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Wednesday 5 October 2011

Lest we forget –11 March 1811: Shri Hari Chand Thakur birth anniversary- Collection by Dr. Pravin H Khobragade

Lest we forget –11 March 1811: Shri Hari Chand Thakur birth anniversary- Collection by Dr. Pravin H Khobragade

Shri Hari Chand Thakur was born in NamaSudra Community in Bengal on 11th March 1811 in Orakandi of kashiani upazila in gopalganj (Greater faridpur). Harichand received little formal education. After completing his initial schooling in a pathshala, he attended school for only a few months. He then started spending his time with shepherds and cowboys and roamed with them from one place to another. He started changing from this time. He was loved by all of his friends for his physical beauty, naivete, love for music and philanthropic attitude. He could also sing bhajan (devotional songs). He cultivated the  Matua Sect (The Matua community primarily consists of Dalits (mainly Namasudra). The Matua believe that male and female are equal. They discourage early marriage. Widow remarriage is allowed. They refer to their religious teachers as ‘gonsai;’ both men and women can be gonsai.
They follow the teachings of Shri Hari chand and Gurchand Thakur) whose principles were: (1) No necessity of entering the temples of higher castes for the purpose of worship, (2) Discarding Brahmin priest for any ceremony, (3) Worship on Shri Hari, (4) Not to worship idols and not to visit pilgrimage centres of Hindus and (5) Maintain good moral conduct and lead an ideal family life. The sect became popular in East Bengal (now a part of Bangladesh) and he led the untouchability movement called the Chandal movement in India. He built a english high school at Orakandhi (Banladesh ) for the people of lower  community called Nama Shudra (untouchable community). He united the people of this community, but was against religion conversion. However some Bengali Brahmins have made him a Maithili Brahmin. Harichand’s doctrine is based on three basic principles-truth, love, and sanctity. The doctrine treats all people as equal. Shri Shri Harichand Thakur and his son was great social reformer Sri Sri Guruchand Thakur who reform the society of chandal (charal). He built a English high school at orakandhi (bangladesh ) for the people of lower community more of them called Namasudra (untouchable comunity). He united the people of lower community people, and protect them from religion conversion.
Some collection by Dhirendra Rangari
During the Namasudhra movement the resources were very merger and the people
were very scattered and approachability was very challenging because the Nama
Shudra Community used to live in the swamps [small inland water bodies]. To
over come this they used to:
- Conduct meetings and deliberation and brain storming sessions, on the
occasion of any celebrations like marriages… etc and even on the funeral if
some one is dead and because of that the people has come together.
- They used to conduct conventions to plan the future course of action of
their movement and to take the stock of the actions they have taken during
that year.
- Democratic pattern of functioning the organization and the base of the
organization was broad-base which almost covered entire East Bengal
- It was mandate that each member of the community has to be a member of
the movement by paying a fixed amount on monthly basis.
- It was mandate that 5% amount of the expense incurred in any
celebrations of marriage or of any sort has to be given as a donation to the
Such was the maturity and the spirit of the Nama Sudhra Movement run by
the downtrodden people, and that too in the 19th century.
We certainly have to learn a lesson from them and to implement and inculcate
it in our society / community so that we have enough resource [ financial +
mental + and human ] to run Phuley – Ambedkar Movement with greater force in
a right direction.
The worshippers of Chandi, the Chandalas, shed traditional racial name and were voluntarily advised to have the name of Namasudra in the caste menu. Little did they know then that the name Namasudra contained caste appellation of social slavery. No other oppressed caste surrendered so abjectly to Aryan social slavery as did the Namasudras in the process. This was the result of an intellectual fraud which had advised Guruchand Thakur in this behalf.
A special award has been instituted by the Govt. of West Bengal in memory of Shri Harichand Thakur and his son Shri Shri Guruchand Thakur, both preceptors of Matua religious community. The Thakur Harichand, Guruchand Award, which consists of a cash prize worth Rs.25,000, a citation and other prizes in kind is scheduled to be conferred from this year onwards. The Backward Classes Welfare Department will organise the award-giving ceremony. Anybody belonging to schedule caste community will be entitled for a claim of this award for his or her leading or outstanding role in effecting holistic development in the socio-economic life-structure of the schedule caste community.
Harichand Thakur and his son Guruchand Thakur struggled relentlessly to do away with social ills like untouchability, inequalities of caste systems, right to enter temples or shrines and an overall development of rural Bengal in the 19th century. They established many educational institutions in order to step up the conditions of the downtrodden of the society. Their relentless struggle for upliftment of the downtrodden made them popular among thousands of persons.
Guruchand Thakur, Son of Harichand Thakur started Namasudra Welfare Association. He called an All Bengal Namasudra Conference at Duttadanga in the district of Khulna (at present in Bangladesh) in the year 1881. Guruchand Thakur was the president of the conference. Guruchand Thankue advised his people to start schools in the areas densly populated by them. His next movement was to remove the disgraceful term, “Chandal” (which was then attributed to Namasudra by the higher caste Hindus) from the census report. He was successful in the same. The term “Chandal” was removed from census report of 1911. In 1907 he appealed to the then Governor of Bengal and Assam for employment of the Namasudras in government services.

Beyond nationalist frames: relocating, postmodernism, hindutva, history

 By Sumit Sarkar

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