(Last Updated on : 16/01/2009)
Godavari Parulekar was that compassionate, sensitive and sacrificing woman, who devoted herself to the social and economic betterment of the Warlis Adivasis ( the term "adivasis" imply tribal or aboriginal peoples) in western India, between 1945 and 1947 .
The daughter of a Poona advocate, Godavari Gokhale had accessed the boon of education. Her father was that modern mind, who had always inspired his daughter to cultivate the freedom of thought and action.
Godavari Parulekar graduated in law, and appealed for enrollment with the Servants of India Society. Her welfare-enthusiasm for women drew her close to the young Communist
s. It was then, that she came across the philanthropist labor leader Shamrao Parulekar. She married him. This marriage
augmented her affinity for labour issues. During the World War II, she was very often arrested, and imprisoned for her venture with labor unions.
With the closure of war, Godavari Parulekar allied with the Warli peasants. She became a part of their strife for erasing their trivial insignificance of bonded labor and rise in status.
The primitive Warlis originally possessed huge amounts of land in Thana District
, almost sixty miles away from Bombay. With the ushering of the colonial regime in India, entrepreneurs from the other parts of India visited the region and bought land. These outsiders turned out to be influential landlords and the poor Warlis became their hapless laborers. This reversal of roles badly hit the powerless, insignificant Warlis. Warlis were given out land in lease as sharecroppers, on the condition that they had to pay the landlords one-third to one-half of their harvest as rent. Added to this, the non-availability of wages to the Warli labor force, in lieu of their hardship and toil, placed these Have-nots in dire straits .
The enlightenment cast upon these helpless, docile Warlis , in a kisan (peasant) conference in 1945, ignited the spirit of rebellion in Warli leaders. The cruel landlords reacted horribly. They got the Warlis terribly beaten.
Meanwhile, the news of this ugly torture got reached the Maharashtra Kisan Sabha (Maharashtran Peasants' Association). They immediately assigned Godavari Parulekar as the dutiful representative of the victimized Warlis and sent her to the habitats of the Warlis.
Godavari Parulekar acquired knowledge of the pathetic plight of the Warli women. These women, were trapped into the vicious circle of the grotesque landlords, and oppressive social patriarchy. The depraved landlords often raped them. Moreover, equally painful and life-threatening was the peril of the social belief , that Warli women were less "pure" than Warli men . High prevalence of blind superstition and lack of education, used to delude the Warli minds with false and destructive ideas. Suddenly, any harmless and innocent women, was wrongly branded as a "witch" (a woman with evil spell) and inhumanly killed for no reason. The Warli society was rooted in the superstition, that women-witches had to be assassinated, for elimination of evil.
Godavari Parulekar, comprehended the indescribable ordeal of these bulldozed women, but could do little , to improve their lot.
She understood that the light of education
would definitely revolutionize their ideology, actions , and life for the better. Godavari decided, to furnish the people , inclined towards the fight for social and economic justice , with elementary political education.
The awful police and army did not spare the benevolent Godavari Parulekar and the wretched Warlis from assault. In 1946, she was disallowed entrance into the Warli regions . However, she managed to make her way out to her destination, furtively .
Godavari Parulekar disguised herself for about three years. In 1950, she got captured. She was confined in jail for three years.
Ultimately, the consequences turned out to be rewarding for the Warlis. Some of the abuses hurled upon the socially minor Warlis were eradicated.
Godavari Parulekar had always functioned as a champion of women's rights and socio-economic equality. Her contributions were immense, be it in the arena of the literacy-programs, patronization of labor unions, the domestic workers' union, and the scheduling of sewing classes - were significant. Her empathy for the Warlis, gave the deprived community, a birth into a new life of freedom and dignity.