17 June, 2021

Songsters From The Mudhouse

Dalit bards, bhajan mandalis and pamphleteers, largely from Maharashtra, have kept alive the image, the life story and the genius of Ambedkar

Amit Haralkar
Songsters From The Mudhouse
Bhima, your thought is like the shade of the peepal tree.

 —Wamandada Kardak (1922-2004)

In the last few years, every December 6, TV channels have been covering the annual gathering of thousands of followers of Dr B.R. Ambedkar at Chaitya Bhoomi in Mumbai. The middle class deems these events irrational or emotional and criticises them for causing traffic jams and littering—opinions that strangely resonate among social scientists.  Most people do not reckon that the prolonged Ganesh Chaturthi affairs are also a nuisance. Many intellectuals, barring a few, see these gatherings of the Dalit public as a process of the ‘deification’ of Ambedkar or the ‘manipulation’ of the masses by the Dalit leadership. It is also common to see Ambedkar’s ‘rationality’ contrasted with the ‘irrationality’ of these gatherings, suggesting that Dalits are not carrying forward Ambedkar’s true legacy. In fact, much...

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