CRY FOR DEFENCELESS AND VOICELESS DALITS IN PRAVEEN GADHVI`S POETRY VOLUME` THE VOICE OF THE LAST`
Dr. Ram Sharma, Senior Lecturer in English in Janta Vedic College, Baraut, Baghpat, U.P., India
The Dalit writers began their serious work in the 1950`s .Although most of the writers have come out of the Buddhist movement , one of the earliest , Annabhau Sathe, who belonged to the Untouchable Mang caste , was deeply influenced by Communism. In the sixties , the flow of Dalit literary writings increased in the form of short stories , novels and drama .Conferences were held almost every year. In the 1970`S , individual volumes of poetry began to be published by the Maharashtra Buddhist Literature Committee , Asmitadarsh Press , or the Marxist Magova Press .Dalit Sahitya has changed the face of Marathi literature and inspired similar literary creativity in Gujrat and Karnatak.
Praveen Gadhvi is a distinguished name in Dalit poetry.Numbers of the anthologies are at his credit., particularly Dalit poetry and short stories.He is a prolific writer of Gujrati Dalit literature involving the historical events and characters ironically in his poetryHis collections of poetry are Bayonet, Padchhayo, and Tunir.His short story collections are Pratiksha, Antarvyatha, and Surajpankhi..This volume comprises Gadhvi`s translations of his own poems from the Gujrati original into English .In the preface the eminent critic Dr. Rupalee Burke writes,
``It is an event that calls for celeberation and one heralds a new era not only in the history of Dalits in Gujrat .And the present writer feels extremely privileged to be a part of it. What more can one ask for his deeply committed bureaucrat –poet who priveleges his compassion for his deprived brothers over his own privileged social status [ more so for exporting Dalit poetry from the regional Gujrati to the much wider realm of English]?``
[ p- 5]
The very first poem is a cry of a Dalit who wants that he should not be differentiated because he has been involved in history from Mohan-jo-daro. In every development he has been actively involved and he has made his history with his flesh and blood.
`` There are prints of my steps on every stream of this nation
There is fossil of mine under every rock of this nation
The unreadable script of Mohen-jo-daro throbs in my blood,
You cannot bury me as an untouchable`
[ I AM THE HISTORY OF THE NATION p-13]
Taking the story of Shakultala-Dushyant the poet try to divert our attention that Dalits have the same origin and they have the same contribution in the annals of the country.The poet is trying to remind everyone that blacks and whites are one but they have forgotten this.or their ancestors have eradicated this.
``You see the origin of her race,
Where is the origin of my race,
It has been eradicated by your ancestors
Though my black blod is rootless, it flows through all continents of the earth.
[ SOLILOQUY OF THE UNTOUCHABLE SHAKUNTALA p-14]
The poet wants to eradicate the marginal mentality of the persons with waters of Ganges .There is no need of venomous Manusmriti who has divided the society between blacks and whites.He craves to brainwash all these things.
`` there is no need of venomous curses of Manusmriti ,
This is centre of vision which gave me Black identity since centuries
Dear Bhudev ,
See the blue sky of the winter, see the green woods.
Also see the seven colours of rainbow.
[ BRAINWASH p-15]
The poet is doubtful that persons will give equal rights to Dalits .He is ready to remove provisions for reservations in the constitution but will the society give the chance to the sons of Dalits.Will they be provided half the portion of harvest to them.Gadhvi has also raised more serious questions like plundering of the virginity of Dalit daughters.He wants that they should be remained untouchable and nobody should try to touch them.This is really emotional cry of the poet because the situation is very dismal and they still have to suffer many hardships .The poet calls temples as slaughterhouses because their ancestors sacrificed their lives for the service and safety of the temples but even then they were not allowed to take entry in the temples and in this way their sacrifices became useless.
``They have covered the bloodstained walls with sheets of gold
They have made the golden peaks of the temple touch the sky,
The corpses of our ancestors are buried under the pillars of that temple, they groan,
Don`t step into that slaughterhouse`
[ DON`T ENTER THE TEMPLE p-19]
Gadhvi creates pitiful scenes to rise the sympathy of the readers. Dalits are everywhere amid the wolfes and they have no protection. They have to work in the sun and bore all hardships that is the reason they became black. This is the reason they are blacks and others are white.
`` We suffered the pains of the earth
We were open to the sky,
You were in the graves
So that we are black and you are white.
[ WE ARE BLACK, YOU ARE WHITE p-21]
The poet wants them to raise against the injustice done to dalits.They worked hard and bore every hardships but in return what they got only dark history and blank pages in the last five thousand years. He wish them to stand up against this hardships , they can disappear like Dinosaurs.
`` no blank page of history to write
Make yourself disappear like Dinasaurs from the face of the earth,
Because might is right as Darwin said,
Do you understand?
[ QUESTION p-23]
Dalits are legs of God Brahma and they have been walking throughout the ages but they have no dignity and respect.The poet is desiring that all blacks of the world should be united and they should have their own script and language.For Dalits it is very difficult to come out from their shadow of untouchability.They can change their appearance and language but still they remain MARGINAL and Dalits.The poet becomes the voice of the Dalits and he craves for his own village where they can walk with self respect. They want to have their own land and pucca house.In todays caste system , Dalits have no self respect
`` She had no village,
She had no religion,
She had no language,
She had no dignity,
She had no modesty,
She was guilty
Because she was untouchable by birth
[ BARTER SYSTEM p-33]
Changing of names and changing of religion are not helping them. Even they are insulted more by these acts.Dalits can`t draw water from the well, they have no lands of their own but inspite of that this country is theirs.They constructed the temple but they have no right to take entry in it.The poet salutes, Buddha, Gandhi, Shahuji Maharaj, Mahatma Phule and Ambedkar to rise the consciousness among the Dalits.Even in the whole history they weren`t considered as human beings.They even couldn`t get clothes and dignity.He doesn`t want the division of human beings on the basis on caste and creed and they should remain only human beings.
`` He asked my caste
I was heart
He asked my sub-caste,
I was offended
He asked my inner sub-caste,
I was disgusted.
[ LET ME BE A HUMAN ONLY p-41]
Dalits were stopped from reading the religious scriptures and even their limbs were cut to touch the scriptures.Even there is nothing for them in scriptures.Still today caste system is hoverin there.and there are titles to indicate the caste.Even Dalits are not able to mingle in the society and their efforts have become futile.They are able to understand the efforts of Gandhiji and Ambedkar after their death.The brick-maker has no identity and everyone praises sky scrappers.This is quite humiliating for them to find their own identity.One can see the clear Dalit sensibility in this volumeThe second part of this volume is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi who has made efforts for the upliftment of DalitsDr. Rupalee Burke writes in the preface of this volume,
``Mahatma Gandhi holds in the poems of the second section as is obvious from its title .No mincing of words for this poet and those expecting paeans in honour of the Father of the Nation are sure to be let down. Each poem in this section is laced heavily with anger ,sarcasm , irony , violence and scorn[ might we addd hate?]``
.In this volume Mahatma Gandhi is dissected , examined from every possible skeptical angle and turned inside out, reducing him to the merest of mortals.In this country no one is following the teachings of Mahatma and he has no regard now.This country has become country of wolves now.He calls Gandhi as without crown and throne and we should respect him for his efforts to uplift the downtrodden.The poet also raise the questions why Gandhi or Ambedkar couldn`t be successful in their efforts to abolish caste system .The poet has tried to search Gandhiji in this volume .Gadhvi has clarion call to be united and make efforts to attain dignity and identity and he is quite hopeful regarding this.
``The earth is mother of all,
There is no need of any walls,
The sun is father of all,
Nobody is untouchable to its shrine,
It is better to die by their sticks-spears than to face insults,
In the end I can say that Praveen Gadhvi is the voice of the voiceless and defence of defenceless in this poetry volume.
1-Sivashankar Pillai`s Scavenger`s Sons , A Seminar on Dalit Literature in Marathi and Gujrati was held on February 18-20 , 1988 in Surat
2- Lal , Sheo Kumar and Nahar, Ummed Raj , 1990 .Extent of Untouchability and Patterns of Discrimation , New Delhi , Mittal Publication
3-Praveen Gadhvi, The Voice of the Last,Yash Publications , New Delhi, 2008[All poetry lines have been taken from this volume]