Interview with Anuradha Bhosale Part 2

Posted by on Nov 26, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Continuing from part one, my interview with Anuradha Bhosale, Kolhapur India activist, social reformer and local hero, shares additional deep insights and reflections with us.

LB: What was the worst story of exploitation that you can share with us?

AB: The worst story of exploitation has occurred in my own life.   My mother-in-law and sister-in-law harassed me right from the beginning. I was ruthlessly used as a house maid by all of the in-laws numbering seven in all. I was working at that time with Verala Development Society (VDS) at Sangli town. 

Lynnea Bylund, Bapu Gandhi and Anuradha Bhosale

Anuradha and Lynnea Stand With Bapu

That involved travelling every day 65 miles to and fro, office or field work from 11 to 6.  Each day l reached home not earlier than 8.30 p.m. and then cooked the evening meal for the family.  I was the last person to eat and was expected to be satisfied with the leftovers. The daily grind was very strenuous and I did not get sufficient rest. My first child (a daughter) arrived in 1997. I worked at Sangli till seventh month of pregnancy and my load of work at home was not reduced even by an iota. I could not have sufficient rest, nor proper nutrition. The in-laws were unhappy that I gave birth to a daughter. They blamed me as if it was my fault. My second pregnancy happened after a gap of six years.  

Towards the end of the seventh month l was overwhelmed by a crisis. I got high fever and was not able even to stand on my feet.  I went to a maternity home on my own.  I was running 104 temperature even the doctor was alarmed, because it was Typhoid fever. He put me under a heavy shower of cold water till the temperature came down. Then followed a heavy course of antibiotics. The fate of the child inside me hung in the balance.

Throughout my days in the clinic none of the in-laws nor my husband showed any consideration.  Food and supply of medicines were arranged by Shri Arun Chavan and his local friend. The hospital bill was paid by him.  The husband, on the contrary, was asking me to take early discharge so that I could be available for work related to some religion festival. The doctor discharged me only after 21 days.  When I went home my mother-in-law insisted that I took up the heavy domestic work again. In disgust l went to my parents and remained there till the second child’s birth. Luckily, he is hail and hearty in spite of the heavy medication.

LB: Where do you see AVANI’s mission and accomplishments 5, 10, 20 years from now?

AB: would divide AVANI’s activities into short – term and long term phases. In the short term of 3 to 6 years we will be able to establish the school on the plot of land with our own buildings. There we will accommodate about 100 children, providing them better facilities for broad – based general education and training in trades and crafts. lt will be largely developed as a demonstration unit and as a proving ground.

The long term goal (of the coming 5 to 10 years) is to see the end of child slavery and child exploitation in Kolhapur District. The government has worked out schemes and programmes backed by fund allocation aimed at child liberation and child development. They remain largely ineffective because their implementation is in the wrong hands.

These programmes can really deliver and the goals can be brought into reality only with the active and informed participation of the enlightened social sections. This kind of participation will become an actual fact when the quality of awareness is suitably oriented and effectively channelized. To this end AVANI will need to strive its utmost.  We see that AVANI and its associates will play the role of providing the leaven for this orientation. For the purpose it will seek to hold before the community a viable demonstration.

LB: You have been called the “bandit queen” of India’s social movement.  How did that description come about?

AB: A noted writer and journalist from Kolhapur has called me “a bandit queen” in a newspaper article.  The reference which is essentially humorous, is to the famous female bandit from Northern India, Phoolan Devi who spent many years as an outlaw, got rehabilitated in civil society and was then elected to Parliament and later assassinated.  The writer must have seen certain parallels between hers and my life. 

I was maltreated by the relatives of my husband.  I rebelled against their tyranny, and fought for my freedom.  My life that that far was like a school that gave me first hand education about injustice that women are compelled to mutely suffer.  How their children also become vulnerable and get ruthlessly exploited.  In their emancipation I saw my life’s mission.  The only common point between me and the “bandit queen” is that I rebelled against the system, as she did.  Later in life the “Bandit Queen” wreaked vengeance against her tormenters by murder and mayhem, and was herself gunned down in the end.  She lived by the gun and died by the gun.  I do not believe in vengeance.  I would rather bend my energies towards constructive work

LB: Which living and historic persons inspire you to fulfill yours and AVANI’s mission?

AB: There are eight, actually, two of whom are are still living …

Arun Chavan – The chairman and founder of AVANI entered early part of my career. He also was the executive-director of Verala Development Society and I joined it as a field organizer.  VDS was handling at that time a number of field programmes, such as water conservation, environmental education, nonformal education of dropout children, voters’ awareness, and health education. Street theatre which was effectively used as means of propagation of ideas among the common people. I was much impressed by a street play (in which I took part), which was used for educating people in participatory economic planning. The National Planning Commission, headed by a veteran socialist leader, accepted one idea of ours (at least in theory), namely, to emulate the pattern of NEW DEAL adopted by President Roosevelt to overcome the Great Depression of 1928 – 1940.  From Mr. Arun Chavan I learnt how to function selflessly and with total dedication for broader social purposes.

Govind Pansare – Though a communist, which I am not, he is part and parcel of the broad-based social and political activities in Kolhapur. He taught me how to be one with the downtrodden people. How to understand their economic problems, how to establish rapport with them. I learnt from him organizational skills and his ability to see man or woman behind the facade of caste or religion. His oratorical skills have greatly impressed me.  I try to emulate his argumentative expertise, of which he is highly skilled, probably deriving from his also being a lawyer.

Shivaji the Great: He established self–rule in Maharashtra. He fought for national independence against the Mughal Empire and remained unconquered till the last. He abolished landlord rule and relieved farmers from exorbitant taxation. He was an enlightened ruler and forged the unity of the entire people irrespective of caste, creed or gender.

Shahu Maharaj : He ruled the princely state of Kolhapur from 1896 to 1924. A descendant of Shivaji the Great, he is still revered as a philosopher king because of his pioneering work in radical social and economic reforms. He fought against the oppressive aspects of the caste system. He debunked the false belief in birth – based inequality. ‘He worked tirelessly for the upliftment of the outcastes. He praised Christian missionaries (incidentally they were American Presbitarians!), openly for serving the outcastes and for empowering them for the claim of equal rights through the mediation of Christianity. 

Mahatma Gandhi:  Gandhiji brought about cultural Renaissance of the entire people. He awakened the people from a deep torpor of centuries engendered by moribund religious beliefs and customs. He galvanized a vivisected society into one and gave it a single national identity. He inculcated self confidence into them and motivated them to wage an unarmed struggle for their rights. His belief in nonviolence as a creed, universal brotherhood of man, equal respect for all religions and his insistence on harmony between means and ends, and equal emphasis on the sanctity of both are principles of eternal validy.  Justice, truth, peace are the pillars of his doctrine.

Mrs. Savitribai Phureywas a pioneer reformer of the Nineteenth Century.  She pioneered women’s education: Fought for women’s rights.  Defying fierce opposition she opened schools for the backward class women and gave succour to single mother

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar: He was the greatest leader of the backward and “untouchable” classes of 20th century India. As the first Law Minister of Independent India, he played a leading role in framing the Indian  Constitution of India.  He urged the nation to march forward from the principle of one man one vote (adult franchise) to the ultimate goal of achieving one man, one value. He firmly believed in the efficacy of peaceful means for achieving the ultimate goal of equality among all. He was greatly beholden to Shahu Maharaj. There is a great deal of similarity between him and Martin Luther King.

Mother Teresa:  was a great Christian soul. She served suffering people in a spirit of total dedication. lt will be my humble endeavor to do my bit in relieving human suffering.

 LB: Thank you so much, Anuradha, for sharing more intimate details of your work and philosophy with the readers and supporters.

        AB: Indeed, and thank you for allowing me this privilege!

lynnea2 The Board

Lynnea Bylund is managing director of Gandhi Legacy Tours, Director of Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, founder of Catalyst House and has nearly three decades of experience in administration, marketing and business development. She was a nationally recognized spokeswoman for the emerging alternative video and information delivery industries. She has a degree in holistic health-nutrition from the legendary and controversial health educator and activist Dr. Kurt Donsbach, she is the founder of two not-for-profit small business-based wireless trade associations and has lobbied on Capitol Hill and at the FCC where she has spoken out strongly against the cable TV monopoly, illegal spectrum warehousing and ill-conceived congressional schemes to auction our nation’s precious airwaves to the highest bidder.

Ms. Bylund is a founder and former CEO of a Washington DC telecommunications consulting and management company with holdings in several operating and developmental wireless communications systems and companies. In 1995 Lynnea became the first female in the world to be awarded a Broadband PCS operating permit – she was one of only 17 winners, along with Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon in the biggest cash auction in world history, raising a whopping $8 billion. Lynnea also spear-headed the successful effort to launch the first cable TV network in the South Pacific islands.
> Follow Lynnea on:  +LynneaBylund – Twitter – LinkedIn – FaceBook – Pinterest & YouTube

 

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