" Democracy was
also a great narrative and not merely a monolithic kind of democratic participation."

Village Conference / Seminar

Village conferences are to create a network of Dalit popular writers, organic intellectuals and Dalit journalists at the local level. This network of grass root level educated Dalits will serve as the base for the second level gathering which will be held at the regional level. This second stage will be further extended to the third level i.e., the national level conference planned to be held towards the end of the project. The central idea behind organizing village conferences is that they will help to instantaneously disseminate liberative and emancipatory ideas among Dalits of the regions where the conferences will be held, including the non-reading sections that are unable to read the booklets themselves. This will go a long way in extending the Dalit public sphere, which will also help to increase the participation of Dalits in the democratic processes of the country. Additionally, it will help to democratize both the Dalit public sphere in the making and the overall Hindi literary domain of the country. Simultaneously it will also help to sensitize the non-Dalit residents of the village about the humiliation and injustice experienced by Dalits in their everyday lives at the hands of dominant sections.

The conferences will be organized in those villages where the most popular Dalit writer of that region, as singled out by the reading Dalit public of the region, live, in order to bring the writer close to the people to whom his booklets are addressed. This will justify the name we have given to the conferences, which is ‘Apna Lekhak apna gaon’. The participants of the village conferences will be the other Dalit writers of that region, Dalit organic intellectuals, both Dalit and non Dalit important persons of that village and the adjoining villages, publishers of Dalit booklets, non-Dalit writers and representatives of democratic institutions in the region, apart from the general reading and non-reading Dalits. All the participants, including the non-Dalit members, will be encouraged to creatively participate in these sessions. The activities of the conferences will be, firstly, the writers being asked to read out passages from their popular booklets and recite poems and songs to the audience. Since the writings of the writers of Dalit popular booklets emerge from their experiences in the socio-cultural milieu to which they belong, the reading out of passages to the people of that village and the region will give it a local context, which is linked to their own existential situations. However, issues such as Dalit experiences of humiliation, suffering, dominance, exploitation etc., and their dissent, subversion and emerging democratic aspirations have a universal appeal among the oppressed people all over the country, who can easily relate with them. These village conferences will thus strike a common chord among all the participants, even those not belonging to that region. Budding writers of that region who have not yet been successful in getting their manuscripts published, will also be invited to read out from their writings so that the publishers present in the audience can consider publishing them.

Secondly, each village conference will have a theme that will be decided on the basis of the typology of the writings of the writer living in that village. Thirdly, we also plan to use the village conferences venues for organizing small fairs of popular booklets where the publishers attending the conferences can display other books of interest to the Dalits. The writers attending the conferences will also be asked to bring with them books and unpublished manuscripts forming a part of their personal collection. Thus the village conferences will be a good source for collecting Dalit popular booklets and unpublished manuscripts of the grassroot Dalit writers for our resource center. Fourthly, we will hold a poster exhibition in which bright posters highlighting messages to arouse the awareness of the Dalit public will be displayed. Covers of other popular Dalit booklets, sketches and illustrations found inside the booklets, enlarged and coloured, and Dalit newspapers and magazines will also be displayed in these exhibitions.

We plan to organize six village conferences in the four regions of UP, i.e., two in west UP, one in east UP, one in central UP, one in the Bundelkhand region and one in a village near Allahabad. Two conferences will be held in west UP, since Dalits have a significant active presence in terms of the Dalit public sphere in this region and Dalit writings are also popular among them. Thus it will be easy to select two villages where the idea of a village conference will be widely appreciated. Allahabad being the nucleus of the project, holding a village conference near Allahabad will also be a good idea to popularize the resource center in the adjoining areas. Our project staff and community animators will work in harmony with the writers based in the selected villages, and also with the other important Dalit catalysts of the villages. The groundwork of the village conferences, including mobilizing people to attend the conferences, will be laid by them. This will ensure the smooth organization and management of the conferences, enabling us to achieve the desired goals.


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A project supported by the Ford Foundation