Report on ‘Power and Word (Satta aur Shabda): Forging a Democratic Order,’
A two-day interdisciplinary national seminar, ‘Power and Word (Satta aur Shabda): Forging a Democratic Order,’ was organized as Lokdhuni –II, at Surabee Resort, Mussoorie, on April 23 & 24, 2011, by GB Pant Social Science Institute, Jhusi, Allahabad. The discourse at Lokdhuni-II made an attempt to understand the complex interrelation between ‘Word’ and power structure. The state produces its own lingua franca, which often is in opposition to the words and idioms of those that are being ruled. The state produces its public that in turn shapes its public sphere. In sharp contrast, those opposing the power structure use different language that gives rise to counter public sphere.
Vision-statement of the Conference:
Prof Namvar Singh, eminent Hindi critic opined that one should avoid the false ego of ideas and accept the experimentation of science with an open mind. All isms of literature has been eradicated, be it romanticism, progressivism or post-modernism. Thus, no stories or poems in contemporary times might be labeled under any ism. Contemporary literature has broken the boundaries of all isms and created a new path for itself. We need to see the problems with open eyes before we can hear, understand, ponder or weave it.
Prof Harbans Mukhiya, eminent historian felt that in different ages the power of word and the power of knowledge behaved differently. The power of words changed for the first time in the middle ages, which was the era of intellectuals. This was followed by the Positivists who differentiated between material truth and personal experience.
Prof Badri Narayan, Project Director, Dalit Resource Centre explained that words have very complicated location in our expressions. Another location of words is that of surrender. Words need to communicate through any medium. Power has influence on the medium. That’s why words are strong to go into the process of several negotiations. This compulsion creates dissent.
Prof Pradeep Bhargava, Director, GBPSSI, Allahabad informed that at international level, prosperous countries like ours were termed as undeveloped, underdeveloped and then developing economies. Gradually, social scientists too started following their footsteps. The meaning of development as the UN and theUS would like us to believe is to destroy old philosophy, demolish your own culture. It sought total subservience.
Om Prakash Valmiki, renowned Dalit litterateur stated that the obfuscation of culture is fearsome. When word and culture come face to face, then darkness overpowers.… Philosophers and writers/composers use these words as weapons against common folks. Words are not merely words when it combines with culture instead these become weapons and are used like lathi (cane / baton).
Prof Ajay Tiwari, a well known critic said that the supremacy of power contained within ‘power’ and ‘alternative power’ has never been accepted by the ‘power of words’. At the point of supremacy, it is the cultural aspect that comes to the fore in forms of expression. Our democracy has ingrained within it the concept of ‘responsible democracy’.
Vijay Kumar, a poet and critic from Mumbai stated that a composer (read author / poet) finds himself dangling between history and method. Though capital has encroached upon nature and the rural space, in the inner world of Man, from where he challenges the power, too is under the sway of the capital. Culture too has become a product of profitability.
Prof Bishnu Mohapatra, political scientist and an eminent Oriya poet opined that in India, whether it is caste identity or religious identity, culture is a part of it. It creates bridges between identities and culture. How people raise voice, how they articulate their needs depends on their cultural matrix.
Arun Kamal, the Editor of Alochana and poet shared his experience and said that power is not only economic or political but also represents cultural and folk powers too. Our concept of power changed post 1990s. The influence of other languages declined, while English gained credence.
Kumar Ambuj, Hindi poet dwelt with the inner form of power needs to be examined and how strong or helpless is the struggle of written words and language.
Naval Shukla, Hindi poet stated that in the post-1990s market, development, identity and corruption have made inroads into the psyche of the poets. The compositions of this period show disconnectedness.
Anil Mishra, young Hindi poet felt that the language of contestation has almost vanished from literature, while power is determined to change culture. It has started the process of destroying vernacular and regional languages. Power creates a strong force that is oppressive.
Jitendra Srivastava, Hindi poet confessed that when he dwelled on word and power, he is unable to perceive the autonomy of words. He is able to see words of power, power of words and words that resist power.
VN Rai, VC, Mahatma Gandhi Hindi International University, Wardha informed that Hindi words are a special kind of language in the world. Hindi words and their layered meanings were not there in any other language of the world. Lambasting the caste divisions inIndia he said that it is responsible for the inequalities and there seems to be no way out of it.
Ashok Tripathi, Delhi Doordarshan Director, said that it is being said that necessity is the mother of invention. But, in the last 20 years the power of the market force has changed this misconception.
Prof. Shekhar Phatak stated that creating a casteless society is now a greater challenge. If inequalities are not eradicated then the flame of change would suffocate and gasp for breath.
Rajesh Joshi, Renowned poet from Bhopal stressed that there is a language in poetry, whose counter language has been created by the media; it’s this language, which in the post 1990s, emerged as a challenge to poetry. It has developed several images before us that shrunk our capacity to conceptualize. Poetry has to find new poetic ways to counter this.
Ekanta Srivastava, Editor of Vagarth and poet said that power has dozens of limbs. Combined with force, power takes on oppressive form, creating an alternative-less situation. Clash with power is possible when poets and writers enjoy good official positions themselves become role models for power. We need to move towards the folk and surge ahead with the aid of political awareness.
Raju Sharma, Director, ILD, Jaipur expressed his views, stating that after reviewing the relation that he had with power he opined that it was not prejudiced, but was rooted firmly in his psychological and literary vision. The words used in his writings were his own rather than be influenced by being in administrative job for a long time.
Akhilesh,Editor of Tadbhav said that all kinds of power had ganged up together, as a result of which Indians suffered. This ganging up now is coming in the form of corporate power. If we want to challenge power, we need to search new words.
Prafull Siledar, young Marathi Poet stressed that the relationship that power has formed with poems reduces the distance. In social life, power means economic stability only then will it be able to get the place of social reconstruction. A poet should understand the power structure properly to make his writings effective.
The outcome of Lokdhuni-II proved valuable for ideation that was achieved through debates, discussions, poetry reading sessions, rendering of Bhajans and interactions between the various academicians, litterateurs, critics, poets, Dalit writer, seers, et al. A wonderful churning of thought processes helped create a common platform for some diverse opinions as well, through healthy dialogue, which was essentially democratic in letter and spirit. It also helped strengthen the networking. Some of these valuable suggestions would help our study understand the interrelationship between words, power structure and governance. The interaction between poets of different language helped us grapple the cultural matrix of that language. The poetry reading session and Bhajans of the sage-poets were invigorating. We are sure that this would enrich the study and the project.