Renowned Kannada Dalit poet and activist Siddalingaiah no more

Siddalingaiah was a symbol of Dalit literature in Kannada, and was known for his revolutionary poetry and songs.
Kannada Dalit poet Siddalingaiah
Kannada Dalit poet Siddalingaiah
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Renowned Kannada Dalit poet and activist Siddalingaiah passed away on Friday, June 11, in Bengaluru’s Manipal Hospital. He was 67 years old. According to the hospital, he was admitted on May 4 with severe COVID-19-related pneumonia and multi-organ failure. “Despite best efforts, he succumbed to his illness at 3.45 pm on June 11,” a statement by the hospital said. Siddalingaiah was a respected figure in Karnataka’s literary circles, and is best known for his revolutionary song ‘Yaarige Bantu Yellige Banthu Nalavattelara Swatantra’, which questions who the real beneficiaries of India’s independence in 1947 were. 

Siddalingaiah was one of Karnataka’s first prominent Dalit poets, and was one of proponents of the Dalit Bandaya literary movements. He was also a playwright, activist and politician, and one of the founders of the Dalit Sangharsh Samithi in Karnataka. He was a Member of Legislative Assembly in 1988, and in 2006, he became the chairperson of the Kannada Development Authority. Siddalingaiah was known as a symbol of Kannada Dalit literature, and was a prominent public intellectual. He published his autobiography ‘Ooru Keri’ in 2006, which was later translated to English as ‘A Word With You, World’ by SR Ramakrishna

In an earlier interview with the poet, he had told TNM, “We have political independence. But without freedom from social and economic bondage (of caste) political freedom is meaningless. When Ambedkar drafted the Constitution, he said in the Constituent Assembly that if the questions of economic and social inequality were not addressed, oppressed people would destroy the institution of Parliament… We still don’t have freedom.”

Tributes and condolences poured in through social media after Siddalingaiah passed away. Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddiyurappa was among them. He said, “Siddalingaiah narrated the pain of Dalits through his writings and awakened them. He endured the pain and his poems set the required blaze to the Dalit movement. His services to the state and Kannada language as Chairman, Kannada Development Board and as a two time MLC is commendable

“In his death, we have lost a great writer with social concern, who strived for the upliftment of the depressed classes. I pray to the Almighty to grant peace to the departed soul and strength to the bereaved family and followers to bear the loss.”

Listen to song on YouTube here:

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