Bahujan Leaders And May Day


Mahatma Jyotirao Phule and Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule (1827 to 1890) fought throughout their entire life for

• Decreasing the working hours from 12 to 8
• Special leaves for pregnant women
• Abolition of the child labor
• First leader to unite the labourers and farmers
• Land to the tillers
• Special protection for the tenant labors etc.

Savitribai Phule started Mahila Seva Mandal in 1852, which worked for raising women’s consciousness about their human rights, dignity of life and other social issues. She went on to organise a successful barbers strike in Mumbai and Pune against the prevailing practice of shaving of widows’ heads.

It was Dr Ambedkar who brought in the 8-hour working day to India, bringing it down from 14 hours. He brought it in the 7th session of Indian Labour Conference in New Delhi, November 27, 1942.

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar (1891-1956) was the first person who made special acts for fixing the working hours as 8, leaves for pregnant women, pensions and insurance, land distribution etc. All workers should be grateful to Dr Ambedkar, especially women employees, as Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar framed many laws for women workers in India such as ‘Mines Maternity Benefit Act’, ‘Women Labour Welfare Fund’, ‘Women and Child Labour Protection Act’, ‘Maternity Benefit for Women Labour’, and ‘Restoration of Ban on Employment of Women on Underground Work in Coal Mines’. Let us remember this great man’s great work

Periyar’s championing of the right of women to get educated, work and live and love as they please was too bold for many of his own ardent followers in the DK movement, Five decades before Periyar was born, the Phules had articulated a radical concept – the Satyashodhak Marriage Rites in Pune, Maharashtra – where the bride and groom recited their own secular, gender-equal mantras in place of the Hindu religious mantras. Periyar took this radical strand of self-determination to its logical end even though he might have had never heard of Phule.The Self-Respect Marriages (SRM) presided over by Periyar himself gave him a public platform to propagate his feminist ideas.

Ayyankali (1863-1941) fought for labor rights such as fixed wages, land distribution, women rights, working hours etc. Ayyankali went further and launched the first schools for Dalits with Dalit teachers. Though the school was destroyed by privileged caste thugs, this educational revolution could not be stopped. In 1907 the Travancore government passed an order mandating that all Dalit children be admitted into the schools. Despite this law, privileged Castes blocked its implementation to which Ayyankali led a state-wide Dalit strike. Through much difficulty the strike held and the battle for education extended to Dalit rights as exploitative landlords started whipping workers who dared to wear clothing and who also protested the landlords’ sexual exploitation of Dalit women. The outraged landlords started setting the homes of workers on fire.Ayyankali responded by setting the landlord houses on fire. Stricken with fear, never knowing when they might be attacked, the landlords sued for peace.

Many of the Bahujan leaders fought and obtained success before the so-called Bolshevik revolution and Mao’s “Cultural” revolution. In India, the working class is comprised mainly of oppressed communities and their rights were achieved by Mahatma Jyotirao Phule and Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule, Ambedkar, Periyar, Ayankali etc and not by Marx, Lenin or Mao.

Let’s commemorate Mayday by remembering these Bahujan leaders for giving us these rights towards liberating us from caste oppression.

International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day in some countries, is a celebration of labourers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labour movement, socialists, communists or anarchists. It occurs every year on May Day which is May 1st. It is the day to pay tribute to the labourers. In India, the first Labour Day, or May Day, was celebrated in 1923 in Chennai. And today around India, organisations and trade unions arrange pageants, children enter contests so they can understand the importance of fairness for workers, and political leaders make speeches.

Labour Day in India or May Day was first celebrated in Chennai on May 1, 1923. The initiative was taken by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan. The leader of the party, Comrade Singaravelar arranged two meetings to celebrate this occasion.

One meeting was held at the Triplicane Beach, and the other took place at the beach opposite the Madras High Court. In the meeting, Singaravelar passed a resolution which stated that the government should announce a national holiday on the May Day or Labour Day in India. He also emphasised the need for non-violence within a political party. This was the first time a red flag was used in India.

Tata Sivaiah
National President
Mahatma Jyotirao Phule & Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Educational Circle


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