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Moscow library to unveil bust of Marathi writer Annabhau Sathe, the father of Dalit literature

<br>A high-level delegation led by Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar, Mumbai University’s Annabhau Sathe Study Centre Director, Dr. Baliram Gaikwad, and Central Eurasian Studies Department Director, Dr. Sanjay Deshpande, besides other professors shall attend the ceremony on September 14.

Vice Chancellor Dr. Suhas Pednekar and Pro Vice Chancellor Prof. Ravindra Kulkarni – who inspired and contributed to the project majorly – will join the event online.

Dr. Gaikwad said that the proposal was first mooted at an international literary meet in the Russian Consulate in Mumbai in 2017, since Sathe is a well-known figure in the Russian academia.

"Annabhau Sathe, who is also the proponent of rural literature in India, had been invited to Russia several times, but finally made it for two months in 1961 as India’s ‘cultural ambassador’ and left an indelible mark there. He is widely regarded as the ‘Maxim Gorky’ of Indian literature, and he was the first Indian whose books are prescribed in Russian universities’ syllabi," Dr. Gaikwad told IANS.

Though a school dropout after his second day in school, in Sangli, his birthplace, Sathe went onto become one of the tallest litterateurs in the state and revered as the "Founder-Father of Dalit Literature", he added.

Besides, Russia has instituted scholarships in his name, and many scholars have specialised on his literature, while his books have been translated into 27 languages worldwide.

"As part of the inaugural, three of his books in Russian language are being reprinted and shall be launched next week at the 101-year-old library in Moscow," said Dr. Gaikwad.

Born into an "untouchable" family in Sangli on August 1, 1920, Sathe became a legendary social reformer, an actor, folk poet, Dalit writer, and despite lack of complete schooling went onto to pen 35 novels, 12 film screenplays, and 10 ballads, in Marathi, totalling 104 works in various genres.

The novels include the torch-bearer "Fakira" (1959), which bagged the state government’s top literary award (1961) and in 1963, was made into a Marathi film by the same name with Sathe enacting the title role.

Dr. Gaikwad said that since Sathe was a staunch follower of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, his "stories were testaments to Dalits’ self-respect and resistance".

He wrote the "Ballad of Stalingrad", "My Journey To Russia – A Travelogue", which helped strengthen Indo-Russian relations via his humanitarian literature, and was first from Maharashtra to address Russian listeners on the All Russia Radio, he said.

Incidentally, in 1961, when the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Russia, some senior officials of that country queried: "How are Raj Kapoor and Annabhau Sathe".

Though Raj Kapoor was easy, some panicky Indian officials immediately called up the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra Y.B. Chavan for a quick briefing on Sathe.

Armed with that, the relieved officials apprised PM Nehru who then proceeded to provide a befitting reply on the two famous non-political Indian personalities in Russia!

Besides the Annabhau Sathe Study Centre in University of Mumbai, there are departments in his name at Pune and Aurangabad universities, while there are proposals to start the same in New Delhi, Nanded, and Nagpur varsities.

The state government set up the Lokshahir Annabhau Sathe Development Corporation (1985), processions are taken out in his name annually, a Kurla (Mumbai) flyover is named after him, there is a memorial dedicated to him in Pune, India Post issues two postage stamps in his honour in 2002 and 2019, while all political parties invoke him for attracting Dalit votes.

Sathe died in Mumbai on July 19, 1969, aged 48, and his descendants live in Mumbai and Sangli.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@ians.in)

–IANS<br>qn/vd

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