Source : Times of India
Nagpur: Terming the death of Gangadhar Pantawane as a great loss to Dalit literature, many of his associates and friends in Nagpur said that he was a crusader who relentlessly fought for the rights of the downtrodden through his writings, poems and plays.
Pantawane hailed from Nagpur and had his entire education in the city. He had been awarded the Padmashree this year but due to his illness he could not go to Delhi to receive it. “He suffered from brain injury after a fall and was in a comma since September 2017,” informed ayurvedic practitioner Dr. Muchkund Chormare who has a fifteen year long association with the writer.
“I was also administering some ayurvedic treatments to him but it is unfortunate that we could not save him,” said Chormare, who was on his way to Aurangabad to attend the funeral which was held at 6pm on Tuesday.
It is big coincidence that Pantawane passed away on World Theatre Day, feels theatre actor and director Virendra Ganvir who describes the writer as the father of Dalit literature. “Dalit theatre has emerged from Pantawane sir’s research and works on Ambedkar thought. It was his writings in Asmitadarsh which many theatre persons like me referred to create our plays. His passing away is a big loss to the entire Dalit theatre community,” Ganvir said.
“His death has plunged the entire world of Dalit literature and Ambedkar philosophy into grief. It seems that the train of thoughts which was being run through his publication Asmitadarsh for last fifty years has suddenly come to a halt,” said Surendra Wankhede, research scholar at JNU.
Pantawane came from a poor family and it was with sheer hard work and passion to work for the lowest of the low person in the society which took him to such great heights, feels former professor of Ambedkar Chair, Bhau Lokhande. “He used to sell fruit ice as a young boy to make a living but with his intelligence, hard work and sincerity he created his own world which was so rich in thought and deeds,” said Lokhande.
“During the early fifties there were few writers like Keshav Meshram, poet Grace and Gangadharrao Pantwane who wrote about the plight of Dalits. Pantwane wrote about the four day long wedding celebrations of the mahar community and their unique rituals. In fact he was the one who sculpted the entire Dalit movement. The subject of his doctorate was ‘Patrakar Ambedkar’. Four generations of backward class have learnt to read and write from him,” he said.
“My entire journey as a poet has been inspired by his writings in Asmitadarsh,” said Marathi poet Loknath Yashwant. “He would always tell young poets to write about the common people instead of romancing the moon or the stars. It is the writer and the poet who have the resources to put forward the cause of the poor he would tell us,” says Yashwant while describing him as an extremely gracious person. “He was very encouraging and would ask young writers to write for his publications,” he added.