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Annabhau Sathe (1 August 1920 – 18 July 1969) was a communist political activist, textile worker, social reformer, folk poet, and writer from Maharashtra, India. Sathe was a Dalit born into the Mang (caste), and his upbringing and identity were central to his writing and political activism. Though Sathe understood his Dalit lineage, being a staunch humanist and socialist, he rejected any form of "identity politics" and his life's struggle, writing and work was centered around the rejection of caste as a form of social and economic identity.
Despite lacking formal education, Sathe wrote 35 novels in the Marathi. They include Fakira (1959), which is in its 19th edition and received a state government award in 1961. There are 15 collections of Sathe's short stories, of which a large number have been translated into many Indian and as many as 27 non-Indian languages. Besides novels and short stories, Sathe wrote a play, a travelogue on Russia, 12 screenplays, and 10 ballads in the Marathi powada style.
Sathe's use of folkloric narrative styles like powada and lawani helped popularise and make his work accessible to many communities. In Fakira, Sathe portrays Fakira, the protagonist, revolting against the rural orthodox system and British Raj to save his community from utter starvation. The protagonist and his community are subsequently arrested and tortured by British officers, and Fakira is eventually killed by hanging.
Sathe was initially influenced by communist ideology and later shifted toward Dalit activism following the teachings of B. R. Ambedkar, and used his stories to amplify the life experiences of Dalits and workers. There have been attempts to present this as a "shift" whereas he, like may others of that era, was influenced by B.R. Ambedkar, but he never joined Ambedkar's political movement, nor became a Buddhist nor rejected the Communist Party and his core atheist philosophy. In fact Sathe was invited to visit the Soviet Union by the CPSU.
Sathe inaugurated a Dalit Sahitya Sammelan (Literary Conference) held at Mumbai in 1958; in his inaugural speech he said that "The earth is not balanced on the snake's head but on the strength of Dalit and working-class people," emphasising the importance of Dalit and working-class people in global structures.
Sathe's stories were testaments to Dalit self-respect and resistance, and he is quoted as saying that Dalit literature and "Dalit writers are entailed with the responsibility of liberating and shielding Dalits from the existing worldly and Hindu tortures as the long standing conventional beliefs cannot be destroyed instantly."
There are increasing attempts to water down Sathes' strong Communist leanings and present him as a "Dalit" leader and author, this is to filter and prevent the revolutionary aspirations of his work. These attempts to appropriate his name and legacy have amplified during the last few years, to contain the increasing unrest within the Dalit communities for having been excluded from a just share of the economic and social cake by the upper castes. This process, to exclude the revolutionary fervor of Dalit and other pro Dalit voices is being facilitated by the upper castes, mainstream parliamentary political parties and also many Dalits who reject revolutionary politics. It is amply clear that Annabhau Sathe, was deeply influenced by Ambedkar, but never renounced or rejected his staunch support for Marxism and a communist ideal. This struggle for appropriating and watering down the revolutionary aspects of Ambedkar's thought and presenting his politics as yet another version of Gandhian thought, also continues as does with the attempts to present Shaeed -e- Azam Bhagat Singh as a "Sikh/Khalsa Martyr" whereas he was clearly a communist till his last breath.
- Jamdhade, Dipak Shivaji (2014-06-01). "The Subaltern Writings in India: An Overview of Dalit Literature" (PDF). The Criterion. Retrieved 2015-04-05.
- Amar Nath Prasad (1 January 2007). Dalit Literature: A Critical Exploration. Sarup & Sons. ISBN 978-81-7625-817-3.
- Gaikwad, B.N. (2013-02-01). "Manifestation of Caste and Class in Anna Bhau Sathe’s Fakira and Baburao Bagul’s Jenvha Mi Jaat Chorli Hoti" (PDF). The Criterion. Retrieved 2015-04-05.