*Salute to Educational Revolutionary: Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil*
On account of the 136th birth anniversary, while saluting to the sacred soul of a great educational revolutionary, Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil, we are also revolutionized with his educational endeavors to empower deprived Bahujan masses. His deep compassion for deprived masses was earnestly emerged into the establishment of Rayat Shikshan Sanstha in pre-independence India. Being embarked on imparting education to the deprived masses to whom it was traditionally being denied by Hindu Varnashramdharma Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil alias Anna is like a polestar in the history of modern India. Rayat was not only a teaching institute but a massive mission highly committed to rationalization and democratization of Indian society. Because, a renowned European philosopher Victor Hugo says,
“A man without education is like a beast without a tail
He who opens the schools, closes the jail.”
It is obviously evident that if a man does not have any formal or informal teaching of basic life skills, professional skills and ethical values he/she cannot survive in human society independently and honorably. His life is fully burdened with ignorance, adversities and oppressions. The pages of history are fully loaded that how the ignored and unskilled societies were defeated, degraded and tamed, tortured, thrashed and targeted by the mighty and merciless people. As far as Indian society is concerned, the degraded indigenous Bahujan masses were denied the right to education in Brhaminic Hindu society. As per the codes of Manu, Shudrs and Atishudras are denied the right to Upnayna (education). The punishment in Munusurti itself are the reason to restrict Bhaujan from education. It is codified that if any Shudra attempts to hear the chants of Vedas he should be punished by pouring hot lead in their ears. Further it is coded that if any Shudra attempt to read Vedas his tongue be cut off. It can easily understood with the example of Eklavya, as he attempted to acquire archery his right thumb was taken away by his assumed Guru Dronacharya. Therefore till the arrival of British regime indigenous Bhahujan masses were deprived of education.
While western world was making dazzling scientific inventions and imperial expansions, Indian society was drowned in to ignorance and brutal practices like Satti, child marriage and untouchability were daily practices in Indian society. In such situation, Karmaveer Bhaurao Paygonda Patil, allies Anna established Rayat for imparting education to deprived masses. He himself was a disciple of democratic king Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj and Jyotirao Phule who already embarked on human liberation movement rigorously in 19th century by challenging Brhaminical hegemony.
Karmaveer Anna, was not only a mere educationist but he was a revolutionary social reformer and one of the makers of modern India. John Due a great educational philosopher of America had proposed the theory of experimental learning in which children be involved in the process of learning by doing. In the same way Anna was also experimentalist in imparting education and lessons of democratic values to society. He not only taught the value of social equality by speaking about caste discrimination theoretically but he himself revolted against the caste discrimination right from his childhood by cohabiting with untouchables. He did the same experiment in his school where he, being a Jain personally would live with the students of untouchable caste in the role of parenthood. Therefore, other Savrna boys would live altogether with untouchable boys in the school.
Anna initially established a multi-caste hostel in which the students of various caste should reside under one roof and get the education of modern outlook with secular thoughts. At that time, due to belief of purity and pollution, it was very difficult to accept the untouchables as a human beings and to eat and sit with them in public life. Actually, the father of nation Mahtma Gandhi and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar also were striving to eradicate caste discrimination and untouchability from Hindu society. Even, in the Sabarmati Ashram of Gandhiji the upper caste people were not prepared to accept the existence of untouchables in the Ashrama. But, here in Maharashtra, in his Shahu boarding Bhaurao could succeed to make a cosmopolitan culture in Satara. The four students of different Savrana and untouchable castes were living and studying with Bhaurao without any hesitation. His Guru and benevolent democratic king of Kolhapur, Shahu Maharaj wanted to establish a casteless society, so he opened about 400 hundred schools in his small Kolhapur province. He also opened boardings for the students to live and learn at his capital city of Kolhapur.
The contemporary society was not induced to send their children to live in common boarding house with different caste students. Therefore, he established the boarding in the name of different castes like Maratha, Jain, Muslim, Mahar etc. Bhaurao Patil was the student of the Jain boarding where he got a very shocking experience that is the turning point in Young Bhaurao’s life. Right from childhood, Bhaurao was of independent nature. He preferred whatever his conscience convinces him. While living in Kolhapur in Jain boarding, he went to the programme conducted at Mahar boarding in Kolhapur. That time, no student would mingle with other caste students even for playing. But, young revolutionary, Bhaurao had gone directly to attend the programme at Mahar boarding to whom people would treat as untouchable. Therefore, all the students of the Jain boarding told to their warden. The warden and the students of the boarding did not allow Bhaurao to enter into the boarding house without taking bath. However, young Bhaurao was also very determined so, he, insisted on that he did not commit any crime by going to Mahar boarding so nobody can restrict him to enter into boarding house. But, the warden and students became furious and threw out his books and bed out of the boarding house. This incident made a scar on the sacred mind of Bhaurao and he decided to eradicate caste discrimination and stigma of untouchabiltiy on lower caste of society.
It was the time of freedom struggle in swing and the educated youths were attracted by the charismatic leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and the hundreds of the revolutionary youths jumped into the freedom movement. But, Bhaurao Patil had decided his life goal and he believed that only the enlightened people can enjoy the fruits of freedom. In India, Bhaujan masses are hundred mile away from education and the grave ignorance is prevailed in society. Untouchability, caste discrimination, superstitions and poverty have rotten the society. In such situation, only political freedom will be the nightmare. Hence, he devoted his entire life to establish schools and colleges in villages under the tree or in the temple sheds. People reverently called him Anna as a elder brother and helped him to establish the schools. Initially, Anna focused on primary education for the rural masses to whom the education was denied for the ages in Hindu society. Then he started residential primary schools and boarding with the help of villagers. Then, he established education training colleges to produce trained teachers to widen his education mission in allover Maharashtra.
Anna wanted to imbibe the value of self esteem and dignity of labour in the society. So, the very motto of his Rayat Shikshn Sanstha was, “Education through self help is our Motto” Hence, according to the motto of Karmaveer, students from farming and working class would join Rayat schools and acquire education by working in farms. They would earn their bread and books by working in farm and would acquire education. Many of the first generation students like late Prof. N. D. Patil and late Dr. Patangrao Kadam who had been minister in Maharashtra state. Hon. Ramsheth Thakur, a great philanthropist and formerly member of parliament have contributed in the socio-economic and political sphere of the society. Anna wanted that the students studying in Rayat should be self reliant and committed to the progressive nationalism following the principles like humanity, social equality and justice. His major motif behind establishment of the Rayat Shikshan Sanstha was to accelerate the Satyshodhki (truth seeking) human liberation movement established by Mahatma Jyotirao Phule. Like Mahatma Phule, Karmveer Anna believed that indigenous Indian masses are enslaved by Brhaminic hegemony. They are deprived of education and human rights for ages. If they are to be emancipated it is needed to bring radical changes in their thinking and behaviors. Hence, coexistence of the students of different castes under one roof with fraternity and acquaintance with modernity was his prime motif throughout his activism. He also used to organize Shahiri Jalsa (singing programmes) to create social awareness among society and to introduce human values like liberty, equality, fraternity and progressive thoughts.
At present, Rayat Shikshan Sanstha has developed as like a bountiful banyan and a multistate educational network imparting quality education to rural masses. After the demise of the Karmaveer Anna, the network of Rayat has spread like branches of the benevolent banyan tree. To-day, it has been conducting 42 Colleges, 453 secondary schools, 7 training colleges, 152 primary and pre primary schools in English and Marathi medium. The Sanstha also runs 83 hostels and 8 Ashramshalas to provide education to the tribal and weaker sections of the society. It also gives vocational education to develop technical skills to rural students through 13 technical colleges. Considering the importance of research and development, Sanstha has established Rayat Institute of Research and Development, one Krushi Trantraniketan Vidyalay, one Engineering college and one Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil University. The Sanstha started with four students of four different castes has now spread in 15 districts of Maharashtra and one district of Karnatka with the total 737 branches from KG to PG. with 12,442 (female 4143) employees belonging to 184 castes and communities and 4 lacs 34 thousand 252 students (female 2,10,054). About, 15 patents also have been earned by the research scholars in Rayat Sanstha and the students of the Sanstha are doing research in renowned universities of the world like Oxford university. The statistics speak of the phenomenal progress and achievement of the Rayat Shikshan Sanstha as dreamt by the Karmaveer Anna.
The country always remembers Karmaveer Anna as the ‘Father of Mass Education’ in India. He was a visionary social reformer and educator who made significant contributions to the field of education during the early 20th century. His tireless efforts in promoting education, especially among the marginalized and underprivileged sections of society, have left an indelible mark on the history of education in India. Karmaveer Anna’s educational journey itself is a testament to his dedication to learning and teaching not only the school curriculum but life skills and human values to make a modern man. He walked barefoot for miles to attend his school from his village in his school days and he often walked barefoot to start schools in different remote villages of Maharashtra until his last breathe. His life and work remain a shining example of the transformative power of education. He dedicated his entire life to the cause of education for the masses, and his legacy continues to inspire generations of educators and social reformers. His vision of accessible, equitable, and quality education for all remains a guiding light in the quest for a more inclusive and educated India.
While celebrating the centenary year of the Sansta with its grand legacy, it is found that as a dedicated one man mission can reach to the remote area to fulfill the aspirations of education to the deprived masses. But if we glance at the today’s educational phenomenon in Maharashtra, a progressive state of India. In the home land of Phule-Shahu- Ambedkar, it is found that the government in the free India is not careful as Anna was for cause of education. The policy makers are forgetting the constitutional responsibility to impart compulsory education to all children bellow 14 years. In the year 2017, government of Maharashtra has shut down 4,093 primary and secondary schools saying the number of students have decreased. On the contrary 77% of schools do not have subject wise special teachers. Over 3,700 schools in the state are dependent on a single teacher. Only in the Palghr area which is very close to the capital city Mumbai, 28 ZP monitored schools do not have any teacher. About 23,000 teachers posts are vacant in Maharashtra and about 8000 teaching posts are vacant in senior colleges in Maharashtra. On the contrary more than 22,477 private schools have been established by the money makers where the fees for 1st slandered goes above lacs.
In Maharashtra about 3.17 crore persons are under bellow poverty line and their daily income is Rs 32 per day. Then how it is possible for them to get education for their kids in such private schools. On one hand, the government has introduced New Education Policy (NEP) -2020 to impart quality education to the new generation but on the other hand the budgetary allocation on education is very less as compare to the top countries that excel in education. Central government spends only 2.9% of its total budget on education. Recently in September 2023, the government of Maharashtra has passed a GR to give the responsibility of schools to the corporate to develop. Actually, it is the constitutional responsibility to give education to the society. It seems that the government is denying its responsibility to educate the new generation. In the golden period of Emperor Ashoka, India was knowledge hub for the world. The world known universities like Takshashila, Vikramshila and Nalanda were imparting multidisciplinary education to the world. But at present there are over 55 thousand higher education institutions, and 1,113 universities in India, but no single university is in the top world universities. Hence, it is time to remember the legacy of Karmaveer Anna and his tireless efforts and visionary approach to education which transformed the landscape of education in India. His commitment to social justice and the empowerment of marginalized communities through education made him a revered figure in the country. Now, as the country wants to be a Vishvguru we have to follow the foot prints of Karmaveer Anna, the father of mass education in India.
*Dr. Keshav Pawar*
Department of English,
Chhatrapati Shivaji College (Autonomous), Satara