Dalit literature and culture of Bengal Under Left Rule | Palash | Indiainteracts.in
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If the Left comes in for harsh criticism from both Ilaiah and Prasad, both are very tender with the BSP. Without a doubt, the emergence of the BSP is very important for Indian social democracy. The party has placed the problem of Dalits squarely on the national agenda, and it has trained many activists who will not allow Dalit issues to be put on the back burner. However, simply because the BSP is a party led by Dalits is no guarantee that it will work for the welfare of all Dalits. Take the example of Chakia Tehsil of UP,where the BSP government has worked against the interests of the local Dalits to the extent that in 2002 Dalit women marched with a banner that said, "Mayawati Open the Treasury and Give us Red Cards," referring to the red-coloured Antyodaya cards that would give them access to the public distribution system. A callous disregard for land reform and a strange alliance with the BJP pose no problem for Prasad and Ilaiah. In this, their politics based on identity (rather than a politics of identification) goes someway from Ambedkarism (he himself had this to say of his adversary, "By Brahmanism I do not mean the power, privileges and interests of the Brahmins as a community. That is not the sense in which I am using the word. By Brahmanism I mean the negation of the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity. In that sense it is rampant in all classes and is not confined to Brahmins alone though they have been its originators. The effect of Brahmanism was not confined to social rights such as inter-dining and inter-marrying. It also denied them civic rights. So omniscient is Brahmanism that it even affects the field of economic opportunities" (Times of India, February 14, 1938). Dalit-cide is a problem, and it must be grasped politically, but the political solution should not be a mirror of the ailment itself.
The promise of globalization, for Prasad, is not in its consumerism but in the gains made by African Americans. Both Ilaiah and Prasad write of the struggles of African Americans.
Tamil Nadu's Dalit saga
What both Viswanathan and Gorringe bring out is that paradoxical though it may appear, it is precisely the legal inclusion of the Dalits and the progress that they have made and continue make that constitute the Dalit problem today.
C T Kurien
DALITS - for long considered and treated as outcastes in a strictly caste- based social order, later attempted to be glorified as Harijans or people of God, and Scheduled Castes from the time of the adoption of the Constitution in 1950 - constitute approximately a fifth of the population of the country as also of Tamil Nadu. Their contemporary position is the theme of the two volumes brought together here.
Viswanathan's work consists of some 50 pieces published in Frontline from 1995 to 2004, which regular readers may recall. These pieces, which included the chilling accounts of the Melavalavu murders of 1997 and the Tirunelveli massacre of 1999, were the attempt of a dedicated journalist to bring to the notice of the public the atrocities against Dalits in Tamil Nadu in the 1990s and the early part of the present decade and the many ways Dalits have been responding to the situation. The collection comes with an Introduction by Ravikumar. It deals briefly with the question of the origins of the groups of people referred to as Dalits, the anti-Brahmin movement in Dravidian land and the ascendancy of non-brahmins, and the present attitude of the leading political parties towards Dalits.
Reforms with a Dalit Face?
A fresh and powerful writer, who shows how caste pierces through layers of confusing social commentary, and illuminates contemporary trends.Arvind Rajagopal
(New York University, email@example.com)
Economic and Political Weekly December 4, 2004
Volume 39, No. 49; pp: 5229-5231
Chandra Bhan Prasad started writing the newspaper columns that would become this book when he read B.N. Uniyal’s article in The Pioneer in 1996, "In Search of a Dalit Journalist,"which stated that in more than 30 years of journalism, Uniyal had not met a single dalit journalist. Prasad went on to become the country’s first (and only?) regular dalit columnist, beginning in 1999 in The Pioneer.
His book is a collection of essays united by two themes.First, it offers an impassioned survey of caste discrimination, and of upper caste responses. Second and relatedly, it argues against a dalit-OBC alliance, stating that OBCs, or Shudras, to use the term Prasad applies here, are opposed to dalit empowerment. Indeed Prasad suggests that a dalit-Shudra caste antagonism shapes Indian politics and society today.
To discuss caste discrimination might seem a tedious civic ritual, at least for many upper caste readers, invoking ideals observed only in the breach. But if you read Chandra Bhan Prasad, you will find a fresh and powerful writer, who shows how caste pierces through layers of confusing social commentary, and illuminates contemporary trends.
Much of the existing literature has characterized the advent of British colonial rule as the principal harbinger of a "revolution" of sorts in historical consciousness in Bengal (and in other parts of India). History now came to be understood as a rational-positivist discipline whereas earlier it had been formulaic, "mythic," and divorced from any material/sociopolitical context. A significant shift in historical consciousness had already occurred in 17th- and 18th-century Bengal and identifies the consolidation of Mughal rule over eastern India, accompanied by the greater penetration of a Mughal political and intellectual culture as key factors in this shift. Based on an analysis of several prose narratives (in Bengali and Sanskrit) produced in Bengal in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The British Raj changed the senerio and Dalit literature, Culture and folk were ousted from so called colonial Comrador Brahmin dominated Mainstream. Since then the Dalits in Bengal along with other underclass communities including BC, OBC, Tribals and minorities are deprived of any space in Bengali cultural situation. Transfer of power to the Brahmins of India, made these underclasses partition victims, displaced, deprived of citizenship and civil rights. Further, so called caste struggle in accordance with false and opportunist Marxist ideology deleted caste identity. Hence, the lower castes along with middle castes lost representation in every sphere of life. As the Brahmins were more than successful to destroy the Indian National Pre Independence dalit Movement ousting the militanat caste Namoshudra out of Bengali geopolitics, the infinite Brahminical dominance ensured. Unfortunately, the Marxist Statepower did not bother to change the scenerio and , rather it captured the Dalit, tribal, Muslim and refugee mobilisation with its cadre based grass root oganisation set up!
While the historicity of the nation is now a well-established fact, the literature on nation-state formation has been largely silent on how the advent of states described as national might effect changes in definitions of state sovereignty, perhaps the most prized possession of nation-states in the international order.
Dalit Literature - The nation-state functions as a given—the assumptive spatial framework within or against which scholars discuss sub-nationalist, anti-nationalist, or supra-nationalist movements. Thus, in narratives on nationalism the actual modality of making the nation-state escapes scrutiny. The nation-state assumes meaning either as horizon or as given framework but not as an active making, requiring study in its own right.'Dalit' literally meaning 'the oppressed' is now used widely to mean the most backward sections of the society who were considered 'untouchable' by the upper castes; while the Dalits have their traditional literature, the term 'Dalit literature' applies chefly to the contemporary writing done by educated Dalits; a great corpus of such writing that reflects Dalit life, history, anger, celebration of identity and aspirations is now available, especially in Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi, Telugu and Tamil, besides anthologies of translations in English; Dalit literature also implies a new subversive politics alongwith a new perception of life and society, just like 'Black literature'.
In fact, the raising tide of violence have been triggered by increasing numbers of Untouchables who no longer tolerate the linked oppression of caste and class (Seminar 1979. Delhi. November; Joshi 1982)). Agricultural laborers demand better wages and better access to land. In some regions there have also been waves of conversion - to Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. This too triggers violence, and also bureaucratic harassment as officials of a theoretically secular state struggle to stem desertions from the dominant religion (:2). Calls are being made for nationalisation of land (:3).
The Dalit Panthers began in the late 1960s in the slums of Bombay, as young Dalit activists developed a confrontational style to moblize their neighbourhoods against discrimination and violence (87). It is unlikely that any one organization will ever unify all Dalit. Differences in philosophy and strategy are quite as pronounced in the Dalit population as in the rest of Indian society, and personal conflict among leaders are quite as common... There is a slowly growing Dalit middle class (:108).
The problem is especially acute in the case of colonial India, the history of which continues to be regarded as unique and incomparable to the history of colonialism in other contexts. This is particularly true in regard to settler colonies.
Manohar Biswas reports:
Annual Conference of Bangla Dalit Sahitya
Bangla Dalit Sahitya Sanstha is an organization of
It is to be noted that this is an organization of
The sanstha arranged the condolence meeting in Kolkata
Fourteenth April, the one hundred-seventeenth birthday
In premises of Sant Ravidas Temple, Tiljala, Kolkata a
This year on the 16th August, the 12th Chuni Kotal
The sangiti (conference) of the sanstha happens to be
In memoir of the Chaur Revolt of the untouchables of
A little magazine festival was held from 24th Jan to
(This is the report of activities of Bangla Dalit
Jamia Millia Islamia University launches two important
Jamia Millia Islamia university’s Dr K R Narayanan Centre for Dalit " Minority Studies has launched two unusual but much-sought after courses namely MA in Social Exclusion " Inclusive Policy and P G Diploma in Dalit " Minority Studies. The MA course is the first of its kind any where in India and is being launched for the first time here at Jamia from this academic session, whereas the first batch of the part-time Diploma course has already passed out from the Centre.
The fact that Social exclusion has come to acquire serious concern in academic debates, political discussions and intellectual discourses and also the fact that the tendency of social exclusion is found in all societies balkanizing social cohesion and harmony, a course on Social Exclusion becomes relevant and significant. Though the problem is as old as the civilization itself, it was only in the recent past that the issue assumed much significance. An important reason, inter alia, has been the economic reform process and the consequent liberalization privatization and globalization policies(LPG) that has shaken the infrastructural foundations in many developing societies. The model of development advocated by the New Economic Policies (NEP) has come to be viewed as a design in the marginalization of majority of the population all over the world. Since the early 1990s a perceptible shift has taken place in the developing world, in terms of the state withdrawing from the social responsibilities and moving towards privatization. It is widely perceived that the model of development popularly known as the World Bank model has widened the gap between the rich and the poor by marginalizing millions among the commonweal.
In a predominantly welfare state like India , state’s retreat from the welfare sector has excluded a large segment of the population from the path of development. Under the new dispensation the marginalized strata are left with no option- but to resort to violent socio-economic movements. In view of the growing unrest among the excluded groups it is pertinent to study the problem of social exclusion and its possible implications on the society at large.
There will be five papers every year however, in the final year an option to write a dissertation in lieu of two optional papers.
Post Graduate Diploma in Dalit and Minorities Studies is open to post-graduate and graduate students with an interest in Dalit and Minorities issues. This is a part time programme that can be pursued along with regular post-graduate courses. This Programme offers three papers including Dalit Movements in India, minorities in India and research methodology.
An Oriya poet makes note of literature in the region
Deepa H Ramakrishnan
Binapani Debta speaks to poets in Puducherry
PUDUCHERRY: A separate literature for Dalits by Dalits is something new to this young Oriya poet from West Bengal. Binapani Debta has been talking to writers from Puducherry about the literature in these parts, and she found that Dalit literature, feminist literature, and folklore were the particular traits of the region.
"I have never come across Dalit literature in Orissa or West Bengal. The only reference that I have seen [on the subject] is a research paper from Maharashtra. I spoke to several authors, both Dalits and non-Dalits and they argue in favour of a separate literature for the Dalits," she said. Ms. Debta is on a travel grant of the Sahitya Akademi from Kolkata, and is doing a small project on the recent trends in Indian literature, particularly in the southern region.
She spoke to 10 writers, including Manoj Das, Panchangam, Kee Rajanarayanan, Visalam, Gunasekaran, Nagasundaram, P. Raja Pudhuvai Rajani and Uma Pushparaj, and discussed various issues with them. Ms. Debta said that all the writers she met, whether young or old, were original.
"I have grown up reading the stories of Manoj Das, who is in Puducherry and is a winner of both the Padma Award and the Sahitya Akademi Award. I was fascinated to meet him and discuss the current trend. But, I am sad because he said he will not be writing any short stories in future and that he is waiting for an inspiration for a novel. He said that he had been impressed by Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, and that the one that touched him most was the one on human immortality."
She found Kee Rajanarayanan to be a very great writer, whose strength lay in the folklore that he uses. `But, the same strength is also his weakness, because people who want to translate it into other languages are unable to do so." She said that writer Panchangam felt that one need not necessarily be a Dalit to write for their cause.
Dilip Chitre packages Namdeo Dhasal for the globalised reader, properly glossed and sanitised.
THERE is nothing that can quite describe the sensation of reading the poetry of Namdeo Dhasal. One's hair stands on end. One feels slapped and spat upon. Vijay Tendulkar, no stranger to street vocabulary, wrote the introduction to Dhasal's first collection of poems, Golpitha, about Mumbai's underbelly, Kamatipura. Tendulkar writes: "This is a world where the night is reversed into the day, where stomachs are empty or half-empty, of desperation against death, of the next day's anxieties, of bodies left over after being consumed by shame and sensibility, of insufferably flowing sewages, of diseased young bodies lying by the gutters braving the cold by folding up their knees to their bellies, of the jobless, of beggars, of pickpockets, of holy mendicants, of neighbourhood tough guys and pimps... "
Out of this "loathsome and nauseating universe" (as Dilip Chitre puts it in his Introduction to the present volume) emerged Namdeo Dhasal's voice, unique, shocking, searing: "Man, you should explode / Yourself to bits to start with / ... / You should carry acid bulbs and such things on you / You should be ready to carve out anybody's innards without batting an eyelid / ... / Launch a campaign for not growing food, kill people all and sundry by starving them to death / Kill oneself too, let disease thrive, make all trees leafless."
As a Dalit, Dhasal is plagued by memories of loss: "Generation after untouchable generation has resulted in me / And this is how I lost the village of my dreams / Its green mynah, its green tree." He engages with history, and identifies with every "outsider": "My original ancestors were dark Dravidian non-Aryans / Followed by Scythians, Huns, Kushans, Turks, Iranians and Afghans / Then white soldiers in uniform and the Firangs / Mixtures of races and castes / The soil of this country never practiced untouchability."
Dhasal can be tender as well, as for instance in his poem Mandakini Patil: A Young Prostitute, My Intended Collage: "I've been dazzled by your worn-down and lackluster face. / From that lackluster look you descend inside me; and stream inside me; and appropriate me. / Is that the scream of an ending; or is the end itself a scream beginning?" He can be vulnerable, too, as we see in a later poem: "What is it that coddles me? / Is that a tree, or a woman laden with many branches?"
Dhasal is also a political activist. He was one of the founder-members of the militant Dalit Panther. In Maharashtra itself, Dhasal is known as much for his poetry as for his activism. Indeed, he sees no distinction between the two: "I am a committed person and I am constantly involved in political activity. However, during these activities, I write poems too." As Chitre puts it: "Namdeo cannot separate his activism from his poetry, and his poetry is only the literary form of his activism." It is perhaps no coincidence that Golpitha came out in 1972, the same year that Dalit Panther was formed.
As an activist, Dhasal has repeatedly taken shocking political positions - in 1975, he supported the Emergency; in 1997, he allied with the Shiv Sena, to which the Dalit Panther had been violently opposed for decades; in 2006, he appeared on the RSS platform. Dhasal knew exactly which bed he had jumped into. Eleven years earlier, in 1995, Dhasal had published his collection Ya Sattet Jeev Ramat Nahi (The Soul Doesn't Find Peace in this Regime). In a poem on December 6, he had described the Hindu Right thus: "Yesterday they murdered Gandhi / Now they want to put the whole nation to death." He had then nothing but stinging contempt for the Hindu Right: "Not even a diseased dog would care to piss / On the cadavers of their forebears."
His personal life has been tumultuous. His wife, Malika, herself a leading poet, daughter of the legendary Communist bard Amar Sheikh, published in 1984 her autobiography, Mala Udhwastha Hoychai (I Want to Destroy Myself) in which she details her difficult relationship with her husband.
There is something of a rock star in Namdeo Dhasal. He delights in shocking, in shaking up the staid, in stirring up controversies. The more his critics are exasperated, the more he enjoys being outrageous. Which is why it is intriguing that Dilip Chitre completely sidesteps Dhasal's cozying up to the Hindu Right. Chitre writes a long introduction to the volume, follows it up with another essay on Dhasal's Mumbai, and concludes with his delight and despair in translating the poetry; while all three pieces discuss Dhasal's politics at some length, he never once mentions Dhasal's support of the Shiv Sena or the RSS. Ordinarily, this would be called intellectual dishonesty. But Dhasal's own political positions are so well known - at least in Maharashtra - and he is so unapologetic about them, that one is simply amused at Chitre's touching hope that readers would not notice.
Chitre is himself a major poet, adept at working two languages, Marathi and English. Dhasal speaks only Marathi. That Chitre does a fine job of translating the virtually untranslatable Dhasal is clear. The volume as a whole has been clearly planned and packaged by Chitre, to introduce this "lumpen" and "ruffian" poet to the wider reading public. Chitre has been Dhasal's friend for 40 years. One is apt to feel protective about one's friends.
But Chitre does more. He puts a spin on Dhasal's politics. Consider Dhasal's meeting with Indira Gandhi during the Emergency. Chitre puts it thus: "In 1975, the Maharashtra police had about 360 charge-sheets filed against Dalit Panther... and Namdeo Dhasal, who evaded arrest, was on their `wanted' list... . Indira Gandhi proclaimed a national Emergency... . Recognising the implications of this for Dalit Panther and him, Namdeo went to Delhi, sought a meeting with Mrs Gandhi - who gave him a patient hearing - and talked about atrocities committed against Dalits. Mrs Gandhi ordered the Maharashtra government to drop all charges against members of Dalit Panther and their leader, Namdeo Dhasal... . There was no hidden deal in this."
So, according to Chitre, Dhasal so moved Mrs Gandhi with descriptions of atrocities against Dalits that she dropped all charges against him and his p