“Mercy-grace-peace do not touch Golpitha.”
—From Vijay Tendulkar’s introduction to Golpitha
“Mercy-grace-peace do not touch Golpitha.”
—From Vijay Tendulkar’s introduction to Golpitha
On July 9, 1972, Dalit writers Namdeo Dhasal, Arjun Dangle and J.V. Pawar met in Bombay and established the Dalit Panthers, a radical militant outfit that sprang out of Maharashtra’s Dalit literary movement. It was the silver jubilee year of India’s independence but the Panthers observed a ‘Black Day’, with black-flag demonstrations all over Bombay, protesting the exploitation and oppression of Dalits.
That same year, Golpitha, a collection of poems by Bombay taxi driver Dhasal, had created a storm that was to blow away the traditional Marathi literary citadels, while also establishing Dalit poetry as a distinct stream of literature in the country. Golpitha, named after a slum area in Bombay, created an imagery, vocabulary and landscape completely unknown to Indian literature and set the tone for a new Dalit expression:
“My everything amber
Sky alchohols in the glass
Let breath reel stagger
Let snake-vines keep the beat move shake
The raga of gutter-ganges
Let the donkey under your skin bray
Let flow the pain, the dark serpent, the charging boar
Let the balls sizzle
An honest beast in your torch
Now is yours
Sell cheap faith-in-Christ, family plan your vulgarity
Kick this heavenly virtue, this fatherly atrocity
This poor promising puking lamb
Crumpled-paper-Pandurang-dindi goes on singing
The sweet notes flute
Juhu beach fragranced
A quarter jingle jangles
Daughters wed between their thighs
Uncle Uncle Little Star
The delicate guitar of impurity
Listen to the dainty ankle bells
Come come come come God
Crush the frogs in the earthenware pot
Blow out the lamp
Of the umpteen generations
Suck, drool over the pelvic bone
My essence droops drunken
Why pull it up
For everyone in front of everyone the wine filled glass.”
(From Amber in Golpitha)
Dhasal continued in the anthology:
“Made so beggarly it is nausea to be human
Cannot fill shrivelled gut even with dirt
Each day just supports them as if bribed
Not a sigh slips through the fingers of day’s plenty as
We are cut down.”
Ambedkar scholar Eleanor Zelliot says, “Nothing is sacred to Dhasal, except possibly his own creative gift and the memory of a man (Dr B.R. Ambedkar) who believed in the creative powers of his own untouchable people.”
“The Lord of the people is never ugly
He is from among men
Is true, holy, beautiful
Otherwise this book has no meaning
I write all this night
It’s three o’clock
Thought I want to have a drink
I don’t feel like drinking
I only want to sleep peacefully
And tomorrow morning see no varnas
(From Tuhi Iyatta Kanchi, 1981).
As a tribute to Ambedkar, Dhasal wanted to, not dream, but wake up and see no caste in the country. He went on to defy caste in the 10 volumes of poetry and three volumes of prose that was to pour out of him.
Even as the Dalit Panthers fragmented very quickly into distinct streams, the poet in him was in fervour. Dhasal was prolific; recognition came in waves too. The Maharashtra government awarded Golpitha, and Dhasal’s acceptance of it did cause heartburn among the rest of the Panthers. There was even talk that he’d become part of the establishment (an allegation that never really went away, what with his column for Saamna). But that award got him noticed in the English media. On November 25, 1973, the Times of India’s weekly supplement introduced Dalit literature and Dhasal’s poetry to the reading public.
Meanwhile, Zelliot, who was editing the Journal of South Asian Literature, included his translations and an essay by Dilip Chitre in an issue (1982), Laurie Hovell published him in Translations (1986), and V.S. Naipaul wrote about him in his India: A Million Mutinies Now (1990). A Padma Shri also came calling in 1999. But the biggest award, to Dalit literature and to Dhasal, was the Sahitya Akademi Golden Jubilee Lifetime Achievement award in 2005. The late Dilip Chitre, his long-time friend and translator, published a collected works in 2007, Namdeo Dhasal: Poet of the Underworld, Poems 1972-2006. For Indian literature, Dhasal announced early on the beginning of the breaking of literary shackles and caste barriers. By the time he left us on the streets of Mumbai, he’d set the Dalits on the road to literary freedom, their weapon the choicest of words to flay an oppressive society with.
(The author is an IAS officer)
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
I'm a Wall Street Investment Banker.
I shall donate $300 million for formation of Independent Nation for India's Untouchable people.
Google "Independent Nation For 300 Million India's Untouchable People".
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT