Aboriginal Education in Hyderabad CHRISTOPH VON FURER-HAIMENDORF WHEN in...
Aboriginal Education in Hyderabad
CHRISTOPH VON FURER-HAIMENDORF
WHEN in 1941 I began studying the certainly for the comfort of the villagers or
aboriginal tribes in the hill tracts the safety of their cattle.
between the Godavari and Penganga
In the hills Gonds, a few Kolams and
River, in the Adilabad District of H. E. H. Naikpods form the main population, but in
the Nizam's Dominions, I soon shared the the surrounding plains new-comers of
fate of all anthropologists working in Penin-
Maratha, Telugu and Lambara stock have
sular I n d i a : problems of administration, during the last decades occupied large tracts,
economic development, land-alienation and ousting many Gonds from their ancestral
the exploitation of aboriginals by more ad-
lands. For centuries Gond Rajas had reign-
vanced populations overshadowed the purely ed over the fair lands known as Gondwana;
ethnological aspects of my investigations with anachronistic racial ideas and religi-
and the mere task of recording soon seemed ous toleration they had welcomed in their
a singularly inadequate answer to the obvi-
realms settlers of all beliefs and walks of
ous and urgent needs of the tribesmen. life, and so it was that when the Gond
However, without an intimate knowledge states collapsed before the onslaughts of
of the people, their customs and the histori-
Mogul and later Maratha armies, the Gonds,
cal background, it would have been unwise now no longer the ruling race, found to
to attempt any improvement and it was not their chagrin that the alien settlers in their
until 1943, when my anthropological invest-
midst, quick to turn the situation to their
igations were far progressed, that construc-
own purposes, usurped most of the land.
tive work could begin.
It was only in hill tracts with poor com-
The Adilabad District consists of an munications that the Gonds succeeded in
elongated highland rising sharply from the maintaining their position. In Adilabad a
Godavari valley to just over 2,000 feet above feudal system survived until the end of the
sea-level and falling in rolling, wooded hills last century, when the Government began
and pleasant open valleys to the wide plains to tighten the reins of administration and,
where the winding course of the Penganga following the policy of raising the revenue
separates Hyderabad from the Central Pro-
of the district, encouraged the influx of new
vinces and Berar. This highland with its settlers, opened up the plains by building
great stretches of unbroken forest has roads and gave the new comers land on
among the more urban minded Hyderabadis easy terms. Ignorant of the laws of the
the reputation of "wildness and inaccessibi-
State, in many cases of the language both
l i t y " and I have indeed been to villages of the administration and the newcomers,
which have not been visited by any official and unfamiliar with revenue procedure,
for at least a generation. But to those who many Gonds lost then their holdings to
know the tribal areas of Assam or even immigrant cultivators and whole Gond
Orissa it. appears rather tame, a charming villages fell into the hands of absentee land-
friendly country of undulating fields set lords. Gond prosperity and Gond culture
between ridges clothed in light, deciduous began to decline, and ever since the abori-
forest, inhabited by gentle and pleasant ginals have been fighting a losing battle
folks. There is nothing 'wild' in Adilabad for their rights. The rapaciousness of non-
hills except some herds of bison, leading an aboriginal land-owners, the influx of land-
inconspicuous existence in the denser parts hungry immigrants from every surrounding
of the forests, and many tigers, too many district, the reservation of forests and the

98 CHRISTOPH VON FURER-HAIMENDORF
machinery of law courts far too complicated
Education for Gonds had thus to start
for the simple-minded aboriginal—all com-
from scratch. Improvement of their eco-
bined to deprive them of most of their an-
nomic and social position had obviously to be
cestral land. In 1941 I found the Gonds the main aim, but a literacy that divorces the
economically exploited and socially oppress-
tribesmen from their own cultural heritage
ed, many leading a precarious existence as can be a doubtful blessing. Among many
tenants and agricultural labourers where primitive races school education has disrupt-
their forefathers had lived as free peasants. ed tribal life by causing a conflict between
Only in the interior of the hills, tracts less progressive and conservative elements. This
attractive to outsiders, did Gond culture had to be avoided, and I argued that, if in
still flourish; only there had the people re-
higher civilizations writing was the supreme
tained some of their independent, upright means of expression, it might surely be
spirit, some of the natural gaiety and artis-
harnessed to the revival of Gond culture.
tic feeling that finds expression in their Education was not to be the imposition of
dance and song. But even these highlands an alien system on tribal life; it was to
were no safe refuge; year by year the ad-
be firmly anchored in Gond tradition to
vanced populations of the plains would draw its inspiration from the deep wells of
thrust deeper into the valleys, year by year Gond culture.
more land would be wrested from the Gonds.
To achieve this aim two conditions had to
It was evident that the deterioration of be fulfilled : the first, educational steps must
the Gonds' position had so far advanced be in Gondi, and the teachers must be Gonds.
that the administrative measures alone, such At first sight both conditions seemed equally
as the Act forbidding the alienation of abo-
difficult to fulfil. The Gondi spoken in
riginal land, could have little lasting effect Hyderabad had never been reduced to
unless the Gonds themselves were enabled writing, and even the related dialects of the
to safeguard their own interests. Education Central Provinces were not written langu-
could fortify their self-reliance which is so ages. True, there existed a few word-lists,
important an element in the struggle for Trench's good grammar of Betul Gondi,1
existence; education not only in literacy and a small Gondi Manual of the Chanda
but in the laws of the State.
dialect by S. B. Patwardhan2; but these
But what were the educational facilities were in Roman script, written for the
open to the Gonds? Those in the hills lived foreign student, and not for Gonds. Similar-
several days' journey from any Government ly, among the few literate Gonds there was
school, and in those few schools within none who could teach Gondi writing and
reach of Gond villages the medium of in-
reading. So we had to create our own Gondi
struction was Marathi or Urdu, languages of literature and train our own Gond teachers.
which not one out of ten Gond children had Here my anthropological work came in most
any knowledge. It is therefore not surpris-
usefully. The Gonds of Adilabad are rich
ing that the percentage of literacy among in myths and historical epics that have been
the Gonds was very low, and in this respect preserved through the centuries by the
they did not differ from the other aboriginals Pardhans, their hereditary bards, and I had
of Hyderabad. In 1941 there were among already collected a sufficient number to real-
678,149 tribals only 4,486 or about six per ize the potentialities of this oral literature
mille literates, and since the 'tribals' in-
which was familiar and fascinating to every
clude Lambaras some sections of whom are Gond. Here obviously was the raw material
fairly progressive, the figure for such abori-
1 C. G. Chevenix Trench, Grammar of Gondi,
ginal tribes as Gonds or Koyas was no doubt Madras, 1919.
far lower.
? First Gondi Manual, London 1936,

ABORIGINAL EDUCATION IN HYDERABAD 99
for our Gondi books both for school children
1943 on an experimental scale. I was
and adults, books which could appeal to the fortunate to find an enthusiastic collaborator
newly literate whose horizon was still bound-
in Mr. S. B. Jogalekar, a young Marathi
e 1 by the limits of his own culture. W i t h high-school teacher, who was to help in the
such books in good and often highly poetic composition of Gondi books and teach
Gondi, he could practise reading until the Gond students Marathi, elementary "Urdu,
day when he would be sufficiently advanced Arithmetic and general subjects. We knew,
to switch over to another language and new, of course, no Gondi, but this we hoped to
unfamiliar subjects.
learn from our students.
The great question was in what script
Marlavai, the village where I had lived
should Gondi be recorded? As a Dravi-
for more than a year lies in the very heart
dian tongue it could, no doubt, be adequately of the Gond country, two days' journey from
written in Telugu characters, but many any motor-road and a day's journey from
objected to the use of the Telugu script. the nearest post-office. We started with a
It is one of the most complicated of Indian small nucleus of five young Gonds, who had
scripts, and only the small number of at least some idea of reading and writing.
Gonds under Telugu influence would have I offered them a monthly retaining fee as
derived any practical advantage from its long as their training lasted, and a teacher's
study, and no Gond outside Hyderabad post in their own village as soon as they
could have read the new Gondi books. proved capable of teaching children to read
Roman script, on the other hand, though and write in Gondi and Marathi ; their
easy to learn, would have been useless in qualifications ranged from a fair fluency in
Hyderabad where it is not employed in Marathi and some familiarity with Urdu to
official documents. The choice lay thus bet-
most elementary knowledge of the Nagari
ween the Persian script of the official Urdu, s c r i p t ; indeed, one of the young men could
and the Nagari script of Marathi, the most hardly be described as literate. But they
prominent language in Adilabad District were all keen on the work and fondly
and the one most in use for the keeping of imagined that in a very short time they
village-records. Persian script is not only would be competent teachers.
far more difficult than Nagari, but owing
I too hoped for quick results, for what
to the dearth of vowels is rather ill-suited to Gonds needed was immediate help and
phouetical transcription ; my choice fell encouragement, if nothing concrete, at least
therefore on Nagari, whose characters can moral support. A. long-term policy, based
render nearly all the sounds occurring in only on the teaching of children seemed too
Gondi. By excluding all combined letters, slow. It was the adults and half-grown boys
unnecessary in a language with no tradi-
whom we wanted to interest in literacy.
tional orthography, I further simplified Laubach's method lucidly explained in his
Nagari, and 32 letters proved sufficient for book Toward a Literate World3 seemed the
a clear and unequivocal transliteration of obvious approach and we started at once
every Gondi text.
with the composition of Reading Charts
Now we had to secure Gond teachers. for Adults. Helped by simple pictures the
In a village, high up in the hills where Gond adult student is taught by these charts to
culture is still vigorously alive, I planned to read a number of key-words, containing
establish a Training Centre for Gonds who, consonants in their various -vowel combina-
after a period of instruction, were to return tions. Our first line comprised the words
to their own villages there to open schools. kakar (crow), kis (fire), kurs (antelope), kera
H. E. H. the Nizam's Government sanc-
(jungle) and kor (fowl), demonstrating the
tioned the scheme and work began in May
3 New York, 1938.

100
CHRISTOPH VON FURER-HAIMENDORF "
letter k in all its forms (seepage 101). After texts from stories or myths. The reading
six such lines follow short sentences with matter had to be newly composed, it had to
a bearing on the picture page, repeating be instructive without being boring. Now
the key-words in various contexts. In three* the difficulties of writing even the simplest
such charts, each with a picture page and 16 story in an unwritten language are far
text pages, are introduced all the letters of greater than one would imagine, even with
the alphabet, and as the sentences increase the most enthusiastic helpers from among
gradually in length, the student becomes the ranks of the tribesmen. One man would
familiar with the written form of more and suggest a sentence, and all the others would
more words. Completing the third chart agree, but when the same sentence was read
the student has crossed the first bridge out to another set of Gonds they would object
to literacy ; he is now able to read simple to words, grammatical forms and phonetic
texts. But what are the texts which will rendering. Dialectical differences between
interest an adult without over-taxing his villages perhaps not more than 50 miles
newly acquired ability to read 1 The effort apart would cause dissension. But the main
of deciphering is for the newly literate quite difficulty is the inability of the speakers of
great enough; it is too much to expect him to unwritten tongues to spot mistakes or
assimilate novel subjects. The more familiar unusual expressions. Through years of
the text is to the student the more encourag-
school education we have become sensitive
ing it is to him, who after toiling through to grammatical or phonetic errors; the Gondi
the rather boring charts, wants proof that he speaker will, however, often pass a sentence
has really mastered the art of reading. A if only it conveys a clear meaning ; gramma-
little self-deception at this stage does no tical nuances are ignored by the one Gond
harm. Reading a familiar prayer or song and strongly insisted on by the other. It
and substituting from memory rather than was no easy task to compose the first Gondi
deciphering the more difficult words gives Reader, and again and again it had to be
the newly literate the feeling of competence checked before the manuscript was read for
and achievement, and stimulates him as well the press.
as others to further efforts. So I chose
Meanwhile the training of our Gond
for the " F i r s t Reader for A d u l t s " a tradi-
teachers continued. In those first months
tional greeting as introduction, short well we laid most emphasis on Marathi, the step
known songs, a prayer known to every Gond, from Gondi in Nagari characters to Marathi
some riddles and short episodes from myths, in Nagari characters being an easy one, but
and epics and poems often heard from the Gonds themselves clamoured for instruc-
the mouths of Pardhan bards and yet of tion in Urdu, which, as the official language
never fading interest to the Gonds. The of the State, is no doubt of even greater
book concludes with the only completely practical value. So both languages were
unfamiliar piece, the translation of an animal taught simultaneously; most of the students
fable of the Chenchus, another aboriginal had to begin by learning the Persian charac-
tribe of Hyderabad.
ters and then, using a children's primer,
Adult Education, however, is only one proceed to the prescribed readers. These
side of the scheme. The main work of the readers written for boys whose mother
new teachers would be with children, adult tongue is Urdu are certainly not ideal and
Gonds being busy on their fields throughout are indeed not intended to teach language as
the day. So we set about writing a Gondi well as orthography. Readers in Basic Urdu
Primer for children and then a First Reader; specially adapted for rural students learning
here the lessons had to be adapted to child the language, are now under preparation.
mentality and it was not possible to use set
Gradually interest for the school grew


102 CHRISTOPH VON FURER.-HAIMBNDORF
and several of the villagers of Marlavai in-
of backward tracts tend to be—have long
sisted on their children being taught reading ridiculed the dancing of women and there
and writing. So, long before we had planned
are cases when village officers, abusing their
it, a village-school grew up by itself, the authority, have forbidden dancing altogether.
children gathered in an empty shed and each Gradually the Gonds themselves, conforming
day we deputed one of the teacher-candidates to their neighbours' prejudices, have begun
to teach them. This served two purposes: to believe that dancing and drumming are
it gave the prospective village teachers prac-
undignified. A whole world of beauty and an
tical experience, and gave us opportunity art deeply rooted in Gond culture was dying.
to test the value of the Gondi school kboos
It was amusing to see how at first our
then only in manuscript. And not only small students from such 'progressive' areas look-
boys came to be taught but young villagers, ed askance at the villagers' dancing, how
some of them married and fathers of child-
when we made them join, they moved stiffly
ren, spent now and then an hour or two in and self-consciously, feeling, no doubt,
the school.
their dignity at stake. But gradually the
After three months we felt sufficiently stiffness and timidity wore off, learning the
sure of success to increase the number of steps they gained elan and soon, though
students under training to ten. Huts had to they never achieved the grace of those who
be built to house them; and we encouraged had danced since childhood, enjoyed the
them to bring their wives to Marlavai. Some dancing as much as everyone else.
came from the plains from areas where Gond
Similarly, Gond ritual became to them
culture had already decayed, and for them the again a living reality; they listened to the
awakening of interest and pride in their own Pardhans singing ancient myths which ex-
folklore was just as important a part of their plain and authorize every feast and cere-
training as the instruction in Marathi and mony, and—what impressed them even
Urdu. Book-knowledge alone cannot rebuild more—saw us considering these myths suffi-
theGonds' self-respect, undermined as it is by ciently important to record them verbally
the contempt that other castes shower on the for publication. In many of the areas with
ways of life of the aboriginals; we had to make
mixed populations there has been serious
them feel that their customs, their religion, interference with Gond ritual. For the
and their language were just as good and worship of the clan-gods and the great
worth developing as those of other communi-
memorial rites in honour of the departed,
ties. We had to inspire them with an appre-
cow sacrifice is obligatory; but where
ciation of the dignity of Gond ritual and the Hindus are the local power, be it as land-
beauty of Gond poetry, music and dance.
lords or village officers, they have exerted
Gond songs are to my mind the most pressure on the Gonds to desist from this
enchanting folk-songs of the Deccan, and rite, threatening to treat them as untouch-
the great dance festivals of Dandari after the ables if they persisted in killing cows. This
first harvest, when bands of men and women, again gave the Gonds an inferiority com-
dressed in all their finery and the most fan-
plex, and they began half to believe that
tastic of head-dresses, move from village to fulfilment of their religious duties was
village to sing and dance with their friends, somehow wrong and lowered their social
are a glorious revelation of joie-de-vivre and status.
sound artistic feeling. But in the plains,
Marlavai, in the heart of the hills, where
where 'advanced' populations have settled no one tampers with Gond ritual, is a good
among the Gonds, the joy of these festivals place to combat this feeling. The students
is strangled; narrow-minded Hindus and see the rites performed in their full form
Muslims—as intolerant as rural populations and notice that far from disapproving, we

ABORIGINAL EDUCATION IN HYDERABAD 103
encourage them to join in the village and would be receiving instruction. Relapse into
clan festivals.
illiteracy of people, who as children have
To plant the schools firmly in the soil of been several years at school, is one of the
Gond culture, we introduced a school open-
great difficulties of education in India. In
ing rite, modelled on the ritual that accom-
the Gond Education Scheme it is hoped to
panies such ceremonies as the erecting of a avoid this danger; the teachers will live per-
flag in commemoration of an important manently in the localities of their schools,
event. When the children's school at not as outsiders transferred from time to
Marlavai was opened, a flag on a huge pole time, but as true members of the village-
was hoisted on the dance place with the community and wherever possible they are
traditional sacrifice of a goat and chickens. given land to strengthen the tie between
And now at the opening of every school them and the other peasants. Through them
similar flag raising ceremony is performed reading matter will pass to those no longer
when the villages come together to invoke the at school, and it is unlikely that they will
blessing of the gods on the new enterprise.
allow any of their pupils with whom they
Four months after work had started in are in daily contact to relapse into illiteracy.
Marlavai, the first two school teachers, men They are to be the agency through which
who had had some knowledge when they progressive methods of husbandry, improved
began their training, were sent to open their seeds, simple medicines and some ideas of
village schools. They were not finished pro-
hygiene can reach the villagers. To train
ducts, but we wanted experience and also to them for this function a small agricultural
see the reaction of the villagers. Least edu-
farm is now being attached to the Marlavai
cation should prove an additional burden on centre ; there the teachers will learn the
the hard pressed villager, we supplied each value of a modern plough, scientific manur-
master with free slates, school books and ing and high class seeds.
stationery, and the response in these first
The function of the Centre at Marlavai is
two village schools was so great that, whereas not merely to train future village-teachers.
we had catered for 30 pupils in each school, Education alone cannot achieve the social
the number of children seeking admission far and economic rehabilitation of the Gonds.
exceeded this figure, proving that the schools Responsibility must be given to those capa-
were obviously meeting a felt need.
able of bearing it, and the Gonds must
We did not hurry with the establishing gradully be enabled to take part in the
of any more new schools, but waited administration of their villages. In the
for the printing of the Gondi book
Adilabad District most village-officers, all
which, owing to the pre-occupation of the patwari4 and very many patel5 are non-
Government Press with war-work, was aboriginals—outsiders who usually do not
delayed. Thus the next four schools were even reside in the villages which they admi-
not open until March 1944, and these were nister. Anyone familiar with conditions in
followed by another four in July. By open-
the backward tracts of rural India, where
ing yet four more in September 1944, four-
not all land is settled and the minor Govern-
teen schools in addition to the Training Centre
ment servants, seldom controlled by touring
at Marlavai will be functioning within 16 officers, are a very real power, will realize
months of the inauguration of the Scheme.
It is hoped that by September 1345, the end
4 The patwari is a Government servant who keeps
the village-records and collects the land revenue.
of the official Fasli year 1954, 30 Gond
schools would be scattered all over the
5 The patel is the village headman recognized
and remunerated by Government; keeps the birth
Adilabad District, and that at least a thou-
and death registers and is responsible for reporting
sand Gond children and a good many adults crime.

104
CHRJSTOPH VON FURER-HAIMENDORF
the grave disadvantage under which this officials feared that educated Gonds would
system places the Gonds. Without spokes-
no longer be the pliable, helpless folk whose
men of their own community, they are labour could be bought for a less-than-living
exposed to many a petty tyranny and wage and whose land could be easily
exploitation by these non-aboriginals ruling usurped. They were not prepared to relin-
their villages. The ending of this tutelage quish their hold on the aboriginals—the
and the instating of progressive Gonds as convenient reservoir of cheap labour and
village-officers in areas with a predominantly easily cheated debtors who seldom put up a
tribal population are as important an aim of fight. We had hardly started work at
the scheme for the rehabilitation of the Marlavai when the wildest rumours spread
Adilabad Gonds as the establishment of across the district. First it was whispered
schools.
that we wanted to educate the Gonds only to
Local officials of the Revenue Department recruit them later for the army—whoever
have therefore been delegated to instruct came to our school would soon find himself
the students in Marlavai in revenue matters, carried off to the war. Hardly had this rum-
the keeping of village-records, the writing our died out, when there sprang up the utter-
of applications and the reading of orders ly baseless allegation that the Gonds were
written in the rather high flown Urdu of the to be christianized. That our policy of
Hyderabad administration. The response encouraging and reviving Gond ritual and
of the students was excellent ; they under-
mythology stood in glaring contradiction to
stood the vital importance of the revenue this rumour was conveniently ignored, and
laws for the cultivator and the advantage of the alleged Christianization of the Gonds
being able to approach the authorities direct, caused quite a stir among local officials and
instead of through the doubtful channels of even among quite influential people in
petition writers. Some of the Gonds proved Hyderabad. Next came the rumour that
so quick in grasping the new subjects, that the schools were my private enterprise and
we decided to train them as village-officers. would collapse as soon as I left the district.
The experiment proved successful. Two What then would the school teachers do
of them, Gonds of mature and outstanding without employment ? There was a crisis
personality, who had had some practical when even some of our students became
experience of village affairs before they uneasy, but this too passed away. It is
came to the Marlavai Training Centre have encouraging to note that all these attempts
recently been appointed as patwari. This to sabotage the scheme have done no serious
has made a great impression both on the damage.6
Gonds and on the non-aboriginal settlers.
We have been fortunate in receiving the
The Gonds saw concrete proof that they most generous support from Government,
were no longer regarded as inferior, as and particularly from His Excellency the
'junglies', whose interests every one could President, and the Revenue, Finance and
override with impunity, and the people of Education Members of H. E. H. the Nizam's
other castes began to realize that the Gonds, Executive Council. Indeed, the Education
in many places in overwhelming majority,
6 Jus t how strong the opposition is to the
had ceased to be the inarticulate mass at raising of the status of the Gonds may be judged
whose expense any shrewd and not over-
from the fact that when the first two Gond patwari
scrupulous new-comer could grow rich.
were appointed all the Hindu patwari of the Taluq
It is therefore not surprising that the resigned, refusing to work with "savage" Gonds. Such
incidents should serve as an eye-opener to all those
scheme met with great local opposition. who suffer from the illusion that natural contact with
Affluent landlords, money-lenders, non-
progressive populations alone will give the aborigi-
aboriginal village officers and many minor nals a respected position in Indian society.

ABORIGINAL EDUCATION IN HYDERABAD 105
Scheme had been running barely six months, learnt how to teach Gondi both to children
when Government initiated other far-
and to adults and will in September 1944
reaching reforms for the benefit of the take charge of the children's school of
aboriginals. Mir Moazam Husain, a mem-
Marlavai.
ber of the Hyderabad Civil Service, was
Before such achievements all theories of
appointed Special Tribes Officer in Adilabad racial inferiority crumble. It is not lack of
District, charged with the protection of the intelligence which causes the Indian abori-
aboriginals and a Notification passed in ginal to remain illiterate and unable to
May 1944 provided for grants of land, free defend his interests ; it is lack of opportunity
of cost, to landless aboriginals. When in to learn and the determination of the privi-
February 1944 urgent work called me to leged classes of rural society to keep him
Assam, the supervision of the Education in a simplicity which is all to their advan-
Scheme was taken over by the Special tage. To hope for a betterment of his
Tribes Officer and the technical work fell position by unguided assimilation to the
entirely to Mr. S. B. Jogalekar. The best 'advanced' populations is futile and un-
proof of their ability and of the soundness realistic ; assimilated the aboriginals may
of the scheme's basic principles is that become, but only to the lowest classes of
on my return after five months I found society which, far more wretched and exploit-
the Training Centre flourishing, with eight-
ed than he, are yet without the joy of a
een students under training, and that the vital culture, which brightens even the
opening of new village schools had been poorest Gond's existence. Help must come
according to schedule.
from outside, from social workers unin-
For the anthropologist the developments fluenced by vested interests and supported
of the Gond Education Scheme are not with-
both morally and financially by progressive
out interest. They tend to show that the Governments.
so-called 'primitive' tribes, races who have
The primary conditions of success are
persisted longer than the rest of humanity in certainly enthusiasm for and sympathetic
ancient modes of life, are by no means in-
understanding of the aboriginals. You cannot
ferior in intellectual power. The progress help a people whom you do not understand,
made by some of the adult students is truly whose culture you do not respect, and I
amazing. To quote only one example: would not advise anyone to start educational
sixteen months ago a young Gond of work among aboriginals without first having
Marlavai who, until then, had led the spent many months in studying their culture
ordinary peasant's life, ploughing and and ideals. The proletarian of the towns
harvesting with the village folk, began his may be led to education merely by the desire
training as a teacher-candidate. He had to improve his economic position ; the
never before been to school, but a literate aboriginal, though not insensible to the
Gond had taught him how to read and write material advantages of learning, must be
a few words of Marathi. For all practical inspired by the emphasis on his own culture,
purposes he was illiterate ; he could make pride in which is deeply, if unconsciously,
himself understood in the usual bazaar Urdu, ingrained in his soul ; tell him that his
but had only the most superficial knowledge myths and epics will be written down so that
of colloquial Marathi. Today he has read he and his children will have sacred books
up to the fourth standard in Marathi and just as the Hindus and the Mussalmans have
writes a good and literary style, besides their scriptures, and he will be more thrilled
speaking the language fluently ; in Urdu he than if you explain that the knowledge of
has reached the third standard and vastly reading will prevent the money-lender from
enlarged his vocabulary. Moreover, he has cheating him. There is a great appreciation
2

106
CHRISTOPH VON FURER-HAIMENDORF
of the beautiful in the Indian aboriginal, retained in the shape of human values which
and his deep reverence for his ancestors, the most progressive minds in India and in
divine and human, expresses itself in a vivid the world consider to be the proudest
interest for the myths and epics recounting achievements of man. The Gond is funda-
their feats. Give this sentiment and the mentally convinced of the equality of man ;
love of his native tongue a place in educa-
in his own society there are no classes; the
tion and you have won the first round in poorest peasant converses with a Gond Raja
the battle of literacy.
as an equal. The Gond village is an utterly
But knowledge and devotion are not democratic community ; untouchability is
enough ; funds are an indispensable factor. foreign to Gond tradition ; there is not a
The Hyderabad Gond Education Scheme is single allusion to it in all the Gond epics, and
only in its infancy, but the expenditure it is only under the pressure of Hindu opinion
in the first sixteen months was just over that Gonds refuse certain depressed castes
Rs. 13,000 and in the Fasli year 1354, when admittance to their houses. The position
a whole-time Urdu teacher will be employed of women is excellent ; to all practical pur-
and the number of students raised to twenty, poses they are the equals of men ; they are
it will exceed Rs. 22,000. All credit goes unrestricted in their movements, and free to
to H. E. H. the Nizam's Government for marry the man of their choice. Pre-puberty
meeting these bills, and for harnessing the marriage is gradually gaining ground, but
Government Central Press to the service of it does not yet seriously threaten the freedom
the scheme. The basic educational literature of the individual, an unconsummated marri-
is nearly completed and it is hoped that age being easily dissolved. Freedom of the
within the next twelve months a substantial individual is indeed the key-note of the
Gondi literature of sacred myths, epic poems, Gonds' social order, and in their regard for
historical legends and songs would be avai-
personal liberty they have nothing to learn
able in print. This literature will spread from the most advanced nations. It is these
through the villages of the Adilabad District, principles, the ancient though often blurred
and the day is perhaps not far off when it and betrayed heritage of man, which should
will be read also in other parts of Gondwana, be upheld and protected ; here among the
inspiring Gonds with pride in their history aboriginals we have a society free of class-
and love for their own culture.
distinction, of sex inequality, of social evils
There may be some who wonder why such as untouchability and the ban on
Gond culture should be regarded as so widow-remarriage. In the social sphere
valuable, why an admittedly ancient way progressive and aboriginal India share
of life should be perpetuated in a world fundamental ideals ; it is the responsibility
of progress and change. To the social of progressive India to save the aboriginals
worker, striving for a regeneration of Indian from infection by evils that persist in rural
society, the merits of Gond culture—and society, and which in the centres of national
many other aboriginal cultures—are obvious. life are now being slowly and painfully
In the social life of the Gonds much is eradicated.
SOCIAL DISORGANISATION IN INDIA
An Address given by Dr. Radhakamal Mukerjee, M.A., Ph.D., at the
first Convocation of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in 1938.
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