vangapandu's 'yem pillado'

found the movie ardharatri swatantryam on you tube and chopped vangapandu's song from it. t. krishna doesn't look a very convincing vangapandu.

watch it here


part 2 of interview in 'prairie schooner'

Q. What are the sources that the poets are drawing from currently? Is there a conscious rejection of mainstream rendering of texts, especially the traditional epics, etc.? If so, how? 

A. I am reminded of something Dr Ambedkar had said in his book, “Untouchables or The Children of India's Ghetto.” Let me quote:
"It is usual to hear all those who feel moved by the deplorable condition of the Untouchables unburden themselves by uttering the cry "We must do something for the Untouchables." One seldom hears any of the persons interested in the problem saying “Let us do something to change the Touchable Hindu .” It is invariably assumed that the object to be reclaimed is the Untouchables. If there is to be a Mission, it must be to the Untouchables and if the Untouchables can be cured, untouchability will vanish. Nothing requires to be done to the Touchable. He is sound in mind, manners and morals. He is whole; there is nothing wrong with him. Is this assumption correct? Whether correct or not, the Hindus like to cling to it. The assumption has the supreme merit of satisfying themselves that they are not responsible for the problem of the Untouchables. How natural is such an attitude is illustrated by the attitude of the Gentile towards the Jews. Like the Hindus the Gentiles also do not admit that the Jewish problem is in essence a Gentile problem." 
When the Dalit speaks of democratizing Indian society, the “Touchable Hindu” talks of nationalism; when she speaks of equality and the spread of education and opportunities, the Hindu posits it against merit; when she talks of rights and justice, he dismisses it as identity politics; when she argues for diversity and inclusiveness, he pays it lip service and dreams of Hindu supremacy in the region and a spot in the elite club of world powers.

The “Touchable Hindu” still remains utterly clueless about the Hindu problem. He is the one who is consciously rejecting the Dalit discourse all the time.

Whereas the conscious Dalit now attempts to speak of all—from the Shudras to Adivasis to Muslims and other religious minorities to women to the disabled to the sexual minorities – and does it by actually going on the streets to demonstrate, build solidarity, produce advocacy literature and wrangle with political society, the Touchable Hindu becomes ever more self-absorbed, obdurate and privilege-focused.

So the sources are diverse: lived experience, the wada and the world. Pain, deprivation, humiliation, inequality, oppression, festivity, faith, protest, celebration, battles, revolution, pogroms, love, nature, labour, hopes, genocides, lynching, victories and losses from the wada, the village and the world. As Sikhamani expresses it very lucidly in his poem, “Seashell:”
Though you've separated
My ocean from me
I've assimilated the whole ocean in myself.
Whatever inference
You may draw from that roar,
I speak that language. 
Listen to the Dalit segregated from his fellow men, the poet seems to be saying: “you can listen to the infinite roars of the ocean,” just as you do when you hold the seashell, separated from the ocean, close to your ear, and listen “with patience.”

When you listen to her, you’ll also hear the roaring pain of history, as in the words of Kalekuri Prasad:
I was Shambhuka in the Treta Yuga 
Twenty two years ago, my name was Kanchikacherla Kotesu 
My place of birth is Kilvenmani, Karamchedu, Neerukonda 
Now Chunduru is the name that cold-blooded feudal brutality 
Has tattooed on my heart with ploughshares 
From now on, Chunduru is not a noun but a pronoun 
Now every heart is a Chunduru, a burning tumour; 
I am the wound of multitudes, the multitude of wounds: 
For generations, an unfree individual in a free country 
Having been the target 
Of humiliations, atrocities, rapes and torture 
I am someone raising his head for a fistful of self-respect. 
In this nation of casteist bigots blinded by wealth 
I am someone who lives to register life itself as a protest  
I am someone who dies repeatedly to live 
Don't call me a victim 
I am an immortal, I am an immortal, I am an immortal 
~ ~ ~

please read the rest of the interview here.


interview in 'prairie schooner'

nabina das interviews me for 'prairie schooner', lit magazine:
~ ~ ~
Q. Imagining that the larger community has little or no idea of "Dalit Literature," tell us something about it.

A. It’s not very difficult to imagine that the larger community has little or no idea of "Dalit Literature." That tells us something about it; that the literature of the former ‘untouchables’ should largely remain untouchable even now, when it is available in such profusion, tells us how desperately the world wants to stand still and hold its breath so that it will go away.

Does this larger community figure in Dalit writing? 

The larger community is never absent in the Dalit writer’s imagination. The whole world throbs like a bad tumor in her imagination.

When Yendluri Sudhakar takes a walk in Chicago, he hears Martin Luther King:
When I walk in Chicago
The roar of Martin Luther King's
Word flames
Rings constantly in my ears
Like a chant!
K. G. Satyamurthy ('Sivasagar’) faces death in Jaffna:
Jaffna! Jaffna!! O Jaffna!!
When the night was flying as a vulture
You blew up as a landmine
I died without realizing it
I died in Jaffna.
He is imprisoned in South Africa with Nelson Mandela:
So many prisons
But only one life
He is singing in Tiananmen Square:
The tear drop that splits
On the edge of dark night’s sword:
In the clasp of the gallows
The song that shall wake the sun!
Writes a love letter to Saddam Hussein:
The river Tigris
The Kurdistan hills
The Baghdad streets
The Iraqi grains of sand,
I love Your love for them.
 And he grieves for Santiago:
Santiago! Santiago!
What treachery stabbed you in the back?
What treachery made you stand unarmed before your enemy?
What treachery deprived you of your people’s army?
We can then say that the Dalit poet has a global scope in her work?

The Dalit poet breathes the pain of the wretched and the marginalized in Chicago, Jaffna, Santiago, South Africa, Baghdad and Tiananmen Square as naturally as she inhales the daily treachery, repression, rebellion, seclusion, and defiance of the Dalitwada. Dalitwada is the Dalit settlement outside the village which is always so planned that it can taste even the wind only after it has passed through the village first. The wada which deserves only the leftovers, the remnants, the dregs of everything, including air: who would understand the need for community better?

Who would understand the need for peace and solidarity better than someone who has been engaged in an endless, unequal war she never sought? A war so unequal that generation after generation has to depend solely, and paradoxically, on the enemy itself to sustain its continued participation? Therefore, the wars and unrealized deaths in Jaffna or Santiago or Baghdad or Afghanistan or the Congo or anywhere and everywhere else aren’t unfamiliar to the Dalits in even the most remote, totally-shut-off-from-the-world wadas in India.

Because, as Sivasagar says:
Listen! Listen to the untouchable word:
Between the village and the wada
There's a Kargil,
From grandfathers' forefathers' age,
Burning between us;
This Kargil war
Hasn't stopped, it goes on.
The war between the caste village and the caste-less wada is the oldest conflict in the world. But the world still flickers in the Dalit poet’s heart more brightly than any lamp lit across the world in memory of dead soldiers.

Pydi Theresh Babu mourns the slow death of a world being consumed by globalization:
Nothing is overtly visible
You can’t hear my breath
In my song
You can’t hear my music
In my procession
You can’t see my play
In my street
You can’t see my ware
In my bazaar
Paradoxes. Contradictions. Why should a Dalit in the wada, who should be happy to be free of the village, embrace the whole world, in such unfettered love?

How do you see these contradictions being resolved? 

As Satish Chandar sees it, the Dalit is a revolutionary staking claim over her body, land, spirit and humanity:
My land's not mine, they said,
I became a revolutionary
My body's not mine, they said,
I became a feminist
My village is not mine, they said,
I became a Dalit
She wants a whole new world, nothing less:
I am not even human, they said,
Step away
I've become a human bomb.
~ ~ ~
please read the rest of the interview here


woman bites dog

[an old draft]

a dalit woman is abused, called before a panchayat and fined because she fed a roti to a dog that belonged to an upper caste villager. the local police don't listen to her, nor does the sc/st police station where she goes next. finally, the police wake up only after the district administration takes notice.

look at how one of the initial news stories looked at the issue. you would think the dalit woman was the heroine of the story, no? but what's this title - 'Dog cast(e) away after Dalit touch' - where does the woman figure in it?

let's look at how the reporter probably saw the story.
~ ~ ~   

this is the sad tale of an upper caste dog which lost caste because it hobnobbed with a dalit:
BHOPAL: A dog's life couldn't get worse. A mongrel brought up in an upper caste home in Morena was kicked out after the Rajput family members discovered that their Sheru had eaten a roti from a dalit woman and was now an "untouchable". Next, Sheru was tied to a pole in the village's dalit locality. His controversial case is now pending with the district collector, the state police and the Scheduled Caste Atrocities police station in Morena district of north MP.
this is also the sad tale of the dog's owner who was cheated of his right to just compensation:
The black cur, of no particular pedigree, was accustomed to the creature comforts in the home of its influential Rajput owners in Manikpur village in Morena. Its master, identified by the police as Rampal Singh, is a rich farmer with local political connections.

A week ago Sunita Jatav, a dalit woman, was serving lunch to her farm labourer husband. "There was a 'roti' left over from lunch. I saw the dog roaming and fed it the last bread," Sunita said. "But when Rampal Singh saw me feeding the dog and he grew furious. He yelled: 'Cobbler woman, how dare you feed my dog with your roti?' He rebuked me publicly. I kept quiet thinking the matter would end there. But it got worse," she said.

On Monday, Rampal ex-communicated the dog. A village panchayat was called, which decided that Sheru would now have to live with Sunita and her family because it had become an untouchable. Sunita Jatav was fined Rs 15,000.
also interwoven with the above sad tales is the sad tale of the panchayat which did not get due respect...
An outraged Sunita and her brother Nahar Singh Jatav rushed to Sumawali police station. They were directed to take the matter to the SC/ST Atrocities police station in Kalyan. "When we went there, the officer asked us why we fed the dog," recalls Nahar. "So we went to the DSP in the SC/ST Atrocities department and submitted a memorandum to him, as also to the district collector. But no one has registered our FIR so far.
and all those sad tales ended in the sad tale of the police who were harassed into action because of all the 'political' pressure imposed on them:
DSP SC/ST Atrocities (Morena), Baldev Singh, recalls, "We got a complaint in which it has been alleged that a dog was declared untouchable and a dalit family fined for feeding it. We are investigating the allegation," said the officer.
we are investigating. such a laid-back approach. does he realize the trauma the dog went through? 
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