Buxar Programme Report: July 4-5, 2015

The Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad organized a two -day Kaviji Conference ‘Pravasan Evam Rachnatmak Chetna: Lokpriya Abhivyaktiyon Ka Sandarbh’ ( Migration and Creative Consciousness: In Context of Popular Expressions) on the 4th and 5th of July 2015 at Buxar, Bihar. This programme was organized under the project “Migration and Cultural Traditions of Bhojpuri Region” sponsored by the Sir Jamsetji Tata Trust, Mumbai. This venture was a humble effort to bring to light the rich unseen and unacknowledged works of rural Kavijis (rural folk songs composers, poets and artists) and their pangs.

Buxar district of Bihar was selected for the conference due to its fringing location at on the UP Bihar border. This location gives it a unique amalgam of cultural traditions of the states. The Buxar district has close linkage with that of its parent district Bhojpur and has an old and an interesting history. This region is the heartland of the Bhojpuri speaking belt and has produced rich folk literatures and folk artists.

On the first day of the conference a poetry meet of the rural based Kavijees was organized. In the inaugural session Prof. Badri Narayan said that one’s homeland is the best place for a poet to compose poetry. There exists a deep and intricate relationship between poetry and homeland. The grassroot poets are deeply attached to their rural surroundings and can best describe the social changes occurring in the Indian society through their heartfelt poetries.

Migration has been the basis of formation of societies. Initially people migrated for their own personal reasons but later on people were forced to migrate for their livelihood sustenance. Interestingly it is not only the poor people migrate to other cities to sustain themselves but the literate people also migrate in search of better employment opportunities and new avenues. But the poor people who migrate from their homelands carry a lot of pain and are in agony because of departing from their near and dear ones. Few people are of the opinion that migration is good for people. For instance Ambedkar was of the view that the emancipation of dalits is only possible through migration. Kanshiram also felt the same but he said that people who migrate also take along with them their caste alongwith. As long as the tag of caste remains the emancipation of dalits will not be possible.

It does not matter whether one is modern or traditional. Everyone feels the same pain of migration. Migration of people is a very interesting social research topic. The emotional aspect of people is mostly not paid any heed to when we talk about migration researches. The pain of migration can be seen not only in the Bhojpuri culture but also in other cultures. We only talk about the economic empowerment and emancipation of a migrant but we neglect the other factors which help him to adjust in his destination like his culture, folklores, stories and poetries of his homeland which he tries to preserve and produce at an alien land. The folk poets who reside in villages have a deep relationship with the society and are full of creative energy which is quite evident in their compositions. A big role has been played by the rural people in social movements and we have to associate ourselves with such people in the present times too. The rural poets portray in their poetries the reality of rural India, the culture which is attached to that village and the dignity and respect of people which is associated with that culture. This project has been framed in keeping with these sociological conditions in mind. The aim of the conference was to create dialogue between the rural poets and the mainstream litterateurs and to carry forward the rich traditions of Bhojpuri culture along with routing them with mainstream Bhojpuri literature.

Second Day of the Conference
The theme of the first session of the conference was ‘Gramin Kavi aur iske pravasan ki peera’ meaning ‘The Rural Poets and their Pangs of Migration”. This session was inaugurated by Dr. Ram Narayan Tiwari.
The first speaker of this session was Smt. Usha Kiran Khan who opined that the folk languages are gradually becoming our heritage. Though Arrah has changed over the years but Buxar is still retained its originality. There are a large number of litterateurs in Arrah. Mostly it is seen that the writers of Hindi literature ignore their mother language and people who are devoted to their mother tongue do not like Hindi litterateurs. The folk languages are linked with each other and they are linked to such an extent that their pain and their happiness are also linked. Usha Kiran Khan was of the view that migration of males takes place in large numbers as compared to the females. It is the women who are left behind. Folk songs, idioms, folk poetries, folk stories and there are many other such things that are associated with migration. The women who are left behind express their pain of migration through the medium of folk forms like Jatsaar, Mathgauni, Chaumasa, Barahmasa etc. Many of the traditional songs like the one mentioned below have been sung in Bhojpuri as well as Maithili.

‘Piya Pardes Gaile
Okhri Khyan Gaile
Ropi Gaye Nibua Ke Gaach
Nibua Jab farle Madhuri Ras Bahile
Kate Din Rakh Bin Jugaye’

In the above lines express the pangs of separation of a spouse whose husband has migrated leaving her behind. At that time she is only a small girl. The husbands who migrated in the early times did not come to see their wives for years. This gestation period has been expressed by the metaphor of ripening of lemons in the lemon trees. However, the scenario has changed a bit now because of advancement in mode of transport and communication. Only poor people used to migrate for a better living. The poor woman who was left behind had to encounter many bad moments in her life. She narrates her agony of migration in her songs.

Usha Kiran Khan narrated an old poem of her childhood days, ‘Jai Mahatma Gandhi Aur Veer Jawaharlal Ki, Paisa Mein Jo Ched Karaya Gala Kate Mazdoor Ka’. This means that Tamba was viewed as a precious metal in those times. The coin used in those days had hole in them. No poet has written this but in my view this coin must have become popular from Mithila to Bhojpur. We find such example sin our folk songs and it is vital to document such instances from our old times. Nowdays, children have forgotten their mother tongue and only prefer to speak in either Hindi or English. Parents should encourage children to speak their mother tongue only then language and its essence will be preserved. We will have to preserve the folk culture and heritage of our villages and provide recognition to the poets who have taken a step forward in this direction.

The next speaker was Shri Laxmikant Mukul. He talked about the poetic compositions of the anonymous poets of the Bhojpuri region and addressed the present and forthcoming questions of their world of poetry. He said that there are conservative ideologies about the poets and poetries of Bhojpuri society like the one which is famous everywhere ‘Jahan Na Pahunche Ravi Wahan Pahunche Kavi’. He said that the rural poets express their emotions in a very simple manner. They have the ability to create poetries by merely observing the scenes. Their poetries are spontaneous in nature but possess gravity. He focused on the poets of the Shahabad region of Bihar and said that the poets there are leading a life of anonymity. These poets are eager to get a platform to recite their poetries in rural programmes, plays, marriage parties, small meetings etc. Though these poets are not well versed in written language, pronunciation, lack knowledge about poetic verses, its beauty and spirituality but they create a totally different world of poetry through their rude expressions and conservative ideas. These poets are generally called and mocked at by the local people as Kaviji. Their poetries do not get any recognition in the outside world and with the passage of time they get dumped. It is very pathetic to state that these poets are disregarded not only by the society but also by their own family, they fall a prey to the insensitive governmental machinery, are scoffed at throughout their lives and become anonymous after their death. Many of the poets have been forced to end their lives due to this life of ridicule and neglection. The Bhojpuri poetic translation of Bhagwadgita done by Ramkavi Tiwari in 1925 remained not only unpublished but its manuscript is also missing. It can be said that the entire Bhojpuri region has been affected by the influence of the migration culture. The neglect of poets, indifference towards preservation of heritage and the gradual waning of emotional sensitivity all are responsible for the emergence of migration culture in the Bhojpuri region. Shri Laxmikant Mukul laid stress on the compilation of biographies and poetic compositions of anonymous poets of Shahabad region and its widespread dissemination worldwide through the medium of internet. If these poetic compositions are neglected then this will have a very bad effect on the mainstream contemporary Hindi poetry.

Manikant Mishra, renowned poet and folk singer agreed with Usha Kiran Khan that migration of men takes place in large numbers as compared to women but it is not only the women who experience the pain of migration. The pain of migration is experienced equally by men and women. The only difference is in the manner in which they express their pain. He mentioned a context in Jatsaar portraying a hero and a heroine.

The hero migrates to another land in search of better livelihood leaving her spouse behind. The hero in an alien land expresses his pain of migration towards his dear ones, his country, birds, animals, towards his country’s culture and heritage in varied ways.

Shri Awadhesh Prem Ji said that he was trying to walk on the path of Late Shri Bhikari Thakur and narrated a Bhojpuri song depicting the rich cultural forms of Bhojpuri.

Deep Chandra Das, Aakashwani folk singer had undergone the pain of migration for several years and had spent most of his life working as a labourer in Kolkata. He said that the singers and folk performers understand the pain of migration and try to bring them out in their creations. Their poems and folk performances add colours to the mundane life of a migrant who lives in a far-off land away from his near and dear ones.

Shri Gopal Maurya ji writes poems on social justice. He was very unhappy to state that the plight of Bhojpuri in the present scenario is very miserable, more than what Draupadi had faced in Mahabharata.

Nand ji Nanda from Ballia said India is a place with rich cultural heritage, good moral values, unity in diversity and has always been a place of attraction for the foreigners. We have to preserve our rich cultural heritage from deterioration. Migration has caused great harm to our society but at the same time it has strengthened our economic situation also. Migration has caused the development of people but the loss which people have borne due to migration cannot be ignored.

Tarkeshwar Mishra Rahi said that he was so much moved on seeing the pathetic condition of a peasant family that he composed his first poem showcasing their plight. He depicts the description of children’s fight over a single morsel of roti. He was very much moved by this sight and thus began his poetry career in 1961 when he was in High school only.

Gopal Rai ji Govarkar has done a commendable work by composing songs on the atrocities being committed by the Marathi’s on the north Indians in Mumbai. He said during the conference that the responsibility for the development of the Bhojpuri language only lies in the hands of the rural people.

The second session of the conference started with the book release of the ninth issue of the literary magazine Srijanlok published from Arrah, Bihar. This session was presided over by Kumar Nayan. He said that we see the pain of migration in various creations and our folk poets and folk singers have provided voice and expression to these creations. The speakers of this session were Shri Arun Sitansh, Santosh Shreyans, Shiv Bahadur, Suresh Kaatak, Chandra Verma, Arun Mohan Bharvi and Alok Dhanua. This session will focus on how the pain of migration has been expressed in folk dramas, folk songs and other literary works. We will reflect on why personalities like Bhikari Thakur are not taking birth in present times and if they are taking birth then we will have to find and locate such people. There has been a rich history of Bhojpuri culture. New additions have taken place in this culture with the introducing of video cassettes, films etc and its form has changed to a large extent. Two agencies are of utmost importance in this process: first is the one who makes cassettes and the second who delivers these cassettes at the appropriate place. In between there is a group of people who act as a link between the two agencies. It is these people who are struggling for their living. We will have to search for people who are writing to preserve their Bhojpuri and folk culture. How can we search such people will be the main aim of this session.

The first speaker of this session was renowned composer, poet and story writer Shri Suresh Katak. He said that people like Bhikari Thakur are not possible in today’s world because there has a change in time and situation over the years. In the previous days people used to run to place like Bengal and other industrial places where they could earn their living. But in the present scenario there has been a lot of influence of westernization and globalization in our society. There is so much unemployment and crisis for sustaining livelihood that people are migrating to Surat, Gujarat, Punjab, Ludhiana, Gurgaon as well as the Arab countries for a living. We have not been able to search a solution for the problems prevalent in Bhikari Thakur time instead the situation today has worsened. Bhikari Thakur expressed through his songs the pain of a wife whose husband had migrated to a distant land for a living. Today also many dramas and songs are being composed but they are not only limited to pain and suffering of the migrants, they have more issues to touch upon. Life of a common man today is nothing more than a game and his actual problems are sidelined. This is the main reason why Bhikari Thakur is not possible today. Obscenity is another serious problem in the compositions of the present era. It is up to the singers to decide whether to sing vulgar songs or not. This is very important for the progress and development of the Bhojpuri culture. He said that the compositions of the rural poets and singers should reach the mainstream society. If we associate ourselves with the present problems and difficulties of the rural people then we will be able to associate ourselves with the society too. He talked about the gradual waning of the Nach Parties in villages. People react when they see Nach on the big screens and talk bad things about it. The respect of the rural people is associated with the Nach performances which are organized but today bad name has been attached to it so people are moving away from it. There has been a large impact of globalization and consumerism on us. The electronic media has destroyed our originality. The worry is how we can preserve the strength of our folk culture.

Arun Mohan added in the discussion that people have not only migrated for earning their livelihood. People also migrated in large numbers to escape the atrocities committed on them by the Britishers after the revolt of 1857. Many people were taken from the Bhojpuri region as Girmitiya labourers after being tortured and suppressed by the British. Times have changed now and we have to accept the changes happening with time. The songs which are being written today are expressing the pain of the migrants and giving voice to their agony but at the same time they also contain the element of vulgarity. In my view four people are to be blamed for this vulgarity in songs. Firstly the people who compose the songs like writers or poets, secondly the people who sing these songs, thirdly the people who convert these songs into the cassettes and fourthly the people who listen to these songs. The pain of migration cannot end completely but the sad part is that in the present time we are devoid of listening to the migration songs which at one time were composed by Bhikari Thakur. People today migrate but they remain in contact with their family members, send them ample money and in turn their family members lead a peaceful life. So times have changed now and we will have to adapt ourselves with these changing times.

The next speaker was Rameshwar Prasad Verma. He said that the unemployed youth of our society is being alienated by the antisocial elements in the society. They are being provoked to do immoral acts. The folk poets in our society who are walking on the path of Bhikari Thakur will have to come forward and tell them whether they want to walk on the path of truth or sin. The talented people in our society will have to be given adequate opportunities for growth and advancement. We cannot create consciousness in the society just by talking about heroes and heroines. We cannot wipe vulgarity from the society until we become conscious and aware about our Indian culture and values.

Manoj Choubey has been working in the Bhojpuri industry since thirty one years. He said that a musical company from Patna had contacted him to promote the artists of Buxar. He did the task of providing a platform to the unknown singers by taking them to the musical companies and did the recordings of their songs. Then he helped in the marketing of the recorded cassettes which provided fame to the artists as well as the music companies. The vulgarity in songs has come in the present times. The new artists today are singing vulgar songs. This is the main reason why they are not getting the right platform. Due to this many middlemen have emerged who grab large sums of money from the artists to make cassettes and music albums for them. There is no dearth of talent. We only have to recognize the right talent and provide them appropriate platform. He said that he has done the task of promoting the unknown singers for so many years now but then to no recognition has been accorded to him and he has not received any praise for his work done so far.

Arun Sitansh gave his views about two people: Pawan Singh, a singer and Hira Thakur, a poet. He said that Pawan Singh had been provided the right platform and he has created his name in the society. On the other hand Hira Thakur who wrote hundred books is not a celebrated figure in the eyes of people. Hira Thakur struggled his whole life wandering from village to village for selling his books in schools and colleges. He also begged at the radio station for giving him a chance for poetry recital but no one paid heed to his words. We talk about the urban area and the rural area. But I consider rurban area which is neither rural nor urban. Today villages are getting transformed into towns and big markets are making their way into it which is a form of urbanization. Rurbanisation refers to hamlet where the people are devoid of all the facilities like lights, roads, cinema halls, communication facilities. So the poets and the story writers who are residing in these hamlets are lying on the periphery and economically very weak. He contradicted Arun Mohan’s statement that four people are to be blamed for obscenity in songs. He said that only the writer is responsible for indecent songs. If the songs will not be composed then how will the singers sing them is a matter of question. One of the biggest problem of migration is that the migrant who comes back to his homeland is not accepted in his society and looked upon with disdain.

Santosh Shreyans said that previously the people migrated in search of employment but the situation has changed now. Today people are not forced to migrate due to unemployment but the desire to achieve more and more is pushing people to other places. People do not encourage their children to speak their mother tongue at their homes. Such people who do not follow their own culture cannot preserve our folk culture and traditions. People are forced to migrate especially tribals because their lands are being acquired by the government for developmental purposes. Their voices are unheard and their pain of migration has been very clearly reflected in the poetic compositions.

Jeetendra Verma threw light on poetic genre Vyas which is still alive in the villages and it is sung during marriage parties and on religious occasions. He had once heard a Vyas song during a marriage function ‘Ek Hazar Ki Naukri Par Das Hazaar Ki Sari aanganbadi ho’. Every village has an Aanganbadi Centre. We do not find its mention in Hindi, Bhojpuri or English literature of any kind. The point is that the rural poets compose their poetries relating it with the present times. It is a false impression that people who have migrated to Arab countries are very prosperous but the fact is that they are also experiencing the pain of migration. This has also been depicted in Vyaas song ‘Piya Gaile Saudi Sukhas Hawaye Haudi’. A song sung may sound vulgar to a group of people but might not be vulgar to another group of people who feel good in listening to those songs. The popular culture is also influencing our society in some or the other way. The Bhakti songs are popular among Bhojpuri folksongs to the extent that people from the other languages also like listening to them. Many songs have been composed which open the eyes of the people to the harsh realities of life like infanticide, female foeticide. He said that the electronic medium has helped in the preservation of Bhojpuri culture and folksongs. For instance a song sung in the village on the occasion of chhat festival is recorded and uploaded on facebook.

Deepak Rai was the next speaker of the conference. He said that we will have to understand that does migration always causes pain? The people who are the biggest victims of the pain of migration are none other than women who are left behind. A new world is created after migration and I don’t think that any society or any country has developed without migration. The migrants in Mauritius and other Trinidad countries have acquired high positions now. We can say that when a Bhojpuri migrant achieves great heights in the destination it is only because of his hard work and determination. He has acquired this will power from his own country. There are two facets of migration. Firstly where the migrants are going and secondly what work will they do in the destination. At the destination the migrant creates his own world. When one is cut off from his roots and moves to another place for sustenance he struggles all the more to carve his identity and make room for himself in an unknown land. He performs better and creates a better milieu. He focused on the point that the entire Bhojpuri society is very diligent. This is the main reason why the songs which are sung during festival times are associated with the culture of hard work. Songs like Ropni, Katni and various other songs are the symbol of hard work. People who have migrated to another land have preserved their culture there and created a new and better world. This is one of the fundamental points of Bhojpuri migration. He said that the Bihari populace being highly mobile available as migrant labourers nationally and internationally have been dominant in cultural proliferation of Bhojpuri. This is not true equally for other communities like Marwari, Bengali, Sikh or Muslims. It is for this reason that the other languages like Awadhi, Magadhi, Braj receded into the background while Bhojpuri language still stands tall.

He also kept his views on folk culture. When we share our views about patriotism we always discuss about Pakistan and its evil deeds. We speak bad words about Pakistan. This is the contradicton of Bhojpuri society. It is not our right to speak bad words about another country when we express our patriotic feelings towards our own country. We have to avoid writing on these issues in our poetries and a person who is associated with folk will very well understand this notion. He said that he revered Bhikari Thakur and the commendable work he has done for the Bhojpuri society but as a critic he said that despite of the laudable work of Bhikari Thakur still we can perceive the pain and soreness of women in our society. It is a sad part that even during Bhikari Thakur times the women did not fight for their rights. We empathize with such women but we are not making any effort for their emancipation and egalitarianism. Male domination can be found in Bhojpuri poetries. Whenever the pain of migration is expressed in the poetries the women is always portrayed as one who is waiting for her husband’s return. The woman complains to the migrating husband that he didn’t even leave a son to play with her. She asks her husband to be a little more benevolent and considerate and begs for sympathy. The Bhojpuri women will have to avoid becoming an object of sympathy and should have to be more conscious about their rights.

Alok Dhanua said that he had high reverence for the Bhojpuri language. We should not feel low in speaking our language either in India or abroad. With the passage of time we have left the old behind and many new changes have come in our society. All the Hindi writers of the Bhojpuri region had good knowledge of Bhojpuri like Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, Rahi Masoom Raja, Surendra Prasad Singh. Talking about politicians we see that leaders like Acharya Narendra Dev and Chandrashekhar also have good knowledge of Bhojpuri. Our society and the people living in it keep on changing. The folk and the modern are mutually dependent and closely connected to each other. One cannot survive without the other. We cannot separate Shakespeare and Dicken’s writings. When we read Nirala we move back towards Kabir’s writings and when we read the contemporary writers like Badri Narayan, Arun Kamal we have a tendency to look back at the writings of Nagarjuna and Muktibodh. Our existence is only because of the presence of the rural poets. There has been an interaction between folk and modernity in every age of history. Talking about obscenity he said that songs like ‘Patwari Ka Landwa Bada Namkeen’ cannot be called a vulgar song. A vulgar song is one which creates havoc in our heart. The nude sculptures of Ajanta Ellora and the Greek sculptures have their own aesthetic essence and they cannot be called vulgar. The diction of Premchand’s letters, novels, and stories contains at least thirty five percent Bhojpuri words. Gradually his language assimilates everyone within itself just like a river assimilates many things within it and creates new things as it moves along its course. Our folk culture is flowing in our veins. My identity contains the perception of modernity as well as the perception of folk culture. Even if we leave our native city and move to some other place but we cannot leave the roots behind. They will always follow us at our new place. The rural poets play a great role in political change. We just have to find them and connect with them for a positive change in the society.

Prem Thakur also kept his views in the conference. He said that only the plants have roots, humans do not have any roots. Ravi Babu has said about the roots of plants that roots are just for providing life to the plants. The limitless sky is for spreading out. VS Naipaul was born in Trinidad and lived there for eighteen years. After that he moved to England at the age of eighteen for higher studies and then never returned England. He came to India to search for his roots during the sixties and wrote a book ‘An Area of Darkness’. He said that India was a very bad country and he found darkness everywhere. He then went back to London and lived there. Thus, London is not his root but it is only the sky for him. Thus we can say that the development of creative consciousness depends on how you perceive reality and internalize it. When we internalize reality through our senses it passes through a mental process and changes come in it. When we come in contact with the society and our traditions it gives birth to our consciousness. Lord Rama sought power by sacrifice and devotion (sadhna). We cannot acquire power without sacrifice and perseverance. Today there is a dearth of all these things in the society. Time does not changes, we move on with time. When we move it gives us the feeling of the changing time. People who took part in the freedom struggle progressed in life and became big. Our creative consciousness is becoming weak day by day. Poetry has been called the synonym of humanity and this set up is causing a blow to the humanitarian values of the society. Three points have to be kept in mind while working in this era. Firstly Profit without job, one who earns profit but does not create employment. Second is growth without investment. The profits are growing day by day but it is not being invested anywhere. Third is Hire and fire. No one should be given permanent job and should only be kept on wages. All these things are adding to the profit of an individual but it is only creating unemployment in the society. He talked about Stephen Hawkin’s book A Brief History of Time. He said that the man of today has reached beyond the moon. He is also trying to create life on mars planet. This is the industriousness of man. Man has reached great heights due to his hard work and great mind. There is no invisible power which is governing our planet earth. It moves due to its inner structure and its own rules and man and society have a big role in it. I feel that the changes coming in our society are beneficial for the middle class.

The conference concluded with the performance of Gopal Rai. He said we do not have to protect our folk songs, folk music and folk traditions. We just have to preserve it. My songs are influenced to a great extent by the rural culture. He sang Kajri and other folk songs.

The conference deliberated on how do the Kavijis visualize and express the transitions and changes in society and culture, why have these local folk Kavijis been neglected and why do they live a life in dejection, why have their efforts to propagate and enrich the folk literatures remained in dark or beyond the reach of mainstream and what has been the impact of development, modernization and consumerism on their writings and expressions.

This Conference was enriched with the participation of established academicians, Kavijis and folk artists.
This group of excellent Kavijis from various art fields and rural backgrounds like Suresh Kantak, Ramadhar Singh, Tarkeshwar Mishra ‘Rahi’, Madan Kesri ‘Jigar’, Dr. Basav and others made their efforts to enrich the deliberations and performances in the Sammelan and carve a niche for themselves in the mainstream discourse. This discourse was successful in providing them a respectful identity in the mainstream society by lessening their marginality and alienation.

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