The lives of Ambedkarite activists over the generations.
This package includes:
In 1987, as the Ramjanmabhoomi movement gathers momentum, a thirteen-year-old from a village in Rajasthan joins the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Despite his untouchable status, he quickly rises to the post of karyavah. Ahead of the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, he becomes the district office chief of Bhilwara. He hates Muslims with a passion without having met one. He joins thousands of karsevaks to Ayodhya. He mocks Mulla-Yam Singh.
He participates in riots. He goes to jail. He finds Hindutva intoxicating. He is ready to die for the Hindu Rashtra.
And yet he remains a lesser Hindu. He turns into a critic of the Sangh, becomes an Ambedkarite and makes it his life’s mission to expose the hypocrisies of Hindutva.
In this explosive memoir, translated by Nivedita Menon from the Hindi, Bhanwar Meghwanshi tells us what it meant to be an untouchable in the RSS. And what it means to become Dalit.
A Chaplinesque autobiography that will make you laugh and cry.
A poet tracks his journey from a dalit colony on the edges of Magadi town—where he would rather roam the hills and wade in rivers than attend school—to the hardships of living in dalit hostels in the city. Instead of despairing in his poverty, he turns to poetry. This makes the poet look at the benefits of sleeping on the streets of Bangalore: ‘The imagination of people who sleep under the star-studded sky takes wing. They become close to the moon.’ We hear Siddalingaiah’s fiercely political and poetic voice mature as he tastes success as an orator and legislator, but his mood for mischief never diminishes. He regards a chief minister and an idli vendor with the same degree of affectionate irreverence.
A Word With You, World is a vivid evocation of everyday life and labour, of conviviality and courage, of poverty and loss. As the critic D.R. Nagaraj says in his afterword, Siddalingaiah offers us a bonsai-like compression of life. ‘This is writing that makes rage pleasant. Here, anger becomes sarcasm. Ire is translated into a mischief that grasps the subtleties of life.’
Born into a family of landless bonded labourers in the dustbowl of Sathgaon in western India, Namdeo Nimgade is 14 when he finally manages to attend his village school where, being an ‘untouchable’, he has to stand on the ‘hot verandah and listen to lessons through a window’. Inspired by Dr B.R. Ambedkar, he steadfastly pursues his education. Graduating from Nagpur, Nimgade goes on to complete his PhD in soil science from the University of Wisconsin in 1962—perhaps the first dalit after Ambedkar to earn a doctorate from an American university. In the 1950s, as an associate at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in Delhi, Nimgade gets to spend time with Dr Ambedkar. Throughout his life, Nimgade remains singularly committed to the ambedkarite movement. Nimgade narrates incidents in his life with candour and delightful humour—whether recounting his great-grandfather Ganba’s combat with a tiger in a forest, or his ‘forbidden’ love for a non-dalit woman. Moving away from the framework of victimhood narratives, Nimgade’s life is an inspiring story of triumph against odds.
1943, Shimla. Bhagwan Das, all of 16 and a keen member of the Scheduled Caste Federation, waited seven hours to meet the man his father called ‘Ummeedkar’, the Harbinger of Hope-Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. That meeting defined the trajectory Das’ life would later take in his single-minded pursuit of Babasaheb’s ideals. After serving in the Royal Indian Air Force as a radar operator during World War II, Das worked with Ambedkar as a research assistant in the last years before Ambedkar passed away in 1956. Six years later, Das began to compile and edit Ambedkar’s speeches in the four-volume Thus Spoke Ambedkar. After four decades of dedicated activism, Bhagwan Das, supported by a coalition of dalit organisations, testified on untouchability in August 1983 before the UN Subcommission on Human Rights in Geneva, much against the wishes of India’s official delegation at the conference.
This memoir, and the DVD of a documentary feature that accompanies it, offer a dalit perspective on key events in modern Indian history: August 1947, the ‘moment of Independence’ that Das recalls as ‘Hindu Raj’ and as a time when ‘untouchables were afraid’; his unambiguous critique of Gandhi; and his unmasking of the ‘valmikisation’ of the sweeper community as nothing but fiction.
'A powerful exposé of Brahmanical politics’—Cynthia Stephen, on I Could Not Be Hindu
‘Written in two parts, Ooru Keri, with a register that filters rage through irony and laughter, is atypical of the genre of Dalit autobiography’—The Indian Express, on A Word With You, World
‘This book must be read not only by all those who want to understand the dalit universe but also by those who enjoy a good Indian book in English’—DNA, on In The Tiger's Shadow
'This slim volume is worth a serious read and the DVD accompanying it is also a must watch'—The Sunday Tribune, on In Pursuit of Ambedkar