Guest Post by Ravi Sinha
Let me speak first of Rohith Chakravarthi Vemula. I never met him. I wish I had, although that would have made me hardly any worthier of speaking about him. Had I met him, I would have come to know that I shared with him a passion for science, nature and stars. I would like to think that he would have found in me, despite my being from another generation, a comrade-in-arms and a fellow campaigner for a better world. Perhaps I would have also recognized a few of the scars left over from a childhood spent in poverty. But, there, the similarities would have ended.
We were born in the same country but at two different locations in the social universe. Distances separating these locations are not traversable – reason enough for this universe to collapse. Instead collapsed this remarkable young man who longed to be “treated as a mind” – “a glorious thing made up of stardust” – and who did not wish to be “reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility…to a vote…to a number…to a thing”. He was crushed under the weight of a millennial civilization. His end was precipitated by the malignant political forces ready to use state power to banish all reason and every shred of freedom from modern institutions and public sphere. He may have chosen the mode and the time of his death but it was an instance of a death foretold. In choosing death he has challenged the powers-that-be in a manner and with a force that no demons of deception, no army of liars and no battery of ministers can defend against. Continue reading Before I Speak of the Stars…Ravi Sinha
Guest post by MADHURI M. DIXIT
G. P. Deshpande’s play Satyshodhak is currently being performed in Maharashtra and Delhi and has received positive reviews in print and electronic media1 .It is praised for portraying Jotiba Phule’s life and work, its relevance for dalit emancipatory politics and also for the participation of the Pune Municipal Corporation’s workers as actors. There is a mood of celebration and a congratulatory back patting tone in the appraisal of a supposedly qualitatively different production. In addition to that, the writer has claimed that the production means a ‘successful and meaningful experiment of political education’ 2 of the workers/actors who are dalits. However, the flaunted success of the play and claims about its political import are belied by a performance that offers a very brahmanised Phule. It is very interesting to see that the author claims ‘a meaningful experiment’ of political education of the workers by offering them a pro-upper caste version of Phule. The very choice of producing a play about Phule in 2012 after a shelf life of twenty years 3, the writer’s articulated positions regarding it and the knowledge of Phule delivered through it, involve, I suggest, an upper caste cultural politics embodied in the brahman friendly figure of Phule.
Continue reading Satyashodhak: Brahminical Manoeuvre: Madhuri M. Dixit
(A shorter version of this review appeared in Tehelka)
Writer: G P Deshpande
Director: Atul Pethe
Performed by Pune Safai Karmacharis Union
It was apt that a landmark production of G P Deshpande’s 1992 play Satyashodhak on the life of the 19th century anti-caste crusader Jyotiba Phule was performed in a week that witnessed the killing of the head of the Ranbir Sena – a week in which we were reminded that the bitter legacy of caste haunts us as strongly as ever. It was unusual however, that the performance should be held at the recently-opened May Day café and bookstore in Delhi – a space dedicated to the different and more hopeful legacy of the international working class movement, and located close to the heart of a former industrial district in a city that practices careful amnesia about its working classes. It is entirely unusual further that the performers were both Dalit and members of the Pune Municipal Safai Karmacharis Union. While the ancient, poisoned streams of caste and class have often overlapped on the subcontinent, they have not, as we are aware, produced unified or even similar political responses.
Continue reading Satyashodhak – A Performance