By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
S. Chandramohan's poetry reflects the brilliance of his thought
process and the rebel inside him. The seer diversity and variety of
issues that he has taken up shows his concern for human values that
transcends the boundaries of nation state, caste, class, gender and
religion. In true sense only a humanist could do so.
I had the privilege of close association with legendary Mulk Raj
Anand, whose first novel 'Untouchable' with an introduction from E M
Forster created ripples internationally and exposed the hidden caste
hatred including the issue of manual scavenging prevalent in our
society, even when I was just a village boy from Uttarakhand as he
would pronounce, where I was fortunate to have met many laureate of
Indian writings who took up the issue of the marginalized but very few
coming from the communities. During the Mandal's war in 1990, we saw
English language media was used as a tool to spread hatred against the
Dalits and marginalized. They were mocked and there were absolutely
negligible numbers of writers who could pose a counter cultural
question to the brahmanically corrupted intellectual elite which
looked secular in their mask yet uncomfortable to the core question of
social justice but in the Mandal two, we saw the Dalit OBC students
were writing their own blogs, had learnt to use social media strongly
and numerous websites and journals emerged to counter the 'merit'
propaganda unleashed by the 'devotees' of corporate culture in India
who never ever saw 'wrong' in the corrupt practices by these in
educational institutions in the name of 'donation'.
In the following ten years after Mandal, we saw counter narratives
taking bigger shapes. Alternative media grew with web portals like
"countercurrents.org" providing space to the forces struggling against
all forms of exploitation including brahmanical cultural subjugation
and capitalist onslaught on socialism and state's accountability.
Magazines like 'Forward Press' energized debates on Bahujan literature
and enlightened us with stunning Bahujan cultural discourse with
number of emerging young writers. With growing new young writers
challenging the popular brahmanical discourse the contempt and assault
on them is also visible throughout the country. But, the Rohith
Vemulas in our universities have refused to play Eklavya today and
therefore consciously proving that Ambedkarism and legacy of Dalit
Bahujan consciousness, which refused to be part of brahmanical
structure has finally arrived.
'Forward Press' initiated this debate as what is Bahujan literature
and last few years they have brought wonderful collectors editions.
There are various definitions for literature. One, which raises your
consciousness while for many, it must come from those who suffer and
are historically exploited, neglected and subjugated socially and
culturally. True, those who suffer will definitely provide a different
insight than those who sympathise with their cause and are standing
with them yet both are necessary. For me the Dalit Bahujan literature
can not just be autobiographical sketches as each one of us has a
different narratives but also posing ideological questions that have
emerged from the heroic work of Phule Ambedkar and Periyar apart from
the great humanist legacy of Raidas, Kabir, Nanak, Tukaram, Namdev,
Ayyankali, Ayothidas, Narayan guru and many others who not just fought
against injustice but provided a much better and humane alternative to
brahmanical caste based 'graded inequality' as described by Baba Saheb
Ambedkar where dominant castes have always suppressed the others. We
must desist from compartmentalization and regimentation of diverse
Dalit Bahujan's thoughts, which are multicultural and multi lingual.
If we try to create a monolith of it, the beauty of it would be lost.
Hence it is important to have narratives of diverse communities who
built our society. A Dalit narrative can not be just urbanized
'educated' construct but also the story of a Dom in Varanasi's ghats
or Mushahars fighting for their battle or Nats, Kalandars, Kushwahas,
Rajbhars, Kols, Tharus, Balmikis (and they too have diversity among
themselves), Kanjars, Sansis, Banzaras, and so many others who are not
known in popular discourse and are out of bound from the 'writers
circle'. The Dalit Bahujan popular discourse must challenge the
'meritorious' brahmanical discourse from an alternative path and not
through becoming part of that discourse which attempt to create a
monolith of everything under artificial construct of 'Hinduism' simply
because they have similarities in certain things. As research have
shown there were over 300 versions of Ramayanas and each different
than the popular one of Tulsi Das's 'Ram Charit Manas' which imposed a
patriarchal Rama on all other version and was further popularized by
Ramanand Sagar's magnum opus Ramayana on Doordarshan. The counter
narratives of the Dalit Bahujan discourse are as diverse as Ramayana
or Mahabharata. There are thoughts influenced by Ambedkar-Periyar's
ideological construct, which demolish the brahmanical myths woven
around negative and pathological characteristics of Asuras or
Rakshasas and talked of a modern secular society based on rational
humanist principles of French or Russian revolutions. But one has to
understand that it was not merely ideological constructs of the
legends that shape Bahujan-Dalit literature as various communities
celebrate different festivals in diverse ways. So, every festival in
India has a counter perspective but the brahmanical mainstream in
India actually suppressed these narratives and placed the upper caste
brahmanical narrative as the sole identity of cultural India.
As I mentioned young dynamic youths of the Dalit Bahujan communities
are challenging the brahmanical hegemonic narratives today. Not only
are they getting empowered by the strong thoughts of Dr Ambedkar,
Phule and Periyar but are taking inspirations from their friends too
who have been supporting and participating in the global resistance
movement against culture of monopoly and private control over the
public resources. Chandra Mohan represent a well defined modern poet
who want to stand with all forms of discrimination and has got a
language which many will definitely envy. Moreover, Chandra Mohan's
brilliance in poetry has surpassed any one that I have come across so
far in terms of variety of issues that he takes up. He has not just
spoken against caste violence and untouchability but subject likes gay
rights, Soni Sori, Irom Sharmila, Mujaffarnagar, unfair globalization
have come under his scrutiny resulting some of the finest poetry of
our time that touch the inner chord of your heart.
The whole country shouted loud for Nirbhaya and the 'establishment'
responded with a 'Nirbhaya Act' but news of rape and murder of Dalit
or tribal girls do not prick our conscience. There is no protest; no
dharanas for the safety and security of the Aadivasi girls are victim
of highhandedness of our security agencies in Bastar. His poem, ' Rape
of a tribal girl' exposes the duplicity of our sensitivities and the
farce that our 'intellectuals' and 'media' play.
'No newspaper carried a headline or a photo feature,
No youth were roused to protests,
No city's life came to a standstill,
No furore in the parliament,
No nation's conscience was haunted,
No Prime Minister addressed the nation,
No TV channel discussions,
No police officials were transferred or suspended,
No candlelight marches,
No billion women rising,
A tribal girl was raped and murdered!'
The pain of migration result in loss of identity and a majority of
those migrate to cities are Dalit Bahujans like the blacks of Africa.
One has to just feel how Chandra Mohan explain it beautifully in his
poem, ' Black Migratory'
'Birds Migratory birds
most of them have dark feathers
sing mostly Bhojpuri, Bengali, Odiya
fly towards floating clouds
lives lost in transit'.
Chandra Mohan is not short of words. He possesses an extraordinary
quality of weaving his narratives and ideas in shortest yet impressive
ways. As a poet his worldview is as wider as possible and modern in
the absolute term of Ambedkar's vision of enlightened India and
therefore he questions the traditions and wrongs happening in the name
of traditions. We need to counter the brahmanical narrative through
questioning them and demolish the myths woven around them. Therefore,
issues of Khap Panchayats and killings of innocent lovers in the name
of traditions and morality come under sharp attack in his verses.
'Moral Police '
when lover couple
hid in a hood of a tree
they chanced upon love letters
some of them half burned
some of them centuries old
along with a picture of Shoorpanaka
sans her nose, ears and breasts!
Capitalism and religious fanaticism or theocracy work together and
compliment each others. In India capitalism has come handy for
Brahmanism to push its agenda to suck our resources and subjugate the
Dalit Bahujan-aadivasis further and that comes for an excellent
narrative in his poetry, 'A Neo-liberal Miscarriage'
'Every drill driven into the earth
for oil punctures
holes into her womb
gangrenes of depletion
mushrooming clouds of subatomic fury
a miscarriage of neo-liberal development'
Chandra Mohan has rightly termed Dalit literature as the literature of
resistance and biggest movement world over and he is placing both
Dalit-Bahujan literature together. Today, the Bahujans too are
questioning the history and historical wrongs. It is important for
them to write their own history as beautifully mentioned by him in the
As the African proverb goes ', Until the lions have their own
historians, the story of the hunt will glorify the hunter', Dalit
literature is the documentation of the resistance of Dalit Bahujans
against Brahmanical Social Order. It is one of the world's oldest
resistance movements. Dalit literature aims to complement the larger
civil rights struggle of Dalit Bahujans the world over and I believe
we are at the cusp of a big change. Our voices are beginning to be
His poem ' History' speak of that thinking that every historical
'document' of the brahmanical construct need to be questioned and
rewritten by the Dalit Bahujan historians.
What is history?
Its a declamation
delivered on a podium
on a pedestal that rusts away
My poems are steel arrows
that pierce the podium from below'
Ambedkarite scholar Rohith Vemula's institutional murder agitated all
the right thinking persons in India particularly those hailing from
Dalit Bahujan communities. The incident actually exposed the
brahmanical structure inside our campuses and how those who questions
and want to live an independent life, live with their own
understanding face obstacles at ever level. Chandra Mohan deserve
fullest applauds for this wonderful narration of students suicides
inside our campuses in his poem, ' Killing the Shambookas'.
'Jim Crow segregated hostel rooms,
Ceiling fans bear a strange fruit,
Blood on books and blood on papers,
A black body swinging in mute silence,
Strange fruit hanging from tridents'
As Bahujan magazines such as 'Forward Press' find it difficult to
sustain in the absence of solid financial and advertisement backing,
the movement it has launched for a counter Bahujan perspective will
continue in the greater interest of society. Chandra Mohan reflect the
coming of the Ambedkarite age of articulate young Indians who will not
only throw open challenge to the brahmanical literature and their
falsified constructs but will go far ahead of them in terms of quality
and sincerity of the issue. One of my dear Ambedkarite friends late
N.G.Uke had a favorite quote about the quality of an Ambedkarite, ' We
have to be better than 'their' (brahmanical's) best'. I think this age
has finally arrived with the remarkable verses of Chandra Mohan which
will not just questions the wrong done to them or to any one else but
also participate in all the international movement for human rights,
human values, social justice and equality. The modern Dalit Bahujan
literature need not just be 'reactionary' but provide alternatives of
a better world and respond to the crisis of our time and Chandra
Mohan's verses are doing that impressively. There is pain for closure
of 'Forward Press' which gave new ideas to Bahujan literature and
empowered young Bahujan talents into writing and resisting the popular
brahmanical myths yet there is happiness when we see hundreds of
youngsters coming up, challenging and resisting at all the levels
including social media. And this will keep the movement growing as the
whole Dalit Bahujan age has arrived as the new young are taking up
social media and firing through their blogs, alternative platforms and
it is they who will continue to carry the torch of resistance and
revolution. It is here the success of the movement. We hope these
young minds will continue to revolutionise the web-world and more
importantly bring voices from diverse communities, hitherto unknown to
us and keep the flame of change going. Chandra Mohan's poetry reflects
that positive change among the youths of Dalit Bahujan communities
which is definitely a great hope for future.