बॉम्बे में रहने वाले मेघवालों पर 1936 में एक शोधपूर्ण अध्ययन प्रकाशित हुआ था। श्री बी. एच. मेहता द्वारा पीएच. डी. उपाधि हेतु बॉम्बे यूनिवर्सिटी में प्रस्तुत किये गए- "The Social and Economic conditions of the Meghval Untouchables of Bombay city (with special reference to the community centre at Valpakhadi)" शोध प्रबन्ध का प्रकाशन दो भागों में हुआ। यह एक महत्त्व पूर्ण शोध था जो आजादी से पहले मेघवालों पर हुआ। इसमें मेघों के बारे में ऐतिहासिक विश्लेषण है एवं इसमें विश्लेषित तथ्यों को सर्वेक्षण के द्वारा भी पुष्ट किया गया। जिसे पुस्तक में 547 पृष्ठों में दर्ज किया गया।
संदर्भित पुस्तक का सार-संक्षेप (Abstract) निम्नवत है:
Methodology- Historical/Survey method.
"The thesis has been divided into two volumes containing ten chapters in all, in which the author has discussed the social and economic aspects of Meghvals such as their origin, the reasons for their migrations to Bombay, their social organizations, such as marriages, family, caste panchayat and their social disabilities, their economic life, income and indebtedness, housing, health, education, and has ended with suggestions for solving their socio-economic problems. The author has elaborately discussed all these problems in most lucid manner with numerous graphs, charts, diagrams, and pictures, giving a graphic idea of their social and economic life."
The author has divided untouchables in two groups on languages - 1.Marathi and 2.Gujarati. The author has selected Gujarati speaking group of Meghvals. With other reasons he records following reasons for his study: first, the Meghvals are the most numerous of the untouchales from Gujarat. Secondly, the Valpakhadi was the locality in which the largest number of Meghval families have congregated together; besides, it has within its area of the chief temple of the Meghvals- the religious headquarters of the community. Thirdly, the centre also claims within its boundaries the largest number of children, offering suitable opportunities for a detailed study of the problems connected with primary education."
"The study refers only to the community known as the Dhers who call themselves Meghvals. They belong to different villages of Kathiawar. In all, the author has collected data from 282 families consisting of 1649 persons, 833 males and 816 females."
Origin of Meghwals- Megh Rishi From Punjab-
"About the origin of the Meghvals the author tells us that the Dhers from Kathiawar always calls themselves Meghvals; they claim to be descendants of Megh, a Rishi (saint) who lived in Punjab, and the word Val means descendants."
They were called Kathi in Saurashtra- Author also inform us that "some of them claim that they occupied Saurashtra along with Kathis and were later thrown in the background by the Mohammedans."
"They also claim to have been weavers by occupation. In their native places they were mostly engaged as field labourers only during cutting season." "The majority of the untouchables of Kathiawar lived in condition of humiliations and social and economic boycott at the hands of the high caste Hindus for many centuries."
Migration from Punjab to Kathiawar and Kathiawar to Bombay-
Author reveals that these Meghwals are migrated, first, from Punjab to Kathiawar and second, from Kathiawar to Bombay. The author tells- "under such servile conditions with an environment against their well-being, and the burdon of social tyranny which deprived these people of their fundamental rights as human being is no wonder that Meghvals should migrate to places where they may be at least left alone to eke out their livelihood as human beings."
"The Meghvals who migrated to Bombay belong to the important sections of the Kathiawar, viz, Chorasi, Banseth, and Sol, Amreli prant and Valaki Desh."
The author reveals that- "In order to organise its health and sanitary in 1882, it was felt necessary by the Bombay Municipality to recruit conserving staff, for various conservancy functions. The local supply of labour proved inadequate, so the Health Department of Bombay Municipality secured most of its labour from from Kathiawar in Gujarat and Konkan in Maharashtra. This gave opportunity to the Meghvals of Kathiawar, who were living a miserable life of utter poverty in their villages, to migrate to Bombay in large numbers to seek employment in Bombay Municipality."
Marriage and Divorce-
The author stated that "Amongst the Meghvals marriage is a union regulated by traditions and sanctified by religion. Marriage is regarded with awe and reverence, and is considered binding till death, unless the wedlock is terminated by divorce. The author observes, in spite of this seemingly binding nature of marriage, it is more or less free; for sometimes it is such a transient that it can be easily terminated at the wish of either parties."
"Divorce is common among Meghvals. The most usual cause of divorce is differences between husband and wife and members of her husband's family, excessive ill-treatment on the part of husband or immorality of the wife. In case of divorce the girl's father has to deposit a sum of Rs.50 to the caste Panch and surrender the bride price. In respect of grant of divorce, the voice of the Panch prevails and the decision is more or less binding on both the parties."
"The Meghvals family is patriarchal. The Hindu joint family prevails among them. The women is respected in the family and she is supposed to work to augment family income. The birth of a male child is preferred to a female child. The infirms and old are protected by the family."
"The majority of them earn their livelihood by working in one or other service of the Health Department of the Bombay Municipality... their economic condition is very poor and their present employment does not give better scope for improvement in this respect. Hence, there is a general trend among the younger generation, with the growth of education, to leave their present occupations."
Indebtedness and other issues have also been discussed by the author with facts and figures with suggesting remedial course of action to be taken by government as well as by the community. The auther tells that total indebtedness of 282 households was 195510 or 325.8 per household. Indebtedness is the economic death-grip and then it does not fail to seize the inheritor. Many a young man pays with reluctance the supposed debts of his father, and this puts an end to the solvency of his house.
While discussing the house problems of Meghvals, the author tells us that they live in most unhygienic conditions, "out of total number of 343 families at Valpakhadi, only eleven joint families occupied two separate tenements, not necessarily adjoining the rest. Thus there is an average number of 4.7 persons per room." The most important causes of overcrowding amongst them were shortage of housing arrangements and the strange mentality of the community to live together and also they preferred to live in Chawls owned by the Municipality, as it was easier to obtain employment in the Health Department for their sons, daughters and other relatives, if they remained in close contact with Ward Officers."
Considering a literate person as one who is able to read and write his own name, the author tells us that percentage of literacy comes to 37.4% for males and 6.3% in females.
The author has also described various social organizations prevailing among the Meghvals of Bombay. The author tells us- " though the social institutions of Meghvals may have failed to great extent to serve the interest of the community, they have always been ready to assist progressive and reformist measures" and he adds: "The power of tradition and custom is weak, and is increasingly diminishing day by day. There is hardly any organised orthodox sector amongst Meghvals. Whatever opposition exists, is immediately put down by a vocal and aggressive youth section." He further states that- "the greatest hope for the future welfare of Meghvals lies in this progressive section (youth) of the community."
About their religion author says that, “Their religious beliefs and forms of worship appeared highly complex and contradictory. It is mixture of magic, animism, and worship of deities and Pirs (Ramdevji Pir). The worship of matas is also widespread among them. The idol of Vishnu takes the most honoured place, together with the idol of Krishna in the Laxminarayan Temple."
"Their belief in animistic spirits and need for their propitiation has given rise to medicine-man, known as bhuvo. One who practices black magic is called Judiyan. There were at least eight medicine men among them. All of them was considerable. They have also there priest to perform various religious ceremonies like other Hindus."
"They celebrate usual pomp and gaiety all the Hindu such as Navratri, Diwali, Gokul Ashtami, Holi and so on. The month of Shrawan was held sacred by them and they observed fasts on Mondays."
"The author narrates the circumstances under which some Meghvals were converted to Christianity by the Methodist Church and says that it was difficult to determine the total number of Meghval Christian families in Bombay. ...There were other forces also at work to convert them into other religions such as Islam and Buddhism but majority of them in spite of their social degradation in Hindu society, prefer to remain in Hindu fold."
Degradedness and Disabilities of the Community-
The author has also discussed various prohibitions and disabilities imposed upon the Meghval community in length and observed in this regard that the treatment received by the Meghvals during the many years of social tyranny would have deteriorated the moral of any community, or it might have driven them to open revolt in order to secure their emancipation. But this caste seem to have suffered its humiliation in silence.
He has also discussed contemporary social reform activities in his book and concluded with certain suggestions.
I think that it is more precious and authentic work carried out in the beginning of twentieth century from historical, social, economic and political point of view,
Reference: "The social and Economic conditions of the Meghval Untouchables of Bombay City." (Two Volumes)
Author: B.H. Mehta
Publisher: Bombay University, Bombay, 1936