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War cry for true socialism in Dalitbahujan poetry of 1960-1980

While poets with Dalit consciousness were identifying the Bahujan as the proletariat, the Marxists had no respect for them and ignored them. The Dalit-Backward poets, imbued with socialistic ideas, believed that Brahmanism was the key enemy of the exploited class, writes Kanwal Bharti

Hindi poets were very impressed by the Gandhian model for emancipation of the Untouchables. This model did oppose untouchability but did not reject the Varnashram Dharma. It appealed for a change of heart of the Hindus but did not oppose Hindutva. It didn’t prohibit education for Untouchables, but also didn’t talk of freeing them from unclean professions which crushed their self-respect. The Hindu poets enamoured by this model rained poems glorifying the Untouchables. A magazine called “Chaand” published a special “Achhoot” issue on the Gandhian model. Some poems published in that issue are reproduced here.

These poems are themed on Gandhism and seek to warn Hindus that if they do not embrace the Untouchables, the Muslims and the Christians would. Shobharam “Dhenusewak” writes in his poem “Achhoot Aavedan”:

Achhooton ko hadapne ke liye taiyyar hain,
Tiraskrit tum se ho kitne vidharmi ab bane baithe,
Girane ko tumhein we khayeeyain gehri khane baithe [1]

(They are out to usurp the Untouchables. Demeaned by you, many have already embraced other religions. They have dug up trenches and are waiting for you to fall into them.)

Pandit Ramchandra Shukla “Saras” glorifies the Untouchables in his poem titled “Achhoot”:

Shesh-Videh saneh chahte hain, Sarahte kah kar poot,
Hain ham unheen Vishnu-charnon, kaise hain tab kaho achhoot?

(We want love and affection. We want appreciation as sons. When we are born from the feet of Vishnu, how can we be untouchable?)

But at the same time, he makes it clear that the feet (Shudras) cannot be equated with the mouth (Brahmins):

Haan yah sach hai pad aru mukh mein, kabhi na ho sakti samta
Donon hee hain ek deh ke, atah uchit kshamta-mamta[2]

(Yes, it is true that the feet and the mouth can never be equals. But they belong to the same body and hence affection and love for them is in order.)

Ayodhya Singh Upadhyaya “Harioudh” wrote that the touch of an Untouchable does not pollute anyone:

‘Harioudh’ dharma-dhurandhar mudit hot,
Moh-mad binse pramadin ke muye the.
Chhaye rahe ur main avni ke achhoote-bhaav,
Banat apoot na achhoot-jan chuye te.[3]

(Harioudh says that the protagonists of religion are in high spirits. They are intoxicated with arrogance. They live in a delusionary world. Their hearts are full of contempt for the Untouchables. One cannot become a bad person by touch.)

In her poem titled “Aasaar”, Kumari Saraswati Devi issued a stern warning to the Hindus:

Aankh kyon hai ab talak yon dekhtee?
Kaan kyon sun rahe us raag ko?
Jab hamare hi hamare saamne,
Thamte hain daaman-e-Islam ko.
Zulm se lakhon isayee ho gaye,
Zulm ka phir bhi na parawaar hai,
Zulm hote hain dharma ke naam par,
Kaum ke mitne ka yah aasaar hai. [4]

(Why are your eyes seeing this? Why are you ears hearing this? Before our eyes, they are embracing Islam. Due to atrocities, lakhs have turned Christians. And yet, there is no end to the atrocities, those in the name of religion. All this portends the end of the community.)

Ramcharit Upadhyay issues a similar warning in his poem “Parirambh”:

Oonch-neech ke bhed bhaga kar, kar do parirambhan aarambh,
Kya Hindutva mita dene par, chatoge le kar ke dambh,
Usee mlecch se hath milate, jo pehle ka raha chamar,
Par chhoote the use na pehle, is Hindupan ko dhikkar,
Jab kutte bhi hat jaate hain, tum se paakar ye dutkar,
Phir achhoot kyon na tajein tumko? Kuch to man mein karo vichar.[5]

(End the difference between the high and the low. What will you do with your arrogance once Hindutva disappears? You shake hands with the same lowly person, who was once a Chamar. But you did not even touch him earlier. Shame on your Hinduism. When even dogs go their way when you shoo them, think why Untouchables shouldn’t abandon you.)

In his poem “Vishwasghaat”, Motilal Sharma praised the Varna system saying that until it was adhered to all the four Varnas grew and progressed:

Swarth jab parmarth ka shubh ang tha,
Prem-sarita bah rahee thee desh mein,
Des-unnati arth karte karma the,
Varna charon Arya jan ke vesh mein

(At that time helping oneself involved helping others. At that time the river of love flowed in the nation and all the four Varnas of Aryans worked together for the progress of the nation.)

The poet didn’t stop here. He was insolent enough to say that the Untouchables were given titles of “Mahattar” (higher) and Dhedh (one and a half):

Prathmatah jinko ‘mahattar’ pad diya,
Aaj unko bhrasht, neecha kah rahe,
Ek ho, nij ‘dhedh’ tha jinko kaha,
Neech se bhi neech ho dukh sah rahe.[6]

An obvious question is why these Gandhian poets gave the titles of “Mahattar” and “Dhedh” to Dalits? Why were these sobriquets not used for the Dwijs?

Similarly, Gayaprasad Shukla “Sanehi” confined the Untouchables to the class of sevaks (servants) and not humans:

Sevak agar achhoot na hote, kaise aap achhoote rahte
Kisee tarah to poot na hote, sevak agar achhoot na hote[7]

(But for the Untouchables how would you have been chaste? But for the Untouchables how would you have been holy?)

Brahmadutt Dikshit “Lalaam” sums up the “greatness” of the Untouchables in the following words:

Wey patit achhoot apoot deen un sa hai jag mein dhanya kaun?
Jag ka vaishamya saha karte wey shaant tapaswi dheer maun,
Unkee Shabri se Ram bane, unkee Kubri se Shyam bane,
Aviraam unkee sewa se, kitne Ghanshyam Lalam bane[8]

(They are poor, lowly, untouchable and polluting, but no one is better than them in this world. They bear inequality with patience. They remain silent and serene, just like an ascetic. Their Shabri made Ram. Their Kubri made Shyam.  Their service helped many grow.)

Along the same lines, Bhagwati Charan Verma wrote:

Arey ye itne koti achhoot, tumhare bekaudi ke daas,
Door hain chhoone kee baat, paap hai aana inke paas

(These innumerable Untouchables were your slaves. Let alone touching them, even coming close to them was sinful.)

In the context of ban on temple entry of the Untouchables, Subhadhra Kumari Chouhan portrays an Untouchable woman as a great devotee of Hindu gods:

Main achhoot hoon, Mandir mein aane ka,
Mujhko adhikar nahin hai,
Kintu Devta yah na samajhna,
Tum par mera pyar nahin hai,
Pyar aseem amit hai phir bhi,
Paas tumhare aa na sakoongi,
Yah apni chhoti-si puja,
Charnon tak pahuncha na sakoongi.[9]

(I am an Untouchable, I am not allowed in the temple. But O God, do not doubt my love. My love for you is infinite and indelible. But I can neither come close to you, nor offer my worship.)

In his long poem titled “Harijan”, R.C. Prasad Singh said that the Harijans were the steerer of the nation:

Re kaun tumhein kahta achhoot,
Tum to swarashshtra ke karnadhar,
Tum shanti-sheel ke sadhu charitra
Re kaun tumhein kahta achhoot?[10]

(Who calls you untouchable? You steer the ship of the nation. You are like a saint – calm and pious. Who calls you untouchable?)

Hindi literature continued to be flooded with such poems till even after Independence. The poets were not seeking to annihilate caste, but merely endorsing the “Harijan model” of Gandhi. They were under the illusion that they were obliging the Untouchables by calling them “great”, “servants of the nation”, “steerers of India” and “the feet of Vishnu”. Thanks to the pressure mounted by Gandhi and the Hindus, Dalits had lost a battle with the signing of the Poona Pact. But it had sharpened Dalit consciousness. They had accepted the Poona Pact as a political inevitability, but they would not accept Gandhism and Hindutva.

Dalitbahujan poetry collections published from 1960-1980

This Dalit consciousness did not accept the sobriquets of ‘sevak’ or ‘feet of Vishnu’ or ‘Harijan’. It stressed the advancement of Dalits as individuals, equal citizens. With this end in view, the poets of Dalit consciousness raised their voice against their social and economic exploitation and gave a new edge to Dalit poetry. They also addressed the political exploitation of the Dalits and exposed the sham that Gandhism was. They bitterly criticized the Gandhian poets’ notion that Dalits wanted entry into temples and to live under the rule of the Hindus. They declared that they wanted a casteless and classless society, and made it clear that only democracy and socialism could help achieve this end.

The key Dalit poets of this era include Prakash Lakhnavi, Santram Nyayayi “Awadhi”, Kunwar Udayveer Singh, Manohar Lal Premi, Pagal Baba, Ram Swaroop Shastri, Mangaldev Visharad, Sadguru Sharan “Chandra”, Dulare Lal Jatav, Bihari Lal Kalwar, Bhikharam Gadaria, Acharya Medharthi Vidyalankar, Ramesh Chandra Mallah, Ram Sharan Vidyarthi Kahar, Badlu Ram “Rasik”, Veer Singh “Chandra”, Satyamitra Vidyalankar, Nandkishore Nyayi, Surya Kumar, Jagat Singh “Senger”, Shriram Verma “Chintak”, Raghunath Ram, Ramswaroop Arya “Bhanwar”, Natthu Singh “Pathik” and Ranjit Singh.

These poets wrote between 1960 and 1980. Besides Dalits, the backward-class poets, too, contributed to Dalit poetry during this period. These poets broke free from the narrow confines of their caste and assailed the oppressive brahmanical and capitalist order. They sought to replace the rule of the exploiter classes with that of the exploited Dalit proletariat. Prakash Lakhnawi wrote “Shoshit Pukar” along the lines of Aalha, in which he extended his support to democracy and communism:

Bamanshahi dhong mitao, ab toh Bharat hai Azad,
Samyavaad kee baje dudumbhi, varna-jati howe barbaad,
Loktantra ka tatva yahi hai, khulein tarakki ke sab dwar,
Band hoyein shoshan kee rahein, vyavastha ka hoy sudhar
Shoshak-shoshit ka hai jhagda, shoshak rahe bhranti phailay
Shoshit inki baat na manein, inki kalayee sab khuli jaay,
Sau maan nabbe shoshit ho, shoshak sau maan das hain yaar,
Eka karo sabai shoshit milee, karo hukumat par adhikar,
Nabbe pratishat bahumat bhaiyya, kaahe maiya rahe lajay,
Sakal desh tumhari mutthi maan, jaago bhaiya rahe jagay[11]

(End the hypocritical rule of the Brahmins, now India is free. Let the trumpet of communism blow, let Varna and caste be ruined. The essence of democracy is that the doors of progress should open for everyone. The exploitative ways should end and the system should be reformed. The conflict is between the exploited and the exploiters who spread dubiety. The exploited should not heed, the exploiters will get exposed. Ninety of hundred are exploited, the exploiters merely ten. The exploited must unite and seize power. You have a ninety percent majority. Why the reluctance? The country is yours. Awaken!)

Prakash Lakhnavi was the pen-name of Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu, an OBC writer. He had begun his literary journey as a poet. His poems were so well received that he was addressed as “Rashtra Kavi”. During the Freedom Struggle, his poetry evoked patriotic fervour in the youth, so much so that on discovering Jigyasu’s poems in possession of a soldier, a British officer not only punished the soldier but also jailed the poet under IPC Section 124A (Sedition)..

The independence which the Bahujan community had dreamt of did not materialise even after India was freed from British rule. Brahmanism was still dominant, and the exploiters continued exploiting people in every possible way. Prakash Lakhnavi’s poem “Zamane Ki Raftar” is a poignant description of this sorry state of affairs:

Mill malikon se chhupke, lakhon kee madad lena
Badhwana keemton ka, public ka gala kaatna,
Moton kee madad karna, chuswana garibon ko,
Nashtar phalak ke dil mein, shokhi se hai lagana,
Chor bazari, rishwat roki na gayee jisse,
Kya khakh hukumat ka bandha hai usne baana
Paani ki tarah paisa, public ka ud raha hai,
Hota hai vimanon par leader ka aana-jaana,
Bapu pahan langoti aur kha ke mare goli,
Hai Sharma, unke peeche, loot-se machana,
Daaman mein Nehru ke chhup ke, ullu seedha karna
Shuddhatma ke mukh par, kalikh ko hai lagana
Ghar mein toh tabahi, bahar hai waah-wahi,
Kya shaan hai gazab kee, yoon ghar ka jar lutana,
Yah dastaan qaumi, lambi hai dukh bharee hai
Maatam-sa ban gaya hai, gam-dard ka tarana[12]

(They secretly take lakhs from mill owners. They hike prices and slit the throats of people. They help the rich and milk the poor. Without demur they stab the future. Thieves and the corrupt call themselves rulers. Feeding on people’s hard-earned money, politicians fly in aircraft. Bapu wore a loin-cloth and took a bullet, what a shame is this loot after him! In the name of Nehru, they are grinding their own axe. The truly noble are besmirched and shamed. The home is in shambles, but what a show of greatness outside. What is so great about splurging family silver? This story of the nation is a long and a sad one. This song of pain and sorrow is a lament, a dirge.)

The poet refers to Nehru’s times. August 15 was a day of joy for the Dalit poets because the country had won freedom from the British and Indians were their own rulers. But this joy was soon replaced with a feeling of sadness, upon learning that in independent India, power rested in the hands of the Brahmins, the feudal and the capitalists, while the Dalits and the proletariat had only slavery in their share. Hence, the anniversary of 15 August was not a day of celebration for the Dalit-Backward poets. Prakash Lakhnavi wrote:

Yah pandrah August, azadi ka din hai, par kiskee?
Kartal-gat hai, poonji, prabhuta, shasan-satta jiski,
Ram Rajya hai mutthi bhar ko, sukh-sampatti khushhali
Bahujan dukhi, abahav-grasit hain, rozi se bhi khali,
Pichhda aur pichhdata jaata, daba aur dab gaya,
Agda aur agadta jaata, bana hua sirmaur,
Janata ki badh gayee gulami, bhay dukh, dainya, khiraj
Brahmin-Kshatriya-Lalashahi ko hai purna swaraj
Kranti bina hi shashan badla, de sakta na sudhar,
Bahujan sukh hit kranti vandana, kariye kranti pukar,
Bheem pratigya mahakranti ki, bandhu kijiye aaj,
Arthvyasvastha tod-phodkar badlo dharma samaj[13]

(August 15 is the day of Independence – but whose independence? The wielders of power are dominant, they are rich. There is Ram Rajya for just a handful who are happy and prosperous. But the Bahujan are sad, deprived, unemployed. The backward are being left further behind, the oppressed being oppressed more, while only the privileged move forward. They are leaders of society, and masses feel like slaves – poor, miserable, stricken with fear. The Swaraj is meant only for the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas and the Kayasthas. Power has changed hands without a revolution, and that is why it has not brought reforms with it. For the sake of the wellbeing of the Bahujans, call for a revolution. O brother, take a vow in the name of Bhim that you will ignite a revolution, dismantle the economy and change religion and society.)

This poem was written in the 1970s. Until then, the word “Bahujan” had not entered politics. It was Jigyasu who first used the word “Bahujan” for the workers and the exploited. He writes “Bahujan dukhi abhav-grasit hain” to underline their plight. The poet also urges the Bahujan to take a vow in the name of Bhim, referring to Ambedkar’s social revolution as well as the socialist economic revolution.

The poet also introduces the exploited classes to their history. In his poem “Shoshit Prabodh” he describes how the Aryans defeated the indigenous inhabitants of India by deceit and established Aryan rule with the help of the Varna code. The poet seems to be influenced by the Aadi Hindu theory of Swami Achhootanand Harihar:

Hua kayam Aryon ka raj, bana vidhvansi Varna vidhan
Ban gaye bhikshuk sabke guru, lage baniye dene dhan-dan
Shesh bahusankhyak janata krishak tatha utpadak, shilpi, shramik
Banayee gayee shudra au das, dalit, shoshit, vanchit, nirdhanik,
Vipra, kshatri, baniye toh bane dwij jati ucch varna ke log
Shesh varnashram shudra achhoot bhogne lage kasht dukh bhog
Mile phir Aryon ke Shak, hoon, ek ban ‘munshi’ dooja jat
Ban gaya poora shoshak gutt, kar diya jisne baarabaat.[14]

(The rule of the Aryans was established and the ruinous Varna code was framed. Mendicants became everyone’s gurus and the Banias turned philanthropists. The majority – farmers, producers, artisans, workers – were reduced to Shudras, slaves. Dalits became poor, deprived and exploited. The Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Banias became dwijs – twice-born, upper castes – while the rest in the Varnashram were fated to suffer. Then, the Sakas and the Huns joined hands with the Aryans. One became Munshi, the other Jaat. Thus came into being the gang of the exploiters which divided the spoils among itself.)

Further, Lakhnavi says that now, when the country is independent and has democracy and universal adult franchise, the oppressed, who are more in number, should arise and make the country theirs:

Desh ab toh hai purna swatantra, yahan par kayam hai jantantra,
Aur hai balig mat-adhikar, tumhari sankhya amity anant,
Utho, jago, todo neend, desh par kar lo nij adhikar
Yahi Baba ka hai updesh, yahee hai gyan, neeti ka saar[15]

(Now the country is independent. Democracy is in place. Each adult has a vote and your numbers are infinite. Get up, wake up, come out of your slumber and take charge of the nation. This is what Baba preached, this is what wisdom dictates, this is what morality demands.) 

The Congress formed its government after Independence. To muzzle Ambedkar’s movement for systemic transformation, the Congress appointed Dalit leader Jagjivan Ram as a minister, who formed the “Dalit Varga Sangh” to associate Dalits with the Congress and Gandhism. He was the only tall Dalit leader of the Congress and was an opponent of Ambedkar. In 1975, poet Prakash Lakhnavi wrote a poem “Jagjivan Ram Stavan”, which was an acerbic attack on Jagjivan Ram. In the poem, the poet describes the miserable state of the Dalits and appeals to Jagjivan Ram to join the revolution for the cause of the Dalits and be the true heir of Ambedkar. The poem reads:

He Congress ke oonche neta, harijan-hitkari Jagjivan,
Tum Daliton ke kul bhushan ho, shoshit-dukhhari Jagjivan,
Ye shramik kamere shoshit jan, mazdoor kadee mehnat wale,
Ye bhi manav-adhikaron ke sab hain adhikari Jagjivan,
Khilwad ho raha jo inse, usse to aap suparichit hain,
Andher chalega yah kab tak atishay dukhkari Jagjivan?
Ikrar hua tha kya inse, kya-kya the vaayde kiye gaye?
Ab ye sab batein kaha gayeen, harijan-upkari Jagjivan?
Shilpi, utpadak aur shrami, nabbe pratishat to daas bane,
Sau mein das shoshak poonjipati sarkari Jagjivan,
Muthhi bhar shoshak toh prabhu hon, bahujan samaj agyakari,
Jantantra yahee kya hai sachmuch ya hai aiyari, Jagjivan,
Ohde oonche unko chahiye, satta aur maal khajana sab,
Bahujan samaj peese chakki, shram se ati bhari Jagjivan,
Oonchi shiksha, oonche ohde, sab hee reserve das pratishat ko,
Nabbe pratishat hon deen-heen barbad dukhari Jagjivan
Bheetar rahkar yadi aap kuch nahin kar sakte, to phir suniye,
Kar tyag nikal aayein bahar, phaile ujiyari Jagjivan
Netratva karein bahar aakar, bahujan samaj sirmaur banein,
Baba ke aap banein sacche uttar-adhikari Jagjivan[16]

(Jagjivan Ram, the top Congress leader and the benefactor of the Harijans, the pride of Dalits and healer of the exploited! These workers, labourers, exploited people – they too are entitled to human rights. You know all too well how they’re being played with. For how long will this go on? The agreements signed and promises made, what happened to them, O Harijan-benefactor? Artisans, producers and toilers, who are 90 percent in number, have been reduced to slavery. The ten percent rich, exploitative capitalists have formed the government. They are the masters with the Bahujan as their obedient servants. Is this democracy or deceit, Jagjivan? They want position, power, money and the coffers too, while the Bahujans are swamped in labour. Higher education, higher positions all are reserved for the elite, while the masses have been destined to poverty and distress. Jagjivan, if you cannot do anything from inside (the government), then give up power, come out and spread light. Assume leadership of the Bahujan, and become the true heir of Babasaheb.)

No one knows whether Jagjivan Ram read this poem, but it definitely served to build the image of Jagjivan Ram as hand-in-glove with the exploiters of Dalits who wanted to fulfil the dreams of Ambedkar by dismantling the capitalist and brahmanical order.

The Dalit poets had not forgotten the pain of the Poona Pact. They felt let down after Independence by the Gandhians. Even though they had joined hands with Gandhi in the Freedom Struggle and paved the way for India’s independence, the Savarnas, in whom Dalits had reposed their faith, turned exploiters in independent India. Dalits’ indignation found expression in the works of many Dalit poets. Poet Dulare Lal Jatav wrote:

Suno shoshiton, Gandhi ke sang tumne bigul bajaya tha,
Shoshankarta angrezon ko London khed pathaya tha,
Par ab toh Brahman-Thakur-Lala hee shoshankari hain,
Jinki swartha-purna maya se, shoshit sabhee dukhari hain,
Oopar se neeche tak inka shasan mein hai jaal bicha,
Gandhi aur khadi-parde mein kaisa bhrashtachar macha,
Yah kaisa andher, jahan par das kee to sab chalti hai,
Par nabbe pratishat bahumat kee dal nahin kuch galti hai
Tum to ho sampatti desh kee, vote tumhare hain jyada,
Kyon tumne gaflat mein sir par bhaar luteron ka laada,
Desh tumhara, tum ho raja, tum na kaheen se aaye ho
Le lo apna raaj hath mein, kyon ab der lagaye ho[17]

(Listen, O exploited! You had sounded the warcry with Gandhi. You had sent the British back to London. But now the Brahmins, Thakurs and Lalas are the exploiters. Driven by greed, they are agonizing Bahujans. They are everywhere in power; in the name of Gandhi and Khadi, a reign of corruption has been unleashed. What darkness is this where 10 have their way and 90 have no say? You are the wealth of the country. You have more votes. Why are you carrying these looters on your head? This country is yours, you are the kings. You rightfully belong here. Take power into your hands without delay.)

The Dalit-Backward poets of this era were proponents of a socialist order. Identifying the Bahujan as the proletariat of the country, they wanted to annihilate both capitalism and Brahmanism. They were addressing not the elite parliamentarians of Independent India, but the exploited masses. Their objective was the same as Ambedkar’s – establishing a casteless and classless society and transforming India into a true democracy. This poem by Rameshchandra Mallah presents a forceful case for ending Brahmanism:

Brahmanshahi raj mitana, shoshit veeron tumko hai,
Shoshit-sanghi raj banana, shoshit veeron tumko hai,
Jaati-paanti ka bhed bhagana, shoshit veeron tumko hai
Ek rashtra ka bigul bajana, shoshit veeron tumko hai[18]

(O exploited heroes, it is you who must end the Brahmins’ rule and establish a government of the united masses. You have to end caste and discrimination, and sound the bugle of one united nation.)

There is more evidence that the Dalit poets saw Brahmins and feudal/capitalist elements as oppressors of the Bahujan can be found in Bhikharam Gadaria’s poem “Pandit ji”, which presents the sentiment in a satirical fashion:

Main Pandit ji kahlata hoon,
Main rajneeti ka gyata hoon,
Niblon se khoob akadta hoon, sablon ke paon pakadta hoon,
Duniya ko dharm jakadta hoon, phir maal chakachak khaata hoon,
Shoshan ke daanv batata hoon, khud mein bhikshuk ban jaata hoon,
Main bhog-vilas sikhata hoon, apna aishwarya badhata hoon
Main poora avsarvaadi hoon, agua banne ka aadi hoon,
Main dhoort, pehanta khadi hoon, duniya ko thug kar khata hoon
Main Pandit ji kahlata hoon.[19]

(I am called Pandit ji. I am a repository of politics. I am stern with the powerless and bow before the powerful. I shackle society with religion and enjoy the spoils. I tell others how to exploit but I am a mendicant myself. I teach how to enjoy life, and enhance my own luxuries. I am a total opportunist, a charlatan who wears khadi and cheats the world for a living. I am called Pandit ji.)

Similar sentiments were expressed by Bihari Lal Kalwar:

Sukhan ka hamare asar dekh lena,
Jo hain jer, unko jabar dekh lena,
Jinhein aap ab tak samajhte the geedad,
Wahi hongein shere-babbar dekh lena,
Aji rotiyan-betiyan ek hongeen,
Rahegi na kuch bhi kasar dekh lena,
Na aayega chakme mein ab koyee shoshit
Phirenge idhar sab basher dekh lena,
Idhar ham hain nabbe, udhar das hain shoshak,
Na phir bhi khabar ho, samar dekh lena,
Banega sudrid sangathan ab ‘Bihari’
Jage shoshit ka hunar dekh lena.[20]

(You will see the power of our words. You will see the power of the lowly. Those you believe to be cowards, you will see them emerge as tigers. There shall be inter-marriages and inter-dining. No Bahujan would fall into your trap, you will see them change. We are ninety, they are ten. Dismiss me if you will, but you will see the battle. Bihari says there will be unity and organization. You will see the Bahujan awaken.)

Ram Swaroop Amar too urges the downtrodden to rise in his ghazal “Utho Shoshiton”:

Utho shoshiton, kyon pade so rahe ho?
Bahut so chuke, kyon samay kho rahe ho?
Tumhein zulm mein aag ab hai lagani,
Sada se sataye huye jo rahe ho,
Is azadi mein bhi bane daas tum ho,
Go raja yahan ke tumheen to rahe ho,
‘Amar’ shaan se ab to jeena tumhein hai,
Badhao kadam, kyon shithil ho rahe ho[21]

(Rise, O downtrodden, you have slept long enough. You have to end oppression. You have suffered since eternity. Even in independence you are slaves, despite being the true kings of this land. ‘Amar’ says you must now live with dignity. Move forward, triumphantly.)

This ghazal is closer in style to folk poetry than Urdu shayari. Such ghazals, commonly found in folk music and in books on Nautanki, were written to arouse masses and evoke fervour. One such ghazal was written by Ramchandra Mallah, which talks of a do-or-die battle between the exploited and the exploiters:

Kabza hai shoshakon ka, talwar shoshakon ki,
Hai mulk shoshakon ka, sarkar shoshakon ki,
Sota rahega kab tak, shoshiton ka mukaddar,
Kab tak rahegi kismet bedar shoshakon ki,
Shoshit kee jhopdeein to mitti mein mil rahi hai,
Hoti hain kothiyan par taiyyar shoshakon ki,
Jeene ke izazat bas usko fakat milee hai,
Jisne hai ki gulami do-chaar shoshakon ki,
Zulmon sitam na chalta jag mein sada kisee ka,
Kam hogi shaan-shaukat, khonkhar shoshakon ki,
Shoshit ka khoon jo khaula, chupe se chal pade hain
Karne ko aaj kabrein taiyyar shoshakon ki[22]

(The oppressors are in control of everything; they rule over the Bahujan in their own country. Until when will the stars favour the oppressors over the oppressed? The huts of the Bahujan are being razed while the oppressors’ mansions stand tall. Only by enslaving themselves are the Bahujan allowed to survive. No tyrant’s atrocities have continued forever. The blood of the masses is boiling; they have quietly set out to dig graves of the exploiters.)

While poets with Dalit consciousness were identifying the Bahujan as the proletariat, India’s Marxists had no respect for them and ignored them. The Dalit-Backward poets, imbued with socialistic ideas, believed that Brahmanism was the key enemy of the exploited class. With divisive ideas garbed in religion, it was Brahmanism that was not allowing the Dalits, the Backwards and the toilers to unite. But the Dalit-Backward poets did not need India’s so-called Marxists who, in the Bahujan’s view, were patronizing Brahmanism. The Dalit poets were optimists. They were confident that one day, the Untouchables, Shudras, workers and farmers would end the rule of the exploiters. Ramsharan Vidyarthi Kahar wrote in his poem:

Eka karke tumko apna sankhya bal dikhlana hai,
Milee huyee azadi ka ab, poora labh uthana hai
Kaanp uthe shoshak, dil tharthar aaj tumhare tarjan se,
Jaag uthi soyee manavta, aaj tumhare garjan se[23]

(You must unite and show that you are the majority. You must make the most of Independence. Your voice will make the exploiters tremble, your roar will awaken humanity.)

These poets sought to expose both the Marxist and Congress leaders’ apathy to Dalits. ‘Sathi’ wrote in his ghazal:

Achhooton ke hamdard bante agar ho,
Chuachhoot ka garh dahao to janein
Tadap karke shoshak se kahta hai shoshit
Ye shoshan yahan se mitao to janein[24]

(If you claim to sympathize with the Dalits, prove it by razing the bastion of untouchability. The groaning exploited challenge you to prove it by doing away with exploitation.)

The Gandhian and the Marxist poets were merely wearing these thinkers’ ideas to hide their Brahminism. That was why they would neither have pulled down the bastion of untouchability, nor ended exploitation. On the other hand, Dalit-Backward poets experienced exploitation and discrimination first-hand. They had a new discourse, the vision for a new civilization and culture. Dalitbahujan poetry was the real “Nayi Kavita”, not the one which was given this apithet by Savarna poets in the 1970s. Dalit-Backward poets openly declared their intents. Here are some lines from a poem by Veer Singh “Chandra”:

Main kavi hoon shoshit janata ka, giri par khada pukar raha hoon,
Main kavi hoon daliton-patiton ka, katu dhwani se hunkar raha hoon,
Un kaviyon se parichit hoon mein, jinhein swarth ne tha lalchaya,
Jis-jisne apnee pratibha se, chatukarita ko apnaya,
Tap he to karta tha Shambook, kya leta us Ramchandra ka,
Jiska gaurav Valmik ne, atishay ranjit swar mein gaya,
Main kavi hoon Daliton-patiton ka …
Jisne gine ek shreni mein, dhol, ganwar, shudra, pashu, nari,
Kaun prerna thee wah andhi, jisne Tulsi ki mati mari,
Main kahta hoon aaj desh mein, jo vish-bhara prachar karein yah,
Rashtra-bhakti kee dand-neeti se, we sab tadan ke adhikari,
Main kavi hoon shoshit janata ka, unka bhagya sudhar raha hoon,
Main kavi hoon Daliton-Patiton ka…
Tum apnee sabhyta banate, unhein pulindon ke bal par toh,
Usee sabhyta par itrate, unheen pulindon ke bal par toh,
Hamko rahe asabhya batate, unheen pulindon ke bal par toh,
Apne avgun rahe chhipate, unhein pulindon ke bal par toh,
Main kavi hoon shoshit janata ka, unmein bhar angaar raha hoon,
Main kavi hoon daliton-patiton ka…[25]

(From atop the mountain I declare, I am a poet of the exploited masses. I am the poet of the Dalits and the lowly, my voice is embittered. I know of poets, who could not resist temptation, those who used their talent for sycophancy. Shambuk was only performing penance, not out to harm Ramchandra, whose paeans Valmiki sang with great passion. I am the poet of the exploited masses. I am exposing all the secrets. I, the poet of the lowly, shall expose all secrets. What was that sinister inspiration that made Tulsi go berserk and put drums, rustics, Shudras, women and beasts in the same bracket? I say that those who are spreading this venom in society deserve punishment. I am the poet of the masses, out to improve their destiny. Your civilization is based on those books. Your pride is built on those books. You call us brutish in those books. You hide your own brutes behind those books. I am the poet of the exploited masses, the Dalits and the lowly, and I am filling them with embers.)

In this seven-stanza-long poem, the Dalitbahujan poet says that he is filling the exploited with fire to burn the religious books of the Brahmins. One of the stanzas of the poem talks about equality, liberty and fraternity, which was the revolutionary slogan of Ambedkar.

Baandh na sakein dharma-maryada, ab ye pothi patre tere,
Navyug ne us dharm vihag ke, phaad-phaad sab pankh bikhere
Samya-dharma, swatanra-dharm, bandhutva-dharma hai aaj vishwa ka
Un sapnon ko bhool, arey! Ab ukhad gaye us chhal ke dere
Main kavi hoon shoshit janata ka, sabka bhala vichar raha hoon
Main kavi hoon Daliton-patito ka…[26]

(Religion and social codes are no longer tied to your books. The new age has shorn religion’s feathers. Now equality, liberty and fraternity are the religions of the world. Forget your dreams, your citadels of deceit have been felled. I am the poet of the exploited masses, I seek the welfare of all.)

The Dalit-Backward poets were bent on cutting open the cultural net woven by Brahmanism. They wanted to build people, not Brahmins or Shudras. Another poet of those times, Satyamitra Vidyalankar, counsels Brahmins to become human:

Rishiyon ke vanshaj wey, jo apne ko bhusur kahte hain
Aaj aadmi kahla lein, athva jeena-marna chhodein[27]

(These descendents of sages who call themselves gods on earth, they had better act human or stop existing altogether.)

He went on to ridicule the supposed high status of the Brahmins:

Gaye ‘sheel gun heen vipra’ ki puja se tarne wale,
Rahe nahin ab ‘vipra droh paavak’ se darna wale,
Japa karein we aaj ‘Brahmanomukhmaseet’ pahar aathon,
Par, in bhaude mantron kee ham kadra nahin karte wale,
Jinki kaaya mein ab tak shoshan ka rakta samaya hai,
Ye rishi putra, hamari chhaya chhune se darna chhodein
Ghas samajhkar charne waale, ab hamko charna chhodein[28]

(Those who felt obliged by worshipping Brahmins, even if bereft of virtues, are gone. Also gone are those who feared Brahmins’ curses. They may chant from morning to night that ‘Brahmins are the mouth of Brahma’ but we have no respect for such insipid mantras. Those in whose veins the blood of exploiters still flows, those sons of sages, had better treat us well. Those who grazed on us, treating us as grass, had better mend their ways.)

The concerns of these Dalit-Backward poets were not limited to the Untouchables. They raised their voice in support of the oppressed all over the world. Nandkishore Nyayai wrote:

Arey harijanon, arey girijanon, arey bahujanon, arey kisanon,
Amrika ke arey Negro, pichhde musalman, kristanon,
Arey Asia ke navyuvkon, African aur Hindustani,
Adhikharon ke liye mar mito, adhik na chalne do manmani
Shoshit-vanchit ab na rahengein, yahi hamara nara hai,
Utho garibon, utho bahujano, yah sansar tumhara hai[29]

(O harijan, forest-dwellers, Bahujan and farmers; O Negroes of America, backward Muslims and Christians; O youth of Asia, of Africa and India; fight till the end for your rights. Reject high-handedness. No one will be exploited, no one will be deprived. This is our slogan. O the poor and Bahujan rise, the world belongs to you.)

The poet goes on to say that communism is on the doorsteps of India:

Vyaktivaad ka nikal raha jag se arey, aaj diwala
Charmar-charmar toot raha hai, is samaj ka sadiyal dhancha,
Poojipatiyon ke mooh pad raha aaj chahoon or tamacha,
Uttar se dakshin dhruv tak, ab gareeb ka raj banega,
Phir se nayee basegi duniya, phir se naya samaj banega[30]

(Individualism is on its way out in the world. Society’s dilapidated structure is crumbling. The capitalists are facing brickbats from all directions. From the North Pole to the South Pole, the rule of the poor will be established. A new world will come about. A new society will come about.)

The poet then issues a stern warning to the exploiter class:

Aaj hain lakhon hi Eklavya, aaj hain lakhon hi Shambuk,
Ulat dengein ye takhta aaj, uthi hai swabhiman ki hook,
Girenge ye mandir ke kalash, mitenge ye pakhand vidhan,
Nahin sah sakta Dalit samaj, arey ye sadiyon ka apmaan,
Dhahengein mandir ke avshesh, mitenge Brahma-Vishnu-Suresh,
Naam le jinka japte rahe, dharma par dete rahe kalesh
Duba do sagar mein yeh dharma, banata jo manav ko shwan,
Mita do us sanskriti ke chinh, na rah payein kinchan bhi praan[31]

(Today, there are lakhs of Eklavyas and Shambuks. With a deep yearning for self-respect, they will upturn the throne. The kalash of the temples will fall, and the hypocritic codes will perish. The Dalits will no longer put up with the humiliation they have been subjected to for centuries. The temples will be razed and Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh will disappear – the ones whose names you chanted to sow the seeds of division in religion. This religion that turns humans into dogs, dump it into the sea. End every sign of that culture.)

The vision of the Dalit-Backward poets of this era was very clear. They did not want to delude fellow humans with the opium of religion. They wanted material progress. They were well aware that the exploiters and the rulers committed atrocities on the masses, keeping them in the dark about their rights.

One of the Dalit-Backward poets with a revolutionary vision and voice was Badluram “Rasik”. He gave a new edge to Dalit consciousness through his poems assailing Brahmanism and capitalism. “Na ab zulm zalim chalega tumhara” is his most famous poem:

Lubhakar, bhulakar, rula karke maara,
Na ab zulm zalim chalega tumhara

(You beguiled us, you ignored us, you caused us pain. But O tyrant, your atrocities can no longer continue)

This poem, besides evoking fervour, inspires critical thinking in readers:

Mukaddar se hee neeche hamko batakar,
Dharmaroop paakhand hamko dikhakar,
Karen daan Brahman ki pooja karakar,
Ladakar hamein tunein fitrat se maara,
Na ab zulm zalim chalega tumhara,
Dikha Manu ka kanoon beraham jhootha,
Bahut din talak tunein bahujan ko loota,
Nahin karma, dhoke ka koyee bhi chhoota,
Nachaya bahut gaad adharm ka khoonta,
Lahu choosne ka banaya sahara,
Na ab zulm zalim chalega tumhara[32]

(You said our destiny was to be lowly. You blinded us with your religious hypocrisy. You made us give donations to Brahmins and worship them. You made us fight each other. You destroyed us with great cunning. But O tyrant, your atrocities can no longer continue. Quoting the phony and cruel Manu’s law, you have long looted the Bahujan. No deception was too low for you. Tying us to the peg of religion, you made us dance to your tunes, you sucked our blood. But O tyrant, your atrocities can no longer continue.)

Badlu Ram Rasik’s poem gave a clarion call for ending the web of deceit woven by the exploiters:

Utho kranti ke doot ban aage aao,
Badha paap-santap saara mitaon,
Sudrid sanghathit shakti apni banao,
‘Karo ya maro’ path sabko padhao,
Yehee vakt hai, do goonja apna naara,
Na ab zulm zalim chalega tumhara,
Mita do zamane se kunba-parasti,
Mita do looteron ke shoshan ki hasti,
Mita do ye jatiyata walee basti,
Mita do garibon kee faka-parasti,
Tabhi toh ‘Rasik’ desh hoga hamara,
Na ab zulm zalim chalega tumhara[33]

(March forward and become the harbingers of revolution. Wipe out the growing sin and pain. Unite, organize yourselves, become a strong force, ask your comrades to join in this do-or-die struggle. Let your slogans reverberate. O tyrant, your atrocities can no longer continue. End nepotism. Don’t allow the looters to exploit you. Put an end to casteism and the hunger of the poor. Only then, says Rasik, this country will become ours. O tyrant, your atrocities can no longer continue.)

In another poem, Rasik talks of building a new world of the exploited:

Mitayegein shoshan kee khonkhar hasti,
Basayegein shoshit nayee apni basti[34]

We will end the savage rule of exploitation. We will build a new world of the exploited.

In “Dhongiyon ka Dhong”, Rasik mounts an acerbic attack on the character of the practising Brahmin. He lists out its facets as adultery, immorality, hypocrisy, exploitation, betrayal and terror.

Jhooth, chhal, pakhand, dhikha, dhoortta, adharam-dharam,
Beraham ban jo kukaram karm karwata raha
Tirthon mein din ko panda, raat ko goonda bana,
Kamalo asmat lootne mein, jo na tharrata raha,
Bhakto se banwaye mandir, hari-bhajan ke vaaste,
Kabza kar vyambhichar-rat, unmein jo itrata raha,
Krishna-Radha naam par Ram nautanki bana,
Ladkon ko aurat bana jo roz nachwata raha,
Narak se jaane ka raaste swarga vaitarni bata,
Paanch paise tak ki gay pujwata raha,
Vishnu ki chhati par Bhrigu kee laat ka dikhla nishan,
Apne shapantak se duniya ko dhamkata raha,
Khaya jis pattal mein, usmein chhed jisne kar diya,
Dakshina lekar usee ko Shudra batlata raha,
Ab mitega varna, varg aur chhoot, shoshan, jaat-paant,
Kyonki yah sadiyon se lakhon zulm hee dahataa raha,
Sirf manavvaad he hai vishwabhar ka dharma ek,
Ban ‘Rasik’ karle grahan, kyon man ko bharmata raha[35]

(Falsehoods, deceit, hypocrisy, cheating, guile, immorality – he committed all sorts of sins without any demur. In places of pilgrimage, he was a priest through the day and a criminal at night. He had no qualms in violating the chastity of women. He made devotees build temples for praying to gods and converted them into dens of debauchery. He had nautankis staged on Radha and Krishna and made boys disguised as women to dance. He declared that Vaitarni is the way to heaven and made people worship cows. He showed us the imprint of the feet of Bhrigu on the chest of Vishnu to fill us with fear as to the deadliness of his curse. He is a backstabber. He accepts dakshina and then declares the giver a Shudra. Now the time has come when varna, class, untouchability, exploitation and caste ends. He has been committing atrocities for centuries. Now, there is only one religion of the world and that is humanism. Rasik says embrace it, why are you in two minds?)

Needless to say, the Dalitbahujan poetry of this era had the establishment of a socialist social and economic order as its objective. It was against the narrow confines of caste and was concerned about the emancipation of the entire downtrodden class. It stood for human dignity and wanted the basic needs of the people fulfilled. It wanted to build a new society, a new system, a new world. It wanted to change the fate of the exploited masses. Poet Jagan Singh, voicing the sentiment of the exploited lot, wrote:

Manav mein mastiksha sahit tan, haath, paon, mukh, kaan chahiye,
Mein bhi manav hoon, mujhe bhi roti, basan, makaan chahiye[36]

(A man needs hands, feet, mouth and ears, besides brains. I am also a human being. I need food, clothes and a shelter over my head)

The Dalitbahujan poetry of the 1980s fought to establish social equity and economic freedom. It represented the socialistic stream of Bahujan consciousness. Evidently, these Dalit poets had the perfect understanding of Ambedkar’s movement.


[1] Chaand, Achhoot issue, May 1927, Pandit Nandkishore Tiwari (ed.), Second edition, Radhakrishna Prakashan, p 14

[2] Ibid, p 64

[3] Ibid, p 69

[4] Ibid, p 71

[5] Ibid p 75

[6] Ibid, p 78

[7] Hindi Kavya Mein Dalit Kavyadhara, Mataprasad, Vishwavidlaya Prakashan, Chowk, Varanasi, First edition, p 76

[8] Ibid, p 78

[9] Ibid p 83

[10] Ibid, p 93

[11] Shoshit Pukar (Poetry collection), Bahujan Kalyan Prakashan, Lucknow, Eighth edition, 1984, p 13

[12] Ibid, p 11

[13] Bahujan Hunkar (Poetry collection), Bahujan Kalyan Prakashan, Lucknow, Sixth edition, 1983, pp 2-3

[14] Shoshit Pukar, p 5

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid, p 1

[17] Ibid, p 7

[18] Bahujan Hunkar, p 7

[19] Shoshit Pukar, pp 8-9

[20] Ibid, p 8

[21] Ibid, p 3

[22] Ibid, p 14

[23] Ibid, p 16

[24] Ibid

[25] Bahujan Hunkar, pp 3-4

[26] Ibid, p 4

[27] Ibid, p 5

[28] Ibid, p 6

[29] Ibid, p 13

[30] Ibid, pp 13-14

[31] Ibid, p 15

[32] Ibid, p 7-8

[33] Ibid, p 9

[34] Ibid

[35] Ibid, pp 11-12

[36] Ibid, p 16

(Translated from the original Hindi by Amrish Herdenia)

Forward Press also publishes books on Bahujan issues. Forward Press Books sheds light on the widespread problems as well as the finer aspects of Bahujan (Dalit, OBC, Adivasi, Nomadic, Pasmanda) society, culture, literature and politics. Contact us for a list of FP Books’ titles and to order. Mobile: +917827427311, Email: info@forwardmagazine.in)

About The Author

Kanwal bharti

Kanwal Bharti (born February 1953) is a progressive Ambedkarite thinker and one of the most talked-about and active contemporary writers. Dalit Sahitya Kee Avdharna and Swami Achootanand Harihar Sanchayita are his key books. He was conferred with Dr Ambedkar Rashtriya Award in 1996 and Bhimratna Puraskar in 2001

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