“Mercy-grace-peace do not touch Golpitha.”
—From Vijay Tendulkar’s introduction to Golpitha
On July 9, 1972, Dalit writers Namdeo Dhasal, Arjun Dangle and J.V. Pawar met in Bombay and established the Dalit Panthers, a radical militant outfit that sprang out of Maharashtra’s Dalit literary movement. It was the silver jubilee year of India’s independence but the Panthers observed a ‘Black Day’, with black-flag demonstrations all over Bombay, protesting the exploitation and oppression of Dalits.
That same year, Golpitha, a collection of poems by Bombay taxi driver Dhasal, had created a storm that was to blow away the traditional Marathi literary citadels, while also establishing Dalit poetry as a distinct stream of literature in the country. Golpitha, named after a slum area in Bombay, created an imagery, vocabulary and landscape completely unknown to Indian literature and set the tone for a new Dalit...