10th July 1887 in Dalit History – Mahatma Jyotiba Phule’s letter reveals Savitribai Phule’s initiative to start Home for the Prevention of Infanticide for Brahmin widows.
Mahatma Jyotiba Phule’s wrote a letter to Under Secretary, Government of Mumbai. The letter significantly reveals that Home for the Prevention of Infanticide started by Savitribai-Jyotiba in 1863 was only for Brahmin widows and Savitribai had taken the initiative for it.
A young Brahmin widow named Kashibai used to work as a cook at the home of Jyotiba’s Brahmin friend, Govande. Kashibai was a poor, young, beautiful, honourable Brahmin widow from a good family. A scheming Shastri from the neighbourhood took advantage of this illiterate widow and as a result, she became pregnant. When all efforts at abortion failed, she gave birth to a beautiful baby. Since the Shastri refused to take up any responsibility, Kashibai was in a quandary. Fearing that society will not let her live, she killed the innocent baby by slitting its throat. She threw the body in the well in Govande’s compound, where it was later discovered. The Police filed a case against Kashibai and she was sentenced for life imprisonment in the Andamans. The incident took place in 1863. It was the first time a woman had been sentenced to such severe punishment.
Savitribai and Jyotiba were very upset and saddened by this trial and the turn of events. During that time, their own income was very limited. They were having trouble surviving but their heart was full of compassion and generosity. They immediately started a shelter home for such Brahman widows in their own house at 395, Ganj Peth, Pune. Others merely kept discussing this trial, which resonated throughout the country but Jyotiba and Savitribai actually started work for these exploited widows.
This brings out the difference between them and others of their times. They put up advertisements all over the city and at places of pilgrimage announcing it as a way to avoid kalapani (life imprisonment in the Andamans) and thus, the information about the shelter home spread. By 1884, 35 Brahmin widows had come to them from different places. Savitribai would herself help in the delivery of their children and take care of them
In 1874, another exploited Brahmin ‘Kashibai’ came to them and they adopted her son. They brought up this child and educated him to become a medical doctor. Later, he grew up to continue the work started by them.
On the same day i.e 10 July 1887, Jyotiba made his will and got it registered at the office of the Upanibandhak (Deputy Registrar). In that, he notes with pride that Savitribai would take care of all these women as if they were her own daughters.
On 10th July, 1887, Mahatma Jotiba Phule made his will and noted that after his death Savitribai Phule would take care of all these women as if they were her own daughters. It was unusual at that time to appoint wife so but Mahatma Jotiba Phule always challenged the Brahmins’ ideology of discrimination.