Rajni Tilak – Leading Voice of Dalit Activism Passes Away

Rajni Tilak

Last evening, India lost one of its most powerful feminist leader and activist: Rajni Tilak. She was 60. Tilak was a prominent Indian Dalit activist, a writer and India’s leading voice of Dalit feminism. She was the President of Dalit Lekhak Sangh, Executive Director of Centre for Alternative Dalit Media (CADAM) and Founder Member of NACDOR.

Rajni was born on May 27, 1958 in a family with very limited means. Despite all the persisting problems in the family, her parents gave the best education to her and her six siblings. Due to severe poverty, their ambition for pursuing higher education got shattered, especially Rajni’s. Being the eldest girl in the family she resorted to taking care of her younger brothers and sisters.

In an interview to Moggallan Bharati, she descriptively spoke about her ordeal of how she rose to become one of the strongest voices of Dalit acitivism and feminism.

After passing her higher secondary exam in 1975, she joined ITI’s cutting and tailoring course. Since, she was looking for some skill development in order to feed her family, she also joined a stenography course at the Shahdara ITI. During those days, along with other like-minded friends, she organized a union for girls, as the girls faced discrimination on many grounds, especially those who were from deprived sections.

After her disappointment with the Left, she realised her Dalit consciousness. She started reading Ambedkar, Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu, Mary Taylor, Gandhi, Rahul Sankrityayan and a lot of other authors.

She built her organization allying with Bharatiya Dalit Panthers in Delhi, in 1983.

Tilak also formed a Dalit theatre group called ‘Ahahwan’, and a students’ awareness programme by establishing a Youth Study Circle. In the 1980’s Rajni fought in regard to  a regular pay scale for anganwadi workers as well.

She believed that the lack of a collective leadership was visibly the greatest weakness of the Dalit Movement.

Further, she was felicitated with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work for the Ambedkarite women’s movement at the Dalit Women Speak Out Conference in Pune recently.

Reportedly, her cremation is set to be held at 11.30 am at Nigam Bodh Ghat CNG (Saturday, March 31).

One of our most inspirational fighters, Tilak refused to give up. And she had selflessly dedicated her life to the numerous ones suffering. May her soul rest in peace.

Social Media has been pouring in with condolence messages since the news of her demise can in.


Also Read: Pakistan Elects Its First Hindu Dalit Woman Senator

Featured image source: Twitter

Bhawana Bisht is an intern with SheThePeople.TV