Namdeo Dhasal, a founder of the Dalit Panthers and a revolutionary poet, died today, January 15, 2014.. He will be missed by all those dedicated to the revolutionary anti-caste movement. For a time the Dalit Panthers symbolized the rebellious aspirations of a generation of Dalit youth. Dhasal’s poetry was militant and hardhitting; Golpitha, his first collection, was named after a red-light district in Mumbai. Golpitha’s language reflected the raw realism of that milieu. “Poetry is politics,” said Dhasal, and he acted accordingly, Political splits occurred in the Panther movement, but the spirit continued. His poem “Kamatipura” (from Golpitha) is given below:
The nocturnal porcupine reclines here
Like an alluring grey bouquet
Wearing the syphilitic sores of centuries
Pushing the calendar away
Forever lost in its own dreams
Man’s lost his speech
His god’s a shitting skeleton
Will this void ever find a voice, become a voice?
If you wish, keep an iron eye on it to watch
If there’s a tear in it, freeze it and save it too
Just looking at its alluring form, one goes berserk
The porcupine wakes up with a start
Attacks you with its sharp aroused bristles
Wounds you all over, through and through
As the night gets ready for its bridegroom, wounds begin to blossom
Unending oceans of flowers roll out
Peacocks continually dance and mate
This is hell
This is a swirling vortex
This is an ugly agony
This is pain wearing a dancer’s anklets
Shed your skin, shed your skin from its very roots
Let these poisoned everlasting wombs become disembodied.
Let not this numbed ball of flesh sprout limbs
As you die at the infinitesimal fraction of a second,
Write down the small ‘s’ that’s being forever lowered.
Here queue up they who want to taste
Poison’s sweet or salt flavour
Death gathers here, as do words,
In just a minute, it will start pouring here.
Tucking all seasons under your armpit
You squat in the mud here
I go beyond all the pleasures and pains of whoring and wait
For your lotus to bloom.
— A lotus in the mud.
This raw “poetry of the underworld” is the heritage of Namdeo Dhasal.