The Dalit Lekhak Sangh is in the news but for all the wrong reasons. The writers are hurling allegations at one another and laying claims over the Sangh.
On 10 May, during elections for the executive committee of the Sangh, writers manhandled each other. The news made its way to the social media and there, too, the writers seemed to be divided into various groups. Senior writer Umarao Singh Jatav alleged that Ajay Nawaria, former president of the Sangh, brought outsiders, who then assaulted him. Jatav said that Nawaria came to the election venue along with some of his students and colleagues from his university. He wanted to influence the election process and ensure his re-election. When he was told by the election committee that outsiders were not allowed, he started creating a ruckus. According to one faction of the Sangh, on 3 May, a three-member co-ordination committee was constituted. Among other things, it was entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the elections. The co-ordination committee invited the member-writers to the Ambedkar memorial located at 26, Alipur Road for the elections where the writers ended up exchanging blows. Nawaria and his supporters, however, claimed that despite the boycott by some writers, elections were held and Nawaria was re-elected president. Dalit writer Heeralal contradicted Nawaria’s claim. He said that after Nawaria and the students present there created a ruckus, the co-ordination committee postponed the elections, which were then held on 12 May and Karmsheel Bharati was elected president. Nawaria rubbished the talk about the brawl, saying that those envious of him were spreading canards. “These disgruntled elements want to remain in the limelight by manufacturing a dispute that never was,” Nawaria said. “They are not bothered about the image of the Sangh and of the Dalitbahujan community. They just want to be in the news”. Umrao Singh, showing injuries on his back and below his neck, said, “If nothing happened on that day then how did I get these injuries and why police came to 26, Alipur Road?”. Writer Anita Bharati, who has come out in support of Jatav, said, ”It is shameful that we writers were humiliated by calling students to the venue. This is highly condemnable”.
Savarna writers rule the roost
According to one faction of the Sangh, during the tenure of Nawaria, the interference of Savarna writers in the affairs of the Sangh increased and Nawaria was more interested in getting the “blessings” of the Savarna writers than in running the Sangh. Nawaria contradicted this. “The Sangh was most active during my tenure,” he said.
A faction of the Sangh issued a white paper that read, “The former president, acting arbitrarily, tried to use his students to hold the elections in an absolutely undemocratic manner and in contravention of the constitution of the Sangh. Umrao Singh Jatav, a member of the Sangh, was manhandled. Dalit Lekhak Sangh expresses its indignation over what happened and would take action against the members for indiscipline, in accordance with the constitution of the Sangh.” According to the white paper, the elections of the Sangh took place on 12 May in which the following were elected: President: Karmasheel Bharati; Vice-Presidents: Kusum Viyogi and Santram Arya; General Secretary: Heeralal Rajasthani; Secretary: Jaswant Singh Janejay; Treasurer: Pushp Vivek; Media-in-charge and spokesperson: Rajni Tilak; Executive Committee members: Umrao Singh Jatav, Dr Puran Singh and Sheela Bodhi.
In a statement, Nawaria said, “The election of the officer-bearers of Dalit Lekhak Sangh took place under the chairmanship of Prof Dharmapal Peehal on the pre-decided date and time, 10 May 2015, at 11am. After hearing the views of all the parties, Prof Peehal decided to go ahead with the election process. The following were elected: President: Dr Ajay Nawaria; Vice-Presidents: Bhimsen Anand; General Secretary: Dr Neelam; Joint Secretary: Dr Kaushal Pawar; Treasurer: Arun Kumar; Secretaries: Dr Vivek Kumar Rajak, Dr Yuvraj Kumar and Kailash Chand Chauhan.
The disunity among Dalit littérateurs was exposed when the Dalit Writers Forum was constituted two to three days after the founding of the Dalit Lekhak Sangh. But Dalit Lekhak Sangh got cracking and during two consecutive terms of Dr Tej Singh as president, it did commendable work in publicizing and promoting Dalit literature.
During the tenure of Dr Tej Singh, besides critical discussions on different books, two national conventions were held in which Dalit and non-Dalit writers from different parts of the country took part. It was during that period that some ambitious, so-called writers from the academia managed to infiltrate the Sangh. This was natural as Dr Tej Singh himself was a professor in the Hindi department of Delhi university. Consequently, after the end of his second tenure, the elections of the Sangh were held in a highly melodramatic and undemocratic manner. This hurt Dr Tej Singh so much that he left the Sangh and never looked back. He broke all ties with the Sangh to protect his personal honour but that was the beginning of the end of the Sangh. After his exit, the Sangh could neither keep the writers associated with it united nor play any serious and meaningful role in the field of literature.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Dalit litterateurs have an axe to grind. One reason for this is the ideological differences between the writers and the other is that the Dalit community is divided into innumerable castes and sub-castes. Different castes, different ideologies, different objectives, different paths – the fallout was that the Dalit authors got divided into various camps.
In the election meeting held on 10 May, the exchange of blows between the Nawaria faction (so-called intellectuals) and Umrao Singh Jatav (ordinary Dalit writers) and the police showing up was an unprecedented event in the Dalit literary world. Surely, Umrao Singh could not have inflicted wounds below his neck himself. Now, both the factions are hurling charges and counter-charges at one another. On Facebook, Umrao Singh Jatav seems to have a bigger following than Ajay Nawaria.
Who is in the right and who is in the wrong is anybody’s guess but the comments on FB clearly show one thing: After Dr Tej Singh’s tenure, undemocratic means were blatantly used to grab posts in the Sangh. Clearly, the Dalit writers associated with Delhi academic circles are more responsible for the sorry state of the Dalit Lekhak Sangh.
-TEJPAL SINGH ‘TEJ’
Published in the June 2015 issue of the FORWARD Press magazine