Dalit Pride Marches On


Dalit Pride Marches On

Illustration: Akshita Monga/ Arré


n Varanasi, right behind the historic Banaras Hindu University (BHU), lies a small village called Seer Govardhanpur. In the vicinity of the village is the famous Ravidas Mandir. It is situated in the middle in such a way that the residential quarters and shops radiate away from it. The temple is not only an important part of the social fabric of the village. Over the years, it has also acquired a symbolic presence: Being dedicated to the 14th-century lower-caste Bhakti poet, Ravidas, it has come to represent Dalit assertion.

Last year when I went to Varanasi during my research, I met a young man named Ashok Kumar. He has been an old resident of Seer Govardhanpur and is a paper supplier to many local presses dotting Varanasi’s literary landscape. One evening, I accompanied Ashok to a small gathering behind the temple, where other men from the village would sit around after a day’s work to talk and smoke bidis. As I approached, Ashok introduced me to his friends as the “person from Delhi who has been asking a lot of questions.”