Omprakash Valmiki

Noted Hindi litterateur, revolutionary thinker and author of world-famous autobiography Joothan, Omprakash Valmiki is no more. His untimely demise is an irreparable loss to Indian literature committed to democratic values and social change. Born on 30 June 1950 in Barla of Muzaffarnagar district in U.P., he had been fighting cancer for the past few years and was to have undergone a kidney surgery, but the operation could not be done as his immune system had become too weak. After treatment in Delhi, he was brought to Max hospital in Dehradun where he passed away on 17 November. Apart from Joothan, his other notable works are Salaam, Ghuspaithiye, Ab Aur Nahin, Safayi Devta, Dalit Sahitya ka Saundaryashastra, Dalit Sahitya: Anubhav, Sangharsh Evam Yatharth, Sadiyon ka Santaap, and Bas Bahut Ho Chuka.

Literary, cultural, and socio-political movements against oppression and inequality have lost a true comrade in Shri Valmiki. Hindi literature as well as the literature of other Indian languages cannot be called truly progressive and people-oriented without the realistic and heartrending portrayal of dalit life which came into Hindi literature through his writings. His literary and critical works hold permanent significance not only for Hindi literature but for all Indian literature. Always struggling against Brahminism, feudalism, capitalism and gender bias, he made an important contribution towards making Indian literature democratic and pro-people.

Valmikiji threw light on the necessity, strengths and contradictions of dalit literature. Fighting discrimination and oppression against human beings on the basis of caste, feudalism and capitalism, he was ever concerned with unifying the weak, dalit and marginalized sections of society. His autobiography Joothan has a poignant scene where the boy Omprakash enters, dusty and blood-spattered, with a bundle of animal skins on his head, when his mother weeps and his sister-in-law cries out in anguish, “Don’t make him do this! We will remain hungry…but don’t drag him into this filth!” At the end of the autobiography he writes, “I have come out of that filth, but there are myriads still forced to live that despicable life.” All his works are concerned with freedom for those forced to live in inhuman socio-economic conditions and the ‘dalit aesthetics’ he demanded is also concerned with ensuring human dignity for the marginalized. We reiterate our commitment towards his dreams and struggles for the empowerment of the dalits and the marginalized sections, and pays tribute to him with his own words:

We of this generation have engraved struggle on

Our breast,

No flood of tears shall course down

Our cheeks,

But the spark of revolt shall light up

Our eyes,

Rising smoke from burning hutments shall give strength to

Our clenched fists

To shape our own history anew.

Liberation Archive