Acclaimed Kannada Dalit poet Siddalingaiah passes away

Published : June 12, 2021 14:40 IST

Dalit poet and writer Siddalingaiah. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Noted Kannada Dalit poet Siddalingaiah passed away in Bengaluru yesterday due to COVID-19 complications.

Noted Kannada Dalit poet Siddalingaiah passed away in Bengaluru yesterday due to COVID-19 complications. The two-time former member of the Legislative Council was ailing for more than a month before he lost his fight against the deadly virus. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

Siddalingaiah was born on February 3, 1954 in the village of Manchanabele in Ramanagara district. He soon shifted to Bengaluru where he completed his education, securing a post-graduate and a doctorate degree in Kannada from Bangalore University. He was one of the founders of the Dalit Sangharsha Samiti along with writer Devanur Mahadeva and B. Krishnappa in 1974. In 1975, he published a collection of poems titled Hole Madigara Hadu, inaugurating his career as a revolutionary Dalit poet.

Some of his well known poetry collections include Saaviraru Nadigalu, Kappu Kaadina Hadu, Meravanige, Nanna Janagalu mattu Itara Kavitegalu and Kudiva Neeliya Kadalu. His autobiography, titled Ooru Keri, has been translated into English as A Word with You, World: The Autobiography of a Poet. Among the many awards he has received are the Pampa Award, Nrupatanga Award, Nadoja Award and Rajyotsava Award. He was also the Chairperson of the 81st Kannada Sahitya Sammeelan held in 2015 and the Chairperson of the Kannada Development Authority.

In an interview to The Hindu in 2019, Siddalingaiah said: “There is a lot of pain in the life of a Dalit, true. But there is also so much laughter. There is an abundance of jokes about landlords, middlemen, exploiters…. There is this term called ‘black laughter’. Just as the white men laugh with condescension, the oppressed have their black laughter. Similarly, there is something called Dalit laughter.”

Siddalingaiah’s death was condoled by several political leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa. In a message, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of the Indian National Congress recalled his friendship with Siddalingaiah and urged the State government to construct a memorial in his honour.

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