New Delhi : A caste-ridden society is worse than a society of slavery, and even apartheid, said Arundhati Roy, during a function held at the Constitution Club, New Delhi, on April 29 to mark the 6th anniversary of India’s first fully Hindi-English, bilingual magazine, FORWARD Press.
The theme of function, graced by eminent personalities like Anupriya Patel, Ramdas Athawale, Ali Anwar, Ramnika Gupta, Braj Ranjan Mani, Sheoraj Singh Bechain, Jaiprakash Kardam and Arvind Jain, was the “The Future of Bahujan Politics and Literature”. “We are on to an important idea,” said Roy, after releasing FORWARD Press’ fourth Bahujan Literature Annual. She was referring to the idea of Bahujan literature, the idea of fighting casteism with anger at the injustice “while holding in our hearts the idea of justice, love, beauty, music, literature”, without being reduced to a “bitter, small people”.
Ali Anwar, who heads the All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz, said Pasmandas are Bahujan first and then Muslims. “We don’t want to be called minorities. We are Bahujans”, he said. He was surprised by Ramdas Athawale’s proposal of reservations for the economically backward among the upper castes. He said we are not “mentally prepared” for such a move. The only criteria, he added, should be social and educational backwardness.
Braj Ranjan Mani, the author of Debrahmanising History, mooted the idea of a “social democracy” and the stressed the need for an “emancipatory unity” among Bahujans. Sujata Parmita said the Dalit-Bahujans have been the creators of culture throughout history but religion has been used to enslave them and seize their culture from them. Anupriya Patel shared the view that once the oppressed masses are educated, their leaders will stop making compromises.
Sheoraj Singh Bechain recalled a conversation with Kanshiram shortly before his BSP formed its first government in Uttar Pradesh in alliance with the BJP. Instead of eyeing power, he should have started a magazine, Bechain had advised Kanshiram – for it is “social power, cultural power, intellectual power” that brings real empowerment to the Bahujans.
On the occasion, the second Mahatma Jotiba and Krantijyoit Savitribai Phule Balijan Ratna awards were presented to Braj Ranjan Mani, A.R. Akela (poet, folk singer, author and publisher) and Dr Hiralal Alawa (senior resident doctor at AIIMS and founder of Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti).