On September 7, he was part of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh and Left meet at Hutatma Chowk to protest the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh. Even as the chants grew louder and the slogans edgy, Sudhir said, this anger needs to be channelised. The Left, Ambedkarites and progressive voices have to “join hands to combat the rise of the fascist forces.“
In August, Sudhir read an academic paper in Barnala in Punjab, Caste and the Revolution in Bharat. He spent time in the fields of Punjab. What he saw, angered him. “There is a huge crisis of insolvency and bankruptcy for the small farmers in Punjab, in the so-called bread basket of India. The debt situation is grim.“
Next day, he had to speak. He doffed his hat to a Punjabi revolutionary poet.
The birds say the sky is new People say the garden is new The silence in the graveyard knew Corpses have multiplied Only the coffin is new And this distinguishes Sudhir from other political activists. He takes meticulous care about sharing a political message through a poem or a song.
During the 20th anniversary of the Ramabai killings, Sudhir spoke at the cultural Yalgaar programme in Ramabai Nagar basti. He said, “Some people say our songs are loud. It is not subtle neither is it art. But the words speak out what is in our mind. Every time Dalit rights are being crushed, it is the powadas and chakkads that reflect what is happening socially and politically. Be it: the Dalit Panther move ment, the Bhim Army chalwal, Naxalism, now.“
Recently, I was leafing through the black-and-white images from the late nineties in a Marathi newspaper archive.
The Sena-BJP government was in power in Maharashtra.
I saw blurry images of the Vidrohi Chalwal. It is the stuff that legends are made of. The mainstream Sahitya Sammelan was held at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park. It was “blessed“ by Bal Thackeray, Manohar Joshi (then chief minister of Maharashtra) and the Shiv Sena, while the Vidrohi Sammelan hosted in Dharavi was the literature of the Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, workers and women. The main meet was funded by the Shiv SenaBJP gov ernment, the parallel meet was self-funded.
The main sammelan was a meet of peo ple with shendi and janva, the parallel sammelan was that of people with lathi and ghongdi (a rough cloth). It was cultural politics at its best. Sudhir’s explanation is, r every revolution has to be “unique“.
Since 2002, Sudhir and his colleagues started editing Vidrohi magazine to popu larise “the message“. Two thousand copies are published, even today. A lot of it is agit prop. But Vidrohi aspires to champion the voice of common sense as well as fact-find ing reports and literature.
In 2011, Sudhir was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. At that time, he was a speaker at the Youth Ambedkari literature festival in Wardha.
The chargesheet against Dhawale acknowledges his work as a cultural activ ist, but it made that the ground for his prosecution.
From January 2, 2011 to May 16, 2014, Sudhir was in jail. I asked him about those 40 months in prison, he smiles and quotes Dr Ambedkar’s 1942 speech in Nagpur, “We have to educate, agitate and organise.We have to have faith in ourselves. With justice on our side, I do not see how we can lose this battle.“
So what was Sudhir Dhawale’s riposte to the prison term? It was “unique“. He penned three books in prison.
What is the best place in Mumbai:
The Ambedkar Bhavan in Dadar. Besides being a historical structure, important meetings and discussions have transpired in that heritage building.
A day in Mumbai which you shall never forget:
The Dalit Atyachar Virodhi Kruti Samiti protest on the day of the oath ceremony of the chief minister Devendra Fadnavis outside Wankhede Stadium.We were protesting the killing of three Dalits in Javkheda, Ahmednagar.
One event in Mumbai which cast an everlasting impression on you?
The Vidrohi Sammelan in the late nineties. We challenged the Brahminical establishment.