//Connecting Dalit intellectuals through village conferences

Connecting Dalit intellectuals through village conferences

Allahabad, June 2

DALIT RESOURCE Centre (DRC) of GB Pant Social Science Institute is going to organise a series of six village conferences with an aim to create a network of Dalit popular writers, intellectuals and Dalit journalists at the local level.

Set up under the aegis of Ford Foundation-sponsored project on Dalits, DRC's target is to bridge the gap between the so-called mainstream writers and the Dalit writers, thereby, paving the way for the emergence of a new literary world.

"The central idea behind organising village conferences is that they will help to instantaneously disseminate liberative and emancipatory ideas among Dalits of the regions where the conferences will be held, including the non-reading sections that are unable to read the booklets themselves," said DRC project director Dr Badri Narayan.

He said that the conferences will go a long way in extending the Dalit public sphere, which will also help to increase the participation of Dalits in the democratic process of the country. "Additionally, it will help to democratise both the Dalit public sphere in the making and the overall Hindi literary domain of the country. Simultaneously, it will also help sensitise the non-Dalit residents of the village about the humiliation and injustice experienced by Dalits in their everyday lives at the hands of dominant sections," he added.

The conferences would be organised in those villages where the most popular Dalit writers of that region, as singled out by the reading Dalit public of the region, live, in order to bring the writer close to the people to whom his booklets were addressed, justifying the name 'Apna Lekhak Apna Gaon' name given to the conferences, Dr Badri Narayan said.

He said that the theme of the first village conference was 'Freedom'. This village conference is scheduled to take place from June 8-11, 2006 in village Ajuha Bazar. "Guru Prasad Madan, who is a popular Dalit writer and social activist, hails from this village, in Kaushambi district, which is in South-West of Allahabad district. He was born and brought up in this village and it was in this village that he underwent through variegated forms of physical and mental tribulations for being a Dalit. Such experiences led him to write for the liberty and dignity of his fellow beings.

"It will be a four-day programme, in which a two-day workshop will be organised on 'freedom in Dalit communities'. The workshop will give the participants an opportunity for exhibiting their creativity in various modes, such as poems, paintings, songs, couplets, sketches, etc. on themes related to freedom.

Painters and cartoonists of repute will also attend the conference so as to assist in disseminating the concept of freedom through the pictorial medium," Dr Narayan said.

A play revolving around the theme of freedom named 'Daasta' will be organised by Dev Kumar (a Dalit writer and dramatist) and his troupe on any of the two days. This will help in articulating as well as in elucidating what, why, and how of freedom, more explicitly at a concrete level.

The last two days of the conference will be spent on the workshop dealing with the activities like: Swatantrata Chaupal (Freedom Meet), Itihaas Charcha (Historical Discussion), Kavita Goshti (Poetry Recitation), Mela (Fairs), Poster Pradarshini (Poster Exhibition).

Several Dalit and Non-Dalit writers, scholars and intellectuals of repute from all over India including Bishnu Mohapatra (Ford Foundation, New Delhi), Prof SM Dahiwale (University of Pune) and Prof GN Devy (Bhasha Research Institute, Ahmedabad) and  AR Akela (Aligarh) are likely to participate in the conference.