[A short note written three days back on an important Dalit counter celebrations to Diwali in Johripur, which no one has since reported on]
From early morning on 11th November, a counter celebration to the hegemonic Hindu festival Diwali was celebrated for the first time with gusto, militancy and mass reflection on silenced history by hundreds of Dalit families in Johripur near Shahadra in the Delhi-UP border. Called ‘Dipdanotsav’ it celebrated knowledge/life rather than death-destruction. It did so by remembering Buddha’s return to Kapilavastu on this day of Karthik Amavasya after attaining enlightenment, when millions of candles were lit across the province – which later Brahmanical decimation of Buddhist teachings, replaced with the narrative of Ram returning to Ayodhya after killing Ravana. It spoke up against the Brahmanical killings of the Dalit-Adivasis and their icons and history. This silencing of history was also through systemic violence during the late 3rd century BC on King Ashok’s commemoration of the 84000 teachings of the Buddha, and many stressed on the materialist strain in the teachings of Buddha being an important reason why Hinduism had to attack it with all its force. Many of the organizers from ‘Bhavtu Sabb Mangalang Sangh’ also spoke against the current anti-nature celebrations of this festival with polluting firecrackers, advocating rather an opting for the light of candles, and the light of practice of rational knowledge as the way forward.
From the contributions of Dr Ambedkar and of Phule-Periyar earlier on to later Dalit history writing, we have known how Diwali is not a celebration of life, but a cruel Brahmanic celebration of death-killing of Dalit- Adivasi icons. Stories abound of Ram killing Ravana (who as a representative-mythological figure is owned and venerated by a huge section of Dalit-Adivasis-Dravida-Shudra population in the country), of Krishna killing Narakasur (seen as a representative of Dravidian Adivasis because he represents black sturdiness, which is a part of Dravidian warrior heritage), of the tribal Gana king Bali being murdered by Waman- a Brahman by cheating, and of Bhikhu Mahamodgalyayan (as part of killing of buddhists) being murdered by Brahmans on this day.
‘Dipdanotsav’ in Johripur remembered this history, not as just another cultural history in the myriad history of the nation again to be subdued and appropriated by the cultural nationalists of the RSS and Brahmanism/Hindutva as ‘part of Hindu Rashtra’, but as a clear and present struggle by the oppressed against Brahmanism and inequality brought about by the powerful ruling class-caste elites. Long live this political struggle of memory against forgetting!