On 22 Aug 2016, fifteen to twenty thousand people walked on the road in Mumbai to express grief on their leader’s death: Babasaheb Gopale. They walked from Mankhurd to Dadar Chaitya Bhoomi. Baba Saheb Gopale was from Latur district of Maharashtra. He was the leader of Matang samaj, a sub caste in Dalit like Mahar, Chamar, People shouted slogan against media houses as they did not cover news of death of our beloved leader. Raising slogan ‘ Neem ka patta kadwa hai, media wala bhadwa hai’.
Historically you will find relationship of Matang’s samaj (Mangir, Mang) with Sri Krishna guru, King Janaka and Lord Shiva. Our Guru Krantiveer Lahuji Vaastad Raghoji Salve is also known as krantiguru. He was also a social reformer who mentored many freedom fighters. Our slogan is therefore Jai Lahuji.
After his education Goaple Saheb went to Jalna and met my father Rambhau Narayan Thorat, who was a pothraj. Pothraj were mostly in all Mahar and Matang villages, who had big hair and they used to be devotee of Goddess. Gopale Saheb asked Ramabhau if he knows more Matang people and can show him. Since, Rambhau used to roam around as pothraj from villages to villages, he said yes he knows many of them. It was around 1981-82. Then they took out huge rally and formed Akhil Bhartiya Matang Sangh. Under which he conducted many rallies. They were called gadha rally, bailan rally, each one was organised to raise the consciousness among Matang samaj. He liberated many of them from the slavery, slavery of superstition.
In Sanmukhanand hall in Dadar he came and started cutting hairs of Pothraj. Then he went to Aurangabad, where many people of Matang samaj used to come for rally. There also he got hold of them and cut their hairs and also broke their musical instrument. He told them to move away from slavery and start working. His message was to work, and earn honestly for the family and children. He fought many battles with government for different issues related to this community including demand for 8% reservation for Matang community. He also tried to find all the works of Sahir Annabhau Sathe and other Matang prominent figures to inspire the community. On 26th Sep we protested in azad maidan in Mumbai to make his smarak. Many leaders have used Matang samaj as vote bank, now we are more conscious of it. They even misappropriated funds meant for our community. Our community needs support from government, and Education is what we are focusing on.
Later in Annabhau Sathe Nagar people collected one rupees from the basti in the name of media house, protesting their capital oriented nature.
(Translated by thesabha from hindi)