गुरुवार, 15 जुलाई 2010

The rise of 'Dalit lit' marks a new chapter for India's untouchables

The rise of 'Dalit lit' marks a new chapter for India's untouchables

As caste divides fade, a fresh crop of writers is emerging

By Andrew Buncombe in Delhi

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Interview with ramnika rupta on dalit writer and publishers in India

A key figure in the emergence of low-caste writing is Ramnika Gupta. She is not a Dalit but she produces a quarterly magazine, Yuddhrat Aam Aadmi, devoted to previously marginalized writers. She estimates that she and her team of just three full-time assistants have published around 1,500 Dalit writers from across India over the last two decades. Large publishers regularly go to her for information about new talent. She helps on the condition that the publishers agree to produce a paperback edition that is affordable for ordinary people, in addition to the standard hardback run.

In the first-floor drawing room of her home, which also serves as her office, she noted that Dalit writers never lacked subject material. The highly influential writer and Dalit leader, B R Ambedkar, she explained, had said it was essential that low-caste people had their own literature and that they wrote about their own lives.

Mrs Gupta, who has herself written dozens of books on Dalit and tribal people's issues, said of the caste system: "India's culture discriminates. It's a state of exploitation. Everyone thinks 'He is lower than me' or 'I'm superior'. What we are trying to say is that we are all equal and if anyone is weak, we can help them to rise."

Dalit writers say the emergence of low-caste literature has taken place alongside a broader growth of consciousness and activism, particularly in urban India. While in rural India, caste remains all-pervading, in cities many of the signs and signals that identify a person's caste have vanished. In cities, too, Dalits are better organised to stand up for their rights.

बुधवार, 14 जुलाई 2010

A stage in our name

ramnika gupta
By: Moushumi Basu

A translation movement seeks to bring the experience of Adivasi and Dalit writers to the attention of a larger readership.
Karen Haydock
Should Adivasi and Dalit literature be considered a separate genre in India? Beyond the merits of this ongoing debate, the question itself would today undoubtedly remain largely impossible even to pose had it not been for the work of 80-year-old Ramnika Gupta and her Ramnika Foundation, from Jharkhand. For decades now, she has worked to publicise the voices of hundreds of Adivasi and Dalit writers from across India. Not only were many of these writers previously unheard of outside of their communities, but with help from the Foundation’s All India Tribal Literary Forum (AITLF), many have received nationwide recognition and even accolades. Among others, these have included Mangal Singh Hazowari, the noted Bodo poet and writer; Yeshe Dorjee Thongchi, from the Sherdukpen tribe in Arunachal Pradesh; and Jadumani Besra, the Santhali author who writes in the Oriya script. Each of these has in recent years won the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award, conferred by India’s National Academy of Letters.

Set up in 2002, AITLF and the Ramnika Foundation have assisted in the publication of works in some 27 Adivasi languages, including Mizo, Chakma, Koke Boroke, Khasi, Jaintia, Garo, Bhilodi, Mundari, Ho, Kurukh, Kharia, Santhali and others. Given her long experience (in addition to her activist work, she has authored close to 70 books), when Ramnika Gupta is today asked to explain why Adivasi and Dalit literature needs special recognition, she translates a few lines of poetry in response. This particular selection comes from “Stage”, written in a Bhil dialect by Vahru Sonawane, a revolutionary Maharashtrian Adivasi poet and also the AITLF’s general-secretary:

We never went on the stage that was made in our name
They did not invite us
They pointed with their finger
And showed us our place
We sat there
They appreciated us
They were narrating to us
Our own vows and sorrows
Which were ours and never theirs
We had some doubts
We murmured
They heard us attentively and sighed
They twisted our ears and said –
Apologise … or you will be…

“It is for this reason that tribal literature is required,” she concludes, suggesting that Adivasis have for too long only had others write about them, rather than being able to write about their own experience and situations. The idea has thus been to develop an Adivasi leadership that can allow for these disparate communities to speak for themselves, but also to give them a common unifying social, political, linguistic and literary platform. The end goal is to change both external and internal attitudes towards Adivasis, and to enable them to overcome an age-old sense of inferiority. This is “a tribal literature that encapsulates a history of three to four thousand years,” says Gupta. “A wonderful diversity from an abundance of communities, composed in 90 languages that don’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

A window and connection
A key component of this has been the publication of a quarterly journal, Yudhrat Aam Aadmi, which over the past several years has become an important gateway of expression for Adivasi and Dalit writers throughout India. Today, every issue of Yudhrat Aam Aadmi is replete with poems, stories, lyrics and other literary forms from writers and poets representing a huge section of India, from the Northeast to Punjab to Tamil Nadu. A typical issue is a bit over 100 pages, of which the four general issues every year are buttressed by two subject-based special issues. The latest special issue, for instance, deals with excrement carriers, while others have focused on the process of printing, Adivasi communities of the Northeast, and tales of valour and revolt. Such special issues typically run upwards of 300 pages.

Yudhrat Aam Aadmi is not the only publication of its kind. A group called Katha, based in Delhi, also publishes Adivasi literature, particularly from the Northeast, in English translations. However, Adivasi literature is not its sole focus. The same can be said with regard to Dalit literature: while there is a significant amount of such works being published in India today, there are still only a handful of organisations focusing exclusively on Dalit literature. The Ramnika Foundation, on the other hand, is the only publisher in the country today not only placing such focus on Adivasi literature from throughout the country, but also translating these into Hindi.

By publishing pieces both in their original languages in the Devanagari script and in Hindi translations, the magazine has brought such works, along with their authors, into the national limelight. The Hindi translations, Gupta says, “provide a window to the writers, allowing for interaction between the [mainstream] and the various tribal languages of India.” In this way, the priority for the journal, for the foundation and for Gupta herself remains grounded in the political, rather than the aesthetic: to sustain and transform Adivasi and Dalit literature into an empowering tool that can be used to pressure the government into changing certain policies. Changes have been called for in terms of development policies causing displacement and migration, mother-tongue education and related changes of curriculum, and the introduction of Adivasi and Dalit literature.

“This literature does not have the conventional aesthetic but it is grounded in reality, speaks of life,” Gupta said. This is the real voice of the marginalised, she emphasises – “their struggle, their pain and anguish, which has been penned by they themselves, as they see it.” The public response to the publication of this material has over the past decade been overwhelming. Copies of Yudhrat Aam Aadmi consistently sell out, and have been widely incorporated as reference material for research work on Dalit and Adivasi literature. The public response has prompted Gupta and her staff to start bringing out bound compilations of works that they had published. Dalit Chetna: Kavita, for instance, published in 1995-96, included a collection of more than 40 poems; Dalit Chetna: Kahani showcased 28 short-story writers, and Dalit Chetna: Soch highlighted 29 more writers, works of literature, history and social disparity.

AITLF has since decided to concentrate for a bit on Dalit Telegu writers, followed by additional focuses on fostering women writers, then Adivasi and Dalit talent in Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. “For the first time, we have brought out a collection of 400 Dalit and tribal writers,” Gupta says. Their initiatives eventually led Indira Gandhi National Open University to start planning for postgraduate classes on Dalit literature, which are scheduled to begin in the near future. Similarly the government of Uttar Pradesh has introduced Dalit literature into many of the state’s schools and colleges; while Ranchi University has taught five Adivasi languages – Mundari, Kudux, Santhali, Kharia and Ho – for a decade now.

A significant priority for the AITLF programmes has been the Adivasi communities of the Northeast. The first special issue of Yudhrat Aam Aadmi, for instance, included 13 languages of the Northeast (including Bodo, Mizo, Khasi, Jaintia, Dimasa and Lepcha, among others), in addition to offering a directory of more than 100 Northeast writers. Several conferences have taken place, including the first major Adivasi literary conference, in New Delhi in June 2002. The Ramnika Foundation has also set up an annual award to find and name exceptional creative writers in particularly remote areas. In the past, this exposed to the national stage writers such as Nirmala Putul from Jharkhand, who later went on to receive the Kendriya Hindi Sansthan Award for her powerful Santhali-language works.
Putul’s writings are known for being candid regarding the problems of the Santhali tribe. She not only writes of the exploitation and struggles of her community, but also tries to rectify some of these through her writings. Equally bold and powerful are her outpourings on women’s issues, as in this Santhali poem (Hindi translation below):

Tumhaare haathon par bane pattal par bharte hain pet hazaron,
par hazaron pattal bhar nahi paate tumhare pet …
Jin Gharon ke liye banaati ho tum jhaaru,
unhi se aate hain kachre tumhaare bastion mein…

Your handmade leaf plates are used to feed thousands of bellies,
but these thousands of leaf plates cannot fill your own bellies…
The very homes that you make brooms for
are the ones that bring filth to your doors…

Putul says that her inclusion in Yudhrat Aam Aadmi was a turning point for her writing. “My joy knew no bounds when my first collection of poetry saw the light of day in YAA,” says. “The platform shall remain a guiding light in my life, exposing my work to the outside world, which later fetched me recognition.”

Drops of reality
During this year’s awards ceremony, in January in Ranchi, the foundation recognised 12 Adivasi authors from across the country for their contributions to preserving marginalised languages. These included, among others, Bijoya Sawian for her writings in Khasi; V P Verma Pathik for his contributions to Aravali Udghosh, a publication connecting Hindi and Adivasi literature; Krishna Chandra Tuddu, for his prolific writing in Santhali; and Pragya Daya Pawar, whose Marathi poetry, plays and criticism have long highlighted Dalit and Adivasi issues. Also recognised were Anamika and Sushila Takbhore, for their writings on women; Abhay Mourya and Bibhuti Narayan Rai, for their work on communal harmony and communism; and Dwarka Bharati and Y C P Venkata Reddy for their translation work on Adivasi literature.

Bhagwan Das, long a leading Dalit intellectual with some 20 books to his name on untouchability, human scavengers, human rights and social disparity, was awarded the Birsa Munda Samman. “Main Bhangi Hoon” (I am a scavenger) is amongst his best-known works, offering what is still an astonishingly vivid portrayal of the harsh realities of his community, aglow with his wrath against centuries of social oppression. “Yes, my family name is Bhangi,” he wrote in Hindi. “Today, I want to narrate my story. My story in my words. Who would have narrated, nobody ever wrote anything about us. We are on the last rung of the social ladder – dustbins, where the filth and dirt are disposed.” At the awards ceremony, he said: “The Foundation has instilled confidence amongst the Dalits and tribals. They take pride in their culture and language – this is the Foundation’s biggest contribution.”
Sushila Takbhore was also honoured with the Savitribai Phule Samman. Known for her strong Dalit and feminist writings, she addressed the function with a recitation of one of her poems, “Gaali” (Abuse), which translated from the Hindi reads:

In the name of loyalty
one may call himself a dog
but not a bitch
the very utterance of the word makes it appear as an abuse.
Is it because it belongs to the feminine gender?

Also at the ceremony, Rajendra Yadav, the eminent Hindi writer and chairperson of the Ramnika Foundation, reminded the audience that communities in Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and elsewhere in the Northeast are continuing to battle for their cultural and linguistic identities. For much of the public, he said, ‘the Northeast’ today simply means Assam. “But how many of us are aware that even Assam has 15 different tribal languages?” he asked. “And their viewpoints and creations are so compelling that they can really stir up one’s thinking.” Examples of what Yadav is referring to include the strong matrilineal society as depicted by the Khasi writer Bijoya Sawian, or her references to how a groom man comes to stay in the house of the bride; or the writings of Chamulal Rathawa, from the Rathawa tribe of Gujarat, on how “no child is called illegal, child and mother are cared for by the community, while the child gets the name of the father, his marriage to the mother depending upon the wish of the latter”; or simply the general collective way of life for most Adivasi communities, how the concept of individual possession almost does not exist. Each of these offers something to be learned from by mainstream readers.

At the event, it was also noted that as of 2002 there were 146 Santhali and other Adivasi-language magazines registered in Jharkhand alone. Altogether, there are thought to be some six million speakers of Santhali (which in addition to Jharkhand is spoken in Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh), yet for years the language was not included in the Indian Constitution’s Eighth Schedule, which lists the country’s accepted ‘national’ languages. Yet since 2002 the number of Santhali publications increased significantly, with writers and activists using these magazines to develop their written literature as part of the larger struggle. In 2003, Santhali was finally included in the Eighth Schedule, which means that the tongue can now be taught in school. This can now potentially help Adivasi children in terms of both self-confidence and the later ability to get a job, including due to the need for a new generation of teachers fluent in certain languages, as well as obligatory government appointees, and the like.

Yet the current success on the part of activists in keeping Santhali alive is not one that is shared by other marginalised languages in India, including Ho, Kharia, Mundari (in Jharkhand), Bhilodi (in Maharashtra), Gondi, (in Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Karnataka), Dimasa and Karbi (in Assam), Kandha, Sora, Kui and Kamar (in Orissa). Indeed, these are just a few of those currently fighting for official recognition. This, Rajendra Yadav said, is to the detriment of the country as a whole. He emphasised that each of these languages, and their accompanying literature, when it exists, is instrumental in tracing the roots of the civilisations of the Subcontinent. “Each of these languages, which could not flourish beyond their speakers’ areas due to lack of scope for wider use on the national level, is endowed with vital potential to add something to national integration,” Yadav said, “like drops of water, however small, augment the surface of rivers and streams.”

It is important to note that many of these languages survived because of the oral tradition at a time when they had no script; now, there is more scope for their continuation because of the rise of literacy. As such, many languages will never die until the speakers abandon them, but continued efforts at cowing down the Adivasi languages by the mainstream will inevitably hasten this. According to Ramnika Gupta, “A rivulet has its own identity for the period it flows from the mountain to the sea. To make the sea rich, the identity of rivulets cannot be abolished. Let them flow without any boundaries around them for the benefit of the people around, enabling them to express better.”

Today, many of these languages are endangered because of government policies, particularly in education, as well by as the constant external cultural assault brought about by television, films and the ubiquity of media of all kinds in the ‘mainstream’ languages. “There are more than 500 tribes in India,” says Gupta. “Of these, 75 such groups live outside the Northeast and, barring a few, nearly all of them have either lost their language already or are on the verge of it. In most cases, these have been subsumed by the language of the majority.” Even in the twilight of her life, Gupta is far from complacent about the situation. “No country in the world has such a multilingual literature as ours,” she says, “there are 600 tribal languages in the country and only 90 languages have so far been written in – our forum aims to scout for talent in every nook and cranny of the country.”

Moushumi Basu is a journalist based in Ranchi, Jharkhand.

सोमवार, 12 जुलाई 2010

Intermeter of maladies

For 80-year-old Ramnika Gupta from Jharkhand, allowing voices to be heard that are rarely heard and yet have a lot to say, has resulted in a mission to hunt out and publish the works of tribal and dalit writers.
Thanks to her efforts over the years, several collections of dalit and tribal poetry, short stories, and books have been published. The magazine she founded Yudhrat Aam Admi has featured the works of many tribal and dalit writers. The All India Tribal Literary Forum, also her baby, is one of very few forums for tribal literature. And the Ramnika Foundation works for the emancipation of the underprivileged in several areas -- from education to legal assistance, research, cultural preservation and material assistance.
Is it really necessary to have a separate dalit/tribal genre of literature? Ramnika Gupta’s answer is to quote from a poem by Vahru Sonwane, a tribal poet of Maharashtra:
We never went on stage that was made in our name,
They did not invite us They pointed with their finger And showed us our place We sat there They appreciated us They were narrating to us Our own vows and sorrows Which were ours and never theirs We had some doubts We murmured They heard us attentively and sighed They twisted our ears and said- Apologise... or you will be...” “It is for this reason that tribal and dalit literature is required,” Gupta says. But the two literatures are very different. The dalits are landless and do not have their own language. Their literature is written in Hindi and other languages. They are victims of caste oppression and untouchability even today and hence have not developed self-respect; many are still engaged in occupations considered unclean. “They belong to the pancham varg of society, where the so-called upper castes do not take water from their hands,” Gupta says.
The adivasis or tribals, on the other hand, belonged to the forests which began to be taken away from them following British rule. Tribal-inhabited lands are rich in minerals so the pressing issues confronting them today are displacement and migration in search of livelihood. They have a rich language and culture, but today their very identity and existence are in peril.
Gupta says there are 90 known tribal languages in the country, of which she has been able to document 27 so far. “A literature that encapsulates a history of at least 3-4,000 years, a wonderful diversity with abundance of communities, and which is composed in 90 languages doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world – neither in American Black literature, nor Australian nor Negroid. It is a unique chapter in the history of world literature,” she says.
Though this multi-lingual tribal literature has been preserved through an oral tradition for 5,000 years, the written form of tribal literature is barely 100-125 years old, starting with the script of the regional language of the area. Christian missionaries who came to the tribal states took an interest in learning the language and began documenting tribal culture and history in English.
Gupta emphasises language because the language revolution can be really powerful in fighting the tyranny of the ruling class.
“Our main aim and agenda is to generate the socio-cultural forces that are necessary for bringing about an attitudinal change in people’s outlook to the victims of socio-cultural injustice, especially tribals, dalits and even women. For this, it is very essential that victims of injustice, exploitation and discrimination come forward and assert their voice in unison. To do this it is also essential that they shake off the inferiority complex they have developed over centuries of suppression and subjugation. It is also necessary that they fight for their self-respect and identity,” Gupta says.
The need to focus on indigenous literature, Gupta says, is “because we wanted to stop the prevalent practice of non-tribals speaking, writing and representing them, without caring what the tribals actually want, think, dream or plan. So we started a reverse process, ie the victims of injustice and discrimination should speak for themselves and assert what type of change they want to promote. Their literature may not have the conventional aesthetics, but it is grounded in reality, it is their voice, their struggle, their pain and anguish that are penned by them, as they see it.”
Tribal literature has always existed as an oral tradition, but when it is written down, the culture is documented, the history and trends are recorded and it is not lost, infiltrated, and imposed on by outsiders, Gupta explains.
“I got a chance to interact with a large cross-section of downtrodden society (dalits). I began collecting their works; their writings were stark depictions of their struggles, the pathos of discrimination, the trials and tribulations of their life. This led to the birth of the magazine Yudhrat Aam Admi in 1986,” Gupta says, describing the genesis of her interest.
In 1997, she formed the Ramnika Foundation which promoted, among other things, the literature of dalits. In 2002, the All India Tribal Literary Forum (AITLF) was formed with Dr Ram Dayal Munda, Sangeet Natak Academy awardwinner and eminent academician from Jharkhand, as president. AITLF has since been holding regular conferences across the country to mobilise tribal and dalit writers and collect their works, many of which are published in Yudhrat Aam Admi.
This quarterly magazine has become a gateway of expression for numerous tribal and dalit writers across the country. It publishes work in the original language and in Hindi translation, thus bringing a subaltern literature into the national limelight. Poems, stories, lyrics, novels and other literary forms from writers and poets of the north-eastern states, Jharkhand, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra, Tamil Nadu and other states, get exposure and are themselves exposed to outside critique.
The conferences organised by AILTF not only take these little-known writings into the outside world, they also discuss important tribal and dalit issues. These include a clearly drawn up 12-point agenda which includes highlighting the unjust development policies of the government which cause displacement and migration; denigration of tribal scriptures by mainstream languages; education in the mothertongue; change of curriculum in schools and colleges and introduction of tribal and dalit literature.
Yudhrat Aam Admi’s print-run of 2,500 is quickly sold out. The translations into Hindi are done by Gupta’s friends including Akil Quis and Pramila Garg of Jawaharlal Nehru University, and by Gupta herself. Often the authors do a basic translation in Hindi or English, which is then perfected by professionals such as Suresh Sahil and Madan Kashyap.
The material published in Yudhrat Aam Admi is now considered basic reference material for research work on dalit and tribal literature, which is carried out by several universities in the country such as Ranchi University, in Jharkhand, Cochin University in Kerala, Nagpur University, Central University and Osmania University in Hyderabad, and Arunachal University.
The excellent response to the magazine emboldened Gupta to compile the writings and publish them as books: Dalit Chetna is a collection of 41 poems, Chetna Kahani showcases the literary talent of 28 writers. Dalit Chetna Soch and Dalit Chetna Sahitya followed.
The AITLF has concentrated on different languages and language centres. Thus there is the Telegu Sahitya Me Dalit Dastak and the Gujarati Sahitya Me Dalit Kadam etc.
Four hundred dalit and tribal writers have been featured in a series of special issues between 1995 and 2000, surely a first of its kind.
“Our success story inspired the Indira Gandhi National Open University to start a post-graduate course in Dalit Literature,” Gupta says. Equally successful were the endeavours of the forum in the north-eastern states. A special issue on the North-East, ‘Purvottar Ka Adivasi Swar – Vichar Khand’, showcased the work of 60 writers in 13 languages of the region. A directory of 105 writers from the north-eastern states has been published in two volumes.
In 2002, the Sahitya Akademi joined hands with AITLF to host the first major tribal literary conference in New Delhi. This was followed by conferences in association with Kannad University in Tami Nadu, the Vinoba Bhave University, Hazaribagh, and others across the country.
“These writers across the country need to be honoured and felicitated for their work,” Gupta points out. To this end, the Ramnika Foundation Samman selects writers from the remote hinterlands and awards them for their creative writing. In this way new talent has been unearthed -- Nirmala Putul from Jharkhand went on to bag the Kendriya Hindi Sansthan Award, and the National Youth Award besides the Bharat Adivasi Samman award given by the Ramnika Foundation in collaboration with the National Book Trust in 2005, for her powerful Santhali writing.
In Nagare Ki Tarah Bajte Hain Shabad (Words Resound Like Drums), a collection of poems, Putul counterpoises her tribal world with the 'developed' and modern world. Her poetry questions the whole notion of 'development' and 'progress' in modern civilisation. Her poetry is very musical and full of imagery drawn from nature. They describe the agony of being belittled by an ‘educated’ and ‘cultured’ society and the consequent feeling of helplessness. Her poetry compels the reader to empathise with the angst of a dying ethnic group.
This year, the Ramnika Foundation in association with AITLF honoured 12 tribal artistes from across the country in the state capital of Jharkhand.
Among those honoured was Vijoya Sawiyan, a noted writer in Khasi and English. Her stories are about the life and culture of the Khasis of the northeast. The Family Secret and Other Stories is a collection of 11 short stories about contemporary life amongst the Khasis of Meghalaya. She is currently working on a novel, Men in the Shadows, based on the present situation in the turbulent northeast. Her other published works include three books of translations from Khasi into English -- The Teachings of Elders, Popular Khasi Folk Tales and About One.
Vahru Sonwane is the first modern poet from the Bhil community of Maharashtra. His poems depict the hunger, pathos and struggle of Bhil society. His collection of poems Godhar which has been translated into Hindi is a window into the trials and tribulations of his community.
Bhagwan Das, a lawyer by profession, was born into a dalit family in Himachal Pradesh. He has written 20 books revolving mainly around untouchability, human scavengers, human rights, and social disparity. ‘Main Bhangi Hoon’ (I Am a Scavenger), amongst his best works, is a vivid portrayal of the harsh realities of his community, aglow with his wrath against centuries of social oppression:
“Yes, my family name is Bhangi,” he wrote in Hindi. “Today, I want to narrate my story. My story in my words. Who would have narrated it? Nobody ever wrote anything about us. We are on the last rung of the social ladder – dustbins, where the filth and dirt are disposed.”
“The Foundation has instilled confidence in dalits and tribals,” Bhagwan Das says. “They take pride in their culture and language – this is the Foundation’s biggest contribution.” He has been awarded the Birsa Munda Samman by the Ramnika Foundation this year.
Sushila Takbhore was honoured with the Savitri Bai Phule Samman this year. One of her poems, Gaali (abuse), translated into Hindi, reads:
“Vafa ke naam par, apne aap ko ek kutta kaha ja sakta hai…magar kutia nahi, kutia shabd sunkar hi lagta hai, yah ek gaali hai… kya isliye ki wah stri varg me aata hai…?”
(In the name of loyalty, one may call himself a dog… but not a bitch… the very utterance of the word makes it appear as an abuse… is it because it belongs to the feminine race..?)
Ramnika Gupta’s empathy with the downtrodden began early. “I have been a rebel since my childhood and began to write from the age of 14, when I penned my first poems,” she recalls. “I questioned untouchability and the existence of God, defying the prevalent traditions and customs, particularly on gender and caste.”
Her first book, Geet-Ageet, (1962) is a collection of poetry on the Chinese aggression in the 1960s, nature, love, and patriotism. She began her career as a trade union leader, forming the Koyla Sramik Sangh in 1969 in the coal-belts of south Bihar (now Jharkhand), initially affiliated to Hind Mazdoor Panchayat, and later Hind Mazdoor Sabha. She fought for the cause of coal workers, braving attacks from the private mine owners and contractors, particularly in the Hazaribagh region, during the pre-nationalisation era. She was the CPM’s candidate from Mandu in the 1979 assembly polls, and won.
However she drifted away from politics after she suffered a heart attack in 1987. Also the changing political values made it difficult for her to work and gradually she came closer to the literary world. An ace writer herself, she has 67 books to her credit and is the recipient of the Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Award.
Her literary institution is run largely with the support of her children who are settled in the United States and Canada. Her pension of Rs 12,000, and Rs 100,000 free travel that she gets as part of her entitlements as a former MLA, are used for the cause.
Yet, in the twilight of her life, Ramnika Gupta is far from satisfied with her considerable achievements. “There are 600 tribal languages in our country of which only 90 languages have so far been written down. Our Forum aims to scout for more talent from the nooks and corners of the country,” says the indefatigable chronicler of marginal cultures.

By Moushumi Basu , a freelance journalist based in Jharkhand

शुक्रवार, 2 जुलाई 2010

औरतें : जो सपनों में ही जीती हैं

आज बाजारवाद का युग है। यह सर्वविदित है कि स्त्रियों का शोषण बाजार भी करता है। आजकल अधिकांश विज्ञापन  स्त्री-केन्द्रित होते हैं । स्त्री की कोमलता, उसका गोरापन, उसकी नजाकत व नाजुक देहयष्टि को तरहतरह के मालों समानो का प्रतीक बनाकर अखबारों, रेडियो व टेलीविजन चैनलों पर बेचा जाता है। मोटापा किसी के लिए भी ठीक नहीं, लेकिन मोटेपन से निजात पाने हेतु जिस स्त्री की तस्वीर टेलीविजन व अखबार में तुलनात्मक ढंग से पेश की जाती है, वह जरूर ३६ .२४ . ३६ की ही होती है। कमर पतली! बस! ऐसी स्त्रियाँ  सामान का प्रतीक बन कर प्रस्तुत की जाती हैं।

घर में रहने वाली स्त्री  सुघढ.  देहयष्टि को लेकर दिन भर अपने परिवार, समाज की जिम्मेदारियां निभाती है, पर समाज की सौंदर्य कसौटी, जो पुरुषों ने ही स्त्रियों के लिए निधार्रित की है पर खरा उतरने के चक्कर  में वह अपनी देह को निकम्मा भी बना लेती हैं। मुझे अपनी भाई की बेटी का किस्सा याद है, जिसने डायटिंग करते करते ऐसी बीमारी सहेज ली कि वह चलने फिरने के काबिल भी नहीं रही। पति गोरा था वह सांवली थी, हॉलांकि सुंदर थीसुडौल , सुघड , कसी कसी देह वाली चुस्त दुरुस्त लडकी थी! पति के लिए नाज़ुक , नफीज़  बनने के चक्कर में पड गई और बीमार हो गई।

                         बाजार से प्रभावित फैशनपरस्त, माडल अथवा सेलीब्रेटी स्त्रियाँ

बाजारवाद से स्त्रियाँ स्वंय भी इतनी प्रभावित हो जाती हैं कि पुरुषवाद के षड.यंत्र को न समझने के कारण, वे केवल पुरुष की नजरों में सराहनीय बनने वाली गुडिया बन कर रह जाती हैं। दरअसल ऐसी स्त्रियों पर सदैव पुरुष की कसौटी पर खरा उतरने का दवाब आतंक की हद तक छा जाता है। विज्ञापन  का चक्कर और पुरुष निर्धारित सौन्दर्य की कसौटी उन्हें किस हद तक ले जाती है इसका ज्वलंत उदाहरण है, ६ दिसम्बर २००९ के जनसत्ता में छपी एक खबर है। खबर थी कि एक स्त्री की , जो कभी १८ वर्ष की आयु में ही विश्व सुंदरी घोषित हो चुकी थी, ने ३४ वर्ष की आयु होने पर पुरुष निर्धारित सौंदर्य की कसौटी ३६. २४. ३६ के आधार पर अपने शरीर को प्लास्टिक सर्जरी के लिए सौंप दिया और मर गई। इस भटकाव से मुक्ति  भी आवश्यक है। ऐसी स्त्रियाँ भी कभी कभी स्त्री मुक्ति  की मुहिम की बाधक बन जाती हैं।
ये स्त्रियाँ भी हजारों में एक बनने का सपना पालती हैं और उसे साकार करतीं है। शुरू में बाजार उनका उपयोग करता हैङ्कलेकिन शिखर पर पहुंचने पर ये स्त्रिांया बाजार का उपयोग करने लगती हैं और बाजार को अपना उपयोग करने नहीं देती।

ऐसे हजारों में एक का आभास पैदा करने की भावना पुरुषों में भी व्याप्त होती है। इसे यश प्राप्ति की ग्रन्थि से जोड़ा  जा सकता है, लेकिन मेरा मानना है कि स्त्री के संदर्भ में हजारों में एक होने की कसौटी, स्त्री अपनी नज़र अपनी सुविधा व जरूरत के अनुसार तय करे, न कि पुरुष व पुरुषों के नजरों में अच्छी लगने के लिए। वह एकट्रेस बने या मॉडल, यह निर्णय वह खुद ले। अपनी देह का इस्तेमाल होने दे या न होने दे अथवा उसे अपनी देह का इस्तेमाल कैसे करना है, इसका अधिकार केवल स्त्री को ही होना चाहिए।
यूं हजारों में एक बनने की लालसा या ललक वीरांगनाओं, लेखिकाओं राजनैतिक स्त्रियों, रंगमंच व फिल्मों की अभिनेत्रियों, बिजनेस टाइकूनों व समाज सेविकाओं या एक्ट्रेस में भी होती है लेकिन यह ललक वे अपनी कार्य कुशलता, निपुणता या लगन में होड. लगा कर हासिल करती हैं केवल रूप या पुरुष की तरह धन या बल से नहीं। दुर्भाग्य यह है स्त्री  होने के कारण उसकी हजारों में एक होने की लालसा या इच्छा को स्वार्थ या अनैतिक माना जाता है, लेकिन पुरुष पर यह कलंक नहीं लगता। जबकि सत्य यह है कि ऐसी लालसा या इच्छा, मानव स्वाभाव का एक अनिवार्य मनोवेग है। नैतिकता के दायरे में भी अभी तक यौन के संदर्भ में ही मनुष्य के चरित्रा को परखा जाता है विशेषकर स्त्री के चरित्र को, जबकि दुनियादारी, ईमानदारी, वफादारी, देशप्रेम, सत्यवादिता, संवेदनशीलता, सहयोगीप्रवृत्ति, रचनात्मक सोच व मानवीयता भी नैतिकता के दायरे में आते हैं। यौन या सेक्स  मानवीय प्रवृत्ति  है बाकी सब वे  गुण हैं, जिन्हें सभ्यता के विकास के दौरान मनुष्य ने अर्जित किया है। फिर चरित्र का दायरा केवल सेक्स वह भी केवल स्त्री की देह से जोड़ कर ही क्यों  देखा जाता है। उसे ही क्यों  प्रमुखता दी जाती है। दरअसल ये संकीर्ण व संकुचित सोच है।
                                सांस्कृतिक मंचों फिल्मों, सोसाइटियों व ङ्कलबों की स्त्रियाँ

सांस्कृतिक स्तर पर मण्डल, फिल्म व रंगमंच अभिनेत्रियां अथवा सोशलाइटस जैसी कुछ ऐसी स्त्रियाँ भी होती हैं जो बाजारवाद से पूरी तरह प्रभावित होती हैं। वे खुद को बाजार के अनुकूल बनाकर, उससे लाभान्वित होती रहती हैं। ये स्त्रियाँ पुरुष और बाजार की दुनिया के बाहर निकल कर अपनी स्वतन्त्रा सत्ता  कायम नहीं कर पातीं, चूंकि बाजार पुरुषों पर आधारित है, उनकी अपनी एक दुनिया और सोसाइटी जरूर अलग से बन जाती है। वे सेलिब्रिटी बन जाती हैं। जनता उनकी फैन होती है, उनपर मुग्ध होती है। अपने ऐश्वर्य और प्रचुर धन के चलते साधारणतया वे जनता के सरोकारों से जुड. नहीं पातीं। (शबाना आजमी और कतिपय अपवाद छोड कर) समाज चाहकर भी अपनी वर्जनाएं उनपर लाद नहीं सकता। प्रायः मॉडल, फिल्म अभिनेत्रियां, सोशलाइट महिलाएं इसी श्रेणी में आती हैं। इसके बावजूद वे हतोत्साहित नहीं होतीं, भले वे बाजार से लाभ लेकर अपना विकास करती हैं। वे अलग से अपना व्यक्तित्व बनाती हैं। आराम से जीती हैं। वे व्यवहारिक होती हैं, व्यवहारकुशल भी और चतुर भी, मोहक भी। नैतिकता व सिद्घान्त अथवा सही गलत की परिभाषा को वे अपने अनुरूप लचीला बना कर इस्तेमाल करती हैं। फलतः एक स्थिति ऐसी आती है, जब समाज भी उन्हें स्वीकार कर आदर देने लगता है। नैतिकता की ग्रंथि उन्हें नहीं कचोटती। दरअसल समाज की स्मृति  भी कमजोर होती है और वह नैतिकता भी अपनी सुविधा अनुसार बदलता रहता है। जो लोग उसकी याददाश्त को भूलने और नैतिकता के ढीले होने की अवधि  को पार कर लेते हैं, उनका ये समाज कुछ भी नहीं बिगाड सकता। जो समाज से डरता है, समाज उन्हीको डराता है और सजा भी देता है ।

सुखद यह है कि बातबात पर नैतिकता की धौंस जमाने वाला तबका भी ऐसे वर्ग के सामने अपनी नैतिकता की गांठ ढीली करके देखने लगता है।

गुरुवार, 1 जुलाई 2010

पिछले लेख का शेषांश ..............

                                                  मुक्त और स्वतन्त्र स्त्रियाँ

ऐसी भी  स्त्रियाँ हैं जो अपनी अस्मिता और स्वाभिमान के लिए चेतना प्राप्त हैं और वे अपने निर्णय खुद लेने की इच्छा रखती हैं, चाहे वे उनकी देह के बारे में हो या उनके रिश्तों, संबंधों, परिवेश के बारे में। वे स्वावलंबी बनकर आत्मनिर्भर होकर रहना चाहती हैं और अपनी कुव्वत पर समाज में अपना स्थान बनाने की तमन्ना रखती हैंङ्, किसी पर निर्भर या आधारित होकर नहीं। इसके लिए वे ज्ञान  भी अर्जित करती हैं और संघर्ष पर भी उतारू हो जाती हैं।
ऐसी स्त्रियाँ जो स्वतंत्र हो  चुकी हैं, अपनी देह, स्थिति व योग्यता से पूरी तरह अवगत होती हैं। वे अपने निर्णय भी खुद लेती हैं। वे महत्वाकांक्षी भी होती हैं और हर अवसर का फायदा उठाने में सक्षम भी। वे बिना अपराधबोध के मर्दों के साथ होड. लगा सकती हैं। वे अपनी मर्यादाएं खुद तय करती हैं, चाहे वे देह के संदर्भ में हों या परिवार के दायरों, रिश्तों की गरिमा, अथवा तथाकथित मर्यादा के संदर्भ में। वे देश के नागरिक होने की भूमिका निभाने में पीछे नहीं रहतीं। समाज के राजनैतिक, सामाजिक, आर्थिक, वैणानिक, तकनीकि व सांस्कृतिक  क्षेत्रों  में स्त्री ने प्रवेश करके यह सिद्घ कर दिया है कि वह सपने सच करने में सक्षम हैं। भले ऐसी स्त्रियों  की संख्या कम है लेकिन वे समाज के समक्ष एक आदर्श प्रस्तुत करने के साथ साथ समाज के लिए प्रेरणा का स्रोत भी होती हैं। कल्पना चावला हो या इंदिरा नुई अथवा लक्ष्मी सहगल या अनेकों ऐसी नाम अनाम योग्य, कुशल व बहादुर स्त्रियाँ, स्त्रियों की मुक्ति के रूप में हमारे सामने मौजूद हैं।

                                                    समाजसेवी स्त्रियाँ

प्रतिबद्घ समाजसेवी स्त्रियों का ऐसा एक वर्ग है, जो अपने क्षेत्रा में बड़े से बड़ा  त्याग करने को उद्यत रहता हैं। दरअसल उनकी सत्ता का स्रोत व आधार उनकी लगन, त्याग, क्षमता व जनता तथा जनता के सरोकारों से जुडाव  होता है। त्याग की अपनी भी एक शक्ति और सत्ता होती है, जिससे जनता का विश्वास अर्जित होता है। ऐसी  स्त्रियाँ  मानस बदल सकती हैं, दृष्टि  बदल सकती हैं और व्यवस्था में भी बदलाव ला सकती हैं। हॉलाँकि ऐसी स्त्रियों पर प्रायः यह आरोप लगता रहता है कि वे अपने घर-बार व समाज की परवाह नहीं करतीं। आरोप पर आरोप सहते हुए भी वे अपने मिशन के तहत आगे बढती जाती हैं। ऐसी स्त्रियाँ अपने जीवन में भले परिवार व संतान से उपेक्षित हों लेकिन वे समाज के लिए वरदान बन जाती हैं। यह जरूरी नहीं कि ऐसी स्त्रियाँ, स्त्री- मुक्ति  की झण्डाबरदार हों लेकिन वे घर की चौहद्दी पार कर, रूढियां और परम्परा छोड कर सामाजिक सरोकारों से जुड़ी होती हैं। इसलिए वे स्वतंत्र रूप से अपने बारे में निर्णय लेती हैं। वे स्त्री - पुरुष समानता में विश्वास रखती हैं। वे चकाचौंध से दूर अपने काम को अंजाम देती रहती हैं। समाज की कटु आलोचना या मीडिया की उपेक्षा अथवा प्रशंसा उन्हें न बाधित करती है, न विचलित और ना ही उत्साहित। अपने दायरे में ऐसी स्त्रियाँ बदलाव की वाहक बन जाती हैं, भले ही ये दायरा छोटा ही क्यों  न हो। दरअसल खोज इनकी होनी चाहिए।

                                      उद्योगघरानों व नौकरशाही में स्त्रियाँ

उद्योग घरानों में बिजनेस टाइकून व सफल नौकरशाह बनने की अभिलाषा पालने वाली स्त्रियाँ प्रबन्ध व व्यापार कुशल तो होती ही हैं, वे श्रम और ज्ञान को साधने में भी कोई कोर कसर नहीं छोड.तीं। अनुशासन भी उनका एक सूत्रीय  मन्त्र होता है। वे व्यवहारिक बनकर अपना अभीष्ट हासिल करती हैं। परिवार की उपेक्षा और कभीकभी कटाक्ष भी सहती हैं। पर वे न तो पीछे हटती हैं ना ही अपने कदम रोकती हैं। अपनी र्निधारित व्यावहारिक समझ व प्रबन्धकीय योग्यता के तहत वे बढती जाती हैं। अपने फैसले खुद लेती हैं और परिवार में भी हस्तक्षेप करने का साहस रखती हैं। भले वे मुक्ति का नारा नहीं देती हों लेकिन स्वयं को मुक्त मानती हैं।

                                                           राजनीति में स्त्रियाँ

राजनीति के क्षेत्र में आने की आकांक्षा पालने वाली स्त्रियों को बहुत ही अधिक प्रतिरोध सहना पड़ता  है। परिवार, संतान, समाज, सभी को त्याग कर, वे अपना स्थान या खेमा बनाती हैं। हालांकि वर्जनाएं उन्हें रोक नहीं सकतीं। ऐसी स्त्रियों को भी कभी कभी समझौता करने को मजबूर होना पडता है। ऐसी राजनैतिक स्त्री उस सही व माकूल समय का इन्तजार करती है, जब वह सारे अवरोधों को लांघकर शिखर पर पहुंच जाये और खुद ऐसी सत्ता हासिल कर लें कि जो उसे लांछित, हतोत्साहित या अनचाहे सम्बन्धों के लिए मजबूर करते हैं  उसे  वह खुद से रिजेक्ट  कर सके।
वह अपनी सत्ता का उपयोग किसके लिए करती है अपने या अपने परिवार के लिए या जन के लिए, जिसने उसे वह शक्ति दी  दी यह विवाद का विषय हो सकता है। लेकिन इसमें कोई शक नहीं कि शक्तिशाली  हो जाती हैं और अपने निर्णय खुद लेने ही नहीं लगतीं, दूसरों के लिए भी निर्णय करने की कुव्वत पैदा कर लेती है। शुरू में भले इन स्त्रियों को बदनामी की हर गली से गुजरना पड़े पर इनकी जिजिविषा, संघर्ष की शक्ति सहनशक्ति व धैर्य, राजनैतिक रणनीति, कार्यनीति व डिप्लोमेसी की समझ व थेथरपन की क्षमता अंततः इन्हे एक ऐसे मुकाम पर पहुँचा देती है कि शत्रु  भी उनका लोहा मानने लगता है और समर्थन श्रद्घा में बदल जाता है। वे अपने धैर्य, साहस व प्रतिबद्घता के चलते आदर की पात्र बन जाती हैं। प्रतिबद्घ राजनैतिक स्त्रियाँ त्याग में भी पीछे नहीं रहतीं।

हकीकत तो यह है कि समाज में मची प्रतिद्वंदिता  व प्रतिस्पर्धा की इस होड. में औरत को औरत समझ कर मदद करना भी प्रायः पसन्द नहीं किया जाता, खासकर ऐसी स्त्री का, जो प्रतिद्वन्द्वी बनने का सपना पालती हो या क्षमता रखती हो। ज्यादातर लोग, जिसमें स्त्रियाँ भी शामिल हैं, उसे लांछित ही करते रहते हैं। ऐसी स्त्रियाँ चाहे वे राजनीति के क्षेत्र में हों या समाजसेवा अथवा बिजनेस में, जब तक सेक्स  के मामले में अपराधबोध पालतीं रहती हैं उनका शोषण जारी रहता है। जब वे आत्मदया व अपराधबोध की ग्रन्थि को झटक देती हैं, तो वे अपनी देह का इस्तेमाल अपनी मरजी से करने में सक्षम हो जाती हैं। अपनी देह का इस्तेमाल कब और कैसे करना है यह वे अपनी राजनीति और रणनीति के तहत तय करने लगती हैं। कभी कभी उन्हे समझौते भी करने पडते हैं खासकर देह को लेकिन उन्हें इन समझौतों का पूर्वाभास हो ही जाता है। ऐसे समय नैतिकता के प्रश्न को वे खुद ही नज़रंदाज़  कर देती हैं। और हर स्थिति से जूझने या रूबरू होने को तैयार हो जाती हैं। जैसे एक पुरुष अपनी रणनीति में अपने शारीरिक बल को शामिल करके अपनी रणनीति बनाता है, ठीक वैसे ही महत्वाकांक्षी स्त्री को भी अपनी रणनीति बनानी होती है, चाहे वह देह के संदर्भ में ही क्यों न हो। उसे देह की रक्षा या देह के उपयोग, दोनों  से देह को केन्द्र में रखना पडता है। विडम्बना यह है कि सत्ता के लिए महत्वाकांक्षी पुरुष जो भी करे, वह कलंकित नहीं होता लेकिन महत्वकांक्षी स्त्री  को हर कदम पर कलंक झेलते हुए आगे बढना होता है। उसे लडना पडता है बल्कि यह कहना अधिक उपयुक्त होगा कि उसे मर मर कर जीना होता है  जिंदा रहने के लिए जद्दोजहद करनी होती है। समाज व राजनीति में स्वीकृति मिलने व प्रस्थापित होने के बाद वे अपना या अपनी देह का इस्तेमाल या शोषण बन्द करने की स्थिति में आ जाती हैं। राजनीति में खासकर बुर्जुआ राजनीति में नैतिकता एक निरर्थक शब्द  बन चुका है खास कर पुरुषों के संदर्भ में। जब स्त्री यह समझ जाती है तो वह अपनी रणनीति आसानी से बना लेती

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