The Panther has breathed his last

 

Eminent Marathi poet Namdeo Dhasal passed away today (January 15th, 2014). This is the collective tribute of a group of Round Table India writers.

~

Namdev-Dhasal-1

Here-in the distance
Revolution rumbles everywhere
You hear it?

His poetry did not belong to the pages, for neat archiving in some anthology. It had trees, but they were leafless. It had birds, but they sang not. It gurgled like the sewers of Mumbai, cut through its rapacious mean streets, its backyard and mean alleys. Storming into the pantheon of litterateurs was a voice that hurled the indignities of humanity in copious verses and sparked a revolution whose legacy will continue to inspire generations of Dalits.

The voice was of Namdeo Dhasal – poet, writer, revolutionary. Battling a prolonged illness, Dhasal passed away this morning in Mumbai.

'Man, you should drink human blood, eat spit roast human flesh, melt human fat and drink it
Smash the bones of your critics' shanks on hard stone blocks to get their marrow
Wage class wars, caste wars, communal wars, party wars, crusades, world wars
One should become totally savage, ferocious, and primitive
One should become devil-may-care and create anarchy'

('Man, You Should Explode', from Golpitha – 1972, Translation Dilip Chitre)

Dhasal was born on February 15, 1949, in Pur Kanersar village near Pune, India to a butcher's family from Mahar caste. He grew up in poverty, living in 'Golpitha', a red light area in Mumbai, that comes alive in many of his poems.

'This is hell
This is a swirling vortex
This is an ugly agony
This is pain wearing a dancer's anklets'

(From 'Kamatipura', translation by Dilip Chitre)

The caste riots in Mumbai's BDD chawls spurned him to start the Dalit Panthers movement in Maharashtra along the lines of the Black Panther movement in the US. The movement marked a first significant breakthrough in Dalit politics in Maharashtra, galvanising Dalit youth to lead a powerful anti-caste campaign in the State, known simply as 'Chalwal' (movement).

namdeo dhasal younger

In 1973, he published his first volume of poetry, Golpitha. More poetry collections followed: Moorkh Mhataryane (By a Foolish Old Man), inspired by Maoist thoughts; Tujhi Iyatta Kanchi? (How Educated Are You?); erotic Khel; and Priya Darshini (about the former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi).

Dhasal wrote two novels, and also published pamphlets such as Andhale Shatak (Century of Blindness) and Ambedkari Chalwal (Ambedkarite Movement), which was a reflection on the socialist and communist concepts of Dalit movement's founder Babasaheb Ambedkar.

In his poetic tribute to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Dhasal writes:

'The times are yours
but your people still suffer
A mendicant can be prime minister here
but a Mang cant, not a Bhangi
In front of the chair, the parliament's price is less
In front of the law, the prostitute's price is less
I saw one thing in all this:
The wheel of the seasons comes to us equally
You, like the wheel, were equal to all'

('Ambedkar' - Translation by Laurie Hovell and Asha Mundlay, with Jayant Karve)

Dhasal received the Nehru award for his book 'Golpitha'. In 2004, he was awarded the prestigious Sahitya Akadami award for his contribution for literature. Dhasal's selected poems were translated into English under the title "Namdeo Dhasal: Poet of the Underworld", Poems 1972-2006.

With time, the Panthers movement lost much of its aggressive quality and the polity was fragmented. In his later years, questions were raised about Dhasal's political alliance with the Shiv Sena. In 2006, he publicly joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's call for "Hindu brotherhood".

namdeo dhasal and family

Financial troubles dogged Dhasal throughout his life. The family found it very difficult to meet his medical expenses. He had a medical history of myasthenia gravis, a rare auto-immune disorder and was also diagnosed with cancer.

Dhasal's writing shows a life long commitment to anti-caste struggle and the vision of equality. The poet in him while writing a tribute to Ambedkar, says:

'While I was writing this
3 O'clock struck
I know I need a drink
But I don't feel like having one
I only want to sleep peacefully
To wake up in the morning and see no varnas, no castes'

('Ambedkar' - Translation by Laurie Hovell and Asha Mundlay, with Jayant Karve)

~

Here are a couple of his Marathi poems:

त्यांची सनातन दया

त्यांची सनातन दया फॉकलंड रोडच्याभडव्याहून उंच नाही

खरंच त्यांनी आपल्यासाठी आभाळात मांडव घातला नाही

बोलूनचालून ते सामंतशहा त्यांनी तिजोरीत लॉक केलेला प्रकाश

लादलेल्या पडीबाज आयुष्यात फुटपाथदेखील आपली नाही

माणूसपणाची किळस यावी इतके त्यांनी बनविले आहे लाचार

करपून गेलेल्या आतड्यात साधी माती भरायला मिळत नाही

उगवणारा न्यायी दिवस लाच खाल्यागत त्यांचाच होतो पाठीराखा

आपली कत्तल घडताना त्याच्या सढळ हातातून नि:श्वासही ढळत नाही

~

माण्सं भादरून

माझ्या चेहऱ्यामोहऱ्यातून गळणारं धो धो गूपाणी

खच्ची करणारा कापुरुष या सुगीत जरूर उगवेल

फक्त बरबटलेल्या हातांनी

तुम्हाला पांढऱ्या कागदावर ठसे द्यावे लागतील

माझ्या मुसक्या तोडाव्या लागतील

तुमच्या आणि माझ्या जून दुष्मनीवर

मी माती पसरू शकतो.

पण या कोऱ्याकरकरीत डोब्डींना

भ्रष्ट गायरानात ढकलणं थांबवा:

समजा त्या चकल्या आणि रुळल्या तर

तो तुमच्या न माझ्या दुखःआचा सर्वात मोठा दिवस असेल

माझा दरोबस्त अवयव

सडलेला वाटतोय ना तर मंजूर

तुम्ही तो अवश्य आर्ट गालाऱ्यांमध्ये ठेवा

वाटल्यास माझी आतडी काढून

संगिनीला लटकवा

आदिम सूर्याला रडताना पाहीन मी

शेवटचा कोसळताना पोटभरून

llमाण्स भादरून पेपरवेटमधी कोणी बंद केलीयतll

~

dhasal 1

~

dhasal 2

~

dhasal 3

~

dhasal 4

~

dhasal 5

~

dhasal 6

~

Young Hindi and Punjabi poet Gurinder Azad pays homage:

नामदेव सर
आँखों के मुहाने को
खारे पानी से ज़रा धोकर
मैं फिर से वयवस्थित हूँ

मैं आपके शब्दों के सागर में
डूबने - तैरने, गोताखोरी करने को, फिर से
एक दम तैय़ार हूँ

जब मैं पंजाब से ज़रा बाहर आया था
तो अपने परिवार के और सदस्यों के बारे में जाना
दलित पैंथर के किस्से तो
मुझे आज भी दीवाना कर जाते हैं
आपमें उस ज्वाला को मैं
जितनी शिद्दत से पहले महसूस करता था
वो तो अभी और प्रचंड होनी है
मैं उस प्रचंडता के
हर अनुभव को जीने के लिए
रोमांचित हूँ, तैय़ार हूँ

आपके हर्फों की नोक पर जो तंज़
मुस्कुराते रहते हैं
बड़े गर्व से कहता हूँ - वो
रकीबों को बहुत अखरते हैं
मैं उनके कसमसाहट का कयास करके
नशीली सी हंसी का स्वाद चखने को
तैय़ार हूँ

इस मुल्क में जो मेनस्ट्रीम इंसानियत
के उदहारण हैं
माँ कसम
ब्राह्मणवाद के तिलचट्टों ने
बर्बाद कर छोड़ी फसल है
आपकी कविताओं के क्षितिज में
हर्फों के सायों में
इंसानियत के नए निखरे कोंपल
मैं कवि दृष्टि से
अक्सर निहारता रहा हूँ
इसे पेड़ बनता देखने के लिए
मैं फिर से
तैय़ार हूँ

नामदेव सर
आपके जाने के बाद
मैं बहुत सी ज़िम्मेदारियों के समक्ष
और भी परिपक्कता के साथ
लड़ने-मरने
जीने को
तैय़ार हूँ क्यूंकि मैं ये जानता हूँ
कि ये आप भी जानते थे
नामदेव ढसाल
मरने के लिए जीते हैं
और ज़िंदा रहने के लिए मरते हैं!!

namdeo dhasal and friends

~~~

(Sources: http://www.poemhunter.com/namdeo-dhasal/biography/ ;

Translations by Dilip Chitre;

Translations by Laurie Hovell and Asha Mundlay, with Jayant Karve).

 

Pictures courtesy: the internet.

Other Related Articles

Forging the New Indian 'Genius': the RSS roadmap
Saturday, 19 August 2017
  N. Sukumar and Shailaja Menon I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity ~  B.R. Ambedkar The RSS-BJP combine has fine tuned its political strategy and chameleon... Read More...
Muslim and Pasmanda education: Affirmative Action issues
Thursday, 17 August 2017
  Naaz Khair Muslim population (172 million) is the second largest in the Country, followed by Christian (27 million) and Sikh (20 million) populations (see Table 1). Muslim literacy rates and... Read More...
Bahujans and Brahmins: Why their realities shall always collide, not converge
Wednesday, 16 August 2017
  Kuffir My grandfather,The starvation deathWhich occurred during the drought when men were sold;My father,The migrant lifeWhich left home in search of work to pay off debt;I, in ragged shirt... Read More...
Sayyids in Muslim Societies
Monday, 14 August 2017
Morimoto Kazuo The world today is home to a great number of putative lineal descendants—and collateral relatives—of Muḥammad, the Prophet of Islam. Let us begin by sharing three recent episodes... Read More...
"Don’t guide us, we know what to speak": The Dalit women of Kabirnagar
Monday, 14 August 2017
  Pradnya Jadhav I had been waiting for a long time to meet Jamanabai and her daughter Sangita, and today I was going to meet them. Almost everyone who I have met in the past few days regarding... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

Index of Articles in Features
Sunday, 30 July 2017
  2017 ~ Crossing Caste Boundaries: Bahujan Representation in the Indian Women's Cricket Team by Sukanya Shantha ~ Dalit University: do we need it? by Vikas Bagde ~ The beautiful feeling of... Read More...
The Death of a Historian in Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Sunday, 19 March 2017
  Jitendra Suna Speech made at the protest by BAPSA on 16th March, 2017 against the Institutional Murder of Muthukrishnan (Rajini Krish) I am Jitendra Suna, and I am from a remote village named... Read More...
I Will Not Exit Your House Without Letting You Know That I am a Dalit
Thursday, 02 March 2017
  Riya Singh Yes, I am assertive. Assertive of my caste identity. It is not a 'fashion statement' trust me, it takes a lot of courage and training of your own self to be this assertive. You... Read More...
Kishori Amonkar: Assertion, Erasure, Reclamation
Wednesday, 12 April 2017
   Rohan Arthur Hindustani vocalist Kishori Amonkar passed away on 3rd April, 2017. Kishori Amonkar is remembered for her contribution to Hindustani classical music, and her passing was... Read More...
From Breast Tax to Brahminical Stripping in Comics: Orijit Sen and Brahmin Sadomasochism
Thursday, 02 March 2017
  Pinak Banik "Only dead dalits make excellent dalits.Only dead dalits become excellent sites where revolutionary fantasies blossom!" ~ Anoop Kumar The context for this article centers around... Read More...