Raja Dhale, a Panther no more


Raja Dhale, one of the founders of the radical outfit Dalit Panther, passed away at his residence in Vikhroli on Tuesday morning. He was 78.

Family sources said Dhale had a fall after he got up in the morning. He was taken to a nearby hospital where doctors declared him dead. The last rites will be performed at Chaityabhoomi in Dadar area on Wednesday.

Hailing from Sangli district, Dhale along with Sahitya Akademi award winner late Namdeo Dhasal, J.V. Pawar and others, in 1972 founded Dalit Panther, a youth-based organisation inspired by the Black Panther outfit of African Americans in the U.S., with an aim to raise the voice of Dalits more aggressively in the State.

Dhale’s aggressive writing, audacious nature to question those in authority, and connect with the masses created a stir across the State and soon Dalit Panther began to be considered as a major force to reckon with in the struggle for equal rights to Dalits, women and oppressed sections of the society.

His article ‘Black Independence Day,’ in Marathi magazine Sadhana on August 15, 1972, where he questioned whether the atrocities on a Dalit woman are of lesser concern than the insult of the national flag, raised a storm in Maharashtra. Apart from his writings on atrocities against Dalits, he wrote poems for children, articles on literature, analytical pieces and books on Buddhism.

He parted ways with Dhasal over ideological differences claiming that the manifesto of Dalit Panther was communist in nature.

“Dhale was a principled and well-studied individual in the Ambedkarite movement. Dalit Panther was a platform to society’s oppressed and depressed sections and it remains one of the most important chapters of country’s political history,” said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Union Minister of State for Social Justice and RPI(A) chief Ramdas Athawale expressed grief over his demise. “Dhale brought me into this organisation (Dalit Panther) and mentored me. His death is a personal loss for me,” Mr Athawale said.

The Maharashtra Congress working president Nitin Raut said Dhale’s contribution to the Ambedkarite movement can never be forgotten. “He worked to raise an Ambedkarite organisation which could take the difficulties head on. The workers he created in his lifetime are thereg even today across different fields,” said Mr. Raut.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 4:09:24 PM |

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