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A Revolutionary Dalit voice in Punjab’s Hinterland

While the world witnesses the revolution launched by the Dalits in Gujarat, it forgets that there have been several unknown voices fighting against repression while sustaining the fight against it.

One such voice has reverberated the hinterland of Punjab for more than three decades in the most rustic local dialect while sparing no one.

Sample this couplet : “Asi chadaraan chadhaunde mazaaran te,zindangi langaar hogayi” (We have spent our lives offering chadars on mausoleums while our lives whave been spent in taters)

This is the stuff Jagsir Jeeda is made of and his presence is pointer that if humanity proves incapable of producing large number of rebels, a rebellious spirit, then our days on this earth are numbered.

Jeeda is a popular name among the working classes, Dalits and the marginalized minorities of the state where feudal mindset continues. He remains away from the glare of the middle classes and the media for the obvious reasons. For he has spared none in his songs that he sings at various demonstrations and functions of the common people. He has hit hard at the political classes, be it the family of the ruling Badal family or even the former union minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia.

“Maa dil che vairaag lai gayi chandari, munda nahi banaya mukhmantri” (The mother left carrying this aspiration in her heart that her son was not made the chief minister) is what he wrote when Sukhbir Badal was not made the Punjab chief minister and Jeeda hit out at the dynastic politics taking root in the state.

Similarly he hit out at Ramoowalia when he abandoned his own Lok Bhalai Party for greener political pastures.

He wrote with sarcasm and cynicism,”Ramoowalia karuga Sewa, Lok bhalai chad ke” (Ramoowalia will now serve the people after leaving Lok Bhalai which also means public welfare apart from his party).

Jeeda’s struggle has been a long one. It began when this small boy of class sixth from Jeeda village faced taunts and discrimination for being a Dalit whose father was a farm labourer. The innocent mind was unaware of caste dynamics in this feudal society. Since his childhood Jeeda has been a strong opinionated voice and not an echo of someone else.

The small child wrote a letter to a local progressive vernacular magazine”JAIKARA” and asked all the innocent questions a child can raise about caste and its perceived superiority to a human being?

He wanted to know that when Sikhism respectfully disagrees with the practice of caste system and believes that castes have divided mankind, why are people over and above what has been preached by the Gurus? The magazine published the letter verbatim.

But Jeeda wanted more answers. “ I started reading Marxism when I was still in school. I did not mind being a lone warrior,” he says. It stood true to the famous Punjabi saying, “ Chiriyan naal je baaz ladawan, taan Gobind Singh naam dhrawan” (It is only when I get the sparrows to take on the eagles that I name myself Gobind Singh).

This was the mind of the child in a whirlpool of revolutionary ideas who did not say, “I wish” but always came out saying, “I will”. He made a start participating in people’s movements singing his own penned songs on politics of human mind, caste discrimination and exploitation of the poor by the rich.

His parents worked hard to get him educated and after his matriculation, he managed to enroll into a veterinary diploma course that got him a job of a veterinary inspector.

This 53 year old from Bathinda district heads a family that he describes as a small group of hard core revolutionaries. His elder son and daughter-in-law are government doctors while his younger one is pursuing a course in fine arts in Delhi after completing his B Tech.

The hard hitting songs that flow from his pen have tremendous energy. On the high rate of alcoholism and drug menace, he came out with the song that said, “ Thekke kholange school band karke, rangala Punjab bukooga” (We will open liquor vends after closing the schools and the boisterous Punjab will cheer).

Similarly he has hit hard on the pitiable scenario in the education sector by writing,“Muft vidya te laare laptop de, feesan di fasal vadade” (They talk about free education with promises of free laptops and on the other hand they reap huge profits from high fees in private education).

“The condition is very precarious. The poor are being punished for poverty. What is poverty if not a punishment?, “he says.

Jeeda wants to take the battle launched by the Dalits in Gujarat further by helping it spread to other states. He is angry with the cow vigilantism sweeping the country. “If they believe that cow is their mother than what stops them from not taking care of her? The irony is that most of the leather factories are owned by the Brahmins.”

He further adds that high bridges and broad roads are not the signs of inclusive development. “They are taking away the land of the poor and giving it to the rich, increasing the gap and making a ditch.”

Not happy with the political scenario he keeps putting his pen to work and inks down his heart. He recently wrote, “Poocha den wali bibi sarpanchani,vota paake fir chunage” (We will once again choose a woman Sarpanch whose business is to dabble in occultism.

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Comment (1)


    Jeeda lyrics and writings must be spread in other parts of India and his revolutionary ideas should be promoted by the dalits and other oppressed castes. Similar well known Telugu lyricist and writer Gaddar has been arousing inspiration for many decades through his voice of rebellion. In his words, he is ‘ voice if the voiceless’ and strong supporter of the poor.

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