" Democracy was
also a great narrative and not merely a monolithic kind of democratic participation."

National Confrence Report

Dalit Resource Centre, organized a National meet of Dalit popular writers residing in various parts of India on its campus, under the project at G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad.

The theme of national conference was “Marginality and Creativity”. Since last three years the dalit resource centre has been conducting various activities related to dalit popular writings and dalit public sphere as a consequence of which it has established a strong network of Dalit popular writers across India. It is sorry to see that their experiences have not found any room in the literary arena of the country. Dalit literature aptly described as ‘narrative of pain’ by the Dalit writers binds every Dalit entity into a ‘unified community’ of fellow sufferers. These experiences of oppression act like a tool for the Dalit community and aid in mobilizing them against the iniquitous social system.

An important dimension of this venture, that has greatly enhanced the phenomenon of Dalit mobilisation, is the publication of booklets written by dalits themselves. As a result of the emerging social consciousness, the Dalits, literally placed on periphery in every realm of life are no longer ready to be silent bearers of the age old social discrimination and deprivation.  Their marginality gave rise to creativity.

The program started by the introductory speech delivered by Badri narayan, Project Director, Dalit Resource Centre and the convener of the conference . He said that there is a profound relationship between marginality and creativity and they both walk hand in hand. Professor Pradeep Bhargava, the director of the institute gave a warm welcome to the eminent participants and thanked the Ford Foundation for their valuable support. He talked about the Shraman culture and the creativity of people who are at periphery. We have to think about the dalit public sphere being created by the marginalized sections of the society and how we can extend this public sphere. The public sphere being formed by the creativity and writings of the marginalized community is so strong that it has forced the mainstream community to accept it.

After the inaugural session the first public lecture around the theme “Dalit Community and Popular Cultural Forms” was delivered by eminent Marathi novelist Sharan Kumar Limbale. He expressed his opinion that to raise voice against repressive tendencies is dalit cultural form. He talked about the Ambedkarite movement which brought about revolution in India. He said that the dalit art should get recognition in the society which is otherwise looked down upon by the upper caste people. We will have to give a new form and meaning to the dalit folk literature. He also said that our writing power is strong and it doesn’t need any change because when we talk about bringing change then it will reflect more of cultural tyranny in literary work. We will continue writing and whoever comes in our circle of criticism we will not hesitate to comment about them. Our Maharashtrian Dalit literature today also occupies a high place. Thus we don’t regret that we are not counted in the mainstream literature. The upper caste people look down upon our dalit art and literature but the fact is that it has always occupied a very respectable position in the society even in the previous days. Now these points are carried forward in the form of research, literature and writings which are based on oral descriptions by the people.

The discussants of the first public lecture were Mata Prasad (Ex. Governor Arunachal Pradesh), Mohandas Nemishraya (IIAS, Shimla), Prof. Devendra Chaubey (JNU, Delhi), Kanwal Bharti (renowned dalit writer). All the discussants expressed their opinion that writing is the only strong tool by which the marginalized sections of the society can create a niche for themselves in the society otherwise we will not be able to carry forward the movement of Ambedkar.

Mohandas Nemisharay, editor Bayan deliberated that we have to understand our social responsibilities as well and also realize that the mainstream literature is not everything. The Dalit literature has a store house of culture, philosophy in it and acts as a guiding light for us. Only the need is to read such type of literature.

Kanwal Bharti, Famous Dalit writer, Rampur said that Dalit literature gives greater space for discussion as compared to Hindi literature which is more fruitful in wiping out inequality from the society.  He said Amrit Lal Nagar’s book “Nachyo Bahut Gopal” is very good from the view point of criticism but is nil from the point of discourse.

Mata Prasad ji said that only folk songs and folk art were the foundation of Dalit culture. It was because of them that the Dalit literature came to the forefront which is today the symbol of social and cultural change. This literature aroused and carried forward Dalit consciousness in the whole of northern India which has enabled the Dalits to enjoy the benefit of political power.

Devendra Chaubey, JNU said that the other form of popular culture if seen talks about the liberation of this world from pain and struggle. At the same time this sort of culture also speaks in favor of humanity. The straight relationship of popular culture is with the people on periphery.

The second public lecture on the theme “Marginality and Notion of Popular” was presided over by the programmme officer of Ford Foundation and renowned Oriya poet Prof. Bishnu Mohapatra, famous Oriya poet and critic said that the dalit literature criticism is contributing great meaning to the old texts. It raises legitimate question. He said that the writings of Kabir was powerful and is still popular in the public because it propels the idea of social change. In the same manner the creative views of Dalit writers are strong because they themselves have been the victim of subjugation and atrocities committed on them. The idea of popular will never be vanished as long as we think that there are people with whom we want to establish a dialogue. It is also ambitious in the sense that it wants to capture everything and touch everyone. Imagination of an unfractured society is also inherent in the idea of popular.

The discussants in the second public lecture were Akhilesh (editor Tadbhav), Vinod Kumar Tiwari and Awadesh Mishra. Akhilesh ji opined that the Dalit literature aims to narrate the sorrows, tribulations, slavery, degradation, ridicule and poverty faced by Dalits to the upper caste Hindus. Dalit writers have used these narratives as a form of political assertion by providing an entrance to the public sphere and a reassertion of control over the construction of Dalit identity. It has also provided them a means of unifying with a larger community thereby creating a powerful group that can lend a hand in fighting against caste discrimination.

The third public lecture on the theme “Fighting from the Margins- Letters and Literature” was delivered by Prof.G.N. Devy, Director, Bhasa and Publication research centre, Baroda. He shared the main themes with the audience present. The first was about the changing definitions of literature.  In our country use of paper was started in the 13th century. It was not so that before the invention of paper there was no literature but before that poetic form is more popular than text. Later drama became very popular. Now blog literature has emerged as a very popular form of literature, people are always in search of something new. Ideas are delivered through different mediums. Every medium works on the notion that ideas should reach to audience through them. For it they try to increase flexibility and versatility of the medium, sometimes through technology, sometimes though material and sometimes through social change. It is because of this tendency of change, forms of literature used to change. We should contemplate on the question whether only written form is literature. India has a very rich oral tradition too.  A second thought is about script. Every language does not have its script. There are only few scripts in this world. Even a very popular language like English does not have its own script. It uses Roman script. Script is the mechanical portion of language not the organic. Script became a medium of exploitation. The oppressors tried their best to deprive oppressed society from using script. Gandhi used to say we should not use violence to stop it. Another thought is that these days literacy mission is very popular. It is thought that when literates will get associated with this system, country will develop more. An established notion is that illiterates are blunt. But in my opinion there is no relation between intelligence and literacy. If we tackle whole literacy mission with a new approach and include illiterates also in formation of knowledge society, then this perspective will add a lot in the strengthening society.

So the main points of my deliberations are we should not throw oral literature by mentioning it as rubbish, we should try to preserve it. Second is there is no relation between script and language and third is there is no relation between intelligence and literacy.  When we will start contemplating on these pre-established notions then we will get a revolutionary approach. We need a literature which contains resonance, flow, development and orality.  It should have power to illuminate in written form, and then we would be able to provide a literature to this world which will give aesthetic not anesthetic.

The discussants in the third public lecture were Prof D.K. Sharan (Ranchi), Ratan kumar Sambharia (Jaipur) Rameshwar Pawan (Baharaich). D.K.Sharan deliberated that the main purpose of these narratives is to expose the occurrence of untouchability in the contemporary times, which is otherwise ignored in the public discourse. The pain of untouchability is a uniting phenomenon for the Dalit readers and portrays their real identity while for the non dalit readers it exposes an all together different thing i.e. shame, accusation and hopefully a call for revolution.

On this occasion Kabir Chetna Samman was accorded to the editor of Vasudha Sri Rajendra Sharma. Prof. Bishnu Mohapatra released the Abstract book “Literature of their own” published by the Dalit Resource Centre. Eminent Dalit writer Sharan Kumar Limbale released the special Dalit issue of Hindi literary magazine “Vasudha”.

This meet ended with a poetry session. The writers were requested to read out passages on existing social inequality from their popular booklets and recite poems and songs to the audience. Since these poems emerge out of their experiences of the socio-cultural milieu in which they interact, the reading of the piece of their own created literature to the people gave it a local context, which is linked with their own existential questions. Some of the writers who read out their poems on the occasion were famous Oriya Folk Poet Haldhar Nag (Orissa), Upasana Gautam, (Aligarh), Ranarjun Rana (Satna), Guru Prasad Madan (Allahabad).


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A project supported by the Ford Foundation