People are caged in the mansion of caste… Such is the poison that destroys generations…

images (10)Sheshu Babu*

Dalit movement has produced great writers who expressed the pain of being discriminated in poignant prose and verse. Among those inspiring writers is Shahir Shantanu Kamble who was known as ‘ vidrohi kavi’ passed away ( He was only 39-years old. His passing away is a jolt to Ambedkarite movement. He belongs to the tradition of ‘ vidroh shahiri’ (resistant poetry) which inspired  many writers to express their anguish against atrocities.

Shantanu was a son of a labourer Napha Kamble and originally belonged to Atpadi taluk in Sangli district. He came to Mumbai in early 2000 to work at an NGO. He stayed for many years at Wadala area of Mumbai. According to his family sources, he was ill for some time and passed due to stomach ailment. (Daisy Katta, June 17, 2018, He was a prominent figure in anti-caste movement.

In his early childhood,  Shantanu witnessed discrimination in his area. His interest in lok sangeet (folk songs) and jalsas developed due to the rich tradition and culture spread in his area.

Shahiri was popularised by Jyothiba Phule in 1873 in which jalsas were performed and atrocities of upper castes on Dalits were exposed through songs and theatres by Satyashodak samaj. In the 1920s, Ambedkar protest against caste saw ressurgence of the art through Ambedkar jalsas which inspired masses to protest against Brahmin domination.

Shahiri has been promoted effectively by artists and writers like Shahir Bhimrao Kardak, Wamandada Kardak,  Lokshahir Annabhau Sathe, etc. Shatanu Kamble carried forward the culture with determination.

Throughout his short life, Shantanu was part of many organisations, including the cultural revolutionary organisation Republican Panthers. His writings reflect people suffering from exploitation as well as humanity. He penned some of the famous songs like ‘ “Dalitare halla bol na …. Shrimikare halla bol na ‘  ( Dalits raise your voice …labourers raise your voice) after the gruesome massacre of Khairanji in 2006.

Shantanu wrote:

“People are caged in the mansion of caste
Such is the poison that destroys generations…”

According to Yogesh Maitreya, he is a person who lives in his songs, his poems, and notably through his struggles in his life (“Shantanu Kamble passes away: Remembering his power”, June 15, 2018, Often, many people sing his songs as their own, and many songs have not credited to him, opines a research scholar Shiva Thorat, the man behind  ‘Creator of Utopia: Wavandada’ . He was associated with Kabir Kala Manch for a long time. The much-acclaimed film ‘Court’ ( Marathi) was based on his life.

His contributions to anti-caste  poems and literature will inspire many Dalit scholars and other people.

*Writer can be from anywhere and everywhere, whenever he ponders on the question ‘who am I?’ , he receives response from a number by Bhupen Hazarika, is able to struggle in life because of inspiration from great  revolutionary balladeer Gaddar and poet Sri Sri, beside others

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