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Interrogating my Chandal Life: An Autobiography of a Dalit

Book Excerpt, Part-I.

Dinner had been prepared for us. The entire village had contributed to this meal however they could. Some had brought in a few fistfuls of rice, some a potato or two, some a slice of pumpkin. They served us rice and a pumpkin dish on banana leaves and all in the village ate with us. It was like a celebration that night at the village, celebration of the coming hunt.

‘We rarely sleep in our huts at night,’ they said. ‘We are usually among the clumps of bamboo or banana trees. But you sleep in peace. We will keep guard…’

With the water and the rice fields surrounding it, this village was as well secured as an island. Anybody approaching the village could be spotted from a distance of a couple of miles. There was only one road to go through the village and that was a road that was not motorable. The mud and water on this road made it slippery and treacherous. Thus though there were ample police cases against the villagers, the police seldom ventured into the village and, if they did, they seldom could catch anybody. Thus the unassailable powerful of the Bengal villages were rendered largely helpless by nature when the monsoons arrived. With Mother Nature on their side, the impoverished and weak Bagdis were now experiencing the unfamiliar emotion of rage and vengeance course through their hearts.

Next morning, after our breakfast of parched rice, onions and chillies, Ahbali looked at me and said, ‘It’s your responsibility now. The powder is ready for the bombs. Tie up as many as you can.’

Bhuto’s sister had prepared the powder and Bhuto had sieved it through a piece torn from a mosquito net. Bhuto’s wife had neatly laid out a seat for me in a corner of the stable. Not just Bhuto’s family, but the whole village was now pushing towards a single yearned for goal. They had dedicated their minds, their hearts, their bodies to a dream. None of them knew anything about politics. Political philosophy and political theory about villages surrounding the city and the need to destroy class enemies were unknown to them. But they did know that they wanted to kill those who had brutalized them and stripped their women. In some sense, their desire appeared to me to be similar to that of the Naxals.

No hesitation or indecision clouded my mind any longer. If it were a sin to help so many people concretize their dream of revenge, so be it. I was willing to commit this sin again and again. I sat down to the job with a crowd of villagers standing or perched on the haystack as my audience, mixing the seemingly harmless reddish and white powders to construct a deadly instrument; one that, when hurled at the enemy, would tear their bodies apart with a thunderous sound. In a large enamelled plate, I mixed the powders together with shards of glass, tiny sticks from fishing nets and iron ball bearings. As they watched me at my job, I could sense their intoxication mounting. ‘Will kill them all.’ They have a lot to answer for. All I had taken was a bunch of bananas, and they beat me for a whole day. And then threw me in jail. I rotted there for two years. My wife ran away unable to bear the hunger. ‘Will get them now.’

Livid with anger, he struck a match to light a bidi. He did not get to the bidi. A spark flew onto the plate before me. There was an ear-splitting sound, and a huge ball of fire went up in billowing white smoke. The thatched roof of the stable was engulfed in blazing flames and splinters flew. …The bomb that I had been holding in my hand fell to the ground and exploded.


Manoranjan Byapari’s Autobiography hits the stalls on 12th January 2018, after the Book Launch at Delhi World Book Fair, Hall 10 & 11 from 5 pm at Pragati Maidan.


Excerpted with permission from Interrogating My Chandal Life: An Autobiography of a Dalit, Sage-Samya India, 2018.   

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