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Report On Fourth Basti/ Village Conference, Chhavani Naurangabad, Aligarh, UP November 17th – 18th , 2007

The fourth village conference in the series of six was organised by the Dalit Resource Centre at Chhavani Naurangabad of Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh for a period of two days i.e. 17th -18th November, 2007. This conference forms part of the Project ‘Dalit Popular Booklets, Democratic Participation and Dalit Public Sphere: A Project for Research, Documentation and Advocacy’ funded by the Ford Foundation, New Delhi.

Expression of Social Equality in Popular Traditions– The Theme of the Conference
The theme of the fourth village/basti conference was Expression of Social Equality in Popular Traditions. The demand for equality has always been against the prevailing inequalities of the time. The urge for social equality has been a continuous theme in human history i.e. from the time marginalized community came to exist. The voice against dominance and for equality has been expressed in multiple forms of local plays, folk songs etc. In Dalit literature also these themes have found significant expressions. It is indeed interesting to note that today through the cumulative domination of caste system and the kind of severe oppression, which the Dalits have suffered or subjected, has turned their life to a most degraded inferior status, which they have never accepted. This conditioning of the mind of the Dalits and the state, into which they are pushed in, is the main cause that helped in sensitising them to social justice and asserting self-respect to develop a culture of their own. It provided them the emanicipatory potential that survived against all odds. They interpreted their culture in a way that articulates their identity to sub serve their interest. They initiated a sedulous struggle at political and social levels for carving out an identity for them. This change and rupture has often made them more aware of their oppression, giving them new strength to assert themselves.

The contemporary Dalit writers are today attempting at popularising the significance of equality and brotherhood through popular folk traditions among their communities, in the first case to attain the higher social status and in second, to attain self-respect and share in political power. The means are either modern or traditional. They are working assiduously in this field to disseminate the idea of equality and dignity among these marginalized communities. By developing a subaltern Dalit literature towards the creation of a subculture i.e. a culture that assimilates the whole society, these writers are posing a challenge to the erstwhile dominant Brahmanical culture.

Objectives of the Conference
Dalit writers are themselves victims of or witness to social inequities and violence. A few among them are staunch social activists and often use literature to propagate their views on Dalit identity and the prevailing social consciousness. It calls for self-identity and freedom that is governed by different theoretical and philosophical streams. There are signs of hope and optimism in Dalit literature, affirming that identity and assertion are worthy social and cultural projects that need not be abandoned because of some temporary setbacks or crises.

A small section of Dalits have developed Dalit literature– short stories, novels, poetry, critical essays, auto-biographies, plays, etc. to provide critical insights on the question of Dalit identity, as well as to articulate and project their distinct identities. Emerging as a special stream in the literary landscape, it tends to cover a wide range of ideas and insights governing the social mindsets of Dalits. It contains a critical evaluation of the prevailing social and cultural practices. Through poetries, novels, and other forms of literature, they give outlet to their emotions, grievances, and sufferings. They articulate their perception for the present and future, reconstruct history, and project their aspirations and evolve new symbols and idioms. This literature, which is an important medium in their search for an identity, provides them strength and vigour to revolt against Brahmanical literature.

The objective of this conference was to probe a few vital issues related to the construction of identity in Dalit communities, such as, how do Dalit writers define Dalit identity through their poems, short stories, etc? How do they evaluate the present or immediate past of the Dalit communities? What according to them constitutes a congenial and progressive environment for identity promotion or protection? What, in their views, are obstacles in the path of Dalit identity assertion? Whom do they consider as their ideal bench-makers or pathfinders? and other such vital questions.

Identification of Basti/Village
The place identified for the fourth village conference has a renowned Dalit writer and folk-singer, named Anant Rao Akela. He, in his songs, has brilliantly narrated various dimensions of discrimination, pain and agony of Dalits and extolled them to get it with their efforts. At his birthplace, he became victim of iniquitous social structure. This is the place where he first experienced the painful slumber of Dalits that necessitated him to capture present by exposing the misdeeds of elites. With a hope of dignified and respectful future he shifted to Chhavani Naurangabad and settled there. It enabled him to construct a new consciousness for his community to pave a way for them to assert their demand for social respect from which they had remained deprived since centuries. Therefore, Chhavani Naurangabad is most appropriate selection for the conference, based on theme Expression of Social Equality in Popular Traditions. Akela’s songs depicted various form of discrimination of Dalits of the area and their helplessness to resist caste-divided society.

Basti/Village Profile
The place identified for the fourth village conference has a renowned Dalit writer and folk-singer, named Anant Rao Akela. He, in his songs, has brilliantly narrated various dimensions of discrimination, pain and agony of Dalits and extolled them to get it with their efforts. At his birthplace, he became victim of iniquitous social structure. This is the place where he first experienced the painful slumber of Dalits that necessitated him to capture present by exposing the misdeeds of elites. With a hope of dignified and respectful future he shifted to Chhavani Naurangabad and settled there. It enabled him to construct a new consciousness for his community to pave a way for them to assert their demand for social respect from which they had remained deprived since centuries. Therefore, Chhavani Naurangabad is most appropriate selection for the conference, based on theme Expression of Social Equality in Popular Traditions. Akela’s songs depicted various form of discrimination of Dalits of the area and their helplessness to resist caste-divided society.

Brief Introduction of the Writer
A.R Akela was born on 30th September, 1960, in the village Paharipur, located on the bank of river Kali, in District Aligarh. His grandfather, Sri Dharampal was a renowned person of the village owning 180 acres of land. His father Talibar Bohre got 40 bigha lands, a large portion of it was either lost in indentation of river Kali or was lost in family disputes. He could not manage even this land due to his idleness and vagabond nature. Consequently, economic condition of the family worsened to the extent that his family members reached on the verge of starvation. They had to mortgage their ancestral house. Akela’s hardship increased when he lost his father at the early age of 14 years. In utter poverty, his two brothers and three sisters forced to stop their education. He, however, completed his primary education from his village school and his junior high school from Ratavali. After that he could not continue his studies. In 1982, he fell in the trap of a wicked Brahmin and went to jail. The legal battle continued for 8 years and even after this, he could not settle. The deprivation and dejection of his life pushed him to undertake literary profession, and his first work ‘Shambook Rishi (Baahmasi)’ was published. Financial and social constraints could not deter him from his mission of awakening humiliated masses. Here he got respect and recognition, which motivated him to devote more time to writing. His major contributions are ‘Bheem Gyan-Gitanali’, ‘Buddha Gyan-Gitanali’, ‘Baspa Ke Bol’, ‘Mere Mishanary Geet’, ‘Angulimaal Katil Kyo Bana’ (All song collections) ‘Yug Pravartak Ambedkar’ (Play), ‘Baba Saheb Ne Kaha Tha’. He as a Dalit social activist came in contact of Shri Kanshiram and joined DS-4. He went to jail in his anti-liquor movement that was from Aligarh to Bareilly, on a bicycle for awakening of masses. With no money, no social base, no formal education, he could only roam in an unending darkness but he devoted more time to writings and established ‘Anand Sahitya Sadan’ for publishing his Dalit sahitya. His other edited books include ’Kanshiram Press Ke Aaine Mein’, ‘Mayawati and Media’ and ‘Kanshiram Ke Sakshhatkar’. He tried to mobilize various sections of his community as a unified community. Despite of his growing age he continues to work for emancipation of Dalit from bondage of various forms.

The First Day of the Conference, 17th November 2007.
Theme: Different Dimensions of Popular Culture and Urge for Social Equality

The first day of the two-day conference began with the recitation of prayer (Bouddha vandana) by Shri Bhadnte ji, and attended by all participants.

Thereafter Director G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad, Prof. Pradeep Bhargava lightened the lamp and welcomed the guests on behalf of his Institute and explained the role of education in Dalit awakening.

Shri Bishnu Mohapatra, Programme officer, Ford Foundation, New Delhi inaugurated the poster exhibition on life-struggle of A. R. Akela, which displayed Akela’s struggle related to his personal loss and sufferings, and his urge for establishing a powerful position for Dalits and his painful journey to establish equalitarian society.

First Session: Different Dimensions of Popular Culture and Urge for Social Equality

First Session “Different Dimensions of Popular Culture and Urge for Social Equality” was started with the introductory speech delivered by Dr. Badri Narayan, Project Director, Dalit Resource Centre. While addressing audience he informed the audience that goal of the project is to widen and deepen democratic participation of the Dalits in the democratic arena of the country by expanding the Dalit public sphere, and to create an interface between writers of Dalit popular booklets and other literary mainstream litterateurs and knowledge generators to widen the space and scope of Dalit popular writings. Village conferences, he said, would facilitate face-to-face interaction between the mainstream writers and the grass root Dalit writers. This conference is a tribute to those popular writers who struggled for survival but fought against all kind of deprivation. These writers played a quintessential role in sensitising Dalits to social justice and to the need of asserting self-respect for developing culture of their own. Their booklets are written with an objective of creating awareness among Dalits and lay emphasis on building up a society based on equality, justice, freedom, and fraternity. These booklets contain some highly significant socio-political discourses and are characterized by simplicity, receptivity, and acceptability. A majority of these is for Dalits written by Dalits. Thus, this literature is guided by the search for identity as well as for assertion and self-respect. Such endeavours contribute, to some extent, to create a corpus of counter-literature and cultural consciousness among the educated lower castes in North India.

Writers and publishers of such booklets come mostly from the lower caste political activists and intellectuals. These booklets play quintessential role in awakening the Dalits to social justice and to the need of asserting for self-respect to develop a culture of their own, along with sharpening their political consciousness for constructing effective political discourses and for mobilizing them for active participation in the democratic process of the country and also for enriching the existing public sphere.

He explained about the archive of his centre in which materials in the form of poetries, stories, biographies, narratives, etc written by the Dalit popular writers are found. Apart from these some rare Dalit visual collection in form of calendars and posters of Dalit heroes and heroines too forms a part of this archive. Research staff prepares abstract of this and prepare social biography of these popular Dalit writers.

He further added that this conference would try to explore the relation of folk traditions in sensitising the community and while writing how does these Dalit popular writers use folk traditions in their mission. How do they put up their revolutionary themes in those popular folk songs and what role this change plays? By the help of different strategies rich cultural Dalit heritage will be explored through many devices such as: Poster Pradarshini (Exhibition), Lok Charcha (Folk Discussion), Lok Prastuti (Dalit Folk Performances) & Mela (Fair and Booklet Exhibition).

Retd. Professor Kunwar Pal Singh, Department of Hindi; Aligarh Muslim University was the chief guest on this occasion and he honoured Akela on behalf of Institute. In his presidential address, he shared that 50 years ago, he opened a school for Dalit children in this area but due to some unavoidable circumstances he was compelled to close that. But today while honouring a Dalit writer of this Chhavani he is feeling success of his that uncompleted project. He also emphasized role of communists in Dalit liberation and thanked Dalit Resource Centre for fulfilling his dream by honouring such writers because these Dalit popular writers are working to establish an equalitarian society.

Then Akela welcomed all the distinguished guests and showed his regret for not being able in organizing conference in Paharipur, his birthplace but stated that this place, Chhavani Naurangabad is also very important for his mission, as this is his place of struggle.

Shri Netrapal Brijwasi, a Dalit artist from Mathura sung a song to honour Akela that portrayed Akela’s struggle beautifully.
Song was:
To be known as Akela he has crushed feeling of thousands,
While facing struggle continuously on every step he never had any repentance for his bold step……………………
He cannot forget his pain even after singing thousand of songs,
Then to soothe his soul he started challenging work of publication also.
This soldier of literary field has show immense courage.

Shri Rameshwar Pawan, a Dalit writer from Bahraich presided over the first session. Other renowned intellectuals present on the occasion were Mr. Bishnu Mohapatra (Programme Officer, Ford Foundation, New Delhi, Dr. Apooravananda (Eminent Political Scientist, Delhi), Dr. Sheo Raj Singh Bechain (Fellow, Institute of Advance Studies, Shimla), Shri Guru Prasad Madan (Dalit writer, Allahabad), Shri Bouddhacharya (Dalit writer, Allahabad), Shri K. Nath (Dalit writer and activist, Kanpur) and Shri Rajkumar Itihaaskar (Dalit writer, Lucknow), Mohandas Nemishary (Editor, Bayan, Delhi).

To accelerate the discussion Akela called Rameshwar Pawan to share his thoughts with audience.

Shri Pawan paid gratitude to the messenger of humanity Buddha and Ambedkar. He emphasized that folk traditions are very helpful in expressing our emotions and portraying our social condition. So folk culture depicting urge for social equality shows that there was an inequality prevailed there. In fact inequality was there in the disguise of religion. If someone protested it higher class crushed them and compelled a large section of society to live in degraded manner like animals.

To crush that irrational inequality, Lord Budha founded a humanitarian religion based on the notion of equality and disseminated it through folk language Pali. Great bhakti saint Kabir also adopted folk language to spread his revolutionary thoughts. Budhha, Kabir, Phule all had taken help of folk language to spread out their revolutionary thoughts in society and to crush inequality. Akela is carrying forward the same notion by adopting the folk method to disseminate his views in same manner and method.

He paid his gratitude to Dalit Resource Centre, which going against the existing traditions honours such writers who have suffered worst in life and even not cared for their families and future and dedicated whole life for Dalits. Even in worst financial conditions they dared to start their publication also for dissemination of awareness among his community.

On the low gathering of audience, he said that quantity is not important but quality when you are on some revolutionary mission. Lenin revolution failed first time because his enemies were also in the mob with but second time he eliminated them and took few faithful with him and got success in eliminating Jar-system in Russia. So Akela should not be disheartened because of gathering because for revolution, determination of leaders and dedication of few followers is more important.

Second Session:

This session was presided over by eminent Dalit writer Shri Mohandas Nemisharay.

Shri Sheelpriya Bauddha, a Dalit artist from Lucknow sung a beautiful melodious song praising Dr. Ambedkar.

Then famous political scientist Dr. Apoorvanand shared his thoughts on the issue. He first started by confession that he is not of this field, so here he is like a student who is trying to understand the gist of problem or discussion. He opined that Dalit folk traditions need co-passengers of this cultural stream, who will understand this with its peculiarities to establish their relation with this. Silent spectators are of no use. As mainstream tradition has its own socio-economic background and its own political struggle, so Dalit traditions should be distinguished by mainstream folk. In Dalit traditions there is a struggle for power within its cultural background. A Dalit expression always starts with its story of humiliation and spectator finds a typical bitterness in it that crushes its sweetness and aesthetics, which is soul of folk traditions. Though these emotions were implicit in folk traditions also but not explicit there. That’s why Savarnas accept folk traditions as their own but fails to associate themselves with Dalit expressions and there is so much debate on Dalit traditions.

He opined that Dalit tradition should not work to get sympathy but to establish its own identity, self-esteem and values. With expression of pain it needs politics of identity. It should emerge on different and independent footing.

He also showed his concern for urge to power in Dalit expressions. Because whenever someone tries to establish a new power-balance on existing power structure we impose a new rigidity, a new narrowness on traditions. Such emerging trend creates a vacuum where communication is lost and such a society is definitely a dangerous one.

He made his stand clear by stating that he is not against the new assertion but one should do some positive to enrich existing folk traditions to make it rich. It should be free from prejudice because in songs, drama and other modes liveliness is more important than an ideology. Then only it would be acceptable to every one. Then only, a homogenous discourse should accept other dissenting traditions.

Shri Rameshwar Pawan, famous Dalit writer from Bahraich appreciated concern of Apoorvanand. But he said that this assertion was not new even for old folk songs. There was always an assertion against discrimination (e.g. in the songs sung while sowing rice). In fact, at old times only through folk mediums people used to express their pangs of discriminations. For eg. In nautanki a joker in spite of his personal sufferings shows his hatred comically (theft is done by Brahmins, thakur as chamar is caught).

In fact, it was not against any particular community but songs drama can express harsh faced realities, in soft manner. Even political consciousness was not new because a particular community was deprived by political power in all systems. Political dissention is necessary because social, economic and cultural aspects are governed by Politics only. That’s why Dalit consciousness needs political assertion.

Another Dalit writer, Baudhacharya N. Sanjiwan Nath started with exploring that how LOK came in existence. He reacted sharply on Apovaanand’s statement and said that Dalit folk came into existence only to save the soul of folk traditions because hatred of -caste against Dalits was diminishing the sweetness of folk. When a large section of society is deprived, then how we can neglect their pain and humiliation to save only aesthetic of folk. And beauty lies in eyes of beholder. We can find beauty in Hira Dom song that ‘’hamani ka dukhwa bhagwano ken a dikhat bani (even god is unable to understand our pain). Bhakti system is also folk tradition against this mechanism of depravation). Whenever humanity is crushed pain comes out spontaneously in form of popular traditions.

Indian culture is based on the notion of liberty, equality and fraternity whenever these essential elements loses its proper place a revolt comes in form of popular traditions but aim is not to take revenge. When Baba Sahib Ambedkar tried to put these elements in our constitution the aim was not to take revenge but to accommodate and provide opportunities to the deprived.

After this discussion a Dalit artist from Aligarh, Shri Chita Jauhari told a story of a Dalit woman who by her intelligence saved her in-laws family from the trap of money-lender. This story shows that intelligence is not ancestral property of any particular community and Dalits were also intelligent even they were always portrayed as fools.

Then Brajwasi sung a song expressing the feeling of a Dalit women that how she is motivating her husband to buy ornaments but side by side she is aware of the identity of her community and their struggle.

A young and dynamic Dalit girl Ms. Upasana Gautam recited her poem that was full of anger against this discriminatory Hindu culture.

Then Dev Kumar, a young Dalit artist from Kanpur recited his poems expressing his determination to arouse respect for Dr. Ambedkar among people while tolerating every kind of hardships. He also shared his pain his pain while watching humiliation of his Bhangi community. He also recited a poem showing that Bhangi community is free from all kind of social evils.

Afterwards Akela and Brajwasi both sung Ambedkarite song in typical folk accent.

Dr. Devendra Choubey, JNU, New Delhi narrated a beautiful story how a peaceful and homogenous village turned into place of dirty politics after implementation of Mandal commission report. In this reactionary politics a Dalit youth murdered a thakur who was trying to establish his old-existing discriminatory system.

Then Sheoraj Singh Bechain, Fellow, IIAS, Shimla narrated his own painful story that how he was deprived from education by his stepfather. And due to his craze for study he stole some money from his uncle’s pocket to buy some books for which his mother was beaten badly. He could not confess this in front of his mother till her death for which he feels guilty till now.

Shri Bishnu Mohapatra, programme officer, Ford Foundation, New Delhi explained his analysis of this debate. He said that after contemplating on this discussion many questions rise in his mind:

Is Lok Parampara universal or sectional as expression of one community?
What is the difference between universal values and subjective experience?
Does Dalit autobiography portray subjective experience or feeling of particular community?

In his opinion Dalit literature represent universal values like equality, discrimination. In fact Dalit subjective experience articulates universal values.

Another question is that who decides that it is mainstream or universal?
If we contemplate we will find that even in mainstreams there are so many contradictions. There are many thoughts that challenges mainstream and even mainstream accepts it as it is and it enters in mainstream with all its contradictions. If these writers and artists who perform in small villages and towns are not in mainstream then it will be narrow definition of mainstream. This mainstream is separated from mains. Many things were not accepted as mainstream because of many reasons hidden in history. To associate deprived with mainstream is an intellectual struggle. This conference is a challenge to mainstream to change it. Such songs are filled with sufferings, pains, rebellion sentiments, dissenting traditions, and a language of protest. In it anger of particular exists but it has a generic mode. One can identify himself with this pain. From the view of democracy also Dalit literature or Dalit voices should come to strengthen democratic values. It needs a new vision.

Second Day of the Conference, 18th November, 2007

Theme : Popular culture and Dalit Popular Expressions

Second day of conference was started by a revolutionary poem of Dev Kumar:
“Pain of my community has wounded my heart…”
And
‘Come on youngsters to awaken slumbered community…”

The session was on the theme “Popular culture and Dalit popular expressions” was presided over by Prof. Namita Singh of AMU, Aligarh.

Shri Guru Prasad Madan, eminent Dalit writer recited one poem on how upper-caste are not ready to tolerate the awakening of Dalits and how a Dalit exposes that it is only because of unlimited suppression that Dalits were forced to dissent.
Another poem showed how the approach of Dalits are changing: where a grand father is suggesting to tolerate everything but father is a bit reluctant to tolerate this discrimination but son is not ready to tolerate it anymore and he is ready to revolt.

Dr. Badri Narayan after praising the painful expressions of these Dalit writers stated that villages are like slaughterhouse for Dalits where they face every kind of suppression and exploitation. These writers are doing the pious job of making this venting out of summary a legitimate activity.

Badhacharya sung a song in praise of Ambedkar that how he awakened his community.

Prof. Namita Singh in her presidential address said that black aspect of so-called mainstream culture is that it neglected mass and treated them as inhuman. This negligence created a sense of discomfort and it gave birth to dissenting culture. The pain narrated in their works is itself a sign of revolution.
A song was presented by Brajwasi conveying his commitment for the mission of Ambedkar.

Akela was requested to sing a song portraying Dalit folk. But when he came on stage he sung an Ambedkarite song.

Dr. Badrinarayan, reflecting over a new emerging trend opined that there has emerged a strong urge in Dalits to assert their identity and self-respect through their self-built cultural resources. They now challenge the cultural hegemony of the upper castes with their self-designed and developed weapons. Through their writings, debates and performances they are trying to expose Dalit experiences of humiliation, suffering, dominance, exploitation, etc. from which they enthuse their community to unify and participate in the process of their own mobilization. These devices are very helpful in invigorating the potentialities for attainment of respectful social space.

A section of these Dalits have developed Dalit literature— Short stories, novels, poetry, critical essays, auto-biographies, plays, etc— to provide critical insights on the question of Dalit identity, as well as to articulate and project their distinct identities. Emerging as a special stream in the literary landscape, it tends to cover a wide range of ideas and insights governing the social mindsets of Dalits. It contains a critical evaluation of the prevailing social and cultural practices. Through poetries, novels, and other forms of literature, they give outlet to their emotions, grievances, and sufferings. They articulate their perception for the present and future, reconstruct history, and project their aspirations and evolve new symbols and idioms in Dalit culture. In this process of assertion, a new and very powerful Ambedkarite cult has emerged like Kabirpanthi, Raidasis.
These people have created songs, plays and different type of cultural performances to project Ambedkar as a divine figure, a super-human. Whatever is the role of this new stream but, definitely, it is an important medium in their search for an identity, provides them the strength and the vigour to revolt against Brahmanical literature.
Akela in spite of commitment to sing a Ambedkarite song because of pressure of this newly emerging Ambedkarite cult seemed fearful of rejection from the audience while singing any other song. This may be because of that Aligarh and Agra were the centres of RPI revolution and activities.
This conference provided a profound medium to understand that how Dalits are resisting against social inequality. How they are awakening community with help of folk songs. Here they tried to present all the forms of folk traditions and through it understand Dalit expressions.

K. Nath, Dalit writer and activist, Kanpur thanked DRC for honouring writers like him. He further added that our job is not cursing our fate but to get power. Our pens are like swords that will cut the web of humiliation. Our community has eaten dead animals and whenever we get news of an animal’s death it becomes like a festival for Mahar community that they will get sufficient food tonight. We neglect role of Dalits in freedom struggle or we associate them with people of higher-caste as Mainawati was daughter of a Dalit not sister of Nanaji. He believes is the most potent weapon for educating future generation. It would be a guideline for the children of future. It is literature that brings about the social transformation. Such a noble hope keeps him active and enthuses him to publish his books even if he has to take loans against the wishes of his family members. An optimist, he foresees Dalits possessed of their rights and lands in future. Their mothers and sisters would not be sexually assaulted and they would not be subjected to various modes of torture. They, he believes, shall be given respect and honour like everyone else in the society. This dream of future inspires him to concentrate on literary productions.

Shri Guru Prasad Madan expressed his opinion that there was a long tradition of expression. There were two types of culture in which Vedic was reluctant to changes and rigid but shraman culture was a flowing tradition, which assimilated all the contradictions with it.

Shri Sheo Raj Singh Bechain expressed his concern over this emerging trend that when we are struggling to establish Dalit literature as a mainstream then we should make it more analytic not only propagator of Ambedkar. Faith in Ambedkar is not wrong but we should not confine ourselves with only a great hero, we have to forward his mission. One should express his thoughts in such a manner that even a non-Dalit should feel himself associated with these and should start to recognize glorious past of Dalit community. Literature also is for all not of particular community. Your work will provide you proper place and recognition not conflict and hatred. The question is that while Dalit bureaucrats are there to avail opportunities of being Dalits and politicians too are there to bag the benefits; there are very few writers. There are so many possibilities in literature but creativity and analytic approach is needed.

R. B. Trisharan, Dalit writer and Publisher, from Basti carried forward the discussion and narrated how a Dalit writer suffers when he tries to assert their identity. The story of Trisharan reflects how social pressures and exclusion makes a common man a noble missionary. At the age of 23, he joined as clerk in tax-collection unit of State Public Works department Sisai, Gonda. While his spare time he used to contemplate about discrimination of his childhood. He planned to disseminate the thoughts of these personalities among downtrodden in common-man’s language and in the mode of folk-songs, poems etc. and through small and easily comprehensible booklets. He translated revolutionary themes in form of popular and easy folk songs because this is the most popular and easily comprehensible form. This resulted in publication of his booklet “Bheem-Sandesh”. For the publication he approached to Sant Ram of Harijan Sewak Sangh, an illiterate. But that illiterate man was deeply turned by his thoughts and understanding the pious mission of that book he readily accepted to become publisher to deplume the irrational hegemony of the society. The book was published in Balrampur, a bastion of Jansangh. But Compositor of the publishing house approached influential people and showed how a Dalit was trying to sensitise and awaken low-born people through his revolutionary themes. Due to conspiracy of anti-Dalit groups, he was arrested from Balrampur under Defence of Indian Rules commonly known as DIR and sentenced to imprisonment. After one month he was released on bail but was placed under suspension to be reinstated after two and a half years.

In 1977, under the regime of Janta Party government in 1977, the case against him was withdrawn on the logic that aspirations for equality and dignified social space for every being was available in every religion’s text and books of all great persons. So now his books were allowed for sale. And this resulted in release of his book. These tribulations further strengthened his mission to work for Dalit uplift even at the cost of his job and sufferings of his family-members. He had a very positive impact of Periyar Lalai Singh, a man of great erudition and had a deep intellectual intimate relation with him and he helped him a lot.

During the period of suspension he lived in Basti. And as Haraiya was his birthplace, he established Akhil Bhartiya Baba Saheb Dr. Ambedkar Samaj Sudhar Samiti there to support his mission. Under this samiti, Samaj Sudhar Prakashan, Haraiya was established. The idea behind establishing this centre was to accommodate Dalit writers who themselves were victims of or witness to social inequities and violence. It provides them a platform, which gave them a new strength to assert themselves. Under the banner of this samiti he decided to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti. But his irritated wife, who suffered a lot with him burn those posters. He convinced his wife that we have to sacrifice for awakening of our community. Now, he has many task ahead for the welfare of Dalits and deprived continues to be his priority.

Rajkumar Itihaskar, Dalit writer and activist, Lucknow continued the discussion and deliberated that Literature, he said, helps not only in arousing consciousness among members of Dalit communities but also paves the way for a meaningful tomorrow i.e. the coming generation. It would further help them in leading a dignified life where they are not ashamed of their past but proud of their glorious past. So, he devoted himself in exploring the history of this community and succeeded in adding substantially to the existing historical literature. Problem is deplorable social status of the Dalits in India, which has not yet undergone substantial changes even after India’s Independence. So educated Dalilts have double task one is to awaken their own community and other is to sensitise the oppressors.

Sunder Lal Sagar, Dalit writer from Bahraich, shared his reminisces that Dalit is sarvahara looser of all. Dalit writers narrate their own pain while savarnas write about them with a sense of pity. The fact cannot be denied that the Dalit communities are still underdeveloped and so there’s an urgent need to uplift them. They must be provided with sufficient opportunities to express their anxieties. Mainstream literary world refused them this space, which inspired them to search for new avenues giving rise to numerous Dalit writers, who felt that writing their own experiences was the best medium of letting people know about their sufferings, which would help them in creating a space for themselves.

Dr. Badri Narayan said that numbers of Dalit writers are increasing who were ready to demolish the edifice of mainstream. The contemporary Dalit writers are today attempting at popularising the significance of equality and brotherhood through popular folk traditions among their communities, to attain the higher social status and to attain self-respect and share in political power. The means are either modern or traditional.

Prof. Pradeep Bhargava, appreciated the fighting spirit of these Dalit writers but opined that direction of their struggle should be decided by them only. Soldiers of these movements have to decide their direction. But he drew their attention that they should be careful that Ambedkar would not become a myth only. He emphasized the need of invigorating a coordinative approach to assimilate pain of everyone. He spoke about Dalit Literature which is a sign of defiance for them will achieve their zenith only when Lessons on Dalit heroes like Matadin Bahngi and others will be included in our syllabus in our syllabus.

Cultural Activities at the Conference

Poster Pradarshini (Poster Exhibition)
On the first day of the conference itself, posters made by Dalit painter, Shri Chitra Jauhari were displayed. A large gathering was found enjoying the Poster Pradarshini. The posters made around the theme of the conference that how Akela is working to establish social equality and some depicting quotes, songs, poems and couplets, etc. from the popular booklets. Covers of other popular Dalit booklets, sketches and other pictorial illustrations, accentuating the need for establishing social equality were presented in a catchy manner before the audience. These were displayed along with numerous Dalit newspapers and magazines, attenuating on the cry and means to social equality.

Mela (Fair of Dalit authored booklets and unpublished manuscripts)
Some of the writers attending the conference brought with them books and unpublished manuscripts forming part of their personal collection. People enriched themselves with such rare exhibition of booklets and manuscripts and rich archival collection of old Dalit newspapers and magazines. The booklets were sold by the writers on the spot and DRC too added to its archive some rare collection of booklets from this fair. Thus the village/basti conferences promise to be a good source for collecting Dalit popular booklets and unpublished manuscripts of grassroots Dalit writers for our resource centre.

Kavita Goshti (Poetry Recitation)
Writers were requested to read out passages on existing social inequality from their popular booklets and recite poems and songs to the audience. Since the writings of these writers of Dalit popular booklets 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 Dalit writers who read out their poems on the occasion were Guru Prasad Madan, Baudhacharya. S. R. Sajivan Nath, Dev Kumar, Upasana Gautam.

Dalit Cultural Performances
Another aspect of the conference was cultural performances in the evening session. Many Dalit writers and artists were also invited to recite poems and songs on Dalit culture and dignity from their popular booklets to the audience. Since the writing of these writers exhibited the pangs of humiliation, and identity-loss, reading such pieces of literature encourages people mentally and moved them psychologically. Issues such as Dalit experiences of humiliation, suffering, dominance, exploitation, etc impelled them towards unity and participation in the process of their own mobilization. This conference helped in invigorating the potentialities of rich cultural heritage of Dalits. Dalit artists struggling for identity were also invited to perform to show their competence. This led to broadening of the public sphere and political participation of these communities. A play was staged by Shri Dev Kumar from Kanpur and four members of his group on the forgotten Dalit hero of 1857 freedom struggle, Matadin Bhangi. The cultural performances proved to be a successful medium of disseminating the message of theme of the conference among the masses particularly the illiterate class.

The fourth village conference thus helped in establishing a network of Dalit popular writers, organic intellectuals and Dalit journalists at the local level. This conference to a certain extent has definitely helped in disseminating liberating and emancipatory ideas among Dalits of the region including the non-reading sections that are unable to read the booklets themselves. This would surely go a long way in extending the Dalit public sphere, which will also help to increase the participation of Dalits in the democratic processes of the country. Further, it will help to democratise both, the Dalit public sphere-in-the-making and the overall Hindi literary domain of the country.
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