Revenge – Anand Patwardhan

The brilliant Dalit response to the Hindutva atrocity in Gujarat has cheered all those who want to annihilate caste. If the inspiration spreads across the country, it can turn the entire caste system on its head. As “designated castes” refuse to do other people’s dirty work anymore, it could force the “market” to find a solution. Working conditions and pay scales would then improve to make these jobs more attractive to the general population. This itself could usher a real democratic revolution in India.

Many years ago (1972 to 1974) I worked as a volunteer in a rural development and education project named “Kishore Bharati” located in Hoshangabad District, MP.

What happened a few days ago reminded me of a poem I had written then, 42 years ago, based on an event witnessed and then re-imagined.

Revenge

At the side of the road, dead cattle
Abandoned in the night
By hands that cannot claim
Water from the well.
Silent figures bearing their load
The fresh carcass of an old cow
Holy, but nevertheless sold
To one whose sin is pre-ordained.
Dark figures nursing their hate
Tongues held in sullen waiting
The impotent rage of men
Forced to believe themselves unclean.
Silent figures depositing their gift
Taking in the familiar smell
With the satisfaction of knowing
It will soon become unbreathable.
At the side of the road, dead cattle
Abandoned by night
Will lie for days.
Untouchable.

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