Dattu Thorat: A mechanic working to improve education levels in Shirpur

By Shiva Thorat, TwoCircles.net

Most people expect a cycle repair mechanic to do just that: repair cycles, and make a living. Dattu Thorat also does the same, mostly. In Shirpur, he runs a cycle shop and caters primarily to students studying in the school near his shop, although he can also fix bikes once in a while. But according to the students, coming to the shop does not only entail a repair of the machine: Thorat also makes it a point to converse with the students about all issues that plague a society. But why? Read on.

Dattu Thorat is 40-year-old resident of Shirpur, and has a family consisting of his wife, two sons and one daughter. His daughter was topper in her school for 12th standard. He thinks about her daughter and believes that if she gets a healthier environment, she can get more grades. He says, “The environment of Dalit ghettos are not well for education but those are the problem of structural conflicts historically”. It is towards this that Thorat has contributed significantly towards positive developments of the Baudhwada is he affected positively among the youths.

Thorat lives in Baudhwada, Shirpur, Dhulia district of North Maharashtra. Baudhwada also known as Mahar Wada, is the area of Mahars/Nav-Buddhists community. Thorat says, “I have seen a lot of changes in the area but no one actually tries to change socio-economic situation. Education was in no discourse at all. I have gone till 10, that’s it.”

“In a historical imbalanced system of oppression whoever came to resists the it become famous and infamous criminal. I am happy as famous/infamous. I will continue my life like this. Whatever situation occurred I can’t back from this fight,” Thorat adds.

Thorat has been busy off late: it is time for municipality elections, and everyone wants to know who will win: Thorat however, remains immersed in a conversation with the students. “His name has always been in discussion because of his loyalty and that loyalty makes students comes here and talk to him”, says Pintu Nhavi who is barber and has shop nearby Thorat’s shop. “Whether he wants to give advice or not, people will come to him and discuss,” Pintu adds.

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Even small contributions made by Thorat have had a huge impact on the local population, as attested by Satish Khairnar, friend and neighbour of Thorat. “I have seen Dattu from my childhood. He is my inspiration. He is the gate of knowledge that relates to social facts. He is the one who introduced me to Babasaheb Ambedkar”.

Thorat explains how he started focussing on education. “Joining Satyasodhak Student Federation 13 years ago was the turning point. I decided to work under them”. Satyasodhak Student Federation is the organisation which believes in Marxist-Phulite-Ambedkarite politics. It is founded by late Sharad Patil in Dhule twenty years back. Sharad Patil is known for his writing on history and philosophy. Among his books, ‘Caste Feudal Servitude’ and ‘Towards Abramhanical Aesthetics’ are famous.

As a mechanic, he says he finds comfort in this work because he can get enough time to go to the mass and discuss various issues. Pradeep Karankal, rickshaw driver who regularly visits Dattu said that, “He is continuously fighting for the rights and good education for the children. His contribution to the Baudhwada has actually brought a cultural change to the area.”

“When I started work for the Satyasodhak so many people, including my family, opposed it. For working in a group I follow the discipline but discipline should be logical,” he says. He explains how they use various methods to channel their ideas. “Songs are the important factor for the movement. We use songs usually to mobilisation. I am not good singer but to communicate with the mass I sing”.

Thorat has time and again, helped people with other causes too. Nitin Chaudhari works in multinational company in Pune. But he remains grateful to Thorat. Speaking with Twocircles.net over the phone, he said, “Because of Dattu I challenged my family, my community and the whole caste based structure. When I did intercaste marriage, Dattu supported me and stood by me.”

Recently, 50-60 people went to Thorat’s shop and discussed that he should contest the municipality election but he denied saying, “Election is like air, it comes and goes. We should work first and then think about it. My worry is before shown the dedicative work election will make me lazy, so I can’t stand now, will think about later,” he says, feeling sad about the situation that divided Dalit leaders.

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Thorat believes that, he will be happy when his work will be apply for the society. “I don’t have hope from electoral politics now that why I denied to contest. I think I should work for few years. Parliamentary politics is important as Babasaheb noted but the situation right now is worst and not bearable. I will continue my work as much as I can”.

Thorat’s family may have initially opposed his work, but today stand proudly with him. His wife Meena says, “because of his work me and his mother had to listen a lot from the people but I am really proud of my husband. I like him when he talks among the people. I have decided to give him my full support. The best part about my husband is he also works in the kitchen”.

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