Skip to main content

Maai, who started informal education with Mushahar children, left on eternal journey


By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
She was our Maai i.e. mother. Everyone in the villages, in our center or any visitor that came at our Prerna Kendra called her ‘Maai’. She would be there to greet us with her beautiful and energetic smile but that smile is now gone and we only have her memories with us. After a week’s struggle with life, Maai, probably around 80 years of age, passed away today at around 10 am leaving behind her one son, three daughters and their children and grandchildren. One can say that she lived a complete life and saw her great grandchildren.
Maai lived a life of great struggle but she never deviated from her path which was to protect her land and remained dignified all through her life. She would listen to visitors coming and brought her son and grandchildren also to learn and share their ideas with people. When I came to village Malwabar during our foot march on June 10th, 2007, Maai was in the forefront of the yatra to welcome in the village. After that, we bonded with this village and with her that we became part of it.
Maai’s name was Ram Rati. She was born in a Mushahar family in Bihar with two brothers and two sisters. Her father died when she was just a child and the uncles started quarreling with them for some piece of land that her father owned. Her mother and her siblings were then brought to a village called Udaipura by her maternal uncle where she grew up. She remembered Jawaharlal Nehru and talked about Gandhi baba as having heard about them. They were great people; she would say but she did not know much as what were they doing.
As happens, at a young age of 12 she got married to Banshi Dhar Mushahar in village Malawabar. She was a hard-working woman and did everything to nurture her children. They had about three bighas of land but her husband Banshidhar passed away after some illness and in the absence of a proper medication. This village was very isolated and nobody would visit the Mushahar basti except for some touts or local quacks.
After the death of her husband, her nephew named as Bansi connived with a few local feudal lords and got land transferred in his name, claiming to be brother of her husband and traditional property never got transferred to wives those days. The local feudals were interested to grab the land and hence they supported him for this illegal work. When Ram Rati came to know about it then she resisted and decided to fight. Her story of fight has been extremely powerful.
She fought for ten years. She was an illiterate woman yet she resisted any effort to grab her land. Without money, she would walk to district headquarter from this village about 40 kilometers away. She informed me that how she collected woods, sold them and then earn money to give it to a local advocate who fought her case. And after 10 years of court battle, she got decree in her name and it was restored to her. She could save about 2 Bighas of land but rest of her land is still in control of those grabbers they would threaten to kill her son.
She used to live in a thatched hut like all other houses in village Malwabar but in the past 10 years of our combined efforts resulted in one hundred percent housing in this village. Maai was the proud owner of her house but her hut remained there. She was extremely happy that she could see a roof over her head and that her future generation will be able to live a better life.
For the past few months, Maai was very tensed. She would come to me and say that her son wants to sell the land and she was determined not to let him sale the ‘ancestral’ property. I would not allow this to happen during my life time. We all discussed and asked her son not to do so in the greater interest of his family and the community. Now, the Mushahar basti has become a beautiful location, many feudal dominant caste people want to acquire the land here by hook or by crook. The mushahars are feeling uneasy. For Maai, it was important that the people particularly her children understand the value of land which gave her economic strength as she would get rice, mustered, parwal, brinjal, Arahar dal, Suran and other vegetable from her land.
Maai was associated with our work and was the on the front line. When we started informal schooling for children of Malwabar in the year 2008 in the Mushahar basti, it is she who offered us support. She would go to the village, asking the children to come and study. It was her duty to bring the children and she did it with great conviction as she wanted the girls to be educated. The informal school started in the open sky under the bamboo tree she had planted. With her continuous work with our organization, she was able to get new ideas and importance of linking the community with the organization and move ahead. She became a devotee of Nirankari Baba and would go to listen to his ‘preachings’. Even if she did not understand much, she was dedicated and wanted her children to work hard, protect the ancestral land and move ahead.
Maai also supported her daughters wholeheartedly even after marriage which does not happen too often in our societies. She would not only visit her daughters and granddaughters but advise them and help them financially from whatever she earned. This became a bone of contention between her and her son. This crisis continues to escalate as she wanted to see her daughters too live life with dignity and was actually trying to help them procure land and build their own house.
Maai was tremendously proud of how the Malwabar village was transformed. She would often tell me that she never imagined that living in such a difficult situation where caste forces and patriarchy was so powerfully entrenched, she could live life with dignity and self-respect. For me, she was like my mother. The bond was too powerful. We will miss her presence, her smiles, her talks and her wonderfully cooked Bajra and Makka rotis at our place. Maai will always remain a powerful symbol of a Mushahar woman’s resistance against land grab and protecting the ancestral land. We hope generations of the mushahar community will understand her resistance to protect her land so that they are not exploited by the dominant caste people who always felt that Mushahars have to be ruled and dominated.
Maai was fond of Nirankari mission. She used to go listen to the preaching and participate in the gatherings but through our Prerna Kendra she learned a lot about Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Savitri Maai Phule and Jyoti Ba Phule. Today, she has gone on her eternal journey and left behind a rich legacy. She fought and got what was right. Even the bamboo that the villagers were collecting to prepare for her last journey were planted and nurtured by her. It was under these bamboo trees that we had started our informal education with Mushahar children long back. Maai will always remain in our heart as her dedication and dignified struggle for justice will inspire generations of women and men of Mushahar community who are fighting for justice.

*Human rights defender

Comments

TRENDING

Although sporting genius, Wasim Akram was mascot of cricket globalisation era

By Harsh Thakor*  Since Independence India and Pakistan produced a galaxy of cricketing stars that permeated cricketing artistry of legendary heights. Amongst this bunch.Wasim Akram manifested pure cricketing genius to the greatest height.I speculate how India’s fortunes would have changed had partition not taken place and Wasim playing for India. Wasim Akram explored realms untranscended in bowling wizardry, like a painter devising new art forms or a scientist experimenting. He simply re-defined the art of reverse swing, reversing the ball in and out. There were bowlers quicker, more accurate and with better records, but none equalled Wasim in an all-round package. He was more lethal with a new and old ball than any fast bowler ever. Wasim could produce balls that were surreal, with his reverse swing, defying laws of bio mechanics He was simply the epitome of versatility, possessing a repertoire of six different deliveries within an over itself, disguising deliveries in the manner of

Zakir Naik tumult, Catholic Church power abuse: will Anwar Ibrahim save Malaysia?

Anwar Ibrahim By Jay Ihsan*  Anwar Ibrahim, a hardcore reformist who took a punch to his eye in 1998 from then inspector-general of police, Rahim Noor, has finally been given the mandate by Malaysians to serve as the nation's 10th prime minister. Anwar knows too well the burden of staying true to both trust and faith the people have in him requires every once of commitment and dedication. The question is will he be apologetic for his transgressions enroute to "rebuilding" Malaysia? In his overzealousness to get the job done, Anwar, 75, needs to safeguard every bit of gumption to address prickling issues plaguing the safety of the nation especially those involving communal sensitivities. For one, dare Anwar get rid of terrorist hate preacher and fugitive Zakir Naik for inciting religious unrest in Malaysia? In November 2016, India’s counter-terrorism agency filed an official complaint against Naik, holding him responsible for promoting religious hatred and unlawful activi

Galileo-Catholic church affair: must history repeat at Malaysia’s St Francis Xavier church?

By Jay Ihsan*  Christianity is the enemy of liberation and civilization -August Bebel Christianity taught men that love is worth more than intelligence -Jacques Maritain Real Christianity can be summed up in two commands: Love God and love people. - Joyce Meyer Pious XI was too neutral to mention the gas chambers; decent people like my own family were turned into devils by crude Christianity - Lionel Blue Religious doctrines cannot escape the liberty of thoughts and expression. To each their own, so it is said. From all things nice to all things that make one cringe - religion is polarised and in this regard, Christianity has over time faced the wrath of bigotry espoused by those "bequeathed" to protect it. Take Pope Francis for example. He had a secret meeting with giant pharma Pfizer chief executive officer Albert Bourla last year while the world struggled to make sense of the word "lockdown" and suffer adverse effects of the Corona virus vaccines produced by Pfiz

Qatar World Cup has a strong Bangladesh connection: stadium construction, t-shirts

By Mashrur Siddique Bhuiyan*  The FIFA World Cup fever has unquestionably cut through the minds of mass people all over the world. Stadiums in Qatar are buzzing with football fans and athletes representing their countries at the “Greatest Show on Earth". The magic of the FIFA World Cup is so enormous that even being unable to participate does not matter much to the fans who support different nations. This is one of the highest viewed events in the world, with the 2018 event viewed by about 3.6 billion people worldwide. But this crowd is not aware of the contribution of migrant workers who helped build the very stadiums where the matches are playing in. Qatar won the bid in 2010 to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, which got the oxymoron of celebration and controversy. This also created the potential for Qatar to Showcase its monumental economic achievements and unique culture on the global stage. The motto for Qatar’s bid team in 2010 was ‘Expect Amazing’ and migrant workers across th

A classic, 'Gandhi' ignores merciless cruelty unleashed on militant freedom fighters

By Harsh Thakor  The movie ‘Gandhi’ produced by Richard Attenborough, which was released 40 years ago on November 30th, 1982, was classic in it's own right. Ironical that it took an Englishman to embark upon the making of a film on this legendary figure. I can't visualize a better pictorial portrayal of Gandhi's life or an actor getting in the skin of the character an exuding the mannerisms as actor Ben Kingsley. Episodes are crafted and grafted surgically, illustrating how Gandhi wove fragmented bits into a cohesive force, to confront he British empire. Most boldly the movie unfolds how British colonialism subjugated the Indian people to barbaric cruelty. With great mastery the cinematography captures the vast Indian landscapes and essence of livelihood of Indians under colonial rule. The movie most illustratively shows the crystallisation of anti-colonial fervour from the embryonic stage and how it fermented into an integrated movement. In a most subtle manner it illustr

Film on evidence of viability of in situ communitarian urban water management

By Rahul Banerjee  Over the past few years it has become increasingly clear that centralised urban water management in India is in deep crisis. Water supply is both inadequate and extremely costly, water harvesting and recharging and used water treatment and reuse are mostly absent and storm water management is a disaster. Under the circumstances, the only viable solution is communitarian in situ water management and this is what has been proposed in the latest guidelines of both the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation and the Swacch Bharat Mission. Our NGO, Mahila Jagat Lihaaz Samiti , has not only implemented communitarian in situ water management but has also carried out research to provide evidence of the unviability of centralised water management and the suitability of the former. Here is a film based on a detailed research that I did on urban water management in Chhattisgarh for the National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi, that succinctly critiques cen

Implementing misleading govt order to pollute Hyderabad's 100 year old reservoirs

Senior activists* represent to the Telangana Governor on GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD), Government of Telangana: ‘...restrictions imposed under para 3 of said GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996 are removed...’: *** Ref: GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996: ‘To prohibit polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of the lakes upto 10kms from full tank level as per list in Annexure-I...’ We come to your office with grievance that GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by Government of Telangana not only contains false information issued ‘By Order and in the name of the Governor of Telangana’ , without any scientific or expert reports, but also that implementation of the said GO is detrimental and can be catastrophic to the Hyderabad city as two 100 year old reservoirs Osman Sagar and Himayath Sagar were constructed as dams on river Moosa and river Esa, with the first and

Terrorism and right-wing politics in Bangladesh: Exploring the nexus

By Shafiqul Elahi*  Although terrorism as broadly understood as violent extremism or militancy has long historical roots, in Bangladesh, it surfaced in the 1970s through leftist militants. Later, it shifted to Islamist extremism in the 1980s and flourished throughout the 1990s, and reached its peak in the early 2000s. The menace of terrorism particularly in the form of Islamic militancy has widely been felt in Bangladesh's society and polity since 1999. Since then, several militant groups have gained ground and started to challenge the government over the issues of the political process and social systems in the country. The central goal of the operations of the militant groups is to establish an Islamic regime in the country. The Fifth Amendment of the Bangladesh Constitution under the Zia regime in the late 1970s and the eighth amendments of the Constitution under the Ershad regime in the early 1980s have placed Islam at the state level to recognize its importance in the country

Chemical project promoters of Tamil Nadu have a lot to learn from Gujarat

By NS Venkataraman*  When good investment opportunities in chemical industry exist which are known in a region and which are yet to be exploited, it can be said that the chemical industry in the region is at the cross roads. However, when there are good investment opportunities in chemical industry but which are ignored and focus shifted to some other sector, it can be said that the scenario amount to poor strategy. Tamil Nadu government has now fixed a target for achieving one trillion dollar economy in the state by 2030. This is a bold and forward looking initiative and certainly this target is achievable, even though the year 2030 is only seven years away. With the target of achieving one trillion dollar size economy, it is necessary to give due role and importance for the growth of the chemical industry, since several chemical products are feed inputs for several other industrial sector such as automobile, electronics, textile and so on. Growth of such chemical in

Floods: As ax falls on most vulnerable, Pak seeks debt cancellation, climate justice

By Tanupriya Singh  Even as the floodwaters have receded, the people of Pakistan are still trying to grapple with the death and devastation the floods have left in their wake. The floods that swept across the country between June and September have killed more than 1,700 people, injured more than 12,800, and displaced millions as of November 18. The scale of the destruction in Pakistan was still making itself apparent as the world headed to the United Nations climate conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November.  Pakistan was one of two countries invited to co-chair the summit. It also served as chair of the Group of 77 (G77) and China for 2022, playing a critical role in ensuring that the establishment of a loss and damage fund was finally on the summit’s agenda, after decades of resistance by the Global North. “The dystopia has already come to our doorstep,” Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman told Reuters. By the first week of September, pleas for h