Skip to main content

A migrant from East Bengal, Manoranjan Byapari "interrogated" his life as chandal

By Sheshu Babu*
There are many Dalit writers who have tried to expose oppression through their literary works. Some of them had to change their names so that their caste could not become an obstacle in their forward journey. One of them is Manoranjan Byapari who changed his surname to conceal his identity as Dalit Namashudra. In his autobiography 'Interrogating My Chandal Life: An Autobiography of Dalit' (Ittibrette Chandal Jivan) , translated by Sipra Mukharjee, he talks about his traumatic life as a child in the refugee camps of West Bengal.
He says, "Here I am. I know I am not entirely unfamiliar to you. You have seen me a hundred times in a hundred ways. Yet, if you insist that you do not recognise me, let me explain myself in a little greater detail, so you will not feel that anymore. When the darkness of unfamiliarity lifts, you will feel why, yes, I do know this person. I have seen this man."
The book describes about his life in the forest of Dandakaranya, involving the Naxalite movement and educating in prison, and his childhood as a boy running after cows and goats with a stick.
Byapari was born in Barishal, Bangladesh, in 1950 and his family migrated to West Bengal when he was three years old. His family was forced to move from initial refugee camp in Bankura to a camp in South 24 Paraganas. He left his home at the age of 14 and undertook a number of low paid jobs in Assam, Lucknow, Delhi, Allahabad, etc. He shifted to Kolkata in 1973 after two years stay in Dandakaranya. He was associated with Naxals for some time. He had a close relation with Shankar Guha Niyogi. While working as a rickshaw puller, he met Mahashweta Devi, who asked him to write for her 'Bartika journal'.
He is possibly the only convict-turned-rickshaw puller in the world who has more than 10 books and 100 essays published in his name. He is reportedly the first Dalit writer of West Bengal. Reading became his source of empowerment. Even working as a rickshaw puller, he tried to learn and read anything that he could find.
He came to prominence with the publication of his influential essay 'Is There a Dalit writing in Bangla?' in the 'Economic and Political Weekly'. His works include 'Golpo Somogro', a collection of 22 short stories, a biographical fiction based on famous Namasudra of 19th century Bengal, Harichand Thakur and other essays and novels.
In Byapari's words, "I changed my surname so people would not know me as a Namashudra", which reflects the suffering he endured all his life. His writings expose the oppression of Dalits by upper castes. "I'm a Dalit by birth. Only a Dalit, oppressed by social forces can experience true 'dalan' (oppression) in life...", he points out and exposes the discrimination shown by upper caste officials of West Bengal in resettling refugees of East Bengal to Dalits.
Recently, Westland Publications acquired the rights on 14 works and that may change his life. He has been struggling financially and working as a cook at a hostel for hearing impaired.
Byapari was awarded the Suprabha Majumdar Prize in 2014 by Poschimabanga Bangla Akademi and Sharmila Ghosh Smriti Literary Prize in 2015. He says he is a 'chandal' in two ways -- by birth and by rage (krodh chandal). His 'JijibishaI' -- the will to live -- should be a source of inspiration for the oppressed and exploited classes.
---
*Writer from anywhere and everywhere, is a strong supporter of those who struggle against all odds

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam*
In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Hindus to be 'sent' to Kashmir? Despite Israeli settlements, peace eludes the region

By Anand K Sahay*
Curfew, news and communications blackout, transportation shut-down... News reports from Kashmir are worrying. So are the views relayed through the media, especially television. Old-fashioned repression seems to be consorting comfortably with expressions of concern “for our Kashmiri brethren”. We are looking at Orwell’s 1984 in the making.

UN experts object to GoI move to 'reinforce' trend of prosecution, eviction of tribals

Counterview Desk
In a report sent to the Government of India, three United Nations (UN) special rapporteurs, expressing "concerns" over the failure to ensure "adequate" implementation of the India Forest Rights Act (FRA), have regretted that the Government of India has not cared to reply their previous communications on this.

RSS 'demonizing' Muslim demographics: Hindus' growth rate decline 2.5% lower

By Mohan Guruswamy*
The RSS is riding its old hobbyhorse again. Addressing the Yuva Dampati Sammelan attended by reportedly 2000 young couples organized by the RSS’ Kutumb Prabhodan in Agra on August 21, the RSS Sarsanghchalak, Mohan Bhagwat, apparently concerned about the “declining Hindu population” exhorted young Hindu couples to have more children.

River interlinking to transfer tribals' drinking, irrigation water to Maharashtra industries

Counterview Desk
Top advocacy group, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), recently submitted its comments on the Damanganga–Vaitarna-Godavari Intrastate Link project to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), a project sought to be packaged by the Maharashtra chief minister as diversion of water from allegedly water surplus Konkan region to the drought-affected Marathwada region.

As submergence stares Narmada valley, Patkar says: With powerful in throne, we're helpless

Counterview Desk
Well-known anti-dam organization, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), plans to begin its “Resist Illegal Submergence in Narmada Valley” satyagraha on August 21 at Jantar Mantar, Delhi, amidst news that the situation in the valley is “critical”, with two persons having already died in flood-related incidents in the upstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam.

Govt of India 'has no plan' to reduce energy, fossil fuel consumption, emissions

Counterview Desk
In his representation to the secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India on draft National Resource Efficiency Policy (NREP), 2019, top power policy analyst Shankar Sharma has insisted that there is imminent need to consider the economic activities at the national/international level very carefully from the perspective of climate change.

Here's proof: Manual scavenging is rampant, Ahmedabad isn't open defecation free

By Parsottam Vaghela*
Authorities of Ahmedabad, the largest city of Gujarat, may have gone into full swing in its cleanliness drive under the Swachh Bharat mission after the city was awarded the open defecation free plus (ODF+) certificate by the Union government’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. However, my visit to some of the areas of the walled city of Ahmedabad on August 7 in order to ascertain whether it has become open defecation free suggested that the claim is a total humbug.

RTI Act holy cow for Govt of India? Official insists, don't ask why, when, what, where

By Pankti Jog*
The Government of India appears to have begun treating the Right to Information (RTI) Act as a holy cow. Its officials seem to believe that the Act is a sacred law, under which people shouldn't be questioning its functioning. One recalls what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while addressing an RTI convention in 2015: “Why should government wait for people to ask information, we will have all information out in the domain, we have nothing to hide."

Quit India Movement 'betrayal' and dubious role of Hindu Mahasabha, RSS leaders

By Shamsul Islam*
After the recent guillotine of Article 370, Hindutva ideologue Ram Madhav, while celebrating the occasion stated that it was honouring of the sacrifices of Dr Shyam Prasad Mukherjee and thousands others who laid down their lives for its removal. It is to be noted that Dr Mukherjee was a cadre of RSS and was groomed into a Hindutva leader by another Hindutva icon, VD Savarkar.