Champa: A socialist revolutionary and Ambedkarite at heart

Champa, the writer- activist always believed in constant internal rebellion which propelled his revolutionary zeal.

Kannada writer and activist Prof. Chandrashekhar Patil, 82, popularly known by his pen name Champa passed away in Bengaluru on January 10. He was suffering from age related ailments for the past two years.

Despite studying in Leeds University of England and becoming well versed in the English literary movement, an iota of his sensibility for Kannada language had not lost.

Even though he had made Bengaluru his home at his fag end of his life, but his emotional attachment with Dharwad district was still cherishing.

Chandrashekhar Patil, fondly known as Champa, was not only a man who spoke his mind, but he also was a great organizer.

Champa traveled extensively around Karnataka, he built up an army of friends, he fought with them, he struggled on many things, but ultimately he lived like he wanted to live. He lived a unique life.

Childhood and Education

Born in Haveri district to Murigewwa and Basayya in Jangamma sect of Lingayat household. Though the family owned 12 acre land and was known as landlords, the land was not enough to survive.

Champa proved to be an exemplary student from the beginning. He completed his High schooling in Haveri itself where he scored rank in SSLC. Later he moved to Dharwad for higher education.

During his Pre University studies he joined his juniors, Siddalinga Pattanshetty, Giraddi Govindraju and B. T. Desai formed a union called ‘Kamala Mandala’ and got a compilation called ‘ Brahanganaada’ published while studying in PU.

He later augmented his liking for English literature by attending the classes of his Principal, V. K. Gokak. He secured first rank in 1962 and joined as an English lecturer in Karnataka College where he was a student. During this time, he wrote several poems including ‘Banuli, ‘Madhyabindu’ etc. He got the compilation of 19 of poems published in 1964.

In 1968, he was deputed to Hyderabad where he completed a Diploma in English Studies from Central Institute of English. Here too, he secured top rank.

He also got a scholarship from the British Council and flew to English in 1972 for higher studies at Leeds University.During his stay in England, he wrote Gokarnaka Goudashani and Kattala Ratrigalu.

When he returned to Dharwad, he got promoted to the post of lecturer in Dharwad University where he had a prolonged career as teacher between 1969 and 1996. Champa had penned various plays including, Kodegalu, Appa, Kuntakunta Kuravatti, Havu Bantu and Gurtinavaru.

His publication ‘Sankramana’ which he had started during his student days, was converted into a revolutionary paper. His association with noted personalities, eminent writers and activists such as Nanjundaswamy, Lankesh, Devanur, Tejaswi and Shankrappa helped him find sharpness in editorial skills.

Confluence of various social movements

The meetings of socialist activities only cemented his commitment for movements. Champa had emerged as a strong voice that disseminated the socialist movement of farmer leader M. D. Nanjundaswamy.

He had become a clear example for more ‘aggressive’ Gandhian ideologies of actions that included disfiguring the portrait of Saibaba and taking out that in the procession, shredding the degree certificates, tearing off the gown of convocation, etc.

He blamed Brahmins for creation of caste system. He did intercaste marriage himself and conducted many such marriages. The socialist meetings in his youth had become a primary inspiration for all his actions.

The convention held in 1972 at Bangalore University acted as a platform that gave glimpses and indication of Champa’s literary movements. In that convention, he openly criticized the noted Kannada newspaper, Prajavani, as being in the clutches of Brahimins.  He even gave a call to boycott the newspaper.

The call however did not go in vain as non-Brahmins refused to send their articles for the annual special edition of the newspaper. Because of which, that year’s special edition was not published. Champa thus succeeded in his efforts.

Though for generations, Karnataka had been witnessing a tradition of having differences with Brahmanical ideology, but it can easily be said that the credit for expanding it in modern context goes to Champa.

Emergence of Streams of Literature 

The call given by Champa to boycott Prajavani as he blamed the newspaper as fully controlled by Brahimins, led to polarization between Brahmin and non-Brahmin writers. It did not stop there as in the coming days, it also led to germination of the concept of ‘Federation of Writers’. The formation of Federation of Writers surely acted as a milestone in Kannada literary tradition.

One such Federation was inaugurated by none other than the eminent writers, Kuvempu himself. This helped in giving a clear, distinct identity and approval to the thinking and aspirations of the Federation. G. S. Shivaruddrapa became the first president of the Federation inaugurated by Kuvempu while Champa became General Secretary. This shows the important role Champa played in the literary field in those days.

Though the Federation did not last long, however it prompted the creation of ‘Revolutionary Literary Association and got its existence. The role of Champa was clearly identified during revolutions. The duo of Champa and Baraguru Ramchandrappa strengthened revolutionary literature. But their ideological differences acted as a hurdle in the movement.

The Federation of the Writers had become a point of convergence for socialist ideology, Marxism, Ambedkar ideology and Gandhian ideologies. It acted as an alliance of various Indian ideologies in the history of literature.

Champa however described himself as socialist and called Baragur as Marxist. But the difference emerged over the controversy that Marxist are prominent in revolutions and Ambedkar followers were cautioned to stay away from Marxists. This led to emergence of new literary sect called ‘Dalit Literature’.

From Lohia to Ambedkar

Though fundamentally, Champa was socialist and ideological follower of Lohiya, yet he was critical of Lohiya on several occasions. He had different views on various subjects on Lohiyan ideology. It was the result of his internal conscience for criticism.

Champa described the political stand taken during the emergency period by Jayaprakash Narayan who was one of the founders of Socialist movement as a ‘ strategic mistake’. Champa calls it the miscalculation of J. P which had resulted in RSS rising to become a giant political force.

Despite Champa being a Lohia follower, he did not hesitate to say that Ambedkar is more relevant that Lohia. He vehemently believed that till his last day. The analysis of Ambedkar about Indian society is far more perfect than Lohia. This belief of Champa indicates his gradual ideological drift towards Ambedkar ideology from Lohia.

He said that Ambedkar took a big risk for the welfare of his people, but Lohia did not have that guts. By making such critical analysis, Champa was consciously crossing the self created ideological barriers.

Even in Gandhian ideology, Champa had strong and harsh views.

“ Gandhi basically had Hindu mentality, however he even had liberal thinking. Though Gandhi was propagating equality and removal of untouchability, he said that it was foolish of Gandhi to try to remove such problematic beliefs. It was like Gandhi saying cut the branches and leave the roots”.

A constant Internal Rebellion 

Champa who said that he should rebel against himself which is the foundation of his ideology, he advocated that Brahmins should launch against Brahminical ideology, Lingayat should rebel against Lingayat feudal ideology etc.

True to his words, he had opposed the holding of the state level convention of Akhil Bharat Veerashaiva Mahasbha in Bangalore.He even got people who had gathered from the Veerashaiva community toshow black flags at the event. During the protest, he gave a slogan, ‘ Reject Veerashaiva, long live Basavanna’.

This protest of him is a clear indicator of his ideological commitment.

Champ had an unequivocal view that more than Gandhi and Lohiya about their ideologies on removal of caste system, the thinking of Ambedkar was more apt.

Champa however made it clear that he did not have pain like Ambedkar who had announced that he was born as Hindu but will not die as Hindu. “ Since I am born in the Lingayat religion therefore, I am anyways not a Hindu. But if someday, the Apex Court declares that Veerashaiva or Lingayats are part of Hindu religion, then certainly on the same day I would leave that religion”.

Contribution to Kannada Movement

It is not possible to forget the responsibility Champa had shouldered in strengthening Kannada language movements.

Champa was the prominent leader in the Gokak revolution. He had made efforts in bringing Kannada actor Dr. Rajkumar to the Gokak revolution. Even in the coming days, he played a vital role in launching various Kannada movements for the preservation and protection of Kannada and its culture. He also had rejected ideologically the concept of Bhuvaneshwari, a mythical figure who is projected as the mother of Kannada.

The author is a poet, writer and an activist based in Kartagi district. He has been active in various pro-people movements. His noted publication is ‘Akka Sita, Ninnante Naanu Shankita (Sister Sita, I am also a suspect like you).

The article was first published in our sister website naanugauri.com. It has been translated into English by Firoz Rozinder.

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