An Ambedkar dwells within me
An Ambedkar dwells within you
Like the blue blood
Coursing in our veins
Nourishes our hearts
Stimulates our brains“
This is how poetess Anita Bharti from the Dalit community perceives Dr Ambedkar in her life and writings.
Anita Bharti is a Dalit poetess and writer from the northern Hindi belt. She was born on 9th February 1965 and she hails from Delhi. She has been the active voice of Dalits and women in the literature world which is full of savarna writers who are only engaged with the metaphors in their writings but not reflecting any hardcore realities of society in their works. They criticise the Dalit literature for not being so aesthetic, and against this writer, Sharankumar Limbale says “The purpose of this literature (Dalit literature) is to spread awareness amongst the Dalit society about their slavery and narrate the pain and suffering of the same to the rest of the society“.
Dominated by the upper caste, where open mics, the market altogether rules the literary sphere without questioning the institutions and sidelining the marginalised voices, in such scenarios, we need to hear more such voices and get to know what their ideas are, what they are thinking, how they are writing the realities, what their issues are.
And one such writer is Anita Bharti whose poems talk about feminism and Ambedkarism in their way.
Ambedkarism and feminism in poetry
Dalit literature’s essence comes from the struggle of Dr Ambedkar. His values have been the foundation of Dalit writers so it’s always possible to find writing on him, for him. Same thing we find in the poems of Anita Bharti, her poem titled “Ambedkar dwells within me” translated by Nikhil Pandhi for Scroll talks about the spirit of Baba Saheb residing in every person who follows his path and it doesn’t matter if his followers are getting defeated now, they will rise again for sure. She is giving hope to people who have not yet come to power to carry on with the struggle like baba saheb did.
Isn’t it astonishing that the people who are being murdered, and burnt every minute still have hopes to rise again? Definitely, it is.
“Baba, when you weep
In the crypt of politics
Your Dalit children
Get crushed and maimed
Like a horde of
Screaming skeletons. . .
When you laugh
The mutilated masses
Learn to rise from their ruins
Like flowers again blossoming
To the sound of lightning
Scattering in the blue rain
Yes, you are laughing, Baba“
This poem titled “Baba when you weep” has been written from the point of view of Baba Saheb himself and how he reacts when he sees his people are being tortured, and murdered. Baba Saheb weeps, he weeps a lot but when he sees that people are standing up again, remembering his path and starting the struggle of getting “human rights” he laughs, and he smiles as has been written at end of the poem. Anita Bharti writes so beautifully that in her poems Baba Saheb is smiling.
Her poems are clear hopes, shine, and spirit rides for the people who are struggling for their daily bread and butter and fighting with the question of daily survival in scarcity of resources.
One can see how strongly she puts the arguments from Dalit women’s perspective too in her writings. A Poetry collection of 65 poets has been curated by her, namely “Yatha sthiti se taurate hue Dalit stree jeevan se Judi kavitayen” which talks about the different walks of life of Dalit women and another kind of critique writeup by her is “Samkaleen narivad aur dalit stree ka pratirodh” in which she writes about Dalit women’s standpoint against Indian savarna feminism.
She has written several story books such as “Chronicle of the quota women and other stories” (translated by Nikhil Pandhi)which was awarded the PEN Award in 2022. She has an autobiography named “Choote Panno Ki Udan” and other than that, she has several other books like “Savitribai Phule Ki Kavitayen“, “Rukhsana Ka Ghar” Etc.
One of her poem titled “This time women’s day” present the intersectionality within the woman race in the Indian subcontinent and how their fights are different from one another at multiple levels but solidarity and sensitivity are the things which can unite them.
The importance of celebrating Women’s Day in a real sense would be marked when all these women get their share. In her series of ten poems titled “Rukhsana’s residence”
“Your children, by my faith Rukhsana,
school is as distant now
as an immortal from its death….”
represents the painful phases which women from minorities go through as they don’t have access to education, and they are doing menial work for getting wages. Anita Bharti is writing about the women living in detention camps too. This poem series will let you go through the suffering on which the system doesn’t work, on which no artist works.
Significance of Anita’s poems in contemporary times
We come across so many poems being written on flowers, and rivers, about daily chores and whatnot. But how many poets/poetesses talk about the caste in particular except the poets and writers coming from Dalit literature? Barely do people write.
When the majority of people sideline the issues of caste atrocities, communal violence, and gender-based violence, they are erasing the reality of this society, they are trying to put an end to such issues about which coming generations would say “where’s caste?” Writers like Anita Bharti are writing history, questioning the authority and institutions and altogether filling the hopes in the people to fight against oppressors.
When people from Dalit backgrounds write, they are not only doing a bare act of writing but breaking the code of conduct of manusmriti and leading the path of the Indian constitution. People may write because of their hobby, profession Etc but when several writers like Anita Bharti write, they are writing to break the hegemony in the literature that savarna is holding.
Poems of Anita Bharti are a reminder to not let the oppressors win.
When literary institutions are censuring Dalit literature, and sidelining the writers, and poets from major events, and awards, we need to read and spread Dalit literature so this culture doesn’t go into shadow and let it bloom to question the oppressors.