Being a humanist, it is time to speak of Mahamana Ramswroop Verma, one of the tallest leaders of socialist movement in Uttar Pradesh and founder of Arjak Sangh which was constantly working to eradicate social evils, bring social change and demolish the brahmanical structure. And the ways it adopted were unique. If any one read the books written by Verma, you will find, there is not much injection of philosophy but explanations of things which are sanctified by caste system and written texts by the Brahmins. I have come across much literature for ‘philosophers’and ‘debaters’ but I can vouch if any one’s writing can bring people closure to humanism, rationalism and liberalism, it is Mahamana Verma because they are absolutely simple way of explaining things that happen around us without any heavy dose of lectures.
The slogans, ‘Gale me mala, dimag pe taala’, manavvad kee kya pahchaan manav manav ek samaan, and so many simple yet effective couplets went straight into our heart. Arjak Sangh’s movement spread across Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, thank to Ramswroop Varmaji and Shaheed Jagdev Prasad. It was the most powerful cultural movement against brahmanism in the Hindi heartland atleast in the post independent India and Kanpur was the center of it.
Like any other thing that happen to vernacular leaders, Verma Saheb was also confined into merely a leader in the Hindi heartland. Unfortunately, today, the Kurmis who formed the main chunk of Arjak Sangh with absolutely great leaders like Ramswroop Verma and Jagdev Prasad seems to have forgotten them and shifted to Sardar Patel. It is tragic that the idealism of these two great leaders does not find echo in our political leadership. Go to any college and schools owned by Kurmis in UP and Bihar and there is a Sardar Patel statue.
Today on the birthday of Mahamana Ramsroop Verma, I will only request friends across the Hindi heartland to reignite the flames by the likes of Periyar Lalai Singh Yadav, Shaheed Jagdev Prasad and Mahamana Ramswroop Verma. Much before, we started challenging the brahmanical myths in JNU, the Arjak Sangh used to organise ‘nukkad natak’ on the killings of Tadka which was very popular. The arjak Sangh was not into abusing brahmins but brahmanism which it made clear distinction but at the same point of time it attempted to remove social evils among themselves as well as spoke against dowry, caste system, superstition, rebirth and untouchability.
Ramswroop Verma was finance minister of Uttar Pradesh in Charan Singh’s government and was known to have made deficit free budget in Uttar Pradesh. He was of the firm view that without social cultural changes, economic changes would not work hence he formed Arjak Sangh in June 1968, much before any one could claim to have started any socio-political movement in Uttar Pradesh to eradicate caste system and untouchability.
A close associate of socialist icon Acharya Narendra Dev and Dr Lohia, Mahamna Verma realised that without a counter revolution we can not fight against brahmanism and therefore Arjak Sangh developed a number of ‘nataks’, slogans and literature which was easily understood by the masses. The Arjak Sangh was not confined to Kurmis or backward castes but reached to Dalits and other marginalised backward communities. It tried to develop a progressive outlook of people associated with it. He was the first social philosopher who used the term ‘manavavad’ in Hindi for humanist otherwise it is still being termed as ‘manavatawad’ clearly misrepresentation of the meaning. Manavavad or humanism is a philosphy revolved around human being, no faith in any supernatural structure and developing a rationalist, scientific attitude while humanitarianism or manavatawaad is just ‘do good’ so a Ramdev can be a humanitarianist by ‘helping’people during the calamity but may not be a humanist which is difficult. In the Hindi heartland people still use these terms without understanding the real meaning and we must remain indebted to Arjak Sangh and Mahamana Ramswroop Verma to have such an unambiguous clarity on the issue. A truly humanist he wanted a society free of exploitation based on the basis of your birth and social identity.
It is rather unfortunate that our generation know very little about these legendary leaders and try to confine them to particular castes. The lives of Mahamana Verma and others like him must be taught at the primary level to students and I can bet the couplets that Arjak Sangh developed those days could be used against caste system and untouchability. The legacy of Ramswroop Verma is of the progressive movement which questioned cultural supremacy of brahmanism but at the same point of time extended its outreach to all those who were excluded in all the debates. No movement can grow unless it has a political philosophy and positive ideas to bring people together. Arjak Sangh was a powerful cultural political movement but alas in the whole narrative of today’s politics in UP and Bihar, such progressive movements are ‘forgotten’by their own people who look for greener pastures and do not even feel uncomfortable in the company of religious rights. We hope friends in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will revive the legacy of the great leaders of Arjak Sangh to bring a positive cultural change to empower the Arjaks. It would be good if these works are spread across the country, translated into English and other languages. We hope Arjaks and other friends will look into these important aspects and work to revive his legacy.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com twitter @freetohumanity Email: firstname.lastname@example.org