Monday, September 04, 2006
Dalit leader buries the hatchet with RSS
Ideological chalk and cheese shared dais when firebrand Dalit poetNamdeo Dhasal and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Sri K Sudarshancame together at a book release function in the Capital .The internationally renowned poet and Dalit leader is the founderpresident of Maharashtra's Dalit Panther that has traditionally beenat odds with the RSS. The Dalit Panther has for long looked upon theRSS as representing the Brahmanical order. Ironically, Dhasal releaseda RSS book on Dalit pain at the function.Dhasal, an outspoken literary figure and the first recipient of theSahitya Akademi Lifetime Achievement Award, said he was initiallyreluctant to share the dais with the RSS chief as "Leftist friendswould pounce upon me with abuses and accusations that I have shiftedcamp, but I don't care, because I have only one mission -- tostrengthen national unity and social integrity. This can't be achievedif we remain divided in thousands of castes and sub- castes and keeppouring venom against each other. Neither can politics help eradicatecastes, which rather thrive on casteist divisions."He had high hopes, he said, from the RSS, which should get into actionto remove the concept of untouchability and castiesm from the country."Mere speeches and books won't help. The work that RSS outfits likeSamarasta Manch are doing in Maharashtra has to be furtherstrengthened," he said.The Dalit leader narrated how he had lost his childhood to tyrannicalcaste-based hatred and had to face what he called a "death-likesituation" at the hands of "so-called high caste people just because Ihad dared to go near their house."He did not even spare the socialist movement and claimed that leadersof the movement had shielded castiesm and that even Communist leaderswere Brahmanical in their outlook and actions.Emphasizing that the fight against casteism needed a combined effort,Dhasal said: "Yes, I do feel that the fight to eradicate caste has tobe fought by Dalits and caste Hindus together carrying forward thetradition of Adi Sankara, which got broken somewhere in between."RSS chief Sri K Sudarshan said the pain and anguish of "our peoplehave to be understood honestly. The Dalits are our own flesh andblood, but because of some ill practices and social evils the practiceof untouchability has brought havoc on those who were an integral partand defenders of dharma. This has to be corrected through our deedsand actions."The RSS chief said had never accepted any kind of casteism among itscadres. He said the year of Shri Guruji, the second Sarsanghchalak ofthe RSS, had been devoted to working for social harmony and lakhs ofRSS workers had reached out to the Dalits.The RSS Sarsanghchalak ended his address by turning to Dhasal: "Ifully agree with what you have said here today".An unusual kinship was thus effected at the release of the bookSamaraste Ke Sutra (threads of harmony), which contains articles fromDalit writers and social activists working among Dalits and is editedby Tarun Vijay, Editor of the RSS weekly Panchjanya and RameshPatange, Editor of the Marathi weekly Vivek, also an RSS publication.