“Metaphysics cannot do anything without politics, which is in the realm of intervention,” said Gopal Guru, eminent professor and writer. Sree Narayana Guru’s work was “solid politics at the ground level, but metaphysical on a very different level,” said Prof. Guru, who was speaking at the Cochin Conference on Metaphysics and Politics in the city on Saturday.

Prof. Guru’s lecture ‘From Bhakti to Buddhism: The Mahars of Maharashtra’ provoked a lively discussion at the conference, which included writers and social thinkers such as Ashis Nandy, Manu Chakravarthy, Milind Wakankar, Anil Lal, Vinay Lal and others.

Prof. Guru said Buddhism was not allowed to grow in India after the 6 century AD. “It is only in the later part of the 19 century and early part of 20 century that Buddhism makes a reappearance in the imagination of particularly the Mahars of Maharashtra.” Several lakhs of Dalits, mostly Mahars, had converted to Buddhism along with B.R. Ambedkar in 1956. Prof. Guru’s lecture discussed the possible reasons for Dr. Ambedkar’s and the Mahars’ decision to convert to Buddhism to escape the divisive forces that had bound them for years.

The conference on Saturday also featured a paper on ‘Dalit Atmiyata: C. Ayyappan and literature’s footnotes for life and remembrance’ by Udaya Kumar, professor, University of Delhi. Prof. Kumar said Dalit writing, as a category of literary thought, was of relatively recent origin in Kerala. “In Ayyappan’s exploration of Dalit selfhood through an insistent rehearsal of the problem of inhabitation may be seen his contribution to the contemporary exploration of stigma and humiliation as central categories of Dalit experience,” he said.

Prof. Kumar said Ayyappan addressed the question of Dalit Atmiyata not through arguments or messages, but by staging or acting out the paradox at the heart of Dalit selfhood through his works of fiction. The conference, in its third edition in Kochi, will conclude on Sunday.

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