Forty years is a long time. In early 1974, at the age of 22, I started my professional journalistic career in Bombay. Among my very first pieces was an article on the then new Dalit Panthers, including a scoop interview with their founding general secretary, J.V. Pawar. Then, in early 2014, a mutual friend called from Mumbai and put Pawar on the phone to me. Among his first questions: “Do you have a copy of my interview?”
As I wrote in my December editorial, “At FORWARD Press we constantly hold two truths in tension: ‘Indians are largely an ahistorical people’ and ‘Journalism is the first rough draft of history’.” In the case of this month’s Cover Story on the small but significant Battle of Koregaon we are doubly fortunate – the valiant Dalit soldiers were under British command in the final Anglo-Maratha war; hence the battle was meticulously documented and a memorial built to commemorate their victory over the Peshwa’s forces. Secondly, the novelist and poet Pawar has turned out to be more than a journalist; a true Ambidexterity, he has been documenting the post-Ambedkar history of the Dalit movements. We welcome J.V. Pawar to the ranks of FP contributors and trust he will keep writing for us.
Another contributor we welcome in this issue to FP is Tribal activist and writer Gladson Dungdung. His detailed report on the beastly treatment of a Tribal family in Jharkhand – all because they dared to drink water from a police station hand pump – is part of the “first rough draft of history” of India’s oppressed Bahujan peoples. Reading it, I felt the pain of the 22 stitches on the head of the husband and felt for the whole family. The bravery of the wife in preserving her blood-soaked sari gives me hope that even the poorest of the poor seek self-respect and dignity.
Despite it being in the spotlight of the national media, Waseema Khan’s report on the slaughter of 13 Tribal women in Chhattisgarh makes for blood-curdling reading. However, the focus here is on the bestial preying upon poor, illiterate Tribal women, many with little children, now orphaned. This is just the latest case of how Tribals are treated in so-called tribal states, let alone in other parts of the country.
(This time’s JAN MEDIA picks up this very incident to examine the extremely lopsided coverage in a Hindi daily that claims to be the world’s highest circulating newspaper.)
These two reports, both involving Tribals, only help us understand what the Sangh Parivar just does not, or refuses to, understand: Bahujans, especially SCs and STs, do not need any allurement or threat in order to convert; all they need is to be treated with love and dignity. On the other hand, allurements and/or threats are usually required to drag people back to a home in which they never felt welcome. That is assuming that Tribals and Dalits are part of the Hindu “home” in the first place. Zahid Khan and Hussain Tabish analyze the recent months’ revved-up “ghar wapsi” (homecoming) incidents. The common thread, whether with Muslims or Christians, is that they are Dalits. Would the Sangh Parivar consider organizing “ghar wapsi” for Kashmiri Muslims of Brahmin, Rajput and khatri background? This exposes the casteist hypocrisy behind these moves. The worse hypocrisy is of those in power who refuse to honour and defend the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 25 of our Constitution which they are sworn to uphold and defend.
Published in the January 2015 issue of the Forward Press magazine
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