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India: ’Another world of literature is possible’.

Friday 8 February 2019, by siawi3


Dalit Literature Fest Highlights Issues Facing Marginalised Communities

The organisers said issues of marginalised communities are largely absent from corporate-funded literary festivals.

Dalit Literature Fest Highlights Issues Facing Marginalised Communities

Photo: Members of Rashtriya Ambedkar Mission Evam Baspa Prachar Mandal at the fest. Credit: Mahtab Alam

Mahtab Alam

6.02.19 6 hours ago

New Delhi: Amidst the season of literature festivals across the country, the first edition of Dalit Literature Festival was held on Sunday and Monday in the national capital.

Organised by the Ambedkarwadi Lekhak Sangh in association with the Hindi department of Kirorimal College, Delhi University and several other organisations, the fest was attended by more than 500 people on both the days. It brought together people from different parts of the country interested in social change and working for justice.

Though titled as a ‘Dalit literature festival’, the themes and subjects discussed were not exclusively related to Dalits. According to the organisers, the festival was aimed at initiating a parallel change-oriented literary discourse in which the issues of Dalits, Adivasis, Denotified Tribes, women, minorities and Pasmanda communities are discussed and debated in a sensitive manner.

“This is an attempt to create a new kind of discourse related to Dalits and other marginalised communities, which are missing in the corporate-sponsored grand literary festivals,” said Sanjeev Kumar Danda of the Ambedkarwadi Lekhak Sangh while speaking to The Wire on the sidelines of the fest on Monday. He further said, “Through this we are also trying to attract youth and new writers from marginalised communities.”

The festival started with the statement that another world of literature is possible.

Over the two days, participants and speakers emphasised the need for unity amongst the writers of marginalised communities and identities across religions, gender and regions. Speaking at a joint session on the identity question in Dalit literature and minority discourse, writer and literary critic Chauth Ram Yadav argued, “Pichhda-Pichhda aik samaan, Hindu ho ya Musalman” (Marginalised and Dalits among different religions are treated in the same manner). “We need to focus on the social location of the writers, not their religious location,” he said.

Photo: Inaugural Session of the Dalit Literature Festival.

Agreeing with Yadav, noted Hindi writer Abdul Bismillah maintained that, “What matters is the caste of the writer not religion. And I reject the notion of minority or Muslim discourse.” However, he said that targeted discrimination of Muslims has worsened over the past few years, narrating anecdotes from his own life.

He also rejected the idea of ‘bringing Muslims to the mainstream’. According to Bismillah, Muslims are already in the mainstream. “The problem is people do not recognise this integration because they believe in certain stereotypes about Muslims,” he said.

Poet-activist Balli Singh Cheema, while speaking on the issue of social justice and people’s movements, said language is important to connect with the masses. “We have to write in the language and style which is understood by a large number of people. Otherwise the very purpose of our efforts will be defeated,” he said. He appealed to writers to use simple and local language.

Trishla Gautam, a Class X student and Dalit performer, told The Wire that such festivals present a hope that the future for Dalits will become better. At the festival, Gautam and half a dozen members of the band, Rashtriya Ambedkar Mission Evam Baspa Prachar Mandal, sang several songs. The band is headed by her father Mordhwaj Gautam, who said through the songs, the band aims to spread Ambedkarite thoughts.

Notably, unlike most of the corporate literature festivals, venues in the festival were named after writers instead of their sponsors. The venues were named after the likes of Dalit writer Omprakash Vakmilki, Dalit feminist poet and activist Rajni Tilak and Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto.

Apart from discussing the issues faced by writers from Dalits and marginalised groups, the festival also showcased the literary and cultural talents that members of these community possess. “More than highlighting the atrocities and injustices faced by Dalits, this festival is to celebrate the cultural talents and heritage we have,” said Sanjeev Kumar, one of the organisers.




US to host its first Dalit film and cultural festival in Columbia varsity

Posted On February 6, 2019

Nagpur: To showcase the talent of Dalit artists and to bring focus on the plight of the community, a Dalit Film and Cultural festival will be held at Columbia University in New York on February 23 and 24. The first of its kind event has been coorganized by Dr Ambedkar International Mission and will be held under the banner of US Ambedkarite, an umbrella organization for various associations of Dalits in USA.

The films to be screened have been either made by Dalit filmmakers or focus on the plight of Dalits in society. The selection committee has received around 40 entries from filmmakers and have picked up six films and six documentaries to be screened.

There are scores of organizations in the US inspired by or based on Ambedkar thought who meet regularly to discuss the plight of Dalits. “We have been hearing a lot of stories about how Dalit artists do not get the right platform to showcase their talent,” says Chatak Dhakane, member of the film festival committee and a resident of Michigan. “They make very good films which do not get a decent release and so we planned this film festival to provide them with a much-needed platform,” Dhakane says.

The six films selected for screening include the critically acclaimed Hindi film ‘Masan’ directed by Neeraj Ghaywan, Nagraj Manjule’s ‘Fandry’ in Marathi, PA Ranjith’s ‘Perumal Pariyerum’ and ‘Kaala’ in Tamil, ‘Bole India Jai Bhim’ in Hindi by Subodh Nagdive, and Jayan K Cherian’s ‘Papilo Buddha’ in Malayalam. “What helped us in giving shape to this festival is that two of the three guest speakers invited by us — Manjule and Ranjith — will be visiting the US on these date for another conference,” Dhakane said. All the films selected for screening have received acclaim at international film festivals and have been commercially successful as well.

Six documentaries on the subject will also be screened at the festival where Nagraj Manjule, PA Ranjith and film actor and former beauty queen Niharika Singh have been invited as guests. “Every screening will be followed by interaction with the audience and there would be some events on the sides of the main festival too,” informs Subodh Nagdive, director of ‘Bole India Jai Bhim’, who will be attending the festival and is a speaker at the festival. “This is a very big platform for propagating the thoughts and philosophy of Babasaheb and draw focus on the plight of Dalits as the world will get to know about them,” Nagdive added.

Nepali Dalit organization ICDR is also part of the 50-member committee which picked films for the screening. Nepali film ‘Dalan’, which addresses the socio-cultural transformation of Nepal from the viewpoint of a Dalit, will also be screened in the documentary segment.

It was at Columbia University that Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar received his doctorate in economics in 1927. He was also awarded a honorary degree in 1952 for his path-breaking work in the sphere of human rights and social reforms by the university.

“The entry to this festival is free and we are focusing on some 400 students of the university to be a part of the audience,” says Dhakane and adds that the committee is yet to finalize if the festival will be an annual feature or not. “This year it will give out a motivating message to all Dalit artists and encourage them to use the platform to showcase their talent,” he says.