment in increasing production. Thus, just as the particular forms that capitalism took in the colonial areas barred the transformation of commercial into industrial manufacturing capital, so it barred the emergence of agrarian entrepreneurship on the land. Finally, it may be noted that though their dominance was maintained by the stsucture of a merchant capitalist economy, rentier landlords, generally drawn from groups of traditionally high status in the pre-colonial culture, attempted to use this cultural hierarchy and its associated privileges to maintain their control. Thus, for example, African chieftains used traditional rights of tribute and labor from their subjects for the accumulation of wealth,42 while high caste Hindu land­ lords relied on the vamashrama dharma system which urged to each caste to hold to its traditional occupation and status in the service of their power. Thus peasant revolt against landlord power very frequently took the form of revolt against traditioual custom, requiring some form of “ cultural revolt to compat the barriers to their advancement. While rentier capitalism was the dominant form of agrarian relationships, it was not the only one. In some areas plantations played an important role. Here again the form of enterprise could vary. In the earlier era of commercial imperialism, plantations typically used unfree slave labor, in the phase of indus­ trial imperialism this was modified to indenture and then wage labor, and the plantation became a rural equivalent of the factory, its work force a true proleta­ riat. But the low wages paid by these Western-run enterprises made it difficult if not impossible to freely recruit labor from surrounding villages, as long as the population had other alternatives. One solution was large scale induced emigration from poorer areas : thus Tamils from South India formed the plantation prole­ tariat in Ceylon; Indians and Chinese in the rubber estates and tin mines of Malaya; tribal people in the tea plantations of Assam. The plantations remained enclaves, their labor force aliens isolated from surrounding villages : “The plan­ tation, in general, has very little modernizing effect on its own labor force or on that of the surrounding countryside.1,43 The special characteristic of the industrial working class, as it typically deve­ loped in the colonies was its “mixed” nature, its continuing ties with the countryside. Workers were not only born in peasant families, they maintained their ties with the village, returning home frequently and often seeking to use their earnings for the purchase of lard. This aspect of labor migration has been most fully emphasized in studies of Africa where it was almost a universal feature, but in India as well, even in the most stable labor force in the Bombay cotton Mills, only 11% of the workers in 1911 and 26% in 1931 were born in Bombay and 27

fully 5% in 1911 aud 12 % in 1931 came from as far away as northern India.44 This again appears to have been necessitated by the low wages paid: the worker could not maintain his family as well as himself and in the case of Africa fre­ quently returned home during the harvest season— and the ability of the worker to fall back on the countryside in turn made the low wage structure possible. Thus western capitalists as well as the colonial rulers very frequently had important reasons for maintaining traditional social structures which in their redi­ stributive aspects meant that the worker peasant could have continued claim to some land, even if only an uneconomic fragment (thus Furnivall’s conclusion that “ development by western enterprise ” was associated with indirect rule ) Max Gluckman has noted that in the case of Africa not only had the government “ lent its powerful support to the continued working of the African tribal systems, as systems/’ but also the low pay and insecure condition of the migrant workers was made possible only by the claim to some land and “ a man’s rights to land in the tribal home depended on his accepting membership of a tribe, with all its obligations.”46 Similarly in such cases as that of the Java Sugar Industry, where labor was forcibly recruited through village headmen, the fact that workers were marginal peasants “ with one foot in the rice terrace and one in the sugar mill" made low wages possible, and this too was associated with a form of indirect rule which maintained traditional land patterns and redistribution in the villages 46 The mixed character of the worker-peasant had a two-fold effect of both weakening the formation of a stable working force and at the same time spreading some of the effects of industrialism far and wide, as peasant workers acquired an awareness of class interests superceding ethnic divisions, and experi­ ence with modern political organizations such as unions and nationalist parties. Workers thus played a role in political development much greater than their numbers at any given time might suggest. In regard to Africa, Hodgkin notes that “ the process of ‘ proletarianisation ’ extends far beyond the body of wageearners employed at any given moment ” and Woddis argues that “ the very migrant-labor system, the curse of Africa, becomes the basis for an alliance between workers and peasants 47 Workers themselves showed a spontaneous ten­ dency to trade union formation 48 and once these began to be organized, the struggle against capitalist oppression became linked both with the demands of the peasants, because of the mixed character of the workers, and to nationalist demands, because employers themselves were often Europeans and where they were not, the colonial government was a power that had to be dealt with. For example, in South Africa the ICU, an early native union, was a more important political group than the African National Congress at the time 49 In Indonesia : When labor unions were formed among the native workers on the Western plantations, the stage was set for nationalist agitation. A constant fight was waged by these unions against further lease of farm lands to Dutch plantations and for the establishment of a free peasant class.60 And Jean Chesneaux notes of the wave of strikes in 1928-29 in Vietnam: If workers protested against their shocking condition, if they put forward demands or went on strike, they were thus automatically 28

taking action against the colonist regime.. . . from now on, the indus­ trial workers tended to provide the main force behind the struggle for independence.'1 To sum u p : the colonial class structure was primarily based on a mer­ cantile capitalism of which the most important classes were (1) a commercial bourgeoisie including an associated rentier landlord class; (2) an intelligentsia that had developed around the needs of the colonial bureaucracy; at its upper levels this stratum tended to merge with the commercial or industrial bourgeoisie while its lower sections or “ petit bourgeoisie ” groups had closer ties with pea­ sants and workers; ( 3) an indebted tenant peasantry often at least partly "proletarianized ” and (4) a working class still tied to its peasant surroundings. All struggled, in terms of their own class interests, against the colonial system. It was the intelligentsia which first expressed its demands in terms of nationalist interests and thus laid claims to lead the “ national revolution while peasant and working class agitation appeared on the scene first as fundamentally “ social revolutionary ” movements directed against native landlords and moneylenders or a European or native capitalist class. But it was not until more radical (often petit-bourgeois or “ sub-elite ” ) members of the intelligentsia turned to peasants and workers for support and took up their demands that a powerful or radical nationalist movement could develop. Thus it is understandable that nationalist leaders frequently defined their movements in at least semi-socialist form, while the social revolutionary movements of the lower classes were inevitably trans­ muted into nationalism—and it is equally understandable that after formal inde­ pendence, if and when the new “ national ” elite itself appeared as a barrier to the aspirations of peasants and workers, that developing radical movements could turn against them as well. The Plural Society: Community and Cluture under Colonialism What was the role within this colonial class structure of traditionally defi­ ned cultural and ethnic communities ? Was tbe maintenance of traditional culture so strong that such categories as “ tribe ” or “ caste ” or ethnic commu­ nity have to be seen as more important units of analysis than classes ? Many theorists noting the apparent prominance of “ primordial " or ethnic-based con­ flict in colonial society would argue so. However, the forms which ethnic groups took as well as the relationship among them have to be seen also in the context of class interest. Colonialism made its impact on a very wide range of non-western commu­ nities; it drew them not only into relationship with the colonial ruling power and world economy, but also into new relationships with each other. Widespread immigration in colonial areas brought in large numbers of “ alien ” Asians or Africans who often monopolized positions in the class structure which indige­ nous peoples could or would not fill. Thus Indians became moneylenders and traders in Southeast Asia and West Africa or plantation laborers in Ceylon; Africans became plantation laborers in the Americas; Chinese expanded their commercial position in South-east Asia and also filled many laboring positions. In an extreme case (as Furnivall describes Burma), a colonial society could be one in which the ruling bureaucracy and capitalist class was a white, European, 29

Christian community; subordinate administrative and professional positions were filled by Hindu Indians who had gained a foothold because of their earlier acquisition of literate skills; moneylending rentier landlords were Indians or perhaps Chinese; laborers in plantations and mines were Indians and Chinese— while the original indigenous population, the Burmese, appeared to be relegated to the role of peasants. Further, immigrants in pre-colonial days (and under semi-colonial systems) had been motivated to acculturate and assimilate with the dominant indigenous power. Under direct European rule, these immigrants had no reason to acculturate to a native culture that was itself undermined, sub­ ordinated and often despised by foreign rulers : instead both the native majority and the alien Asian minority tended to acculturate to the Western pattern and then, in reaction to the psychological costs of this process, re-emphasized their in­ digenous cultural identity. Thus under colonialism, cultural differences of groups under one political arena were both created and emphasized. Colonialism created •• uneven development ” not only between colonized areas and the metropolitan power, but within the colonies themselves, and not only in economic but also in socio-cultural terms: colonialism created, typically, a “ plural society.’'51 In a plural society, ethnic divisions tended to coincide with class divisions. The most obvious division was the one between non-western peoples and the colonial rulers themselves, the worldwide division between “ black ” and “ white.” But a very frequent division also was that between intelligentsia and the pea­ santry, on the one hand, and alien members of the commercial bourgeoisie, on the other. Indians and Lebanese merchants in Africa, Indians and Chinese in South-east Asia, found themselves confronted by a widespread hostility and an economically-based conflict that took on ethnic overtones. Frequently too, sec­ tions of the working class, most often plantation or mine workers, were of alien origin, and where this enclave nature of the plantation economy existed, it was of course more difficult for union radicalism to be transmitted to the surround­ ing peasants. Under colonialism, then, groups with opposing economic interests often found themselves culturally and ethnically differentiated as well. But whether they clashed as classes or as “ cultural sections” of a plural society often depended on how they were mobilized. As Leo Despres has put i t : Cultural sections do not clash by chance or because they have incompatible structures; they clash because certain in­ dividuals and groups have decided that something can be achieved by making them clash.”63 For example, in situations where an intelligentsia is generally unrepresented among the commercial bourgeoisie, it may have fewer conflicts of interests in taking up peasant demands against traders or moneylenders— but at the same time it may be tempted to mute the economic aspect of antagonisms in favor of ethnic ones in hopes of itself moving into the spheres of enterprise from which the aliens are forced out. Similarly, as in the case of Ceylon, an elite might emphasize an ethnic religious unity to turn the antagonisms of an impoverished peasantry against the more westernized sections of the bourgeoisie and against alien planta­ tion workers. Thus ethnic conflicts may arise as a substitute for social revolu­ tionary mobilization, as a means of winning support for a non-radical, elite-controlled €| nationalist ” party. 30

The pluralizing process often operates too within the intelligentsia itself. As noted, this was drawn primarily from high status groups of the native society. But often these represented specific groups or communities who were culturally differentiated from much of the population. In India, for example, the intelligentsia was drawn from elites with an intellectual, as opposed to a warrior tradition; more specifically they were predominantly at first Bengali bhadralok (primarily the three highest Hindu castes), Madras and Maharashtrian Brahmans. Groups who were disproportionately unrepresented, such as Muslims, non-Brahmans and elites from other linguistic regions in India, would direct their agitation at first against the dominant indigenous elites who more immediately blocked their advancement, not against the colonial rulers themselves. And just as the dominant elites based their demands vis-a-vis the British on their representing an Indian nationalism, so the excluded elites often based their demands against the dominant groups on some form of “ regional ” or religious subnationalism : demands for a separate Bihari or Oriya or Kannarese province within which they might dominate, an anti-Brahman, anti-northern Tamil nationalism a Muslim nationalism.*4 Anti-colonial nationalism, was first primarily a “ democratic” movement; that is, it did not seek to destroy capitalism or the class structure as such, but to destroy the racial domination of Europeans or other groups within it, to achieve a universalism of opportunity. The same could be said of the subnationalisms : they sought to achieve the access of excluded groups to upper class positions and so represented democratizing demands. Such movements represented popular in­ terests and not simply elite ones to the degree that domination over and within colonies meant a racial or caste superiority, i.e., Brahman nationalist elites were struggling against a real British racism that affected all Indians, the non-Brah­ mans or Untouchables against its equivalent in a real Brahman exclusiveness and disdain for low castes. Either type, further, could be motivated by the necessity of gaining widespread support and legitimizing their claims of representing a whole people, to take up mass economic demands. But, particularly as upper class members of excluded groups began to gain the goals of representation of their groups in higher positions, the democratizing function of their demands became increasingly less relevant than the fact that their emphasis on an ethnic or nation­ alist identity could mask a process of elite competition and ethnic group conflict which forestalled a mass assault on elite privilege in general. Therefore, the relation between ethnic groups or “ plural society ” sections can be summarized as follows: the colonial situation creates the plural ethnic structure within the colonies or intensifies differences between already existing groups,'* while the process of activation of “ ethnic ” or “ nationalist ” identities —as opposed to class-based identities—depends to a large degree on the class interests of elite political actors and organizers. In the case of nationalisms and subnationalisms that have remained under the control of the intelligentsia and bourgeois elites opposed to a socialist assautt on class privileges, the interests of the peasants and workers with whom they claim ethnic identity increasingly comes to be shoved aside. As Wallerstein sums up “ the colonial era in Africa ” : The price (of decolonization) has been paid by two groups : the small handful of chiefs and professionals too compromised in the earlier 31

alliance with the colonial administration; and the mass elements who have been curbed or at least disoriented by the transfer of power. These latter groups were for a while given more educational facilities, to be sure, and some social services. But essentially there has been no shift in the basic economic structure of the various territories, now nations. Job-creation has ground almost to a halt, while cash crop prices continue to decline.. .These people are now facing a significant decline in standard of living68 What of groups like “ tribes ” and “ castes ’’? In a less obvious way than the existence of broadly defined ethnic plural society sections, they too are stru­ cturally defined in terms of the pluralizing dynamic of the colonial situation The tribe, some of whose members are traditional chiefs, some educated mission school teachers, some migrant laborers; or the caste, some of whose members are traditional aristocrats, some educated professionals, some peasants—this is a stru­ cturally different unit from the “ tribe ” or “ caste ” of pre-colonial days. The relationship among elements within them is different, the process by which tribal or caste unity is created or maintained is different. In an important article, Archie Mafeje has argued that “ tribalism ” is an ideology that developed first to serve the interests of the colonial authorities. Second those of the African elite : Is it not significant that the term occurs when English is spoken ? In South Africa the indigenous population had no word for “ tribe only for “ nation ”, u clan ” and “ lineage and, traditionally, people were identified by territory—whose ( which Chief s ) land do you come from ?67 Historically, a “ tribe is a form of society marked by a relatively undifferen­ tiated political organization and a primitive subsistence economy; the colonial situation shatters this : There is a real difference between the man who, on behalf of his tribe, strives to maintain its traditional integrity and autonomy, and the man who invokes tribal ideology in order to maintain a power position, not in the tribal area but in the modern capital city, and whose ultimate aim is to undermine and exploit the supposed tribseman__ The fre­ quent statement by anthropologists who have studied urban societies that “urban tribalism is different from rural tribalism” is an illustration of how the same classificatory term is employed by the social scientists and actors to describe entirely different phenomena.68 Even the maintenance of tribal structures in rural areas is conditioned not by the survival of traditional relationships but, as noted above, by features of the colon­ ial situation which makes it necessary for the migrant worker to have land in the tribal home to which he can return. Hence, a man retains his loyalty to his tribe and its chiefs and associated customs as long as these function to keep his land from being expropriated. Thus the tribe functions as a new kind of unit, within urban areas, within rural areas, and as a category stretching between rural and urban; its material basis has changed to that of a capitalist economy and world 32

market, its political dynamic is a function of the colonial government and the actions of classes being differentiated within it, and its ideology is maintained on a new basis. Much the same c&n be said of “ caste” in India. Most social scientists have recognized that the modern “caste” is a quite different phenomenon from that of traditional Indian society: it involves the unification of scattered members of a caste category ever a wider territorial scale, usually under the leadership of its educated men, usually in the form of a “ caste association” which develops an ideology of the identity of the caste and its relation to other Hindu castes partly out of traditional and partly out of modern features; frequently too this involves a process of setting one such caste bloc in a competition with others that was not at all traditional. Louis Dumont has called this the substantialization of caste: ...the transition from a fluid, structural universe in which the emph­ asis is on a universe of impenetrable blocs, self-sufficient, essentially identical and in competition with one an­ other, a universe in which the caste appears as a collective individual.** The emphasis on the unity of the caste is certainly overdone ( see Chapter IX ) but it points to a tendency which is not traditional but belongs to the colonial era. Again, the economic bases and class differentiations, the dynamic of the political situation is completely different, and the “ caste ” itself is a new unit. This makes it questionable for historians or social scientists to pose “ caste ” as an operative factor over against “ class.” What of the role of culture as value system or ideology ? Can it not be said that forms of tradition-maintenance of tribal customs and kin relations, of caste hierarchy and purity-pollution values—survive into modern times and act as important value-systems hampering the formation of modern national or classbased unities ? Certainly sociologists such as Dumont would argue for the maintenance of the value system of caste as the central ordering feature of village social relations, just as Muslim santri and peasant abangan traditions continue to be a feature of Javanese village life, and tribal customs have retained their significance in Africa. But two facts must be noted. First, traditional value systems are under heavy challenge, not only from educated intelligentsia exposed to “ modern ” values of secularism and equality, but also from underprivileged groups within the village who respond to any opportunities they have to break away from traditional statuses. Second, it is important to look at the process by which traditional value structures are maintained and developed under new conditions. In pre-colonial times the values ordering social and kin relations at a village level were backed up, not only by the power of the state, but also by conscious elaborated ideologies, the cosmological and sociological systems of the literati. In the colonial period they may also be backed up by conscious ideo­ logical systems—but now it is a partly western-educated intelligentsia (with its economic position in the colonial bureaucracies, its relations with commercial bouigeois classes, its aims of leading a nationalist movement) that develops these systems, formulating “ traditionalist ” ideologies on a new basis, in reaction to the denigration of indigenous cultures by the colonial rulers as well as in reaction to challenges to tradition frequently arising from the classes below them. ...3


The “ Hindu ” elements of an overall “ Indian ** culture today are not consti­ tuted simply out of the survival of traditional values into modem times, but out of the impact of European Orientalism and “ Aryan theories of race/* out of Arya Samajist and Hindu Mahasabha reactions to Muslim and non-Brahman challenges, and out of Gandhi’s attempt to mediate between the Brahmans and capitalists who supported him and the peasants and Untouchables who were increasingly mounting a challenge to traditional cultural systems and the power of landlords and bureaucrats. Colonial society was, then, in very large measure a new society. It brought ethnic and religious communities together in new ways, and it disrupted tho­ roughly the bases by which old social structures and values had been maintained. Old cultural traditions remained significant. Initially, members of non-western societies sought to maintain their traditional relationships as a defense against alien conquest and the effects of a commercial capitalism in undercutting the ties of custom which had bound together village communities. As colonial penetration grew more thorough and the new classes developed, members of elite classes sought to maintain, even while “ modernizing ”, the traditional values in order to resist challenges to their power, while challenging groups themselves used both traditional and modern symbols in attempts to unite against the upper classes. But increasingly, as the new classes formed, the relationship to tradition was itself a new one. The “ non Brahman movement ” in Maharashtra has to be understood in this light. It arose partly out of categories defined within the traditional caste hierarchy ( though “ Brahman and “ non-Brahman *' had not really been an operative dichotomy before) but it was the pluralizing dynamic of colonialism which had set these categories or groups so sharply against one another. It fought cultural tradition which the uppercasle intelligentsia was actively attempting to maintain, and to do so, it used modern symbols of equalitarianism as well as tra­ ditional symbols out of Indian and Maharashtrian history which European and Indian search in the past had helped to bring alive; in the process of conflict it formed new symbols of identity. It had both a mass basis in the bahujan samaj (the “ masses ” or “ majority community ” ) for whom the primary enemies were shetji and bhatji ( moneylending rentier landlords, and Brahmans ) and an elite leadership in educated non-Brahmans who formulated democratizing demands for mass education and representation in the public services—but the relationship between these was not always an easy one. It rested partly on the degree to which traditional caste and kin relations made social relationships between educated and non-educated easier, partly on the fact that educated and peasant non-Brahmans alike had an interest in opposing the traditional caste hierarchy, partly on the degree to which an educated or wealthy leadership provided support for mass agitation such as peasant resistance to landlord power or the threat of having their land taken away. Finally, as in the case of ethnic group conflict or uses of nationalist identity elsewhere, claims of unity and kinship between upperclasses and peasants could be used as a means of diverting action from more radical social revolutionary demands.

Chapter III Caste in Traditional India The social structure of pre-British Maharashtra was basically a variant of the all-India system dominated at the cultural level by caste. It is important to have a clear model of the caste system both in order to understand the social structure over which colonial rule was imposed and the features of that structure which survived, as well as to adequately understand the very important differences between the “ traditional ” and the colonial social structure. This chapter there­ fore will deal with general issues of the nature and functioning of the caste system, while the following chapter will discuss more specifically pre-British Maharashtra. A useful beginning point for understanding caste as a cultural system is that of the French sociologist, Louis Dumont. Though he tends to make short shrift of recent socio-anthropological studies, Dumont, in a series of articles in his Journal Indian Sociology, culminating in a recently translated book1 actually climaxes a number of recent works discussing Indian caste in terms o f‘‘puritypollution.”* For identifying the nature of Brahmanic orthodoxy, which has been up to the present the dominant cultural system of India, his work is so far unsurpassed, and for this reason it will also serve in identifying to what extent a movement represents a form of cultural revolt aimed at and with potentiality for transforming the system. But before drawing on this, a few points must be made. Dumont develops his theory, to a large degree, as a polemic against those who would hold an economic or a historical-racial interpretation of the caste system. He argues that the central ordering feature of the system is a religious one, i. e., its value system of puritypollution and hierarchy, and that while in these terms economic and political aspects are given a place, they are secondary to, or “encompassed’1by, the central ordering religious values. This he has undeniably proven. It also seems true that the value system of caste as such has had an important causal influence on the develop­ ment of Indian civilization, to use Marxist terminology, the “ superstructure is not simply an epiphenomenon. But to show that economic factors are secondary to religious ones in ideology or the value system is not the same as proving that they are secondary infact. The issue of what the caste system is (what its values and ordering features are) is different from the issue of how it arose (what historical problems it was a solution to) and how it is maintained or chan­ ged. The latter issue will be crucial here. Dumont attempts to deal with the issue of charge in the modern era3, but remains ambiguous and in the end begs the question. That is he admits funda­ mental changes in the economic and political spheres and states that “ One in­ deed seems to be present at the transition*’** from the world of caste to the modern world” but argues that because economics and politics are encompassed and secondary “ in the traditional perspective ” that the change is not fundamen­ 35

tal.4 But the question is precisely whether the “ traditional perspective ’’ can still be called the fundamental ordering feature of Indian society. We shall argue here that while caste ideology remains as an important ordering value system on the Indian subcontinent, that it is not the most relevant ideology ordering peoples’ lives, and that its values are maintained in the modern era in an essentially new way. In fact, the total transformation of the economic and political basis of the system by colonialism has meant that it is primarily its cultural features that have sur­ vived, and for this reason, again Dumont’s analysis of caste as a cultural system will prove useful. Caste as a Cultural System Caste is fundamentally a holistic, hierarchical system which views the person not as an individual but as a functioning part of an interdependent system who helps to maintain that system by following the dharma, or duty, that birth has assigned to him. In being oriented to an organically-conceived hierarchical sociobiological universe in which every member had its place ( much like the medieval Europeans’ “ Great Chain of Being ” ) it shared features with other pre-modem or “ feudal ” social orders. Thus many sociologists have seen it as an extreme development of a society based on ascription as opposed to achievement, on principles of hierarchy and holism as opposed to equalitarianism and individualism.' Nevertheless caste is unique in its realization of these principles. The funda­ mental dichotomy which orders the system and sets up the hierarchy is the dichotomy between pure and impure. Organic life, in general, is viewed as impure in opposition to the spiritual realm, and in a sense, the whole system is set up to allow its purest members, the Brahmans, to be as uncontaminated as possible by the material world. Impurity attaches itself to foods, but to some ( i. e., non-vegetarian) more than to others. It attaches itself to the fundamental biolo­ gical facts of life—birth, death, menstruation, secretion—hence it must be reme­ died by bathing, seclusion and other means. It attaches itself to occupations con­ cerned with material affairs; hence specialists performing these occupations, from agriculture to the more polluting ones of washing and barbering, not only fun­ ction to maintain society in a material sense, but also remove the necessity for Brahmans and other highcaste men to come in contact with polluting activities and thereby allow a section of society to maintain greater purity. Finally, impu­ rity is passed on through all forms of physical contact, most especially eating together, sexual relations, and heredity. Thus a child inherits the relative puritypollution status of his parents and people who eat and marry with each other necessarily share the same level of purity or impurity. And this produces the castes. Identifying exactly what a caste, as a group is, has been a difficult one for social scientists. Boundaries are rarely clear and even, it may be argued, are inherently unclear. Scholars early recognized that the theoretical vama system— under which all groups are classified as brahman ( priest or intellectual), kshatriya ( warrior, king), vaishya (businessman or farmer), and shudra (servant, peasant)— provided an ordering system or a model in terms of which groups defined their place in society but did not in fact identify any actual group. Attention was 36

then turned to the jati, the word now generally translated as “ caste the named group or category which was the unit in terms of which an overall regional rank­ ing was made.* Since caste ordered the performance of economic functions, these were frequently the names for such functions : shimpi ( tailor ), kunbi ( peasant), koshti ( weaver), dhangar ( shepherd ). Where this occupational naming does not apply is most frequently at the top and bottom of the hierarchy, where, as Dumont points out, the economic function is less crucial than religious status (the Brahman at the top was not necessarily a priest but rather maintained the apex of purity for which the system functioned, while the untouchable repre­ sented its extremes of impurity) and on its outskirts, where semi-tribal groups have become absorbed and maintain their old names (Mil, koli, ramoshi). However, jatis in this sense, as scholars discovered, also did not represent solidary groups but usually contained either hierarchically ranked or endogamous subsections. Thus many scholars have focussed on the “ subcaste ” as the “ real ” caste. But this, as Dumont argues, is to ignore the central feature of the system in which relative rank is attributed to a local group as a representative of the “ caste ” or jati.* Further, it is not always easy to identify the “ subcaste ” as a group; it may also have splits and segmentations and in many cases where the jati as a whole contains diversely ranked people they do not always split into definable subcastes. (This is above all true of such predominantly agricultural jatis as the Maratha-Kunbis.) What is important is to begin not with “ castes ” conceived of as solidary units joined together in a system, but with the system itself which generates tendencies to heredity and separation. Persons sought to maintain as high status as was possible; thus, since they shared the status of those with whom they interdined and intermarried, there was the constant tendency to narrow the range of such social relationships, to intermarry only with those whose status and maintenance of social standards was known. And this meant, in a society ofiimited communications, with only very localized groups of the same status.1 Caste thus to a large degree involved processes offission, the splitting of groups, the narrowing of the range of relationships. And because caste limited interaction in this way, it prevented unity and identity among those of similar status or “ class ” position, making it difficult for them to act in common. Thus as a major effect of the system , the typical organization of conflict in traditional caste society has not in­ volved people of similar status acting together against enemies of different status but rather has been one of “ factionalism”, with actors at all levels splitting and opposing those of a similar level, backed up by clients and dependents.* However, elements of fusion and mobility have also existed. If a local group has sufficient economic and political resources , it can rise in the social scale by cutting itself off from its former occupation and fellows, taking on the attributes of a higher status, paying a Brahman or bard to establish a respectable heredity, and seeking marriage alliance with recognized high status groups. By the rules of * Note, though, that while jati translates as “ caste ” , the word commonly used for the caste system is chaturvarnya ( the four varnas ) or varnashram a dharm a, the duty of following one’s own varaa functions and the stages of life appropriate to a Hindu.


the game, such an alliance means its shares in the status of that group. Agriculture and military occupations have been the most open and relatively pure, and thus the most absorbtive in this sense : once gained , control over land and people can be fairly easily transformed into a good status no matter what one’s antecedents.9 “ Sanskritization ”, i. e., the process of rising in the social scale by taking on attributes of a recognized varna and having this legitimated through the help of Brahmans, has thus been a major feature of Indian society. It is important not to exaggerate it, however, high status groups have an equal interest in preventing such mobility since it tends to dilute status, and one can also identify areas of resistance to Sanskritization, in the case of tribal groups who have refused to give up their ancient customs and tribal equality for Brahmanic hierarchy. Finally, in terms of cultural rules, hierarchy (and lack of mobility) is most clear at the extreme ends of the scale. Dumont argues that the system necessarily requires a sort of absolute purity in the Brahman at the top, and an absolute impurity in the Untouchable at the bottom : It is clear that the impurity of the Untouchable is conceptually inse­ parable from the purity of the particular, untouchability will not truly disappear until the purity of the Brahman is radically devalued.10 This clarifies important cultural features of the system which bear on the develop­ ment of anti-caste movements. Not only is “ untouchability removal ” a crucial symbol of opposiion to caste, but so is anti-Brahmanism. This lies bshind their linkage in the non-Brahman movement, and helps also to explain why Untouchables today can continue to see Brahmans as the main enemy even while facing non-Brahmans as the main opposition to their rise at a village level. Historical Origins and Functions of Caste Dumont’s model is crucial in helping us understand the cultural essence of the caste system. However, it is insufficient by itself in explaining how and why caste arose and the particular functions it performed in the ethnic diversity of the Indian subcontinent, and it is insufficient in understanding how the system at first has positive economic functions but later became an orthodoxy hampering further development. For this we have to turn to other authors. One of the most important opposing theories is one that emphasizes the racial character and origin of caste. While originating with European work in the nineteenth century," this theory is an important interpretation of caste among Indians today. Caste, by this theory, is seen as arising in the process of the invasion of Aryans, or light-skinned Indo-European peoples, who described the native inhabitants of the subcontinent as dark-skinned, flat-nosed, aliens, barbar­ ians, demons, and evolved the system as a means by which to subjugate and di- vide their enemies. Thus the four vamas are seen in racial terms: Brahmans, kshatriyas and vaishyas are considered to be descendents of the Aryan conquerors; tri­ bal people and Untouchables as representatives of the original inhabitants: shudras as, at best, a mixed group. And there is in fact a generally observable color scale roughly corresponding to the caste scale : as one goes from north to south, and from the higher to the lower castes, color becomes increasingly darker. 38

Dumont, in opposing this theory, is right in stressing that there is an impor­ tant difference in the ordering principles of caste and race.1* Caste involves principles of hierarchy and interdependence within a community. Racism, on the other hand, has a link to equalitarianism: it has arisen in modern times in the context of a spreading capitalist system and an ideology of individualism and opportunity. It is socially assumed that achievement of a social position is open to any qualified individual while in fact distinct ethnic groups are excluded and dominated. Hence an ideology to justify this is necessary, and so one arises which does so on the basis that certain cultural-ethnic groups are inherently inferior. In caste, there is in principle no individualism or competition for positions; further the fission principles of caste operate at all levels and it is unlike the racial systems of modern times which see the unification of large ethnic groups posed against one another. To the extent, then, that there is such large-scale unification of groups with a semi-racial ideology, we have a system that is something other than the traditional caste order. Nevertheless, the readiness with which Indians accepted European-derived theories of a racial origin to caste testifies to the degree to which a racial aspect was an important latent feature of the system. The Aryan invasion and the incor­ poration of indigenous and racially diverse groups (as well as later invaders of various races and cultures) was a reality. However, it is important to emphasize the intermixture of culture and race in this process. Among early Vedic tribes, a crucial emphasis in distinguishing 41 Arya ” from “ barbarians ” was not so much racial as behavioral and cultural: The mlechha (barbarian) areas were impure lands not only because those who lived there spoke an alien language, but what was more important they did not perform the correct rituals. These were lands where the shraddha ceremony (offerings to ancestors on stipulated occasions) was not carried out, and where people did not observe the laws of the vama.n The fundamental dichotomy was indeed that of purity and impurity, but as Aryan civilization spread and became Brahmanic Hindu civilization, the groups and territories identified as impure and alien changed. The system did in fact allow for the incorporation of the “ barbarian " and both lands and peoples were assimilated : Large numbers of mlechha peoples were incorporated into the social, political and religious system and were in fact the progenitors of many of the essentials of Indian culture.14 However, while the rulers of such groups were incorporated as Kshatriyas, and their tribal priests occasionally became Brahmans, generally the majority were absorbed in the position of Shudras, thus suggesting indeed a rough correlation between ethnicity and caste. Similarly, the racial features remained at an ideo­ logical level : those absorbed at higher status levels had their position justified in mythologies of descent from those originally pure and of Aryan blood.16 One result of this process of incorporation is that in most of the southern peninsula there are fewer Brahmans than in the north, though these few are in a 39

more powerful position, and almost no recognized Kshatriyas or Vaishyas. Simi­ larly, the other side of “ Sanskritization ” processes is the persistance of tribal groups and of non-Sanskritic and freer, more equalitarian customs among lower castes—elements of resistance to the spreading culture of Brahmanic Hinduism. Both geographical and caste position, then, become crucial to the discussion o f features of cultural revolt. Perhaps the most sophisticated version of a historical theory of caste is that of D. D. Kosambi, the Indian historian, Sanskritist and mathematician. Kosambi stresses the economic aspect of the process of incorporation, involving the trans­ formation of hunting and food-gathering tribes to a settled, agricultural economy. The older functions of Brahman priests were wrecked by the invasions of Alexander, the growth of new kingdoms and the flourishing of Buddhism; but they remained as the most important holders of an intellectual tradition. The role that these Brahmans then began to perform was not simply one of main­ taining the class structure of society and winning over new tribes to caste culture, but also crucial to economic development: Disruption of the tribal people and their merger into general agrarian society would not have been possible merely by winning over the chief and a few leading members. The way people satisfied their daily needs had also to be changed. . . . The tribe as a whole turned into a new peasant jati caste-group, generally ranked as shudras__ The brahmans acted as pioneers in undeveloped localities; they first brought plough agriculture to replace s!ash-and-burn cultivation, or foodgathering. New crops, knowledge of distant markets, organisation of village settlements and trade also came with them.16 For this reason, Brahmans were often brought in by kings, or chieftains in the process of becoming kings, and given land-grants in return for legitimizing the rulers’ caste-status and helping to develop their territories. Caste, then, according to Kosambi, originally had a positive function which “ enabled Indian society to be formed out of many diverse and even discordant elements, with the minimum use of violence.” 1'' But once developed, he empha­ sizes with equal vigor, it tended to grow into a narrow orthodoxy, hampering further development with the tightening of caste bonds, the loss of a sense of unity, superstition, the obliteration of Indian history and the prevention of fur­ ther development of commodity production.1® We now turn, then, to the impor­ tant question of the political and economic functions of a fully developed caste system and its relation to the formation of a “ modern ” social order. Political and Economic Effects of Caste The economic system which caste maintains is typically one of interdepen­ dence and not of exchange. There is in it no concept of an individual holding rights or “ property ” in land, labor power, or wealth; rather persons, at all levels, perform functions for society in terms of the caste position of their birth. For this, they have a right to a share of the produce of society: a share of grain at harvest time ( the typical image of the indigenous system is not one of buying and selling this produce, but of dividing shares of the grain heap )/* a share of 40

some ritual sort in village festivals, and so forth. This is typified in the village jajmani ( in Maharashtra, balutedar) system which includes all those who per­ form functions for the village, from headman and village accountant through artisan castes down to the village Untouchable or general servant of the village. The agricultural castes, often called the “ dominant castes ”, have as their func­ tion cultivation and as their share a claim to the land. But the basic concept is not one of property in the land but rather of a sort of property in the position, the hereditary right to perform a particular function for the village, whether it be that of a blacksmith or accountant or cultivator. ( Thus the Japanese econo­ mic historian Fukuzawa argues that in traditional Maharashtrian society the artisan castes were not servants of the dominant castes as such but rather of the village as a whole ).*° There is no moment-by-moment process of exchange when a duty is performed; the artisans, priests etc., perform their functions throughout and get their rewards throughout the year, in grain at harvest time and in per­ quisites at times of ceremonies. Thus to the extent that it was based on the interdependent village economy, caste made modernization difficult. It did not prevent the formation of merchant groups oriented to and skilled at profit-making; indeed it necessarily contained castes of the Vaishya category whose dharma it was to act in a businesslike way. But while the interdependent village system was maintained, it limited the degree to which it could be penetrated by an urbanized commercial development; urban or merchant castes were cut off from control over the land just as landholding castes were cut off from the concepts of agrarian entrepreneurship and saw them­ selves primarily as rulers of men and maintainers of the local society.*1 The system hampered enterprise on the land and while there has been, in traditional India, a good deal of money economy, it has never fully upset this “ basic form of the division of labor in traditional India.” " Politically caste culture had just as crucial effects. With its absolute dicho­ tomy between pure and impure, the caste system involved a clear separation of sacred and political functions; power and force are admitted into the system but at a secondary or “ encompassed ” level.13 Power is necessary to maintain society, but it also necessarily involves one in impurities; by taking this responsi­ bility the king absolves the Brahman of the necessity of becoming polluted and in turn is allowed a greater degree of impurity in life style than any other caste. He has the highest secular status, but it is irrevocably a secular and not a sacred one : It is a matter of an absolute distinction between priesthood and royalty. Comparatively speaking, the king has lost his religious prero­ gatives: he does not sacrifice, he has sacrifices performed. In theory, power is ultimately subordinate to priesthood, whereas in fact, priest­ hood submits to power. Status and power, and consequently spiritual authority and temporal authority, are absolutely distinguished.'* This sacred-secular dichotomy extends all the way down to the village level where it rationalizes a system in which the “ dominant ’’ agricultural caste per­ forms functions of ordering and ruling the small society while the Brahman continues to represent without fail, the highest sacred status. ( Where Brahmans 41

are also secularly dominant as landholders or rulers, the functions are merged in fact, though distinguished still in terms of individuals performing them.) Just as important was the tendency of the system to hereditarize positions and claims at every level. Just as men within the village claimed a share of the produce on the basis of caste functions, so those above the village who acted as feudal intermediaries, also claimed a share on the basis of performance of poli­ tical functions. Representatives of the political overlord— accountants or military chieftains at a county level (in Maharashtra these were known as deshpandes and deshmukhs) also claimed their position as a hereditary right or watan, a traditional family possession. This did not mean there was not a great deal of mobility among various groups claiming such positions; nevertheless, the emphasis was on heredity aad stability and the resulting tendency was to sink down local roots. Politically, these features tended to hamper large-scale power formation. It is no accident that the most extended empires on the Indian subcontinent have been Buddhist (the early Ashokan empire), Muslim (the Mughal system) or Eur­ opean (the British Raj), the system which deprived the king of all sacred Status made it difficult to evolve a cosmological order around which loyalty to a king could be focussed to make it possible to maintain an absolutist regime and a strong bureaucracy. Rulers and tribal chieftains turned king gained legitimacy and assur­ ance of their status from the Brahman priests, but there were limits beyond which they could not go; they were expected to maintain dharma, the caste system with its hereditary implications. Conquest was approved of; the new kings were encour­ aged to engage in war and attempt to extend their power, but it was against the rules of the game “ to annex conquered territories and deprive conquered notables of their position; the latter were expected only pay tribute and recognize the con­ queror as an overlord . Since at all levels of society positions tended to become hereditary watans, intermediaries maintained an inherent strength: conquered chief­ tains remained to fight again, or else the new men the ruler appointed were able to claim their position on a hereditary basis and sink down local roots and, when the time was opportune, establish their autonomy. As a result, attempts at large-scale empire were depirved of their force by continuing fissiparous tendencies. The typical “ feudal bonds'’ of this system did not operate in terms of personal loyalties between an overlord and his subordinates but rather in terms of his hereditary claim to a position for performance of the social function. The self-sufficient villags community operating from below with the same result; as the British conqueror Elphinstone argued, it made a powerful centralized polity both unnecessary and almost impossible. Robert Frykenberg has described the way in which small caste and kin groups, with assured positions in village and local society operated at all levels to undermine the central power: the system, in his words, was one of an “ anti-state” which lacked not only a centralized bureaucracy, but even a clearly definable political territory : Of frontiers, we can only grope in blind uncertainty. Furthermore, we read of annual forays by the armies of each power in which the opposing forces crossed and re-crossed what we would normally feel to be the lands of the other dynastic systems with impunity and with little regard for the niceties of territorial integrity..... Different centra42

lized powers seem to have ruled congruently over the same territories, to have shared the same intermediate agencies and administrative apparatus, and to have laid claim to revenues from the same villages.18 This occurred because hereditary social claims were maintained regardless of their relationship to the centralizing power. Rulers and intermediaries attempted to maximize wealth and power by conquest and tribute and by claiming ever new rights. But to override the feudalizing tendencies within their own terri­ tories, to create a bureaucracy dependent on and loyal to themselves, to invoke a territorial or ethnic s nationalism ” as a basis for power, was something Indian kings found almost impossible within the context of caste culture. Absolutism, Vetat c'est moi, was a concept almost meaningless in terms of dharma and chaturvamya. Thus, just as the caste system made it difficult to achieve “ unity at the bottom ” in the form of large-scale peasant revolts, so it made unity from the top almost equally impossible. Thus caste hampered the formation of property rights and control over land that might have been the basis for large-scale entrepreneuring agricultural deve­ lopment linked to urban enterprise; it hampered the formation of an absolute kingship or royal bureaucracy; and it hampered the formation of a “ nation ”, a group feeling an essential unity based on a common language, territory and history. To a very important degree, then, caste hampered economic and poli­ tical modernization. But this cannot allow us to conclude, as many Western scholars have, that India could not have achieved such development without the intrusion of British conquest.*6 Rather, the implication is only that such deve­ lopment would have required, in the process, something of a “ cultural revolut­ ion a transcending and transformation of caste values as such. But this was true also of other societies which have had to transcend the forms of “feudalism” that hampered their modernizing, the Japanese creating a version of emperorloyalty to override feudal loyalties, the Western renaissance and Reformation developing notions of individualism and “ innerworldly asceticisms ” transending older forms of organic social theories which downgraded “ usury ” and worldly enterprise. Both Japanese and European societies were able in the process of econo­ mic and political development to find cultural resources to overcome traditional cultural barriers. The significant issue regarding caste, then, is whether the same would have been possible in India. Did traditional Indian society, in fact, contain certain features of cultural revolt ? Cultural Revolt in Indian History India, of course, did have a tradition and a history of cultural revolt, as we have hinted throughout the first sections of this chapter. Like most social structures, the caste system can be best understood in dialectical terms, that is, as a system which had not only stabilizing and integrative features but also gener­ ated movements of revolt which both had aims of transforming the system and the potential to do so. And, the class and geographical origins of those partici­ pating in such movements can best be understood in terms of the very function­ ing and spread of caste itself. That is, groups assigned to a low status within the system had most Interests in participating in movements against it, and such 43

movements tended to take their most radical form in the more outlying regions of India, the last to be “ Aryanized ” , that is, southern and eastern India, as well as in the northwestern regions open to continuing migration and new cul­ tural influences. Finally, these movements can be partially understood in terms of the potential lines of “ dichotomization ” within the caste system itself. The most basic of these were the division between Brahman and Kshatriya, sacred priest and secular ruler, on the one hand; and, even more important, the division between “ twice-born ” Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, and the remainder of the population. On the whole the division between sacred and secular was a good bargain for the ruler, whose status and power was legitimized while Brahmans retained their right to be the primary cultural and intellectual class. However, if a ruler or prince aspired to more, to any kind of sacred or religious position, he was bound to come into conflict with the Brahmanical system. There is thus an old tradition in India that links Kshatriyas with a role of anti-Brahmanic religious creativity, most particularly with the early " protestant ” religions of Buddha, himself a ruling prince, and Mahavir, the founder of Jainism. There is also, within South India, a long history of division of casteinto “ right hand ” and “ left hand ” castes that seems to represent an at least covert claim of the land-based secular powerholding groups to higher status than castes follow|ng the orthodox Brahmanic model. The divisions and their disputes existed from about 1000 to 1900, with conflicts over the ranking reaching a peak in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.’1 The “ right hand ” castes were gene­ rally peasant-warrior groups with a tradition of kingship and those castes allied with them, oriented to secular traditions of power; the “ left hand ” castes were the Brahmans and some urbanized artisan castes giving priority to rules of ortho­ doxy in behavior and seeking to rise through professional occupations and wealth.'8 What is unorthodox in this is the implicit claims of the “ secular ” groups to the highest position: in general Indian concepts the “ right hand ” is pure, the left hand polluting, the “ right side ” of the social body represents the male, or superior side, the “ left side ” the female, or inferior. The right bloc groups were thus claiming superiority of status.'* A final example of a kingly or " Kshatriya ” revolt may be noted. Inthe 18th century, under the impact of a vigorous trade, particularly in pepper, the rule of Travancore in southwestern India led a “ modernizing ” political revolt in which he smashed the power of feudatory nobles allied with Brahman coun­ cillors of the biggest temple in his kingdom, annexed (not simply conquered) surrounding territory, and established a genuinely bureaucratic state manned by officials who were “ gifted commoners ” paid by and loyal to the king.30 Inter­ estingly enough, this seems to have been associated with a large-scale propaganda attempt to buiid up the sacred role of the king; like Henry VIII, King Martanda Varma emphasized his loyalty to religion but sought to be its head: A massive effort was made to build up the picture of the king as a father to his subjects and a servant to God. Martanda Varma, in fact, dedicated his entire kingdom to his tutelary deity, Shri Padmana Swami. The King of Travancore was declared to be the vassal or 44

agent of the deity. In the thirties the powerful temple organization had been smashed. This gesture, which came in 1750, marshalled religion behind the monarchy.11 What must be emphasized is that while it was not revolutionary at a ll, but simply a Sanskrit izing process for rulers to claim a high or Kshatriya status, it did represent a revolutionery opposition^© the system for them to claim superiority in terms of sacred values. While this aid not very frequently occur within tradi­ tional India, the case of Travancore’s creative response to European commercial penetration indicates that forces of modernization and revolt against caste hiera­ rchy did exist within pre-Britiih India. Finally, it may be noted that when after British conquest a “ Kshatriya ideology ” emerged in Maharashtra as a conser­ vative form of anti-Brahmanism, it did present a tradition of Kshatriya opposi­ tion that contained elements undermining the whole hierarchy and its opposition of pure-priesthood to secular kingship. ^ The more basic opposition, however, was not that between the Kshatriyas and Brahmans who divided power and status at the top of the system, but between the “ twice-born” castes (Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas) and the Shudras, tribal people and Untouchables, who generally had neither power nor status. These had both a status interest in revolts that promised to negate the caste hierarchy as well as economic motives for discontent since they were mostly poor peasant and artisan groups. Without a “Shudra” basis, in fact, no ‘'Kshatriya” revolt had a chafee of succeeding. Thus for example, the King of Travancore had sought to build up a populistic basis for his rule, and the right-left divisions of south India had deve­ loped first among middle-level castes: Brahman and the top Vellarar (the most powerful ruling group) had attempted at first to remain above it but were drawn in later. Similarly, it was in south India, where no “ true Kshatriyas” were said to exist and even very powerful groups were considered to be of the Shudra vama, that the strongest movements of cultural revolt existed; here the “ Kshatriya Brah­ man ” and “ Shudratwice born” oppositions tended to merge. If it is to be said that economic and political revolution in India required, in the process, a religion-based revolution against caste, it is undeniable that such revolutions have been attempted throughout Indian history. These were the great bhakti, or religious devotional movements, spread over at least fourteen centuries. They had the common characteristics of asserting an anti-caste equalitarianism (including greater equality for women), a monotheism which emphasized the devotional relationship between the worshipper and deity as opposed to Vedantic monism and priestly ritualism, and of being based primarily among lowcaste peasants and artisans with foundations in outlying regions such as the south (Tamilnad and later Maharashtra), the east (Bengal), and the northwest (Panjab). The first was Tamil devotionalism which attained a wave of popularity in the 6th and 7th centuries, ignoring or denying Vedic gods and including women among their saints •*as perhaps the most revolutionary feature.” As Romila Thapur notes*. Though never so recognized by the Brahmans, the Tamil devotional cult was in part a resistance to the Aryanization of the region. The brahmans 45

enjoyed royal patronage, but the cult was widely supported by the ordi­ nary people, although in later centuries...the established orders arrived at a compromise with it— The brahmans propagated Hinduism through esoteric theories and the use of Sanskrit, the devotional cult expressed itself in easily understood forms and used only the popular language, Tamil. The brahmans were obses^d with caste regulations and rigidly excluded non-brahmans from pamipation in religious knowledge; the Tamil saints not only ignored caste but excluded no one for caste rea­ sons along.3* The fate of the cult, however, illustrates not simply the absorbtive abilities of Hinduism but also the role of power within that: Brahmans, with their royal patronage maintained control of the temples on which the cult tended to center, and in the end the revolutionary emphasis of devotionalism was absorbed and dampened. In Mysore, also in southern India, the revolt took the form of the Lingayat movement or Virashaivism, which emerged in the twelfth century to question such basic Hindu notions as the authority of the Vedas, to deny rebirth, and to encour­ age anti-Brahmanic social practices such as late marriage and widow remarriage. Virashaivism came to absorb certain Hindu features with the presence of something very much like castes, but its continued systematic denial of notions impurity has led I^ n o n t to classify it as “non-Hindu/*8 In north India and the Panjab, later fifteenth century religious movements influenced by Islam and led by Guru Nanak and Kabir drew their following from artisans and cultivators and expressed a strong need for social equality, firmly denouncing caste. ‘‘Their stress was on a reordering of society on legalitarian lines and not the nnre existence of differing ideologies.’*34 Nanak's movement eventually resulted in the formation of a separate religious group, the Sikhs, who like the Lingayats have ^astc-like divisions but by no means a caste system (in Dumont’s terms) among themselves. In Bengal cultural revolt took a somewhat different form. Devotional cults also existed here, but it appeared that the Tantric movement, which also had Buddhist connections, was a main form of opposition. This originated in the sixth century, emphasized that the way to salvation was through performance of what was considered to be ritually polluting in order to allow the cult member to realize that within salvation there was no purity or pollution. It was open to all castes, including women, and preserved much of the “ primitive unbroken ritual of the outcaste sections of society.”35 Its emphasis on unorthodox and impure behavior caused it to be condemned as decadent, but the Tantric cult: originated in a conscious and deliberate opposition to the orthodox Hindu ritual and the brahmanical ordering of society, which it ex­ pressed by incorporating non-orthodox cults and by protesting against what were regarded as the established standards of social behavior.88 Finally, conversion to Islam as an alternative religious value system was a way out; and it is significant that large-scale conversion in India occurred not 46


in the centers of Muslim political power but on the outskirts of the subcontinent where Aryanization appeared particularly oppressive to the non-Aryan lowercaste groups—in the Panjab, in Bengal, and in Kerala on the southwest coast. The Maharashtrian bhakti movement which will be discussed in the next chapter was thus not an isolated phenomenon, but one of a wide-scale and interlinked tradition of opposition^Ml of these movements represented funda­ mental cultural revolts against the caste system, challenging its underlying princi­ ples and holding up ideals of a different social order in which equality of castes and equality of women was a crucial part. They were, in the end, revolts that failed* Some established separate religious groups which coexisted uneasily with the systems of Brahmanic control and reabsorbed some features of caste, because, Dumont emphasizes, of their “ proximity to the Hindu environment.”37 In other cases continuing Brahman access to royal patronage and control over the temple cult center and in many cases the very literature of the cult itself resulted in the compromising of the more radical features and a willingness to coexist with caste hierarchy in everyday life while asserting equalitarianism in religious practices. Within India as a whole, in spite of areas of opposition, Brahmans maintained their position as the cultural and priestly classes (being willing to serve as priests even for unorthodox practices) and played a masterful role in absorbing and reinterpreting all the local and dissident traditions in terms of an all-India Sanskritic “ Great Tradition ” which allowed the coexistence oHieterodox cults and practices but at a lower level, " encompassed by ” and serondary to Brahmanic orthodoxy. But if Brahmanism thus maintained its cultural hegemony, it was largely because the primary centers of kingly power and the conservative merchant tradition supported its orthodoxy. That is to say, just as we have argued earlier that general economic or political modernization required a revolt against caste, so the revolts against caste had to be linked to political and economic power to succeed. This did not happen in pre-British India, though the religious revolts left large regions and groups of people with interests in opposing the caste system and traditions of such opposition. In arguing that India did possess prerequisites for economic development, Tapan Raychaudhuri has stressed that the important areas were not the im­ perial centers such as the Mughal system (which most scholars have agreed left little scope for economic modernization),48 but the regional centers : The highly commercial coastal regions with their hinterlands— Gujarat and the West coast, Malabar, Coromandel, the Bengal—Bihar regionhad no less potentialities for growth before 1800 than Japan in the pre-Meiji era.39 Most of these were in outlying areas with long traditions of opposition to Brah­ manism, and Raychaudhuri’s point may be made in cultural and political terms as well: given the stimulus of European commercial challenge without the “underdeveloping ” features of full European conquest,44modernizing ” rulers may have linked their response to this challenge with movements of revolt against caste 47

orthodoxy, holding out promises of increasing a sense of “nationality” in outlying regions. This, in fact, was what was baginning to happen with the case of Travan* core cited above. This would have set in motion a new political dynamic within the subcontinent whereby dissident religions and cults would no longer have been affected and encompassed by “ the proximity of the Hindu environment ” or the continuing Brahmanic-kingly alliance but would rather have impinged upon and upset the Brahmanic centers of power, putting A e “Great Tradition” on the defen­ sive and establishing new anti-Sanskritic areas of hagemony. This of course, was not what happened. Instead, British power, in the full flush of industrialization and the increased political capacities this brought, swept over the subcontinent, playing off its diverse territorial overlords against one anothei to establish their own “ Oriental despotism ”. Henceforward, both the efforts of Brahmanic elites to maintain their position as the cultural elite of the Great Tradition, as well as the no-less-great but non-hegemonic tradition of challenge to Brahmanic orthodoxy, took place in a totally new economic and political context, that of colonialism.


Chapter IV Maharashtra : The People & Their History Maharashtra, a State of about fifty million Marathi-speakers in western India, stands in many ways midway between north and south. Its language is the sou­ thernmost of the Indo-European languages; its social structure with primary divi­ sions falling between “ Brahman ”, “ non-Brahman ” and “ Untouchable ” castes is considered typical of the south Indian pattern; its people have been generally viewed as representing a mixture of northern Aryan and southern Dravidian traitsIt is thus, as Iravati Karve has called it, “ a culture contact region par excellence.". It is not only this; it is also a region with a strong sense of linguistic nation1 ality, whose people mounted an extensive agitation in 1956 for “ Samyukta Maha­ rashtra” , a united Marathi-speaking State with Bombay as its center. Correspon­ dingly it is considered to have a stronger and more impressive tradition of histo­ riography than almost any other region of India;' its people have been intensely interested in their past. But this concern for the past bears witness to more than the desire of a co­ lonized people to establish the validity of their own national tradition. As we shall see, Maharashtrian historiography is riven with disputes between Brahmans and non-Brahmans bearing upon the most crucial issues of the historical tradition. An analysis of Maharashtra’s historical background, then will not only show the specific regional context within which the patterns of caste and cultural revolt discussed above helped to lay the foundations for conflicts in the colonial and modern period; it will also help in understanding in what way these modern conflicts differed from those of the pre-British era. Geography With 1/10 the land area and 1/11 the population of India, Maharashtra is geographically clearly marked. O. K. Spate has described it as “ a region of extraordinary physical homogeneity," characterized by the black soils of the Deccan lavas and the preponderance of jawar, a millet crop, as the staple foodgrain, both of which clearly correlate with the area of Marathi speech.3* * Jawar produces the bread-like bhakri, the staple of the poor man's diet; it is interesting to note that while the elite bases its diet on rice and wheat-made chapatie*, bhakri* are never­ theless generally served as a supplementary feature, indicating at least a symbolic identification with village and lowerdass life. A frequent non-Brahman way of contrasting their life-style with that of the elite was to speak of those who ate bhakri-chutney (spiced bhakris) as opposed to those who ate tup-poll (clarified butter and wheat-made chapaties).


Politically the State is divided into four regions: the Konkan, along the western seacoast (comprising the districts of Thana, Ratnagiri, Kolaba and the city of Bombay); the Deccan on the inland plateau (including Poona, Kolhapur, Satara, Sangli, Sholapur, Ahmednagar, Nasik, Dhulia and Jalgaon); Marathwada (Aurangabad, Bhir, Osmanabad, Parbhani and Nanded); and Vidarbha-Nagpur (including Akola, Amraoti, Yeotmal, Buldhana, Nagpur, Wardha, Chanda and Bhandara.)4 Of these, only the Konkan or coastal zone has distinct features and normally heavy rainfall; in the remaining regions inconsistent and inadequate rainfall and a lack of irrigation make agriculture uncertain in spite of generally fertile soils. Maharashtra is thus unique in India for the insignificance of irriga­ tion and rice but has nevertheless had important cash crops dating from British times, primarily cotton but increasingly sugarcane.6 Due to the industrial centers of Bombay, Poona and Nagpur Maharashtra is less agriculturally oriented than is the norm for India: according to 1970 figures, agriculture contributes 28*9 % of State income and 64% of the population, the Indian norm being 49*7% and 68%.* Under British rule, this Marathi-speaking area was divided into three poli­ tical territories.7 The Konkan and Deccan were part of Bombay province, along with the Gujerati-speaking region and several districts of mainly Kannadaspeakers. Vidarbha-Nagpur was a part of the Central Provinces along with several Hindi-speaking districts of what is now known as Madhya Pradesh (the subregion of Berar or Varhad had been ceded from the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1903). Marathwada was a part of the Muslim State of Hyderabad whose rulers were Urdu-speaking and the majority of whose districts were the Telugu-speaking region known as Telengana. In spite of these political divisions, the unity of the Marathi area as a whole is suggested by the fact (among others) that the non-Brahman movement touched all of its regions. The Satyashodhak Samaj, the socio-religious organi­ zation of the movement, had its greatest strength in the districts of Poona, Satara, Kolhapur, Nasik and Sholapur of the Deccan, and in Amraoti, Yeotmal, Akola, Buldhana and Wardha of Vidarbha-Nagpur; it also touched Dhulia and Jalgaon, Nagpur, and to some extent the districts of Marathwada.8 It had very little strength in the Konkan, perhaps an indication of the general socio-geographical distinctiveness of that region. The political offshoot of the movement, the non-Brahman Party, was strongest in the Deccan and in Vidarbha, and was also represented in the Konkan (where it was connected with a tenants' movement against khot landlords) including Bombay city; it was non-existent in Marathwada due to that region's completely different political history. In Bombay province, the party also had allies from the Kannada-speaking districts; the Central Provinces party was organizationally separate, but there was always a frequent interchange and representation of respective political leaders at conferences. This dissertation, then, will deal primarily with the Deccan and Vidarbha-Nagpur regions. The Early History of Maharashtra Maharashtra, or the Deccan, as the entire region is usually referred to in historical works, was a part of the Ashokan empire of the third century B. C.f 50

and it appears that it was drawn into all-India trading and communications networks largely under Buddhist auspices. Carvings and paintings in the caves of Karle, Ajanta and Ellora (ranging from the 3rd century B.C. to the 6;h and 7th centuries A. D.) indicate not only a fine artistic tradition but also developed trade, a merchant community and guilds of artisans, and a continuity of design, finance and administration spread over centuries, in short “ a society of com­ modity producers on a scale not familiar to later days in the Deccan, or indeed anywhere else in the country/’9 However, this period of early flourishing was not associated with any inde­ pendent political kingdoms in the Deccan;10 when these did arise it was as an aspect of the “ Aryanizing ” process described in Chapter 3. The Deccan, as Romila Thapar has noted, played a “ historical role of acting as a bridge bet­ ween north and south;*’11 kingdoms arising here could interfere in politics in the north or follow the stretching Deccan plateau down to the fertile plains of Tamilnad to engage in conflict with kingdoms farther south. The only significant invasion of “ outsiders ” into the Deccan appears to have been that of the Shakas, a Scythian tribe driven into India under the pressure of nomadic move­ ments, who penetrated south and ruled around Nasik in the first century A.D.1* They are important in terms of modern debates in being considerrd by many to be ancestors of Marathas.13 Following the Shakas, the kingdoms of the Deccan seem to have arisen indigenously, in a pattern in which emerging kings had their status legitimized as rulers in the kshatriya tradition and in turn gave patronage to Brahmans in the courts and the cities. Brahmans were also given land grants to open up land for cultivation in the process of winning over surrounding tribes to a settled village economy focussed around castc. Many such grants, such as that which developed the village of Pandharpur, date from around the 6th century, after the decline of the Buddhist system with its monasteries and asso­ ciated trade routes,14 a period which the most important historians agree marks the beginning of feudalism.16 Thus the Shakas were defeated by the Satavahanas, also known as the “ Andhra dynasty ”, perhaps indicating an origin in that region. The Satavahanas were the first Aryanizing kings, and established the Deccan as a connecting link in terms of politics and the emerging Brahmanic cultural system. It is stated, for example, that one of their kings v



Village or Town

Papulation, 1921







Nagpur Sonori

145,193 Village


Akola Akot


Akola Akot Hivrakhed Rajanda Pund Hirpur

37,884 16,887 6,297 Village M •1






Chikodi Nipani

It 9,000 11,878

Dahardarpur Vitholi Savarvada

Village II II


' Villages were settlements, presumably under 2,000 population, which were not listed in the 1921 Census. Thus, a total of 48 branches, representing 30 villages and 18 towns or cities in 28 talukas and 14 districts of Maharashtra, reported to the 7th session of the Satyashodhak Samaj conference.

of Ahmednagar: Mahant Dnyanisgiribuva, a Gosavi and poet from near the border of Ahmednagar district. When the Kolhapur educated non-Brahmans ' such as Jadhav, Latthe and Dongre took up the work, they found themselves facing a communications gap between elite and masses; as Dongre reports : My friends Bhaskarrao Jadhav and Latthe and I tour and speak In the people’s language and explain various problems....When we used Sanskritized language in the beginning the villagers did not understand us but only remained listening out of sheer respect. Such words as pragatik paksh (progressive party) and vaiyaktik swaraj (personal freedom) were simply not understood---- when Kolhapur state started giving employment to Kunbis, Dhangars and Muslims who were partially educated and people understood them. So we too are learn­ ing their language." But the village-based, ‘ partially-educated ’ people who had carried the movement even before the Kolhapur group took it up evidently did not face the same problem. In fact, from the beginning Satyashodhak leaders found it natural to use the poetic and song forms appreciated by the Maharashtrian masses. Phule consistently included poems in his work; besides his major povada (baltad) on Shivaji, and Bhalekar published several collections of poetry in the form of abhangs (verses following the forms used in the bhakti tradition), povadas and 146

padya (verses). These were published in newspapers and often sung at meetings or religious ceremonies. Jadhav, it will be recalled, had mentioned several kirtankars, singers of ballads in the traditional religious style, and Bhimrao Mahamuni, a Sonar ( goldsmith) by caste and evidently also originally from Otur, began in the 1890s to pioneer singing performances or jahas carrying Samaj messages. Brahman nationalists and reformers, of course, also used the kirtans,*° but Mahamuni’s jalsas provided the seed of a new communications breakthrough that began when a Maratha peasant of Satara in 1916 took up the popular and bawdy folk drama or tamasha for use in social propaganda. The tamasha movement was to spread throughout Maharashtra in the 1920s and will be discussed in Chapter XI. Finally, the printed word was an important form of communication, even when newspapers had to be read to a group of villagers by their one literate member. With the death of Din Bandhu (it was to be revived again in the 1920s, although not as a Satyashodhak paper), Mukundrao Patil’s Din Mitra became the most important paper, supplemented by Satyoday in Amraoti in 1925. Renewed publications of Phule’s work began, with the second and third editions of Gulamgiri published from Kolhapur. Motiram Vankhade of Amraoti published a number of essays, speeches, collections of dialogues and songs (10 were listed by him in 1914) ** and Kolhapur and Vidarbha leaders began work on a number of books dealing with the self-performance of religious ceremonies. The songs of Mahamuni were published,*' and there were evidently a large number of small pamphlets written in the form of oonversations between various characters, often village types; most of these have been lost. The most important and influential writer of the time, however, was Mukundrao Patil of Ahmednagar, the son of Bhalekar. Two books of the period stand out. Kulkarni Lilamrut (literally, ‘ Nectar of the Play of Kulkamis’) was a witty satire written as a parody of traditional verse-form religious books and published from Kolhapur in 1911. It recounted the oppression of a village Patil by a treacherous moneylending village accountant who used the Patil's ignorance and his own bureaucratic connections to take possession of his lands; it quickly became famous and received the dubious honor of a sarcastic review by N. C Kelkar in Kesari on September 30 and December 7, 1913 ” Hindu ani Brahman (Din Mitra Press, 1914) was written like other Satyashodhak propaganda in the form of a village dialogue, with characters representing all village types from Brahman and patil to Mahar, a Muslim and a Christian: its theme was an updat­ ed version of Phule’s non-Aryan theory, though Mukundrao differed from Phule in taking the line that non-Brahmans were original‘ Hindus ’. *Brahmans,’ argued the book, were of different racial origin and religion from non-Brahman * Hindus *. Thus, while the great expansion of newspapers and books was also to come with greater upper-class political support after 1917, still significant beginnings were made in publication in this period. By 1918, then, the Satyashodak Samaj had taken root in most of the dis­ tricts of Maharashtra, before the political activities of non-Brahman leaders had really begun. Ahmednagar, Poona, Akola, Amraoti and Kolhapur remained its most significant mass centers; Nasik, East Khandesh (Jalgaon), Yeotmal, and 147

Buldhana had been penetrated, and there Were stirrings in Sholapur and Nagpur. Interestingly enough, Satara district, which was to become a Satyashodhak strong­ hold in the 1920's, had barely been touched; though its southern talukas were possibly included in the sphere of Kolhapur activity, it reported no independent branches until 1918 when a Lingayat was put on the working committee as the district's representative. The Samaj was studiously ignored by Brahman newspapers such as KesariM. Brahman members of the Poona Municipality were to claim m 1925 that Phule could not be of any importance since they had not heard of him; the eminent historian N. R Phatak was to write in 1949 that the Samaj was not a great suc­ cess in Phule’s time and was only heard from thirty years after in Satara.M But however slow its penetration in the upper class communications network, the nonMaharashtrian nationalist politician most sensitive of all to movements amoog the peasant masses did manage to hear about it and to respond fairly quickly. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned from south African victories in 1915 to begin a revolutionizing of the style of the Indian National Congress: in 1916 and again in 1917 he sent letters of sympathy to the organizers of Satyashodhak conferences." Who Took Part ? Phule had begun his social service activity with schools for Untouchable* rad women; had founded the Satyashodhak Samaj with backing from well-to-do non-Brahmans, primarily contractors and a few professionals; and had moved fairly quickly to establish a peasant base. This pattern of support, though pro­ bably reversed in importance, was to continue in Satyashodhak participation.* First, a significant negative fact may be noted : aristocratic non-Brahmans did not take part. With perhaps two exceptions,11 there were no Sardars, deshmukht or chieftains in the Samaj; Shahu Maharaj was the only prince to give it any support and he rejected it in later years for the Arya Samaj. To the extent that the distinction can be drawn between Kunbi and ‘ Pure ’ Marathas, the support­ ers of the Samaj were Kunbis, though they were to call themselves *Marathas’ and ' Ksyatriyas.’ They were quite often substantial peasants and landowners, often patils (though it must be remembered the title is ambiguous and could be, claimed by many of the headman’s clan within a village). But they did not repre­ sent the traditionl holders of power above the village. Second, the support of educated and professional non-Brahmans was also minimal. There were few educated non-Brahmans in the first place; the first genera­ tion of educated people tended to go to the states for service, where they identified tn interest and aspiration with the aristocrats. Kolhapur here is an exception that * For all the supprt for women’s education (in which non-Brahmans occasionally joined with liberal Brahmans to fight the orthodox), women, however, did not take significant part in &omaj activities, with one exception, the Ramoshi leader Savitribai Rode (ealled *Vidyadevi* or *goddess of learning ’ ) of Poona. In terms of Phule’s own goals, this was perhaps the one big gap. Non-Brahman Women’s Conferences did, however, begin to appear in the 1920s, parallel­ ing similar elite efforts.


proves tbe role; the militant non-Brahman professionals did generate a Satyasho dhak movement, but Shahu’s unique reformism provided conditions of support. In Bombay province itself, those who entered the British administration tended to become part of the Brahmanized social circles that dominated it, sent for ser­ vice away from their native areas and influenced by upper caste thought dominate ing the colleges. This was to hold true even in the 1910s, where the professionals and lawyers who often emerged as non-Brahman political leaders were not genera­ lly Satyashodhak members but only used the movement for a mass basis for politi­ cal organizing There were two prestigious doctors, Vishram Raji Ghole (a Gavali) and Santuji Ramji Lad (a Khatik) active in Phule’s time, but after 1911 it would appear that the Samaj had become sufficiently controversial that even doctors in Government service did not become members. So great was the lack of educated people, it would seem, that organizers of the Seventh Conference felt it necessary to reply to i t : *Many people think that educated Brahmans and non-Brahmans do not sympathize with the Samaj. But this is a lie ’— and named a list of emife ent men who were sympathizers, perhaps, but not members.** Elite support in fact came most often from businessmen, primarily contract­ ors. Phule and Bhalekar themselves were contractors, as was Jadhav’s father and the group of Telugu Kamathis in Bomboy. The Nasik branch was formed through the trade and business connections of the local Malis and Khatik Dhangars with Thana and Bombay businessmen. ** At a more local level, craftsmen and merchants some times gave it support, including a few, though not many, Marwaris. The rea­ son for this is probably simple: while entry into the professions and administra­ tion alienated educated non-Brahmans from their village background, business and especially contracting allowed a few non-Brahmans of all castes (including Unto­ uchables) to become wealthy, but only through maintaining their conne­ ctions with their fellow castemen. In spite of potential class antagonisms, labor contractors or overseers providing jobs often retained a loyalty and a connection with those who got work that was perhaps stronger than naturally held by the educated fellow castemen. unless the latter directly involved themselves in social service.*0 Without the prestige gained from being a member of the educated elite, without the same exposure to educated propaganda, and maintaining closer ties with the economic and social needs of the masses, it was perhaps more natural for this section of the ‘commercial bourgeoisie’ to join tbe Satyashodhak Samaj. The center of gravity, as has been noted, was in tbe villages. Whether this ■oeant a *rich peasant ’ or simply a ‘ peasant ’ base will be dealt with later; there is little evidence to indicate the economic strength of memders before 1918. The evidence on caste, however, clearly shows that the Samaj cannot be said to be a Maratha-dominated organization. Peasant cultivators of ‘ dominant castes ’ played a prominent role; thus Maratha-Kunbis, Malis, and Kolis, all cultivators, were important. Malis in particular, were represented out of proportion to their num­ bers, undoubtedly because Phule and such colleagues as Bhalekar and Lokhande were of this caste and initial relationships or caste ties provided an important point for communication of the Samaj message. Such groups of peasant cultivators because of their numerical dominance and village position, tended to head up Samaj branches. However more detailed evidence indicates substantial participat­ 149

ing—perhaps in proportion to their numbers, of artisans and low caste. F or example, of 46 names listed among Ahmednagar contributors of 17 villages to a Satyashodhak Samaj Fund in 1915, there is one Kulkarni, one Shimpi, one Teli, one Mahar, one Chambhar and two Dhangars.* '* The response of the *allied castes ’ is also indicated by the fact that the leading activists among the wander­ ing missionaries after Phule’s time included a Sonar (Bhimrao Mahamuni), a Gosavi (Dnyangiribuva), a Kumbhar (Pandit Dhondiram Namdev) as well as the Marathas of Otur. Undoubtedly Samaj branches could become established only in villages where substantial support of the numerically dominant cultivat­ ing castes could overcome opposition from local Brahmans—and Satyashodhak papers report many stories of such opposition, ranging from official harassment to appeals to the traditionalism of women m the family. But there were also cases of individual attempts to follow Samaj practices, or at least to maintain contact with radical ideas put forth. Din Mitra provides many examples of the dynamics of village spread; two are quoted below, one referring to the problems faced by a lone artisan, the other to a situation of substantial support amid factionalism among the dominant caste: From Rakshasmuvat Tambe (Ahmednagar district): One Genu Teli is a proud Satyashodhak here, opposed by the bhats. For his daughter’s marriage Haribhau of Somthana and Rajaram Patil of Limbude came to help. The bhat grew furious. In the time of the Home Rule movement he said it was necessary to fight, but now he showed such terror to the village that not even a bullock cart was available for their return. The Teli was a poor man, so the Somthana people had to set out on foot. (May 21, 1918) From Uttatari (Aurangabad district): In our village the official Nilkantrao Patil Pavar, is a Maratha of high family and very influential. But his nature being superstitious, he believes in the old ways. He has a friend Sadashiv Patil whose cousinbrother Yadavrao Patil Pavar is a strong and proud Satyasamajist of resolute nature...Yadavrao’s elder brother’s wife died and the question arose as to who should perform the ceremonies, and many people in the village were thinking on this...There were two parties among the patil group itself; one decided to do the rites according to Manusmriti, the other by Satyasmruti without the help of a middleman. After much discussion Yadavrao’s resolve prevailed and the rites were done by himself in the Satyashodhak manner. To give instruction, Mahant Dnyangiribuva Maharaj came. There were many of the opposing group to see ths ceremony; they were all astonished. In the evening Mahant Dynangiribuva gave an abhang on the subject. These were the first Satyashodhak rites among this patil household. May God give us • This did not mean all the rest were M arathas or Malis. The problem of surnames makes this questioo difficult to fully deal with. Non-Marathas frequently shared M aratha names, and only where they were identified by a caste surname can they be positively placed.


many more brave, resolute and farsighted Ksyatriya men like oar own Yadavrao Patil! (December 20, 1911) It may be noted that in the first case it was Maratha peasants who helped a Teli perform his ceremony; in the second a Gosavi demonstrated techniques to Marathas, In the larger towns, in fact, the Satyashodhak Samaj tended to be largely non-Maratha through at least 1918. In Poona the main branch was made up largely of Malis, with some Shimpi and Ramoshis involved; there was perhaps a branch of Marathas of the military in Ghorpadi, but none of the influential Marathas of the city became involved until after 1920. In Nasik, while there was Maratha support in the countryside, the city branch included mainly Malis, again, and Khatiks, a local class of ' butchers* who became included among the Dhangars of Maharashtra partly as a result of Satyashodhak-stimulated mobility. The Bombay branch was largely a Mali affair again, while in Ahmednagar city Svakul Salis (the upper subcaste of a weaving community), who had earlier supported the Prarthana Samaj, gave it substantial support. It would seem that city Marathas, at least at this period, were more drawn to the orbit of Brahmanized Hinduism which at least potentially accorded them a status second only to Brahmans in the vama system. The third social group significant as part of Phule's own work was the Untouchables, or * Mahar-Mangs ’ as they were described by him. In one sens the Samaj was mainly an organization directed at carrying broad and radical reform to the large mass of peasants— in fact Untouchables did not traditionally use Brahman priests and were forbidden to do so by the Peshwas** and when scholars mention it today it is usually as a ‘ non-Brahman ’ organization, exclud* ing Untouchables." Yet the fight against untouchability was as crucial to the equalitarian work of the Samaj as fighting Brahmanism; as Dumont has indicated, the caste system is realized in the extreme purity of Brahmans at the top and the pollution of Untouchables at the bottom. Not only Phule, but almost every important Satyashodhak leader had a clear record in this area. Most important Untouchable leaders before Ambedkar were supported by Satyashodhak leaders; papers like Din Mitra directed articles to them and responses and articles written by them. Thus, among three Satyashodhak meetings in Poona in 1896 is recorded one in Maharwada in which Bhalekar presided oyer the presentation of a roll of honor to Gopal Baba Walangkar, the earliest Mahar leader, and the pages of Din Bandhu in this period record many articles on Walangkar.*4 The biographer of Shivaram Kamble, another early Mahar leader of Poona, was a Satyashodhak, Harischandra Navalkar.** Although the primary organizer or welfare activities for Untouchables in Maharashtra and elsewhere at this time was Vitthal Ramji Shinde— a non-Brahman, but a member of the more moderate and elite Prarthana Samaj—he was assisted in his work by several Satyashodhak members: Dr. Santuji Ramji Lad, an original member of his guiding committee, G. K. Kadam, the Kolhapur lawyer and Krishnarao Bhalekar." Interestingly enough, when discontent developed among Untouchable students in Shinde’s 151

mission in the 1920’s partly over his political nationalism and partly over an assertion that he was not allowing sufficient scope for Untouchables to get higher education, Untouchables evidently turned to non-Brahman leaders such as Walchand Kothari and Kadam for alternative support. P. N. Bhatkar, an Untouchable student, rebelled against Shinde with Kadam's backing and a couple of years later left for Vidarbha with a Kolhapur Maratha Satyashodhak leader to join Satyashodhak circles there and propagandize for the Samajts. There he joined P. S, Patil to be an important Samaj leader of Buldhana District. In Vidarbha itself, G. A. Gavai and Kisan Faguji Bansode, the most prominent Mahar leaders attended Satyashodhak conferences ( though Gavai in particular was more conservative and later gravitated to the Mahasabha), and Bansode published a Satyashodhak booklet by Dhoadiram Namdev called Vedochar, *Actions of the Vedas’. This was an attack on Vedic religion through exposure of the practices of animal sacrifice of the period, and the polemic worked up to a fine climax asking how these Brahmanic descendants of Vedic beef-eaters could scorn *our Ksyatriya brothers the Mahars ’ for eating dead oattle out of sheer hunger. Similarly, D. D. Gholap, a representative of Untouchables in tto Legislative Council in the 1920s, attended one of the first non-Brahman political conferences and was given support for his newspaper at Satara Road, a Satyashodhak center.8' P. N. Rajbhoj referred to Jedhe and Javalkar, the milittBt young Poona leaders of the 1920 s, as his close friends though criticizing some aspects of Maratha activities, and noted they had helped him organize an Untou­ chable mela for the Ganpati festival.4® In 1927, finally, in a partial list of • Satyashodhak Samaj Sevaks ’ Jadhav recorded the names of Krishnarao Patade, and Subhedar K. S. Ghatge, two Untouchable leabers living in Poona at the time.41 The Satyashodhak Samaj, with its lack of a city basis and centralized organization, could not provide the same kind of support for larger Untouchable institutions as the Brahman and other upper class elite could, but their record of fighting against Untouchability was at least as good and had the significant differnce that it took place in the villages and not the cities. Satyashodhak influence certainly did not prevent feuds that occurred among the village dominant Marathas and the Mahars, particularly when the Mahars sought to give up their custom of baluta service under Ambedkar’s leadership in the late 1920s, but it did provide the indispensable atmosphere of radical encouragement without which the strongest Untouchable movement of India probably could not have arisen. In fact, the nature of Satyashodhak anti-Untouchable activity formed a pattern of greater militancy, of revolutionary opposition to tradition, that was opposed to the elite's tendency to ‘ constructive activities’ which purported to help the Untouchables reform their own life style. In spite of differences between them, caste Hindu Satyashodhak leaders could sense a community of oppression existing between themselves and Untouchables, and could express this with a reality Brahman reformers never could. Thus, at a ‘ huge publie meeting of Mahars' recorded in Amraoti in 1914, 2000 were present to hear Yashwantrao Deshmukh of the Samaj address them as ‘desk brothers—no, caste brothers: though I am a deshmukh I am counted as sort of Mahar: I do not touch you and the religious leader does not touch me.’4* Similarly, Mukundrao Patil advised


Untouchable* to ignore the advise that they had to reform theqisolves before they could revolt: After a Satyashodhak Conference at Nipani in 19' 6, Vitthalrao Shinde held a meeting in Maharwada. In giving advice, Shinde said, 'Look, you are sitting in the heat, we are in the shade-don’t let that be thought b ad ! When you become educated, then you can have such shade.’ After this Mukundrao spoke: ‘ Mahar brothers, we may give y'ou such very nice advice from far away, but your reform can never be achieved by following it ! Why did you become Untouchable ? Think about that ? Did you take on untouchability in falling out of the sky or in leaving an automobile? You must profit from this knowledge of your low state! Agitation must leap in you.’ But at that time Mr. Shinde did not agree with Patti’s spetch, thinking it the words of an inexpe­ rienced man ! But this same Shinde, after three years, said at the Poona social dub, *From my experience in Madras I have become assured that without disgust at injustice and an inflammed mind there will be no progress for the backward classes.’ True, Shindesaheb! M Ftom Bhalekar’s sponsorship of Walangkar to Shahu Maharaj’s sponsorshpof Ambedkar’s early efforts, the pattern of support continued, and it was Satyia •hodhak ideology ( which Untouchables helped to form ) that provided the themes and often the very language of the later militant Mahar movement. When Ambedkar said, 'Congress is the kept woman of shetjis and bhatjis', he was using the Satyashodhak language; when he and others oompared Untouchable* and American Negroes he was carrying on a theme begun by Phule and continued by Mukundrao Patil. And it is perhaps most singificant that while Ambedkar himself never took part either in Satyashodhak activties or in the non-Brahman political organization, he referred to himself in the introduction to his book as a ' non-Brahman scholar ’, not simply an Untouchable one, and stated, It is well known that there has been a non-Brahman movement in this country which is a political movement of the Shudras. It is also well known that I have been connected with i t 44 Ideology and Activity It has been shown that the Satyasahodhak movement was indeed a massbased one, with significant spread In Maharashtra and primarily peasant partici­ pation. It is now important to look at what it meant to be a Satyashodhak mem­ ber : what did activists do ? what was the significance to them of their activities ? The issue is crucial because of the general neglect of peasant movements. Too often it is assumed that it is the elite which is the motor force of change in Bon-Westem societies, that peasants are drawn into national and social move* ment8 only as auxiliaries of upper-class leadership or as mute participants in sporadic rebellions. In Indian studies this takes the form of viewing movements among lower and middle castes almost entirely in terms of status mobility, as efforts to raise the status of one’s immediate caste group in terms of the vama system. From British census officials fascinated by claims to ' new caste


nomenclature’ to the influential work of M. N. Srinivas on ‘ Sanskritization,' this concept has pervaded the field. In the political realm the process is seen as one of a developing pluralism in which caste associations and federations link peasants not only to all-India upper-caste cultural themes but to the processes of democratic politics.41 The result is that modern Indian society is seen as an amorphous mingling of ‘ modernity ’ and ‘ tradition ’ in which the complexities of social struggle are neglected and the existence of real cultural and social revolt is overlooked. From the biography of Marutrao Navle quoted above, we can identify four aspects of the Satyashodhak movement: (1) a pervading sense of conflict and struggle : (2) the emphasis on the awakening of consciousness among the people; (3) the central role of religious ceremonies performed without a Brahman as the defining criteria of Satyashodhak membership; (4) and the result of awakening in intensified educational and economic activities. Struggle: Throughout Satyashodhak literature, speeches and newspaper reports comes the sense of an embattled social movement of leaders engaged in conflict with Brahman opponents and struggling with the more traditional members of their own community. Completely missing from the Satyashodhak view are gradualist themes of lower-class uplift, Gandhian themes of harmony, and reconciliation, caste-hierarchical themes of the merger of many groups in an organic whole. Movement leaders knew themselves to be an opposition, and they were completely unimpressed by themes of fundamental unity : India is a strange place which collects all sorts of social groups, guided by different religions, thoughts, practices and understandings. But broadly speaking, this can be categorized into two— the majority (bahujan samaj) who have been devoid of humanity for centuries, and a handful who take their pleasure, call themselves superior and live at the cost of the majority. One’s welfare is another’s misery— that is their connection ! 146 Thus non-Brahman writers analyzed the history of India, of Maharashtra and of their own caste communities in terms of conflict, dominance and social revolt In view of the fact that Maharashtra in particular is argued by writers such as Ravinder Kumar to be a region of fundamental unity 4T, the hatred expressed for the old Brahman-dominated Maratha empire and the belief that Brahman nationalists simply aimed at a restoration of this regime is striking. Fundamental polarizaton was the keynote: if unity was to be achieved for the people it would have to be against the ‘Brahmanism’ that was seen as dividing the masses by means of the caste system. Significantly, the opposition expressed was not one of * primordial ’ or communally-defined groups such as Hindus and Muslims, so important in the politics of Bengal or the Panjab; in contrast to Arya Samaj polemics defending Hinduism against an alien opposition,4* Satyashodhak pole* mics expressed the revolt of the lower classes within a single social-cultural 154

system. It was thus a class-type of conflict that was the fundamental basis for debates over group identity and status. The position of lower castes under the vanta system and the deteriorating condition of peasants in a colonial society helped to lay the basis for this view. There was, however, also an immediate experiential basis for the Satyashodhak leaden, for attempts to spread the movement took place within a context of conflict. Brahmans were the immediate enemy, and opposition was keynoted in court battles in which local priests claimed their hereditary rights and in claimed harassment by Brahman officials.4' Just as important was the struggle in their own caste communities. Every Satyashodhak ceremony in a new area seems to have involved intensive discussion and argument among relatives and caste members of the aspiring reformer, often with Brahman priests appealing to the traditionalism of some members of the family or kin group. Thus ideology, a battle for the minds of the people, was a crucial aspect of the struggle. Mental awakening’. A constantly recurring phrase in reports of speeches and meetings in *jagruti zhali, *consciousness, or awakening came ’—the sense is one of emerging into a modern world in which hitherto accepted hierarchy is seen as enslavement, old custom as impediments to humanity. The importance of this intellectual element has to be stressed, partly because the very right of the masses to knowledge and education was itself seen as revolutionary. Peasants are the proverbial silent actors of history because they rarely leave records, but with the Satyashodhak movement we can begin to see that they were becoming part of the great national debates over the meaning of Indian history and Indian identity. Just as upper-class theorizing took place within a context of response to European *Orientalism ’ and writing on ancient Indian civilzation,'0 so Satyasho­ dhak arguments occurred also in the context of the upper castes’ culturalintellectual hegemony. But what is crucial is that the process of ideology-formation was not limited to the small upper caste intelligentsia, and that the Satyshodhak view-point had its own central retionale and emphasis. First there was the basic rationalism that appeared in reaction to the new eulogizing of the Vedas as the ancient Hindu holy books and of the Vedic Aryan period as the ‘golden age’ of Hinduism. In this context some Satyashodhak leaders took up the Vedic studies; thus *Pandit ’ Dhondiram Namdevclaimed to have won his title in a debate with the Brahman high priest, the Shankaracharya of Shringeri". But there was no concession to Brahman rights to define status or to the authority of the Vedas; instead Namdev used his texts to show the degrada- tion of Aryan society". Similarly, Vankhade, in an essay on the gayatri mantra a favorite and particularly old Vedic chant, noted that Brahman had forbidden it to non-Brahmans but saw no reason to take it up as a symbol of status; instead 155

he' argued, * take up mantra of learning.*** Old texts were used, called upon and interpreted to try to present an understanding of history, but they were not taken as authoritative. The North-India-based Arya Samaj, with its position on the holiness of the Vedas, had no mass appeal in Maharashtra, even with support from such influential people as Shahu Maharaj.* Mukundrao Patil expressed the fundamental position of the novement when he replied to a letter asking how the Samaj could be a religious movement when it had no authoritative religious text; * We do not want to have a religious book but to satisfy the curiosity of the people. Minds should be open to new knowledge. Therefore, we do not recommend any religious book.’*4 The question of group identity was fought out partly in the context of vama categories and partly in the context of the ground rules provided by the Aryan theory. The latter had laid a racial basis for caste that was accepted by almost everyone; the question was only one’s own attitude toward it and where one’s own group fitted in the scheme of Aryan conquerors and native non-Aryans. But the issue was complex. Phule had of course pioneered a ‘ third world ’ sort of interpretation in arguing that non-Brahmans as a whole represented .original in­ habitants; his book Gulamgiri, reprinted twice before 1918 remained a major text. Further, the most influential of later Satyashodhak writings, Hindu anI Brahmm by Mukundrao Patil in 1914, and Deshache Dushman (Enemies of the Country) by Dinkarrao Javalkar in 1925, argued‘as well that Brahmans were aliens to die land while identifying the Maharashtrians not so much as native non-Aryans as original ‘ Hindus But within official speeches at Satyashodhak conferences, the historical issue of natives versus outsiders does not, interestingly enough, appear. Instead Brahman usurpation is presented in primarily religious terms and the history is traced as one of protestant revolt against priestly cunning and tyranny. The reason was partly that the Samaj defined itself in religious terms, but partly also because non-Brahmans were affected by new theories which argued that they were in fact ‘ Aryan Ksyatriyas.’ Vasudevrao Birze. who gave this em­ erging *Ksyatriya ideology ’ a beginning in 1912, had been associated with the Samaj; the later basis for it came not from Satyashodhak circles so much as the Kolhapur aristocracy and the upper-class deshmukhs of Vidarbha; but it had its influence on many caste conferences of the period which sought a Ksyatriya iden­ tification. And in fact, around the turn of the century, an interesting shift in teminology occurred with the Satyashodhaks. Phule, as noted, had constantly re­ ferred in his writings to sudras and ati-sudras, using the terms considered low by

* Laxmanshastri Joshi noted in an interview that the Arya Samaj simply could not take joot and people preferred the more secularist Samaj; he attributed this partly to the ‘ highly intelligent and Influential personality ’ of Bhaskarrao Jadhav who was opposed to all sorts of revivalism. - But it is also clear that rationalism was a tendency before Jadhav, and Joshi also telt that If.then were more highly educated non-Brahmans they would have given greater support to the Arya Samaj (interview, August 15, 1970). It seems clear that it was to a large degree the non-educated basis of the Satyashodhak movement that was correlated with its secularism ! Non-Brahman school-teachers associated with the movement, such as Krishnarao Babar and Baburao Jagtapy seemed in general to have a more revivalistic or ‘moderate’ approach.


traditional tarna theory but in a positive sense. Through much of the 1890s this identification continued. The ‘ Rules of the Satyashodhak Samaj in Poona ’ identified it in 1894 as an organization of the ‘ Shudra varaa ’** and similar arti­ cles referred to the Marathas as part of the ‘ great Shudra section of India, which is the backbone of the country.’16 But after this time the identification as Shudras disappeared, and those tireless Otur activists, Narobabeji Mahaghat and Oharmaji Ramji Patil, called themselves ‘ Ksyatriya Marathas’. Was this simply a case of status assertion in traditional varna terms ? The issue was not so simple. The *Kshatriya ideology ’ was itself in part ambiguos. It certainly left an opening for Brahman compromise by admitting the existence of Ksyatriyas within a modified caste hierarchy, and it bad strong elements of status assertion defined in contrast to lower castes, Lntoucbables and tribals. But it also had its context of conflict and tended to deny any Brahmanic claims to superiority. More importantly, the word *Ksyatriya ’ itself could be used, as Phule had done, simply to refer to a warrior who could be also a peasant, a tribal hunter or a present Untouchable. While ambiguity remains in most non-Brahman writings, • the evidence is that the Satyashodhak tendency was to try to escape from varna categories alto­ gether. Dropping the term shudra would mean not simply a refusal to accept a low place in the varna system but also a rejection of the system itself. There was a search for new classifications and new terminology. Thus a Din Bandhu report substituted magaslelya and ati-magailelya, ‘ backward ' and ' extremely back­ ward ’ for Phule’s shudra ati-skudra?' The use of the term * non-Brahman ’ or Mrahmaneter was itself a part of this search. It simply had no meaning in terms of traditional caste categories : as Tilak pointed out in a polemical article in 1920, it could include everyone from Untouchables, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas to the British and Muslims; one might as well talk about *trees * and *non* trees ’.** But this was part of its attraction; non-Brahmans wanted to escape from the ideological steel framework, to find a group identity that did not express the traditional hierarchy. And the final solution came, it appears with the creation of a new term that was to express a secular and mass identification on the part of noo> Brahmans. This was bahujan samaj, literally ‘ majority community * but having the connotation of ‘ masses ’ and denoting ‘ non-Brahmans In early form, bahu samaj, appeared as far back as 1896" while the first full use of it seems to have been around I960.80 The term was to appear almost everywhere in the Marathi publications of the movement and in later political debate, and it has remained the primary expression of lower-caste peasant-worker consciousness up to the present. Religious ceremonies: Aside from the radical, de-Sanskritizing act of refus­ ing to use Brahman priests, what was the nature of Satyashodhak religious ceremonies ? Here too it would appear two tendencies operated to influence non-Brahmans. One was the status assertion represented in a desire to use 157

prestigious Vedic forms, and this was expressed in ceremonies, found particularly in Kolhapur and the Vidarbha areas, in which non-Brahmans took on the sacred thread. But the other was the Satyashodhak urging toward a simpler, less expen­ sive ceremony and the hostility to Vedic forms expressed by Ayyavaru in his presidential speech in the first conference in 1911, when he warned against the Vedokta movement as leading back into Brahmanism. This resistance to Sanskritization was expressed in Patil’s Hindu am Brahman which listed the whole series of differences in customs and religious ceremonies to prove that * Hindus ' (non* Brahmans) and ‘ Brahmans ’ represented different dharmas or religions, not to urge a revision in the direction of upper caste customs. The result seems to be that most Satyashodhak wedding ceremonies simply maintained the forms custo­ mary to peasant society. Similarly, Satyashodhak influence was exerted towards remarriage of widows and not their seclusion on compliance with traditional high caste practices. Parti* cularly among the Khatik Dhangars of Nasik, the influence of the movement resulted in the beginnings of widow remarriage, which had been seen as unaccept­ able before." In fact, although remarriage was frowned upon and divorce was anathema in upper caste circles, among Maharashtrian village society of this period and the present, both were fairly commonly practiced by women.11 Census statistics of 1931 on widowed and married females indicate that between the ages of 24 and 43, non-Brahmans had a higher married rate and correspond* ingly lower widowed rate than either Chitpavan or Deshashtha Brahmans. The difference amounted to about 5% for Marathas of Vidarbha-Nagpur, about 10% for Kunbis in the same region, and about 15% for Maratha-Kunbis in the Deccan and Bombay, (see Table 2), and this may be taken as an indicator of the practice of remarriage of widows in this age category. It was the upper-class non-Brahman: who were most susceptible to the * Sanskritizing ’ habit of adapting higher caste customs, and thus it was the Marathas of Vidarbha (who were classified separately from Kunbis) who had a lower remarriage rate Unfortunately, since non-Brahman caste categories and geographical territory covered were different in earlier censuses, there is no comparable data to indicate change in the period before 1931. It can be noted, however, that in spite of Brahman efforts at social reform, Brahman widow rates actually went up by about 5 % for Vidarbha-Nagpur between 1901 and 1931, and by about 2 - 3 % for the Deccan between 1911 and 1931.*4 Marathas in Vidarbha-Nagpur (the only group for whom comparable statistics are available) maintained their position of 1901. Thus the evidence, though limited, suggests that mobilization of non-Brahman castes in this period was not associated with ‘ Sanskritizing ’ tendencies put with a movement in the diiection of secularism and liberalism at least regarding the second marriages for women. 158

Table 2 : Female Remarriage rates between the ages of 24 and 43, 1931.*1 % Married

% Widowed

Brahmans (Vidarbha-Nagpur)



Chitpavan Brahmans ( Bombay Province )



Deshastha Brahmans (Bombay)



Banias (Vidarbha-Nagpur)



Marathas ( Vidarbha-Nagpur )



Kunbis ( Vidarbha-Nagpur)



Maratha-Kunbis ( Deccan districts )



Marathas ( Bombay City )



Mahars (Vidarbha-Nagpur)



Mahars ( Bombay Province )



One interesting feature of the Satyashodhak reports is the occasional mention of gandharva vivah or *love marriages.’ In ancient Sanskrit literature this had been one accepted form of marriage, an elopement of lovers. At the time of British rule, however, this was completely unknown to the Maharashtrian elite. It appears that in the context of the Satyashodhak movement in this period, that community approval was given to this unorthodox form of marriage by choice, and that the term referred in fact to remarriage. However intercaste marriage, though perhaps an ultimate solution to caste divisions, was, it seems, rarely urged and almost never performed. Although Shahu Maharaj had arranged a marriage of one of his relatives with the Dhangat ruling families of Indore and the Indore ruler had offered prizes for any couple making a similar Maratha Dhangar alliance, there were no takers; other aristo­ cratic families resisted and the non-aristocrats saw this as out of their sphere. Some marriages though did occur after 1920, and there was one intercaste marriage in the early period under Satyashodhak auspices between a Mali and Khatik Dhangar family of Nasik.*' In regard to one issue, the record is clear. Opponents of the Satyashodhak movement charged it with simply seeking to replace Brahman priests'"with their own 1caste priests ’ and predicted the rise of a new privileged class. The tendency was indeed exemplified when the Maharaja of Kolhapur set up the Ksatrajagadguru in 1920—but it was a move resisted by most Satyashodhaks, including several Maratha ones. Instead, the Satyashodhak leaders insisted that there should be ‘no middleman*, and this was exemplified in such books as Swayampurohit (Self-Priest) and Gharaca Purohit (Household Priest) published 129

around 1914. It was constantly emphasized that the role of the upadeshaks or wandering missionaries of the Samaj was not to perform ceremonies but to show the head of the household how to perform them himself; thus priestly schools were set up in villages and elsewhere with numerous students. And among such instructors, it should be remembered, were included Marathas, Malis, Dhangars and, in at least one case, a Mang.*6 Educational and economic activity : Just as important as religious reform in the movement was the inspiration it gave for educational and economic aplft.s The Satyashodhak pledge had members promising not only to respect alii a equals and to do without Brahman middlemen in religion, but also to educate their sons and daughters. The ' awakeeing ’ that all heralded was to be realized in gaining further knowledge; education, naturally, was a theme that could unite all in the context of British colonialism in which schools and government services provided & major road for advancement. However, improved agriculture almost as much as government service was connected with education in Satyashodhak themes. Here Mukundrao Patil, who was most clearly the leading peasant intellectual of the movement after Phule (see Chapter X ), sounds the theme. In an early (1910) article on 'The Deteriorating Condition of the Peasants and Remedies' he opens with a cautious appreciation of the former condition of the peasant, echoing some of the themes of the contented existence satisfied with few necessities compared to the larger wants and troubled economic condition of his own time when the peasants’ condition seemed deteriorating in spite of English law and order. But this section concludes with an almost Marxian condemnation of the natural state: mankind cannot be happy with only food and sleep, knowledge is what makes the difference between man and animals, and because priests did not allow knowledge to be gained by the peasants, they remained without true happiness. And Mukundrao equates knowledge ( vidya) not with traditional intellectual learning, but with machine technology, the use of farm implements, manure and chemicals to Increase productivity of land, and a rationalistic approach to religious ideas. Instead of taking the elite non-Western line of the union o f ' Eastern morals and Wesitem science’, i. e., the acquisition of material technology with a continued bass of tradition, he very dearly combines the call for education and technological knowledge with an attack on mass superstitions as well as elite dominance. Speak­ ing of religion, he writes, Westerners are not afraid of your Vetal [ a traditional village deity J who eats chicken and eggs, then why should they be afraid of vegeta­ rian Satyanarayan ? The goddess of knowledge has helped them asto­ und the world—and there is nothing magic in it.*1 Peasants are oppressed, he argues, because they are ignorant of technological education, because they send their children to the fields where they are *made the thirteenth bullock ’ instead of to school, and as a result, 4Today Manwaria and Brahmans take your crops, put them on your heads to send to market and earn lakhs—just as Rama used monkeys to build the bridge to tty lo n ! ** 16*

With this background, then, Satyaabodlwk activate sot only Jtw w drt primary education services from the government, but worked themselves wherever possible to create schools and boarding hostels. The organization itself could generate few funds for independent schools, and as a result moat of the schools and boardings organized by Satyashodhak workers were financed and backed by caste associations or similar groups—wealths men bad to be appealed to for funds, and very often it was caste channels that proved most effective in this (see next Chapter). Similarly when Bhaurao Patil set up his Rayat Shikshau Sanstha in 1924, he was careful to get backing from liberal Brahmans of the district as well as one of its wealthiest capitalists, a Pars* associated with the non-Brahman movement. But within villages, especially where there wear* nonBrahman school-teachers to draw upon, night schools or adult education classes could be founded independently and often were; as Din Mitra reported in a case of a small village in Ahmednagar, Nimalkar, Patil, etc. are enthusiastic leaders and opened a Satyasho­ dhak night school with 24 children and adults. Jadhav Master is a complete Satyashodhak and has written a Satyashodhak Padya (poem). Jevre Master went there and showed ceremonies; 200 were present including 24 Untouchables." Education was thus connected with economic activities. As a 1911 report from Khed taluka on Satyashodhak activity has it, Work is strong here. People are starting to collect money and grain for local cooperatives and lending] it at reasonable interest rates. Students are also joining the boarding. But Brahmans feel harassed by this...70 Cooperatives were in fact stressed; Narayanrao Navale was himself one of the first non-Brahman ‘ honorary organizers ’ of co-operatives, and although the cooperative movement was only in its beginnings, Satyashodhak people joined in when they had the opportunity. By the 1920s especially in Sholapur and Satara districts non-Brahman cooperators were coming into conflict with Brahman organizers and leaders of village cooperative societies (who were in many cases Brahman accountants).11 This early non-Brahman involvement was of crucial importance for the later tremendous expansion of cooperatives in Maharashtra and it is of interest that Catanach argues that the main support for cooperatives in this period was among ‘ middle ’, not rich, peasants.1* There are interesting specific examples of the economic effects of Satyasho­ dhak rationalism. One is suggested in the biographical sketch of Navale: *Saswad Malis ' to whom he refers are one of the big success stories of Maharashtra and today are among its richest landowners due to their ability and enterprise in moving into irrigated lands. There was indeed a significant Saswad branch of the Satyashodhak Samaj in the early period; but, interestingly enough, the Saswad Malis who did move to the irrigated lands have no record of Satya­ shodhak activity and the Saswad branch itself became less important after 1915. This perhaps indicates a pattern familiar from other societies of religious ...11

radicalism generating a rational and hardworking ethos whose results undermine the radicalism itself. It also appears that intense Satyashodhak activity among the Khatik Dhangars of Nasik city generated both educational and economic— cooperative activity that helped to make the subcaste the most conscious and reformed section of Dhangars in Maharashtra.™ The effects of the Satyashodhak ' awakening then, were to generate a wide range of educational and economic mobilization among non-Brahman communities throughout Maharashtra, and to actualize a sense of class-caste identity among the peasants of Maharashtra—an awareness expressed in the bahujan samaj. By 1917 this was joined to political resistance to Brahman-led nationalism; by the 1920s however it was to spill over into a mass-generated nationalism and economic rebellion.


Chapter IX Caste Conferences, 1910 to 1930 The Satyashodhak Samaj was not the only organizational form which nonBrahman social mobilization took. Interestingly enough, paralleling its greatest period of upsurge from about 1910 to 1930 was intensified activity in the form of caste conferences organized by the major non-Brahman castes. The tendency was widespread enough to be itself called a ' movement,' and it is tempting to see it as the conservative form of the social movement of which the Satyashodhak Samaj represented the radical thrust. There had, of course, been caste conference activity before 1910. The most significant was that of the Kayasthas, whose conference held its first session in Lucknow in 1887, grew out of a number of local Kayastha sabhas or organiza­ tions, and attempted to bring together all the groups of this category in U. P., Bihar, Bengal and Bombay.1 It was natural that this caste category should have been the first to organize, since they represented a group that was both educa­ tionally advanced (and hence had resources for mobilization) and at the same time frequently considered low in terms of traditional vama categories. Their unity, however, was slow to come; while Kayasthas from the Central Provinces evidently took part by 1907, the CKPs of Maharashtra were not part of it as late as 1929.* Similarly, many non-Brahman sabhas and organizations had been formed at a local level even in the nineteenth century. But it was in the period around 1910, which saw the formation of the allMaharashtra Satyushodhak conferences, that really marked the beginnings of * all-India’ (i. e., all-Marathi speaking) conferences of the major non-Brahman castes. The Maratha Education Conference was organized in 1907; the Mali Education Conference in 1910; the Bhandari Education Conference (of a major caste in the Konkan roughly equivalent to the Tamil Nadars) in 1910; and nearly all held yearly meetings after that. Later in the decade the Ramoshi Education Conference began about 1917; the Arya Kshatriya (Jingar) Dnyanwardhak Samaj about 1915;* there were varied attempts to organize a Dhangar conference, and many smaller artisan castes had continual meetings and confe­ rences.4 Shimpis, for instance, had organized themselves in a Namdev Samajonnati (Social Uplift) Conference about 1905 and were holding their 18th session by by 1923.* Agris ( caste of cultivators mainly important in the Konkan) had begun to organize in the middle of the second decade;* Nhavis ( Barbers) were holding meetings by the early twenties and a full caste confereence by about 1928.1 Parits (Washermen) began their conferences about 1920* and the Svakul Salis (the upper subcaste of weavers) had achieved nearly an all-Maharashtra meeting by 1916.* Nor were Untouchable castes left out of this organizing effort. 163

Mahars had held various meetings and organized various local groups from at least 1930 onwards, and Zelliot describes early organizing efforts.10 Mangs held early meetings and had organized the first session of the Akhil Bharatiya Matang Parishad by 1923." It is clear that significant organizing activity was occurring, but what did it represent ? To most scholars, casie conferences have represented an intermediary form of social organization, half ascriptive and half associative (open by choice) capable of mediating between *tradition ’ and ‘ modernity.'1' Thus, for example Mandelbaum sees them in terms of continuity, as the modern means of expres­ sing the continuing ‘ Sanskritizing ’ efforts by which medium-to-low castes assert a higher status,*modern ’ because the means become essentially political and because there are efforts to unify the various sections of the caste.1' This suggests that they expressed ^ type of conservative reform, a hypothesis which is given same credence by a Kesari editorial of August 30, 1910 which reflected the awareaess on the part of socially conservative Brahman that non-Brahman pressure was mounting but that it could be channeled in ‘ safe’ directions. The editorial heralded a ‘ new trend * in the social reform movement. According to it pre­ vious discussions of intermarriage and interdining and philosophical attacks on the caste system as such had brought terrible fear to the minds of the religious. But now there was a new focus on uplift of the low (the term used was kin, or base) castes and upon unification of subcastes within the main caste categories, and this was acceptable: On the subject of primary caste differences a question of profound religious nature exists. This is not so regarding subcastes and untou­ chability. For these two subjects are not so much in religious but in business ( vyavaharik ) form. We were not ready to give any conces­ sion on purely religious matters but were ready to give on the occa­ sion of business matters.14 Indeed, many of the elements that tbe conferences shared in common do suggest such a conservative tendency. Nearly all showed at least some ‘ Sanskri­ tizing ’ tendencies in laying a claim to high varna status, usually Kshatriya but in rare cases Brahman. Many connected themselves with similar north Indian movements and laid a claim to an Aryan identity and original northern origin. All professed to achieve a wider mobilization in breaking down subcaste differen­ tiations among the main jati, or caste, but left aside the question of unity or in­ termarriage between castes. And most were dominated by the wealthy and aristo­ cratic members of the caste in question, in alliance with educated professionals who played an important organizing role. The question of the nature and general effect of the conferences, however, is not so simple as this. Satyashodhak Activists and the Caste Conferences Another common feature of these conferences, for instance, was the fact that in nearly all cases Satyashodhak workers (usually not representing so much the aristocratic or very wealthy as the emerging intelligentsia and some member* 164

of Hie commercial bourgeoisie) had played a significant role in organising the conference. Thus, for example, Bhaskarrao Jadhav was one of the founders of the Maratha Education Conference, and Ramchandrarao Vandekar was its general secretary for eight years.'* T. N. Girme founded the Mali Education Conference in 1910 and Krishnarao Bhalekar had assisted him. ( i ) The speech of the Chairman of the Reception committee and the speech of the President B. B. Kandalkar of the second conference* 1911. ( i i ) Speech of the general secretary, D. B. Bankar in the sixth conference, 1915, page 12 of the Report. (iii) Speech of the President, M. V. Nerkar in the Eighteenth Conference, 1930, page 7 and 8. (iv) Speech of the President of the Twenty third conference, 1946, H. B. Girme, page 3. ( v ) Speech of Y. N. Jadhav, chairman of the Reception committee of the of the Twenty-seventh Conference, 1966. Abo Yamnajirao Amble, a Satyashodhak factory owner at Kolhapur, had spOnored the Arya Kshatriya (Jingar) conference and the Ramoshi conference was led for ntaay years by Savitribai Rode and her husband Tatyasaheb Rode, both stalwarts of the Poona Satyashodhak branch. Nanasaheb Amrutkar, a Satya­ shodhak worker of Vidarbha, was a leader of Nhavis, and Rajaram Tttkanuft Bagade was both a Namdev (Shimpi) activist of Kolhapur ooncerned with anifying the subcastes and the general secretary of its Satyashodhak Samaj '*. Sind* larly it was the Khatik Satyashodhaks of Nasik who made the earliest efforts to organize Dhangars, while Hari Piraji Dhaybude, a Dhangar school-teacher and Satyashodhak leader of Baramati, organized several Poona district Dhangar conferences. Further, in the ease of many of the smaller caste conferences in particular, Satyashodhak or non-Brahman leaders of other castes appeared to have played an important encouraging role. Shahu Maharaj, for instance, spoke not only at Maratha conferences or before Maratha boardings, but also before many Untouchables meetings and the Jingar conference, particularly in 1920 which seems to have been the year of his greatest and most socially radical activtty.>T Kirtanrao Nimbalkar, a reformist Maratha of Kolhapur, was president at the third session of the Parit conference and supported the claim that Parits were Marathas.1* Satyashodhak leaders like Dhondaji Patil (a Maratha) and Bhaurao Patil (a Jain) attended Dhangar conferences, and it was the Maratha lawyer Nalavde who gave the speech on Dhangar history.1' Ramoshis like the Rodes took part in the Matang (Mang) conference of 1923, partly out of a common concern for protest against government treatment of Ramoshis and Mangs,M Bhaskarrao Jadhav and A. B. Latthe spoke at Namdev meetings*1. Further, the main non-Brahman newspapers, whether run by Marathas ( Vijayi Maratha and Rashtravtr) or Malis {Din Mitra) played the most significant role in reporting these conferences, since few of the smaller castes could support newspapers or magazines. This supporting role was similar to that played by non-Brahmans in general 163

in giving support to untouchable efforts, and it had a similar motive in the sense of common effort to mobilizing in opposition to elite dominance. Some sense of the complexities involved can be gained from the example of the Nhavis. Nhavis claimed to be Brahmans, which at first sight is inconsistent with Satyashodhak downgrading of Brahman and Aryan identity in general. But non-Brahman newspapers such as Din Mitra and Vijay Maratha'* reported in detail on such claims, and the idea that this was seen also as an attack on Brahman superiority was confirmed when a Satyashodhak worker of Kolhapur wrote a pamphlet that quoted from old religious texts to prove that Nhavis were actually superior to Brahmans, that Brahmans were degraded, and that (quoting Tukaram’s famous abhhang which asserted that the Mahar Chokha and other lowcaste saints were Brahmans by merit) caste was not by birth anyway.'1 More significantly, when Brahman writers attacked the Nhavi claim in 1928, urging that their performance of a ‘ base ’ ( halkat) profession made any claim to Brahman status impossible, a Maratha journalist of Bombay wrote a polemical pamphlet defending Nhavis from the *dastardly ’ Brahman attack. The Brahman attitude, he argued, was an insult to all non-Brahmans, not simply Nhavis; and he asked: ‘ Who is ( base ’—the religious teacher who teaches that shaving is a caste duty or the gullible Nhavi who accepts the religious teacher’s edict ? ’ '* Thus non-Brahman newspapers, as well as a meeting of the Bombay Provincial non-Brahman Conference, supported the Nhavi claims." The ambiguity, however, remained. Reporting on a Nhavi conference shortly after, Dinkarrao Javalkar, then editor of Kaivari, questioned the usefulness of calling Nhavis ' Brahman ’ ( ‘ is this progress or not ? ’ ) and editorialized that the policies of caste conferences were taking a bad turn, and that Satyashodhak leaders within them should work more actively to spread their thoughts : ‘ It is necessary not simply to break subcastes to build big main castes, but on the contrary to break the big castes.’** An article from a Nhavi in a following issue supported him, blaming Brahmans foe creating confusion in order to win over Nhavis, and petitioning his caiite-mates not to be • Brahmanic.’ 11 Thus the situation was certainly more complex than one in which one caste advanced its own status claims trying to scorn or deny similar efforts of others—a tendency sometimes asserted by writings on caste mobility efforts. There was, it is true, a certain amount of intercaste jealousy in the poriod and polemics between, especially, Marathas and non-Marathas over the issue of Kshatriya status. At the same time there was mutual support, and it is undeniable that the separate conferences shared a pervading atmosphere of general non-Brahman self-assertion. The reasons why Satyashodhak workers were so active in these conferences were simple. In order to carry out goals of educating non-Brahman and peasant youth, financial support was necessary, and this was most easily available from wealthy men of one’s own caste. In a sense, the conferences functioned as arenas, as social markets in which the wealthy and aristocratic traded patronage to ‘mass ' welfare activities for recognition and ratification of their own status. Correspondingly, differences of opinion within the caste had to be muted, and a lowest common denominator of action and ideology satisfactory to the elite had to be found. This was realized in the official orientation to status claims, which 166

various people could support for various reasons, and id the significant fact that majority of the major caste conferences identified themselves specifically as • educational ’ conferences, an aim on which all could agree. Social Unity and Reform within the Conferences But Satyashodhak activists and other leading workers within the conferences hoped for more than this. Many of them took the view, similar to that of modern liberal social scientists, that the caste conferences could serve a positive function of unification and 1modernization/ that they could be used as means of spreading social reform. Thus, for instance, in replying to some critics of the conferences, a Vijayi Maratha editorial argued that reform and mobilization could best be achieved by working first within one’s community, and that wider co-operation would proceed afterwards from this basis.” How far, in fact, did this occur ? When it came to political unity, as will be seen in the following chapter, caste conferences were unambiguous failures: the major bodies did not attempt to provide organization on political questions and at best these were left to a coordinated ‘political conference/ However, it is social unity 'extending and uplifting the ja ti' in the words of the Rudolphs, that is most often stressed. And indeed, most conferences did share the aim of unifying subcastes. Here too the record is very questionable. In terms of social unification the seeming success of some groups (such as the Marathas) has to be qualified by very definite failures on the part of other castes. Indeed, as much as uplift and unity were twin aspirations of conferences, the very tendency to conservative reformism often seemed to make them mutually contradictory. Thus, a writer to Din Mitra urging unity and action for the Devang Samaj (a weaving caste) noted that the advice for Devangs to become vegetarians and teetotalers—that is, to follow traditional patterns of status mobility—was itself a hindrance to unity, since so many Devangs simply could not follow this advice and the result was to treat those who would not as low.” The emphasis on purification created disunity when subcastes attempted to separate themselves from lower sections. Thus, for example, the highest ranking subcaste of Salis consistently attempted to organize separately as ' Svakul Salis ’ 10 and demanded to be grouped separately in the Census." Similarly, the *President of the Twashta Kasar Samajonnati Parishad requested that members of his community should be known as Twashta Kasar as distinguished from Boas Kasars, Bangad Kasars, on the ground that these latter are separate castes.’1* Indeed, the higher artisan castes represent a spectacular failure of unification in spite of apparently intense associationa! activity and in spite of sharing a common identity as *Panchals■’ or *Vishwa Brahmans' and an old tradition of opposition to Brahmans. The ‘ Panchals’ were listed as one category and were said to include Lohars (blacksmiths), Sutars (carpenters), Kasars (banglemakers),Sonars (goldsmiths) and Prashtas, but they never acted together." A failure at unification at another level is illustrated by the Dhangar example. Most Dhangars, as shepherds, were too dispersed to be mobilized, and 167

the flnt attempt was made by the Khatiks of Naaik, originally considered simply M butchers.*4 They aspired to both uplift for themselves and a wider Dhangar unity with the formation of the Kshatriya Maratha Dhangar Sangh, and a leading Khatik of Nasik today credits the Satyashodhak influence with making this and a greater recognition of their equality by other Dhangars possible.** Nevertheless although the other leading educated and reformist Dhangar of the time, Hari Piraji Dhaygude of Baramati, seems to have supported the Khatik effort and continually appealed for wider Dhangar organization, he was only able to or* ganize Poona District Dhangar conferences not involving the Khatiks." Dhaygude’s experience indicated other pitfalls of Satyashodhak caste-mobilizing and reforming efforts. He became a recognized leader of his caste, although the local more wealthy Dhangar cultivators evidently suspected his Satyashodhak activities and was able to organize a ‘ Devi Ahilya Boarding ’ financed by the Indore ruler, which held its opening ceremony on February 24, 1924, attended by numerous dignitaries.*1 Although mainly for Dhangars, the boarding was a liberal effort which took in other castes, including untouchables**. But when Dhaygude made an intercaste marriage with a Maratha lady in 1934, wealthier Dhangars withdrew their support for his hostel and it collapsed*'. Here too it was not so much the caste conference itself that helped in Dhaygnde’s social reform work, but direct individual patronage from the ruling Holkar family. Thus in some cases caste conferences aspired to unity but represented only a subcaste; in others they openly attempted to represent only the claims of a subcaste. In at least one case, they split a subcaste. A dispute arose in the 1920s within Poona based caste with a traditional trade of masonry but containing many wealthy contractors. The issue was whether they should identify themselves as ‘ Kumavat Kshatriyas/ with a claim to Rajput status and north Indian origin, or as * Gavandis ’ (masons) or ‘ Pardeshi Kumbhars' ( non-Maharashtrian potters) with a claim to benefits from the Backward Class concessions given by the Bombay government. The group split with the *Gavandi ’ section led by P. K. Naik, a traditional chaudhnri or caste leader who had taken some part in the Satya­ shodhak movement and according to his opponents tried to ‘ reprobate caste,' while the ‘ Kshatriya ’ attempt received the support of most of the wealthy families. Both organizations evidently remain in existence.4' This case represents a general choice that many non-Brahmans evidently had to make between aiming'for status in the vama sense or appealing for government benefits by identifying themselves as *backward’ (the major cultivating castes of course had it both ways). Clearly, also the choice also involved ideological issues.* In general, caste conferences did not achieve any significant unity and, justifying Javalkar’s scepticism about them in 1929, they did not appear to be

* This was mainly the *Aryan non-Aryan* question. It is important to emphasize that efforts went in both directions and not simply in tbe form o f Sanskritization. Even in north India, a group of representatives from U. P. in 1928 claimed to represent the lower castes including Ahirs, Kurmis, etc., and argued against Sanskritization and a claim to Kshatriya status as a Brataaan trick, asserting instead that their castes must be included as ‘depressed’ and that thosecalled ‘ Shudras were original inhabitants of India.*

orgaftiatkms that «oaM be effectively used for vpreadtag social reform.. Where there was significant Satyashodhak influence in non-Sanskritfc reform, it was where they had a mass basis among the local group (as among the Khatik Dhangars) and not in using the caste organization as a means of influencing others within the caste. The very nature of the caste association made this impossible. They were not organizations with strong finances or a central body that could be used as leverage in one direction or another; local (district or town) bodies were the really active sections and it was impossible to gain control of the center and use it for a specific purpose because opponents and dissenting local groups would simply withdraw their support. Caste conferences thus could not *function ’ in any direction that was in the least controversial; nor did they represent any specific ideological thrust since ' Brahmanic ’ tendencies and Satyashodhak tendencies met in them and were variously expressed in speeches and actions. Instead they were simply arenas, in which the various leading men of the caste agreed to get togther, and in attempts to establish any grounds for *unity ’ all issues which divided their members had to be set aside. The history of the Mali Education Conference in particular illustrates this fact.

The Malis: Internal Conflict It was with the Mali Education Conference that Satyashodhak leaden seem to have the strongest attempts to achieve general ideological hegemony over a caste association. Among this caste, Satyashodhak influence was strong in many localities; there were no great princes or sardars to provide an overwhelming aristocratic influence; and Satyashodhak leaders had played a role in the organi­ zation from the beginning. Indeed, in the beginning, according to a hostile Kesari article writer a year later, they seemed to have hoped to identify It with their movement: Some years ago, Jotirao Phule founded the Satyashodhak Sect on the inspiration of some irreligious people; today even its memory is bnried However, some egoists, digging up the corpse, are insisting that others observe the mourning. Last year, deciding to hold the Mali Education Conference in Poona, some people wanted to hold a marriage between the conference and this sect.4* But the attempt failed; other early organizers were more orthodox members of the Varkari cult or 1ms ready to associate the Conference with the Satya­ shodhak movement.4* However, the issue arose again in the following year. It seems that factiona* lism and apathy were delaying the calling of the second session of the conference, and some of this may have been connected with controversy over the Satyasho­ dhak movement. Much correspondence occurrcd on this in Din Mitra and Tukaram Namdev Girme, an early non-Satyashodhak organizer, wrote to stress that ‘ the Education Conference and the Satyashodhak Samaj are two different organizations; their aims aad methods are completely distinct.’44 Mukundrao Patil replied sharply that *if Girme ha* a doubt about the necessity of a Satyashodhak Conference in the present age, then we have a doubt about the desirability of 169

effort for a Mali Education Conference... with the present Raj establishing Government colleges in villages.’4' Girme answered, saying that for some reason some obstinacy has spread in the masses about the Satyashodhak Samaj...Since some Mali gentlemen are in that Samaj, though they are struggling in the work of the Mali Education Con­ ference, some ignorant people have gotten some strange understanding about the Mali Education Conference and some obstacles have arisen.4' Mukundrao replied that Girme had only created new misunderstanding. His final step at the time was to dislaim any association between his paper and the Mali Conference : ‘ The Editor is a Mali, but he has no caste as such...We are not running a paper for one community.’47 The conference was finally held again in Poona, with a Satyashodhak worker from Vidardha, Kandalkar, elected as President; in spite of this, activists who had helped to organize the conference in the course of their tours through districts for the Satyashodhak movement, felt that their contributions had been overlooked and that the Satyashodhak Samaj deserved greater official sympathy from the Mali confernece.4S A final flareup occurred at a reception given afterwards by the new president, when a young orthodox Mali of Poona attacked the reformers in an incident approved by Kesari in reporting on it4*. These controversies exploding in public form showed strong feelings under­ lying the efforts of those who were attempting to achieve caste unity, and in the end it was more or less papered ovei; Mukundrao Patil himself later served as conference president on more than one occasion. The Mali Conference had to make clear its disassociation from the Satyashodhak Samaj ( however much it may have recognized their leading workers) in order to achieve any kind of unity at all; it could only be an arena responding to external forces, not an organization with any effectiveness of its own. However, Satyashodhak influence was reflected in caste official action, and the final and rather ironic proof of this came in 1925 after a young Mali protege of the Kesari group stood up in a Poona municipality debate to denounce Jotirao Phule as an atheist who had lost caste and religion (see Chapter XI). Seven thousand Malis, according to Din Mitra, met in Poona to call for the outcasting of Baburao Phule and his friends, and similar meetings were held elsewhere in Akot, Wai, Nasik and Wardha where the local Mali organization which was to host the upcoming Education conference passed a resolution of boycott.*0 The 'result was that the ‘ modem * caste association at its fifteenth session in Wardha in 1929 took the step of outcasting one of its members, an act that was ratified again in 1926 after the offender refuted to recant." The action was carried through no doubt because even non-reformist Malis considered Phule to be one of the recognised great man of their caste, and it took the relatively *orthodox' form of strongly denying that he had ever left his caste—but it could not have been carried without a section of very vehement Satyashodhak opinion enforcing it. Nevertheless, it should be emphasized that this official caste association action was by no means strong to enforce recantation from Baburao Phule, who 170

'carried on with attempts to organize Mali meetings on his own/* it simply reflected a balance of sentiment among Malis. Many years later (1969), the Saswad Mali Sugar Factory at Sholapur paid for a huge statue of Phule to be erected in front of the Poona municipality building, and one of Phule’s original opponents added his name and contributions to a ‘ Mahatma Phule ’ research organization—but this again did not necessarily reflect their greater reformism and certainly not the influence of any caste organization; it reflected rather a situation in which the non-Brahman elite, now holding political power, sought to maintain an ideological basis for that power by identifying themselves with mass heroes.** And indeed, the really effective *caste * organization among Malis was not the Mali Education Conference nor even any subcaste organization, but rather the Saswad Mali Sabha, representing that section of the ‘ Phulmali * subcaste which was originally based in Saswad and later moved into Ahmednagar and Sholapur to pioneer irrigated farming; it was closer in spirit to a traditional caste panchayat and was effective mainly because of a fairly unified kin-group with strong class interests.*4 The Maratha Education Conference But what about the Marathas ? Here, if anywhere, should be an example of a caste which had achieved unity to translate its numbers into political power, and of an association able to provide support for numerous educational activities. Many Marathas have, it seems, felt an attachment for the organiza­ tion, and its case is put most strongly by the educationist, V. D. Ghate : The Maratha Education Conference was the central organization of Marathas. Such respected men of the community as Khaserao Jadhav, Khasesaheb Pavar, Bhaskarrao Jadhav, Dr. P. C. Patil were its leaders. They backed Maratha institutions. In the Maratha Education Confe­ rence Marathas from Gwalior to Mysore came together, lived together for four days, passed resolutions, took out deputations and collected funds. The Conference created much awakening in the Maratha community. With its encouragement Maratha boardings were establi­ shed in Maharashtra and other places. In these hostels the promising boys of peasant and balutedar families of each district were educated and some achieved great names. In the last forty or fifty years most of the Maratha leaders who have come forward studied in these hostels.** And indeed, the Conference was an imposing body. It met successively in all parts of Maharashtra, in the districts and in the princely states, and was attended by thousands of people and chaired by one Maharaja after another. Local orga­ nizations, hostels and schools seemed to grow up around it. By 1919, a total of 92 affiliated organizations in the British provinces and 21 in princely states were listed; sixteen hostels were being managed for Marathas and other students; there were five reading rooms and six *special organizations ’ which included two * Maratha political conferences ’ and four ‘ Maratha national organizations.’" 171

Similarly the Conference seemed to represent an important expression of Maratha unity, and indeed seemed to actualize the liberal definition of ‘ Maratha' which was coming to the fore under Kolhapur influence at this time. In a speech to the second session in 1908, Bhaskarrao Jadhav outlined the early history of Maratha educational efforts and noted the ways in which they had failed to achieve acceptability. The Deccan Maratha Education Association, established in Poona in 1884, had ended up with a very narrow definition in which *Maratha * was limited to the ' children of the historic Maratha caste houses, ’ i. e., those of aristocratic back-ground. In contrast, the Maratha Aikyecchu Sabha of Bombay had attempted to include all non-Brahmans among * Maratha ’ but in spite of support of many eminent leaders, people felt the definition to be too wide. There* fore, when the thought of a new conference was debated, a good deal of discussion began in Din Bandha and other papers and finally the majority opinion was achieved that *M aratha’ should be used neither in the extremely narrow sense nor in the extremely wide sense but rather to refer to all who called themselves of Maratha caste.'1 As noted earlier, this was in fact a liberal definition, though limited to caste boundaries, and indeed leading Marthas of both ordinary and aristocratic background took part. Again, however, it is necessary to take a deeper look at the activities of the conference. In the first place, the very proliferation of affiliated organizations signified the weakness of the Maratha Education Conference as a central body. Many were simply local or district organizations, but others represented different factional groupings; this was particularly true in Bombay where the existence of twenty-six separate Maratha organizations illustrated longstanding and localized factional ties: in particular, Bombay Marathas had long been divided between ‘ Konkanasthas ’ (those from the Konkan who considered tbemselves superior) and ‘ Deshasthas'; their previous history had been one of organizational chaos and the inability to carry through with plans to erect a central meeting place; the Vedokta controversy had split them further and hampered the overall orga­ nizing of the Maratha Educational Conference itself.** Similarly, the Conference could not by itself be a vehicle for political effort and two *Maratha political conferences' in fact Emerged in direct competition with one another, one repre­ senting the non-Brahman orientation, the other a nationalist-socially orthodox outlook (see next Chapter). Thus in 1917 when Kolhapur Marathas and others decided to make a renewed effort to create Maratha unity around the idea of a memorial to Shivaji and a focus on educational work, they did not use the Education Conference but created a new and separate body, the Shri Shivaji Maratha Society, and this organization itself was to become the focus of tremeodous internal conflict in the 1920s (see Chapter XI). Nearly all the educational efforts, hostels and schools, were financed out of local efforts and not by funds from the central body. A good example was the *Udaji Maratha Vidyarthi Vasatigruha ’ (Udaji Maratha Student Hostel) of NasSc. A district educational organization had been established in 1908 after the 172

first conference, but little was accomplished until some Satyashodhak workers became active in 1913 and succeeded in getting financial backing from the Maharaja of Dhar. As Latthe relates it, The most notable attempt of them all was probably the Maratha Boarding House at Nasik...Mr. D. R. Bhosale was a Kolhapur man, and had received his education in the Victoria Maratha Hostel at Kolhapur. He was posted at Nasik as Reader to the Superintendent of Police and met Mr. Ganpatrao More, an enthusiast whose devotion to the cause of the ignorant Backward Classes in the District seems to have sometimes got the better of his judgment. Mr. More was not a man of education; but he had fully understood the principles of the Satyashodhak Samaj which he was inculcating on the minds of his fellow men in Pimpalgaon Baswant and its neighborhood...Mr. Bhosale impressed upon him the necessity of mak ing the work solid and lasting by starting an educational movement...The Maratha Educa­ tion Conference was held at Nasik in 1913 under the Presidentship of His Highness the Maharaja of Dhar, whose generosity encouraged the young worker to launch the scheme of the Udajirao Maratha Hostel at Nasik.** Indeed, the Nasik hostel reflected the radicalism of its founders, More and Raosaheb Bhausaheb Thorat, both Satyashodhak workers, and was admitting untouchable as well as other non-Maratha students by the 1920s.60 Similarly, other hostels depended upon a combination of active local workers (often asso­ ciated with the Satyashodhak organization) and individual princely patronage or support from local wealthy farmers, not on efforts of the main caste conference itself. The function of the conference was limited to blessing the idea of educa­ tion, and promoting occasions in which the wealthy and aristocratic could be made available for solicitations for education. Similar questions exist regarding the effects of the Maratha Education Conference on the creation of unity. Different value standards were very obviously at work among the various groups of Marathas who took part in the conference. While the conference itself appeared to symbolize the process by which ‘ Kunbis ’ were being assimilated into *Marathas ’ in the twentieth century, this was not due to its own efforts but rather to the strong influence of the Kolhapur reformist movement throughout the Deccan. Although people like Jadhav, Vandekar and Shahu Maharaj did take part, the conference seems to have been more oriented towards the princely states and the aristocracy. Thus, the two men whom Ghate credits with being the most influential—Khasesaheb Pavar and Khaserao Jadhav —were associated with non-Maharashtrian Maratha-ruled states; the first was himself from a small ruling family of Dewas Junior, the second a leading figure of Baroda who according to Ghate was said to have the major decisions about the meeting places, the office holders, etc., of the Conference.*1 It appears also that after 162 5,- when the Maharaja of Gwalior became a dominant supporter of the Conference, that the influence and participation of the Kolhapur people tended to decline.** 173

In any case, it is difficult to prove that there has been any significant change in the direction of a liberalization of identity among Marathas themselves. It was true that some members of non-Maratha communities such as the Jingars and the Tiroles of Khandesh** were more or less brought into the general * Maratha-Kunbi ’ community; this type of mobilization, however, had gone on in pre-British days. While the distinction between ‘ Kunbis ’ and *Marathas ’ was more or less abolished in Census reports for the Deccan, it did not prevent these distinctions from continuing to be made. They are made today. It seems that the sense of ‘ substantialization ’ of caste argued by many social scientists vanishes with a closer look. Distinctions between *commoner ’ Kunbis and ' shahhanavkuli aristocrats ’ are still important for the sake of marriage, and while these lines are quite frequently crossed, they were crossed also in the seventeenth century when Shivaji married into the Jathav and Nimbalkar fami­ lies and in the nineteenth century when the Gazeteer accounts were written. Distinctions between *aristocrats ’ and ‘ commoners ’ also seem relevant in politics—at least most of the educated Maharashtrians appear to know quite clearly just who is which among the Maratha political leaders—but it is difficult to say how they are relevant. That is, while some leaders appear to derive a benefit from their traditional aristocratic background, others, like Y. B. Chavan, have been known on occasion to appeal to their ‘ Kunbi ’ or commoner iden­ tity to unite non-Marathas against an aristocratic opponent. But if aristocratic or commoner status is irrelevant to mass political supports, this is no new feature of the twentieth century but also appears to have been true in the age of Shivaji. In fact, of the most important Maratha political leaders—Shivaji, Bhaskarrao Jadhav, Keshavrao Jedhe, and Y. B Chavan—none have been of unvarnished aristocratic status, though the first and third claimed it and the second and fourth have attempted to marry into it. Similarly, there are no temporal trends evident in caste mobilization in politics. Maratha leaders of the non-Brahman party in the 1920s, and Maratha Congress leaders today evidently appeal at times to support in terms of their own caste, but in the case of those who are at all succ­ essful this seems to be balanced by concessions skillfully and deliberately made to non-Marathas.®1 Conclusion Caste conferences have been seen by many scholars as one of the most significant aspects of modern Indian social and political life. Since at least the work of the Rudolphs, they have been seen as one of the most singificant means of associating peasants both with traditional highcaste culture through ' Sanskritization ’ and with political democracy. The result, as Lloyd Rudolph puts it, of. caste conference organization, Las been to level the ritually based social hierarchy of the caste-ordered society. Uniting similar but dispersed and isolated jatis (subcastes) of village and locality in larger organizations with common identities, the caste association has contributed significantly to the success of political democracy by providing bases for communication, represeeatation and leadership....Lower castes whose large numbers give them an advan174

tage in competitive demoratic politics, gained influence, access and power in state and society.** Thus caste associations have been seen as providing the important mediating in* stitution between traditional values and social organization, on the one hand, and modern political and social life on the other. This view has come under criticism. Thus, for instanee, Richard Fox has argued that the modern caste association is intrinsically, organizationally different from any traditional caste bodies"—though he appears to accept the idea that it represents a trend to caste unification. More fundamentally, Frankel has question­ ed whether the associations of south India discussed by the Rudolphs have been able to perform any positive results at all for the poorer members of the castes dispersed in rural areas, in terms either of status gains or of economic and political power.*7 Nevertheless, the Rudolphs’ view seems to represent the majority opinion of the field. From the Maharashtrian data, however, it is impossible to show that caste conferences fulfilled any significant functions, whether of political mobilization or o f social unification. On balance, the unification of diverse subcastes within a major caste can hardly be said to be a striking achievement of the period, and where it occurred it was not due to the caste association itself, but to external social reform efforts—as well as to the general spread of modem communications networks which made it possible for educated or wealthy members of subcastes to meet en a wider geographical level. The role of the caste conference as such was simply to reflect these external forces that produced a balance of opinion among caste members. As argued above, caste conferences did not have the type of of central organization that was adequate for purposes of mobilizing its presumed members on any issue where there was significant difference of opinion. Caste conferences as such, could not, by their very nature, • function ’ in any particular direction. The fact that they existed at all simply represented the degree to which caste and kin-ties were still an important feature of social relationships and a means for communicating with others. They reflected society; they did not change it* Some scholars have referred to caste development in the modetn-colonial period as one of stages. Hardgrave, for instance, has described Nadar activity as progressing through three stages, the parochial (i.e., traditional), the integrated (in which the caste tended to act as a unity) and the differentiated within a cast category resulted in different political involvements.** The most common version of this approach is to see a progression in caste conference activity to efforts focused on* sacred’ criteria of status (i.e., Sanskritization) to those focuscd increasingly on political means and secular criteria. Again, no such temporal trends are visible in Maharashtra. Caste conferences from the beginnings of their major attempts expressed 'secular’ as well as 'sacred’ criteria in defining them­ selves in terms of education, and as soon as politics became relevant to lowercaste interests (i. e., as soon as Indian power within the legislative councils became significant enough to make a difference)caste leaped to involve themselves, though they were rarely able to mobilize their caste bodies in any particular direction to


do so. Nor was there any definite progression from local, or subcaste associations, to wider regional caste associations: the Saswad Mali Sabha remained an effective organization at least the All-India Kshatriya Mali Education Conference, and among Marathas, the ‘ widest' organized group had existed earliest, in the form of Bombay’s Maratha Aikyecchu Sabha. In sum, the existence of caste-oriented associations in the nineteenth, early twentieth century and the present period is an indication of the degree to which caste criteria have remained relevant identifying factors for Indians; it does not show that caste per se was the primary determinant feature of social action or that it could be the most effective means of mobilizing the lower classes. Caste does remain a dividing feature in Indian society; it does not appear to serve any positive functions of transition to a modern social order; and the most crucial divisions—such as the very non-traditional opposition between ‘ Brahmans * and *non-Brahmans ’—reflected the particular class divisions of colonial society as much, if not more, than the traditional caste order.


Chapter X

Non-Brahmans organize politically By 1920 a non-Brahman political party had emerged out of the Satya­ shodhak movement in Maharashtra, provoked by the extension of Indian political privileges under the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms and inspired by the Justice party of Madras. The non-Biahman Party’s oiganizers, leaders and legislative members were, like those of most other political formations of the time, predo­ minantly lawyers, urban merchants and rural landlords; and with other parties they competed for the votes of a narrow urban middle class and rural rich peasant electorate. The party thus inevitably represented the elite and conservative trends within the ‘ non-Brahman ’ or bahujan samaj movement as a whole, and its politics to a large degree were those of the ‘ patron-client ’ and ‘ factional ’ relations discussed in other studies of Indian political development. However, it also represented something more. Like the Muslim bloc in Bengal and the Justice Party in Madras it represented the opposition to upper caste Hindu dominance of an excluded section of colonial ‘ plural society and more than the other two provinces, it drew much of its strength from an already' existing village-based social movement. It was the Satyashodhak Samaj, in fact, that gave the party what ideological definition it had and which provided much organizational basis for its rural support. Thus, while the formation of the party helped to facilitate the further spread of Satyashodhak activity, in turn its elite leadership at crucial points responded to pressure from below. Because of this the party in general represented in the legislative institutions a more socially progressive set of interests than the Congress politicians in terms of support for peasant-tenant interests, the extension of education, and social reform. Two types of political mobilization were thus represented in the 1920s among non-Brahmans: the * vertical mobilization ' of the non-Brahman elites, and the ‘ horizontal mobili­ zation ’ of the Satyashodhak Samaj through which low-caste and lower class interests were felt.* The non-Brahman politcal elite has to be seen not only in terms of lower class linkages and pressures, but also within the context of British colonial policies, in which complementary trends of liberalism and paternalism and the gradual extension of limited parliamentary rights helped to give sections of the Indian upper classes an important stake in colonial institutions. In the 1920s it * Carolyn Elliott has contrasted the horizontal solidarities of class and caste with the vertical mobilization of rural notables utilizing patron-client relations and village traditionalism; however it can be added that even the more conservative vertical mobilization can be seen not only in terms of traditional ‘ notable’ dtminance but also in more secular terms of patronage.


represented one of the opposition parties which the British sought to utilize to work the legislative councils as a counterweight to Gandhian non-cooperation. It thus served as one of the many ways of resisting the pressures for a radical, mass nationalism. The fact that the British were thus able to take advantage of nonBrahman sentiment was due both to the policies of the administration which gave scope to non-Brahman elites, and to the exclusionary elitism of the earliest nationalists themselves. The Non-Brahman Party of the Bombay Presidency was primarily a Maharashtrian one; though it included some Kannnarese-speaking non-Brahmans, no Gujaratis took part. It maintained some relations with the Justice party and with a similar, though weaker non-Brahman Party in the Central Provinces and Berar, but there was little real organizational unity. This chapter will discuss the background of non-Brahman politics, the emergence of (his Bombay NonBrahman Party, its relationship to the Satyashodhak Samaj, its role in the Legislative Councils and local boards, and its decline at the end of the decade. The Context of British Policy Both nationalist politics and the politics of the ‘ loyalist ’ parties of the 1920s (the Madras and Bombay non-Brahmans, the Bengali Muslims) have to be understood in the context of British colonial politics in India. One of the most important characteristics of British rule was that it was carried out with an in­ credibly small number of British officials. As John Mclane has pointed out, *the British employed no more European administrators in India than the French used in Indo-China, although British India’s population was ten times as large.’* This created the necessity of fostering the development of Indian elites whose interests were tied to the administrative, parliamentary and capitalist institutions of British rule. This has to be understood not only in the positive sense that the administra­ tion depended primarily on Indian intermediaries, but also in a negative sense. That is, the processes of colonial rule increasingly pressed against the ma;ses, throwing up a growing number of landless laborers, poor urban population, and a working class suffering under the conditions of colonial capitalist exploitation; the result was constant though sporadic mass unrest that peaked in the 1920s with developing peasant agitation and working class strikes. The problem for the maintenance of British rule was to prevent the development of revolutionary trends among the various elites that could give a militant organization to this everpresent mass protest. And there were, in fact, two trends in British imperial policy that in oppos­ ing, yet complementary ways functioned to do so. The first was a trend of imperial liberalism that came close to welcoming and fostering the growth of nationalist aspirations among the Indian intelligentsia. One of its earliest representatives was Lord Macauley, who argued for western education and the development of a new class *who may be interpreters between us and the millions we govern—a class of persons Indian in colour and blood, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in interests.’* Macauley had a clear vision that this would lead to demands for independence, but in his under­ standing of this he may be called an early prophet of neocolonialism : 178

it would be, on the most selfish view of the case, far better for us that the people of India were well-governed and independent of us, than illgoverned and subject to us; that they were ruled by their own kings, but wearing our broadcloth and working with our cutlery, than that they were performing their salaams to English collectors and English magistrates but were to.o ignorant to value, or too poor to buy, English manufactures.4 While this liberal spirit was to become a subsidiary trend in 19th and early 20th century rule, it nevertheless fostered a willingness to respond to nationalist agitation with the slow development of parliamentary institutions and a widening of areas of Indian control.* However inadequate and tardy such developments were from the point of view of the nationalists, they nevertheless produced a certain degree of hope in their continued extension. Just as the employment of Indians in the administration moderated nationalist demands, so the extension of parliamentary institutions created a growing interest among the elite in entering and controlling these institutions, with a correlated tendency to moderate mass agitation outside these spheres. Thus when Gandhi in the 1920s wantedJ^to maintain mass organization outside the legislative councils, he was opposed not only by the Moderates but also by the Extremists who had been the earliests * radical' nationalists : in the 1920s it was the heirs of Tilak and the Bengali Extremists who opposed Gandhian non-cooperation and formed the Swaraj Party first to enter and obstensibly obstruct the workings of the legislative councils, then to gain control of them. As one of their Poona leaders declared in 1923, Swaraj is for the ordinary man and not for saintly non-cooperators. Let them stand aside and permit the worldly politicians to enter the Councils and carry them under the usual impulse of worldly minded men.® As these sentiments indicate, the upper-caste elite in both Maharashtra and BengalT was eager to rule, and with all its aspiration to lead the masses in move­ ments outside of British institutions, proved more ready to enter these institu­ tions than to oppose them. In India, as in many other colonies, the existence of limited institutions for elite participation proved a demotivating factor for radical mass leadership. The other trend in British imperialism was to produce all the delays, safeguards and reactionary elements in this extension of Indian political power. This was the trend of despotic paternalism, of all those British who saw themselves as heirs of the Mughal absolutist administrators and as Platonic ‘ Guardians ’, impartially ruling a people too divided and backward to rule themselves.* While the liberal trend tended to come from elements in English society outside of India, the paternalistic trend was dominant among the British civil servants, within India, who did indeed rule almost as lonely despots within the districts. The paternalists viewed the educated elite with scorn and continually emphasized that the latter were alienated from the masses both by their high caste background and their western education. They denied that India was in any sense a nation, seeing it rather as a mosaic of castes, linguistic groups and religious communities 179

Continually at odds with one another and incapable of co-existing within a framework of self rule. They saw themselves as the creative elite and as the natural protectors of the peasants. As one corollary, they looked outside the educated classes for elites with whom to ally : towards ‘ iftartial races ’ such as the Rajputs Sikhs and Marathas, and towards aristocrats and landlords whom they also saw as natural representatives of the peasants in opposition to the intelligentsia an d moneylending ' non-agriculturalist classes.’ It is important to emphasize that both despotic paternalism and liberalism had the effect of creating Indian allies. Among the nationalists, both Moderates and Extremists reacted with antagonism to the paternalistic trend. Moderates placed their hopes in liberalism, in rational negotiation with the British and in processes of compromise and gradualism. Extremists argued from the existence of despotism and its effects that the British would not keep faith and that change must be forced; but they reacted to its charges by refusing to recognize th e divided nature of Indian society and by inclinations to an integral nationalism that would increasingly develop under the ideology of militant Hinduism. ( I n this they contrasted with Gandhi, who was excrutiatingly aware that these divisions were a reality that must be comprehended, not overwhelmed, within a nationalist movement.) But it was not only the landed aristocracy that was won over by the ideo­ logy of paternalism and the type of safeguards it represented. Non-Brahmans (including Untouchables) as well as Muslims responded to it. Longer than any of the Brahman elite, they spoke of the English raj as dayalu, ‘ compassionate in extending opportunities for education to the lower castes and treating all as equals before the law.* Militant Satyashodhak leaders aimed at a change within society amounting to a social revolution, but believed that any widening of the political arena would only give the already powerful upper castes more resources; hence they resisted extensions of Indian control and placed their first hopes in British protection. Indeed, when the British gave significant concessions to the nationalists, they reacted with a sense of betrayal.* In addition, the paternalists focus on the rural aristocracy as the ‘ natural leaders ’ of the masses made it possible for the upper class section of non-Brahmans to claim to represent *mass * interests. Along with the continuing Brahman domination of the nationalist movement, it was the fostering of these ties of interests that kept significant sections of the rural leadership for a long time apart not only from nationalism but from any militant mobilization of mass demands. And this was a crucial factor in Indian political development, since the non-Brahman upper classes were generally in closer touch with the rural and urban lower classes than the largely Brahman nationalists. Thus; imperial liberalism and paternalism, while apparently at cross pur­ poses, in fact worked together to strengthen the hold of British colonialism with­ in India.10 * Here they did not deal with the fact that the opening up of education was a mere liberal formality; in fact British support for elite as opposed to mass education ( and the relatively meager resources for education ) continually went against non-Brahman interests.


Early Non-Brahman conflicts with Nationalism As we have already shown, conflicts with the Brahman nationalist elite were a central feature in the pfriod of emergence of the Satyashodhak Samaj. Phule bad defined the first Poona political organization, the Sarvajanik Sabha, as the ‘ bhat sabha’. He saw little difference in the Indian National Congress: These cunning Aryabhat Brahmans regard all the world’s people as insignificant and hold scorn and envy of them in their minds...Even if these Aryan people establish hundreds of national congresses in count­ erfeit imitation of the religiously united Americans or French, still lean say with assurance that Shudras and Atishudras will never be members of their National Congress.11 And, indeed, the Indian National Congress, created in 1885, was primarily the expression of the educated intelligentsia, though it had also some significant ties with landed and business interests." In its first session 80 % of the Madras delegates and 100 % of the Poona delegates were Brahmans,1* and this dominance continued to be maintained. Not only did Maharashtrian non-Brahmans see the Congress as representing simply upper class interests, they emphasized that even its organizing methods rested on class exploitation: The mode of operation adopted for appointing the delegates of the Indian National Congress is as follows : Certain persons who possess some influence in any town such as pleaders, money­ lenders, or Brahman officials ... convene a meeting of the town or village people. A list of persons to be sent as delegates is prepared beforehand Certain persons who can maneuver agitations dexterously are deputed by Sabhas such as the Sarvajanik Sabha of Poona to visit districts to create agitation, and the names of persons who are to be sent to tbe Congress are read and confirmed. The many hundreds of thousands of the people who are illiterate and who have no two ideas in their head of the working of the British administration have quietly to say yea or nay to anything that these agitators may choose to say .. The pleaders in the district and the low grade officials who are all Brahmans, command an influence of which the Europeans generally have but a faint idea. The pecuniary interests of the koonbies are completely in the hands of the sowcars and pleaders and Brahman officials, and to incur their displeasure by neglecting to attend these town meetings and by not contributing any pecuniary aid to the Congrss is equivalent to calling down the wrath of heaven.14 From the viewpoint of at least some non-Brahmans, the Congress was emerging in active opposition to peasant interests, and they saw resistance to laws inhibit­ ing the transfer of land to non-agriculturalists as a proof of this. Worse yet, the Congress was not simply dominated by high castes, but increas­ ingly and especially in Maharashtra seemed to be coming under the control of the orthodox element among these. The Moderate-Extremist split was social as well 181

as political: Moderate ‘ gradualism' was associated with the hope of reforming Indian society, while 1 ilak's Extremist demand—*Swaraj is my birthright and I will have i t 4—was woven into the fact that he had emerged as a political leader in oppositon to British proposals to limit child marriage. The fact that the nation* alists themselves put the issue in terms of *social reform versus political reform ’ aided the non-Brahman tendency to see nationalism as the enemy. While they looked with some hope to the Moderate social reformers, it Was the antireformist Extremists who became the real political force. Tilak, described as the *uncrowned king of Poona, ’ became the primary enemy in interweaving symbols of orthodoxy with nationalism. Even Tilak’s aspirations to mass leadership were seen in the context of elitist scorn for the masses : these aspirations were expressed in the phrase *Tilak is the leader of Telis and Tambolis’ (two low castes)1* but non-Brahman felt that the true attitude of Brahmans to the low castes was illustrated when a Maratha merchant was elected to the Legislative Council in 1920. At that time Brahman songsters in the Ganpati festival sang : Teli, tamboli, pharshivale Geli komsilat nivadun ( ‘ Telis, Tembolis, Pharshivalas have gone elected into the Councils’) The first line expressed scorn regarding low castes, for pharshivala meant, idiomati­ cally, a brainless fellow and referred punningly to Kalbhor, a Poona tile (pharshi) seller.1* With these underlying attitudes, it was not surprising that non-Brahmans viewed the nationalists’ goal not as a restoration of Shivaji’s kingdom but of the Peshwai, the Brahman regime. The 1895 Congress session was perhaps the crucial dividing point for the disillusionment of non-Brahmans. This was the session in which Tilak’s followers showed their power by excluding the National Social Conference from sharing the Congress facilities, threatening to burn the tent. At the same time, both nonBrahmans and Untouchables made an attempt to have their view heard.’1 Young Satyashodhaks under the leadership of Krishnarao Bhalekar and Ramchandra Vandekar erected a twenty-four foot statue of a peasant with the slogan. *Are there out of our twenty-two crores at least twenty here so explain our grievances? ’ and organized discussions around this exhibit.1* Although Tilak referred to the incident later in Kesari and it evidently played a role in his decision at this time to seek greater ‘ mass' support,1* the non-Brahmans themselves were ignored by the Congress leadership. This, together with the exclusion of social reform from the agenda of the Congress, hardened their bitterness. As Din Bandhu commented, Last year at Poona backward people had a good strategem to see who was truly interested in the peasant. Some of the nationalists took Mr. Webb to a village in Panvel taluka, gave much publicity and created an impresssion in English public opinion that they are inte­ rested in the welfare of the peasant. But at the same time they could not see a twenty-four foot statue of a peasant, and orators like Banerjee had time neither to consult the peasant about his sorrows or 182

to express sympathy. My God, Poona bhats and Bengali Brahmans, listen to us ! When you decry the English government as irresponsible, you don’t see the fire that is burning under your feet! *° The exclusion of Maharashtrian non-Brahmans from political activity con­ tracted with the relatively stronger position of both Bengali Muslims and Madras non-Brahmans. Not only did Madras non-Brahmans have stronger landlord and business elements in their ranks as compared with the Maharashtrians,* but also they had an earlier basis of power within the Congress itself. All of the six rural non-Brahman representatives at the first Congress session were 1Kshatriyas ’ or Vellalas from Madras,*1 and Madras non-Brahmans were able from 1917 to 1920 to establish a pressure group within the Congress, the Madras Presidency Asso­ ciation.** Later non-Brahman leaders such as Ramaswamy Naicker and Kamraj Nadar emerged from within the Congress party, while correspondingly Tamil and Telugu non-Brahmans were able to develop a much stronger political party in the Justice Party and were able to gain much greater access to the British- While the Madras Justice Party faded away in the late 1920s just as the Bombay NonBrahman Party did, the Tamil non-Brahmans maintained their political power and finally did create a powerful party organized around an alternative ‘ nationalist ’ vision, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). Similarly, Bengali Muslims appear to have been in a better position than the Maharashtrian non-Brahmans, and certainly had a more vigorous and autonomous community life.** The abili­ ties of both Bengali Mnslims and Madras non-Brahmans to eventually mobilize an autonomous political force were in part related to developing appeals to a * nationalist ’ cause in opposition to Congress—based in the first case on Muslim religious identity, in the second on an anti-Aryan ‘ Dravidian ’ identity—but this in turn was related to their stronger social and political position in comparison to the Maharashtrians. The Maharashtrian non-Brahmans, in contrast, withdrew from political life after their attempts in 1895 to knock on the doors of the Congress They gave up any attempt to influence nationalist development, relying instead on dependence on the British. From the beginning of the 1911 Satyashodhak conferences, they continually emphasized their loyalism and their opposition to nationalist ' anarchy.’ But the result was not only that the nationalists were deprived of this important channel to mass support, it also lay in the fact that non-Brahmans, isolated from political institutions, failed to develop any Political vision or to translate their emphasis on the peasant and the masses into a nationalist alternative. Instead they concentrated on social reform and education, and indeed the period from about 1908 when nationalist politics were' languishing was one of intense non-Brahman activity both in the Satyashodhak Samaj and the caste conferences. Nationalist politics, however, proceded fitfully without non-Brahman participation. In 1916 Tilak and Annie Besant began a new campaign with the • Chettiars, a prominent merchant caste of Madras, were an important part of the non-Brahman alliance there, while in Maharashtra, though there was some merchant support, the dominant Marwaris tended to be excluded from the category of ‘non-Brahman’ and more consistently supported the Brahman political elite.


formation of Home Rule Leagues throughout India, and the Congress Party temporarily settled its differences with the Muslims in the ‘ Lucknow pact ’ of the same year. Then in August, 1917, the Secretary of State of India, Edwin Montagu announced in the House of Commons a new policy of *gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British empire.’ As one non­ Brahman leader put it, The people who had hitherto put all their confidence in the theoretically all-powerful British rulers of their country...stood amazed on the threshold of a revolution—and nothing less than a revolution—in their political system.'1 With the extension of political democracy, non-Brahmans could no longer remain aloof from the institutions which threatened to have new power over society; the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms brought a forced return to politics. The Emergence of Non-Brahman Politics, 1917 -1920


Non-Brahman political organizing was fitful and slow, however; it took three years (until 1920) before a coordinated non-Brahman Party was formed in contrast to the rapid consolidation of the Justice Party in Madras. Several themes underlay this process. First, a small group of urbanized professionals and merchants appeared, attempting to speak both for mass interests and for the rural elite, and seeking an organizing base. This was done through several means, organizing in terms of the Deccan Ryots Association ( Peasants Association), through the nomenclature of ‘ Backward Classes ’ and through attempts to utilize caste associations. The latter effort, although it was to a large degree a defense response to the nationalists’ original attempts to appeal to specifically ‘ Maratha ’ interests, invoked the shadow of a ‘Maratha non-Maratha ’ split within the non-Brahman group which was to plague political organizing throughout. However, it was Satyashodhak organizing and the influence of Kolhapur reformism that provided the important networks through which the emerging party tried to establish its base, and while opponents charged that the movements was ‘ communal ’ (i.e., caste-based), non-Brahmans insisted that the basic issue was ‘ Satyashodhak versus varnashramite ’ (i.e., radicals versus the orthodox). And this to a large extent proved true: in both the Bombay Marathi districts and in the Central Provinces, the non-Brahman Party based itself on Satyashodhak ideology and in general represented the more reformist among the major non-Brahman castes while the more orthodox political activists in these groups generally supported the nationalists. The Deccan Ryots Association was the first organization to appear; its Provisional Working Committee was announced in September of 1917." Its initial leaders included three prominent men of Satyashodhak background, A. B. Latthe, Mukundrao Patil, and Ramchandrarao Vandekar; Walchand Kothari, a young Jain of Poona who was coming into politics out of an association with Poona liberal reformers; Narayan Waman Tilak, the most prominent 184

Maharashtrian Christian of the day;* S. K. Bole, a Bhandari leader from Bombay; two merchants of Poona, one evidently a Marwari; and G. M. Kalbhor, a leading Maratha businessman of Poona Later two important Lingayat leaders of the Karnatak, P. G. Halkatti, and P. C. Chikodi, and the two leading Maratha lawyers, Bhaskarrao Jadhav and G. D. Naik, joined it.17 Of this group only Mukundrao Patil was of genuine peasant background. The Deccan Ryots Association submitted reform proposals which expressed the fear that due to ‘ the mental weaknesses of the masses of India ’ the new reforms would be harmful to the peasant, that they would ‘ drive him to the wall in the free fight of general competition between the strong and the weak.’*1 Only separate electorates would provide protection to the masses, they argued, since otherwise Brahman influence and power would elect their own candidates, either Brahmans or, if necessary, an orthodox Brahmanized non-Brahman.19 The Associa­ tion identified itself with the interests of the ‘ agricultural and laboring classes ’ and argued that the domination of the educationally advanced ' practically becomes equivalent to the ascendency of the landlord and capitalist class.' Yet it argued against a wide extension of the electorate on the grounds of mass gullibility and susceptibility to pressure. Instead, Experienced and influential landlords, merchants, coming not only from Bombay but from the mofussil also, men who may not be very skillful orators but who can bring with them common sense, experience and interest in the welfare of their constituencies, will be found in sufficiently large numbers in this presidency.10 Thus the proposals combined an anti-Brahman and anti-capitalist ideological stance with a clear orientation to the rural elite. Satyashodhak contacts were crucial in the initial canvassing of Deccan Ryot Association leaders. This took place primarily in the three districts of Ahmednagar, Sholapur and Satara.f Mukundrao Patil presided over many meetings in Ahmednagar, and a branch was formed there by December, 1917.** Joint meetings of the D. R. A. and the Satyashodhak Samaj were held in the Barsi section of Sholapur district; the Sholapur branch was first established in Barsi in January, 1918 under the leadership of a Lingayat who had recently joined the Satyashodhak Samaj, and later organizers at a non-Brahman meeting in May also included many newly inspired Satyashodhak workers in the locality.** Walchand Kothari was another new recruit both to the Satyashodhak Samaj and the D. R. A .; he spoke in both Sholapur and Ahmednagar and tourd southern Satara district at this time, stimulating the establishment of many Satyashodhak

• Tilak had assoctated himself with the Satyashodhak movement from 191S when the conference was held in Ahmednagar, and he responded to non-Brahman political appeals with the argument that while Home Rulers acted as if Indian Christians did not exist, non-Brahmans treated them as part of the nation, as deshbandhu.** f When the C. P. Berar non-Brahman Party was organized, it was if anything more closely tied with the Satyashodhak Samaj, and joint conferences were usually held at provincial, district, and sometimes ta lu k s levels throughout the decade.


branches there." This close association of the two organizations illustrated the fact that the Satyashodhak Samaj not only provided contacts and organizers for the new political party; the party itself needed in addition the definition that Satyashodhak ideology gave to its stance and its ability to counteract Brahman influence. In Bombay'4 and in Bijapur district meetings were held under the nomenclature of ‘Backward Classes.’ The latter meeting was attended on April 25, 1918, by prominent Marathas, Lingayats, Jains, and again S. K. Bole of Bombay, and also utilized Satyashodhak themes : They also heard that the Brahmans say that the British in India were mlenccha (alien), that they were not wanted and should leave this country. If this argument were to be carried to its logical conclusion, then the masses of the country were entitled to tell the Brahmans that they were not originally the children of the soil and that they should go back to Persia, which was their original home." It was at this point, however, that caste politics—specifically Martha caste politics—appeared to hamper the consolidation of these somewhat disparate organizing efforts. It was the nationalists who were the first to attempt to appeal, directly to caste. On October 26, 1917, Vitthal Ramji Shinde— the one Maratha of repute connected with the nationalists, and the only social reformer among them— took the lead in forming a Maratha Rashtriya Sangh (Nationalist Maratha Associa­ tion) Poona." Then in November an ‘All-India Maratha Confence’ was held in Belgaum presided over by a young lawyer from Vidarbha, Ramrao Deshmukh, recently returned from England; this group passed resolutions opposing the com­ munal representation desired by the other non-Brahman groups. Both Shinde’s and Deshmukh’s organizations provoked only a limited response from Deccan Marathas the latter being sarcastically described as including only ‘ two to four gentlemen from Vidarbha.1' 7 But they were used by Brahman newspapers such as Kesari to argue that the non-Brahman movement consisted primarily of Jains and Lingayats, and that Marathas were not participating." It was in response to this that non-Brahman organizing focused on Marathas was taken up— and if it was primarily defensive, it was nevertheless done with some enthusisasm. The Poona Marathas, led by the Jedhe family, took the lead in sponsoring a conference on December 16, 1917, attended by 350 delegates and about 2500 observers," and a second conference was held a year later in Nasik to set up the Maratha League.40 In this case again it was clear that the influence of both Kolhapur and Satyashodhak organizing, which had been strong among Marathas in the talukas surrounding Nasik city, provided the basis for organizing. Of the working committee of 18 men, five had long-time Satyashodhak affiliations and five others were loosely part of the Kolhapur sphere of influence. With these conflicting Maratha efforts it was clear that the non-Brahman ‘ movement ’ was splitting the caste, and that the split was falling along orthodox-reformist lines With the exception of V. R. Shinde himself, the ‘ nationalist Marathas i. e., those associated with the Congress Party, were almost invariably more orthodox 186

men and tended to come from the Konkan, Bombay city or Vidarbha, where high* caste Marathas were less willing to accept their common caste identity with Kunbi peasants.* As the Congress leader, Ramrao Deshmukh, admitted, distinctions between the opposing Maratha groups were less clearcut in political terms than in social terms, i. e., attitudes towards Satyashodhak reformism. The result of this intrusion of a caste-based non-Brahman political organi­ zation, however, was a good deal of confusion. Both groups demanded separate electorates to protect non-Brahmans, but while the Deccan Ryot Samaj asked simply for communal electorates for ‘educationally backward classes’, the Maratha League asked for seats for Marathas as such. The Maratha League included other non-Brahmans in its demands—it asked for ten seats for Marathas, four for Lingayats, one for Jains, four for Untouchables and ten for ‘ backward non-Brahman Hindoo communities ’—but it showed a well-defined tendency to view Marathas as a higher, elite caste, arguing that one reason for reservation of seats was that Marathas were *farmers with vested interests (Patils, Jagirdars, deshmukhs, khots, etc.)’ 4*. It may be said that this represented the spirit of Kolhapur to the degree that it was opposed to Satyashodhak ideology: the reluctanee to assume that caste barriers could (or should) be overcome, the maintenance of separate caste identities with the conviction that each should have its own leadership, autonomy and sphere of action, and the inclusion of * Kunbis’ with ‘ Marathas ’ coupled with a high-status ‘Kshatriya’ identification of Marathas. The result, however, was that the British perceived the Maharashtrian nonBrahman movement, in contrast to that of Madras, primarily in terms of ' Marathas and others.’ This was due to the confusion of organizations and the fact that the one non-Brahman representative in London, Bhaskarrao Jadhav, had testified on behalf of both the Maratha League and the Deccan Ryot Samaj, but had left vague the definition of constituency for which reservation was requested4*. Thus, when the Scarborough Committee on Franchise made its first decision against giving representation to non-Brahmans, it referred to the claims of ' Marathas and Allied Communities ’—and both Marathas and non-Marathas protested against this wording. Shripatrao Shinde objected on behalf of the Maratha League, and A. B. Latthe wrote on behalf of non-Marathas, What is this novel group ? We know of none. The Marathas as such have indeed claimed separate representation. But they have never spoken of themselves as a group of ‘ Marathas and Allied Commun­ ities ’...The Government of Lord Wiliingdon...was obviously respon­ sible for this peculiar grouping.44

• When the second 'nationalist Maratha conference’ was held in Vidarbha, these orthodox-reformist, high-low differences were perceived as such by many observers. According to A. B. Latthe, *A vernacular Home Rule weekly described it as a conference of high born M arathas, insi­ nuating that those wanting to throw off the Brahman yoke and demanding communal electorates were lowborn I ’4*


Non-Marathas were further provoked by the fact that although all non-Brahman organizations had urged that literacy be the criterion for defining the ' backwardness ’ of a community and hence its need for special representation, this was ignored and Lingayats and Jains were excluded from consideration by the British.4' This protest had little effect. The government perceived the debate as only revolving around the issue of whether ' Marathas ’ should be defined in a broad sense (as including *allied communities’) or in a narrow sense. In the end, rather ironically, it awarded seven reserved seats in the Deccan to nonBrahmans (exclusive of Jains and Lingayats) but it awarded them under the terminology of ‘ Marathas in which a ‘ Maratha ’ was defined as : a person belonging to any of the following castes, namely the Mahrattas, Kunbi, Mali, Koli, Bhandari, Shimpi, Lohar, Kumbhar, Dhangar, Bhoi, Bari, Lohari, Bhavin, and Deloi or Shinde castes, or to any caste which the local Government may, by notification in the Gazeteer, declare to be a Mahratta caste.4' Therefore, although non-Brahmans had attained some recognition by the government, it was in a context in which the whole issue of caste identity was brought to the forefront. The question of ' Who is a Maratha ? ’ had been resolved in a certain way with the formation of the Maratha Educational Confer­ ence and the absorption of Kunbis and semi-legitimate Marathas into the Maratha category; the concepts of *non-Brahman ’, *Deccan Ryots ’ and 4backward classes ’ had represented ways in which this broadly defined Maratha category had sought to join with other specifically defined (non-Maratha) castes. Now all were lumped together as ‘ M a r a t h a s I n a way that made it easier for Marathas to feel a status resentment for non-Marathas put in the same category and for non-Marathas to be conscious of the numerical dominance and monopoly of attention of the Marathas. In the 1920 Poona city electon this potential *Maratha non-Maratha ’ conflict erupted into a full split when V. R. Shinde decided to stand for the election. Shinde was a prominent man of aristocratic Maratha background whose work in founding the Depressed Classes Mission had given him a unique reputation as a social reformer; he was, as noted, the only Maratha of any social radicalism to stand with the early nationalists and of them all was the only one to retain signi­ ficant non-Brahman respect. But many non-Marathas could not forget that Shinde had opposed non-Brahman communal representation as well as representation for Untouchables (though his closeness to Untouchablcs later led him to support their call for separate electorates). Walchand Kothari took the lead in attacking Shinde in his newly founded paper Jagruk arguing that Shinde had consistently opposed the Satyashodhak movement and that Marathas were supporting him only out of caste interest, and in spite of a vow to vote only for Satyayashodhak candidates.41 A fierce newspaper war ensued, with Kothari opposed by Shripatrao Shinde’s Vijayi Maratha, another new non-Brahman newspaper which had Kolhapur support. Marathas could, after all, argue that shinde was an eminent social reform­ er and shinde utilized non-Brahaman themes in issuing a manifesto under the title bahujan paksh “ Party of the masses. ” In fact this manifesto presented a fine 1SS

contemporary definition of the bahujan samaj concept: it described those eligible for mempership in the party as peasants ( excluding deshmukhs etc.), small traders ( excluding big traders and money lenders), all laborers, all untouchables, and women.*' However the issue was complicated. For all his opposition to *communalism' Shinde was in fact a Maratha caste candidate : his candidacy had resulted from a meeting and alliance of the two ideologically opposed Maratha groups, the Maratha League and Maratha Rashtriya Sangh, in Jedhe mansion.4* And in many ways, Shinde’s own liberal Prarthana Samajist orientation and philosophy did not preclude such a political use of caste. In contrast to the sharply dichotomous and exploitative view of society drawn in Satyashodhak ideology, Shinde’s view of society was basically an organic one which accepted the necessity of continuing intellectual leadership and, more importantly viewed the Marathas as the large middle group capable of providing the link between this intellectual elite and the masses of society.10 Therefore Shinde was opposed not only by non-Marathas such as S. K. Bole, Keshavrao Bagade and Marutirao Ravan of Belgaum,while the most prominent Maratha politician-lawyer Bhaskarrao Jadhav, attempted to remain aloof from the conflict. It was never to be known whether Shinde could have won the election. Just as an alliance between ‘ nationalist’ and ‘nonBrahman’ Marathas had made his candi­ dacy possible, so a widening split between them destroyed it. In October, 1920, Shahu Maharaj came to Poona to preside over a meeting of the Shivaji Society shortly after attending a non-Brahman conference in Belgaum. Orthodox Marathas who had disliked Shahu’s association with the non-Brahman movement started a turmoil in the meeting that resulted in violence and disruption, with several people injured." The orthodox afterwards instituted a lawsuit against the Maharajah for being responsible for the disruption, and although this failed he was forbidden permission by the British to attend another planned conference in Baramati, Poona district. The whole afiOair totally broke the precarious unity of the Marathas and the Brahman candidate won the election. What the Poona election illustrated was the complexity of the intrusion of caste, into non-Brahman politics. Though its opponents charged it with being ‘ communal,’ in fact the non-Brahman movement united—if sometimes precariously —men of many castes against, in most cases, the more orthodox members of their own caste as well as against Brahmans. When the numerically dominant Marathas organized separately it resulted in serious tensions within the movement, and when Maratha unity was produced it proved thoroughly disruptive to non-Brahman politics. And only when this ‘ Maratha unity ’ itself was broken through the split caused by the issues of social radicalism could a genuine non-Brahman party be formed. Compared to the Satyashodhak Samaj, the non-Brahman party did represent greater social conservatism and an elite organization, with status-conscious Marathas and sometimes orthodox members of the landed elite finding an amenable home in it. But at the same time the Satyashodhak Samaj provided its ideological basis and a good deal of the organizational and social ties for the unity among castes that did manage to sustain it, and it was this that gave the party an aura of radical reform in contrast to the nationalists. A unified non-Brahman organization was finally formed in 1920. Jadhav, attempting to mediate the newspaper controversy over Shinde’s candidacy, had 189

suggested that it was time to drop castebased organizations such as the Maratha League and form a single non-Brahman League. Peace was, after a fashion, declared when almost all the prominent non-Brahman leaders met on December 12, 1920, in the Jedhe mansion to form the Deccan Brahmaneter Sangh ( Deccan non-Brahman League). A twenty-five member governing board was set up that included thirteen non-Marathas, among them Lingayats, Jains, Bhandaris, a Leva Patidar, a Parsi, a Sutar and a Shimpi.** A major conference was held a few months later in Belgaum on May 14-15, 1921 which included the same elite but widely-caste based group along with an Untouchable leader, D. D. Gholap, and an elaborate constitution was finally established to give form to the organization.'* Non-Brahmans at last had a single political organization to fight in the Legislative Councils and the District Local Boards.

Non-Brahmans in the Legislative Council There were two major political arenas in which non-Brahmans associated with the Deccan non-Brahman League (or as it came to be called, the nonBrahman Party) contested for political victories: the district and taluka local boards, and the provincial legislative council, where for the first time a body with a majority of elected members was given some power over certain *trans­ ferred subjects ’, primarily local self-government, public health, education, public works and agriculture. This Bombay Legislative Council thus represented the most powerful and symbolically important institution in the process of British transfer of limited powers to Indian representatives. However, the basic 4electoral arithmetic ’ of the presidency was such that non-Brahmans could not hope to dominate it. The existence of Gujarat as a Gandhian stronghold, of Muslim Sind and a number of Muslim reserved seats meant that they had at no time any hope of becoming a majority party within the Bombay Presidency as a whole.* Out of a total of 86 elected seats, there were only 19 in Marathi-speaking rural districts and one 'J in Poona city in which non-Brahman numerical dominance could reasonably be expected to offset the superior organization and financial power of Brahmans and their Marwari allies (see table 1). Six seats in Kannarese-speaking districts where Lingayat anti-Brahmanism was a force provided additional associates of the party. Within the Majathi constituencies (including Bombay city) the govern­ ment had provided £even reserved seats for ' Marathas and Allied Castes' which aided the Non-Brahman and non-Brahmans associated with the Congress Party. With these limitations, the most the Non-Brahman Party could hope for was to win sufficient representation to provide a basis for action in alliance with Muslims, Brahman Moderates and the Government’s ‘ official ’ (nominated) candidates.


* The non-Brahman Party in the Central Provinces faced the same problem, since again it had no base in the large Hindi-speaking districts. Here again it became simply one contender in a com­ plex pattern of alliances; further the party itself was w eaker: non-Brahmans were even more under-represented in the C. P.-Berar in comparison to Bombay, an d there was a greater tendency for the Vidarbha non-Brahman landed elite ( with a stronger class of deshmukhs and landlords among them) to act as independents or form separate patron-based parties. This chapter, how­ ever, will focus primarily on the Bombay party.


Table 1 : Non-Muslim Marathi-speaking Constituencies in Bombay Prorince Constituency

Population ( non-Muslim)

Bombay City (North) Bombay City (South) Sholapur City Poona City Thana-Bombay Suburban Ahmednagar East Khandesh Nasik West Khandesh Poona Satara Ratnagiri Sholapur Kolaba

618,731 92,870 176,430 868,502 693,816 968,094 786,118 581,326 782,046 989,769 1,073,253 688,158 534,588

Total *Maratha and Allied Caste * Population 400,949

399,356 469.327 453,430 223,639 645,598 825,340 413,915 367,665

Total Electors ( 1926 )

*Maratha and Allied9 Electors


42,774 55,163 12,026 17,218 30,074 17,204 32,718 21,070 19,392 12,217 21,533 21,594 12,825 14,328

6,051 2,452 6,002 11,969 14,910 13,615 26,919 15,448 8,547 9,764 15,326 13,734 7,273 10,280

3* 3 1 1 2* 2* 3 2* I** 2• 2 2* 1••

• Indicates one * M aratha' reserved seat in each constituency • • Indicates a rotating * M aratha' seat, Sholapur (1920), Kolaba (1923), West Khandesh (1926)

Of these Marathi seats, non-Brahmans associated with the emerging NonBrahman Party won ten of those they entered in the 1920 elections without any need for the reservation,* with an independent Maratha winning in East Khandesh. In 1923 the Swaraj Party, recently formed with the Maharashtra branch under the leadership of N. C. Kelkar and M. R. Jayakar, entered the elections with all the prestige of the nationalist movement and a strong electoral organization made up of former non-cooperation workers behind them. This time the non-Brahman Party required the reservation to capture four of their seats, but won four others by clear margins in Poona, Satara, East Khandesh and Sholapur City. Swarajists put up winning Marathas in Poona, Kolaba and Ratnagiri, while Brahman Swarajists captured other seats. In 1926 the nonBrahman Party improved its performance slightly, winning in nine cases with only two of their candidates requiring reservation. The Bombay government thus classified the total composition of the Legislative Council as follows (nonBrahmans included Kannarese-speakers not counted above):" By Party : 1923 : 29 Swarajists, 13 Independents, 8 Liberals, 7 Moderates, 10 Non-Brahmans 1926 : 14 Swarajists, 21 Independents, 10 Liberals, 4 Mode­ rates, 7 Responsivists, 11 Non-Brahmans By Class

1920 1923 1926




Money lenders

12 18 25

20 30 21

9 17 10

3 1 1

Holders o f Univ. Degrees

25 32 34 ( + 3 journalists, 3 doctors)

This Non-Brahman Parly performance may be compared with that of the similar * opposition' groups of Bengal and Madras. In Madras the Justice Party had an immense advantge, not simply because the Government had given them (^8 reserved seats, but because they had hopes of dominating the entire Presidency due to similar social cleavages in Tamil and Telegu districts and to the nonBrahmans' own greater social power. Thus in 1920 the Justice Party captured a whopping 63 seats; in 1923 they were able to capture only 44 but the Government appointed in addition 17 non-Brahman sympathizers, while the Swarajists captured only 11. In 1926, with the Justice Party organization in decay, they managed to win only 22 while the Swarajists captured 41 seats. The strength of non-Brahmans in Madras was shown by the fact in no cases did non-Brahmans need the reserva­ tion; all those who won in 1920-26 did so at the top of the polls or by being unopposed." But the Justice Patty itself was declining steadily, while the growing Swarajist (Congress) strength was associated with the fact that Madras nonBrahmans were making a significant impact within the Congress ranks. In cont• That is they would have won in any case. The ‘ reservation' meant that the highest vote-getter among non-Brahmans was selected, even if he was low in the total ballots cast.


rast, in Bengal the bhadralok-led Moderates won a majority in 1920 and managed to establish an alliance with the Muslims; in 1623 the Swarajist Party won a resounding victory in both Hindu and Muslim constituencies; but by 1926 the Moderates had practically vanished and the Swarajists also had become a minority m the face of a solid and separately organized Muslim bloc.* In general, the Maharashtrian non-Brahman Party, while weaker than the Justice Party of Madras or the emerging Muslim bloc in Bengal contrasted with both in maintain­ ing a limited but constant strength throughout the decade of the 1920s, a strength which the Congress Swarajists were unable to dent. Non-Brahman party organization in Bombay was minimal. At no time in the Council was it much more than a loose coalition, although after 1923, when for a time Bhaskarrao Jadhav was minister of education and the non-Brahmans held a balance of power between the official party and the Swarajists, it had more unity than at other times.'8 Nor did the party have much in the way of district organization. Most of its elaborate constitutional framework remained pretty much on paper, and elections were managed, according to Government reports, largely on the basis of local influence, with candidates generally having only an ad hoc organization at the time of elections.'* Who were the non-Brahman council members and what was their relationship with their constituencies? If we look at this question, we can note the rather interesting fact that while the council members themselves were primarily landholders and lawyersf with an outlook that clearly identified with the elite, they nevertheless voted at many crucial points in terms of more lower class and * democratic ’ issues. It was dear for instance that the council members identified with rural landlords and the richer peasantry in opposition to the rural poor. This was seen in the memorandums of the Deccan Ryot Association, with its emphasis on ‘ prominent men...of the mofussil ’ and of the Maratha League, which stressed Maratha idenlity as military men and landholders. When in 1928, N. E. Navle presented the Party’s appeal to the Simon Commission, he made it clear that its rural outlook was limited to the rural upper classes—though it should be stressed that this latter testimony occurred at a time when the nonBrahman movement as such was splitting and younger, more militant nonBrahmans who were involved in poor peasant organizing were in the process of becoming nationalists. Navle argued that suffrage should be extended to those paying a land revenue of Rs. 16, and agreed that this would exclude the rural p o o r:

* The Muslims, in alliance with low-caste Hindus, Europeans and a bandful of ' responsivist ’ Hindu members ran the Councils from then onwards through independence, using their power for legislation on agrarian reform and the extension of education which was considered to benefit the Muslim masses while going against the interests of the Hindu elite—much the same social-economic orientation as the Bombay non-Brahmans.*'1 f Lawyers had an equal identification with the rural lite, while their education and legal ability made them natural candidates. As the Ahmednagar non-Brahman representative had argued, he had campaigned first a M aratha Jagirdar arguing that his opponent might be a leader in district politics, but what could an illiterate, a ‘ thumb-impression wallah,’ do in the Council ? ,0



Q. But the men in the villages, who own very little land, and who are mostly labourers, work for the ordinary farmer, do they not ? A. [ Navle ] Yes. Q. And the suggestions you have made will not give these people the vote ? A. ...They will not get the vote. Q. Will they be represented by the people for whom they work ? A. No, not necessarily so. Now these classes are taking to education, and an educated man from amongst them can represent them... Q. Yes, but you are enfranchising as the voters of the fanner class ? A. Yes... Q. What I am putting to you is that if the landless man, or the man who owns very little land is not enfranchised, he will not have any representation as against the fanner’s interest, will he ? A. Yes, that may be so; that is inevitable.'1 Clearly, the general class orientation of the non-Brahman party was that of the rural elite, very definitely oriented to consolidating a landlord-rich peasant class." Yet the Party appeared at crucial points in the Legislative Council as the spokesman of tenant or poor peasant interests : As compared with the pre-reform Councils the reformed Legislative Council had an increased representation of ryots (peasants) and of landholders, although the latter figured prominently before. The representatives of the ryots lost no time condemning the laws which secure the interests of the latter. As an instance may be quoted a Bill introduced in 1925 by a non-Brahman deprive the superior landholders of the power of imposing a penalty on inferior holders for default of rent. Inamdars and other superior holders of land opposed this Bill which was supported by the non-Brahman representatives of the ryots and tenants. In fact the dispute which started between the landed proprietors and their tenants soon reduced itself in the Council to a tussle between the non-Brahmans and the advanced classes...Another instance of antagonism between tenants and landlords and incidentally between the non-Brahmans and the backward classes is to be found in the resolutions brought forward in 1923 by Messrs. A. N. Surve and S. K. Bole for remedying the grievances of Khoti tenants in the Ratnagiri and Kolaba districts." Both these issues, it may be pointed out, dealt with grievances that did not essen­ tially involve the non-Brahman landholders or rich peasants in ryotwari areas : Brahmans were dominant among khot landlords in the Konkan and among Deccan inamdars (whose interests were affected by the bills discussed above). Although Marathas were also included among both groups, the anii-khot agita­ tion (a long-time project of S. K. Bole involving Kunbi, Bhandari, and Agri tenants of the uppercaste khots) hit against the Konkan Marathas who in any case did not support the non-Brahman Party and were social conservatives. Never­ 194

theless, while these issues did not really touch the higher level landlords and moneylenders or the rich peasants of the ryotwari areas, they represented a part of the general' anti-feudal ’ trend of the 1920s in India which saw the agitations of tenant cultivators against landlords. Finally, in 1928, the upper-class nonBrahman Legislative Council members found themselves supporting, somewhat against their own judgment, an agitation in the interests of poor peasants in the ryotwari areas against a Government Small Holdings Bill (see Chapter X ). Thus although its members identified with a rural elite that could be said to consist of both landlords and rich peasants, the fluid class structure of the period and their own social base made them open to influence from below, much more so than the Brahman-dominated Congress party. A similar situation existed with regard to social issues. Throughout the 1920s only three of the non-Brahman Council members had any previous history of identification with the Satyashodhak movement, though others were loosely asso­ ciated with Kolhapur influence.* Others were more or less traditional big land­ lords of their districts, such as Zunjarrao, a Maratha of Thana district, and D. R, Patil, from a wealthy group of ‘ Savada Patils ’ in East Khandesh who claimed Rajput status, or lawyers like N. E. Navle of Ahmednagar associated with the landlords. However, the party had taken much of its ideology and some of its organizational ties from the Satyashodhak movement, and as a result it pressed for issues of social reform in the Councils. The most controversial of its bills in the Council was in fact the ‘ Joshi Bill ’ sponsored by S. K. Bole in 1926, which sought to end any legal claims that hereditary priests had to the performance of religious ceremonies for non-Brahmans who wanted to dispense with priestly services. It was in fact a culmination of many Satyashodhak efforts, and ‘ the bitter and lengthy debate which took place on it bears testimony to the intensity of feeling between Brahmans and nonBrahmans in this Presidency.’*4 It ultimately passed, with the Government remain­ ing neutral and with supporting votes from Muslims and liberal Brahmans after an amendment was passed that enabled the priest to resign his rights. Much newspaper reaction was provoked. It would have been difficult for any *nationalists ’ to argue that traditional ascriptive privileges should be maintained, though some took their stand on opposition to *interference with religion. ’ On the Brahman side, Kesari and Mahratta thus argued that financial compensation should have been granted to the deposed priests, while Bhala (a militant Hindu paper) asserted that the bill was based on hatred of Brahmans and that with its religious character it had no place in the Council, and the Bombay Chronicle, a nationalist paper, argued that while the principle was fine, the priests should not be *thrown to the wolves.'** On the other hand, Vijayi Maratha welcomed it as a triumph :

* Jadhav ( elected from Satara in 1923, 1926, 1933), Ligade ( Sholapur, 1920. 1926 and 1930) and Vandekar ( Nasik 1926, 1930) had been involved with the Satyashodhak Samaj. Kalbhor of Poona (1920, 1926, 1930), Deshmukh of East Khandesh (1920) and Nirr.balkar of Nasik (1920) had Kolhapur connections.


The Joshi Bill has very well exposed the so-called nationalism of both the Extremists and the Moderates. Their Swaraj is the Swaraj of priesthood....The Joshi Bill marks the triumph of the non-Brahmaa movement.*® An interesting aspect was the Government’s neutrality on the bill: they had earlier been responsible for rejecting a similar bill proposed in the central Legislative Assemply by Latthe in 1923.®7 In Madras, similarly the Government was *remarkably timid ’ in being reluctant to support even a moderate nonBrahman bill to reform religious institutions or maths.** In fact, whatever favori­ tism towards non-Brahmans that the Government was accused of, their general policies of religious ' neutrality ’ and reluctance to interfere with customs worked in most cases against the interests of social reform. In the debate on the Joshi Bill, R. G. Soman, an influential Brahman leader of Satara, argued that non-Brahman support was hypocritical unless they wanted to abolish ‘ each and every watan of the village and...create a democracy which does not want a village community as a separate unit.’" To some extent his accusation was valid, since non-Brahmans did support the patil watan and other non-Brahman watans, arguing for upgrading in their status, pay and powers. But in many ways the crucial issue in this respect was that of the ‘ Mahar watan.' This referred to the position of village Untouchables as hereditary servants of the headman or patil, and represented an area of conflict between the richer cultivators and Mahars at the village level.'10 This issue put a severe strain on the alliance of non-Brahman caste Hindus and Untouchables. Nevertheless, it was Shahu Maharaj himself who first abolished the Mahar watan in his own state, at the time partly against the wishes of many Mahars who wanted to cling to the protection it offered them.71 In the 1920s Ambedkar took the lead in making abolition of the position a primary plank in Untouchable agitation. D. D. Gholap introduced a bill to this effect in 1923 which was withdrawn due to Government opposition, while Bhaskarrao Jadhav, the most promi­ nent non-Brahman, supported it. A later bill moved by Ambedkar was supported by most of the non-Brahmans, but a few such as Navle broke ranks to argue for the retention of the position from the point of view of the dominant Maratha landholders.7' The bill failed, partly due again to Government opposition. In general, however, non-Brahmans stood together with Untouchables on almost all issues regarding representation in legislative bodies and administrative seivices, in regard to education, and in regard to bills giving Untouchables the right to use water from public wells.7' An important aspect of the non-Brahman-Untouchable drive within the Legislative Council was to push for the opening up of administrative and educa­ tional positions for lower castes. It was this that led their opponents to describe the movement as a ‘jobocracy’, but Ambedkar, who was on occasion the most brilliant spokesman not simply for Untouchables but also for general non-Brahman interests, pointed out that the demand had the same character as elite demands for • Indianization ’ of the services: 196

Now what one would like to ask those who deny the justice of the case of the Backward Classes for entry into the Public Service is whether it is not open to the Backward Classes to allege against the Brahmans and allied castes all that was alleged by the late Mr. Gokhale on behalf of Indian people against the foreign agency ? Is it not open to the Depressed Classes, the non-Brahmans and the Mohamedans to say that by their exclusion from the Public Service a kind of dwarfing or stunting is going on ? Can they not complain that as a result of their exclusion tbey are obliged to live all the days of their lives in an atmosphere of inferiority? ...Can they not assert that the upward im­ pulses which every school boy of the Brahmanical community feels that he may one day be a Sinha, a Shastri, a Ranade or a Paranjpe, and which may draw forth from him the best efforts of which he is capable is denied to them? Can they not lament that the moral elevation which every self-governing- people feel cannot be felt by them, and that their administrative talents must gradually disappear owing to sheer disuse till at last their lot as hewers of wood and drawers of water in their own country is stereotyped ? M On the one hand it was true that the demand to open up the services spoke most directly to the interests of the non-Brahman elites which could benefit first; on the other hand there was the undeniable fact that under the British Raj the importance of having some kind of ties or communication with the bureaucracy was felt at all levels. At this point elite non-Brahman interests were linked with lower class interests, and the demands represented a general ‘ democratizing’ trend. The result of non-Brahman pressure was a resolution passed finally in 1927 which prescribed a minimum percentage of SO% recruitment from ‘ backward classes' (non-Brahmans and Untouchables) to clerical staffs in all Government departments.1" But in spite of ‘ official ’ policy such recruitment proved to be an exceedingly slow process which in the end could not be said to oust Brahmans from their administrative dominance, This was illustrated in a 1924 process of filling posts of ‘ subordinate judgeships ’ after a good deal of pressure from nonBrahmans that included newspaper protests and individual and group petitions. The three *non-Brahmans’ finally selected out of six new sub-judges included one Muslim, a Lingayat, and a Maratha. On the other hand, the service they were joining comprised 77 Brahmans, 3 Marathas and Lingayats, 1 Muslim and SO * other ’ (presumably other advanced castes, Christians, Parsis, etc.). At this rate of non-Brahman 4advance ’ it would take at least twenty years to bring the service up to S0% representation, and by that time a Brahman Congress govern­ ment in power had abolished-the provision for ‘ communal ’ recruitment. Further, Government statements about the selection process were designed to produce the impression that they were doing something in the interest of 1 backward classes ’ they would not otherwise have done. The British asserted that of the six candidates selected, ‘three were Brahmans who were chosen on their merit V and the remaining non-Brahmans who were selected for communal considerations.* This overlooked the fact that tbe selected Brahmans had stood 9th, and 11th on 197

the ' merit ’ list—and that the selection procedure itself included a good deal of attention to such dubiously meritorious grounds as family background, loyalty and sportsmanship.1' In sum, non-Brahman pressure within the Legislative Council was hardly a pressure in favor of any kind of ‘ social revolution but in spite of the general factional and patron-based elite politics that went on in the party it was neverthe­ less a pressure toward a democratization of Indian society. Support of the interests of the tenants of khot and inamdar landlords represented a movement against a class of superior landlords whose power derived from feudal traditions; this was con­ sistent with the interets of non-Brahman members as representatives of a rural rich peasant electorate whose ties were with the peasantry as a whole more than with aristocratic landlords. Opposition to the Small Holdings Bill, to be discussed in Chapter X, represented something more, the pressure of poor peasants resisting the kind of consolidation of a rich peasant and landlord class which the Council members themselves might have desired. Support of bills to end the hereditary rights of village priests and the hereditary duties of village Untouchables also aimed to legitimize the breakup of the traditional village community, although non-Brahman support of village headmen tended to counteract this. Pressure for reservation of positions in public services for non-Brahmans and Untouchables were also intended, however much Brahmans might object and the British might resist on grounds of ‘ merit ’ and ‘ efficiency,’ to open up the closed caste society and shake the institutional basis for Brahman claims to leadership on the grounds of intellect and ability. It aimed at a more equable distribution of castes along the class ladder. These aspects of non-Brahman Council behavior were derived not so much from the backgrounds of its members and the style of politics they repre­ sented but from the fact that the non-Brahman Party had arisen as an elite reflec­ tion of an already active movement and reflected the pressures of its base. These ‘ democratizing ’ and ’ anti-feudal' aspects of the Party, however, were able to do little in the end other than aid the consolidation of a rural-based non-Brahman elite itself, but this result was not due simply to the existence of upper class leaders more interested in entering the institutions of colonial Indian society than in destroying them, but more to the failure of a radical mass-based politics. The non-Brahman Party itself, and the existence of such institutions as the Legisla­ tive Councils which allowed a limited expression for non-Brahman interests, was an aspect, but only a partial one, of this general failure.

Local Boards In many ways it was at the local level, in Taluka and District Local Boards, District School Boards and to some extent municipalities, that the most crucial Brahman-non-Brahman clashes came in the 1920s. Here there were more solid chances of non-Brahman majorities, not because the electorates were any larger (see Table 2) but because there were no counterbalancing areas of Brahman urban strength to counteract the rural basis of *Maratha and allied ’ power. The 1920s increased the power of these local bodies with direct elections for at least three* fourths the members of the District Local Boards in 1923, and by giving them power over primary education through School Boards under their administrative 198

control.M At this local level non-Brahman Party organization appeared irrelevant, b u t *a struggle for supremacy between Brahmans and non-Brahmans ’ and ' a

Table 2 : Electorate and number voting In 1926 District Local Board Elections.1* District


Number o f voters

Number voting

East Khandesh




West Khandesh





























Sholapur Satara Ahmednagar

steadily growing interest’ in local self-government was reported by the Government for the decade.7* In fact, there ensued what one politician later described as a *knock-down drag-out fight ’ for control.*0 By the end of the decade, non-Brahmans had gained control of most of the local boards in the Deccan. Poona, where Brahman orthodoxy had its stronghold, and Ratnagiri, where Brahmans were strongly based among the khot landlords, remained Brahman majorities. In Ahmednagar and West Khandesh the proportion remained about fifty-fifty. However, in Satara, Sholapur and Nasik non-Brahmans attained a significant majority.*1* From the point of view of British concerns with efficiency and good govern­ ment the result was initially a little disastrous. There was a general reluctance on the part of all local bodies to raise taxes; here the class interests of rural and urban elites held sway regardless of caste. The exception to this came in an important area of non-Brahman concern: education. Most of the non-Brahman District Local Boards increased the Local Fund cess which provided funds for education, and willingness to increase the fund contrasted with the reluctance of

* In the Central Provinces local boards had different powers and constitutions and non-Brahmans were not nearly so successful; the greatest triumph was the capture of the Buldhana District Board in 1928 by the Satyashodhak leaders, P. S. Patil and Anandaswami.


Brahman-controlled boards in Maharashtra or any of the Gujarat local boards, f What concerned the British most, however, was the increase in factionalism, in­ efficiency and corruption on the local boards. In Sholapur, deterioration of administration and misappropriation of funds resulted in Government suspension of the board for three years. In Nasik, matters were said to be even worse, the collector reporting in 1927 that the board ‘ is an utterly hopeless body. The President does not know English, was electcd solely for party reasons and is quite incapable. Nothing is ever done...’** Thorat, president, was said to be under the influence of a local merchant, Shindore, described by one non-Brahman as a * thorough rascal ’;** fundr were said to be frittered away and used for illegal purposes. Brahman journalists referred to such local board scandals as a *deathblow to the national aspirations of Swarajya.’** However, the problem was more com­ plex. Aside from general issues of maintaining their group interests, non-Brahmans had special problems. The first was the general one of inexperience. The boards had just recently come under real popular control after a period in which the British District Collector had been the official chairman and general prime mover; this ‘ Guardian' tradition had given Indians little previous opportunity to take initiative; as one administrator admitted: As a rule I was practically dictator...Such tasks as seeing that the roads of my district were maintained and improved and flanked with aveunes of shade, as getting a draining scheme for a city financed, designed and executed or building it a market place, gave me...the very keenest enjoyment. It certainly never occurred to me that it would perhaps have been wiser to stand aside and insist on a sub­ committee of the board making what it could of these undertaking.** Non-Brahmans were coming into control with little group background in educa­ tion and no administrative experience. And they were not inclined to wait and learn these slowly before acquiring as much power as possible. Much of the dete­ rioration in efficiency resulted from what seems to have been a pervading fight of the boards with their administrative subordinates, who were generally Brahmans. *The tendency to make appointments on communal grounds only irrespective of the merits of the candidates,,*1 cited as a major cause of loss of efficiency, was an obvious result of attempts to gain control over the bureaucracy itself. The fight was particularly pronounced in the case of the school boards. Non-Brahmans had always sought the creation of more non-Brahman teachers on grounds of discrimination, and for their protection in a service in which head­ masters and higher officials were primarily Brahmans. School-teachers themselves were a well-organized group with significant influence in the villages and fre-

| Ahmednagar, Thana, East Khandesh, Sholapur, Satara and West Khandesh, all area* of non­ Brahman strength, increased the cess. The only non-Brahman board which did not was Nasik whose affairs were in complete disruption most of the time. Brahman-controlled boards in Poona and the Konkan did not Increase the cess; Karnatak local boards did, while none of those in Gujarat increased it.**


quently exerted this in terms of politics;1' in fact by 1930 there were atleast three teachers' associations, a mainly Brahman one; a non-Brahman ‘ Backward Classes Teachers Association,' and a mixed nationalist one.'* Non-Brahmans had frequently charged that they were discriminated against by Brahman superiors, a charge later matched by discontent Brahman school-teachers showed over local board favoritism to non-Brahmans.90 In one such case, a leader of the Backward Classes Teachers Association, Ktishnarao Babar, came into conflict with the Brahman administrative officer in Satara district, who issued a circular in 1921 forbidding teachers to participate in either the Satyashodhak or non-cooperation movement. Babar appealed to Bhaskarrao Jadhav, and through non-Brahman influence in the Legislative Council the circular was withdrawn. Later when non* Brahmans won control of the District Local Board, the Brahman administrative officer was transferred and a non-Brahman educationist brought in his place; with this exchange, according to one account, *Babar’s real qualities had a chance to show themselves ’ and he later became a Deputy Educational Inspector.** Given the narrow electorate and the continuing influence-of big men—rich peasants, landlords, merchants, industrialists like D. B. Cooper in Satara— the struggle for control of local institutions might be described as a conflict between two sets of elites, the largely rural Maratha elite and the more urbanized Brahman. The boards were controlled by the non-Brahman upper classes, just as today’s Zilha Parishads are controlled by a predominantly Maratha ‘ rich peasant ’ class.*' However, an *elite conflict ’ model misses much of the story just as it does for the non-Brahman Legislative Council behavior; in both cases the element of interac­ tion between the non-Brahman elite and the lower classes they claimed to represent —and which did represent an important element of pressure—was crucial. There is evidence to indicate that non-Brahman ability to gain control of local boards was correlated with their ability to consolidate and represent a wide range of interest groups. It was clear, for example, that the Maratha elite was doing this to a large degree in the field of education. While hostels were primarily occupied by sons of well-to-do peasants, they were nevertheless open and a channel of mobility for aspiring poorer families. All Maratha hostels were open to nonMaratha *allied caste ’ students and many to Untouchables as well in the 1920s.* A comparison between Ahmednagar and Satara districts provides some evi­ dence here, for in Satara non-Brahman control was clearly decisive by the middle of the 1920s, while in Ahmednagar non-Brahman control, though emerging, was very uncertain. Yet both were primarily agricultural districts, with a large proportion of Marathas (42% in Ahmednagar, 56% in Satara) and with a singificant Satyashodhak movement.

• The Maratha hostel at Nasik, the Dhangar hostel in Baramati, the Maratha Free Boarding in Poona and the Rayat Shikshan Sanstha organizations in Satara all had Untouchable students; I have insufficient information about the others. This contrasted with the Patidar-controlled institution in Surat district in Gujantt, which admitted its first Untouchable student only in 1942.**


Table 3: Elections to Local Boards and Municipalities DistrictAdvanced Castes

Municipalities Backward Castes


District Boards < Backward

TaluJca Boards Advanced Backward

Ratnagiri 1908-09 1919-20 1925-27

14 22 28

— 1 20

7 16

4 5

50 70

12 38

West Khandesh 1908-09 1919-20 1925-27

41 48 77

1 8 23

5 9

5 7

28 42

33 35

Ahmednagar 1908-09 1919-20 1925-2 7

19 20 28

5 7 16

9 11

2 12

39 39

28 74

Satara 1908-09 1919-20 1925-27

32 35 16

28 53 98

11 4

2 21

42 21

41 108


However, there were important differences. Though both were agricultural Satara was of moderate prosperity, while Ahmednagar was a continuing famine zone except for its irrigated northern talukas centering around Kopargaon. And while the Saswad Malis who settled there had an early background of Satyashodhak involvement, they seem to have been a socially conservative group at the time of their advancement in Ahmednagar, with no connections with the Satyashodhak Samaj or the non-Brahman party. In Satara, on the other hand, the non­ Brahman Party had important contacts with businessmen like D. B. Cooper (who specialized in selling iron ploughs to peasants) and, at the other end of the class structure, had been involved with a tenants’ rebellion in 1919-21 (see next cha­ pter ). The latter had resulted in a number of lawsuits levied against cultivators and tenants and non-Brahman lawyers who moved in to defend these were able to establish a wide range of relationships with the peasantry. Similarly, Satara pioneered in educational institutions with the establishment of the Rayat Shikshan Sanstha in 1924. As a result, Satara was becoming not only a highly politicized district (note its higher voting percentage in local board elections in Table 2 above), but a fairly consolidated one in which non-Brahman elites could make believable claims to representing 'mass ’ interests. In contrast, while Mukundrao Patil had led a good village basis of Satyashodhak strength in Ahmednagar, its early non­ Brahman political leaders did not have the same organic relationships with the peasanty. They were lawyers like N. E. Navle, who concerned himself primarily with Council and higher level politics, and a rather significant set of jagirdars such as Sardar Shivram Thorat, a longtime Distict Board president, a ‘ feudal type’ who was interested in parties with the Governor, in claiming descent from Shivaji, and supported social reform only because the Satyashodhak Samaj was so strong in the villages that he ‘ would have been thrown out, washing away if he opposed it.'*' This was in contrast to Satara where the higher Maratha deshmukhs did not take significant part in non-Brahman politics. In fact, not until the young lawyer P. K. Bhapkar, a relative of Bhaskarrao Jadhav, arrived in Ahmednagar in 1928 did something like the Satara develop­ ments take place. Around 1930 Bhapkar became involved in defense of tenants after a rent strike, toured the rural areas of the district on bicycle, and worked on Maratha educational institutions in association with leaders like Bhaurrao Patil. It was only after this that the really decisive Brahman-non-Brahman con­ flicts broke out in the district, as Bhapkar and his colleagues fought the Patwardhans, a wealthy and some what socialist leaning Brahman family both in the District Board and the Congress committee and finally more or less drove them out of the district." It may be noted, finally, that non-Brahman radicalism in Satara in the 1920s was correlated with its strong 1942 ‘ parallel government’ movement of radical nationalism, while the radicalism that Ahmednagar district developed in the 1930s led to its becoming by the 1950s a center of rural commu­ nism in Maharashtra. In both cases leadership of the later radicalism emerged out of earlier non-Brahman radicalism. The consolidation of non-Brahman power was thus related to a responsive­ ness to poor peasant and tenant pressure, and it is interesting to note that this 203

happened apparently in spite of the narrowness of the electorate—just as, con­ versely, the existence of universal suffrage since independence has not led to any widening of the circle of political control.'1 This provides further confirmation of the argument that the well-to-do cultivators who possessed the vote in the 1920s were in fact exposed to important social pressures from the less well-off villagers and had at the time important interests in common with poorer peasants in opposition to higher level landloards, merchants and Brahman governmental officials. With regard to the existence and strength of poor peasant radicalism, more important than the size of the electorate were factors such as this parti­ cular confluence of class relations at the time, the degree of organization of poorer cultivators, and the facilitation given to it by at least a degree of sym­ pathy among higher bureaucrats.* In spite of this element of influence of the poorer cultivators, however, the general economic and political structures of Indian colonial society made it impossible for these developments to have any effect other than consolidating, in the end, non-Brahman elite power. Economic stratification, as such, was not undermined, and it was impossible to really increase mass welfare with the limited political powers and financial resources available. Education was an important example; while non-Brahmans continually spoke up for mass education, demanded free and compulsory primary education, and attempted to establish broad-based rural educational institutions, the very limitation of finances simply made any kind of mass education impossible. The Bombay Government itself argued this fact vigorously when protesting against the Meston Settlement which had dis­ tributed revenues between the various Indian provinces and which they felt discriminated against Bombay; because of this, they asserted, *the nation-build­ ing departments [ primarily education ] are being starved.’** The Government itself was unable to meet claims it had committed itself to in terms of education grants under the Primary Education Act.100 Only a very slight educational expansion occurred in the 1920s: expenditures on primary education went up from Rs. 14,950,000 in 1921 - 22 to Rs. 19,860,000 in 1926 - 27, while the total number of primary pupils expanded from 798,508 to 984,726 in the same period.101 This ensured that education would remain what it was, a channel to elite position rather than a true transforming process for rural society; nonBrahmans had simply attained a slightly improved share in this channeling.

Conclusions: Non-Brahman politics of the 1920s thus involved a kind of dialectical interaction between a very clearly elitist leadership of rural notables and urban professionals and merchants, and the more mass-based Satyashodhak forces which gave the party its ideological definition and which provided channels • Another indication was that the 1934 tenants rebellion in Buldhana ( organized by Anandaswami and with at least some sympathy from the British collector) succeeded in driving Marwari and Brahman landlords from the villages, according to one non-Brahman, but after independence with universal suffrage but a Congress government in power the landlords were able to regain control of their property.**


. through which lower-class pressure was felt. However, British institutions and general economic pressures aided only in the consolidation of elite power. In this context, non-Brahman success at the district level was probably the most impor­ tant factor. Power over local boards and increasing success in educational institutions helped to lay the institutional basis for this power ( later to be complemented by the growth of co-operatives ). By the end of the decade this appears to have provided a basis for elite self-confidence that would contrast with their earlier dependence on the British and make it possible for their leaders to enter the National Congress with the awareness that they could compete with Brahmans at least on the local level. By the end of the decade the non-Brahman Party as such had lost its usefulness either as an organization for bringing together elites or for focusing mass interests. The dissolution of this always rather loose organization occurred around 1930 in Bombay, though the party hung on until 1938 in the Central Provinces. Several factors were involved in this. One that is often cited, caste factionalism or the ‘ Maratha-nonMaratha ’ feud, was probably not so relevant. Factional quarrels had appeared at the time of the emergence of the parties and were constant throughout the decade, and there were tentative movements on the part of some non-Marathas, such as Jains to break away for a new non-Brahman p a r t y . B u t the only non-Brahman leader who left the party in the 1920 on accusations of Maratha dominance was Walchand Kothari, who had been in a unique position from the beginning as a Marwari Jain with most of his social ties with Brahman liberals.101 Other non-Marathas stayed in the party in spite of tensions. While Marathas undeniably dominated in Legislative representation, this was not so much due to party support as to the simple numerical dominance of Marathas in the districts; the party as such was careful to include non-Marathas in large numbers on its official bodies and to endorse non-Maratha as well as Maratha candidates for elections 104—but its organization was simply not strong enough to insure support for the candidates it backed. Again, while non-Marathas or *allied castes *organized in 1932 to seek separate reserved seats,10* this itself really follow­ ed the dissolution of the party rather than caused it. At the time of the party breakup around 1930, Bhaskarrao Jadhav charged a 4non-Maratha conspiracy ’ as responsible,106 but this was clearly false: both Marathas like Keshavrao Jedhe and Dinkarrao Javalkar and anti-Marathas like the Shimpi leader Keshavrao Bagade were leaving the party for the nationalist movement. Similarly, while tensions existed between caste Hindu non-Brahmans and the Untouchables, the alliance more or less held throughout the decade. Caste factionalism represented a continuing weakness in the party, but was never at crucial moments the cause of breakdown. The real cause of the party’s dissolution was the growing strength of nationalist sentiment among young non-Brahmans from about 1925 onwards, and the fact that alliance with Gandhians and socialists within Congress offered an opportunity to offset Maharashtrian Brahman strength. The non-Brahman Party, with its lack of political organization, failed to offer any effective alternative. In both Bengal and Madras a type of ‘ nationalist ’ alternative to the Congress was eventually created: in Bengal by the formation of a religious-based *nationalism ’ 20*

ftmong Muslims (though it must be noted that the alliance with lowcaste Hindus continued until the breakup of Bengal), and in Madras by the later creation of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in support of *Dravidian nationalism'. In Maharashtra, while linguistic-national tendencies were strong and while Bombay non-Brahman leaders exchanged continual visits and activity with the C. P.-Berar non-Brahman Party, there was no articulation of demands for a united Mahara­ shtra. Where the non-Brahman Party might have developed into an alternative was on socially radical lines : the movement in Maharashtra had always expressed itself, much more than in Madras, in terms of ' mass * interests versus the elite, and early non-Brahman manifestos themselves had reflected mild anti-capitalist themes. It would have been open to the party by 1930 to maintain an identity in opposition to Congress only by adopting socialist themes, and as we shall see there were tentative movements in this direction. Clearly its inability or unwill­ ingness to do so was related to the strength of rural elite and urban merchant interests that were crucial to its earlier organization. Unable to offer an effective alternative and with its original leaders increasingly attacked by younger non-Brahmans for their loyalism to the British and their elite orientation, the party simply disappeared from the scene. The successes of the older elite had helped to facilitate the growth of educational institutions and local power within which non-Brahman political activists operated, but the new leaders who emerged with some mass popularity, the leaders who were to define the direction which the rural non-Brahman masses would take in the 1930s were young men who were much more militant both in terms of Satyashodhak activity and nationalist sentiments than the party elite. Their background was more clearly connected with the lower-class forces which had put pressure on this elite, and the following three chapters will focus on these forces in dealing with peasant movements, mass urban politics, and work­ ing class politics in Bombay.

Chapter XI The Satyashodhak Samaj and Peasant agitation We have argued that the non-Brahman movement in Maharashtra repre­ sented a peasant-based *mass ' movement of the bahujan samaj against an Indian elite of intelligentsia and moneylender-landlords, the shetji-bhatji class. This hypothesis, however, is contrary to the prevailing view of the development of Indian social-political systems, which sees the process as one of the transfer of power from an urban-based upper caste elite to an only slightly lower, ruralbased landholding *dominant caste.’ Instead of class conflict, the model most generally in use has been that of conflict between opposing elites. Thus, for example, it has been argued that the non-Brahman movement of Madras was ‘ no other than the movement of the later educated class who happened to be non-Brahmans against the earlier educated middle classes who happened to be Brahmans,’1 and scholars have stressed that the Justice Party was simply an elite organization of landlords, merchant-industrialists and professionals.* Similarly, Ravinder Kumar’s thesis of the ‘ rise of the rich peas­ ants ’ holds that the non-Brahman movement in Maharashtra represented the interests of this particular stratum of the pasantry.* Other scholars have tended to concur. Eleanor Zelliott, the historian of the Mahar movement, has argued that Untouchables and non-Brahmans drew ap art: The caste differences between the two groups and their social situa­ tions—the Marathas were a landowning dominant caste, the Mahars a nearly landless minority—worked against any real co-operative effort between them...Just as the Justice Party in Madras failed to include significant numbers of untouchables, the non-Brahman movement in Maharashtra could not make common cause with the Untouchables.4 There is no denying that, given the substantial amounts of inequality in landholding throughout the colonial period, a stratum of ‘ rich peasants ’ among non-Brahman did exist. It is also true that this stratum along with the educated class of non-Brahmans and some merchants, provided the basis of support for the non-Brahman political party (which must be distinguished from the move­ ment as a whole), something that was inevitable given the narrow electorate and conditions of parliamentary democracy. It is similarly true that important tensions existed between caste Hindu non-Brahmans and Untouchables, particularly in the villages; although for a time the non-Brahman movement did ‘ make common cause with Untouchables.' (The truth was not so much that the move­ ments drew apart as that the non-Brahman movement per se, particularly the Satyashodhak Samaj, died away after 1930 when its leaders joined Congress, while SOT

the Untouchable drive gathered momentum and retained its radical, separatist impulse; part of the reason this occurred was that the wealthier strata among non-Brahmans lost their need to retain significant social radicalism as they mana­ ged to consolidate their power within the framework of the Congress party.) Finally, the Maharashtrian class structure today appears to present a clear case of dominance of a consolidated rich peasant class in fairly comfortable co­ existence with the intelligentsia and urban capitalists. But it would be a mistake to analyze this historical process in oversimplified terms. It is erroneous to read back the present structures of class dominance into the early twentieth century. It was argued in Chapter V that in the ninteenth and early twentieth centuries the ‘ rich peasant’ stratum did not represent a con­ solidated class with interests in conflict with those of agricultural tenants and poor peasants. Similarly, while rural co-operatives are an important basis of power of the rural elite today, Ian Catanach has contradicted Kumar’s argument that they had a similar basis in their early years : before 1930, according to Catanach co-operatives primarily served the *middle * peasantry.* Again, while the nonBrahman Party did represent rural elite interests in the Legislative Council and the Local Boards, they also provided a basically democratic thrust that was in the interest of all non-Brahmans and maintained a fair degree of alliance with Untouhables in the 1920s, (see last chapter). To assert that present class-elite structures were the determinining features of the earlier movement is to take a teleological view of history. The position taken here is to the contrary : that the non-Brahman movement as a whole was a mass movement, that it failed in term of its full goals, and that the consolidation of a rural elite which tended to monpolize the gains of the movement occurred primarily after its failure and as a result of the inability of the movement to overcome the basic structures of the colonial situation itself. To gain insight into the connection of Satyashodhak activities and nonBrahman leaders with general peasant interests, this chapter will examine (1) the writings of Mukundrao Patil as a leading Satyashodhak ideologist and a peasant spokesman; (2) the ideology and activities of Satyashodhak tamashas; (3) the involvement of Satyashodhak activists in a tenants’ rebellion in Satara district in 1919 - 21, and (4) the leadership role of non-Brahmans in an agitation of primarily poor peasants against the government’s Small Holdings Bill in 1927.

Mukundrao Patil: Peasant spokesman A major intellectual and the leading peasant spokesman of the non-Brahman movement from 1910 to 1930 was Mukundrao Patil, editor of the village news­ paper Din Mitra* and author of many books and articles. He himself was a rich peasant, holding about 70 acres of dry land, and an inheritor of patil rights; * Later non-Brahman newspapers such as Vfjayl Maratha, Rashtravir, and Kaivarl, were in contrast city organs. Rashtravir (o f Belgaum) seems to have represented a more conservative. Hindu-oriented Maratha focus. Vijayi M aratha, published in PooDa, was to a large degree a Maratha-oriented paper also; however, it gave support to such Untouchable efforts as the Parvati temple satyagraha, and its editor, Shripatrao Shinde, played a role in aiding Untou­ chable Interdining and other efforts.*


though he was the actual son of Phule's famous colleague Krishnarao Bhalekar, he had been adopted at an early age by a relative, had grown up in the village and though he had some education, he had not completed his matriculation. Though he developed connections with other educated and aristocratic non­ Brahman leaders, he remained a villager in life style, uncomfortable to the end of his life with either courtly routine or westernized dress and habits.7 While his relations with the Mali Education Conference and the rich Saswad Malis in particular were not comfortable, he nevertheless had formed a marriage alliance for one of his sons with a Saswad family. Many of his writings have a symbolic focus on the village patil (head man), the dominant symbol of the rich peasantdominant caste interest group. Thus for example, it is the patil who is the oppressed hero of Kulkarni LUamrut, and other articles stress the decline of the patil from his former powerful status and his oppression by the demands of visiting government bureaucrats.8 With this, plus his continual expression of the need for scientific, progressive agriculture, he might be described as a ‘ rich p easant' spokesman. Yet it is clear that Mukundrao PatH's work as a whole repiesents the more progressive strand in the thinking of the period. He poured forth in his writings continuous arguments against religious superstitions, attacking not only the representatives of upper-caste revivalism ( from the Hindu Mahasabha to Annie Besant) but also urging the abolition of old, harmful peasant customs : child marriage, giving alms to beggars, holding pujas relating to agriculture, the custom of shraddh or dinners for deceased fathers, the caste idea that people should stick to their traditional professions.9 While at times he appears to have come forth as a 4 dominant caste 1 spokesman in replying to criticisms of exploita­ tion by artisan castes, he did so by arguing that the traditional baluta system should be abolished.10 Such writings as Kulkarni LUamrut and Shetji Pratap in­ spired Untouchables as well as caste Hindus, although Mukundrao’s reluctance to support similar critiques of the patil did not always meet with Untouchable expectations.11 He was, however, a radical defender of Untouchable militancy, publishing many articles describing their ‘ slavery’ as worse than that of American Negroes, and arguing against the position that Untouchables should first 1 uplift' their social standards before they could have rights to admission and social relationships with other castes.11 Finally it should be noted that the general Satyashodhak ideology of oppo­ sition to Sanskritization and the assertion of the ‘ non-Aryan 1 unity of Maha­ rashtrian natives, for which Mukundrao Patil was a leading spokesman, was a positive factor in relation to Muslims as well as to the problems of Untouchables.15 Muslims were not really a part of the Satyashodhak movement and the whole anti-caste thrust was basically irrelevant to their particular needs.14 However, the fact that the movement generally took a strong stand against the religious-based integral nationalism of the Hindu Mahasabha which expressly turned Muslims into an enemy was crucial. Mukundrao opposed the depiction of Shivaji as a leader of Hindu revolt against Muslim emperors and argued forcefully against the notion of go-brahman pratipalak, * protector of cows and Brahmans ' as an expression of religious conservatism. Why cows and Brahmens, he inquired, ..14


why not goats and other men ? " Muslims appear in Mukundrao’s writings as characters in such dialogue books as Hindu ani Brahman, and as such they repre­ sent one more component of the complex Hindu society, not a feared enemy; the role of Muslims and Christians in such dialogues is in fact to assert the equa­ lity of their own religious cultures as opposed to the inequality of the Hindu tradition. Thus, in regard to such issues as opposition to caste inequality and cultural traditionalism, support of Untouchable demands and relationships with Muslims, if Mukundrao Patil is taken as a spokesman of a rich peasant stratum, it can be argued that in this period at least it appears as a class whose interests were aligned with general mass interests and to a large degree as well with the needs of particular minorities such as Untouchables and Muslims. Further, as will be seen, he did not hesitate to defend specific tenant interests.

Satyashodhak Tamashas With the penetration of Satyashodhak thinking into the solidly peasant areas of Satara district came an innovation in the form of communications that was to have great impact throughout Maharashtra. Samajists had already used poetry, religious style kirtans, and singing performances to spread their message and over­ come the communications barrier felt by upper-class non-Brahmans. But even this was felt to be insufficent. ‘ Our ignorant community inclines towards tamashas—they do not understand kirtans, they do not like lectures.1* Tamashas were the popular, bawdy folk drama of Maharashtra, whose traditional form contained an opening invocation to the god Ganpati, a great deal of byplay in dialogue centering around a Krishna theme, clowning with a man dressed as a woman and a final main play or vag. Traditionally they were primarily peasant-based with troupes wandering on tours throughout the villages; occasionally, however, more aristocratic sponsorship was given. Under colonial rule they began to take on a ‘ modern ’ commercialized form. Theaters were built and tamasha *contractors *appeared, small entrepreneurs who, sometimes became big entrepreneurs, paying a daily wage to the artists who appeared in their productions.1,1 Among the heroes of this professional tamasha stage was Patthe Bapurao, a Brahman artist and actor who in the period between 1910 and 1935 brought women into the troupes and helped to bring the troupes into theatres. Though drawing on village tradition and troupes from rural areas, this was an urban, commercialized form, with the favorite theme of the play often, being that of a naive villager visiting the big city. But at a level completely removed from this commercialized tamasha theatre, there was a development in the same period of the village folk drama tradition for the purposes of radical social propaganda. This occurred twice, with the Satyashodhak tamashas of the 1920s and later with Communist tamashas in the 1940s. Nor is it surprising that this would happen, for the tamashas were not only capable of reaching a wide rural audience, but with their openness to popular participation and their uninhibited language they have been said to be a far more ‘ modern ’ artistic form than the upper-class, western-oriented 210

Marthi stage theatre.18 They were, in fact, ideally suited for a guerrilla theatre movement. The Satyashodhak tamashas seem to have originated spontaneously, although they eventually got the sponsorship of rich non-Brahman families such as the Jedhes and Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur. While Bhimrao Mahamuni's jaisa played an important inspirational role, the pioneer of the first real Satyashodhak tamashas was a Maratha peasant, Ramchandra Ghadge of Kale, a large agri­ cultural village in Satara. Ghadge was described as a very poor man with some education up to the fourth standard.19 This description, of men with minimal or moderate amounts of land and the beginnings of education, seems to fit most of the tamasha organizers. Ghadge began his troupe around 1915; by 1925 there were twenty-nine identifiable tamashas in western Maharashtra, twelve from Satara district, five from Ahmednagar, six from Nasik, two from Sholapur, and one each from Poona, Belgaum, and East and West Khandesh. Most of their organizers seem to have been Marathas, though a Nhavi, a Sonar, and a Brahman are also identified.*0 However, the troupe members often included men of lower castes, including many Untouchables; among the wellknown Buddhist leaders of today who took part in a Satyashodhak tamasha as a child is Dr. P. T. Borale, now Principal of Siddhartha Law College in Bombay.11 Satyashodhak tamashas followed the traditional form but with a new content.** Thus, the traditional tamasha opened with an invocation to Ganpati, with an implication of support for this traditional Brahman deity; however Satyashodhak leaders, according to one, counteracted this by explaining that the actual meaning was from gan or ‘ people ’ and pati or *leader' and that it thus represented an invo­ cation of the people as the source of rule.** The second part, a dialogue involving Krishna’s encounter with milkmaids, was transformed into an encounter of the hero ' Satyaji9 with village Brahman women, with traditional dalliance being replaced by insulting and challenging language often leading to a dialogue on Brahman tyranny.*4 The traditional drama section seems most often to have featured a play concerning the efforts of Brahmans and sometimes moneylenders to cheat innocent but generous peasants, while songs invoking opposition to caste and religious superstition and the oppression of the peasants were added. It is often said that peasants have no history, at least in the written form, but two surviving publications of tamasha verses and plays give an important insight into the ideas spreading among the Maharashtrian peasantry at this time. These indicate the degree to which the tamashas, largely a spontaneous outgrowth, could vary in their emphasis; but they also show important common themes. Thus, for example, the tamasha of Jotirao Phalke of Satara Road (Padli village), whose songs were written by the poet Tukaram Bhosle and inspired by Keshavrao Vichare (see below), seems to have represented a particularly pure form of Satyashodhak ideology. They mocked almost all the sacred religious books and traditional stories of the origins of gods and castes, and attacked vigorously popular religious tradition such as the Pandharpur cult and the fastgrowing Satyanarayan puja. Thus, poems claimed that the peasant pilgrim to Pandharpur lost his health in the diseases of the rainy season and his money to 211

the cunning Brahman priests of the cult, whose ancestors had been responsible for the murder of Pandharpur's favorite saint, Tukaram.** This represented a general Satyashodhak reaction to the Varkari cult: there was no question about the popularity of Tukaram and other saints, but they emphasized the oppression that the saints had faced from the Brahmans of their day, compared it to that the Satyashodhaks faced, and argued that the Brahman priests of Pandharpur had no right to represent the cult. One of the major vags or plays of the Phalke-Bhosle tamasha, said to represent a real story of a Vidarbha village, illustrates the degree to which the Satyashodhak message represented not simply the claims of the wealthy peasant or village headman, but a genuine threat to social revolution in the villages. It tells the story of a heroic Koshti or weaver whose generosity and social service won him such popularity in the village that the jealous Kulkami (village Brahman accountant) began to plot against him. Winning over the village Patil to his side, the Kulkami brought a court suit against the Koshti for building a section of his house on government land. The humiliated Koshti then looked for allies—and found one in a Christian lower government official who had been converted from the Mahar caste of the village. With the aid of his former caste mates ( whose traditional knowledge of village boundaries gave them authority in such matters ) the Christian, Yashwant, helped the Koshti to have the court decision reversed. At this point the Kulkami appealed to the Patil on a class basis: ‘ If you let this happen the Mahars will outweigh us. Let your patilship burn to ashes! it is no use—the respect to us has gone down. Everything is topsy-turvey in our village! *And so when Yashwant rode into the village on a horse to investigate the situation, the Patil refused to let this usurpation of status to stand, and threw him off the horse. The result was only disaster for the gullible Patil, who took all the blame for the action while the Kulkami forsook his ally and escaped scot-free.*8 The story illustrates several features of Indian colonial society : on the one hand, the tradi­ tional position and authority of village Mahars, on the other the degree to which some lowcaste penetration into government service gave them a new weight within village society itself. Most interesting, however, is that while the story is titled ‘ Kulkarnilila’ in reminiscence of Mukundrao Patil’s book, it does not portray a Patil in opposition to a Brahman priest-moneylender, but an alliance of artisan castes and village Untouchables against the Brahman, with the Patil standing in the middle and suffering from his allegiance to the status quo. And in fact, such themes prefigured the popular, lowercaste village forms that the Satyashodhak movement often took. Other tamashas, however, could represent a more compromising approach. Thus, while Phalke's attacked ihe Pandharpur cult, another tamasha leader urged that Satyashodhakas should go to Pandharpur to show that they were not in opposition to the cult and to counteract Brahman efforts to create dissension between them and followers of the sect.*1 Similarly, tamashas could be used by the non-Brahman elite for many purposes, including election propaganda. Thus another Satara tamasha included a ‘ Council-Local Board Powada 9 which urged that peasants vote for men of their own caste as opposed to sweet-talking Brahman candidates : 212

When you want your son married you see that the girl is of your caste, and you examine her behavior so minutely; then why don’t you think in the same way regarding lawyers and elections.18 The latter tamasha, that of Tatoba Yadav of Kasegaon, another sourthern Satara village, represented a more conservative approach in that it praised the Hindu religion while trying to separate it from ‘ Brahmanism ' and included ( perhaps from a later date ) a long history of Marathas who as Kshatriyas were said to have played the role of protectors of religion.19 At the same time, however, it included poems asserting basic human equality and attacking the varna system as a latter-day creation, arguing that Brahmans were hypocritical in talking about the maintenance of caste since even their own caste-mates in the cities were practising inter-caste marriage.10 Similarly, many songs emphasized the value of education and expressed in unique form the fascination that modern technology had for these peasant villagers : Let us go to school, young and old, and get acquainted with education. It is the experience of so many people that education brings happiness in the world and removes calamities. Railroads, bicycles, cars, airplanes like birds, steamboats, merchant and passenger ships go on the sea; There are factories, presses, telegraphs for communication so you can hear so quickly seated in your house; Kerosene lamps and electric lights fill the sky with light, phonographs speak like a man, watches tell the time; Heat and water can come to the fourth floor in pipes— This is all the work of knowledge. It is man's greatness, but if he misses the opportunity it is a time of destruction. The opportunity has come: rise, farmers ! it is not real knowledge just to eat bhakris and left-over ground corn; it is no knowledge just to do this. Tatoba says, hold this in your mind.*1 Generally speaking, the tamashas praised modern science and education, mocked the sacred books and religious traditions in their songs, dialogues and plays; in the iconoclastic Satyashodhak fashion they cited sacred Hindu texts to show their contradictions. Troupe organizers searched the religious texts and writings of Phule for themes, and learned them from one another, for instance in meetings at conferences in Kolhapur under the sponsorship of the Maharaja. It seems to have been the tamashas for example, that helped to spread throughout Maharashtra such stories as that of Shambuk, the Untouchable boy killed by Rama in the latter's effort to protect Hindu orthodoxy.81 And in general, tamashas played a prominent role in forming and spreading a popular Maha­ rashtrian culture of religious and caste revolt which would give impetus to tho movements of caste Hindus and Untouchables alike.88 Finally, in Satara district itself, where the tamasha movement was the strongest, it became involved in economic revolt as well. 213

The Satara Rebellion In many ways Satara is a quintessential Maharashtrian district.*4 Historically it was a center of Shivaji's own kingdom and maintained a branch (deposed in 1859) of the Bhosle royal family. Geographically it stands between Poona district, the center of Chitpavan Brahman power, and the state of Kolhapur, center of aristocratic Maratha power. Socially, it had the highest percentage of Maratha-Kunbis in the Deccan (56% according to the 1931 census), a represen­ tative proportion of Brahmans, Untouchbles and ‘ allied c a s te s b u t no tribal population. It was in many ways a typical peasant district, and had, as was noted in Chapter V, almost no landlessness but a very high percentage of fragmented small holdings. Politically it has been a pace setter for Maharashtra. If today Maharashtra appears to be a Congress Party stronghold, it is in Satara that the power of the Congress seems most secure, and it is from this district that the most powerful politicians in the state have come: Y. B Chavan, who has risen above regional politics to be counted the number two man in the country; Vasantdada Patil, the president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee; and many other state ministers. If in 1942 the Indian masses responded to Gandhi’s call for the British to *Quit India ’ with an uprising that went far be­ yond Gandhian non-violence, it was in Satara that this resulted in a ‘ parallel government ’ underground movement that swept much of the district out of British control. Finally it was Satara district that became in the 1920s a strong­ hold of the non-Brahman Party and the Satyashodhak Samaj. In regard to the agricultural developments, Satara was on the whole typical of other Deccan districts; it was going through the same underlying changes that generated a high proportion of poor peasants by 1931. It was around the median in its proportion of good and bad crop seasons between 1911 and 1921, a period described as one ‘ of serious economic disruption.’®* It had no significant canalirrigated areas, but by the 1920s some agricultural progress was occurring with the sale of iron ploughs, especially in the southern talukas.** Among its distin­ guishing features was the fact that it had a higher proportion of immigrants going to Bombay for work than almost any other Deccan district, which may have aided peasants in maintaining at least some of their small landholdings.*7 Due to the fact that an imaginative settlement official initiated a village survey in his area in 1923, we have more solid details than usual on the agrarian class structure in Satara.** They have to be used with some caution, since most of the survey work was done after the tenants’ rebellion described here, but they indicate basic trends. What they show (see Table 1 next page) is a significantly high proportion of non-cultivating landlords (i. e. of land cultivated by tenants) particularly in the plains areas of the talukas studied. Thus the Settlement Commissioner summed up the findings for Satara taluka : The investigation shows that the agriculturists who cultivate with their own hands, and not solely by hired labor, held in the typical villages examined 59-2 % of the total area. But this is a percentage which varies widely. In the villages of the rich plain it is only 38-5 % in the hill villages it rises to 87-9 % .... We must not forget that for 214

the villages of the plain about 62 % is held by landlords who pay the assessment.** Who were these non-cultivating owners ? Their caste is not described in the survey, but two earlier settlement reports described' non-agriculturalist ’ land­ holders as kulkamis in one case and moneylenders and traders in another.40 The Satara Gazeteer of the 1880s had described in detail many of the larger villages and towns of the district, showing that especially in the south (including two of the talukas surveyed and most of those affected by the rebellion of 1919 - 21) there were significant groups of moneylenders and traders, including Brahmans and Marwari-Gujar moneylenders.41 As noted, Brahmans in this district were characterized as having a propensity to invest in land, and it was similarly said that ‘ the bulk of the unskilled labor of the district is done by the poorer Kunbis, Dhangars, Vadars, Ramoshis, and Mahars.’4* Since there was little significant challenge to Brahman-moneylender power before 1920, and since it was almost

Table 1 : Satara Village Survey





Shirale Peta

Village and Description

% Land % Cultivated with Hired Cultivated Labor by Tenants

Khudshi: 2 miles from Karad, near roads Salshirambe : 15 miles from Karad, bad communications





Vadha : 4 miles from Satara city, easy reach Borgaon : 9 miles from Satara Vadgaon : foothill village, remote Thoseghar : hilltop village, most diffi­ cult of access



36-6 16 9 10-2

69-9 54-6







Kapushed : 3 miles from Islampur town on main road Dhalvi : distant, reachable only by bullock cart Khed : largest village near Satara, metalled road Korivde : prosperous village in small valley, foothills Konhole: hill village 215






universally held that non-Brahman, landlords cultivated their own lands ( i.e ., possibly with the help of hired help but not through tenants), there seems no reason not to conclude that a very high proportion of the land, and of the best land, had passed to outsiders who were mainly Brahmans or Marwari or Gujar moneylenders. Formerly prosperous peasants were increasingly joining low caste Mahars, Mangs and Ramoshis as field laborers or tenants on land they once owned. Some technological progress in agriculture and a slightly improved labor demand around 1920 would strengthen their situation somewhat but only add to the tensions as they sought to recoup a little of their losses. Thus, it is not surprising that here if anywhere the Satyashodhak movement would take on the characteristic of peasant rebellion. In a sense, the movement seems to have been slow in coming to Satara. There had been activity recorded before 1918, but there were no independent Satyashodhak branches; it seems that the district in this sense existed an adjunct to Kolhapur, with non-Brahman leaders, including Shahu Maharaj himself,41 tour­ ing on occasion in the southern talukas. In 1918 with the beginnings of political organizing, Walchand Kothari and other leaders travelled in Satara and indepen­ dent village Satyashodhak branches began to spring up. District Satyashodhak and non-Brahman conferences were held, and there was a particularly crucial one at Kale in 1920 at which all the major leaders appeared and the Rayat Shikshan Sanstha was founded by Bhaurao Patil.44 And with this came the rise of the tamasha movement, and with the tamashas came peasant rebellion. The rebellion was not immediately recognized as such. Brahman newspapers referred to ‘ the turbulence, violence and atrocities committed against the Hindu gods, dharma and Brahmans by the disciples of the Satyashodhak Samaj in Satara district, 41 * while upperclass non-Brahman leaders tended to ignore it. But the biographers of Nana Patil, who was involved in the Satyashodhak movement in these years and would later become the leader of the 1942 underground move­ ment in Satara, were referring to these events when they wrote, 4The Satyashodhak Samaj was like a forest fire and Satara kindled it ... the flag of revolt was planted.,4# What actually happened was a revolt of tenants against Brahman and Marwari (and occasionally non-Brahman) landlords in associaton with the Satyasho­ dhak movement or revolt which went on chaotically for about two years from April of 1919. The testimony of Brahman ‘ victims’ in 1920indicates incidents in 30 villages, mostly in the plains areas of the five southern talukas of Tasgaon, Khanapur, Valva, Koregaon and Karad, but other sources mention different villages in other talukas some refer to incidents in neighboring Sholapur, and many more were undoubtedly affected.47 In 1923 a British official replied to a question in the Legislative Council th a t: In the Satara district there was a partial tenants’ strike in 24 out of 1,356 villages and lands of certain Brahman landlords were left uncul­ tivated owing to alleged exorbitant demands. The situation has since materially altered and such lands are being cultivated again in some talukas.48 216

Here he was evidently trying to minimize the situation; still there is an indication that clashes were continuing three years later. In terms of extent, then, the rebellion covered a substantial portion of the plains areas of Satara district. This makes it worthy of comparison with the more famous ‘Deccan riots1 of 1875, which covered 30 villages (and ’threatened* more) in adjoining talukas of the two districts of Poona and Ahmednagar and involved little more violence, but upset the British to the point of provoking a full-scale inquiry,49 or even with Gandhi’s famous no-tax campaign in Bardoli which focused all the organizing powers of the national movement on one taluka in Surat district.*0 Thus an analysis of the uprising may afford insight not only into the nature of Satyashodhak agitation but also into the problems of peasant protest under British colonial rule. Some understanding of developments may be provided by citing a case described in Vijayi Maratha which appears atypical only in that it occurred in a village extremely close to Satara city : ‘ Magistrates’ Mercilessness; Peshwai Tyranny Against Poor Peasants in the British R aj1 ...Karanje is a village that is part of Satara city. Land is good, and since it is near the city it is very natural that Brahmans should cast their eyes upon it. Maratha land began to be grabbed by the Brahmans: the priestly game had begun. Then Satyanarayan pujas became plentiful in the village. Quarrels and disputes came as the harvest of the seed of Kulkarni tricks, and non-Brahmans suffered. Religious superstition, ignorance, illiteracy, poverty resulted in terrible indebtedness.... But the light of the sun was near. The Satyashodhak district conference was held near Satara. Workers gave help; jalsas were seen. People began to understand the reason for their deterioration. Brahman clouds dropped from their eyes. The flower bloomed in the village. Brahman priesthood was ended. Balutedars refused to work for the Brahmans. Brahman land rent had greatly soared—they were taking 2/3 and 3/4 of the crop and the rest went to the moneylender ! No profit remained to the peasants—then they decided they did not want such a low contract on Brahman lands. In this way the Satyashodhok Samaj freed them from every type of Brahman slavery. Renaissance began. Alcoholism decreased. Numbers in school increased, people began to work with greater industry, and their condition began to improve. But Brahman lands deteriorated. No one was ready to plough for them at the previous rate and they did not have the mind to lessen rates. Peasants tried to break this determination, but they had no leadership, no unity...Then a criminal case was brought against the leaders ...There were accusations that on 1 December 1921 fields had been burned and crops carried away, that women were insulted. But there were no witnesses.11 217

The article concludes with a description of the court case, in which a British official testified in favor of the tenants while a Brahman magistrate gave the decision against them, and adds in regard to accusations tamashas had created the trouble, ‘ The jalsa brought fire...but the fire can grow into a blaze only due to fuel. ’ The process of rebellion in the southern talukas seems much as described above. They began with the arrival of Satyashodhak ideology via the tamashas which ferociously mocked traditional religious customs and Brahman claims to superiority. Religious attacks were evidently part of all the events that followed: peasants not only refused to call Brahmans for their own religious ceremonies, but also interrupted the Brahmans own ’ ceremonies, violated temples, broke idols and polluted wells; according to Brahman witnesses, they indulged in obscenities not only about the gods but regarding Brahman women as well. But the major thrust was economic. The District Collector, E. E. Moysey, referred to violence involving Mangs, Ramoshis ‘and other village badmashis(bad characters)’ aimed at extorting food and money, and stated : I am far from denying that crimes have been committed against Bra­ hmans, but experience gained in the enquiries shows that acts of violence have been committed against them not as Brahmans but as unpopular landlords or moneylenders, and that Brahmans in a village against whom no grievance has been felt have generally been allowed to live in peace...A movement is now developing not to pay more than half the gross produce as rent instead of the 2/3 or 3/4 as has been the custom hitherto. Most of the non-cultivating landlords being Brahmans, they believe that the movement and the consequent boycott of their lands... is directed against them as a class.'* The tamashas themselves, when they arrived in a village, frequently gained support from substantial Maratha cultivators—they were, for example, often hous­ ed and fed by the village headman—but they also attracted tenants and laborers of all castes and on at least one occasion the agitation opposed a village head­ man who refused to support it. As Brahman witnesses put it, ‘ The recruits of tamasha belonged to lower communities and goondas;’ ‘ A few non-Brahmans who do not possess any land or property have become troublesome.’** Thus boycotts of land by tenants, as well as by the service castes (a tradi­ tional method of applying social pressure throughout India and one which was also used in the Bardoli rent strike) were attempted very early.'4 But this evidently proved difficult to organize, given unity and firmness on the part of the landlords and the constant pressure of population on the land which allowed them to bring in outsiders as laborers, something they frequently reported doing. Brahman witnesses claimed that tenants were loyal, and that if they boycotted it was only due to instigation and harassment by other villagers. One, however, pointed out a deeper fact; though his tenants had resolved to boycott, ‘ at the sowing time the tenants came and tilled the land. They had understood that we would file suits against them...and the Satyasamajists would not come to help them.’" The 218

statement reflected a general Brahman confidence in their backing by the courts. Unable to mount a unified rent strike, rebels turned to other methods long characteristic of oppressed Indian peasantry. They harvested the landlords ’ crops forcibly for themselves (reported in 5 cases); looted and burned houses (6 cases), engaged in beatings (6 cases); in five cases it was simply said that Brahmans were chased away from the village. Further, three Brahmans who had been members of municipalities, taluka boards and co-operatives reported that they had resigned due to harassment." Clearly the rebellion was taking on a complex form and represented the surfacing of a general power struggle, primarily over tenants rights and lands but also against Brahman religious dominance and connected with struggles within co-operatives and in thi: district local boards. Thus, isolated instances of tenant rebellion after the main outburst in 1919 - 21, plus efforts of non-Brahmans to interfere with Brahman-dominated religious festivals, were all part of this power struggle.*1 In connection with the general power struggle, the peasants of Satara were for the first time able to get at least a degree of higher-level support. Brahmans had the advantage of a legal system that gave them full rights against their tenants and one that was further heavily staffed with Brahman magistrates and clerks. Against this, non-Brahmans could appeal to relatively friendly British administrators, such as Moysey, the Collector, who had a reputation of being friendly with nonBrahmans, and Baskerville, who had testified in the Karanje case on behalf of the tenants. Satara, furthermore, had evidently the only Maratha deputy collector in the presidency in Duduskar, who had been involved in Maratha educational organizations and was accused of favoring the Satyashodhaks in allowing tamasha performances to be held.*' Elite non-Brahmans like Bhaskarrao Jadhav were accused of stimulating the movement by their anti-Brahman speeches at the Satyashodhak conferences; the fact that some of the areas involved were near Kolhapur state was obviously relevant; and there was reference by one Brahman witness to a letter from Jedhe mansion in Poona demanding the inclusion of peasants in the District Local Board.** In general, then, the peasants could feel the presence of high-level support, though non-Brahmans had by no means taken over the administrative power system of the district. But as far as the tenants’ rebellion itself was concerned, the elite provided some ideological impetus and administrative facilitation, but no real leadership. The primay organization of the tenants’ efforts at boycotts, etc., was local, in­ volving village people and to some extent the tamasha leaders themselves. There were, however two Satyashodhak leaders of importance who were named as provid­ ing real organization of rebellion. One of these urging peasant boycott and himself leading anti-religious efforts was Keshavrao Vichare.*0 Vichare, a Maratha from a poor village in the Konkan, had come to Satara Road (the railway station near Satara city, at the village of Padli) as a station master in 1916, and had become a Satyashodhak member soon after that. Under his impetus most of the nearby village was converted, untouchability was given up (at least to the extent of allowing Untouchables free run of the village), and many of the i>easants became

enthusiastic Satyashodhak propagandists. Vicharewas the main inspirer of Padli’s tamasha organizer, Jotirao Phalke, and of its poet, Tukaram Bhosle, whose poems were cited above. He propagated a particularly radical form of Satyashodhak ideology which developed into open atheism and an opposition to all fojms of idol worship. In 1921 he gave up his railway department service and became active in organizing night schools and Satyashodhak branches throughout the district; with an extensive network of friends he was perhaps its most influential local leader and eventually became a member of the District Local Board and chairman of its School Board. He later made efforts to organize not simply co-operatives but collective farms; one attempted at Padli itself failed but another at Wanji in Thana district, an old Satyashodhak center, is still in existence. Vichare, along with some other core Satyashodhak workers, remained aloof from the national movement after 1930, and in the 1940s organized an ‘educational’ program that had a significant impact on the Bombay working classes: it attempt­ ed to build up self-reliance and mass leadership by training people to train others.*1 In the 1920s with the tamashas and peasant rebellion, he was beginning a distinguished career. Anandaswami, an organizer of one of the tamashas involved in the rebellion, was the other important Satyashodhak leader, and in many ways is one of the most mysterious and intriguing figures in the entire non-Brahman movement—and another who was involved in activities in both the Deccan and Vidarbha regions. He was a poor peasant from Ahmednagar district and was similar to other figures in India around this period who emerged as social radicals within the sadhu tradition 8* Like the Bihar peasant leader Swami Sahajanand, who said that *as religious robes had long exploited the country, now he would exploit those robes on behalf of the peasantry/ 61 Anandaswami took up the tradition of religious renouncer with a good deal of radical mockery. His very title, ( Ananda swami \ illustrated this, since a non-Brahman sadhu was supposed to annex the title Maharaj after his name and not Swami, which was reserved for Brahmans. Similarly, he mocked the whole business in calling himself Vedashastrasampanna (Learned in the science of the Vedas) at all the Satyashodhak conferences he later presided over. Anandaswami's above-ground activity was in organizing for Satyashodhak activities and in supprt of non-Brahman politics, for which he undertook several tours in the early 1920s reported in Din Mitra. Underground, however, he is reported to have engaged in dacoitry (robbery) for both nationalist causes and economic rebellion. This activity evidently embarrassed many non-Brahman leaders who tended to claim that he was not really a Satyashodhak Samajist, or that there were ‘ two Anandaswamis/ After his involvement with the Satara tenants* rebellion he moved to Buldhana district in Vidarbha, joined a local leader, Pandharinath Patil, in a successful fight to capture the District Local Board and become a leading radical of the movement in the Central Provinces. In 1934 he is said to have organized a peasants’ uprising involving 34 villages in Buldhana, similar to the Satara movement; it succeeded evidently in driving out most of the local Brahman and Marwari landlords who came back to the village only after in­ dependence— under a more favorable regime.64And strikingly, just as non-Brahman 220

political success followed the tenants1 rebellion in Satara district, so also in Buldhana, when non-Brahman Party members won only three seats in the 1937 legislative council elections, two of these were from Buldhana. At one point Anandaswami is said to have formed a nationalistic terrorist band of poor peasants calling themselves the Lai Dagliwallas or ‘Red-shirts ’; this failed because there was no national radical movement to connect to, though he is also said to have had some contact with Subhas Chandra Bose. He is described as a charismatic figure with a reputation of supernatural escape from the police, and as an uneducated but clever man who at one point came to an old friend in Ahmednagar with a scheme for counterfeiting money for the movement. It was in fact his need for funds for radical activities—and developing tensions with more conservative non-Brahman colleagues—that led to his downfall, for after he robbed a rich Patil in Buldhana his former colleagues turned against him and he was captured and imprisoned by the British. Like Dinkarrao Javalkar, Anandaswami was one of the Satyashodhak leaders who combined cultural radicalism with organization for economic and nationalist revolution, but in the context of conservative consolidation after 1930, he was more or less forgotten.61 Effects of the Rebellion

Interesting conclusions arise from this analysis of peasant rebellion in Satara. First, there is the question of what we define as a ‘peasant rebellion'—or of what is seen, by those of the period who control definitions of the situation, as a significant uprising. The Satara rebellion compares favorably in terms of villages affected both with the Deccan riots of 1875 and with Gandhi's 1928 Bardoli campaign. Yet the Deccan riots, though not directed against the Governmsent, were seen as sufficiently threatening to invoke a full-scale investigatory commiseion and a revision in agricultural policy leading to the Deccan Agriculturalists Relief Act; they remain one of the most famous nineteenth century Indian peasant uprisings. And the Bardoli campaign was both defined as dangerous by the Government and as a model to imitate by Congress leaders everywhere. In the case of the Satara rebellion, however, the Government had enough other worries and evidently felt secure enough with a modest alliance with the non-Brahman elite to minimize the situation. And the Brahman elite, which still controlled the newspapers as well as the Congress Party, utterly refused to recognize the rebellion as anything but ‘atrocities’ committed against religion. By and large, the non-Brahman elite acquiesced in ignoring the economic implications of the rebellion. At an unofficial level it provided some inspiration, not only for Anandaswami's later attempts and isolated cases that broke out elsewhere but also to some of the younger militants of Poona city (see next chapter). Mukundrao Patil was one of the few writers who openly defended it, 66 and was partially involved himself with similar tenant boycotts. But the non-Brahman Party as a whole was too tied to upper-class rural interests to take a rebellion involving tenants and laborers as a model to imitate; for some time afterwards party meetings and Satyashodhak conferences contented themselves with insisting that their movement was not violent. 221

The rebellion also illustrates the interaction of cultural and economic factors in revolt. Cultural interests of anti-Brahmanism helped to provide some upper-dass support that made it possible for lower classes to rebel in Satara. But the signifi­ cance of cultural rebellion goes beyond this. While the motive of the uprising was at base economic, the special role of cultural tradition has to be taken into account. The power of an elite (and Brahman landlords were the highest elite of India's traditional caste structure) is based on religious sanctions and long-accepted prestige, i. e., cultural hegemony as well as economic and political power. Poor peasants required a sense of right on their side and an ideology that rejected this status. It is no accident that almost all the other famous ‘ peasant' uprisings of the colonial period—though just as definitely based on economic grievances in­ volving loss of land and deprivation—were either in cases where Indian elite leadership was available because the immediate exploiting class was European (as in the case of the Bengal indigo strikes of 1859 or Gandhi’s 1917 Champaran campagin) or were movements of tribal people or Muslims who had never accepted Brahmanism (the Santal Rebellion, the Moplah rebellion of 1922). The peasant society of Satara was being disrupted by externally caused capi­ talistic forces, but because those who benefitted first were the tradition elite, the fight against them required a revolt against tradition as well. And it was this ideology of revolt that the leaders of the Satyashodhak movement provided; this was how it was seen afterwards by some of the leaders of the 1942 movement: Such a revolution went to the lowest classes that a power of thought was created among them; the current of thought was available. Who can say that those who gave the power of thought and wave of progress to the majority class did not have a mass movement ? Those who kindled among the innumerable lower class majority the light and experience of who and what is causing us injustice, what are our rights, how we must throw away this injustice—these were the Satyasamajists ! 91 Finally, the Satara rebellion provides an illustration of the split between cultural, economic and national revolutionary forces in India. Most of the elite non-Brahman spokesmen of the ‘ cultural revolt ’ ignored the economic rebellion their own movement had stimulated, largely because of their own economic interests. Similarly, nationalist leaders, still drawn largely from Brahman and merchant castes, supported land movements directed against the Government (no-tax campaigns) but consistently drew the line at movements against Indian landlords (no-rent campaigns); the result, for the national movement itself, was a frequent dampening of campaigns and a reluctance to really draw in the masses. Finally, the Indian Communists of thel 920s aspiring leaders of an economic revo­ lution, had emerged from the ranks of young, militant Brahman nationalists in Maharashtra, with the result that the analysis they applied to the non-Brahman movement appeared to derive from Sadashivpeth rather than Moscow. As their first Bombay newspaper put i t : The non-Brahman movement is a big humbug. ...The spirit of the movement is absolutely narrow. Its mainstay is communal hatred. There is no economic basis in the movement.6* 222

The refusal to admit any economic base was significant. Had the communists analyzed the non-Brahman movement as a peasant-based movement,*® they would have been forced to deal with it more seriously than they did. It was clear that of Marxist Leninist ideology the peasantry was seen as a ‘ democratic' ally of the working classes in a period of anti-feudal revolution, a more consistent ally than the vacillating bourgeoisie. Maharashtrian Communists condemned the nationalist leadership, but they placed themselves within the nationalist tradition with their admiration of leaders such as Tilak, while they found no similar significance in the peasant-based tradition of cultural-economic revolt. They themselves, in this early period, were in no position to become leaders of peasants, but they failed to develop relationships with those who were. One result was that not until fifteen years later did Maharashtrian Communists even begin to develop a rural base. They were victims of the colonial situation in the beginning, as much as rebels against it. However inadequately understood it may have been, the results of the Satara rebellion were nonetheless significant. Politically it played a role in deve­ loping non-Brahman unity within the district. After the rebellions Brahmans throughout the district instituted a series of *chapter cases’ (criminal cases against breaches of the peace, thefts and the like) and non-Brahman lawyers like Achrekar, R. C. Rane and Bhaskrrao Jadhav moved around the district to fight them. There were a similar large number of suits evidently over tenant rights.'*0 Thus, while some non-Brahman political power had helped to facilitate the rebellion, non-Brahman political leaders in turn benefited from it. Further, the strength of the movement was later correlated with the 1942 nationalist rebellion, which was the strongest in those southern talukas of Satara which had led in rebellion and in the Satya­ shodhak movement of the 1920s and which had as its leaders people like Nana Patil who were involved in Satyashodhak reform propaganda in the 1920s. Economically, it appears to have had some effect in pushing Brahman and Marwari landlords off the land. The writer of the settlement report for Satara taluka in 1923 argued that this was beginning to happen : There are now as many sales from absentee landlords to resident villagers as vice versa...The growing tension between Brahman and non-Brahman is another factor in this silent revolution. Some Brahmans are abandoning the land...71 Similarly, there is the somewhat puzzling evidence given in the land reports of 1926-27 which show that Satara district had a far lower percentage ‘ non-agricul­ turalist ’ landholders than any other Deccan district, about 3-1% as opposed to 12- 15% in the case of Ahmedngar, Nasik, and Poona.''* On the other hand, it was the revision settlement reports of 1923 - 25, written after the rebellion, that showed a high percentage of tenant cultivation in affected talukas (Karad and Valva) in the south, though not so high as that in less-affected Satara taluka. Finally, in the 1931 census, Satara was like other Deccan districts in having a high proportion of *agricultural laborers 82 % laborers, as compared to 1*8 % tenants, 15-1 % cultivating owners, and 1-1 % non-cultivating owners as a percent­ age of total males in cultivation.11* No firm conclusions can be drawn from all of 223

this. Either significant transfers of land from Brahmans to non-Brahmans occurred slowly, after the revision settlement reports (after, perhaps, a number of court cases were fought between landlords and tenants); or Biahmans had formerly owned even more land in the affected talukas such as Karad and Valva (there are, unfortunately, no available ‘ before and after ’ data either in the case of the Village studies or the land reports of 1926-27); or land transfer was not so signi­ ficant; or non-Brahman absentee landlords (urban professionals?) were buying up some of the land. Perhaps the most that can be said is that the rebellion left the tenants in a stronger position vis-a-vis the landlords, able to claim for them­ selves one-half instead of one-third or one-fourth of the crops at harvest. Many sources, however, do report a tendency for Brahmans to leave the villages. What must be noted is that while such movements as the Satara rebellion could succeed in driving some landlords out of the villages or in slightly bettering the position of tenants, they could not affect the general economic processes that were producing the problems of land concentration and population pressure on the land. Without a general revolution or full control of political power, the Satyashodhak movement could not change the general rural class structure; it could only have some effect on who occupied positions within it. Hence, however strong the movement was at the lower levels, these general political and economic conditions meant that it could only result in the general strengthening of the position of the non-Brahman elite itself. The Small Holdings Bill

If the Satara rebellion showed that the Satyashodhak movement was capable of stimulating rural revolt, the agitation against the Small Holdings Bill ( Tukade Bill) from August 1927 to July 1928 provides an instance of response of non-Brahman Legislative Council members to pressure from the poorer peasantry. The Bombay government had long expressed concern about the rather disastrous state of the Maharashtrian peasantry. Not only their own agricultural surveys, but the publication in 1927 of Mann’s second village study, which showed 85 % of the village population unable to live by their earnings, even at their own standard, even with the help of earnings from non-agricultural labor,™ could not help but provoke concern. But while Indian commentators were likely to point to : the crux of our whole economic problem : a huge population—with­ out adequate outlets for absorption in industry, or for emigration— driven upon agriculture as the only precarious means of occupation and also livelihood,™ British officials focused instead on what they considered to be small uneconomic landholdings fragmented into diverse strips—in other words, upon the existence of poor peasants. Thus the influential Keatinge saw hope in the condition of rich peasants and in the concurrent development of a mobile, independent wage-earning agricultural labor class, but considered poor peasants to ‘ bar the way to progress/1T Unable to finance extensive irrigation or to affect industrial demand for labor, the British theorized instead about the harmfulness of small, fragmented landhold­ 224

ings and aspired to create capitalization in agriculture.1' Accordingly, in 1927 the Government framed a ‘ Small Holdings Bill ’ which had two parts: (1) a proposal to prevent further fragmentation by limiting the ability to divide land among heirs and forcing the sale of 4uneconomic ’ fragments; (2) a program for consolidation of fragmented strips owned by the same person in selected villages.11* However, there was some opposition to the bill even within Government departments themselves. It was said that Agricultural and Co-operative Depart* ment officials had no hand in framing the bill, while *Mamlatdars, big landlords and capitalists’ were consulted.80 Agricultural Department officials did, however, evidently support it, as did upper-class non-Brahmans as well as Brahman nationa­ lists in the beginning.*1 It was said that on its first reading the bill * was well appreciated by all sections who cheered [ the minister ] on his concluding his speech.*1 But opposition was devoloping, fairly spontaneously among those peasants who gained information about the bill, and it did involve initially the Co-operative Department. This department in particular was in close touch with middle and smaller peasants (some of whom, at least in Satara, were Satyashodhak activists); co-operative societies were demanding explanations, and many workers of the co-operative institutes were discussing the bill in the villages.** One official, V. G. Tikhe, wrote a pamphlet attacking the bill, which was advertised in Vijayi Maratha on September 26, 1927. Non-Brahman newspapers, then, began to take cognizance of the bill by September, and by October were promoting extensive agitation. *Peasants will be made workers and will fall into the clutches of capitalists ’ was the theme of a Viiayi Maratha editorial on October 17. A long letter on October 19 explained that by the bill, 80 % of peasant families would be deprived of land, that rich peasants would become landowners and would use modern technological equipment rather than labor; thus the fear that was expressed was not simply a resistance to Brahman or Marwari landlords, but to the development of a kalak class among non-Brahmans. In November a committee of non-Brahman leaders of Satara (some of whom were in the Co-operative Department) was set up, and large meetings were reported in Ahmednagar and Poona districts.*4 By January of 1928 extensive organizing had begun in Satara, with several village meetings, followed by taluka peasant conferences at Valva, Karad, Wai, and Koregaon, and then by a Satara district peasant conference which was presided over by the political leader N. E. Navle of Ahmednagar.*' Finally on July 25, 1928, a Provincial Peasants Conference was held at Poona attended by over 5000 peasants from several districts, with Vitthal Ramji Shinde as president and Baburao Jedhe as vice president.** Brahmans had also been involved in agitation against the bill, although appa rently somewhat later than the non-Brahman leaders, and had separately sponsored some of the Satara meetings in opposition.*7 By and large, however, the agitation was a non-Brahman affair, with leaders like the Jedhes, Dinkarrao Javalkar, Rambhau Ghatge and Shankarao Bogar (both tamasha organizers), Keshavrao Vichare, Bhaurao Patil, and Sambhaji Patil (a Satyashodhak Co-operative Depart­ ment worker) taking a leading role in the Satara meetings.** This was the first agitation in which the non-Brahman militants took a direct lead in opposition to .15


the Government, and its effect, according to V. R. Shinde, was to turn their atten­ tion to nationalism 1though their feet remained with the non-Brahmans.’8* But although a small degree of unity was achieved with the participation of both nationalists and non-Brahmans in the agitation—symbolized by the presidency of Shinde, wbo tried to play a mediating role—this soon dissolved. The Brahman leaders, under the sponsorship of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, the conservative but renowned leader of the Bardoli satyagraha, immediately formed a Land League.90 This League had an executive committee consisting almost entirely of Brahmans and its resolutions called for recognition of private property in land and full proprietorship rights to the owner, ‘ whether he cultivates the land himself or through his tenants.191 As Shinde put it, this was in reality a ‘ Landlord League.'91 Non-Brahmans then called for the setting up of their own organization, a Bombay Provincial Shetkari Sangh( Peasants League) with R. G. Rane of Satara as president. ( It shouid be noted that existing conservative non-Brahman agricultural organizations like the Maharashtra Shetkari Sangh and the Patils1 Conference played no role in the agitation, though they held meetings about this time, and were not seen as bodies through which militant non-Brahman leaders could work.) This illustrated a step forward in the coalescence of social and nationalist consciousness: Government with the help of shetjis and bhatjis is exploiting and domi­ nating the bahujan samaj. Therfore the organization must prepare itself to oppose the Government. Because of Government support, money­ lenders can exploit the peasantry.91 As an aspect of this new opposition, Jedhe and Javalkar of Poona took part in a campaign in 1929 in Baglan taluka of Nasik district against revenue settlement revisions.94 , Another factor may be noted. However reluctant his opposition to the bill may have been, in speaking up against it Bhaskarrao Jadhav not only asked for laws for protection of tenants and the elimination of absentee ownership, but made one of the first proposals in Maharashtra, however tentative, for an upper limit on landholding: I would point out the necessity of prescribing the maximum limit beyond which a man should not be allowed to hold land....I do not mean to say that those who are holdtng land at present above that maximum limit should be expropriated and their lands distributed among the ryots. But I would suggest that by law they should not be allowed to acquire more land....It is equally necessary that at the time of prescrib­ ing a minimum limit to the holding [ to prescribe a maximum limit ] and I suggest that for that purpose ten or fifteen times the standard minimum unit should be laid down as the maximum holding91 Though the 4minimum unit ’ was never precisely defined in terms of acreage, it appears that it surely would have been under five acres; this would give a ‘ maximum holding * by Jadhav’s proposal of not more than 50-75 acres—in fact about what was actually prescribed by the Maharashtrian government when the first land reform legislation was finally passed in 1948.9* 226

The late l$20s were years of excitement and tension throughout India. In fact, Subhas Chandra Bose argued that with opposition to the Simon Commi­ ssion, with peasant agitations such as the Bardoli campaign, and with intense labor unrest, enthusiasm and excitement had peaked about 1928-29 and that the civil disobedience campaign should have been launched then rather than in 1930 when much of the unrest had subsided.’1 Certainly this was true of Maharashtra, not only with working class strikes in Bombay in 1928 - 29, but also with deve­ loping peasant organization and agitation that was felt by all to represent a high period of turmoil. The non-Brahman movement was a part of this high point of turmoil, and its leaders were affected by it. From at least the beginning of the 1920s the enemy of the non-Brahman masses was increasingly being formulated as not simply the Brahman priest or intellectual, but as shetji-bhatji, merchants and Brahmans, and shetji was incresingly being interpreted as *capitalist.’ Now sarkar, the Government, was being added to the list. While peasantagitation in 1919-21 had found the non-Brahmans seeking Government allies against Brahman landlords and fighting cases in the law courts, peasant turmoil developing at the end of the decade against official policy fostering the rise of a rich peasant class and agrarian capitalism was leading younger militants to nationalism and the direct mobilization of the peasantry. In the next chapter we shall describe the rise to prominence of these younger leaders, in particular Keshavrao Jedhe and Dinkarrao Javalkar of Poona.


Chapter XII Non-Brahmans and Nationalists in Poona At the same time as upper-class non-Brahman leaders were organizing a loyalist opposition to the Indian National Congress and fighting for control of district local boards, and at the same time as the Satyashodhak Samaj was becoming involved with peasant rebellion in the rural areas, increased nonBrahman militancy in cities like Poona was producing a new and radically nationalist non-Brahman leadership. * The Kesari party means Maharashtra, Poona means Maharashtra—this was the understanding in Delhi and London.’1 So wrote N. V. Gadgil, the primary representative of younger Brahmans turning to Gandhism and socialism, who was later to forge an important alliance with radical non-Brahmans. In fact, while the growth of non-Brahman and later Congress organization in the districts would later change this, Poona, up until 1930 was the political and symbolic center of Maharashtra, and it was a center that represented both militant nation­ alism and socially orthodox Brahmanism. Inevitably, non-Brahman politics began to develop a center here as well, but when the non-Brahman challenge was mounted in Poona it took on forms that were highly conditioned by the themes of Brahman cultural dominance itself. Non-Brahmans entered and attempted to control the Ganpati festival, founded by Tilak himself to turn a religious occasion into public, nationalist propaganda. They engaged in a virulent war of pamphlets and newspapers in an entry into the arena of Brahman literary dominance; they focused their attack not so much on the questions of land and Brahman priestly or bureaucratic dominance which troubled the peasantry, but around symbolic issues that involved Brahman claims to moral and political leadership. They took up themes that Brahmans had pioneered, themes of nationalism and Hindu unity, and sought to prove that in these terms Brahmans were unfit to lead. Thus it was in Poona that the leadership and alliances developed which would bring non-Brahmans into the Congress party, and the enemies of Tilak proved to Tilak’s heirs that the mass leadership to which Tilak had aspired belonged to them. Poona: The Social Basis of Politics In Poona Brahman dominance rested not simply on wealth and political power but had a numerical basis as well. With nearly 20 % of the population, they represented one of its largest single groups and had a sufficient basis for a mass, street politics organizing militant young men of the caste to provide a background for nationalist mobilization (see tables next page). They were a wealthy community : the days of the Peshwai had left a number of wealthy, land­ ed aristocrats or sardars centered around Poona, and many of these old families, such as the Natus, remained powerful. Educational dominance and the administra­ tive professional employment it provided was a primary base of power; however, 2CS

moneylending was also significant and apparently involved some of the wealthiest Brahman families. It is possible that Parsis on the whole were wealthier, and Marwari and other merchant castes were almost as well off; however, they did not care to challenge the Brahmans for political leadership. Brahman politics expressed their intersts sufficiently and on the whole the relationship was a sym­ biotic one. Table 1 : Population of Poona municipality, percentage by caste *

Advanced castes (Brahmans, CKPs) Intermediate castes (Marathas, Kunbis) Artisans Merchants and traders (Agrawals, Lingayts, Marwaris, Jains, other Vanis) Lower occupational groups (Bhois, Gavalis, Dhangars) Untouchables Muslims Others (foreigners, north and south Indians, Parsis, Jews, Christians)



229 31-8 18-8

19-2 304 10-2

79 30 2-7 7*8

69 2-2 92 12-5



Table 2 : School enrollment, 1937 * Advanced Arts Colleges Professional Colleges High Schools for boys Middle Schools for boys High Schools for girls Special schools

2013 421 5221 ---

1832 1022

Intermediate 261 166 1647 302 226 370

Backward 49 18 153 57 14 60

While a few Jains, Lingayats and Untouchables supported non-Brahman activities, it was primarily the ‘ intermediate, ’ ' lower occupational ’ and *artisan ’ groups that were to provide a basis for non-Brahman mass mobilization; these totaled approximately 43 % of the population in the 1920s, Maratha-Kunbis in the 1920s were dispersed throughout the City (unlike Brahmans who tended to be concentrated in a few wards) and on the whole were a much poorer commu­ nity. They included a few landholders settled in Poona, some well-to-do busi­ nessmen and contractors, merchants connected with the market; but lacking much education they had only a very few professionals and a secure position in

only one government department, the police service. Malis were in roughly the same position, with perhaps more commercial farmers. The artisans or *allied castes ’ also had some wealthy and leading men, but most were poor and few had any education to break away from traditional caste occupations. Very ofien, too, the nature of their business made them dependent on largely Brahman customers.4 This lack of education and economic dependence was the social basis for what the Satyashodhaks called ‘ mental slavery, ’ i. e. Brahman cultural and psychological dominance. The Satyashodhak Samaj had found early backing among some non-Maratha groups such as Malis, Ramoshis, and Shimpis, and to some extent among Marathas in the army, but leaders of the non-Brahman communities and especially Marathas accepted Brahman leadership to a large degree until after 1916. Brahman dominance in Poona meant orthodox dominance. After 1895 mode­ rates or social reformers had no real basis of power in the City; D. K. Karve had founded his widows’ home in 1898 in Hingne to remove it from city haras­ sment, and the melas or singing groups of the Ganpati festival mocked not only the British and Muslims but also social reformers. Liberal upper-caste families tended to settle in newly developing sections west of the river, while the old city wards, especially Sadashivpeth and Narayanpeth, remained a stronghold of the orthodox. The word *Sadashivpeth ' itself became a synonym for orthodox Brahmanism, and nearby Narayanpeth housed the Kesari office or Gaikwadwada, the organizing center of the party of Tilak. The Kesari group, as heirs of the * uncrowned king of Poona ’ , worked in terms of a confidence in their own leadership that amounted to political arrogance; as their Brahman critic Gadgil put it they ‘ felt that whatever they did was to the country’s weifare. ’ * Social discrimination became intensely important to the non-Brahman upper classes, while Marathi did not show the strong difference in language patterns between Brahmans and non-Brahmans that Tamil did, nevertheless there were differences in speech that may have been subtle but were obvious to all speakers. Further, until the late 1920s when Gandhian techniques acted to force a similar style of dress on politicians there were clear differences of dress between castes; the Brahman pagdi or turban (which can be seen in photos of all early political leaders, whether moderates or extremists) contrasted with the Maratha pheta turban. Language was used to express social ranking : even an orthodox spokesman recalls that Brahmans treated even wealthy and respected Marathas as ' peons ’ by using the familiar form of address with them, tu* Non-Brahman students might be invited to the home of a Brahman friend but they would find themselves seated in a separate row for eating and asked to wash their own dishes '1 Such forms of social discrimination were natural aspects of caste hierarchy and caste separation, but as a modern consciousness of equality and individual dignity began to develop, they became as unbearable to non-Brahmans as more crude expressions of Brahman supremacy such as tirth, which referred to the custom prevalent in some rural areas of considering water which had been touched by a Brahman’s feet as particularly holy to drink. Non-Brahmans also found it difficult to get bousing in Brahman areas, and felt they were confronted in schools with Brahman teachers who subtly treated them as unfit for learning*

Finally, it was evidently difficult for even well-to-do arid educated non-Brahmans to achieve honor and leadership in public life.' These factors, then—characteristic of the kind of cultural dominance exercized over even upper-class members of dominated cultural groups in a *plural society ’ situation—began to motivate the non-Brahman elite to rebellion. /

Slowly a new consciousness and solidity began to develop among the Maratha elite, focused first upon educational efforts but with a growing emphasis on social reform and unity. A Maratha Brotherhood Circle was organized in 1910 by Laxmacrao Thosar, one of the few Poona Marathas with a family history of Satyashodhak activity.10 Its president was the sympathetic British agricultural expert, then principal of the Agricultural College, H H. Mann, and it involved rising Maratha leaders like Baburao Jagtap and Dr. P C. Patil. Leading Marathas from Kolhapur and Bombay were invited to its meetings; students heard lectures on social reform, and the Maratha business community of Poona and a number of Maratha police department officials gave their cooperation." About the same time a Maratha Vyavaharik Shikshan Mandali (Maratha Practical Education Group)was formed that included both orthodox and reformminded Marathas and ran a small hostel from about 1913 to 1919.'* In 1916 a well-to-do Maratha social reformer and former primary school teacher, Bapurao Shinde, established a ‘ Maratha Free Boarding ’ in his home for poor students; help for this came from small donations of food and later from a few wealthy business families such as the Jedhes 11 Then in 1918 Baburao Jagtap, who had in the meantime taken up service in Baroda state, resigned this for social work and returned to Poona to establish a small Marathi and English class in the Maratha Brotherhood library. Youth in a Maratha Social Club established a year earlier began to feel the need for a larger institution which would finance Maratha education, draw in support from the Maratha ruling princes, and provide unity to the community; they began to collect funds for a building to enlarge Jagtap's school. Aristocratic Marathas like Shahu Maharaj, who also felt the need for establishing a center in Poona, and Khasesaheb Pavar of Devas gave their financial and moral support. Out of this the Shri Shivaji Society was formed with the Maharajah of Kolhapur as its president and Pavar as secretary,14 and by July, 1918 its high school, the Shri Shivaji Maratha School, with Jagtap as principal, was in existence. It remains today one of the most wellknown Maratha institutions of Poona. These insitutions won support from most of the Maratha elite, lawyers, merchants, landholders. With financial support from the Maratha princes especially for the Shivaji Maratha School, the Poona community was becoming part of the larger arena of aristocratic Maratha socio-political efforts. But by 1917 it was becoming clear that the influence of Kolhapur and the more reform-oriented Marathas was growing. Baburao Jagtap and Bapurao Shinde were both associat­ ed with the liberal Prarthana Samaj group in Poona, then led by V. R. Shinde, although the latter was also influenced by the Satyashodhak movement." Not only was Shahu Maharaj beginning to make visits to Poona, but men from Kolhapur were also moving there. These incuded P. C. Patil, a Kolhapur graduate who at that time was Deputy Director of Agriculture, and Shripatrao Shinde, an early

Satyashodhak member and a police department employee educated at Kolhapur, who left his employment in 1919 to begin what would become the leading non* Brahman newspaper of Poona, Vijayi Maratha.1* But the most important Poona family were the Jedhes, who for over two decades provided financial support and leadership first to Poona non-Brahmans and then for much of western Maharashtra as a whole. With a brass factory as the primary source of their income, they were said to be one of the richest families in Poona.'1 The oldest brother maintained the family business, while the younger brothers became involved in social activities, Baburao in Maratha caste politics and educational work, Keshavrao later as the militant Satyashodhak leader; this division of labor made them in many ways a classic example of the Indian joint family. Since they aspired to deshmukh status the family was on the whole socially orthodox, except for Keshavrao. the youngest brother. However, they turned early to non-Brahman politics, and according to Shankarrao More, the provoking incident occurred at an opening ceremony for their new home, the ‘ Jedhe mansion,’ in 1914. At that time, he relates, Brahmans were being fed in traditional fashion to mark the ceremony, but when they saw water spilled by a Maratha servant creeping into the room where their ladus (a Maharashtrian tweet) were kept, they began to raise an outcry : ‘ the ladus are polluted ! ’ Faced with an impossible situation of making pure ladus, and being unwilling to provide money to the demanding priests instead, the oldest brother thereupon threw the Brahmans out of the house and distributed the ladus to beggars and leppers.'* Whether apocryphal or not, the story marks a fitting inauguration for the house that was later to be called the ' non-Brahman fortress ’ and a meeting place for all political non-Brahman and much Satyashodhak activity. Baburao Jedhe, involved with upper-class Maratha politics, was from that time said to be ‘ Shahu Maharaj’s man ’ in Poona, and the Jedhe family, along with the merchants and lawyers who supported educational activities, provided a foundation for nonBrahman politics from 1917 on. The First Challenge, 1917-1920 However, the earliest strong challenge to orthodox Brahman dominance within Poona city itself seems to have come under the leadership of Walchand Kothari, a Jain, and in alliance with the Brahman moderates. In a sense this was a natural alliance, since the expressed non-Brahman political view in 1917 was close to that of the liberals, who urged only a gradual transfer of political power preceded by social reform. And if non-Brahman ideas of such reform differed from those of the liberals, still they could provide a political ingredient that the liberals sorely lacked: an ability to confront orthodox Brahmans at the level of street politics. The first issue around which this alliance developed was that of the *Patel Bill \ a bill brought by Vitthalbhai Patel in the Delhi Central Assembly in Septe­ mber 1918 to legalize intercaste marriages. Meetings of the orthodox were held throughout India to oppose it, and when newspapers like Kesari began to express the opinion that while anuloma marriages (between higher caste men and lower caste women) could be allowed, pratiloma marriages (between lower caste men

and higher caste women) should be forbidden, non-Brahmans felt this as humiliat­ ing. Further accentuating this was the fact the racial interpretation was brought in, and unions between Aryans and non-Aryans were compared with those of black and white." The new non-Brahman newspaper, The Deccan Ryot, argued that ‘ one immediate result of the Bill is that the patriotism of our Brahman politicians as a class has been tested and found wanting,’ and in tumultuous meet­ ings in Poona young non-Brahmans joined the fray against the orthodox. A meet­ ing on December 26 under the presidentship of the prestigious liberal Paranjpye was first disrupted by youth organized by orthodox Brahmans—but then younger non-Brahmans followed the Kesari party into their own center in Gaikwadwada to disrupt a meeting there, and provided volunteer bands to protect following liberal meetings.'0 Younger non-Brahmans were organized for this, under Kothari’s leadership, in the Tarun Mandal (youth group), which included at first Jain relatives and castemates of Kothari, Marathas like Ramrao Barge, the Gavandi brothers, and others for a total of about 20 - 25 members. Each would organize students from their own castes in the boardings, and * we would go to meetings of extremists to make a row ! ’ '* It was this group that Kothari brought to the Bombay Provincial Congress session at Sholapur in April 1920 to attack Tilak’s domi­ nation in alliance with Paranjpye; according to Kothari. while it failed to shake Tilak’s power it did force him to take a more socially radical stance." The second major challenge to Tilak in Poona also involved a social reform issue, this time concerning women. In 1920 the issue of free primary education came before the municipal government, and liberals and non-Brahmans opposed the conservatives over the question of whether education should be provided to girls as well as boys. When Tilak himself took the platform to argue that lack of finances made it possible to provide education only for boys, tomatoes and eggs were thrown at him and he was driven off the stage." This, like the Patel Bill affair, was not so significant in terms of immediate results, but it marked the beginning of the end of Tilak’s era of unquestioned dominance, and the attack on Tilak himself was both shocking and helped to give non-Brahmans a sense of power. The liberal alliance, however, could not hold. Similarities in arguments for * social reform ’ over *political reform ’ masked the fact that what non-Brahmans really wanted was radical and rapid social change and a share in power for them­ selves, while the elite Brahman liberals aimed at a gradualist reform of society while maintaining the leadership of an intellectual elite. Social relationships appear to have been a primary factor: none of the Brahman liberal elite had close relations with non-Brahmans—‘ they were high intellectuals who did not mix with ordinary people,' recalls one non-Brahman.'4 When Kothari, the only non­ Brahman leader whose natural social ties were with the Brahman elite, left the party after 1921 arguing for an alliance with the liberals and opposition to the British bureaucracy, no one followed him, not even those non-Marathas who also feared Maratha dominance." (Another factor Kothari mentioned as a reason for leaving,' the undesirable turn the non-Brahman movement was taking in the

villages,’ undoubtedly reflected the degree to which the peasant rebellion was affecting a man from a Jain merchant family with lands in Sholapur). Younger and militant non-Brahmans were also moving towards opposition to the British, but they would do so on their own terms, and not those of an alliance with either liberals or extremists. Radicalism Among the Marathas The next confrontation in Poona involved only Marathas, and ranged the younger, nationalistically inclined against the older non-Brahman loyalist politicians and the princely-state oriented leadership. Significantly, because Shivaji was a primary symbol of Maratha power, this involved a battle for control over the memorial to Shivaji planned under the auspices of the Shri Shivaji Maratha Society. As noted above, the society was organized in 1917 with Shahu Maharaj as its president and with an ambitious program for educational institutions, a historical research institution, and a statue of Shivaji.1®Then, when the Prince of Wales was to visit India in 1921, the powerful and wealthy Maharajah Shinde of Gwalior organized an attempt to have him lay the foundation stone for the statue, and after some discussion the Prince did so, on November 19 These were the days of the non-cooperation movement, and the British were happy to have aristocratic Maratha support to counteract nationalist boycotts of the Prince’s visit. But not only did this give the Maratha memorial the appearance of anti-nationalist alliance with the government, it also seems that the price of the support of Gwalior and the Prince of Wales was that the memorial should not be ‘ sectional,’ i. e. should not involve simply Marathas. When Shahu Maharaj died in 1922, control over the society passed into the hands of the Maharajah of Gwalior, who expected that his financial backing .would give him unquestioned control. He then brought two Brahman liberal leaders, Gopalrao Devdhar and the ruler of Sangli state, onto the governing committee.*1 At this point the younger Marathas of Poona rebelled. Led by Keshavrao Jedhe, youngest of the brothers, and Dinkarrao Javalkar, a young and poor intellectual from a village near Poona, they organized the Marathas of the old Tarun Mandal group into a militant opposition. Their grounds involved an appeal to the tradition of Shahu Maharaj and a mixture of caste and nationalist themes: they argued that the Maratha memorial should be ‘ owned’ by Marathas (the term used was malik) and not other communities, and described theii opponents, Primarily Gwalior, as an anti-nationalist * rich party ' yielding to British pressure. Indeed, the lines of conflict tended to throw loyalist upper-class nonBrahmans like Bhaskarrao Jadhav together with Marathas oriented to the outside princely state against the ‘ youth group,’ which won over the support of the nationalist V. R. Shinde and basic non-Brahman newspapers such as Vijayi Maratha

and Rashtravir.*** Jedhe established a newspaper, Shivsmarak, to head the agita­ tion, and meetings, including evidently one satyagraha, were organized in Poona and as far away as Satara district, where Keshavrao Vichare and fihaurao Patil backed their efforts. The militant youth were able to generate a good deal of turmoil and gave a shock to the Maharajah of Gwalior, who as a ruling prince had never before experienced this kind of opposition; after this experience he evidently avoided Maharashtrian politics.*' But without the financial resources to match the money put up by Gwalior, the youth group had no hope of success, and the issue was not one on which they could win wider non-Brahman support. Thus, the Mali Satyashodhak leader, Mukundrao Patil, commented rather sarcastically on the whole affair that Maratha dependence on aristocratic princes and jagirdars rather than self-reliance meant that they were lost from the beginning.10 But the fight marked an important beginning for the emerging militant leadership. Jedhe and Javalkar had come out or the social context provided by the relatively upper-class and conservative Maratha elite, but their activities marked an entirely new style of agitational leadership and a mass orientation. Their names from this time were linked together as the young militants: Jedhe from a rich background but marked by a simple style of life and a natural early association with poor non-Marathas as well as Marathas, and Javalkar from a patil family which had fallen into poverty." Neither had a college degree or spoke English. Jedhe was an impulsive and sometimes emotional man, never known for his intellectual brillance and a somewhat faltering speaker, but respe­ cted even by his political opponents for the genuineness of his identification with the masses and his firm secularism. Javalkar was, in contrast, an intellectual intense, physically frail and often driven beyond his powers; it was said by some that he 1burned himself out for the movement.' ** He was known not only for his powerful polemical writing, but also as the most fiery and brilliant orator of the day. Jedhe and Javalkar began their career in the context of Maratha caste politics and were to work until the 1930s within the general framework of the non-Brabman political party. Yet they showed from the beginning an entirely different political orientation from that of the pro-British non-Brahman elite, agitational in nature, nationalist as well as anti-Brahman in mood. Whereas the political elite spoke in the name of the masses to the British, Jedhe and Javalkar appealed to lower-class non-Brahmans, and took their message to the streets rather than the council halls. And although their activities in opposing the Maharajah of Gwalior and in later struggles appeared quizotic, with no hope of immediate practical success, they nevertheless showed skill in choosing issues that could

* The youth group's charge that the issue was really one of masses versus the rich was in a sense borne out by later developments: the Shivaji Military School, the final result of the society’s efforts, was modeled on an English public school as an elite institution, and at present its students are primarily Brahmans, Sindhis and other non-Maharashtrians and a few aristocratic Marathas; according to a former student,‘ you will not hear the name of Shivaji there.’

arouse a wide mass support. It was this new style of leadership, with its correl­ ates in the peasant agitations in rural areas, which was to make *non-Brahmanism’ a continuing potent political force even at a time when the non-Brahman Party was showing signs of disarray. The two quickly moved away from the arena of caste politics. The imme­ diate lesson they appeared to have learned from the *Shivsmarak * agitation was the futility of a purely Maratha politics and the necessity of making the movement more broad-based.** From this time they shifted to a ‘ Satyashodhak' orientation, although neither had previously had any connection with the Satya­ shodhak Samaj in Poona,*4 and they began clear attempts to appeal to non-Marathas as well as Marathas. Thus when Jedhe worte a *Petition to the Mali Samaj * early in 1924, Mukundrao Patil, who had earlier been hostile to the Shivsmarak agitation, responded warmly: *It is true that the creator and organizer of the Satyashodhak Samaj was a Mali, but the policy that that Mali gentleman spread regarding caste fifty years ago is even today carried by this Mandal’s disciples.’*1 The Non-Brahman Challenge in Poona, 1922 - 26 The following years saw the height of the Brahman—non-Brahman conflict within Poona, in a series of related events that included a literary and pamphlet war, the organizing of a non-Brahman mela to capture the Ganpati festival, and the bringing of a resolution for a statue of Phule before the Poona municipality. These events represented an aggressive attack on the symbolic centers of Brahman authority; they involved a fairly high level of mass organizing among non-Brahmans and they established the dominance of their young leaders, Jedhe and Javalkar, throughout much of Maharashtra. The Ganpati festival, occurring in September of each year, was a central feature of the public life of Poona. It had been founded by Tilak and controlled by Tilak’s heirs a means of communicating their ideology through public programs and through the songs of the melas, groups of singing street marchers; one scholar describes this as ‘ the political recruitment of the God Ganpati.’** When Jedhe organized in 1922 a ‘ Chatrapati mela’ to represent non-Brahman militancy, he was influenced not only by this Brahman success but also by the work of the Satyashodhak tamashas in the rural areas. The mela involved not the college students of the Tarun Mandal group, but a more lower-class, uneducated and often non-Maratha youth group,*'1 and while it gained financial support from the Jedhes and some other non-Brahman merchants, Jedhe himself accused educated Marathas of unwillingness to take part.** By 1924 the mela participants were provided with exotic and colorful costumes, and by 1925, according to a liberal Brahman account, it looked as if the Satyashodhak Samaj was ruling over Poona for the ten days of the festival.** This, it may be noted, involved a certain amount of street fighting. Fracases had begun to occur even in 1922; by 1924 riots were breaking out every night in front of Gaikwadwada, and from 1925 to 1927 it took rigid control by the police to keep the festival peaceful.40 Liberal Brahmans, who had been victims of

extremist mela attacks in the past, greeted the Satyashodhak success with some glee: The Ganpati festival in Poona has for the last two decades been the occasion for an orgy of obscene songs and vulgar mob oratory... Latterly, however, a third party has descended into the arena—the non-Brahmans. They showed as soon as they appered on the scene that they could beat the originators of this festival on their own ground i. e. in the employment of indecent language. Their attacks were directed against the very people who introduced this sinister element into the public life of Poona. The latter at once abandoned their former attachment to personal liberty and even applied for help from the Satanic bureaucracy who has applied the most rigorous censorship to the songs that are sung. The police are in evidence everywhere and even a show of military force is not wanting.41 In fact, the Kesari party now supported government censorship of mela songs, and along with the Hindu Mahasabha was showing a strong tendency to agree that the Ganpati festival should discuss only religious and not political or ' communal ’ subjects. It appears that the originators of ‘ the political recruitment of the God Ganpati ’ were ready to take away His political membership card now that their control had ceased; the Chatrapati mela marked the end of an era. The songs of the mela represented a clear nationalist orientation on the part of the youger non-Brahmans. The melawallas carried pictures of Gandhi, Shivaji and Shahu Maharaj, representing all-India nationalism, Maratha nationalism and social revolt and songs honored Phule as well as Shahu. In one of their most famous songs (which was censored), *Naktyanca Bazar,’ Brahmans were attacked for their economic exploitation in concentrating road and electricity development in Brahman sections of the city and in spending 15,000 rupees for a statue of Tilak to the neglect of social welfare: the Poona municipal government, they sang, was simply a marketplace of self-interest. Other songs attacked Brahmans in terms of nationalism: Brahmans were accused of being political weaklings who only pretended to follow Gandhi but betrayed him, tempting the people to take part in non-cooperation while they themselves were ready to capture political office at every possible opportunity; they were described as an elite that holds social and political power within the colonial structure rather than as leaders of a nationalist revolt against it.4' One of the most popular songs, ‘ Shivaji amuca rana’ (Shivaji our king) described Shivaji as the protector of religion and the destroyer of slavery, but emphasized also that he was the king for all and that the way of Marathas was to break communal differences and destroy the bonds of religion; 41 *Hindu dharma ’ in these songs was contrasted with ‘ Brahman dharma.'** Social themes joined the nationalist ones with an emphasis on Phule’s work for Untouchables and women, with attacks on the Hindu Mahasabha for despising Untouchables and creating quarrels with Muslims, and with a song about the exploitation of Brahmans and moneylenders during times of famine.4' Similar themes were expressed in the non-Brabman pamphlets and booklets that began to come out in this period. About eight or ten short books were 257

produced between 1924 and 1926, primarily by Javalkar, Shankarrao Khakurdikar, a Sutar who had also written many of the mela songs, and Ramchandra Narayan Lad, a Maratha-Kunbi who made his living with the ownership of two tongas, one of which he drove himself.4* Two newspapers were started, Mazur by Javalkar and Lad which gained a circulation of 1500 at its height but suffered periods of censorship, and Mulukh Maidan, a shortlived effort by Khakurdikar. Brah­ mans replied with an equally vigorous pamphlet literature and a newspaper, Sangram, sponsored by the Kesari group but edited by an ojthodox Maratha, G. M. Nalavade. The literature of both sides was strongly worded, provocative and idiomatic; Javalkar’s language in particular was powerful and earthy and was charged with being ‘ obscene. ’ Non-Brahmans here drew upon themes of Hindu tradition and Maharashtrian history to weave together a strong attack on Bra­ hmans directed to as wide as audience as possible, and one of the Brahman replies expressed the extent to which the orthodox felt themselves reeling under these strident attacks in comparison with the more genteel early Brahman reformers: Whether there should be caste distinctions in Hindu dharma or not, whether chaturvamya should remain or not...this intellectual debate has come crashing down on the Brahman caste from all sides. ** The most famous of this literature was Javalkar’s Deshace Dushman which is still proscribed in India and is pointed to, not only by for ner Satya­ shodhak militants but by Untuochables as well, as a fundamental book.*0 Its title indicates the central non-Brahman nationalist focus: Tilak and Chiplunkar the revered heroes of the elite, were enemies o f the country. The basis was the long-held Satyashodhak view of history: Brahmans were outsiders to the country and to the ethnic community of true 4Hindus’; they desired only their own caste superiority and consolidated their power through treachery, falsification of historical records, and by weaving a web of religious slavery which set up a social hierarchy of superiority and inferiority and divided the masses. Javalkar took all of Indian mythology for his examples. Ramdas and Shivaji, Waman and Bali, Tilak and Shahu Maharaj all became figures in an equation symbolizing priestly attempts to usurp power from Kshatrlya rulers. The role of Brahmans in deposing the last ruler of Satara state was stressed,*1 and Chipunkar’s attack on Phule as well as Brahman attacks on the Satyshodhak movement were linked with earlier Brahman oppression of non-Brahman saints like Tukaram. Javalkar continued Phule’s stress on equality and social reform; but where he departed from Phule was in his nationalism: Indians must depose their alien British rulers, but Brahman leadership, because it kept the masses divided and sought its own caste interest, would never be able to lead this struggle. Thus he concluded: ‘ I am no one’s slave' — this must be a part of Hindu speech. All are Hindus, no one superior, no one inferior...The four vamas are an unsullied lie, an inducement to make non-Brahmans slaves. There is no difference in Hinduness, Hindus are one varna ! If Hindus dine and marry with Hindus it is not anti-religious. On the contrary, if a reli­ gious difference falls between Hindus it should not be understood as 338

religion but as a Brahman trick...All our children are one, they are one now, but bhats, releasing their cub of casteism, have brought a chaotic state to us. Wherever Brahmanism dominates in Hindustan and as long as it is there, if the British go other rulers will come...or the Peshwai will come again...Our rights will be ours, the English and we will struggle, but we do not want Brahmans meddling in the middle.* * Another departure from Phule’s oriention was the emphasis on ‘ Hinduness' here which is perhaps a reflection of the appeal of the ' Hindu unity * ideology pro­ pagated by the Mahasabha. Again, just as militant non-Brahmans picked up nationalism and urged that Brahmans could never achieve it, they did so with theme of unity—but it is important to remember that the non-Brahman version always stiessed the destructiveness of caste, and attacked the varna system in a way which no Hindu Manasabha literature, or any elite nationalist ideology, ever did. The literature, then, and the mela songs reflected a new consciousness on the part of non-Brahmans that the nationalist cause was theirs, and that they were coming into a position from which they could win it on their own strength; from this period on and on the basis of their success in mass agitation, a new confidence is evident among militant leaders like Jedhe and Javalkar that the days of British rule were indeed numbered. But the caste hierarchy itself remained the primary enemy : according to Javalkar, as long as Brahmans did not lose their ‘ Brabmanness ’ by merging themselves with the community of Hindus, unity and freedom would not be obtained.** Thus in a sense he laid down the conditions under which non-Brahmans would join the nationalist movement. In the midst of this literary war and the turmoil caused by the Chatrapati mela, Keshavrao Jedhe was elected to the Poona municipality. He immediately brought forward a series of twelve resolutions, some of which were openly insult­ ing,14 others oriented to practical social reform such as the provision of city water for Untouchables.1* The most important and debated proposal, however, was a resolution to build a statue to Jotirao Phule: in view of the recent statue built by the municipality in honor of Tilak, this again involved a symbolic confronta­ tion between the Satyashodhak and Brahman heroes. The report of the final de­ bate, published by a spokesman for the orthodox with interspersed commentary, provides a sense of the emotional confrontation for which both sides had prep­ ared.** At the final debate, Jedhe managed to begin a long speech which included a reference to ‘ bhats ’ and the children of Brahman widows before he was stopp­ ed by the president of the meeting, then walked out of it on the charges that he was being prevented from speaking. His three Maratha supporters followed him, and this left only the Lingayat liberal Manurkar and an Untouchable represen­ tative Subhedar Ghatge, to speak up for Phule. The rest of the municipal represen­ tatives, both Brahmans and conservative non-Brahmans (the latter included a relative of Jotirao Phule, Baburao Phuie, who was a protege of the orthodox party at the time and was evidently elected from the Sadashivpeth constituency in preparation for the fight on the council)*7 then proceeded to attack Phule as a destroyer of Hindu religion and a converter to Christianity. They summed up the whole series of Satyashodhak challenges in the streets of Poona and in the Satara 239

rebellion as a case of social and religious anarchism. The meeting ended by rejecting the statue resolution and passing a condemnation of Jedhe for improper behavior. Jedhe, however, was not really concerned with municipality-level politics; given the small electorate at the time, militant non-Brahmans had little chance of real power anyway.* In the context of a radicalism that only seemed quixotic, he was really oriented to mass politics, to support from the streets and from larger non-Brahman communities outside of Poona itself. And this in fact he won. It was the ' Phule statue affair ’ that seems to have spread Jedhe’s name throughout much of Maharashtra at this time, just as Deshace Dushman made Javalkar known. The sentiment of the majority of Malis, for instance, was shown by the number of meetings demanding outcasting of the three Malis involved in ‘ slandering’ Jotirao Phule, and these and other Satyashodhak meetings in Wardha, Amraoti, Satara, Ahmednagar and Bombay also congratulated Jedhe for his work.'* It was the Poona events, including this municipality resolution, that formed the theme of departure for the largest biography of Phule written to date, P. S. Patil’s Mahatma Phule Charitra, published from Amraoti in 1927. The Poona conflict, then, reached a climax in 192S and 1926. Brahmans moved to counterattack, not only in literature and meetings, but also with law­ suits. The sons of Chiplunkar and Tilak brought a suit against those associated with Deshace Dushman (Javalkar, Jedhe, Bagade and Lad), and by 1926 the Ganpati festival had to go on without Jedhe and Javalkar, who were in jail for their role in writing the book. But the denouement came in late August 1926, when a young Maratha, possibly stimulated by the whole issue of the role of Brahman women, attacked an 18-year old Brahman girl.60 This concerned one of the most sensitive issues of the whole non-Brahman challenge. One issue that Brahmans focused on in characterizing the literature of protest as ' obscene‘ was its insulting references to Brahman women and to Brah­ man widows bearing illegitimate children. There were several underlying factors here. One was the fact that in all cases of an elite cultural group dominance women represent one of the most synbolic and closely guarded possession of the elite and the elite’s access to women of lower groups contrasts clearly with the tendency to make attacks on elite women one of the greatest crimes. (The parallel with blacks and whites here is obvious, as is the parallel with the British rulers of India, who were never so furiously affected as when some of their women were killed during the 1857 rebellion. The response to this situation, which makes a relationship with an elite group woman a sign of power, is also obvious). As in the case of British rulers or American whites, something like this * As compared to a municipality population of 133,227, the electorate was 7,422 in 1921 and 18,935 in 1925. While ‘non-Brahmans’ as a whole had sufficient strength so th at they represented a majority on the council since 1922, still most of these appeared to be representatives of mer­ chants and non-Maharashtrian communities and not of ‘ Marathas and allied castes ’ or Untou­ chables. Brahmans also were learning to put up orthodox or controllable non-Brahman candi­ dates (decribed by non-Brahman radicals as b h atalalela, or ‘gone to the bhat*’, a term more or less equivalent t o ‘U nde T om ’), and given a small electorate still able to maintain their power at this time.**


was part of the caste system, where it existed in terms of the distinction between anuloma and pratiloma marriages and the fact that Brahman and uppercaste men have always had fairly open access to mistresses from the lower castes. For non* Brahman conscious of traditional inequalites, this was becoming a deeply felt though underlying issue. Similarly, the situation of Brahman widows was played up because it seemed to offer an abvious proof of the immorality of traditional Brahman customs in a situation where Brahman claims to moral superiority were constantly being made. When Brahmans claimed that the Satyashodhak melas or tamashas were insulting women with such chants as *The Chatrapati mela has come; Brahman women better run ! ’, non-Brahmans replied by pointing out that extremist mela had mocked educated Brahman women who showing signs of liberalism and independence.*1 But with the attack on the girl. Brahmans found an issue around which to rally the entire Brahman community as well as more conservative non-Brahmans; things had ‘ gone too far.’ It was in this context that the initial sentences in the Deshace Dushman case were given, though the case was later won on appeal with Dr. Ambedkar giving legal advice.®* The intensive Brahman organizing effort included many public meetings and finally a deputation to the governor led by the liberal leader R. P. Paranjpye. To the Brahmans the incident was a graphic vindication of their charge that the Satyashodhak attack on religion undermined the foundations of morality; as the Mahratta put it, It has to be remembered that the particular assault is not an exception but is a type of a series of similar crimes of other nature that are be­ ing committed for the last six years in Satara, Sholapur and other districts of Maharashtra. A virulent campaign against the Brahman community as a whole, with its slogan of boycott of Brahmans in every sphere of life, is responsible.*' But to the young militant leaders, as Javalkar argued in an account of his jail experiences, the reaction simply proved that in any crisis all Brahmans, whether orthodox or reformist, would come together to destroy the Satyashodhak move­ ment.*4 Similarly, when upper-class leaders like Latthe and Jadhav denied any connection with the Poona events,** this appeared to represent another betrayal on the part of upper-class non-Brahmans who, like Brahman extremists, seemed more concerned to enter the Legislative Council than to lead a social or national movement. Javalkar’s jail memoirs end with a sense of disillusionment. It appeared that the Poona scene had quieted, that Brahman leadership was back in control, and that Jedhe and Javalkar had been isolated as militant leaders. The New Politics of Poona—and Maharashtra The denouement, however, was only opparent. In fact, in many ways the Poona conflicts of 1925 - 6 marked a new era in the politics of all Maharashtra. In spite of the seeming triumph of the orthodox, Jedhe, because of the Phule statue resolution, and Javalkar, because of Deshace Dushman, had become known, ...1 6


throughout the region. The two hereafter played an important role in the organiz­ ing of peasant meetings in opposition to the Small Holdings Bill, and began to take an intensive part in non-Brahman politics. Shortly after his release from jail Javalkar travelled to Vidarbha, attending Satyashodhak conferences in Amraoti and Akola, and then on the invitation of a young non-Brhman from Nagpur made a well-attended speech there that gave new impetus to non-Brahmans in what was a fairly strong center of orthodoxy.®8 However much upper-class nonBrahman leaders refused to praticipate in such events as the Chatrapati mela and disliked the ‘ scurrilous’ literature of protest, the mass following that the young leaders had gained forced leaders like Bhaskarrao Jadhav to turn to them again. By 1928 the two were joint secretaries of the non-Brahman Party, and Javalkar had been given a position in Bombay as editor of a new non-Brahman newspaper, Kaivari. The non-Brahman Party itself was in a state of ideological and organiza­ tional disarray at the time. Even though leaders like Jadhav continued to fight to maintain its loyalist posture (and won a victory when the party refused to join the boycott of the Simon Commission in 1928), this was falling before the pressure of nationalist sentiment. An August 1927 special conference had made it permissible for individual party members to join Congress, and non-Brahman newspapers such as Rashtravir and Viiayi Maratha reflected a growing disillusion­ ment with the British from 1925 onwards. The party thus hovered between loyalism and national, between the influence of its rural and urban upper class and the pressure from below evidenced from the time of the Satara rebellion through the Pooan events and the anti-Small Holdings Bill agitation. It had no identity other than the claim for a need for an autonomous organization to represent non-Brahman interests. The degree to which this need was felt in Maharashtra was evidenced by the willingness of men like Jedhe and Javalkar to remain with the party (and here they might be contrasted with two similar young Tamil leaders of the decade, E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker and Kamraj Nadar, both of whom were in the Congress at the time and not the Justice Party). But the party itself could not be maintained simply on the basis of representing a 1communal' group interest, and if it could not be transformed to find some other political-ideological identity—say, a linguistic, national or social revolutionary one —it could not in fact be maintained. The non-Brahman Party was thus at most a temporary stopping point for leaders like Jedhe and Javalkar. There was in fact little question that they and most of the young rural leaders would eventually join the national movement if a section of nationalist leaders could be found who could accomodate the de­ mands of social radicalism. The class demands expressed in peasant agitation, and the cultural demands symbolized by Javalkar’s challenge to Brahmans to lay aside their *Brahmanism' in fact expressed the conditions under which a strong nation­ al movement could emerge in Maharashtra—by uniting the forces of cultural and economic revolt with those of nationalism. In Kerala young leaders of nonBrahman castes such as Nairs and Ezhavas had been part of the left-wing Congress leadership which worked in caste reform and tenant movements and would later provide the nucleus for the Communist Party; in Andhra a large section of the young non-Brahman intelligentsia was similarly won over to Communism. In

Maharashtra, however, the Bombay Cmmunists remained isolated from such militant non-Brahman leaders, and it was instead a section of Gandhian and socialist-oriented young Brahmans who were able to establish the crucial alliance. And this was a decisive factor in the development of Maharshtrian politics. The failure of the older Brahman political leadership, extremist and liberal alike, became clear in the 1920. The Brahman liberals had left the mainstream of the nationalist movement when they departed from Congress in 1919 to form the National Liberal Federation and 4were to remain alienated from the active and moving body of Indian nationalism;*67 it may be added that they remained almost equally isolated from the moving stream of the social movement. The extremists, on the other hand, remained a powerful force within Maharashtra, controlling many of the newspapers and a good deal of the Congress party osganization and fighting the Gandhians on a national level for control of policy. They had a good deal of success in this, as was apparent when after the cessation of the non-cooperation movement they won permission for the Swarajist party to fight the elections. They sought to supplement this with appeals for mass support in the style of Tilak's Hindu revivalism, with increasing work within the Hindu Mahasabha, appeals for Hindu unity against Muslims, and with an apparent readiness to admit the major non-Brahman castes to Kshatriya status. With these efforts they were able to win over a number of non-Brahmans—Vidarbha leaders like Ramrao Deshmukh, a number of Konkan Marathas, and Poona men like Narayanrao Gunjal and G. M. Nalavade among the Marathas and Baburao Phule among the Malis.* But especially in the Deccan and in Poona itself these ‘ nation­ alist ’ non-Brahman (with the single exception of V. R. Shinde) were men who were orthodox on caste questions and without a mass basis of their own; to militant non-Brahmans they were bhatalalela and many Brahmans also apparently scorned them as figureheads who did little real work and who were given pro­ minence simply as a counterweight to the non-Brahman movement.68 Thus though the Brahman extremists retained their political and organizational abilities, it was becoming clear that they could not win mass support. In many ways the Satyashodhak capture of the Ganpati festival within Poona city itself proved this, and even in the Legislative Council with its limited electorate Brahman control was slipping steadily throughout the decade.69 To establish a mass basis for Congress in Maharashtra, and perhaps to prevent a more radical autonomous development, the militant vanguard of the bahujan samaj would have to be won over. And this was clear to the emerging young Brahman leaders of Maharashtra as well as to Gandhi himself. Gandhi, who was aware of the Satyashodhak movement from 1916 when he had sent it a talegram of support, had, as Ambed­ kar argued, developed his position on Untouchability and social reform in res­ ponse to pressure from below.111 Indeed, Gandhi's writings on caste, published

* Most Vidarbha non-Brahman local elites appear to have remained aloof from both extremist and non-Brahman parties; Panjabrao Deshmukh’s mediating efforts and independent organi­ zations were an exam ple.10


through the years in Young India, reveal a position developing in dialogue with and reaction to non-Brahman challenges.11 It is worth asking why Gandhi should have been the person to develop congress as a ‘ mass ’ organization. On economic issues he was clearly conserva­ tive, always opposing any suggestion that a no-tax campaign against the Govern­ ment should turn into a no-rent campaign against landlords, urging the main­ tenance of private property in terms of his concept of 4trusteeship ' and forbiding his Ahmedabad labor union to take part in all-Indian labor organizations.11 On caste issues, too, his ideology seemed in many ways not so different from that of the Maharashtrian extremist Brahmans. He advocated maintenance of an idea­ lized vama system (i. e. the absorption of the numerous castes into the four main varnas)> felt that boys should follow their fathers' professions, and in regard to Untouchability urged usually that Untouchables should be made fully a part of the Shudra varna, i. e. absorbed into the lowest rung of the caste system. It frequently appeared that his primary idea of reform, however much he insisted on the sin of Untouchability, was to remove the concept of superiority from a system whose essentials were to be maintained.14 Since hierarchy was so crucial to the traditional social arrangements of caste, it was no wonder that many militant Satyashodhak and Untouchable leaders expressed a strong distrust of him and that Tamil non-Brahmans such as Ramaswami Mudaliar attacked him as living in a world of fantasy: It is not Mahatma Gandhi, s varnashrama that the world is concerned with...but the Varnashrama Dharma which exists today in South India and which forces [ the non-Brahmans ] to accept unnumbered degradations.71 But where Gandhi differed from the Maharashtrian extremist Brahmans was in his recognition of the seriousness of the problem and the necessity of associating himself with social reform and giving it a place at the center of his movement as a part of the *constructive * program. Perhaps more clearly than any other highlevel nationalist leader, Gandhi seemed intensely aware of the diversities and conflicts within Indian society, of tumultuous challenges being brought by peasant, working class and ansti-caste movements. His genius lay in his style of life—travelling third-class on the trains, insisting that Congressmen give up their expensive elite or westernized dress habits—and in associating him­ self with the aspirations these movements represented, while at the same time taking care to see that they were brought under a well-controlled Congress party in which the ‘ High Command ’ had increasingly decisive organizational power. And simply because he was outside the Maharashtrian conflict and because Maharashtrian extremist leaders scorned him so, non-Brahmans in the region could see him as an ally.78 The non-cooperation campaign of 1919-21 had aroused widespread sympathy among many non-Brahmans as representing an alternative and new form of militant nationalism, and although neither Jadhe nor Javakar revealed much personal attraction for Gandhi, they found it useful to associate their attacks on Brahmans by charging a betrayal of the nationalist cause as represented by Gandhi.77 Gandhi began to meet with the non-Brahman 244

leaders very early, appearing at one of V. R. Shinde’s lectures on Maratha history around 1918. He was received at Jedhe mansion in 1924, met Latthe during his tour of Maharashtra in the same year, and gave funds to Bhaurao Patil's Rayat Shikshan Sanstha.1* In many ways, it appears that non-Brahmans after 1925 were trying to use Gandhi’s name, representing him as being more opposed to the caste system ( varrmhrama dharma) than in fact he was, and at least on one occasion he was provoked to disassociate himself from their radicalism.'1* In fact, in regard to the actual process of bringing non-Brahmans into the Congress, Gandhi himself seems to have been important primarily as a symbol. Equally attractive were emerging socialistic trends within the Congress; Jedhe, for instance, was evidently more attracted by the socialist sympathies of Nehru than by Gandhi himself.*0 Perhaps most crucial here was the role of the younger Brahman militants of Maharashtra who actually established the alliance. The key persons here among the opponents to the extremist party were not doctrinaire Gandhians like Shankarrao Deo, but secularistic and socialist-oriented leaders like N. V Gadgil.*1Gadgil(born 1896) was a lawyer, convicted many times in the civil disobedience movements in 1921 and 1930 - 32, who became a leading figure in Maharashtrian politics from 1928 and was a longtime member of the AU-lndia Congress Committee. He emerged into political prominence as a leading organizer of the Youth League, which was founded in 1928 with the help of Nariman of Bombay and represented the increasing socialist orientation of many educated youth.*' (Many of the later leaders of Indian socialist parties such as S. M. Joshi, N. G. Gore, Khadilkar and others had their start in the Youth League). Gadgil was no doctrinaire either as a Gandhian or a socialist, and always resisted, in spite of his socialist sympathies, the formation of any separate socialist group within or without Congress. His style was more that of a secular, practical politician—at least one acquaintance described him as a dada or political *boss ’ in style—but he was scornful of the caste rigidity and arrogance of the old Brahman leadership and fully aware of the necessity of Congress associating itself with mass politics, or the bahujan samaj. Alone among Brahman politicians of the period he is said to have had the ability to speak the language of the non-Brahman movement with its attacks on bhatjis and shetjis and to establish direct and open relationships with non-Brahman leaders. Gadgil’s awareness of the seriousness of the non-Brahman challenge dated from the Poona events of 1925 - 26 of which he was a close observer.*' He realized the necessity of going beyond a superficial response and quickly translated the conflict into the language of class struggle. There were two nations in Maharashtra, one upper-class, the second lower class. One wealthy and the other without wealth. Of these a single sentiment must be created...'We must obtain the non-Brahmans* trust and make a visible sacrifice for that.’ So one day I went to Keshavrao Jedhe and said, ‘Bring a stool, bring tea.’ He did not under­ stand. I said, *I will sit on the stool, drink the tea, and whatever abuses or criticisms of the Brahman class you want to make, make them. 245

Then think, how can your problem be solved? Your problem is su­ perficially social but in reality economic. Leaving aside princes, zamindars and sardars, the Maratha community is poor...The same is true o f the higher community... The enemy of both is the wealthy class, the moneylending class...The common number one enemy is the English, the second the rich and exploiting class.94 From this period Gadgil began to establish a relationship with Jedhe, and it was the tightly knit alliance between these two men which brought non-Brahmans into the civil disobedience movement of the 1930s on a mass scale. Significantly enough, the first campaign on which they worked together was a social reform issue, the Untouchable satyagraha to gain entry into the Parvati temple of Poona in 1929, which was led by the Chambhar leader P. N. Rajbhoj and brought Jedhe and many Satyashodhak workers into alliance with Gadgil and the Youth League in support of the movement.81 From the 1930 civil disobedience campaign onwards, Jedhe became a na­ tionalist leader, touring with Gadgil throughout Maharashtra. Younger nonBrahman sympathy for Congress and the nationalist movement had been growing during the 1920s, but without the leadership of Satyashodhak militants it is doubtful if the Congress could have gained their trust. *Come, come, whoever is a true Satyashodhak will fight under the banner of satyagraha. Congress is ours — it belongs to the bahujan samaj' —so said Jedhe.86 Along with Jedhe came the group around him—much of the Poona circle, newspapers like Vijayi Maratha and Rashtravir9 non-Brahman Satyashodhak leaders like Keshavrao Bagade, A. B. Latthe and Bhaurao Patil, who was dissuaded only by his educational duties from committing satyagraha. Many older non-Brahman leaders remained loyalists or independents, but they frequently encouraged younger leaders to join the national movement.8*1 Remarkably, however, Jedhe himself is given much of the ciedit for personally leading non-Brahmans into Congress : ‘ he had an aura about him/ explained one in describing his tours and influence in Ahmednagar district.88 Even in Vidarbha, where the non-Brahman movement merged officially into Congress only in 1938, Jedhe played an important role: he and Gadgil were chairman and vice-chairman respectively of a non-Brahman conference in 1932, and Jedhe was invited to preside over the final meeting in which non-Brahmans resolved to merge with Congress.89 Jedhe and Gadgil were elected together to the Central Legislative Assembly in 1934, and for a long time Jedhe was the only non-Brahman on the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee. Given this position and the number of meetings he presided over and tours he participated in with Gadgil— nationalist campaigns, social reform advocacy, local elections—it is hard to escape the conclusion that his personal position as the most important non-Brahman nationalist leader was a crucial one. In conclusion, the old Brahman factions, moderates and extremists alike, had failed in establishing any political alliances with the non-Brahman movement. If it was the Gandhian Congress that was to draw the 1social revolution ’ to­ wards itself this was because the Gandhian Congress was forming in a new era in which significant concessions were being made to the demands that such movements represented. To view either Gandhian social reform or the socialist 246

orientation developing among the upper-caste elite in isolation from this pressure from below would bs a serious mistake. The non-Brahman movement and Satyashodhak samaj in Maharashtra had established a basis among the rural masses before the Congress did, and although the call of nationalism was strong and it was rapidly becoming politically suicidal for non-Brahman leaders to maintain a loyalist posture towards the Government, still it was by no means a foregone conclusion that they should enter Congress when they did. The condition o f their entry was a significant movement to the left on the part of Congress and the winning over of the most militant representatives of non-Brahmanism. It was because the Congress party under Gandhi (and crucial regional leaders such as Gadgil) could make this response— and not because Gandhi’s political-religious style appealed to a supposedly ‘traditionalist’ Indian peasantry—that it could attain the success it did. However, the non-Brahman entry into Congress was not so rapid and certain as this might suggest. From the 1930s on the hegemony of Congress was largely established, yet non-Brahmans were frequently repelled and antagonized by the slowness of Congress nationalist responses and the policies of Congress governments that came into power in 1937 and afterwards, policies which were felt to be Brahman-dominated and anti-* mass in 1948 indeed many of the original nationalist non-Brahmans like Jedhe and Shankarrao More who had entered Congress in the 1930s departed from it to form a ‘ Marxist-Leninist' Peasants and Workers Party. In the late 1920s itself Congress hegemony did not appear to be certain. Along with the Gandhians, old extremist Brahmans and emerging socialist sympathizers, a new leftist vanguard was appearing in India in the form of the Communist movement. And while Jedhe was forming a relationship with Gadgil, his militant Satyashodhak colleague, Dinkarrao Javalkar, was becoming involved with the working class movement and with Communists in Bombay city. The events of this involvement represent in a sense a direction that failed for Maharashtrian non-Brahman (partly due to Javalkar’s early death in 1932), but Congress hegemony itself became established partly due to this failure of alternatives. The following chapter, then, will describe the final important episode in the confrontation of non-Brahman cultural radicalism with nationalism and revolution.


Chapter XIII Non-Brahmans and Communists in Bombay By the late 1920s as we have seen, the non-Brahman movement was merging into both peasant rebellion and nationalism, and its leadership was passing to a group of young radicals who mounted an increasingly severe attack on Brahmans but at the same time defined themselves as nationalists. The issue at this point was not so much whether the non-Brahman peasant masses in Maharashtra would join the national movement, but, whether they would do so in a way that allowed them decisive influence over the forms of the emerging nationalism or whether they would simply be coopted by the upper class and upper caste elite that continued to control the Congress party. The leaders of the young radicals, Keshavrao Jedhe and Dinkarrao Javalkar, had by 1926 attained a statewide reputation. After 1927 Jedhe began to be increasingly attracted by the National Congress as its Gandhian leadership appeared to offer a social reformist alternative that promised to undermine the old dominance of Maharashtrian orthodox Brahmans, and it was in fact his alliance with N. V. Gadgil that ex­ pressed and led the movement of Maharashtrian non-Brahmans toward the Congress. As this alliance was forming, however, Dinkarrao Javalkar was coming into contact with an increasiagly militant working class movement in Bombay and with the new Communist leadership which offered an alternative direction for the Indian revolutionary movement. Javalkar emerged from his experience as a Marxist who aimed at leading the non-Brahman movement in a different and more radical direction from that represented by Jedhe, and before his early death in 1932 had made beginnings at 6uch an organization. The existence of this more radical impulse among influential non-Brahmans and the correlated possibility of gaining a peasant base for the Communist movement is important. Even more so was its failure and the subsequent incorporation of non-Brahmans into a Congress party which continued to be controlled at the top by a caste elite and the Indian bourgeoisie. It is this possibility and failure that will be examined in this chapter in relation to Bombay working class movements. Social Organization in Bombay City Bombay city, the urban-industrial center of Bombay presidency, was a typical cosmopolitan colonial port city. It was not a political center for Marathi or Gujarati speakers in the same way that Calcutta was unambiguously a Bengali city and Madras a tamil center.' Because of its particular social structure, *non248

Brahmanism ’ did not exist there as a movement in the way it did in the Marathi* peaking rural districts. However, upper class non-Brahman politics did exist and partly reflected the connections that non-Brahmans of all classes maintained with the rural areas. Similarly, the large majority of the lower and working classes were Maharashtrians, most drawn from the rural districts of the Konkan where as tenant peasants they came into conflict with largely Brahman (but also high caste Maratha) landlords. Thus the working class organization that developed did so at least partly in the context of the non-Brahman movement, and this was to have important consequences. Within the Bombay presidency, the city overwhelmingly dominated what industrialism existed: by 1931 it contained 381 out of 794 factories employing more than ten persons, as compared to 162 for the other Marathi-speaking districts.* The cotton textile industry, which dated its beginnings from the late 1850s was again heavily dominant within the presidency and the city itself. By 1931 out of a total of 563,787 earners and working dependents in Bombay, 176,433 were employed in *industrial' categories and of these, 114,960 were in cotton textile factories of various types.* Tt was these workers who were predo­ minantly Maharashstrians, mainly immigrants from the Konkan districts, secon­ darily from the Deccan plateau; a few come from the United Provinces, almost none from Gujarat. Table 1 : Place of Origin of Mill Workers *

District o f Origin

Percent of total 1911 1921


















3 07



Total of above




Born in Bombay city




3 05



United Provinces

mill hands 1931

While it was the second largest Indian city of the colonial period, Bombay was probably the premier Indian industrial city. Unlike Calcutta, whose trade and industry was for a long time overwhelmingly dominated by Europeans 249

partly by reason of general government patronage, Bombay Indians had played a much greater role as businessmen, collaborating with Europeans *on a basis of something like equality.’* These businessmen, including the mill owners and mana­ gers were overwhelmingly Gujarati speakers, Parsis, Gujarat vanis (merchant castes) and Muslim business minority communities such as the Bohras, Khojas and Memons.* In contrast, the educated and professional classes of Bombay had from early days been dominated by Marathi speakers, but these had found it difficult to establish their leadership vis-a-vis the business communities.'1 And Brahman dominance among them was not nearly so absolute as in rest of Maharashtra. For example, while Poona delegates at the first session of the Indian National Congress in 1883 had been all Brahmans, the Bombay delegation included seven Parsis, five Brahman, three Banias, two Muslims and one CKP.S One result of this was that caste orthodoxy was less strong; Brahman moderates like Gokhale could find a greater basis in the more cosmopolitan center of Bombay, and Bombay and Poona presented markdly different political styles. Finally, Muslims existed in greater proportion in Bombay than in the rest of Maharashtra, with the result that Hindu-Muslim tensions had a greater impact on the life of city: Muslims were 18 % as compared to 68 % Hindus in Bombay in 1931, contrasted with 8% and 90% in the Deccan districts at the time* For these reasons, the non-Brahman issue did not arise in Bombay city with the same intensity it did in the rest of Maharashtra. Although as an urban center Bombay produced one of the earliest Satyashodhak branches and the newspaper of the organization, Din Bandhu, the movement itself was weak there. Broad-based non-Brahman social reform found an expression instead in the more religiously moderate Maratha Aikyecchu Sabha which was active from the 1890s through 1910. The term ‘ Maratha ’ in its title was interpreted not in the caste sense but to include all Marathi-speaking non-Brahman castes except possi­ bly Untouchables (though many of its leaders actively supported such Untouchable leaders as Ambedkar), and its leaders included men such as Krishnarao Arjunrao Keluskar, the Maratha writer; Narayanrao Lokhande, the Mali Satyashodhak leader, and S. K. Bole, the Bhandari political leader of the non-Brahman Party. Indeed, Bole’s career illustrates much of the particular nature of Bombay non-Brahmanism. Born in 1869, he took an early lead in caste reform activities founding an organization of his own subcaste in 1889 and becoming the first president of the Bhandari Education Conference in 1913. He took a leading role in organizing tenant agitation against khot landlords in the Konkan, was the most important non-Brahman leader of working class welfare organiziations after 1900, and became one of the leaders of the non-Brahman Party in the Legislative Council in the 1920s. But he was never a member of Satyashodhak Samaj, and later joined the Hindu Mahasabha, one of the very few non-Brahman leaders to go in that direction.10 It would be useful to examine more closely the class and caste relations of non-Brahmans in Bombay. With no representation among the high level business community and very little among the intelligentsia and professional classes, the non-Brahman section nevertheless did include some well-to-do men, mostly 250

merchants and contractors. (Typical of this perhaps was the fact that Telugu Malis and associated groups of contractors had provided most of the early sup­ port for Phule in Bombay city). In spite of the efforts of such organizations as the Maratha Aikyecchu Sabha, it seems that caste remained a significant factor of social intercourse, splitting the non-Brahmans." Even among Marathas, distinc­ tions between aristocrats and ' kunbis ’ as well as distinctions between Marathas from the Konkan and Marathas from the Deccan continued to be important well into the 1920s. Thus the earliest Maratha caste organizations represented separately the *Deshashtha' and ‘ Konkanastha ’ Marathas; these had managed to unite in 1912 in the ‘Kshatriya Maratha Dnyatisamaj but this remained an organization dominated by aristocrats, with its office in the wealthy area of Girgaum and with activities including preparation of lists and biographies of *Kshatriya Marathas.’11 In contrast, a *Maratha Samaj ’ founded in 1896 included reformist leaders like R. S. Asavale, Bapurao Avte, Laxmanrao Thosar and Vasudevrao Birze, this organization considered Din Bandhu and Barodavatsal as affiliated newspapers and aimed at unity, education and social reform, but evidently did not survive for long.1* Instead localized organizations, including organizations of Marathas from one district, continued to predominate. For less aristocratic Marathas, the center of much activity was Crawford Market, and Koliwada Hall in nearby Mandvi was said to be the *headquarters for all Marathas.’14 It was here that Phule had been honored in 1888,1* and it was the site for numerous community meetings included one in 1930 attended by Jedhe and Gadgil with the aim of bringing the Maratha community into Congress. The Maratha merchant community of this area was not an educated one, but did have extensive connections. Many of its leading men had come to Bombay seek­ ing their fortunes from the villages, and they maintained their connections with the rural areas. They took part in welfare associations, some oriented to caste activities,1* some to labor welfare programs, some to education and social reform; through these they maintained relationships with and influence over a group of Bombay lower class non-Brahmans. Among them were men such as Mansingrao Jagtap, grass merchant who was loosely involved with politics both in his home town and in Bombay and patronized wrestling, tamashas and welfare organiza­ tions; or Dhondji Patil-Bhosle who had come from Satara as a laborer making boxes and (then organize) was also a philanthropist, a patron of wrestling and an important fonder of the Rayat Shikshan Sanstha of Satara. Perhaps the most important of such businessmen merchants and a crucial behind the scenes patron of Bombay non-Brahmans was Govindrao *Bhausaheb ’ Shinde. Born in 1879 in Nasik, he came to Bombay with his widowed mother in 1890, opened a small shop and eventually established an Aryurvedic medicine shop on Delisle Road which became one of the most important purveyors of medicine to workers in that area. His home at Delisle Road became a center for nonBrahman activities in Bombay that was said to be the equivalent of the 4Jedhe mansion’ in Poona; indeed the 1927 special session of the non-Brahman Party which was called to decide whether or not they should enter Congress was held in his compound. He took part in caste activities (he founded in 1916 a Maratha 251

Vidyarthi Sahakari Mandal to provide scholarship help to students) and in organizations such as the Social Service League of N. M. Joshi. Men such as Shinde and Jagtap—- and through them the non-Brahman leaders of Bombay— maintained a connection with lower class non-Brahmans through such welfare activities and through sponsorship of gymnasiums and wrestl­ ing societies which were important in working class social life. More significantly, perhaps, they evidently had close relationships with a number of the 'jobbers’ who were so crucial in the organization of the Bombay labor force.1* Jobbers overwhelmingly dominated the social organization of the mill areas at this time and were a crucial linking group in relationships of the workers. They were responsible for the recruitment and management of labor, and their influence extended from the villages where they recruited to the mills and the working class tenements as well. The ‘jobber’s gang’ was in fact asocial unit that often followed him from one mill to another. Jobbers made arrangement for laborers to borrow money and frequently loaned it themselves. All this gave them tremendous social power and an income derived in large part from taking a cut of the income o f the workers down as dasturi (fee, bribe, commission). Their caste composition was almost exactly equivalent to that of the workers and occasionally they themselves had risen from the ranks. They have been described as a city equivalent of the village headman, and although their position was not hereditary, this is probably apt, for they represented a conservative, patron-client form of social organization. Bombay non-Brahman society, then, though heavily stratified by class and caste, was in many ways a fluid one, and these relationships that linked workers, jobbers, businessmen and political leaders formed the social basis for the early labor organizations of Bombay. They help to make understandable a part of Bombay labor history— but not all of it. For as Morris David Morris has noted, Bombay industry has a long and bitter tradition of industrial conflict. There have been more labor disputes in the Bombay cotton textile industry and they have been of greater intensity than in any other place or industry in the country. The trade unions which have emerg­ ed have had a complicated, tumultuous and unstable career.*0 The main characteristics of this instability have been incredible tenacity in strikes coupled with the continued potential of becoming a revolutionary political force on the one hand, and on the other the inability to maintain a strong and militant union.*1 Organizationally, radical (Communist or Socialist) unions have up to the present been successful in calling masses of workers out on strike while in normal times reformist unions, supported by the government have succeeded in m a in ta in in g their positions as representative unions. Two types of unionism, then have existed among the Bombay mill workers, one based to a large degree upon the social structure outlined above, the other upon spontaneous worker radicalism (itself in part connected with non-Brahman anti-elitist themes) and militant leadership. It is the relationship between these that will be discussed in the follow­ ing two sections. 252

Early non-Brahman Labor Organization To a very considerable extent, early labor welfare organization grew out of non-Brahman activity. It is a Satyashodnak leader, Narayan Meghaji Lokhande, who is credited with being India’s first labor leader.” Born in 1848 in a Mali family of Thana, he had been educated up to high school and began life in Bombay under the patronage of a Khoja merchant and eventually became a head clerk in a Bombay cotton mill. Though little in detail is known about his early life, Satyashodhak sources stress that ‘ unlike the panderpesha lawyers, barristers and solicitors who lead today’s unions,’ Lokhande had been a ' worker * himself and had lived in the tenements of Parel and Byculla." Though this was an exagg­ eration since he was a clerk and not a manual laborer, there is little doubt that he was closer socially to the workers than upp.r caste leaders such as N. M. Joshi. He learned of the Satyashodhak movement early enough to become a member in its second year in 1874, and began activities on its behalf in Bomboy. In 1880 he was given the editotship of its paper Din Bandhu, which began to call itself the 'Journal in the interests of the Working Classes/ and with this opportunity he left his work for social service and founded the Millhands Association. Lokhande differed little in style from other early upper class labor leaders in that his role was primarily in representing the workers ’ grievances before the British and in attempting to ameliorate conditions that caused unrest rather than to organize workers to press their demands directly. However, in 1884 he was responsible for organizing meetings of textile workers out of which 5000 signed a petition of demands to the Factories Commission,'4 and the Millhands Association did have an organizational basis among jobbers." The Association itself was weak and shortlived, but it evidently remained as a tradition among the workers; during a 1920 general strike an organization under that name appeared and distributed a leaflet of demands.'* The Association’s work was continued partly by the Maratha Aikyecchu Sabha, which included Lokhande in its leadership and which represented workers’ grievances by taking part in the agitation for a twelve-hour day in 1905.'* However it was the Kamgar Hitawardhak Sabha, founded by S. K. Bole and others in 1909 which became the most prominent of the workers’ welfare associations and lasted until developing radicalism among workers in the mid 1920s cut away its strength. The Sabha defined its aims as aiding workers in times of difficulty, spon­ soring lectures and handbills on useful subjects, opening schools for workers ’ children, and helping wokers to *settle ’ struggles with factory owners.** By the 1920s it did indeed have three night schools and evening classes, and sponsored sporting competitions and gymnasiums.** It represented workers ’ grievances dur­ ing the 1918 - 19 textile workers’ strike and in 1919 it organized the ‘first confe­ rence of Bombay workmen ’ which supported a nine-hour day, urged medical care and workmen’s compensation—and warned workers against falling victim to out­ side agitators.*0 It also formed part of the deputation to the governor and Montagu in 1917 which demanded separate electorates for non-Brahmans. The Sabha’s organization was based primarily on jobbers, and it developed the strongest organization for its time, with 200 • 300 members who were said to 253

have influence over approximately 10,000 workers due to their role as jobbers in the early 1920s. Its centers were in Parel, Chinchpokali and DeLisle Road, the Central Bombay working areas. It appears that its upper-class lines of support were primarily non-Maratha, such as Bole and Manuji Rajaji Kalewar, a wealthy contractor whose meeting hall, ‘ Manaji’s wada’, became its center; at the lower organizational level, however, there is no evidence of caste differentiation.91 The Social Service League, founded in 1909, was in seeming contrast to the KHS because it involved full time social workers but no jobbers in any obvious role.8i Its most prominent leader was N. M. Joshi, the moderate Brahman labor leader of Bombay, who was appointed to many conferences as a labor represent­ ative and whose testimonials before enquiry committees were invariably the most thoroughly researched and effective. This gave the League less of a ‘ backward class' character than the KHS; yet it involved such persons as Govindrao Shinde,1* and it is likely that through him and the group of jobbers he was connected with it had many of the same linkages as the KHS. This was a particular style of labor organization. Organizationally these associations brought together educated social workers, non-Brahman politicians and businessmen and jobbers and based themselves on the traditional social organization of the mill areas. Ideologically they were conservative and reformist seeking to represent the workers1 grievances to the owners and the government but consistently opposing strikes. It appears that this style was the basic model for the Bombay Texile Labor Union which arose in 1925 and attempted to compete with the militant Communist-led Girni Kamgar Union in the last hall of the decade. The BTLU brought together the main upper class labor-oriented politicians of Bombay—Bole, Joshi, Asavale, Jhabwala, Ginwala— and had an effective centralized bureaucracy. Newman contrasts it with the Girni Kamgar Mahamandal (the initial basis for the GKU; see below), arguing that it had only qualified jobber support and was not able to build on jobbers gangs.54 Yet it did apparently have jobber support through the more informal connections of the non-Brahman leaders (see note 20). Rather, the difference was that the BTLU represented essentially the evolution of the traditional labor organization into a formalized union, whereas the GKM and the GKU built on something new : a developing wave of worker militancy that grew in opposition to such traditional authority of the jobbers and of educated 1outside’ leaders. The New Labor Movement: Communists and non-Brahmans The 1920s in fact produced radically new developments. According to Richand Newman, three phases of discontent, period of rising prices in 1918 - 20, a period of wage cuts from 1922 - 25, and a period of rising prices in 1918 - 20 a period of wage cuts from 1922 - 25, and a period of standardization from 1927 -29— produced each two general strikes and an increasingly effective trade union.** Behind these were two coalescing trends of radicalization. Both were militant in expressing some form of class struggle ideology as contrasted to the earlier mediationist approach; both were modern in representing a new form of workers’ organization fundamentally opposed to traditional jobber control. 254

One was a movement for ‘ workers ’ control that developed in opposition to all forms of outside, upper class, non-worker leadership; this was expressed in the Girni Kamgar Mahamandal and later in the GK.U mill committees of 1928 - 29. The other was the Communist movement. Though seemingly opposed—the Communists, largely Brahmans, were in a sense ‘ outsiders ’ of an extreme type— they nevertheless came together in the formation of the most impressive labor union in India of the time, the Girni Kamgar Union, known to the workers as the Lai Bavta or ‘ Red Flag ’ union.* The Girni Kamgar Mahamandal came to the fore as a mill workers’ organi­ zation during the 1923 strike. At this time it claimcd a membership of 900 in 17 mills, but grew to a strength of 3500 - 4000 in 1926 and 1927.,T Two non-manual workers were intially involved as leaders: Mayekar, a Bhandari clerk and storekeeper who had organized a rather nominal Girni Kamgar Sangh in 1919, and D. A. Bhatavdekar, a Brahman jobber. Most of its other members were actual laborers and mainly Marathas and allied castes. As it grew, the GKM encroached directly on the areas of strength of the KHS, with three clusters as its nucleus, one of which was at Delisle Road; as a result, the KHS disintegrated. This growth involved three correlated trends. The first was a movement toward a more aggressive and militant policy, particu­ larly after 1926 and associated with relationships with the new Communist leaders, The second was the inheritance of the antielitist attitudes of the non­ Brahman movement; as Newman puts it, as the GKM took over the social base of the KHS, ' a section of the anti-Brahman movement was transplanted into the new union.’ And third, Mayekar and Bhatavdekar were excluded as they began to quarrel with more militant leaders, and their ouster ‘ was accompanied by the rise of the ordinary millhands to positions of real responsibility in the union.18 Most important of these militant worker leaders were A. A. Alve, a Vani. and G. R. Kasle, a Maratha.1* Both had been originally tenant farmers in the Konkan, and though driven by poverty to seek work in the mills maintained their relations with the villages; Alve had made attempts to form tenant organ­ izations. Both had come up from the ranks as workers but had previous political experience. Kasle had attended the first All-India Trade Union Congress ‘ on a delegates’ ticket given him by a lawyer who was trying to promote himself as a leader of a labor organization ’40 and Alve had taken part in Congress campaigns during the non-cooperation movement but had become disillusioned. Because of their pesant background, and probably because of direct experience of Brahman social exclusiveness,41 it was unnatural for such men to see moneylender-land­ lord power, capitalist oppression, Brahman caste dominance and an elite-led Congress party as all of one piece.

* Although the G KU’s membership fluctuated widely over the years, its peak of 60,100,000 in 1929 - 30 far outdid the BTLU’s height of 9,800 or the 26,732 of tbe Gandhian Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association.


This, for example, was reflected in Alve’s criticisms of the congress lead­ ership, criticisms which reflected a more class-conscious version of the general non-Brahman opposition. Workers, he explained, had understood swaraj to mean that there would be a halt to moneylending, cheaper land higher wages, and an end to capitalist oppression. But they had found Congress to be only a negotiating body making demands for factory owners, landlords and the educated intelli­ gentsia : *It therefore became evident to me what swaraj was and what would be the condition of us workers and peasants when it would come into the hands of such rich men.’4' Idelogical themes underlying the GKM were those of workers’ control; its trend was to exclude middle-class patronage, to be an organization purely of the working class. It is important to note that its antagonism to educat­ ed outsiders was not only directed against Brahman but also against upper class non-Brahmans. Not only did Alve express hostility to the ‘ autocratic obstinacy ’ of N. M. Joshi, he also opposed the KHS leaders for similar reasons.41 However, the militant workers did need to deal with outsiders and sometimes through outsiders, for all the reasons generally cited in studies of non-Western unions: the importance of the economic regulations of a powerful government, the neeessity of literacy (and literacy in a foreign language) in dealing with the millowners and government.44 Thus GKM leaders maintained relations with nonBrahman politicians such as A. N. Surve and R. S. Asavale. But it was not these leaders but rather the Brahman Communists of Bombay who were to become the allies of the militant workers in the tumultuous events of the late 1920s, and it was men like Alve and Kasle who took the lead in bringing them in. Alve and others had early approached the Communists for help, particularly Joglekar, whom Alve had evidently known in Congress activity. From the time of the May Day rally of 1926, the Communists began to be leading speakers, and Mayekar’s newspaper Kamkari began to be explicitly anti-capitalist and described *communism ’ as the goal of the workers. The GKM became the Communists’ main channel to working class support, and when it was transformed into the GKU in 1928, it was Alve who played the crucial role of convincing reluctant workers to allow Communist ‘ outsider ’ participation on the union official body.4* By 1929 Alve was referring to himself as a Communist.4* How was it that the Communists inherited the workers' militancy ? If any­ thing, their own class background and social-cultural outook were barriers to the development of such relationships. Communism in Bombay city had emerged out of a radical faction of leftwing nationalists in the city Congress committee; they were men of similar high caste and middle or lower-middle class background whose political heroes were extremist Brahmans such as Tilak. Joglekar and Mirajkar were, it seems, the only two with some previous working class or union involvement.4'* The leader of the group was S. A. Dange, a Brahman whose 1920 pamphlet, Gandhi and Lenin, had marked the beginnings of Marxist literature in India and had attracted the attention of M. N. Roy from abroad. With the patronge of a left-leaning flour mill owner he was able to build up a Marxist library and study groups which contributed to the growing influence of Marxism on the young Indian intellectuals. It appears that it was the influence of scatter­ ed Comintern delegates who directed the attenion of such left nationalist intellec-

duals to working class organization48 Newman describes them as still ‘ primarily a faction of frustrated Congressmen’ in 1925, and N. M. Joshi argued in 1926 that they were ‘not real communists' (i. c. not leaders of the working class) but ‘nationalist before everything else.’49 It is important to remember, also the geunine lack of a functioning Communist party organiation during the 1920s, due to a large degree to effective British repression10 which left Indian Communists very little chance to operate in comparison with, for instance, the Chinese or Indonesian parties. It was in the face of these initial hardships that the young Communist intellectual gained their base among the textile workers. Their willing­ ness to engage in militant working class organization and to associate on a dayto-day level with the workers was no doubt important11 But the crucial factor in the attraction of Communism for militant workers was undoubtedly its ideology. Here the subtleties of ‘right’ versus ‘left’ trends within Comintern analysis were of little importance compared to the simple themes that filtered down to the workers. These were two. The first of course was the stress on the lending role of the working class and the eventual goal of socialism, whether conceived of in terms of a ‘ proletarian dictatorship' or the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.’ The concept of a ‘ Workers* R a j w h i c h was much discussed in the Meerut testimony, legitimized the already developing themes of workers' control as well as non-Brahman themes emphasizing the role of the ‘masses.’ Second, the Marxist-Leninist analysis of national liberation movements, which stressed the validity of nationlism while condemning bourgeois national leadership, corresponded almost perfectly with general militant nonBrahman attitudes. Thus the attraction of Communism was not simply a matter of efficient and dedicated support of working class ‘ economic ' demands but also the matter of an ideology that fitted with the developing radicalispi of militant workers, a radicalism which itself trancended economism. In this context sporadic Communist organizing began. While M. N. Roy, the brilliant and sometimes arrogant Bengali, vied with representatives of the Communist Party of Great Britain for leadership over the Indian party, their policies and application of Bolshevik strategy seem to have differed little. Commu­ nists were urged to work with and form trade unions, and also to build up a nation­ alist, mass-based left wing organization. M. N. Roy had early phrased this as a • peoples’ party it later took the form of a Workers’ and Peasants* Party which was conceived of as autonomous but operating as a ‘two class pressure group ’ within the National Congress, a vehicle for both nationalism and labor organizing.** Basing this on a Workers’ and Peasants’ Party already formed in Bengal, and gaining support for a Bombay party among mill workers as a result of their union work (Alve, Kasle and Desai, all GKM people, became WPP members), the communists began to have significant success. With the GKM and its Communist allies moving in an increasingly radical direction, isolated protests against rationalization and wage reductions in 1928 coalesced into a six months general strike. Out of this arose the GKU: ‘ the strike was not our creation, but we were the creation of the strike,’ as Dange put it.** Mayekar, expelled from the GKM, had registered a rump union under this name, and thus the workers of the old GKM joined with the Communists in a new union registered as the Girni Kamgar Union (also known as the Red Flag ... .17


or Lat Bavta Union), which now allowed outsiders (the Communists) to join working class leaders in the central body. The relative success of the strike was followed by the tremendous expansion of the union to membership estimated at between 50-100,000 (see note 37). What is important here is the form which this expansion took. It was not simply that of affiliation of workers to a central body controlled by the militant workers and Communist intellectuals: rather, it was the expansion of the 1workers’ control ’ movement now taking the shape of mill committees (girni samitiya). The committees were made up of about 30 - 40 members elected as representatives of each department in a mill; by April 1929 there were 42 o f such committees on record. The committees were informally organized, met on their own, and often did not keep in correspondence with the central leadership; they had a distinct tendency to claim union authority for themselves, to *usurp it ’ in the eyes of the central leadership.14 They took control of enrollment and subscriptions, watched petty officials, formulated grievances and bargained before the central leaders came in; on occasion they initiated strikes. In fact they considered themselves to be the union, and their opponents began to see them as such. H. P. Mody, chairman of the Millowners Association, wrote, 4the mill committees are in their own way the Union. There is no control over them on the part of the GKU.'** According to Newman, The mill committees did more than anything else to upset the establish­ ed order in the mills, They caused unprecedented anxiety among the millowners, and overexcited the imagination of the government, the law, and many journalists and historians.*6 The most interesting aspect of this overturning of the established order was that the committees developed in opposition to the jobbers, to the traditional focus o f authority among the workers. Though some jobbers had initially assisted mill organizing, conflicts quickly developed and the old discipline collapsed; jobbers were attacked and often beaten, their power coming to an end. The Bombay mill committees thus represented a distinctly modern form of working class organization, and can be seen as a parallel to similar ‘ factory councils’ that have developed with almost equivalent spontaneity under revolutionary condtions throughout the world. During the Russian revolution, for example, the Bolsheviks actually gained much of their power base among the working class by supporting a similar factory-council based ‘ workers ’ control movement which was fighting a Menshevik-controlled trade union bureaucracy.*7Although the Bolsh­ eviks subsequently under the pressure of a revolutionary war substituted a nationalized bureaucracy for workers’ collective management in the factories and overrode the independent power of the factory councils, support of such committees or councils remained an important theme of Communist union organizing. It was Antonio Gramsci, one of the founders of the Italian Communist*Party, who argued that factory councils were along with unions and the Leninist vanguard party were one of the three crucial working class institutions—and in fact were the organs which most completely overrode the limits of capitalist social forms : 218

We say that the present period is revolutionary precisely because we can see that the working class, in all countries, is tending to generate from within itself, with the utmost vital energy...proletarian institutions of a new type: representative in basis and industrial in arena. We say that the present period is revolutionary because the working class tends with all its energy and all its will power to found its own State. That is why we claim that the birth of the Workers’ Factory Councils represents a major historical event—the beginning of a new era in the history of humanity ..Theparty and the trade union should not impose themselves as tutors or ready-made superstru ctures for the new institu­ tions...They should become the conscious agents of its liberation from the restricted forces concentrated in the bourgeois state." While the realization of the actual historical importance of such forms as the mill committees was behind the Comintern stress on them as a form of union organization, it is perhaps boubtful whether all Communists shared Gramsci’s enthusiasm: it is fairly certain that the Bombay Communists did not Newman reveals a definite ambiguity in their attitude, a fear of losing control : The mill committees were the most controversial part of the union’s organisation...The Communists, in their recollections about union’s growth, emphasize the fact that the mill committees were a practical necessity.'* In fact, the intellectual Communist leadership showed a definite distrust of the workers: They feared that the transfer of power to the millhands might be divisive if local and communal loyalties had not first been subsumed in a wider class consciousness.40 Underlying this distrust was the fact that the Communists, who were not think­ ing in terms of immediate socialist revolution in any case, were constituting themselves as the union’s bureaucratic leadership in a context of negotiating with the millowners; they began to be the channels through which the owners had the only hope of controlling the millhands, and were ready to make and abide by agreements even at the risk of unpopularity and to look toward the creation of an orderly work force. But it was this orientation which brought them into con­ flict with the committees at many points as they tried to dampen disputes and control the volatile local branches of the union.*1 As Newman puts it, ‘ The employers therefore had to deal with two unions—the union of the militant workers and the union of the leaders.’** This was an emerging split, and what was happening was that instead of securing a thorough and organic base among the working class, the Communist intellectuals were becoming a bureaucratized leadership over the workers. In this context the militant workers’ distrust of ‘ outside leadership ’ was bound to be reactivated. And it was precisely at this point that members of the more conservative Bombay non-Brahman elite began to take 4 conscious effort to reactivate it, and to transform antagonism to ‘ outsiders * into anti-Brah259

man ism and by implication anti-Communism. The primary movers here were Bhaskarrao Jadhav, the leader of the non-Brahman Party, and Govindrao Shinde. Jadhav had in 1924 suggested to British officials the formation of a labor union along communal lines to counteract Congress organizing;61 he showed no hesitancy in advocating the same tactics vis-a-vis the Communists. As he noted later in his diary, I told how the non-Brahman Party had decided to save our men the labourers from the evil influence of the Communists who had captured the labour unions. We worked upon Alve and Kasle. Kasle came over to us But we advised him not to give up his Vice Presidency of the GKU but to work there in gaining more adherents who will oppose the Communists and ultimately will expel them.64 The non-Brahman leaders were said to be getting money for propaganda pur­ poses from H. P. Mody and the Millowners Association, while their newspaper Kaivari was also financed by contributions from the Crawford Market area merchant community,61 They worked through this paper as well as through their personal contacts with many jobbers and workers in the Delisle Road area centered on Shinde's home. They invoked the tradition of Lokhande, declaring him to be a true worker and implying that almost any non-Brahman, as a mem­ ber of the bahujan samaj, could be considered a representative of the workers, as contrasted with middle class Brahman leadership. Kasle was indeed won over, and the entire Delisle Road area, earlier a center of strength for the GKM-GKU, developed into an area of opposition.66 Kaivari carried a wide range of non-Brahman news, but emphasized its labor orientatation with extensive feature articles week after week accusing the 'Communist bhats’ of betraying the workers. Edited at this time by Dinkarrao Javalkarf whose role will be discussed below, its line illustrated both Javalkar’s own version of non-Brahman radicalism at that time and the significant degree to which Communist ideology itself had caught hold of the working class. Militantly expressed support for the union itself was combined with strong, crude and often witty accusations of betrayal and caste elitism by the Communist Brahman leaders. Brahmans, it was argued, could never be either true nationalists or workers’ leaders: ‘If anyone can be a true Communist, it is a non-Brahman !’6TThe basic theme was a return to the notions o f ' workers’ control': The Red Flag Union must endure, the Red Flag Union fund must grow, but the Union should be in the hands of the workers and there should be no room for bhatjis.6S Thus direct anti-Communism was itself never a basis of appeal but was rather fostered on the base of the workers1 distrust of outsiders. Even so, the Communists might have learned to overcome these difficulties had they been given time. But the government, fearful of a powerfully developing Communist movement, arrested 31 Communists and union leaders in the famous Meerut case, including both Alve and Kasle. As a result, what has been described as a ‘ young and inexperienced; Communist leadership moved in to fill their places in the union. The result was disaster. A second precipitous strike of the GKU resulted in the 260

near destruction of the union and of Communist influence within it ;69 it declined to not more than 800 members by December 1929 , and the rump group was for a time captured by the* Royists who now represented a separate faction.70 Along with this the mill committees faded away as jobber influence reasserted itself with their role in recruiting new and strike-breaking workers : the old patterns were reasserting themselves at the expense of both forms of militancy. And this loss of the GKU was paralleled by the Communists ‘ self-isolation from the nationalist struggle of 1930 and similar reckless strikes and splits with resulting losses of almost all their union base.71 Most studies of this period argue that the disaster was the result of Communists following Comintern directives of a period of *ultra-leftism ' which emphasized opposition to and isolation from bourgeois nationalism and trade union reformism.71 But in fact Comintern directives on these issues to do not really support the conclusion In regard to participation in the nationalist movement, the most authoritative document, the ‘ Theses on the Revolutionary Movements in the Colonies and Semi-Coloniesresulted from an extended discussion in the Sixth Comintern Congress and in fact laid dowm the major principles of a MarxistLeninist theory of national liberation movements. It empasized disillusion­ ment with the national bourgeosie ( reflecting the Chinese party’s disastrous experience with the Kuomintang ) and urged Communists to develop an independent and illegal party and to demarcate themselves from all ‘ petty bourgeois1groups. But at the same time it advocated participation in nationalist struggles and ‘ temporary agreements9 with nationalist organizations, and was in fact viewed by the Indonesian party as giving too many concessions to nation­ alism.78 Further, the Indian bourgeoisie was not included among those said to have joined the ‘camp of counter-revolution’, but was held to be vacillating between imperialism and revolution. Only later, in some resolutions of the Tenth ECCI Plenum and in the ‘ Draft platform of Action of the Communist Party of India' of 1930 was a more ultraleft line expressed, of treating the national bourgeoisie as counter-revolutionary. However the : Draft platform was not an official Comintern document. In 1929, Indian peasants and workers were urged to carry out a revolutionary struggle led by the proletariat against British imperialism, Indian feudal rulers, and Indian national capital; but in 1931 ‘ proletarian leadership in the revolutionary liberation movement of the masses 1 was again urged.74 These later documents combined strongly expressed antagonism to Gandhi and the national bourgeoisie with the familiar theme of participation in a national movement. What is important to note is that when the Meerut prisoners who opposed the ultraleft tendencies of the Indian Communist leadership outside requested further international arbitration, there was a quick result in an ‘ Open letter to the Indian Communists ’ in June 1932 which criticized their isolation from the national movement.71 In sum, it appears that international directives while laying down basic principles, were as much responsive to Indian appeals and analysis as controlling Indian actions. We are led back then to a focus on the new Communist leadership within India and general Indian conditions for responsibility for the ‘ ultraleft' and isolationist policies of 1929 * 32. The most important of these new leaders in 261

Bombay were B. T. Ranadive and S. V. Deshpande. Ranadive, a brilliant eco­ nomist, a party theoretician and a longtime opponent of Dange, has consistently represented *left ’ trends within the party. Deshpande was also primarily an inte­ llectual, effective in study groups and in bringing middle-class youth into the movement; later he was to play a role in bringing in a new cadre of young workers, but at this time he was said to be too preoccupied with general party duties to have many contacts with the workers.18 Both the ultraleftism and the factionalism characteristic of Indian Commu­ nism are held by many left critics of the CPI leadership to be a result of the *petty bourgeois ’ origins of the leaders. Criticism of CPI attitudes towards mass organizations such as unions and peasant leagues emphasizes that the leaders had a ‘ mechanistic * attitude toward these bodies, were unwilling to work with different trends within the mass movements, and treated them instead as orga­ nizations capable of being directed at will by the leader^ For example, M. N. Roy argued that trade unions under its control are not mass organizations because the programme of the Party is imposed on them. As a matter of fact the C. P. does not seem to know the difference between the political party of the proletariat and the trade union.11 This was well illustrated by the Communist leaders’ attitude toward the mill committees. Survivals of old, Brahman-based ideas of the leading role of intellectuals and an unconscious distrust of the masses could very well constitute an intellectual elitism leading to a mechanistic attitude toward mass organiza­ tions; this in turn resulted in the vacillation of Indian Communism, rather than a steadier policy more responsive to lower class moods, as one or another faction with its ideas of how to direct the struggle gained control. In the context of mass self-assertiveness characteristic of the period in Maharashtra, this was bound to give some credence to the claim that Communism was only Brahmanism in dis­ guise. The mere fact that a new middle class Communist leadership could see itself as moving immediately into control of the organizations that were beginning to be established suggests the pervasiveness and disruptiveness of this underlying attitude; Danges’ own criticism of the Ranadive faction itself illustrates the ten­ dency: ‘ Into the hands o f the young and inexperienced leaders that were left behind fell an organized working class, pots of money in the Trade Unions and bound­ less enthusiasm. ’ 1* This was a period in which radical tendencies in rural areas were being wooed by a seeming responsive Congress leadership symbolized by Gandhi and activated by men like N. V. Gadgil. Though the Communists had no rural basis to counteiact this, they had established an urban basis alliance with similar militancy among the working class, but this was temporarily thrown away. And upper class non-Brahman and Congress Ieaderhsip was ready to move in. When Jawaharlal Nehru visited Bombay in 1930 after serving as president of the A1TUC in Nagpur, Govindrao Shinde presided over the mass workers ’ meeting that honored him. Mansingrao Jagtap, who also spoke at the meeting, recalls it as having been a ‘ non-Brahman, anti-Communist effort-’1* Shinde was also a leader

of a group of jobbers and associated intermediary elites who around this time began to conceive of a ‘ nationalist mill workers ’ union ’ that would be opposed both to the Communists and the loyalist activities of leaders like Asavale, Bole and the BTLU.80 And when such a union, the Rashtriya Mill Mazdur Sangh, was formed in 1946, it was able to build up its support among the workers on the basis of the Communists’ second period of isolation from the nationalist movement after 1941. The RMMS appears in fact to represent the reincarnation of the old, traditionalist-based, reformist style of unionism represented by the BTLU in the 1920s, but contiues to maintain its hold upon the millworkers in the face of the OKU's continuing unwillingness to base itself upon the revolu­ tionary mill committees." Thus the emergence of a genuinely radical trend among mill workers failed to gain hegemony in the face of British repression, Communist elitism, and an effective, conservative, coopting response by non-Brahman leaders. But the genu* ine possibilities that did exist for a consolidation of Communist strength not only among the working class but also to some degree in the rural areas are illustrated by the influence of the workers’ movement on Dinkarrao Javalkar; it is to Javalkar’s role that we now turn. Dinkarrao Javalkar: the Revolution against Caste and Capitalism : In fact, the most intriguing illustration both of the effects of the mill workers’ movement and the state of flux and turmoil among Maharashtrian nonBrahmans at the time was the transformation of Javalkar from the most militant of the young non-Brahman leaders to a committed Marxist, from a man with the reputation as the *main splitter ’ of the working class movement to a writer of one of the earliest Marxist books in Marathi. Born in 1896 in a poor Maratha family of a village near Poona, Javalkar in close association with Keshavrao Jedhe had emerged as a leader after 1925 - 6 in Poona. His initial activities after these events were similar to those of Jedhe. He took part with Jedhe in leading Satara peasant meetings against the Small Hold­ ings Bill and in the later peasant agitation against land settlement revisions in Baglan. With Jedhe he became a secretary of the non-Brahman Party in 1927, and although both were among the young nationalists who wanted to join in the opposition to the Simon Commission, they agreed to accept the party decision not to do so. Similarly, while Jedhe took a leading role in the Untouchables’ Parvati temple satyagraha in Poona, Javalkar later in 1931 played a similar role in the Nasik satyagraha led by the Mahar leader B. K. Gaikwad. But in one respect Javalkar differed significantly from Jedhe. His family was impoverished, owning only about 5 - 6 acres of land which was sold in 1926 at the time of his wedding, and without any financial support, Javalkar depended on his livelihood on his writings and on patronage.8* This had come first from the Maharaja of Kolhapur, who had helped him edit a newspaper in the early 1920s and then evidently from the Jedhes in Poona. After 1927 he was offered support by Govindrao Shinde in Bombay and the chance to take. over the editorship of Kaivari, the Bombay newspaper describing itself as *the organ of the non263

Brahman Party.’ This, however, not only led to an estrangement with Jedhe, since Bhaskarrao Jadhav (the publisher of Kaivarl) was a leader of the loyalist faction of non-Brahmans; it also cast Javalkar in a role as primary leader of the non-Brahman propaganda directed against the Communist leadership of the GKU. In doing so, Javalkar took the line noted above of militant support for the ‘ Red Flag Union ’ and ambiguous support for Communism itself, and also used his editorship to argue that the non-Brahman movement, which up to that time had been only social and religious in form, should begin a campaign of economic struggle and fight equally hard against the government and against capitalism.88 Evidently this involved him in conflict with the more conservative group control­ ling Kaivari, whom he later charged with 1holding on to the tails of the capi­ talists ,84 But in fact the role he was playing vis-a-vis the union was a divisive one, and as the leader who came in closest contact with the workers in the process, he could not help but become aware of the contradictions in his own position. Therefore when Jadhav offered him a chance to go to England in 1929 to propagandize for the non-Brahman cause, he took it, partly perhaps to escape from an uncomfortable position.81 Little is known in detail about Javalkar’s visit to England. It seems he took two trips, one in March-April of 1929, and one in the middle of 1930.86 It also involved him in continuing non-Brahman factional conflict, since he did so under the patronage of Jadhav who was increasingly being attacked for his loyalist support of the British by Jedhe and the Poona group of young nonBrahmans who were increasingly turning to nationalism. As a result, Javalkar was also criticized by the Poona group which condemned the delegation.87 Added to this were confused rumors in Poona that he was associated not only with the workers* movement but with the Communists as well.*8 The impact of the visit itself was to intensify his nationalist feelings as he came in contact with British racism; more importantly, he formed contacts there with the British Communist Party as a result of a letter from Mirajkar, and it was they who helped him out in a period of difficulty.89 The situation in fact provides a good example of the intricacies of the Communist-non-Brahman relationship, since in spite of his opposition to the Brahman Communists Javalkar had maintained communication throughout with their one non-Brahman activist, S. S. Mirajkar. In any event, as a result of his English experiences and his radicalizing experiences with the mill workers, Javalkar returned to India as a nationalist ready to participate in the civil disobedience movement and as a Marxist prepared to spread socialist ideas and form a radical anti-capitalist and nationalist peasants’ organization. Javalkar had written in a letter to Jedhe in 1930 that he wanted to devote his efforts to the literature of the non-Brahman movement.*0 His major effort, however, was one of the earliest Marxist books in Marathi, Krantice Rcmshing (The Trumpet of Revolvtion), an exposition of historical materialism directed to the Indian context and more specifically to non-Brahmans involved with the Satyashodhak movement.91 The book took Satyashodhak themes of the evils of priesthood for its departing point and advocated an atheistic humanism, urging that there would be no emancipation until religious bondage was broken. But the primary example of such emancipation was said to be the Russian revolution: 264

and if the Russian revolution had involved violence • with one Christ to fight in India, 4with 22 crores of Hindus having to fight 33 crores of Gods ’ (a co­ mmon expression of Hindu polytheism), it would not be surprising if the move­ ment also took a revolutionary and violent turn. Borrowing language from Engels' Socialism: Utopian and Scientific Javalkar outlined the process of evolution, the development of society from primitive communism to slavery, feudalism and capitalism, and the rise of socialism as ‘ an objective process and not a poetic idea/ Coming to India, he described the ex­ ploitation of the peasants and laborers by the triple domination of capitalism, priesthood and imperialism or bureaucracy— shetji, bhaiji and lathji. The national movement up to this time, he argued, had not been a real people's movement; rather it was dominated by ‘ agents of capitalist parasites * who had made no attempt to emancipate the poor; all parties, from the Congress to the Muslim League to the non-Brahman party itself, were organizations of that elite. Though the Satyashodhak movement was ‘ half socialist \ its leaders were confused about socialism due to lack of reading and the propaganda of the capitalist papers while non-Brahman leaders interested only in elections propagandized against socialism in the same manner in which Brahmans had earlier propagand­ ized against the Satyashodhak Samaj. Javalkar's conclusion was that peasants must organize themselvers under socialist principles: swarajva means ‘ peasant raj 1 for India, and it was crucial that national independence should not be controlled by educated elites serving the interests of capitalism, but should be a real raj of peasants and workers. Javalkar’s writings in Tej, a newspaper he edited for some months in 1931 further illustrated his organizational proposals. Articles such as ‘ The Raising of a Peasant Army’ and ‘ Preparations for the First War of Freedom ’ illustrated his mood and approach.9* Peasants should join the national movement—but on their own teims and in their own autonomous, class-based organization. Thus he argued that freedom was definitely forthcoming, but peasants must be wary that power was not simply transcerred to an exploitative capitalist class but use the methods they used to destroy the British Raj against the capitalists. Similarly, those who has humbled Brahmans within ten years could, according to Javalkar, destroy moneylenders and landlords. Here, of the three enemies of the masses capitalism, feudalism (Brahman priesthood) and imperialism, he was clearly taking the position that capitalism was the fundamental enemy: feudalism had been practically destroyed, imperialism was certain of being destroyed—it was capitalism that must be fought. Capitalism was said to be the primary cause of exploitation, of communal and caste divisions, and it was identified in terms of the savkar, the moneylender-landlord that the peasants knew as their enemy in the rural districts. And Javalkar explicitly included non-Brahman capitalists: ‘the only difference between a Brahman moneylender and a non-Brahman money­ lender is that one bites slowly and the other quickly ,98 Towards Gandhi, Javalkar showed both caution and ambivalence. He argued that Gandhi's control of Congress was opposed by capitalists and thus offered opportunity for peasants to find room (presumably referring to extremist 265

Brahman opposition to Gandhi), that Congress was the necessary means for the national struggle.*4 At the same time, he warned that capitalists might regain control, Gandhi might very well protect Brahmanism, hence peasants must retain their own autonomous and militant organization.** ‘ Be prepared—we cannot foretell the future. With a leader like Gandhi, things may be all right; if not we will have a revolutionary leader and Russian trends.' ** Javalkar also argued, perhaps with a view to his audience and possible government repression, that the peasant army should be ‘ non-violent ’ but he refrained from using the Gaudhian term ahimsa choosing instead anatyacari, which might be more aptly translated as ‘ without atrocities.’ And he sought to distinguish his projeted peasant move­ ment from the Gandhian one : Maharashtrian peasant awakening should not be like that of Gujarat which is based on emotion; their awakening should be based on realism.’*7 Javalkar’s emerging ideology is of interest both in the context of Marxist theorizing and general non-Brahman trends. In this tumultuous period in which the non-Brahman political movement was dissolving, Jedhe and Javalkar represented two opposing ways of linking the social radicalism of the Satyashodhak move* ment to wider Indian movements. Jedhe’s way was to absorb the movement into nationalism; though antagonisms to shetji bhatji remained strong among nonBrahmans, what essentially happened was the substitution of the British for Brahmans and the Indian elite as the enemy. Jedhe tended to argue simply that *the Congress is yours with the resulting promotion of Gandhian hegemony and the dampening of social radicalism. Though they were later to oppose many of the policies of the Gandhi-dominated Congress, Maharashtrian non-Brahmans had little recourse through the 1930s but to accept Congress decisions. In con­ trast. Javalkar projected the absorption of the Satyashodhak movement into Marxism, and with this a maintenance of class struggle and social militancy. Capitalists and the British and the Brahmans were to be opposed— in that order —and the peasants were to rely on their own organization and a radical ideology to do so. What made Javalkar’s exposition of such ideas significant was that he alone among the non-Brahman leaders had a reputation equivalent to that of Jedhe, who is given credit for leading non-Brahmans into the Congress party—and that he had certainly stronger ties with the rural masses than any early Communist leader. Though he was sick for much of the time after his return from England and died in May 1932 of a glandular disease, he made some beginnings at realizing his projects.*8 He was unsuccessful in establishing an organizational base around Poona, where the Jedhes were dominant,** but important beginnings were made in the Nagpur-Vidarbha area. Here, where he had earlier established contacts, he began to draw a younger group of non-Brahmans around him. One member of the group reports that at that time the ideology of the Communist party and notions of a kisan-kamgar or shetkari-kamgar (peasants-workers) party were catching hold, that Javalkar was forming a group within the non-Brahman Party to develop it into an organization with a well-defined constitution, an anti-capitalist ideology, and a new flag featuring a plough as its symbol.10* The 266

notion of a peasants’ and workers' party in one sense looked back to the just recently rejected Comintern policy of forming Workers’ and Peasants’ Parties; in other ways it forecast the actual formation of such a party nearly twenty years later (the Shetkari Kamgar Paksh) by the very non-Brahman leaders who had originally joined Congress in the 1930s. In 1930, before Congress hegemony had really been established in Maharashtra, the formation of such a party might have made a more significant impact; it would undoubtedly have provided the basis for peasant organizing comparable to the kisan sabhas of Andhra, Kerala and Bihar in the 1930s. The radical peasant organizing that Javalkar projected did not come to fruition, but its begicnings were suggestive.

Chapter XIV

Historical and Comparative Perspectives on the non-Brahman movement The preceding chapters have presented a case study of the non-Brahman movement, from its beginnings with the founding of the Satyashodhak Samaj as a social-religious reform organization to the establishment of a political party and the period of radicalism and economic insurgence in the 1920s, to its deno­ uement in the 1930s when its major leaders joined the Congress party. Analyti­ cally we have seen it as a movement of cultural revolt and have been concerned with its connections with the forces of economic and political revolt. Substan­ tively, we have described it as a peasant-based movement, more and more identi­ fying itself with the bahujan samaj, (the non-Brahman masses), and we have asked the question why it was that the Congress party (a conservative moblizing force) managed to capture the momentum of the movement. To put these questions into broader perspective, we will discuss the Maharashtrian experience in the context of first, general developments within the major colonized societies of Asia and Africa and second, of the phases in the development of Indian peasant unrest and organization.

The Turbulent Decade The decade of the 1920s saw a decisive rise in revolutionary forces in Asia and Africa. Anti-colonial nationalism surged up at the beginning of the decade with the May 4, 1919 movement in China, with the Rowlett Act agitation and the non-cooperation movement in India, and with nationalist stirrings throughout Asia and in long-colonized parts of Africa, particularly Algeria and South Africa. Working class organizing took a qualitative jump with waves of strikes and the beginning of true unionization in such diverse societies as India, Indon­ esia, Vietnam, China, and South Africa. Peasant uprisings occurred with new urgency in China and parts of India; these took diverse forms but had the common characteristic of uniting rich and poor peasants alike against landlord power and the forces of the state, with poorer peasants often providing much of the impetus and energy behind the movements but not as yet putting forth their specific class demands.1 Nationalist, peasant and working class movements all drew on spontaneous radicalism among hitherto unorganized masses of the colonial population. During the 1920s these were in most cases only tenuously linked with specific mobilizing organizations. Broadly, however, two main types of organizations came to the forefront in this decade in the major colonies to attempt to mobilize and coordi­ 268

nate these forces of radicalism to achieve some type of genuine revolutionary change. The first were the purely nationalist parfies, the Kuomintang in China, the Indian National Congress, the Sarekat Islam in Indonesia, the Tan Viet and VNQDD in Vietnam, and the African National Congress and the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (more of a mass organization than a pure trade union) in South Afiica. The largest of these had existed prior to the decade, but it was only in the 1920s that these began to develop a radical anti-imperialist outlook and a serious mass base. In other countries ( Vietnam, Algeria, South Africa), secular nationalist organizations, as opposed to continuing and sometimes feudalist-led resistance to colonial rule, were founded in this decade. Both Communists and ' nationalists ’* relied to a certain extent on external inspiration and support.' Both drew their original and top native leaders from members o f the intelligentsia, often from a tiaditional elite (Brahman, mandarin chiefly) background. But whereas the nationlists established their primary organi­ zational base among the largely bourgeois classes—merchants, lower-level intelli­ gentsia or petty-bourgeoisie—-the Communists began to form theirs among the urbanized working classes through their involvement in union work. Both could be seen, in a sense, as contending for leadership over the third and perhaps decisive revolutionary force, the peasantry. In all the major Asian and African colonies the 1920s ended with major defeats for the Communists and with at best fitful organizational victories for the nationalists. The Communist Party of Indonesia (PK1) was almost wiped out following the abortive revolt of 1927; the Chinese party received disastrous blows from the Kuomintang with Chinag Kai-shek’s coup of 1927 and the sub­ sequent turning against them of Left KMT forces centered in Wuhan. Black members of the multi-racial South African Communist Party were expelled from the 1CU, and the ICU itself, the most powerful organization of Africans known up to the present, declined. The Vietnamese Communists did somewhat better in this period, and with French destruction of VNQD organization and the refor­ mation of the Indochinese Communist Party by Ho Chi Minh in 1930 it actually became the major nationalist force and led a peasant-worker uprising in the north culminating in the Nghe-Tinh soviets of 1930 -31; even these were wiped out, however, and 1the Communist movement became a body without a head 1 with French arrests of its major leaders.® Finally, in India the Communists had never successfully formed a central organization in the 1920s and the little orga­ nization there was nearly wiped out with arrests of its main leaders. In both India and China these defeats seemed to have left the nationalist forces, the KMT and the Congress, in control of the situation. Yet the KMT was to prove unable to establish a modernized independent state, the Congress was still far from its proclaimed goal of independence, and Indonesia’s main nationalist

• This terminology is in a sense misleading for where Communists eventually triumphed it was as leaders of a national liberation movement and in spite of their disclaimers the ‘ nationalists' represented clear class interests that often led to compromises with alien rule.


organization, the Sarekat Islam, had withered away even before the PKl, leaving the future to a new generation of secular nationalists who would shyaway from attempting mass organizatian.4 • In spiie of these defeats, it can be argued that the 1920s was a patternsetting decade in which the general trends for the future resurgence and develop­ ment of both Communist and nationalist activity appeared. The ability of the Chinese Commuuists to establish a peasant-revolutionary base was heralded with Mao's involvement in the peasant uprisings of Hunan : already the seeds of the Kiangsi Soviet and the Yenan period could be seen. ThePKI had shown its ability to become the most extensive mass organization in the Indonesian context; at no time in the futute would a purely nationalist organization show similar mobi­ lizing abilities Vietnamese Communists had proved themselves to be the only mobi­ lized anti-imperialist force. Finally, in India the Communists would only obtain a peasant base in the 1930s and then in regions (Andhra, Kerala) quite removed from their earlier urban centers of Bombay and Calcutta—yet their progress in the 1920s had provided sufficent evidence of the factors underlying both their success in some areas and their general relative failure through most of the country. India wa;, in fact, the one colonized society in which a basically bourgeois nationalist movement created an organization capable of reaching down to and controlling the villages themselves : this organisational success of the Congress under Gandhi was the other side of the more general failure of the CPI. Behind this difference between India and, for example, China, lay such general factors as the strength of the British bureaucracy in India compared with political chaos in China and the Soviet alliance with the KMT which allowed the CCP room to grow.* Yet within India itself the CPI was to have some very decisive areas of success in the 1930s. At this level of regional differences within one colony, the crucial factor was the relation of developing peasant radicalism to the nationalist and Communist forces. Here the ability of either nationalists or Communists to mobilize significant sections of the peasant was not based on simple ‘ nationalist ' appeals. Nor was it purely a matter of mobilizing in support of the peasants’ class demands, though this was perhaps the most crucial factor. Peasant radicalism itself was, in India (and perhaps elsewhere)* crucially connected with issues of cultural revolt, and the struggle of the Communists and the Congress for the loyalty of the Indian peasantry was involved in the triple relation of political, economic and cultural forces of radicalism. India: Phases of Peasant Unrest The intensification of the Maharashtrian non-Brahman movement in the 1920s was one example of the general upsurge throughout Asia and Africa in this *turbulent decade.’ However, a sketch of the general phases in the deve­

* If we compare India with Vietnam another comparative factor emerges in the policy o f the colonial governments : the skill of the British in giving some concessions to more moderate nationalists as opposed to French intransigence which left Communism as the only effective nationalist alternative.


lopment of peasant unrest within India will provide a more precise comparative framework for the basic issues of this study and for discussion of important inter-regional differences. The primary stages in the development of peasant insurgence and its involve­ ment with anti-colonial nationalism can be argued to parallel those in colonial societies in general.* They include the period of ‘ post-pacification revolts ’, a period of isolated peasant outbreaks unconnected with elite mobilizng forces, a major period of ‘ secondary resistance * in which peasant opposition to landlord power was mobilized by radical elites and fed into the nationalist movement, and a final post-indepedence stage in which the national bourgeoisie consolidated its power and incorporated major sections of the richer peasantry and the major rural conflicts shifted to those of poor versus rich peasants. In India these periods may be said to run to 1857, from 18S8 to about 1920, from 1920 to the 1950s, and from the present. The initial period of resistance to British rule was followed, atter the first consolidation of imperial power, by what some historians have described as a period of post-pacification revolts, in which peasants provoked by the economic dislocations of colonial conquest followed the leadership of traditional feudal elites in rebellion against colonial rule. Among the most important of such anywhere in the colonized world was the 1857 Indian uprising or ‘ Mutiny.’ 1 After this was suppressed the British moved to a policy of conciliating the tradi­ tional aristocracy, who thereafter withdrew from all leadership of anti-colonial resistance. The remainder of the 19th century saw sporadic peasant revolts, but in an isolated context. Among these were the Santhal rebellion of 1855, of a tribal population who had lost much of their land to Hindu moneylenders; the ‘ blue mutiny ’ of indigo cultivators in Bengal, of peasants forced to work for British indigo planters; and the Deccan riots of 1875 in which Maharashtrian peasants attacked Marwari moneylenders but left untouched local Brahman elites 8 These rebellions had several factors in common besides the basic factors of increasing impoverishment and indebtedness. First, they were not directed against local landlords or men of long-recognized high status, but rather against impinging elites who were in some sense ' alien ’ to the cultural community of the peasants. Second, while there was in the case of the indigo cultivators and the Deccan peasants some record of involvement by urbanized elites,* this was only ambi­ guously connected with the actual uprisings: such rebellions were quite separate from any concerted mobilizing effort by higher-scale leaders. In fact, until the 1920s the Indian nationlists not only remained apart from peasant demands but in general opposed most of the laws the British sought to pass to provide some protection for tenants against landlords or for peasants from losing their lands through indebtedness to *non-agriculturalist' moneylenders. The Congress leader­ ship, composed of men with strong ties to rentier landlord interests, had no inten­ tion of involving itself with peasant unrest. By the 1920s, however, an upsurge in peasant unrest and the corresponding need of Congress to develop a mass base, forced peasant demands upon the 271

nationalist leaders. Peasant leagues or Kisan Sabhas—that is, ongoing classdefined organizations of the peasantry as opposed to simply sporadic uprisings— had first Ixen recorded in pjirts of Bengal in the late nineteenth century.10 It was in U. P., however, that such organizations emerged in 1920- 21 to play a significant role in connecting class Ixued peasant unrest with the non-cooperation movement led by Gandhi. The Sabluis, while using Gandhi's name, rose indepen­ dently and involved different types of leaders, ranging fiom nationalist elites like Jawaharlal Nehru to local rich peasant elites such as casie panchayat leaders, to 4 messianic radicals ’ who tried to seize land and set up parallel systems of power. Again, while their m;Jn thrust was against the higher landlords, they included a ‘ revolt of the landless against the landholding tenants ’ and so ambi­ guously united rich and poor peasants.11 Along parallel lines, in Bengal the more radical lower class members of the bhaclralok who were affiliated with the Gandhian non-cooperation movement began to take up union and peasant agitation, and extended no-tax campaigns to no-rent campaigns.1* Thus, in unit­ ing richer tenants and poorer and landless peasants in a struggle against land­ lords and in its ambiguous relation to a broader scale movement, the Satara rebellion of 1919-21, and the later anti-Small Holdings Bill agitation, were part of a general Indian trend.* The characteristics of this third period of peasant unrest, which lasted from the 1920s to the 1950s, were related to the general economic contradictions within the colonial situation. This involved the fact that while there were impor­ tant degrees of stratification ana conflict developing within the villages, between richer peasants and poor peasants or landless laborers, the main conflict was nevertheless between both sections of the peasantry and the higher level rentier landlords protect d by the colonial power. Only after independence would this change as the conflict between rich peasants and agricultural laborers became the dominant one and the rich peasant themselves a center of conservatism rather than a source of radical leadership.13 The organization of the Kisan Sabhas in the pre-independence period reflected this earlier situation in being organizations of the entire peasantry and not the ‘ independent class organizations of the rural proletariat ’ that Lenin had originally called for. This pre-independence third period also involved an ambiguous relation of the peasants to the national movement. While peasant unrest fueled the nationa­ list campaign and included nationalist leadership, the higher Congress leaders showed a continuing reluctance to allow independent peasant organizing. It was in fact the radicalism of the U. P. and Bengal kisan movements and their continuing threat of getting out of control that lay, according to some scholars, behind Gandhi’s decision to call off the non-cooperation movement over the issue of the killings at Chiuri C; ;’.ura in 1922.u Gandhi thus contrasted very strongly

♦ The difference was that the M a harashtria n insurgencies of the 1920s fed into the non-Brahman m o v e m e n i instead of the nationalist m o v e m e n t, w hile involving similar ambiguous relations bet­ ween local radical leaders and higher level elites who sought to control and channel the



with the Chinese leader of same period who wrote th a t' proper limits have to be exceeded in order to right a wrong, or else the wrong cannot be righted.’ '* The Congress under Gandhi sought to mobilize the peasantry and to channel the energies represented by peasant grievances, but it discouraged any autonomous class-based organization that had potentialities of going out of its control, and only encouraged specific Kisan Sabha organizing in cases where it need some counterweight to landlord power (as was true initially in the case of Bihar)or to already formed Kisan Sabha movements organized by Marxists (as was true eventually in the case of Andhra).* As Crawley noted, * the government and Congress alike had a common interest in dampening the agrarian unrest ’ n —and under these conditions of a powerful British bureaucracy and the brakes on peasant organizing by the Congress *high command it is impossible to conclude that the Indian peasantry showed any less of a spontaneous radicalism than the Chinese peasantry did in the same period. In spite of Gandhi’s continual reluctance to let ‘ no-tax ’ campaigns against the government turn into ‘ no-rent ’ campaigns against landlords, peasant insur­ gency could not be stilled. Bailey, in a brief discussion, notes that peasant organi­ zing was necessary for the Congress : From one point of view this was an attempt to broaden the base of Congress support...A campaign against the local landlord and those of his privileges which fell most heavily on the tenants, had a much more direct appeal than ‘ independence.’ ‘ We noticed I was told by a leader in this campaign,’ that our kisan rallies were getting much bigger attendances than the ordinary Congress meetings. Then we knew we were on the right track.’ 11 And in spite of nationalist efforts to channel and control the movement, it began by the 1930s to get seriously out of hand. Kisan Sabhas emerged with great strength in Bihar, Andhra and Kerala, and by 1934 had coalesced into the all-India Kisan Sabha, with a claimed membership in 1938 of S46, 800, of which 250,000 were in Bihar.'* These Kisan Sabhas had in almost every case Marxist leadership, specifically that of the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) which included at the time both Communists and Socialists. Further, they appeared—and par­ ticularly in the eyes of high Congress leaders—to be ideologically and organiza­ tionally posed against the Congress itself. As the semi-official history of the Congress party describes them, .. .There were the hordes of Kisans organizing themselves into huge parades marching hundreds of miles along the villages and trying to build up a party, a power and a force more or less arrayed against the Congress. They found a cause, a flag and a leader. The cause of the Kisan was not a new one but had all along been upheld by the Congress.

* For instance, while the conservative Andhra Kisan leader, N. O. Ranga stressed Gandhi’s eventual recognition of his peasant movement, he also noted his 26 years of 'alm ost lonesome struggle for the recognition by ...Mahatma Gandhi of the right of the toiling masses.'1*



The flag they chose to favor was the Soviet flag of red colour with the hammer and sickle. Thjs flag came more and more into vogue as the flag of the Kisaus and Communists, and even loud and repeated exhortations of Jawaharlal Nehru would not keep it to its plase or pro* portions. Almost everywhere there were conflicts between Congressmen and Kisans over the question of the height and prominence of the flag, and the virtual attempt of the latter to displace the Tricolour flag symbolized the contest between Socialism and Gandhism. Really it was less of Socialism and perhaps more of Communism that was gradually permeating the atmosphere for the Socialists began already to identify themselves with Communist group in some provin­ ces or melt away imperceptibly into the larger group of nationa­ lists. *° Just as the 1920s, then saw the fitful beginnings of Indian Communism and of Congress as a truly ‘ mass ’-based organization, so the years between this decade and the late 1940s were years of contention between Communist and Congress mobilizing forces. In the 1930s the CPI attained a significant basis of strength among the peasntry—but only in certain linguistic regions; in others (such as Maharashtra), the Congress gained hegemony. This regional variation waa to become a long-lasting factor in Indian politics, and it underlay the process of the working out of the Communist-Congress competition. Let us trace this process. In 1937, after the elections held under the Gove­ rnment of India Act, Congress ministries came to power for the first time. In spite of nationalist excitement, however, the result was in many areas a deepening of disillusionment as these ministries passed unsatisfactory laws and did little to change the basic structures of power.*' In this context demonstrations occurred, the Kisan Sabha movement took its upsurge, and the Haripura and Tripuri sessions of Congress in 1938 and 1939 became arenas of contention between radical and conservative nationalists. Concurrently there was an increasing unrest about the slowness of the Gandhian Congress in moving against the British; demands were mounting from below for something like a ‘ final war ’ against the imperialist rulers.** The decisions that Congress finally took—the 1942 call for the British to ‘ Quit India ’ was preceded by very limited plans for individual civil disobedience did enthuse the masses, but again things got out of control. While most of the Congress leadership was in jail and the Communists had switched to a policy of supporting the government in its ‘ People’s War/ mass uprisings took place, peasant-based rebellions that included guerrilla warfare, attacks on British outposts, and in some districts the establishment of parallel governments. The denouement of the 1942 movement brought a temporary return to normalcy throughout India. But by the end of the 1940s a new period of revolutionary upsurge began to occur throughout Asia which had its correlates in India as well. There it was heralded with the 1946 mutiny in the Royal Indian Navy, in which servicemen seized every ship in the harbor of Bombay and de­ clared themselves to be the ‘ Indian National Navy.*1 Correspondingly, there were 274

outbursts of peasant revolts in scattered regions of the country. Hie most famous of these was the Telegana revolt, which established Communist-led peasant * soviets’ in an area of 15,000 square miles in the Telegu regions of the state of Hyderabad and required at least four years for the government to crush tt com­ pletely.'4 Nearly as important was the tebhaga agitaion in what is now Bangladesh, struggles of tenant sharecroppers led by peasant committees which also began themselves to administer the affairs of the village.1' Smaller agitations occurred in other areas: in Kerala and the Tanjore district of Madras, there were important strikes of peasants including mobilization of both tenants and landless laborers, both caste Hindu non-Brahmans and Untouchables, led by local Communist cadres; in Tanjore this included a capture of power in a block of villages for several weeks early in 1948, just following independence." Again, the spontaneous element of these uprisings should be noted. In the case of the R. I. N. mutiny, the Congress refused to accept the ‘ national navy ’ offered to it and instead urged the servicemen to surrender to the British, even the Communists providing unsatisfactory support. In the case of the Telengana and tebhaga revolts, the local Communist leaders acted for the most part without direction from the central leadership of the CPI, which was at that time oriented to a more accomodationist policy vis-a-vis the ‘ national bourgeoisie ’.” The late 1940s revolutionary upsurge was finally and decisively crushed by the Congress government, inaugurating a period of conservative consolidation which more or less continued to the mid-1960s.* But this outcome may be related to the patterns of organizational hegemony established during the years of competition between Communists and the Congress. In the 1920s Congress power was as yet uncertain, unconsolidated in almost any region of India, with various factions struggling for leadership of a still uncentralized organi­ zation; even the name ‘ Congress ’ it may be noted * was only established in that decade, with ‘ Home Rulers ’ and ' Swarajists ’ symbolizing radical nationalism prior to the mid-1920s. However, by the time of the outburst of revolutionary challenge in the late 1940s, Congress organization had become solidified undes Gandhi’s leadership, and in the context of the spotty regional variations in Communist strength, the isolated rebellions went down in defeat. Communistr had attained significant strength in primarily southern and eastern states such as Kerala, Andhra and Bengal, to some degree in the Punjab and in Tamilnad only in the Tanjore district. The argument might be made that had the Communists established a similar early organizational base in rural Maharashtra and the whole of Tamilnad—where they had the benefit of early support from workers in industry and transportation—to coordinate with that of Kerala, Bengal and Andhra, major ‘ southern block ’ of radical consolidation might have been formed that in spite of Congress effectiveness could have decisively shifted the balance of power in the subcontinent to take advantage of the upsurges of the 1940s.

« Only from 1967 onwards has a new surge of agrarian and working class unrest arisen in India. This time involving the new pattern of revolt among th e ' rural proletariat* of landless and poor peasants against the consolidated rich peasant power.


While such historical judgments are inevitably speculative, the comparative question remains crucial: just why was it, indeed, that Communists were successful in organizing peasants in some linguistic regions and not in othars ? Why in Andhra and Kerala, and not in Maharashtra, which also had previous histories of peasant revolts and in some ways a very similar caste structure ? Why not in Tamilnad, many of whose rice-growing districts were very similar to those of Andhra ? Why did Kisan Sabhas develop their earliest strength in Bihar and not in Bengal, but then wither away in Bihar as most of the CSP leadership became Socialist and non-Communist while in Bengal a later developing Commu­ nism became involved in peasant uprisings in the 1940s? And why did the impre­ ssive Communist strength in Andhra erode after independence while that of Bengal and Kerala grew steadily ? The tables on the following pages give the post-independence data availa­ ble on Kisan Sabha and Communist electoral strength which helps to pinpoint these patterns. It is somewhat surprising that such questions as these dealing with the variations of radical mobilization in India have rarely been dealt with. The two major answers which have been given will be discussed in the final chapter. However, they are the questions that have also arisen at the conclusion of our

Table 1 ; Communist Electoral sapport in Indian State Assembly Elections ** 1967 and 1972 votes are the total o f CPI and CPI (Af) 1979(1970 1972






Andhra Pradesh











West Bengal
















































Uttar Pradesh






Madhya Pradesh















Table 2 : Kisan Sabha strength in the 1950s'* 1954 KS Membership


1956 KS % o f 1954 Members to Population Membership

Pepsu and Panjab












Telengana West Bengal Rajasthan

114,000 185,359 70,400

Kerala: Malabar Travancore-Cochin Maharashtra Marathwada Vidarbha

•43 38,400 20,160

116,914 16,320




15,000 6,000













Uttar Pradesh






Madhya Pradesh









Total India

7,680 —

•07 •05 •02

case study of the non-Brahman movement in Maharashtra. Just as India as a whole is a negative case in comparison to China or Vietnam in terms of a radical versus a conservative mobilizing of the peasantry, so Maharashtra is a rather puzzling negative case within India as a whole. It is a state in which in spite of histories of peasant uprisings in the 19th century, in spite of peasant-based movements of cultural revolt connected with resistance to landlord power, in spite of its surrounding the city of earliest Communist working class strength, 277

only a minimal amount of Communist organization in the rural areas has been achieved : Maharashtra has been a Congress stronghold. Why ? A summary of our historical conclusions regarding the non-Brahman movement and a brief discussion of developments after 1930 will suggest some answers to these ques­ tions. Development of the non-Brahman movement in Maharashtra: Summary (1) The analysis of the traditional caste system presented in Chapters III and IV has stressed that its cultural characteristics of purity and pollution, hierarchy and separation, were associated in pre-British times with a generally ‘ feudal' economic and political system. The cultural system of caste— orthodox Brahmanic culture— did function as a barrier to change. It was not, however, an insurmountable one. Like all social systems, traditional caste society was ‘ dialec­ tical ’ in the sense that it generated conflict as well as stability, and contained contrapuntal themes of cultural revolt which were expressed in the heterodox devotional religious movements. In this sense, caste values could not be called an overwhelming barrier to 1modernization/ (2) India, then, might have evolved a capitalist industrialism on its own, given time, but in fact did not. Instead the interruption of British conquest disrupted the economic and political traditional orientations to administrative employment: the bhadralok (the three highest Hindu castes) in Bengal, and Brahmans in Madras and Bombay presidencies. But the structure of British bureaucratic rule gave them a new basis of power; these elites solidified their posi­ tion in the original areas of British penetration then followed the extension of imperial rule to dominate in other regions. Similarly, merchant castes took differential advantage of new commercial opportunities with Marwaris spreding throughout northern, eastern and western India in this period. (This was simply an *internal1 Indian version of the spread of such administrative and moneylending castes to other areas of British rule as Burma and east Africa where they much more clearly helped to constitute the ‘ plural societies 1 studied by men such as Fumivall). As a result, these earliest elites came to face a *subnationalistic1 opposition ( appeals to Oriya and Bihari nationalism, demands for an Andhra state to avoid Tamil Brahman dominance, etc.) in the later developed regions, while social conflict in the oiiginal regions took on the shape of a 4plural society ’ element. Thus a largely Muslim peasantry with elite leader­ ship and an increasing emphasis on Muslim solidarity opposed bhadralok domi­ nance in Bengal, and non-Brahman elites sought to mobilize the masses of nonBrahman in Maharashtra and Tamilnad with a significant element of ' anti-Aryan1 cultural identification in their ideologies of opposition. To substantiate the applicability of the plural society model, it is important to note that in the latter cases although the elite group, the Brahmans, in fact were an elite within one traditional status system, they became increasingly defined as an ‘ external9 group as racially alien by the oppositional non-Brahman movements. (3) In this context the highcaste in intelligentsia from bhadralok and Brah­ man backgrounds founded the Indian national movement in the 19th century. This 278

was at first oriented to elite demands for increased Indian represntation in the civil services and extension of a limited parliamentary participation. It was also associated with a reinterpreted orthodox culture, which the elite sought to use to back up claims to leadership. This included the early use of traditionalistic and high caste symbols (the Kali tradition in Bengal, the god Ganpati in Maharas­ htra), the appropriation of th e ‘Aryan theory’ which provided a ‘ scientific’ justification for the caste system and the dominant position of its upper caste elites, and the later formation of a revivalistic Hindu nationalism. The early high caste elite also generated a social reform movement that sought to oppose the most retrograde aspects of the traditionl culture but this elite social reform re­ mained weak, isolated from upper caste political nationalism, and politically powerless until strengthened later in the context of pressure from below. (4) At the same time a social movement of aspiring middle and low castes developed in the 19th century to challenge upper caste dominance. This con­ tained both reformist elements of ‘ Sanskritizing ’ attempts at mobility within the system, as well as more radical cultural revolt. The latter attained its strongest eatly form in Maharashtra, where its basis was the bahujan samaj, the nonBrahman peasant masses. Early leadership was provided by some non-Brahman intellectuals, who in class terms were more likely to be lower-level members of the *commercial' bourgeoisie ’ (such as contractors) or richer peasants than profes­ sionals and lawyers. These aspired to speak for the masses, especially for the toiling peasantry, and their most influential figure, Jotirao Phule, formulated an ideo­ logy of genuine cultural revolt which called for the abolition of caste and the adoption of a scientific and rational outlook, and interpreted Brahman dominance as the rusult of the conquest of the native population by an alien ‘ Aryan ’ group. Although earlier tradition of cultural revolt (Buddhism, the bhakti movements) were drawn upon, the dominant theme was new and secular, and where old sacred literature and mythology was referred to, it was most often in a *rever­ sal ’ process to illustrate the oppressiveness of tradition. In the other major non-Brahman movement, that of Tamilnad, non-Brahm­ ans had been more strongly represented among the elite from the beginning and were able to use Tamil language and literature as a positive counter-weight to northern Sanskritic-Aryan traditions; the movement there thus developed a powerful stress on a Dravidian national identity against both north Indians and their presumed southern representatives, the Brahmans in Maharashtra, with its Indo-European language and a literature which non-Brahmans had relatively little influence in formulating, the non-Brahman movement did not develop an ideology of ‘ Maratha nationalism’ (though such sentiments remained powerful) but instead developed an early *mass ’ emphasis and, by the 20th century, a genuine base among peasantry. Aristocratic and high class professional non-Brah­ mans tended to remain aloof from the movement, with the important exception of Shahu Maharaj, the ruler of Kolhapur; some non-Brahman elites, however did develop a ‘ Kshatriya ideology ’ similar to the Sanskritizing aspirations of similar castes elsewhere which acted in part to counteract Phule’s more radical * non-Ary­ a n ’ emphasis. 279

(5) The movement in its inception focused on the cultural aspects of dominance, but by the 20th century gained an increasing associaion with economic protest. In the 19 th century Maharashtrian peasants, like those elsewhere in India had been isolated from broader political movements, and the Deccan riots thus involved attacks on non-Maharashtrian moneylenders and left locally dominant Brahmans untouched. But as the ideology of cultural revolt developed its mass basis, peasant resistance to landlord and bureaucratic power became involved with anti-Brahmanism. And vice-versa: the enemies of the people came to be seen as not simply ‘ Brahmans ’ but shetji-bhatji, ‘ merchants and Brahmans-' The development of peasant and of working class agitation in the 1920s thus brought an increasing pressure for the unification of themes of political, economic and cultural revolt. (6) The non-Brahman Party, formed between 1918 and 1920, partly under the stimulus of the more successful Madras Justice Party, did not at first reflect this peasant resistance. Rather, it had an elite basis, and de-emphasized class factors by stressing its representation of the separate interests of all non-Brahmans (regard­ less of class) against the caste exclusiveness of the Brahman elite. Nevertheless the Party relied to an extent on Satyashodhak Samaj organization and ideology to establish itself, and was strongest in the Deccan and Vidarbha regions of Maharashtra where the Satyashodhak Samaj was most firmly established. (In the Konkan and Nagpur many elite non-Brahmans associated themselves with the nationalists, and in Vidarbha itself some of the deshmukh political leaders remain­ ed independent from both nationalists and non-Brahmans). Concurrently, the non-Brahman Party did represent a general ‘ democratizing ’ force within the legislature and at such crucial points as the anti-Small Holdings Bill agitation reflected the poor peasant pressure felt by its members. Though it was never as powerful as the Justice Party, it achieved some legislative results in alliance with liberals, Muslims and British official representatives and fought the better orgnized (Congress) Swarajists to a standstill in the Marathi-speaking districts throughout the 1920s. However, the Party (as opposed to the movement as a whole) was too weak ideologically, too elite-based and too factionalized to transform itself; as such it had no future. (7) The crucial question at this point, by the end of the 1920s, was not whether the increasingly conscious and mobilized non-Brahman peasantry would join the national movement, but when, and how ? That is, would they be­ come part of the nationalist upsurge in a form that included the maintenance of some kind of autonomous class-based organization, or would they simply be aborbed into a Congress party increasingly centralized and controlled by a still Brahman and merchant-dominated ‘ high command’? Here we would stress the general principle that for any high-level political mobilizers, whether nationalists or Communists, to gain a peasant base it is necessary for this elite to (1) take up the specific demands of the peasantry based on issues of class and cultural revolt, and (2) to win over the crucial 280

‘ link group ’ of ' rural intelligentsia ’ drawn from the richer peasants who them­ selves have important village ties and at least some interest in radicalized action— in this case, leaders of the non-Brahman movement. While Communist and Socialist leaders proved able to mobilize similar rural caste groups in other parts of India, the early Bombay Communists, largely Brahmans, proved unable to respond to radical elements within the non-Brahman movement and were gener­ ally alienated from the non-Brahman rural intelligentsia. In the absence of a Marxist leadership able to cross caste barriers, it was the local representatives of the Gandhian Congress who succeeded in establishing the crucial alliance with the young non-Brahman militants who had attained a mass following. And this was in the context of a Congress ‘ left’ movement, with Gandhi symbolizing at least some anti-caste reformism, with Nehru appearing as a socialist-oriented leader, with Gandhi's local followers in strong opposition to the conservative Brahman extremists who had held power for so long in the national movement, and with the Karachi Congress session of 1931 taking the most radical position to date on issues concerning the peasantry and working classes. The result of this was the absorption and cooption of the bahujan samaj movement. No organizationally autonomous Kisan Sabhas developed in Mahara­ shtra in the 1930s as they did elsewhere. The Satyashodhak Samaj itself more or less died away as an organization, and thus, although themes of revolt had deve­ loped earliest in Maharashtra, they were carried on mainly by the Self Respect Movement (later the DK and DMK) in Tamilnad, to the point where M. N. Srinivas would call the latter, *leaving aside Communism ..the only rationalistic philosophy in India, and unlike Communism it is of indigenous origin.’*0 Yet this withering away was not due to a lack of either anti-caste or class radicalism among the Maharashtrian peasantry. Within Maharashtra itself attachment to the more conservative Congress was weak, and a strong underlying base of peasant radicalism remained operative even though it found no easy organiza­ tional expression. ( 8 ) This can be seen in a brief sketch of later political developments* Joining Congress in the 1930s did not mean that non-Brahmans gained any decisive power over the organization at the state level. Keshavrao Jedhe was for a long time the only non-Brahman member of the Pradesh Congress Committee. The 1937 elections resulted in a Congress goverroent dominated by Gujaratis and Maharahtrian Brahmans. Laws that were passed, particularly those on labor and. tenancy, were felt to be inadequate. The result was an escalation of protest: working class demonstrations and police firing occurred in Bombay and a series of oppositional peasant meetings were held that culminated in a protest march of 50,000 in Jalgaon which involved Jedhe, the local Communists’ and Sane Guruji, a Gandhian-Marxist leader." Similary, the 1942 'Quit India* movement saw one of its most famous peasent-based rebellions in the old non-Brahman stronghold of Satara district, where a famous *parallel government ’ was temporarily established. Again, the late 1940s wave of radicalism had its expression, in Maharashtra. In the rural areas, the asassination of Gandhi by a right-wing Maharashtrian Brah­ 281

man sparked a rural revolt of mats burnings of the property of Brahman land* lords and occasional killings. Concurrently, the very non-Brahman leaders who had led the entry into Congress in the 1930s began to express an increasing dis­ content with a party still dominated by 4capitalists and Brahmans In 1948 these leaders, headed by Jedhe and Shankarrao More and including some of the most important district-level leaders* left Congress to form the Shetkari Kamkari Paksh (SKP or Peasants and Workers Party). Like the Andhra and Telengana Communist leaders,*1 these were influenced by the success of the peasant-based Chinese revolution, and while characterizing the CPI as revionist, they declared the SKP in 1950 to be a * Marxist-Leninist Party ’.** The SKP invited a small, group of dissident and primarily non-Brahman Communists the Nav Jeevan Sanghatana, to join it; this group had arisen from a faction of Poona Communists who had opposed the ‘ Peoples* war ’ policy and then gained strength in the non-Brahman centers of Kolhapur and Ahmednagar. However tensions quickly developed between them and the more conservative SKP leaders, and the Communists and their sympathizers were expelled and in 1952 established the Kamgar Kisan Paksh (KKP or Worker's and Peasants’ Party). The CPI, the SKP, and the KKP, all contested the elections of 1952, and if electoral strength is to be taken as an indicator of radicalism among the pea­ santry, the total vote of these three ‘ Marxist-Leninist * parties in Maharashtra compared quite favorably to that in Kerala and Andhra. Table 3 :1952 State Assembly Vote of Marxist-Leninist Parties'*




West Bengal




Maharashtra 3-4

SKP (Maharashtra)


KKP (Maharashtra)


Marxist Left Parties Total







However, the Congress responded to this radical non-Brahman challenge by fin a lly admitting non-Brahmans to its top level state leadership. When the Maratha leader, Y. B. Chavan, emerged at the top, he was able to win back many important non-Brahman leaders from both the SKP and the CPI in a

* Kakasahed Wagh of Nasik, Nana Patil of Satara. Tulshidas Jadhav of Sholapur, Dajiba Desai of Belgaum, Madhavrao Bagal of Kolhapur, P. K. Bhapkar and Datta Deshmukh of Ahmednagar, nearly all of whom had in tome way come oat of the non-Brahman movement.


period in which neither of these parties appeared to represent any greater revo­ lutionary fervor.* Congress hegemony was thus finally consolidated and has remained so up to the present. During the later 1950s and 1960s Congress power was unusually strong in Maharashtra in comparison to the rest of India; only the 1972 elections have brought something like comparable strength to it thro­ ughout the country. Conclusions The 1920s, it may be argued, were indeed a pattern-setting decade for Maharashtra In this period the strong forces of political, economic and cultural revolt that had been developing throughout the colonial period began to coalesce, but under the leadership of conservative rather than radical mobilizers. The result of this was the dampening of the forces of revolt, the withering away of the Satyashodhak Samaj and the relative lack of Kisan Sabha organization even while the sentiments and traditions of anti-Brahmanism remained strong and sporadic peasant insurgency reoccurred. The cause, we have argued, lay in the inability of Communists as contrasted with local Congress leaders to cross the * caste-cultural ’ barrier between Brahmans and non-Brahmans to establish a beginning organizing basis among the most militant non-Brahman rural leaders. Had they won over some of this emerging radicalized leadership in the earlier 1930s (as happened in Kerala and Andhra), a strong Kisan movement in Maharashtra would have greatly extended the base of Communist strength in India. The Congress party gained its hegemony because at least some of its leaders were able to unite the forces of economic, political and cultural revolt (though in a weaker, reformist version) and to move to the left in claims to express the interests of the bahujan samaj. The Bombay Communists had esta­ blished an important early working class base, but in spite of Comintern direc. tives which should have given them at least some orientation to the peasantry were unable to extend this to economic revolt in the rural areas, and their elitist tendencies weakened even their Bombay base. Politically, Communists in Maharashtra have had a fitful history of involvement with nationalism ( especially in 1942), but similar support of the British in other parts of India did not disrupt their rural base. As important in Maharashtra perhaps was the nearly total failure of the earliest leaders to relate to the themes of cultural revolt and the bahujan samaj movement; the Congress party is unequivocably a ‘ non-Bra-

* The CPI in this period had ‘ liquidated’ its peasant revolutionary struggles in Telanganaand was attempting a united front policy both with other left groups and the national bourgeoisie in becoming a party of parliamentary opposition; the KKP was going through a period of reor­ ganization, concentrating on union work and non-electoral mass organizing and would emerge as the separate Lai Nishan Party on in 196S; and the SKP was evolving into what most observers agree it is today, a party of the rich peasants as much, and Maratha caste interests even more than tbe Congress itself.


hman party ’ in the state today, while Communists and Socialists remain, in the eyes of many, ‘ Brahman parties This is the conclusion of our case study of Maharashtra. Is it the whole story ? Could not Communist failure be related to other factors in terms of which Maharashtra differed from other parts of India, such as land tenure, crop systems, degree of rural poverty ? Briefly, we would argue not. To provide some further substantiation to this thesis, we will turn in the final chapter to a more comparative contrast of peasant organization and Communist mobilization, and then to a final analysts of the linking of economic and cultural revolt in the process of mass peasant mobilization.


Chapter XV Peasant Rebellion and Cultural Revolt ' The agrarian revoltion,’ said a Comintern letter of 1928, ‘ has been and remains the pivot of the national-revolutionary struggle in India.’ 1 After decades of discussing the ‘ little tradition ’ and peasant *parochialism ’ scholars have returned to a focus on the peasants as *agents of revolution ’, with conservative political scientists such as Samuel Huntingdon agreeing with radical historians such as Barrington Moore on the significance of their role.' In this revivified image of *peasant wars of the twentiether century ’, the study of the peasantry has converged with the study of Asian, African and Latin American revolutions. With this has gone a certain shift in emphasis in the academic study of the social bases of nationalist and Communist movement. Early works tended to stress on the one hand the alien origin and inspiration of these forces and, on the other, the winning of a mass base through tapping ‘ traditionalistic ’ and * nativistic ’ sentiments. Elites were seen as progressive and dynamic, the masses as backward. For example, Rupert Emerson discussed the *Paradoxes of Asian nationalism ’ as being Western in inspiration and centered among the Wester­ nized elite, then concluded with the worry that this ‘ democratic and progressive ' leadership would in the process of popular identification be ‘ re-absorbed into a mass which refuses to surrender the ways of its fathers.’ * Similarly, James Coleman defined nationalism in terms of the organizations created by the wester­ nized elite, then discussed the formation of a mass base by tapping *nativistic and religious tensions and economic grievances among the tradition-bound masses.4 Early studies of Communism had a similar stress. Pye focused on *guerrilla Communism ’ and Chalmers Johnson on ‘ peasant nationlist ’ Commu­ nism to stress the ‘ nationalistic ’ base of their peasant support, with nationalism often seen simply in terms of ' primordial ’ emotions of hostility aroused in peasant masses by alien rulers.* The shift in more recent studies has been to stress both the indigenous and ongoing character of nationalism itself and the largely class basis of its mass appeal.* Thus, for example, Lonsdale on Africa and, following him, Stoks on India stress the continuity of nationalist resistance passing through a variety of stages, and the pre-eminent role of economic factors (the introduction of cashcropping, disruption of traditional tenant-landlord relations, transformation of tribesman to peasant) in making the creation of modem mass nationalism possible.* These studies follow Lenin in maintaining a distinction between the « The shift is a logical o n e : given that nationalism is a more or less continuing factor, the ability of one or another set of nationalist leaders to succeed must rest on some other mobilizing aspect.


mobilizing force, the *conscious vanguard,' and the ' spontaneous * factors which make for mass unrest.'* The elitist approach of modernization theorists like Cole­ man and Emerson stressed the cultural modernity of the nationalists; it included economic grievances as factors in mass mobilizatian but stressed instead ‘ nativistic ’ or ‘ primordial’ appeals : the cultural element was included but it was the masses who were seen as traditional. ‘ Peasant war ’ or Peasant ‘ revolt ’ theorists have not directly discussed cultural issues or compared different types of ‘ political vangu­ ards ’ but instead have focused on the economic aspects of mass revolt, in which political mobilizers established a base not by rallying traditionalist sentiments but by representing economically based grievances directed against sections of the native elite (landlords or richer peasants) as well as against colonial government policies. The role of *link men ’ or local leaders is similarly stressed; thus Lonsdale writes, *A peasant revolt had thrown up its leaders—local men with central in­ was the function of the conscious element, the nationalist leaders, to maintain that centrality of focus.’ * Our discussion of the factor of ‘ cultural revolt ’ would suggest an import­ ant qualification to this latter view. Rather than mass sentiments being simply ‘ nativistic ’ or *nationalistic ’ in the sense of attachment to traditional culture, it can be argued that the effects of colonialism in maintaining traditional elites in power on the land help to stimulate mass-based resistance to surviving forms of traditional status dominance, and that forces for ' cultural modernity ’ arise as much from the peasant masses as from the * westernized ’ elite itself. Thus * link men ’ are thrown up as leaders of local movements with a basis of cultural revolt as well as economic grievances, and the ability of mobilizing vanguard elites to recruit them and establish through them a mass base depends on their readiness to mobilize such underlying cultural as well as economic grievances. India offers as appropriate field within which to tes* such general theses. In fact, the purely nationalistic/nativistic stress of the early writers can be ruled out by thesimple fact that within India the presence and impact of British rule was a constant and thus cannot exlain the significant regional variations in the mobiliz­ ing abilities of nationalists and Communists. We shall argue here that while economic factors-variation in land tenure relations, involvement with the market, peasant impoverishment--explain a good deal of this variation, they do not expl­ ain it all. The factor of ‘ cultural revolt ’, stressed in the case study of Maharashtra, has to be taken into account. Economic correlates of Peasant Communism in India Few studies have attempted to provide a systematic explanation of the striking regional variations in Kisan Sabha organization and Communist areas of strength in India. Only two, in fact, attempt to deal with this issue at all syste­ matically, and they are of quite different nature and method and give almost totally opposite answers. The first, Selig Herrisons India: The Most Dangerous Decades, stiesses the success of Communists in ‘the manipulation of regional patriotism’ and in gaining ‘ a footing in politically strategic regional castes, which are in most cases rising non-Brahman castes’ in other words nationalist and caste' factors.* The secoud, an article by Donald Zagoria, correlates Communists 386

voting strength with basic ecological variables (i. e., with variations in ‘relations of production*) and argues for'rice Communism’ as a major explanatory concept.’0 Let us examine first Zagorias economic focus. His basic thesis is that two variables in combination, ‘ landlessness ’ (which he defines as a composite of agricultural laborers as a percentage of all cultivators, tenants as a percentage of all cultivators, and ‘dwarf holdings' of less than one acre) and high population density are the most powerful explanation of the rural Communist vote. What he in fact shows is that the ‘ landlessness' composite alone explains 32.6 % of the all-India variance, and in the 103 districts of high population density it explains 51.2 % of the variance." From this he argues that in India and many other Asian countries, Communist strength is dcscribable as ‘ rice communism ‘ corr­ elated with high degrees of landlessness in areas of very dense rural population.’ '* This basic argument would explain the lack of Communist strength in Mahara­ shtra in terms of the fact that it is a non-rice growing region (the basic food crop is jo war, the basic cash crops cotton and groundnuts) of low population density. There are, however, strong elements of invalidity in the operationalizing of Zagoria's basic logical model. This logical model stresses essentially two factors: (1) rural poverty, which he defines in terms of low output per holding produc­ ing a 'conflict-ridden relationship between the landowners and the landless engaged in a desperate struggle for survival’ and (2) rural proletarianization involving high percentages of agricultural laborers and land-poor sharecroppers. About this he writes, Another important consideration is the peculiar nature of the rural proletariat in crowded areas. This is often a three-tiered proletariat: consisting of ‘ dwarf-owners ’ of less than one acre, sharecroppers or tenant farmers, and completely landless wage laborers. Very often, however, the same individual combines two or more such roles. That is, the owner of half an acre or less of land, in order to scratch out a living, may also be a sharecropper or wage-laborer part of the time.1* The two factors of rural impoverishment and proletarianization appear to be both basically valid. However, Zagoria goes on to conclude that both are more prevalent in dense, rice-growing regions (there is more dwarf-holding and relatively lower output per acre)14 and it is this conclusion that is based on erroneous operationalizing First, output per holding is not by itself an adequate indicator of rural poverty since it does not take into account price variations; the Dandekar and Rath study cited below gives quite different conclusions about impoverishment in different regions by doing so. Second, and perhaps more important, the definition of a *dwarf holding ’ in absolute terms as holdings of less than one acre comp­ letely confuses the whole issue of high and low density areas : a ‘ dwarf holding * in an area of low population density, lack of irrigation and consequently less soil fertility would involve much more land than a dwarf holding in a high density irri­ gated area : a peasant with five acres in a dry section of Maharashtra may be as 287

impoverished, forced as much to work as a laborer or sharecropper, as a peasant with one acre in Kerala or Andhra. Zagoria’s operationalization of *dwarf holding * does not provide a valid measure for what he calls the ‘ propertied prole­ tariat’ (i. e., the poor peasant), and one reason for the fact that his 1landless­ ness ' variable explains much more of the variance in areas of high population density is simply that there the inaccurate operationlization of dwarf holding is excluded, more or less, by definition ! Zagoria's concept of *rice Communism' by itself would seem to explain the lack of Communist strength in Maharashtra, and in fact Maharashtra provides his main negative case.11 But this concept is not adequately linked to his underlying model via operationalized definitions. As Zagoria notes, population density by itself explains nothing; if it is true that Maharashtra, a state of low population density, is also characterized by rural poverty and a rural ‘ semi-proletariat' as well as landless labor, then the econo­ mic factors which would explain for Zagoria its lack of Communist strength would not really explain it; we would have to look in other directions. Table 1 : Poverty and Proletarianization in Indian States 1961 19


% o f Rural Population Below Line o f Poverty

Kerala Andhra Maharashtra

90-75 62-14 61 04

Tamil Nadu Assam West Bangal

55-19 47-67 4409 43-68 37-38 26 92 25-79 19-09 1813 13 98

Orissa Bihar Mysore Madhya Pradesh Gujarat Uttar Pradesh Panjab and Haryana Jammu and Kashmir Rajasthan All-India

% Rural Labor Households :

Gini Concen­ tration Ratio of Rural Landholdings

With land



24-83 10-05 8-67 10-33 6-74 12-87

11-87 24-69 21-33 25-98 918

36-70 34-74 3000 36-31 15-92 33-82 29-75 32-88 23-56 22-60 19-79 15-20 15-83

•739 •756 •706 •732 •618 •646 •624 -677 •685 •634 •679 -626 •747

12-60 15-94

20-95 17-15 16.94

7.43 10-76 2-46 7-70 2-38

17-33 7-50 13-45

13 69





13-29 30-92

5-38 9-99

6-40 15-54

11-78 25-53



16-13 11.84

A recent study on poverty by Dandekar and Rath in fact provides more accurate statistics,* and here the pattern is extremely clear. Just as there is an striking regional-linguistic variation in Communist strength within the states of India, so there is a variation in rural poverty and proletarianization. The two, however, do not completely coincide. In terms of economic factors, the existence of what we have loosely called the 'southern block’ (running from Kerala, Tamilnad, Andhra up through Orissa to West Bengal and Assam, very definitely idcluding Maharashtra and with Bihar a transitional state) is very clearly marked out from the central and northern states and the one southern state of Mysore. If impoverishment and rural proletarianization produce peasant radicalism, Maharashtra should very clearly have it and as we have argued, it did; but to explain the inability of Communists to mobilize such radicalism we have to look at other factors. More precisely, the ecological/economic characteristics suggested by Zaboria and cited by Dandekar and Rath would explain much of the regiona­ lization of Communist mobilization, and we may look for factors blocking such mobilization in the regions it does not explain—primarily Maharashtra and Tamilnad. Caste and Cultural correlates of Peasant Communism Selig Harrisons approach is almost in direct opposition to that of Zagoria. Ignoring economic differences between states, he argues that where Communists have been successful mobilizers they have ‘ exploited ‘ regional nationalism and based themselves on large non-Brahman ‘ caste lobbies.’ Thus, he argues, their Andhra success was based on exploitation of linguistic nationalism, leadership in demands for a Telugu-speaking state, plus a social basis among the large Kamma caste who were competing against the similar Reddis who had thrown much of their loyalty to the Congress.11 In Kerala a similar combination of regional slo­ gans plus a footing among the numerous Ezhavas and Nayars was the ‘ recipe for success’, while in Bengal Communists capitalized on Bengali regionalism but did not find a rural caste base and thus tended to be localized in Calcutta. In Maharashtra Communists failed through being cut off from the Marathas and the Mahars, and in Tamilnad by a similar failure and an inability to keep up with the powerful nationalism of the DMK.1® The material that Harrison has presented is compelling, yet his thesis con­ tains serious errors. Some of his more detailed conclusions, for instance regarding Andhra, have been questioned.1* It may also be noted that he (and Zagoria as well) fails to explain another striking regional variance, the steady growth in Communist voting strength in Kerala and West Bengal compared to its equally steady decline in Andhra, Harrison’s most elaborated example of ‘ peasant Communism ’ and linguistic nationalism.*0 More seriously, the thesis has basic

* Its main problem is that it refers to 1961 data, not those of the early period, though we would argue that the general tendencies extend back. Also it does not really touch the full issue of ’dwarf holding' or the 'semi-proletariat' since it does not includc poor peasants functioning as sharecropping tenants.

...1 9 289

methodological problems. That is, what Harrison in fact demonstrates is the inevitable correlate of Communist success in any region—the ‘ recipe for success * involving establishing a rural base and representing some nationalist sentiments— and not its causes. That is, wherever Communists ( or nationalise) were to establish a strong base they necessarily had to draw in a wide non-Brahman leadership cadre and (at some point) to utilize sub-nationalist contradictions. But the basic question is, why did they manage to do this in some regions but not in others ? Rising rural castes and linguistic nationalism existed to significant degrees in most parts of India: why did Communists succeed in *exploiting ' them in some regions but not others ? Harrison apparently sees this as more or less an accident of history, but it is this that requires explanation, and the explanation itself to underlying patterns of regional and caste imbalances partly related to the colonial situation. The crucial theoretical omissions of Harrison's model are of factors of dominance and conflict. This is true not only in his dismissal of economic variation underlying patterns of success, but also in his analysis of the caste factor itself. Harrison's discussion of ‘ caste lobbies’ is similar to many inter­ pretations of ‘ casteism * in Indian politics which tend to view caste groups as somehow equivalent competing groups within an overall system. Such discussions refer to social groups—the various ‘ castes ’—defined in terms of the categories of the traditional culture, but fail to deal with the crucial role of hierarchy in that culture. For example, even in caste-cultural terms and leaving aside the question of economic power, ‘ Untouchables 1 and ‘ Brahmans ' are by no means competing groups of an equivalent position. ‘ Brahmans ’ as a caste-defined category, are a group whose very position depends in part on the maintenance of traditional values of superiority. 4 For Untouchables the very achievement of equality and humanity requires a total abolition of that same hierarchy. In terms of caste, the conflict between such groups is not a struggle within a system but for its main­ tenance or abolition. Since the attribution of identity in terms of caste does not continue to survive without the underlying hierarchical values, such caste-based conflict has to be seen in terms of cultural revolt. The position of major non-Brahman castes is more complex than that of the Untouchables, but also has to be understood in these terms. For middle-level castes, especially the southern block, large peasant castes impelled to radicalism partly by being treated as 4 Shudras a consistent resistance to upper caste domi­ nance requires an opposition to the system of caste itself and (since, as Dumont maintains, the purity of the Brahman and the pollution of the Untouchable are inherently linked) support for abolition of Untouchability. The very different position of Brahman and Maratha social reformers vis-a-vis Untouchables was symbolized in the remark of a Maratha Satyashodhak leader, when he addressed the Mahars as 4caste brothers 1 noting that even his own relatively high caste was treated as ‘ untouchable ' by Brahmans : 11 no Brahman reformer could make in caste terms, a similar identification. The ambiguous factor about the middle castes was of course that since they were often relatively privileged in fact in 290

terms of status, their resistance to the system was less likely to be consistent than that of lower castes and Untouchables. What has to be stressed, however, is the connection between resistance to Brahman domination and resistance to the system as such. Such an understanding of the relation of caste hierarchy to cultural revolt is needed to clarify the relationship of Mahars, Marathas and Brahmans in Maharashtra. In spite of much discussion of recent ‘ Maratha dominance 9 and coupled assertions that Untouchables would ally with Brahmans in opposition, this has not systematically occurred, just as an alliance of all ‘ non-Marathas 9 has never really solidified. In spite of intravillage caste tensions, a fairly effective alliance between Mahars and Marathas has been maintained at the regional level until recent years.* While antagonism to Maratha dominance within the villages is strong, most Untouchables continue to see Brahmans as the main cultural enemy and studies of caste prejudice show that their image of Brahmans is far more unfavorable than that of Marathas.” Untouchables share with other nonBrahmans a common language of opposition and a common cultural hero in Phule. It may be said, in fact, that Mahars have a sort of instinctive analysis of the principal lines of contradiction in caste terms. Brahmans, it may be said, are still viewed as the ‘ main enemy some what as imperialist aggressors are, while Marathas are looked upon, to carry out the analogy, as equivalent to a national bourgeoisie, allies in the struggle against oppression but wavering ones, who are just as likely to betray the movement as not.” The economic factor sharpens this caste conflict itself but has to be looked at in terms of the processes of colonialism and the differing linkages of interest between caste-defined groups. In the colonial ‘ plural society' the large non-Brahman castes as well as Untouchables were largely unrepresented among the in­ telligentsia and bourgeois elites, and those of upper-class position were indeed discriminated against. This conflict was sharpest in regions such as Bombay and Madras where colonial development had occurred earliest and which were adminstrative centers for the intelligentsia; in Bengal it was somewhat replaced by the Hindu-Muslim variant. Besides the interest that social discrimination gave them in some form of rebellion, many non-Brahman members of the intelligentsia had stronger social and kin ties with large numbers of peasant cultivators (including at times middle and poor peasants) which the Brahman and merchant castes lacked. That is, within and between the larger non-Brahman castes, and to some degree including Untouchables, there was an important fluidity of social linkages which did not exist for the upper caste elite, a common cultural style symbolized by language and dress characteristics which non-Brahmans often shared in opposi­ tion to the Brahman elite. Further, although the agrarian class structure did in­

• For example, in spite of continuing village conflict between Mahars and many dominant M ara­ tha peasants over the Mahars' resistance to performing their traditional w atan village services, it was in fact a M aratha ruling prince (S hahu) who first abolished the Mahar w atan in his state, and it was the first M aratha chief minister of Bombay (C havan) who capped a long move­ ment led by Ambedkar by abolishing the position for the whole of Maharashtra.


volve intra-village stratification and the eventual creation of important class conflict between poor and tich peasants, the dominating contradiction in this structure until roughly the 1950s was between peasant cultivators as a group and the non-cultivating rentier landlords. Thus, during this early period, the relatively better off non-Brahman cultivators and the educated non-Brahman elite linked to them had important reasons in both economic and cultural terms for associating themselves with and leading the peasant insurgencies of the 1920s and 1930s; thus they constituted a social group which constituted the most important ‘ link men ’ for any attempt at mobilizing the more impoverished Indian masses. Patterns of Communist mobilizing success Communists, then, attained success where they won over such a regionally significant group. To see how and why this happened we will examine the pat­ terns in their two states of greatest early success (Andhra and Kerala), in the state of later success (West Bengal), in the state where they lost peasant leader­ ship to Socialists with the breakup of the CSP (Bihar), and in the two states where in spite of conducive ‘ spontaneous ’ factors they failed to establish signi­ ficant leadership (Maharashtra and Tamilnad). Kerala provides perhaps the clearest example of the development of a multi-caste radical leadership and its successful achievement of a mass base. Kerala’s traditional caste system was perhaps the harshest in India, its Nambudiri Brahmans the most exclusive, its Untouchables the most degraded; even large lower middle castes like the Ezhavas were considered ‘ untouchable ' and the Nayars, with a kingly tradition and equivalent in position to the more aristocratic Marathas, were considered Shudras. Movements of cultural revolt under British rule had included the formation of caste associations which linked some Sanskri­ tizing tendencies with a more radical cultural equalitarianism (‘ One God, One Caste, One Religion’ was the slogan of the Ezhavas SNDP)'4 and later an impor­ tant temple-entry movement, the Vaikom Satyagraha. Politically, however, Kerala differed from Maharashtra in being an outlying area of British rule, and its elite Nambudiris never gained the hold in politics and economic life that the Cbitpavans of Maharashtra possessed. Nationalist politics developed much later, and when it did it not only had Nambudiri leadership but also important Nayar and Ezhava participation. And both the Ezhava middle and poor peasants and the Nayars, who provided many of the more substantial tenants under the Brahman-dominated landlord system, had interests in agrarian agitation. Thus the Congress party in the 1920s involved itself in demands for land reform and anti-Untouchability movenents, and in the 1930s fell under control of the left radicals, who became disillusioned with Gandhi's retreat on issues of Untouchability and mass civil disobedience campaigns and subsequently joined first the Congress Socialist Party and then formed the nucleus of Kerala’s Communist Party. In the 1930s this multicaste redical leader­ ship mobilized agrarian struggles that united both tenants and agricultural laborers and injected cultural radicalism through participation in caste reform and cultural associations; later in the 1950s they took leadership of demands for the formation of a united Kerala state.** Clearly, Communism developed its base in 292

Kerala through the ability to mobilize political, economic and cultural revolu­ tionary trends. A similar early success was attained in Andhra. Here the major non-Brahman castes were the Kammas (dominant in the Rayalaseema districts and in Telengana). There were both economic differences between the delta and Rayalayaseema districts/* and cultural differences between Kammas and Reddis: Kamma caste structure was more equalitarian, while Reddi landlords and aristocrats maintained status distinctions between themselves and the lower, but related Kapus (much as Marathas in the Konkan had remained separate from Kunbis). Thus both Kamma and Rcddi aristocrats supported the non-Brahman Justice Party in the 1920s and organized caste associations and hostels, but the Kammas, facing a more entrenched Brahman political-administrative dominance in the delta, were evidently more heavily involved in issues of ritual status and anti-Brahmannism.11 Again, in the 1930s, while the aristocratic Reddis tended to join the Congress in alliance with Brahmans, a *rural intelligentsia ’ of yonth from rich and middle peasant Kamma families formed the nucleus of the Andhra Commu­ nist Party. The Kisan Sabha that developed in the 1930s included both Kammas and ‘ middle peasant Reddis but more of the latter remained with the conserva­ tive Kamma leader N. G. Ranga when the split between Communists and ‘ Kisan Congressites ’ occurred.*® What was crucial, however, was the multi-caste nature of the Andhra leader­ ship. As in Kerala, the Andhra communists had some Brahman leaders but the majority were non-Brahmans. In these regions, remote from the urban centers of Madras and Bombay, it did not matter that Brahmans were prominent at central levels. At the state level, E. M. S. Nambudiripad in Kerala was balanced by A. K. Gopalan (an Ezhava), and Andhra leaders were P. Sundarayya (a Reddi) and Rajeshwar Rao (a Kamma). Thus the early Andhra Communists emerged out of the non-Brahman movement and its institutions; they organized peasant movements against land­ lord power and established an early basis among the predominately Untouchable agricultural laborers,” (though this was later evidently allowed to lapse as Andhra Communism became ‘ kulak Communism ’) and they took up linguisticnational demands with vigor in calling for the formation of a united Telugu state; indeed it was the Andhra Mahasabha that was their original channel into the Telengana region and Reddi caste hostels which provided centers of organizing.10 The result was, in Telegana itself, the greatest Communist-led peasant revolt of 20th century India. Again, an early formed rural middle caste leadership had pro­ duced the successful uniting of political, economic and cultural revolt. It was in Bihar that the strongest Kisan Sabhas of the 1930s developed. Here, however, it was Socialists who gained control of the CSP and of the peasant movement itself; only since 1937 has Communist electoral support shown evidence of some rural base. Part of the difference may be economic : in terms of impoverishment Bihar falls just about at the India median, although in terms of proletarianization its rural labor households are nearly as high as those in Kerala, Andhra and Maharashtra (see Table 1, last chapter). But the cultural 293

factor should also be noted : in general, when the CSP split and the Socialists emerged with an ideology mixed with Gandhism, it was the major southern sections of the CSP which nearly all fell to the Communists, while the norther© ones remained predominantly Socialist. Part of this may well be due to the fact that in states like Bihar, close to the Hindu heartland, the orthodoxy of caste culture excrcized much stronger control over lower and middle castes, and even the movements of such castes were much more Sanskritic in their emphasis. Here the forces of cultural revolt, whose rationalistic, anti-caste and equalitarian characteristics could be fairly said to be more amenable to a hardcore Marxist secularism than to a revivalist Gandhism, were simply not so strong. In Bihar too there was a large cultivating caste occupying a position similar to Kammas, Reddis, Marathas, Ezhavas and Nayars. But unlike the others, the Bhumihais of Bihar claimed a Brahman status, one which was not ad­ mitted at the time by the recognized Brahmans or the politically dominat urban Kayasthas. In the 1920s a charismatic leader of a poor Brahman family from U. P., Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, took up the cause of the Bhumihars, establish­ ing a school at Patna to teach them to perform their own religious ceremonies. When this interest fell into aboy ance, his ashram became the focal point for peas­ ant agitation in Bihar in the early 1930s.*1 The Swami himself became the major leader of the All-India Kisan Sabha perhaps the most important Indian example of a ‘ messianic radical9 emerging from the sanyasi tradition to take up the cause of the poor. But while the Swami became increasingly disenchanted with both religion and Gandhism and evolved into a hardcore Marxist, the majority of the Bihar Kisan leadership was mainly socialist in orientation and primarily Bhumiharbased.8* The lesser radicalism of this important caste group may be attributed in part to the fact that they were mainly upper-level tenants who became almost entirely landowners with the changes in tenancy laws by 1951, and partly to their own Sanskritizing, status-seeking tendency.8* Their position produced leader ship for a strong Kisan movement in the 1930, and for a Socialist opposition to Congress, but not for a radical Communist mobilization. Bengal provides a somewhat different version of the interaction of political, economic and cultural revolt. Here there were no numerically dominant peasant castes among which the Communists attained a hold; rather, early recruitment was among the elite bhadralok itself. Bengal has probably the most radical elite culture in all of India, and the strong Marxist influence has been attributed to feelings of exclusion from all-India political centers once Gandhi had won con­ trol of Congress, and with the Marxist denigration of the non-Bengali merchant castes who were Bengal's primary ‘ capitalists ’.** But both factors could be said to be true in Maharashtra, whose Brahmans have one of the more conservative elite cultures in India. The different nature of the Bengali elite must instead be stressed. The fact is; that although the bhadralok were drawn from the three highest Hindu castes, they were in fact much more open, much more a 4 class 9 defined group than the Brahmans of Maharashtra and Tamilnad. They included Brahmans, but the other two high Hindu castes were non-Brahman Kayasthas 294

and Baidyas, who were less concerned with caste orthodoxy, and the bhadralok could admit members of lower castes as weil." The openness and lack of Brahmanic orthodoxy of this elite may well be associated with that the primary social reform organization of Bengal the Brahmo Samaj, was much more radical than Maharashtra's elite reform organization, the Prathana Samaj, and similar in its rejection of ‘ Hinduism ’ to the early Satya­ shodhak Samaj. Significantly, it was early Brahmos, just as it was early Satyashodhaks in Bombay, who had formed the earliest labor welfare organization. Thus, in spite of the fact that turn-of-the-century Bengali nationalists sought to use the high-caste Kali symbol as a basis of appeal, Hindu revivalism as such did not have the attiaction for the elite that it did in Maharashtra. Early Communists were recruited, not only from the strongly nationalist terrorists in the jails, as Franda has stressed, but also from man from a Brahmo background, as Kopf has pointed out.** First in terms of cultural radicalism (the Brahmo Samaj) and later in terms of economic radicalism (support for Communism and other *Marxist left ' parties), Bengali elite culture has had much more of a socially radical tone than elsewhere in India and this radicalism has enabled it to develop stronger mass ties. Thus, while the bhadralok Communists of Bengal (and there has been from the beginning a Muslim leadership as well) have been slower to develop a rural mass base than those of Andhra and Kerala, they have done so quite steadily and their rural electoral support has risen from the 1940s on through the present. Tamilnad and Maharashtra are states whose degree of rural impoverish­ ment and proletarianization are among the highest in India. They are also lingu­ istic regions which produced, in colonial times, the strongest movements of cultural revolt in India, first with the Satyashodhak Samaj in Maharashtra, then with the Self Respect movement and DMK in Tamilnad. And in both cases leaders of these movements showed inclinations to economic radicalism as well. Just as the influential Maratha leaders formed the SKP in 1948 as a ‘ MarxistLeninist party ’ , so the founder of the Self-Respect Movement, Ramaswami Naicker, advocated socialism and *the Russian form of government ’ in the early 1930s.** It successor, the nationalist DMK, adopted at least a nominally radical stance and formed an electoral alliance with the Tamil Communists in 19S1 -52 at which time its charismatic leader- Annadurai (interestingly enough, called the ‘ Dravidian Mao’ by his followers, according to Harrison)** stressed that ‘In the Dravida Nad which we envisage we will not coutenance capitalism of any sort, be it North Indian or Dravidian.’*0 When the alliance broke, Annadurai claimed it was due to the Communists failure to fully support the demand for Dravidian independence, the DMK itself being ‘ genuinely Communists.’41 But as in Maha­ rashtra, most of the prominent Communist leaders were Brahmans, and in both cases were unable to compete with mobilizing opponents (the Congress in Maha­ rashtra, the nationalist DMK in Tamilnad) capturing the loyalty of the rural leadership and masses. And in both cases objection to Communism is phrased in terms of Brahman elitism. In spite of his early sympathies to socialism, Ramaswamy Naicker argues that, 295

The Communists have their office at a foreign place, Bombay o r Delhi, and they are just as interested in exploiting our country as an y of the other foreign-controlled parties. Besides, most of the Communist leaders are Brahmans...Wherever a Brahman goes, into the Communist party or elsewhere, he wants to support caste distinctions.4* And according to the Maharashtrian Untouchable leader Ambedkar, The Communist Party was originally in the hands of some Brahman boys—Dange and others. They have been trying to win over the Maratha community and the scheduled castes. But they have made no headway in Maharashtra. Why? Because they are mostly a bunch o f Brahman boys. The Russians made a great mistake to entrust the Communist movement in India to them. Either the Russians did not want Communism in India—they wanted only drummer boys or they did not understand.48 It may also be noted that the Brahman Communist leaders of Tamilnad and Maharashtra were much slower than thel argely non-Brahman leadership of Kerala and Andhra to take up the cause of linguistic nationalism. Tamil Comm­ unists did attempt to establish an alliance with the DMK but were followers, and after 1952, when the party's policy shifted to support for ‘ Indian unity’, the alliance broke.* In Maharashtra Communists took up the movement for a united state which dominated the state's politics between 1956 and 1960 and benefited from it, but were again criticized by their own central leadership for their slowness in doing so : The Party in Maharashtra has to take up the issue of Samyukta Maharashtra in right earnest. The ignoring of this issue by the party is a serious failing which has nothing in common with the Marxist principle that the party of the proletariat has to fight for the unifica­ tion of national homelands.4* This degree of reluctance was probably not accidental. Not only were Brahman Communists more socially isolated from the areas of mass support for linguistic nationalism, they had their roots in social circles with a fundamental inbuilt reluctance. Tamil natonalism, after all, had grown out of its non-Brahman movement: Dravidianism was irrevocably linked to anti-Brahman cultural themes. And the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, it was generally accepted, would create 4Maratha Raj ’ while Brahmans were disproportionate among its leadership, as a group they remained neutral or divided.46

# As Harrison notes, Communists were among the first to theoretically emphasize and justify linguistic nationalism, and the policy was applied with most vigor in the years of greatest revolutionary fervor, the radical late 1940s. By about 1952-53, the shift of Indian Communism to parliamentary opposition and alliance with the ' national bourgeoisie was accompanied by a reversal of emphasia on linguistic nationalism.’**


To summarize, there were important regional variations in the strength of forces of both economic and cultural revolt, and there were as well factors related to colonial political-social structures which made it more or less possible to reach the *link men ’ capable of mobilizing such forces of radicalism. In terms of the first (variations in *spontaneous ’ factors) in the largely northern and central states—the Panjab, U. P., Rajasthan, Mysore, Gujarat—the economic basis for rebellion was not as strong, and in most of these states ( with the possible exception of Mysore and the Panjab)* cultural revolt has also been weak. These were the more *Aryanized ’ regions, the Gangetic valley being the heartland of Hindu culture, and highcaste Rajputs recognized clearly as Kshatriyas throughout the north. Here the assertive movements of lower and middle castes during colonial rule took on much more Sanskritized forms, and the primary organizational expression of their revolt was the Arya Samaj rather than the more radical Satyashodhak or Self-Respect movements.4* However the *southern ’ and outlying block of states are both poorer and more proletarianized, and had, historically, been the last Aryanized, the sources of heterodox religious move­ ments; during the colonial period their large non-Brahman castes were involved in cultural revolt as well as opposition to landlord and intelligentsia dominance, and provided leadership for radical movements. It was here, with the major exceptions of Maharashtra and Tamilnad, that strong Communist rural bases were established. To understand the logic of the exceptions, however, it is necessary to look not only at the ‘ spontaneous ’ factors (both economic and cultural) generating rural revolt and rural leadership but also at the particular aspects of the colonial structure of dominance which affected the relatiouship betweent hese and the higher-level mobilizing elites. Bihar, Andha and Kerala, the primary states of Kisan Sabha strength in the 1930s, do not appear to be significantly different in their economic or cultural features from Tamilnad, Maharashtra and Bengal, which developed either later or no Commu-

• Little has been written specifically on Punjabi Communism, though it has a Communist electoral strength and Kisan Sabha movement stronger than its economic prosperity and equality would indicate. This may very well be related to factors of cultural revolt; it is an outlying region where orthodox Hinduism has been weak and cultural radicalism has been expressed in the formation of the separate Sikh religion, largely based among peasant Jats. As Harrison briefly describes it, Punjabi Communism has largely been Sikh based, with a separate organizational history, emerging out of the nationalist Ghadr party in the early 1920s and working for a long time under a separate organization, the Kirti Kisan Party, also known as the Lai Party.*11 Mysore has had some history of cultural revolt in the Lingayat or Veerasaiva movement, but this was largely in the pist and by the colonial period, its non-Brahman movement was largely a phenomenon of the urban elite.4*


nist Kisan strength * But Andhra, Kerala and Bihar shared one feature that differen­ tiated them from Bengal, Maharshtra and Tamilnad : all were outlying linguistic regions of the three major British provinces. The pluralizing dynamic of the colonial situation worked very differently in the 4center 1 states than in those of the • periphery \ In Andhra and Bihar (to a lesser degree in Kerala) it was high caste intelligentsia—Brahmans in Andhra, Kayashtas in Bihar—who were the earliest political leaders, but these were by no means so well entrenched and so solidified relative to middle and low caste groups as the dominant Brahmans and bhadralok in the central areas. As regionallinguistic political arenas developed in importance, the dominance of the central elites simply became less and less relevant to the large middle and lower castes of the peripheral stales. The early dominance of Tamil and Maharashtrian Brah­ mans and the bhadralok was an all-India dominance, and the political leadership of these elites was also reflected in the fact that they provided the earliest Com­ munist leaders as well. In the central areas the degree of this dominance and the resistance that had developed to it was a crucial factor in blocking the spread of Marxist ideology and organization to the middle and lower rural leaders ( this was less true in Bengal because the bhadralok was a less caste-defined elite). But in the ‘ peripheral9 regions this elite dominance was less relevant to the rising rural leaders, and thus an early multi-caste Marxist leadership developed that was able to mobilize a rural base. To summarize, we have argued that the success of radical mobilizers (Communists as opposed to the National Congress) involves the unification of the forces of cultural, economic and political radicalism, and that their ability to do so depends both upon the 4spontaneous ’ forces generating such radicalism ( that is, rural impoverishment and proletarianization, and incidence of cultural revolt) and the early recruitment of leadership from more mass-based groups. Middle-level non-Brahman castes constituted important groups with interest in cultural revolt, and from the 1920s through the early 1950s the particular class position of richer peasants was such as to give them interests in common with poorer peasants and agricultural laborers in opposition to rentier landlords. What we have loosely called the 'southern block’ of linguistic states contained greater forces of ‘spontaneous' revolt both in terms of economic and cultural factors; and so it was that the strongest peasant bases developed in Andhra and Kerala, and somewhat later in Bengal where the bhadralok were a relatively

* Bihar shared with Bengal a dense rural population, a zam indarl land settlement and was- basi­ cally a rice area, though not so predominantly. The Tamil districts were, like the Andhra dis­ tricts, predominantly crowded rice-growing areas, though they lacked some of the landlord pre dominance to be found in these and in Kerala. Maharashtra was unlike most of the others in­ being a relatively sparsely settled state of jowar, cotton and groundnut, but the Telergana dis­ tricts of Andhra— center of rural communist revolt— were almost equally sparsely settled with jowar dominant over rice and groundnut the major cash crop. In terms of the 1961 figures of Dandekar and Rath, Kerala, Andhra, Maharashtra and Tamilnad were close in both poverty and rural labor households, and West Bengal and Bihar were also very similar.*0


open and culturally radical elite. But in the very similar cases of Maharashtra and Tamilnad, an important negative factor was at work to block the spread of Marxist ideology to the rural leadership necessary to it, and this was the early dominance of Brahmans within the Communist movement. 1No Brahman can be a true Communist, * Dinkarrao Javalkar had argued during his oppositional role in the mill worker movement. It was not quite true; but it was a convincing enough reference to status dominance to be a still echoing theme in Maharashtrian politics. Peasant Rebellion and Cultural Revolt The problem of Brahman dominance within political leadership, including Communist leadership, was not so unique; it was the Indian version of the general Asian situation of the maintenance of traditional elite dominance within the new class structure created by colonialism, just as the caste system itself could be seen as a variant of a more general pre-modern ascription-oriented society in which the social position of different status-groups was rigidly regulated by custom and political decree. Thus the issues of the relationship between higher and lower status-groups and of oppsition to survivals of traditional inequalities are part of a wider pattern, and we will conclude with an attempt to analyze the general importance of the factor of cultural revolt, In the introduction to the dissertation three types of revolutionary move­ ments in colonial societies were outlined. The political revolutionary movement was an expression of anticolonial nationalism; its first organized expression involving mainly the opposition of native elites to an alien ruling nation. Both cultural and economic revolutionary forces rose in opposition to this, one opposing the native defined in ‘traditional1 terms (in India, as a caste elite), the other opposing native capitalism. We have argued that the general tendency of the colonial situa­ tion was to alienate these forces of radicalism from one another: early nationalist primary intelligentsia with strong ties to the commercial and landed bourgeoisie, were unresponsive to demands of peasants and workers until pressured from be­ low; early leaders of cultural movements, being often class elites themselves, tended to downplay the class nature of mass demands; and early Communist leaders were in many cases unsympathetic to cultural revolt due to their caste biases. This alienation appeared most crucially in Maharashtra and Bombay, which had been the strongest early centers of elite nationalism, cultural revolt, and the Communist movement. Marxists stress that the vacillating #national bourgeoisie \ due to its fear of revolution from below, would in fact be incapable of leading a radical antiimperialist movement; only a national movement with mass-based leadership could be truly national. Conversely, Western scholars have stressed that Communist movements in colonial countries, to be successful, have had to repre­ sent the forces of nationalism, of political as well as economic revolution. We may say, more generally, that a truly successful political, economic or cultural revolutionary movement has depended on the ability of the mobilizing force to represent all radical tendencies. But what has been neglected in most theoretical analyses is the role of cultural revolt. This has tended to be theoretically ignored 299

by Marxists, in spite of increasing weight given to political organization and factors of consciousness (i. e ., the 1superstructure f) and in spite of cultural theorizing attempts of men such men as Antonio Gramsci. Similarly, cultural revolt has if anything been more ignored by Western scholars, who stress instead the attempts of national elites to synthesize ‘ tradition1 and «modernity \ Western scholars thus stress the role of 1cultural nationalism yet this is a highly ambiguous factor. Large elements of cultural nationalism—the renovation of traditional culture in opposition to imperialist denigration of it, the seeking for pride in one’s own people and one's own heritage—were logical responses to the colonial situation. Yet traditional cultures have their hierarchical and oppre­ ssive features, and the move to secularization, cultural upheaval and opposition to traditional status has also been a crucial feature of colonial development. And the force of this has come not only from sections of the more ‘ westernized ' elite: pressures for cultural revolt have in fact arisen from below, from masses and lower status groups oppressed by the survivals of traditional authority and status. In fact it may be argued that it is in connection with the peasantry, the ‘ pivot * of anti-colonial revolutions, that the factors of economic and cultural revolt are most often mixed. Interestingly enough, Mao indicates this in his description of the peasant uprising in Hunan in a passage worth quoting at length here: These four authorities— political, clan, religious and masculine—are the embodiment of the whole feudal patriarchal ideology and system and are the four thick ropes binding the Chinese people, particularly the peasantry...Where the peasant associations is powerful, clan elders and administrators of temple funds no longer dare oppress those lower in the class hierarchy or embezzle clan funds. The worst clan elders and administrators, being local tyrants, have been thrown out...The old rule barring women and poor people from the banquest in the ancestral temples has also been broken ..Everywhere religious authority totters as the peasant movement develops. In many places the peasant associations have taken over the temples of the gods as their offices. Everywhere they advocate the appropriation of temple property in order to start peasant schools and to defray the expenses of the association, calling it 4public revenue from superstition '. In Liling Country prohibiting superstitious practices and smashing idols have become quite places where the power of the peasants is predominant, only the older peasants and women still believe in the gods, the younger peasants no longer do so. Since the latter control the associations, the overthow of religious authority and the eradica­ tion of superstition are going on everywhere...With the rise of the peasant movement, the women in many places have now begun to organize rural women’s associations; the opportunity has come for them to lift up their heads and the authority of the husband is gett­ ing shakier every day. In a word, the whole feudal-patriarchal ideo­ logy and system is tottering with the growth of peasants' power.11 300

As we have noted, the concept of political, economic and cultural revolutionary forces parallels the Leninist theory of anti-colonial, anti-capitalist and anti-feudal revolutions within the colonized world. While the peasantry plays a sometimes ambiguous role in this doctrine, peasant revolution has most often been described as the basic ‘ anti-feudal ’ revolution, and the role of cultural revolt, as in Mao’s formulation, enters in terms of the resistance to feudalism, to ‘ the whole feudal patriarchal ideology.’ However, it seems more useful to use the direct conceptua­ lization of ' cultural revolt.’ As we have argued in Chapter 2, the basic colonial agrarian structure is ‘ capitalist ’ not ‘ semi-feudal ’ : the primary basis of land­ lord power in a colonial society is a capitalist market economy and legal land property relations, and both poor peasants and agricultural laborers (making up a majority in most cases of the rural population) get a primary part of their income from basically wage labor and thus are at least ‘ semi-proletarians.’ Nevertheless, traditional beliefs and customs remain strong in the countryside as a basis for the hegemony of landlords