New Delhi: Eminem had once said that sometimes he feels "rap music is almost the key to stop racism". The hip-hop culture, in fact, was a movement against a system that didn’t seem to care about the oppressed.
Carrying the revolutionary tradition forward, a 24-year-old Delhi-based rapper has now started rapping about Dalit oppression.
Sumeet Samos’s first rap music video, ‘Ladai Seekhle’ talks about caste discrimination, oppression and subversion of the ‘lower castes’ in a caste-ridden society. The rapper also critiqued the centuries-old system of criminalizing the identity of individuals based on caste.
In an interview with News18.com, the former Jawaharlal Nehru student said that through his music he's trying to raise questions about the existence of the caste- system. “How have human beings been classified as ‘high and low’? How could one class of people decide that we, Dalits, are low?” Sumeet asked.
According to the rapper, it is important to use art to tell the stories of everyday oppression of people, especially the downtrodden masses.
Sumeet feels that with fast mediums of information dissemination, music and visual content with the right kind of messaging can be a very important tool in shaping the consciousness of people.
“The country is still just as oppressive toward Dalits as it was in the past, only now it is veiled," he said.
A snap from the teaser,I will open up the meaning for one or two visuals before the full video is out. The blue wall behind me signifies the fortress of Anti Caste movement built over centuries n each brick represents each of our Anti Caste emancipators. pic.twitter.com/b9MpNoYrdw — Sumeet Blue (@BluePan10159831) July 25, 2018
However, the artist said that in the last few years Dalits have mobilized themselves and resisted in a grand manner-- be it the massive protests in Una, or the political movement that was triggered after a young PhD scholar Rohith Vemula committed suicide or the march to Bhima Koregaon-- they have created a spark and Dalits became a part of the mainstream conversation.
“Starting from Rohith to Anitha, I point out the caste-based discrimination in educational institutions which has led to the death of many Dalit Bahujan students," he said.
In his song, Sumit also talks about how love is a crime according to the caste system. "Many Dalit men have been killed for daring to love someone higher than them in the caste hierarchy,” he added.
The song also talks about atrocities committed against Dalits in Laxmanpur, Mirchpur, Una and other places.
The Laxmanpur Bathe (Bihar) massacre dates back to 1997. On the night of December 1, members of the upper caste Ranvir Sena allegedly killed 58 Dalits as retaliation for the latter’s links with Naxalites in the region.
In Mirchpur, a village in Haryana’s Hisar, a 1000-strong mob from nearby Jat villages attacked and torched 18 Dalit homes in April 2010 and two Dalits were burnt alive. In a September 2011 ruling, the Delhi High Court held 15 of the total 84 accused guilty of the crime. The verdict has since been widely disputed in the Dalit community. Many of the Dalit families that were displaced from the village during the violence have still not been able to return.
In 2016, a group of Dalit boys was publicly flogged in Gujarat’s Una district, allegedly by cow vigilantes. Charges have not yet been framed against the accused.
According to Sumeet, it was important to reach new generations with pop culture so that the knowledge of these atrocities, that are often under-reported by large sections of the media, could be passed on to newer generations.
In recent years, the Dalit identity has tried to find expression in various spheres of pop culture and entertainment.
In Punjab, Dalit artists have flagged off a genre of pop music generally referred to as ‘Chamar pop’. One of the biggest Chamar Pop icons, Roop Lal Dhir, sings about rich Dalits who own Lamborghinis, live in foreign locales and work respectable, high paying jobs. His albums include ‘Putt Chamaran Da’ (Son of a Chamar), which aims to create a shift in perception of the Dalit identity and strives to create a sense of pride in being Dalit.
Ginni Mahi is yet another Dalit singer who has gained popularity in the last two years. Her music promotes the image of a strong Chamar girl who isn’t to be messed with.
Watch the teaser of Sumeet Samos’s rap song which he recently posted on Facebook.