The sceptical Dalit, Left Feminist : my dear friend, Rajni Tilak


The Rajni TIlak I knew was one who represented beautifully the critique of the left, the women (feminist) and the Dalit movement. She a dalit was married once to a leftist. Who had no time and patience for her questions as a woman and a dalit woman. It was best separating from him, a decision she took a long time ago. She was a part of the feminist movement of the 80s where she was trying to get across the message to the women’s movement that our diverse identities as women needed to be acknowledged and the Dalit woman’s identity had to be recognized for the strengthening of our women’s movement. She shared details of one women’s day celebrations of the 80s. When Dalit women particularly those of the Valmiki and  manual scavenging community who came with their kachra basket and brooms, who were not allowed to carry or lead the rally. She felt that as a Dalit woman she could not do without a feminist movement, where her heart was but felt that there was rigidity in us as a movement  in revising our positions. We feared our plurality from being highlighted as it called for contestations within us and outside with the State. And in the 80s perhaps we as a movement didnot have the confidence to raise these questions which wanted to exist on our commonality and not our differences. And finally she talked of the Dalit movement who didnot want the women’s questions raised at all. Most of the men were leaders who felt that the “ghar ki baat”should not be brought to the public platform and typically the women’s question could wait and it was a conspiracy of the upper caste to get the women to break the dalit movement. 
So the Rajni who emerged in the late nineties to date was somebody who didnot give up on her understandings on the road map of change for the last woman. Her theory and praxis was a combination of the three ideologies of left, women and Dalit. I participated with her in the campaign activities of the Right to Food where she mobilised women for PDS and Functioning ICDS and Mdms. 
In 2017 January, the Jaipur collective had planned to restart the movement for the throwing out of the Manu Moorti from the High Court campus. The last conversation we had was about Jignesh Mewani, where there was a lot of admiration yet typically beung Rajni some questions too. She frankly told me to think whether  Savitri Bai PHule diwas was the best day for such a launch. Should teachers day, a day of the firat mahila shiksha be the appropriate day when we could do a lot around Dalit women teachers of about dalit girls education. While I was very excited about the hundreds of leaders in the Dalit movement and the confidence of the young people. But she was somewhat sceptical about how the various Dalit groups were sometimes getting competitive and not taking together all the people in the movement.  In this meeting she also talked about her daughter moving to Jaipur and she wanted me to be in touch with her. Her last conversation was about Neelabh and his illness. I was unable to talk to her after Neelabhs death. I will miss my conversations with her and her frankness about all of us, the feminists, the Dalits and the left Progressives.



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