Renowned poet and firebrand Marathi writer Padma Shri Namdeo Dhasal, 64, who was battling colorectal cancer for the past three and a half months, passed away early on Wednesday at Bombay Hospital.
Dhasal breathed his last around 4am. His body will be kept in Ambedkar College for people to pay their last respects to the departed leader. The funeral will be held at Dadar crematorium on Thursday afternoon. He is survived by his wife Malika Sheikh and a son.
Dhasal was one of the founders of the militant Dalit Panther movement, which emerged out of the casteist riots in Worli’s BDD chawls in the late ’60s. He was also a pioneer of the Dalit literature movement, known for its deep concern for the underprivileged.
He was conferred with three Maharashtra state awards for his five collections of poems. In 2004, he was awarded the prestigious Sahitya Akademi award for his contribution to literature.
The poet-writer had a complicated medical history. He was also known to have myasthenia gravis, a lesser known autoimmune disorder. One of the main consequences of the disease is muscle weakness, which increases during periods of activity and improves after periods of rest.
Muscles that control eye and eyelid movement, facial expression, chewing, talking, and swallowing are especially susceptible. Muscles that control breathing and neck and limb movements can also be affected.
“He was admitted in the ICU more than 15 days back. Not only was he a cooperative patient and followed all the medical advice without any complaint but he was also a very down-to-earth man.
He bonded well with all of us who were treating him,” said Dr Sanjay Wagle, consultant physician, Bombay Hospital.
Wagle added, “The last three months were very tough for him. We could not operate on him because of his myasthenia gravis. However, he always stayed positive. Throughout his hospital stay, he wrote a column for Saamna, the Shiv Sena mouthpiece.”
Dhasal had earlier been admitted to Bombay Hospital in 2007 when he had fallen seriously ill.
Born on February 15, 1949, he was raised by his mother in poverty. He received the Nehru award for his book Golpitha, named after Mumbai’s red-light district. The book’s publication started a realistic trend in Marathi poetry in the 1970s.
About the rebel poet
Namdeo Dhasal was one of the founders of the militant Dalit Panther movement, which emerged out of the casteist riots in Worli’s BDD chawls in the late ’60s. He was also a pioneer of the Dalit literature movement, known for its concern for the underprivileged. He was conferred with three state awards for his five collections of poems.