Jyoti Lanjewar, a rebel


Bhupali Kusum Vitthal


Their inhuman atrocities have carved caves
in the rock of my heart
I must tread this forest with wary steps
Eyes fixed on the changing times
The tables have turned now
Protests spark
Now here
Now there.
I have been silent all these years
listening to the voice of right and wrong
But now I will fan the flames
of human rights
How did we ever reach to this place
this land which was never mother to us?
Which never gave us
even the life of cats and dogs?
I hold their unpardonable sins as witness
and turn, here and now.
a rebel.

~ Jyoti Lanjewar



I woke up this morning and saw this painful update:

'फुलेआंबेडकरीचळवळीतीलजेष्ठलेख़िक़ा, वक्ताडॉ.ज्योतीताईलांजेवारयांचेआजदुखदनिधनझाले.त्यांनाभावपूर्णआदरांजली.'

'The sad demise of Dr. Jyotitai Lanjewar, veteran writer and orator in the Phule-Ambedkarite tradition, occurred today (8th November, 2013). Our respectful homage.'

I just cannot stop my tears, no one can understand for whom and why I am crying. She represented a whole world to me. I did not know her personally, but was fortunate to attend an event where she was an invited speaker. She was such an inspiration. She will remain an inspiration through her words.

Here are a few of her translated poems on The Shared Mirror and Kritya.


Dr. Jyoti Lanjewar being awarded Granth Lekhak Prakash Sanstha Puraskar

A brief bio-sketch, excerpted from Ambedkaree.com:

Born in Nagpur, Maharashtra, on 25th November 1950, she grew up in a family that had dedicated itself to social causes.

She was educated at Nagpur where she did her masters, M.Phil and PhD. She has accepted a permanent position as professor and head of Marathi at SB City College, Nagpur and is serving till date.

Dr Jyoti Lanjewar needs no introduction in Marathi literature. She is a noted writer, critic, poet, feminist scholar and social activist. She has authored more than 14 books out of which 4 are poetry collections, and are 7 books on criticism.

Her poems have been translated into almost all Indian languages and also foreign languages including Sinhalese, Russian, German, Swedish and English. Her poetic works are taught at several universities, both in India and abroad. Her poetry has been anthologized in several compilations and anthologies of modern Indian poetry.

A compilation of her poems, translated into English by Dr. Aparna Lanjewar Bose, has come out in the form of the book 'Red Slogans on the Green Grass', published by Scion, Pune.

red slogans on the green grass

In the book, she says:

"poetry is a trestle/ spanning the distance between/ what i feel/ and what i say" says the African American woman writer Nikki Giovanni.

Actually poetry is much more. It is simply the reason for its being. An words are but felt excuses that unload pressures of pain and sensations, by elegantly transmuting life into poetry and then leaving her alone to grow the way she wants to and to become what she attempts to be.

This is how she described her work:

"My poetry is about humanity and its seemingly endless struggles for survival, for change, for justice and sometimes humanity happens to be the oppressed marginalized... it's a wonderful process of all these voices coming out of me."

Read more about her writer's profile here:

"She has authored more than 15 books and remains one of the leading voices in modern Indian poetry today.

Her poetry speaks on diverse themes as womanhood, motherhood, friendship, honest commitment, human values and love. Her poetry punctures the status quoist forces and entails dauntless passion, wisdom, and rare intensity that dismantle stereotypes to render candidly the lived and shared women experiences, intersecting gender, class, caste and caste within"

This excerpt from one of her own poems ('Life Long Kinship'), translated by her daughter Dr. Aparna Lanjewar Bose, seems to capture the essence of her spirit:

Those that have drunk

To the darkness of orthodoxy

Those that invoke religions for self

For all such heads and pundits

I will dig mines, lay trenches

And fill gunpowder

To balk them all


Now none of these hilly terrains

Can scare me again

As I have a lifelong kinship

With the tempestuous windstorm.


*Source: Poisoned Bread: Translations From Modern Marathi Dalit Literature.



Bhupali Kusum Vitthal studied M.A. in Social Entrepreneurship at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and is training, learning and accountability officer at CEC.

[Images courtesy: the Internet]

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