Dalit literary meet fails to address vital issues

Rakshit Sonawane
Indian Express12th Sept. 2000

Nashik Sept 11: The two-day conference of Dalit litterateurs "Phule-Ambedkari Sahitya Melava-2000" organised on the occasion of the golden jubilee of the Indian Constitution concluded after Hindutva bashing, without discussing vital issues like the new economy and its effects on the backward classes.

The conference was utilised as a platform for abusing upper caste Hindus and portraying the Hindutva organisations as enemies of the dalits. The tone of the speakers was more emotional than logical and at the end of the two-day deliberations, not even a single decision was taken to prepare dalits to face the challenges of the new millennium. The only challenge seemed to be the Hindutva organisations.

The chairperson of the conference, Prof Mahendra Bhavre, lambasted established Dalit writers, politicians and socialists for being pretentious, selfish and narrow-minded. Ironically, while advocating equality and freedom of speech and expression, he criticised those litterateurs who had participated in the activities of the Samajik Samarasta Manch, which is an RSS outfit. He asked the new generation to lead the "progressive movement" and suggested setting up of NGOs, periodicals and reach out to the masses. The vice-chancellor of the Mumbai University Dr Bhalchandra Mungekar also made a suggestion of creating educational institutions, cooperatives, vocational training centres and banks for the backward classes on the lines of those created by other communities. However, at the end of the conference not even a single such activity was formalised or initiated.

While pointing an accusing finger at poet Namdeo Dhasal (who is one of the founder member of the Dalit Panther) for his overtures towards the Shiv Sena, Bhavre chose to turn a Nelson's eye towards the politicisation of the platform by deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who inaugurated the conference. Bhujbal used the occasion to call for a unity among dalit factions, indirectly suggesting that the dalit unity should be at the disposal of the NCP for a "common cause".

The other speakers were more emotional than logical and none of them discussed the impact of the global economy on Dalits, the cascading effects on job opportunities and reservations and alternatives to stand up to the new challenges. The conference passed a resolution congratulating Bhujbal for announcing that the birth centenary of Dadasaheb Gaikwad (a close associate of Dr Ambedkar) would be celebrated by the Maharashtra Government next year.

However, while applauding the rise of Dr Mungekar as the vice-chancellor of Mumbai university, there was no mention of a Dalit being made the president of the BJP. The conference demanded that the Constitution review panel be disbanded as it was an onslaught on the statute drafted by Dr Ambedkar, but there was no reference to the numerous amendments in the past, especially those bulldozed by the late Indira Gandhi.

The other resolutions passed by the conference included the demand for financial aid on par with the Marathi Literary Conference for Dalit literary conferences from the state government; free and compulsory education upto SSC; and a ban on TV serials promoting superstitions and communalism (without specifying which ones).

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