Thursday, January 26, 2012

[ZESTCaste] Punjab polls: Dalit self-pride holds key in fertile Doaba


Punjab polls: Dalit self-pride holds key in fertile Doaba 

JALANDHAR: Hummer wich aounde putt chamaran de (chamar kids arrive in Hummer), panga na le chamara de nal (don't get into a fight with chamars), Ravidassan di chandi (Ravidasis are doing great) and fighter chamar are some of the songs which the fertile Doaba region in Punjab is grooving to as it goes to polls next week. Until not so long ago, it was yaari jattan di, tu jatt di pasand and jatt di daang, songs which became popular even outside the state.

It's not that the mighty Jatts (Jat Sikhs) have stopped singing and dancing. Just that Doaba, where Punjab's 29% Dalit community swells to 35%, is witnessing a social churning like never before, with the dalits asserting themselves socially, culturally and even politically. Punjab has one the highest dalit population in the country.

It's perhaps appropriate that in a state which loves to sing and dance, the assertion is manifesting in music, says dalit folk singer Kulwant Kajla. ''You will be surprised to know that the demand for such songs is not just restricted to Doaba and Punjab but also abroad,'' he says, adding that he will soon come out with his own chamar album.

Kajla, whose song param sant Ravidasa was a chartbuster, should know. Kajla was one of the few singers who helped introduced dalit machismo in Punjabi songs in 2008-09 to counter Jat Sikhs. "Some people had reservations initially but soon they joined us when they realized that there was nothing to be ashamed of in being a dalit,'' he adds. It's not uncommon now to spot vehicles, especially two-wheelers, with stickers saying putt chamaran da.

Kajla is a follower of Jalandhar-based Dera Sachkhand which claims to have millions of followers spread all across the globe. In the UK alone, it is said to have 26 Ravidasa temples. Its guru is none other than Sant Niranjan Dass who was attacked by a group of extremist Sikhs, allegedly Jat, in Vienna in 2009. Another guru, Sant Ramanand, was killed in the attack, though. It was this attack in the Austrian capital which laid the foundation for dalits seeking a more assertive cultural and political identity. In just a few months music became the most powerful tool to galvanize the youths who responded by abandoning the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book. The movement gained further momentum in 2010 when Sant Niranjan Dass announced a new holy book for Ravidasis called Amrit Bani.

Doaba also accounts for the maximum number of NRIs from Punjab who helped their family members in the region by sending them money regularly. It is also not uncommon to see dalits living in mansions and driving luxury cars. 


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