The program was a book discussion of Bal Gangadhar ‘Bagi’s book “Akash Nila Hai”. The book is a collection of poetry which JNU Ph.D scholar Bal Gangadhar ‘Bagi’ has written over a period of his research duration at JNU. As the pen name of the poet ‘Bagi’ suggests, the poems have a spirit to bring about the revolutionary changes within society.
In contemporary context, Dalit literature essence derives from the fact that one genre of literature cannot capture complete reality. Dalit literature in particular reflects on those dimensions where some identities have been taken into oblivion. Thus, literature or poetry becomes a way to understand the complex problem particularly when it is dissected on the lines of divergent thought processes. The event saw confluence of many literary personality who have established their acumen particularly in Dalit literature like Shauraj Singh ‘Baichain’, Jai Prakash Kardam, Anwar Alam to name a few. The event was marked by engagement of other research scholars and the audience present at the book discussion event.
The readers appreciated the youthful voice emerging in Dalit literature. ‘Bagi’ was appreciated for the sheer energy of thoughts reflected in his poems. The thoughts have dominated the flow of emotion which is the positive side of the book. Within the history of Dalit writing, Ravidas, Kabir, Mangu Ram thoughts have come through the channels of poetry. The persistent use of Urdu in the poems has shown detachment from the dominant Sanskrit or Hindi within Dalit literature. The very title of the book “Nila akash” has a metaphorical meaning that the sky or political will is clear for the movement to flourish and ideology of Ambedkarism has to set in.
Benizer a research scholar, while leading the discussion of the book argued that it focuses on equity in society and has a sensitivity for women at the margin. The poems shows that we must not get tired of raising voice against atrocity in any form. Kardam, a well noted Dalit writer’s introduction in the book has also argued that Indian villages which are the seat of caste based atrocities needs to be understood. Ambedkar too said the village cannot be romanticized and that they are the ‘dens of ignorance’. Thus the ‘Bahishkrit Bharat’ that resides in Indian villages is too broad to cover cherished India.
At this backdrop of India v/s Bharat debate it is significant to mention that ‘Bagi’ himself comes from a little known village of Uttar Pradesh. Bagi comes from village where a poetic seriousness particularly in his community was missing. He refers to one of the personal anecdote where a dalit woman was beaten in front of him which moved him to write poetry. The sharp tone of his poetry emanates from his own biographical incidences of exclusion and hence he considers that any atrocity on Dalits cannot be romanticized and thus demands a sharp and straight attack. Asserting his faith in constitution ‘Bagi’ argues that Sky can be clear only through light of knowledge. He argues that we have to fight brahminism together because god is not going to come to sort out the problem. He says that while his village gave him experience, it was study at JNU that injected consciousness in him. His work collects thoughts of a spectrum of social reformers from Birsa Munda, Ashoka to Savitri Bai Phule etc. The poet besides a revolutionary mode also has a pensive mode in contemplation of a complete transformation of society.
Anwar Alam one of the discussant while talking about the aesthetics of Dalit literature has argued that ‘Bagi’ has emphasized more on the real issue to bring about social change. He however said that while Dalit sahitya wants revolution and change it is not about hatred. The anger in Bagi’s work is not personally targeted but anguish is against the history of social exclusion. Dalit literature is based on humanism. Bagi brings up these questions, which has potential of entropy with potential to change society. The collection points towards an alternative society. The aesthetic is not just about words but it is about the beauty of thoughts.
Prof. Ramchander, one of the discussants of the book also argued that the collection covered a range of thoughts. The aesthetics of women is blended with the Dalit, tribal life in every day. The words of the poem are carefully selected, it blends pain and revolution with right proportion. Bagi is also one of the founder members of BAPSA and his poems have also materialized in his role within the JNU politics.
Shauraj Singh “Baichain” one of the prominent Dalit writer (Hath Bhi wahi Ate hai, Mera Bachpan mere Khandho Par (autobiography)) also discussed the book. He argued that Dalit literature must not be judged on parameters and aesthetics but by the gravity of its ability to initiate change. The problem with the present Dalit literature is that it is not exposing the problem of Dalits. Even within high academics the category of “Dalit Literature” is either problematized or is taken with a pinch of salt. Dalit literature has materialized through every day lived reality hence the parameter of aesthetic with which it is defined needs to reworked and understood through the lens of subalterns as well. Poetry is thus the wave of our thought as we are, our everydayness and about everyday struggle.
Jai Prakash Kardam, an eminent Dalit writer who has written the Introduction to the book was also present as a discussant. Critically analyzing his poetry he said it is important to find the direction in writing poetry about which audience and space is the poetry targeting. Poetry should leave an impact. The people associated with revolution particularly in JNU are at the cusp of politics, social media and tend to mix many genre of poetry writing. Good poetry writing must take time and a thorough engagement.
In today’s world where communication has got limited to social media and communication somewhere is being reduced to the language of troll, an expression of self-reflection becomes indeed revolutionary and with potential to bring about social change, particularly when serious issue like caste atrocity and revolution against it is discussed.
Kalyani is a Ph.D scholar at Centre for the Study of Social System, Jawaharlal Nehru University.