Special Series on Comrade Anna Bhau Sathe- Part 1


“Some scholars say untouchability is destroyed by law. So the animal named Dalit does not exist anymore.” But this is just an illusion. While filling water in a public place in a village, the worries of upper caste Hindus throb. As long as Mahar’s (a lower caste in hindu society) Powara(the pot used for uplifting water through well) is in the water, they don’t leave their Powara in the water. Many hotels have special cups. This is because the age-old perceptions do not disappear in an instant. So we should create Dalit literature. At one point Gorky says, “The real feature of this art, built on the tools of words and ideas, is not only to make people aware of their mistakes, but to try to elevate man from his external life, to free him from the shackles of the real world and to tell him that you are not a slave, you are owner of this real world, you are the independent creator of this life.” In this sense literature is revolutionary. “Let’s create perfect literature with this meaning and let’s just devote our writings to the footseps of the Dalits.”

This was not me but Lokshahir (folk artist in Maharashtra) Anna Bhau Sathe had said in the inaugural address of the first Sahitya Sammelan (literature meet) organised by Maharashtra Dalit Sangha on march 2, 1958. I would like to share some excerpts from his speech to make you aware about the thought behind the writings of this Literary Emperor, who in order to give prestige to man’s life, his struggle, his hard work, sharpened his pen to strike down undesirable stereotypes, human insignificance, capitalist attitude, monasticism and persecution.

Even a Dalit is seen a poor man who cooks food in a pot with three stones under a tree and saves his wife and two children, his desire to make a living is always sacred. His faith in the family is not weakened at all. But his family would have been thrown out of this society and forced to live under a tree by the capitalist world. We should observe it, find out the reason for it and then write about the poor looking, write carefully; because the Dalit has occupied the every moment of this society. In more poetic terms, it can be said, “this world, this earth is not floating on the head of Shesh (holy cobra described in hindu puranas) but on the palms of Dalits. The life of such Dalit is like a leak dripping from a rock. Take a closer look. Then write. Because Tukaram’s statement “to feel the sorrow of someone you should get borne in his race”, is not false, so those who write about Dalit must be first loyal to him. (Tukaram is a revolutionary saint in Maharashtra’s Devotees Sect. He changed the perspective of people towards life and God. He taught equity and raised question on superstitions. He challenged the supremacy of Brahmans.)

What Anna has said in this speech is very true. You read their literature. You will meet many types of people like Barbadya Kanjari- who is claiming to live, Amin- who is rebelling for Bilwari’s love, Avadi- whose dream to marry her dreamboy is destroyed, Nagu- who murders his sister for the false prestige, Malu Mahar- who refuses to pull dead cattles, Nilu Mang- who becomes happy to hear a death sentence from the mouth of cannon, Sona- who is sold in the prostitute market by her own uncle ( brother of her mother), Chitra- who lives protecting her reputation lifelong, Vaijayanta- who faces contempt for dancing in the Tamasha (show of Maharashtra folk song lavani ), Yanku Makadwala- a begger begging from village to village protecting the reputation of his daughter by the soul, the men like Bhomakya, Tarasya,Sultana who mate in jail, people mate at Tamasha’s Phad( phad is an open theatre stage), people who beg for daily meals, Garudi(snake charmer), Masewale(fishermen), Ghisadi(a tribe who works as smith), Dombari (acrobat tribe), house servant, owner, activists, leaders, Patil( second class upper community in Maharashtra), Inamdar( kshatriy castes having lands as prize by mughal or peshva kings), Deshmukh, kulkarni. All kinds of people.

The man who was made heard four words of hate on coming to the door for to beg, the man, who, to see his torn clothes no one was going near, who’s caste is warned to follow steps, poor, rich, loving, arrogant, polite, depraved, just, atrocious, rakish, virtuous. Every kind of person was worded by Anna’s writing. Today is the birthday of a great Literary man who threw light on a life of such a marginalized bman and realized the importance of that life. Today is the birth anniversary of Comrade Anna Bhau Sathe who was born on 1st August 1920 in Vategaon village of Valva Taluka of Sangli district to mother Valubai and father Bhau Sathe. Millions of salutations to Anna on this day and best wishes to all of you, revolutionary Jaibhim friends!

What do we know about Anna? Most of us don’t know even his name. Will we remember him only when his birth anniversary comes? Or we are going to decide the direction by reading the books written by him at other times too? Are we going to interpret his life, or we just going to ignore the life-like suffering he endured through verbal speeches and do injustice to them even after his death? Are we going to do anything to make sure that his thoughts and struggles are not defeated when we put a necklace on his photo? The answers to all these questions will be given by our efforts today and our vision tomorrow. Anyway.

Let us now look some important events in the life of Anna Bhau Sathe. These are the events that make you realize that it is not uncommon for great people to be placed in the ranks of great men, to be immortalized in history, and for people to celebrate their anniversaries, it doesn’t happen by chance, so behind it is a whole movie of great hardship! Without realizing a suffering of contempt, neglect and poverty, you will never know hoe Anna Bhau Sathe gets constituted, how Sahityaratna gets constituted….

(To be continued..)

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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