Here is a strange and bitter crop

The book Khairlanji: A Strange and Bitter Crop from Navayana, on which we did a post last month had a formal launch yesterday. Speaking at the occasion, Nivedita Menon drew attention to the subtitle of the book which is taken from the haunting song that Billie Holliday sang after a series of lynchings in the American South,

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Apart from Anand Teltumbde, the author, the panel that discussed the book and the issues surrounding it were a distinguished set: Harsh Mander, Sukhadeo Thorat, Nivedita Menon and Arundhati Roy.

Its too much to summarize what was said here, but the comments were passionate, incisive, and very revealing of the prevalence and persistence of caste in our society and of its roots. And yet, as India shines, at least in some points of view, much of our literate and consuming society seems blissfully unaware of how deep these roots are. Not only is there widespread lack of awareness of the problem, there is also a regrettable inability to see the problem, codified by aeons of practice.

Read the book. Its moving, chilling, and a stark reminder of the inequalities that persist. giving our society its gangrenous core, to quote Arundhati Roy.

In our Dalit Studies Section. Rs 190. ISBN 9788189059156

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