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If you were not there…

April 14th, 2011 by naren bedide

If you were not there..

Those who stitched chappals

would never even have ascended the steps of parliament

Janeu-wearing universities

wouldn't have trembled while grudgingly giving us some space,

Buckets filled with excreta

would never have descended from our head

a Narayanan would never have been crowned president


For this sovereign, democratic republic

you effortlessly wrote a constitution

and as adroitly gave it a direction,

but like no one noticing

the elephant standing in the drawing room

some blind elements still don't seem to have understood you:

as glibly as if he was chanting 'India Shining',

look, how a villain declared

that cows are more sacred

than the lives of Dalits in Gohana..

Look, how in this great civilized nation,

where in Khairlanji 

even Priyanka's corpse was raped,

citizens have become so uncivilized!


Like the Pharaohs of Egypt

supervising, personally, the building of the pyramids

look, how this nation,

speeding ahead with shopping malls and express highways

has risen to the racist status 

of overseeing the rape of a Dalit woman every half-hour

and the murder of a Dalit every three days!


Like the sulking wife who refused food

because she wasn't gifted a sari, when a half-naked fakir

went on an indefinite fast

to oppose separate electorates for Dalits

you consoled him with orange juice,

but  how cleverly you managed to tell the whole country

that what he had drunk was the blood of millions of lower jatis…

Like he had isolated Subhas Chandra Bose

he tried to drive you away from our hearts,

but what did the khaddar old man know

about how you flowed in our veins like good blood

like the perennial rivers flowing across the country,

about how you had built a nest in every Dalit's heart!

Don't understand why people of this country,

who so eagerly try to find out 

why we lost in a cricket match

or when certain Bollywood stars are getting married,

don't wish to know why the Dalits of Nagpur got angry…

The same TV anchors who shut their mouths tight

when crazed goons supervised the burning of Bombay

because Meena Thackeray's statue had been desecrated,

complain loudly that

the Dalits' self-respect movement

over Khairlanji

was unruly…

Why are those who can't distinguish between Lal Salaam and Jai Bhim,

the Janeu skeins wearing Dalit garments,

posing as bearers of the Dalit rath

and cycling around Dalit wadas..

You also know

that just as a warning sign bearing skull and bones stops no one

this war is not going to end with Buddhism;

You might have become the first citizen of Cuba

if you had undertaken this struggle there

In Phillipines

your movement might have inspired many more people's revolts..!

Even in South Africa,

in the race for human rights,

Mandela might probably have trailed behind you..!


Sigh.. you were born in our land..

how could you have bagged the peace prize..

Isn't it because you're a Dalit

that an earthworm called Arun Shourie

can spit venom at you like a serpent..



Now when I look at your statue

standing upright in the Dalitwada

I see a Dalit Messiah

who gathers the lost sheep

Or as the simhaswapnam

who haunts them 

and turns their sacrificial buffaloes and sheep into tigers and lions;

Or you look like you're issuing directions,

like the baptised Christian,

to journey from freedom to freedom

Your index finger seems

like a compass that shows us the way

like a double barreled gun

like an assurance

that we can sleep peacefully

Like Macaulay

who caned brahminical education into discipline

you seem like

you're slapping the grocery-store religion into restraint

Breathing into our ears

the message that education is a weapon

you seem to tell us: it's the Dalit era that shall follow the Christian era.


My effort to translate the Telugu poem 'nuvvE lEkapOtE' by Tullimalli Wilson Sudhakar (from his collection of poetry 'daLita vyAkaraNam').


The Shared Mirror gratefully remembers Babasaheb Ambedkar on his 120th birth anniversary. Also very happy that our 101th post, at the end of the first year of our exciting journey of self-discovery, pays such a fitting tribute to Babasaheb. Jai Bhim to all!


* simhaswapnam: 'lit. the elephant's dream of his mortal foe the lion' (C.P.Brown's Telugu-English dictionary).  


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