Hum Dekhengey- 2

August 9, 2014 at 9:15 PMAug (Activism, Friends, Music, Musings, Slice Of Life)

Background: To commemorate the birth Anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in Udupi it was decided by the Dali Sangarsha Samiti and Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike, jointly, to hold, on 14th of April, a city-wide Jai Bheem Rally. A beautiful book – Jaati Himseya Reeti: Ambedkar Anubhavagalu was translated and edited by Phaniraj Sir to be distributed to the people while taking the rally. Pamphlets were printed, flags and head-bands stitched, songs practiced. Enthusiasm was at its peak as the day arrived.

Jai Bheem Rally

Jai Bheem Rally

The day: All of us gathered at the Clock Tower in Udupi. A bus and two mini-buses were arranged for the rally and a few two wheelers and few cars. The two mini buses had huge flexes of Dr. Ambedkar on top of it. When all the vehicles arrived they were decorated with the flags in red and blue. The official flag of the Dali Sangharsha Samiti also fluttered. Some of us wore the head band. Songs in praise of Dr. Ambedkar and speaking about the cause of Dalits took wings from the speakers. Everything was set.

Writer activist Athrady Amruta Shetty released the book and the rally was flagged off by Nagar Sabha President Yuvaraj Puttur.

With the slogan ‘Jai Bheem’ we started marching. After marching some distance we got on to the bus and started moving to the Dalit colonies in and around Udupi.

With the live commentary by senior Dalit activist Jayan Malpe which was paused by recorded songs the rally went to the Dalit colonies in Kannarpaadi, Kappettu, Moodbettu, Malpe, Tottam, Kadike, Gujjarbettu, Padakudru. Nejar, Kalyanpur-Santekatte, Subrahmanya Nagar and Puttur.

In all these colonies the Jai Bheem Rally was welcomed by the Dalits with all their heart. They offered flowers to the photo of Dr. Ambedkar, lit lamps before the photo and also distributed sweets. In some colonies crackers were burst. In each colony book and the pamphlets were distributed. Speeches were made in every colony by different speakers. Songs were sung in some colonies. Songs were accompanied by dance.

It was celebration and pure celebration.

Travelling through all the Dalit colonies Jai Bheem Rally, as planned, returned to the Clock Tower, in the evening, for the concluding programme of the day.

The valedictory programme began with the song ‘dalitaNNa oh dalitaNNa’ and ‘yaarige yenilla, oh aNNa namgyaake neerilla’. The Chief Guest of the evening writer-activist Du. Saraswati spoke and then spoke K.L. Ashok the state president of Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike.

The moment: While K.L. Ashok was delivering his speech from the south direction a procession marching towards the Clock Tower Circle could be heard. The beat of drums was first heard. The theatrics of walking on the stick made its appearance. Slowly the sound of the drum beat got louder and louder. The procession came nearer and nearer. All the saffron flags were becoming visible slowly.

It was a procession carrying contributions in kind by people and organizations to the annual festival of a temple near-by. Such processions are usually made a spectacle. This one was no exception.

As K.L. Ashok completed his speech the procession had come close, quite close. The drum beats, by nearly fifty drums beaters at the same time, got so loud that our speakers couldn’t overpower it.

We stood there waiting for the procession to pass-by.

Someone among us thought of playing the recorded songs we had. Some of us started to dance thinking we will keep our show on through our dance till the procession passes.

But the procession halted for a while instead of marching ahead.

Photo: Pallavi Rao

Photo: Pallavi Rao

Next to our event the procession stopped and kept beating drums like a challenge posed to Jai Bheem Rally. Conch was blown by several people at regular intervals. Vedic chantings were chanted continuously by the priestly class.Theatrics accompanying the procession performed their theatrics. Men wearing those huge masks danced as the masks’ perpetual smile looked at us as if laughing at us.

The procession would march ten steps and halt again. The long procession looked never ending. Even if they had just walked, without stopping, the procession would take around fifteen-twenty minutes to pass-by completely. That long a procession it was. But they wouldn’t just proceed. They would halt after every ten steps, with its theatrics, drummers, dancers and the innumerable vehicles carrying the contributions- food grains, vegetables etc.

We who had decided to dance till the end were tired. The entire day’s rally had not left much energy in us. We stopped our dance as sweat dripped from our bodies.

But the drums never stopped. The theatrics never stopped. Those masks never stopped smiling. Those saffron flags kept fluttering.

We stood. We stood silently. We stood silently for the procession to pass. We stood to complete our programme for which we had sweated and toiled. We stood to complete our programme which stood on our conviction and commitment to certain values certain belief system.

We stood for more than half an hour, silently, waiting for the procession to pass and for us to continue with our programme.

One of the vehicles that was a part of the procession carried the banner saying it was carrying the contribution made by a particular police station in near Udupi.

Personal note: Standing and waiting there I felt like being bullied by a show of power. I felt helpless and defeated for the procession with its drums, theatrics, flags everything had overpowered the celebration of the man who fought for an egalitarian society. I felt insulted. I felt ashamed.

But waiting there taught me something. Something important: Resistance and revolution is also about holding on when the counter forces are bulldozing you. The hegemonic group will have the capital and the cultural capital to bully and make a spectacle of its power. To change that spectacle and thus the aesthetics of our space and our living, we might have to wait and as we wait we need to keep the show going.

The procession finally did pass. We got back to the mics. Speeches were made. Slogans were raised. Songs were sung. The drum beats had disappeared somewhere. The last thing the Clock Towere Circle heard that evening was not the drum beats nor the vedic chantings but the slogan JAI BHEEM.


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