A new publication by Fr Francis (Frans) Baartmans mhm
The present book is a serious study on the Dalits in the Assi-Nagwa area of Varanasi. It deals with a community who lives in a colony in the midst of a rather upper-caste neighbourhood with a Brahmanic aura. Dr. Frans Baartmans' study is not a desk analysis of Dalits. He is a scholar, a social activist, tireless catalyst for a transformation of a community while living among them for the last thirty-four years. He is heart and soul dedicated to the cause of making an unbroken identity out of a broken community. Baartmans is an exceptional transformational leader in this epoch of slow, yet emerging discourse on discrimination of a community wrought by the upper castes.
The story told by Baartmans is different from those by outside observers and those Dalits who have written books on their own communities. To provide an example of a well-established body of autobiographical narrative there is the 'Joothan' of Om Prakash Va1miki and the extraordinary memories from a Dalit village in the Azamgarh district of Eastern Uttar Pradesh by Prof. Tulsi Ram telling the incredible narrative of his childhood. But both Om Prakash Valmiki and Tulsi Ram had to leave their village to feel the softer winds of liberation away from the world of stark poverty, darkness, discrimination and cruelty by the so-called upper-caste 'Savarnas', which goes on uninterrupted centuries after centuries. These sensitive souls were left with no alternative but saying goodbye to their dark yet intimate world.
The author does not tell a story of wailing about a hapless people, but of a resolute dedication to uplift, adjust and bring a micro-community to a new liberated consciousness on their own. He volunteered to share the same geographical space and lifestyle with the Dalits…..
…..Besides his scholarship, the author uses all his strength in the serviceof the discriminated families huddled in the Basti. The residents find solace,peace and a new purpose in their lives by having Baartmans living among them, sharing their joys and sorrows and opening a brand new world of opportunity for them. His anthropological observations do not come from a de-
tached, insular scholarship but from the overflow of participation, sharing, and agape. This is what distinguishes his work from the body of work done by many anthropologists including the distinguished work of the late Prof Bernard Cohen whose studies reached only at the doorstep of the Dalits.
Baartmans observes: "Dalit is a condition. Historically that condition has been imposed on Dalits by others, non-Dalits, by denying them language, by denying them their sense of self, a most precious human condition for the sense of ownership"
(Dipak Malik in the Foreword)
Copies may be obtained from Procuur Oosterbeek, The Netherlands
Price € 25,- (excl International postage)
About the author:
Frans Baartmans mhm
The author (1936) graduated in anthropology and ethnic theology from the University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands. He lived and worked almost ten years with the indigenous people in the interior of Sarawak, Malaysia, at a time when their traditional longhouse culture came under pressure from large-scale timber industry. He became deeply involved in the efforts by the local population to preserve their traditional cultural heritage and protect it against multinational timber corporations.
In 1979, he came to Varanasi, India, to study Indian Hindu Philosophy and Religion and received a PhD degree from the Banaras Hindu University for his thesis: 'Apah', The Sacred Waters. An Analysis of a Primordial Symbol in Hindu Myths'.
In 2005, he was affiliated to the Gandhian Institute of Studies in Varanasi to conduct research on the Dalits in India.
Frans Baartmans is currently resident in Oosterbeek, The Netherlands.