Renowned Kannada Dalit poet, Dr Siddalingaiah, died of COVID-19 complications on Friday, June 11. He took his last breath at Bengaluru's Manipal Hospital and is survived by his wife, a daughter and a son.
The 67-year-old was admitted to the hospital on May 4 after developing COVID-related complications, including pneumonia and multiple organ failure, and was on ventilator support, The News Minute reported. The wife was infected too but had recovered later.
Condolences poured on social media, with leaders politicians including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ramnath Kovind, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, cabinet members, and netizens, remembering his contribution to literature and voicing concerns of the most vulnerable classes of the society.
A Revolutionary Poet
Dr Siddalingaiah was a noted figure in Karanataka's literary circle and known as 'Dalita Kavi' (Dalit Poet) and an emblem of Dalit literature. One of his prominent works was the revolutionary song he wrote that questioned the actual beneficiaries of India's independence in 1947 - 'Yaarige Bantu Yellige Banthu Nalavattelara Swatantra'.
An activist a playwright, Dr Siddalingaiah has been the inspiration for the Dalit activists and people who have long fought the oppressed classes.
He also entered politics, was a member of the Legislative Assembly in 1988. Later, in 2006, he became the chairperson of the Kannada Development Authority. Dr Siddalingaiah co-founded the Dalit Sangharsh Samithi, a Dalit movement in the state. He also taught Kannada at Bangalore University.
He had also chaired the 81st Kannada Sahitya Sammelana in Shravanabelagola, a gathering of Kannada literature.
His works also include his autobiography - 'Ooru Keri', published in 2006, and later translated in English' A Word With You, World'. Many of his work was translated into different languages.
He has received several accolades, including the highest literary award in Kannada- Pampa Award, honoured by the state government, Nadoja Award by Hampi University, Rajyostava Award and many more.
While speaking to TNM, in an old interview, the Dalit poet had explained the meaning of true independence, which not political but freedom from social and economic slavery.