Welcoming the British Rule
British rule had brought to an end the tyranny and chaos of the regime of the last Peshwa in Maharashtra. The colonial rulers had not only established law andorder but also the principle of equality before law. The earlier regime of Brahmin Peshwas had imposed strict limitations on education, occupation arid living standards of the lower castes and women. The new rulers opened the opportunities in education and mobility in occupation for the members of all castes. Missionary schools and government colleges were ready to admit any student irrespective of caste origins. New ideas of equality and liberty could reach the moderately educated sections of the lower caste. Phule was probably the best product of this process. High caste reformers and leaders also had welcomed the colonial rule. It is not surprising that Phule who was concerned with the slavery of the lower castes also favoured the british rule He hoped that the new government which believes in equality between man and man would emancipate lower castes, from the domination of the Brahmins. The British rule opened up new employment opportunities in the administration. The political power at local level was also being given to the Indians. Phule who had worked as a member of the Poona Municipality could visualise how lower castes wouid be able to acquire power at local level during
the period of British rule and also enter the colonial bureaucracy. He believed inthe benevolent attitude of the British rulers towards the lower castes and therefore asked for a number of things from them. He was not sure how long the British rule would continue. Therefore, he wanted lower castes to exploit the opportunity and get rid of the tyranny of Brahmins. Brahmin rulers used to collect huge wealth out of taxes levied on poor lower castes population, but never used to spend even a paisa for their welfare. On the contrary, the new regime was showing the signs of doing good things for the deprived people. Phule assured the colonial rulers that if the Shudras were made happy and contented, they need not worry about the loyalty of the subjects. He wanted the British government to abolish Brahmin Kulkarni's position, and a post of village headman (Patil) filled on the basis of merit. In fact, Phule would have liked the Qritish government to put an end to the balutedary system which was connected with caste specific occupations in the villages. He asked the government to make laws prohibiting customs and practices which gave subordinate status to women and untouchables. Phule wanted Brahmin bureaucracy to be replaced by non-Brahmin bureaucracy. But if the non-Brahmins were not available, the government should appoint, he thought, the British men to these posts. He believed that the British officers would take impartial view and were likely to side with lower castes. Phule knew that education had not yet percolated to the lower castes. The masses had not yet become politically conscious. The high caste elites were claiming that they were the true representatives of the people and therefore we is demanding political rights. This process, Phule thought, would reestablish the political supremacy of the high castes. Phule advised his followers from the lower castes not to participate the-movement for political rights. He argued that the Indian National Congress or other polit~cal associations were not national in the true sense of the term because they represented only high castes. Phule warned his followers against the selfish and cunning motives of the Brahmins in forming these associations and advised them to keep themselves away from such associations. In his Satya Shodhak Samaj, he had made it a rule not to discuss politics. In fact, we find that he had expressed more than once a complete and total loyalty towards the new government. He firmly believed that the almighty God had dethroned the tyrannical rulers and had established in their place a just, enlightened and peaceful British rule for the welfare of the masses. It does not mean that Phule did not understand the significance of politics. Infact, he has said at one place that the conditions of lower castes had deteriorated because they were depr~ved of political power. His efforts to organise lower castes under the banner of Satya Shodhak Samaj should be seen as a political activity. It is true that he gave preference to social reform rather than political reform in the 19th century. But that does not suggest that he would have continued to hold the educated, they would become conscious of their political rights vis-a-vis I same views in the changed circumstances. He knew that if the lower castes were Brahmins and not only demand a share in political power, but would dethrone the Brahmins and establish their own supremacy. His writings were directed towards that.