‘Here Is My Offer’: A Dalit Poet Responds to the Adityanath Government’s Gift of Soap to Dalits
‘Soap and shampoo only feed your ignorance/ not my stomach.’
UP chief minister Adityanath. Credit: Reuters
Last week, Dalit villagers in Uttar Pradesh were given soap, detergent and shampoo to ‘clean’ themselves before chief minister Adityanath came to their village. Criticism poured in from various quarters, accusing the government of supporting caste hierarchies and playing into Brahmanical notions of ‘purity’. Poet Asang Wankhede responds to the government’s ‘gifts’.
Here is my offer
Manu made me unclean.
Your prejudiced mind makes me
reek of caste names and exclusion
I glow with the fragrance of sores,
I stink of oppression and not your shit.
To please your lord, you offered me
soap and shampoo today.
Have you ever used them to clean
those foul smelling tongues,
which talk of raping minorities and violence?
Or used them to clean those brains,
that preach Manuvād and varnashramadharma?
With your offer,
you have abused my dignity.
With my offer,
I am abusing your conceit.
Appropriators of my Babasaheb
act as my ephemeral cleansers.
Soap exacerbates my wounds
of caste oppression and exclusion,
I don’t want your sympathy,
I want your detestation.
I play the song of assertion
in the cries of protests;
It gives me dignity and freedom,
a freedom to fight for.
For two meals
I carry your faeces!
If I don’t, I will sleep
hungry in this Republic.
Soap and shampoo only feed your ignorance,
not my stomach.
Your lord is here to capture the nation’s spotlight
We are bleached, to look presentable;
We are told to cheer like minions,
What will tremble when my insides break their silence?
Oh Lord, come see my home!
It is cleaner than your bhagwa drape.
But talk only when your consciousness is clean;
Smile only when you burn the Manu
dancing in your heart.
For my silence is about to break,
It is dawn already.
Before you turn your back
here is my offer.
I offer you my soaps, Ambedkar and Buddha.
Go clean your mental slavery,
Go annihilate caste and the Manu infused in your reason,
bleach your bhagwa to white.
There cannot be two Suns on this side, and
We have our own, to incinerate yours.
Asang Wankhede is a poet and a lawyer based in Delhi. He is co-founder of Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle, National Law University, Delhi.