Sunday, February 7, 2016

I met Jitubhai

I met Jitubhai

"If untouchability lives, Hinduism must die." -Mahatma Gandhi (H, 28-9-1947, p349).

"Our is a battle; not for wealth, not for power. Ours is a battle: for freedom, for reclamation of human personality". - Dr. Ambedkar

Social equality is the greatest burning desire and demand of the depressed classes of the Country. Hundreds of years have been passed, the country went through slavery of foreigners rule for 700 years, but we couldn't find the satisfactory solution to the problem of social inequality.

I met a man with an answer, yesterday at village Derol of Himatnagar, Gujarat. He is a native of Tundav village of Mehsana. Started with a career of builder, he has earned good money and now working for the plantation of trees. He has established an NGO and working for his mission. 

He is Jitubhai, a Patel (upper caste) by caste, has established a Green Global Brigade, a committed force for plantations of trees in millions. The Brigade has members from all sections of the society; upper castes, lower castes; Hindus, Muslims.

He has developed a forest in 125 hectares of kotar waste lands on the bank of river Sabarmati. They have allowed the natural vegetation to grow as well as tried to plant trees by spreading seeds during monsoon season. Now the entire area is full with forest, flora and fauna. His house located on the bank of Sabarmati river is a nice location to rest with nature. He has made an unique "Will" of this land: First right of the birds and animals; Second right of the children; and the Third right of none. He has developed the forest for the birds, animals and children forever.

Getting interest in reading the story of this odd man out? He is a social reformer.

As you know, widows are unwelcomed at the celebrations and auspicious occasions in some societies. They are viewed unlucky. Some people don't like if a widow passes through their way, when they go for a job, business or an auspicious event. Jitubhai invited 18,000 widows in his son's wedding and celebrated the event in their presence. All had meal together. 

There is tradition of "samuh bhoj" (sit down group meal) in villages. During the events of marriage, rituals, etc, the host family invite the villagers for samuh bhoj. All people eat the samuh bhoj together but the lower castes people are either not invited or are served the food separately. But Jitubhai ensured that all castes from Valmiki to Brahmins sat down under one pandal and had meal together in that event.

How should we break the castes barriers and establish a casteless society Sir? He asked the question to me, during their annual meet function at village Derol on 6/2/2016. (H'ble Governor of Gujarat graced the function). He was asking the same what Dr. Ambedkar fought for, Annihilation of Castes. 

Formation of Casteless Society in India is not an easy task. A mission like approach, where millions join and work with dedication for generations, then some day this may happen. It's a long way and not an easy path. But you can initiate the change. Remove the Surnames (the identity of castes) first. Call each other by first name only. And take a pledge that each one of you will not ask caste of others, as well as will not disclose your caste to any one for lifetime. Annihilation of Castes can be achieved, if people like you multiply and walk together tirelessly till the destination is reached. It can't be achieved by one generation, but you can start the journey with these small steps the first. I replied.

Done Sir. On the spot, he called his some colleagues up and decided to call the brigade members by first name only. Caste identity no more. They will take a pledge of not asking or disclosing the caste.

I was amazed with the zeal, courage and enthusiasm of this man. I have seen many Patels but this man is different. I met one Patel in past, late  Ishvarbhai Patel, Padma Shri, known as the 'toilet man' of India. He got his first son married to the daughter of a weaver caste family. Second son was married to the daughter of the present CM of Gujarat.

Now Jitubhai, the second Patel man in front of me, ready to accept social reforms.

How could you become open minded? I asked him with curiosity.

When I was a child, Kuberbhai Vankar (weaver) looked after me. When I grew young, I was eating food of Shri Dineshbhai Makwana (SC). I have grown with these people from the childhood. They are the same like me, living with good virtue. As Indians we should be one, the humans only. He replied.

I looked up, the bright Sun over head was shining, turning off the shadows. Another Sun, Jitu in front of me, was determined to walk on the path of equality and fraternity, raising hope of a casteless society, to turn off shadows of Hinduism. A small step, but big beginning.

My salute to you, Jitubhai, the Brigadier of the Global Green Brigade.

"Be the change that you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi

7 February 2016

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