On her birthday, Savari salutes our fore-mother Savitribai Phule who inspires and guides us through her truth and wisdom.
Remembering her, we are posting an excerpt from a previous article, Crossing endogamic boundaries, by Anu Ramdas.
In this letter1 written to Jotiba in 1868, Savitribai gives an account of an inter-caste relationship along with the society’s violent response to it and her own intervention.
29 August 1868
Naigon, Peta Khandala
The Embodiment of Truth, My Lord Jotiba,
Savitri salutes you!
I received your letter. We are fine here. I will come by the fifth of next month. Do not worry on this count. Meanwhile, a strange thing happened here. The story goes like this. One Ganesh, a brahman, would go around villages, performing religious rites and telling people their fortunes. This was his bread and butter. Ganesh and a teenage girl named Sharja who is from the mahar community fell in love. She was six months pregnant when people came to know about this affair. The enraged people caught them, and paraded them through the village, threatening to bump them off.
I came to know about their murderous plan. I rushed to the spot and scared them away, pointing out the grave consequences of killing the lovers under British law. They changed their minds after listening to me.
Sadubahau angrily said the wily brahman boy and the untouchable girl should leave the village. Both the victims agreed to this. My intervention saved the couple who gratefully fell at my feet and started crying. Somehow I consoled and pacified them. Now I am sending both of them to you. What else to write?
This brief letter speaks volumes about the Phules. Intervening to stop mob violence is an intimidating task for uniformed personnel invested with authority to control, but here she is, an informed, non-judgmental human rights warrior, armed with the most powerful weapon: compassion. Societal violence sent this young couple into the safety of Savitri and Jotiba’s protection. How many villages would have witnessed similar mobs going after hapless young people, and how many Phules stood up for them?
 A forgotten liberator: The life and struggle of Savitribai Phule. Ed: Braj Ranjan Mani, Pamela Sardar.