17 - Epilogue: ideology and politics in nineteenth-century western India  pp. 303-308

Epilogue: ideology and politics in nineteenth-century western India

By Rosalind O'Hanlon

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By the time of his death in November 1890, Phule occupied a paradoxical position within the broader non-Brahman movement. On one hand, his labour had borne rich fruit in the creation of a broad popular movement around the ideas and symbols on which he had worked during the four decades since 1855. On the other, his uncompromising radicalism and his abrasive personal style seem to have left him rather isolated during the last years of his life. In 1889, he had suffered a stroke, which left him partly paralysed. As his health worsened, his friends became concerned that he and his wife would find themselves impoverished in their old age. In the absence of any other offers of support, the reformer Mama Paramanand appealed on behalf of Jotirao Phule and his family to Sayajirao Gayakavad, the Maharaja of Baroda. In his letter to Ramachandrarao Dhamnaskar, the Dewan of Baroda, and an active non-Brahman himself, Paramanand praised Phule's work:

His last and greatest service is connected with what he calls the emancipation of the Maratha mind. To this he devoted his later life, and for this he wrote, preached, sang and voted as he preached, and it is to his single exertions, I believe, that the Maratha element in the Deccan and elsewhere shows that consciousness of its wrongs, its desire for amelioration and freedom from implicit submission to the higher castes merely as such which did not exist before.