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

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad "declared support" to two-nation theory in 1937, followed by Jinnah three years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Post-Balakot, danger that events might spiral out of control is 'greater, not less'

By Tapan Bose*
The fear of war in South Asia is increasing. Tensions are escalating between India and Pakistan after the Indian defence minister's announcement in August this year that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. According to some experts who are watching the situation the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.

'Favouring' tribals and ignoring Adivasis? Behind coercion of India's aborigines

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Tribal people account for 8.2% of India’s population. They are spread over all of India’s States and Union Territories. Even so they can be broadly classified into three groupings. The first grouping consists of populations who predate the Indo-Aryan migrations. These are termed by many anthropologists as the Austro-Asiatic-speaking Australoid people.