JNU’s Dalit rapper seeks to make a difference


Queries about where to locate Room number 111 of Chandrabagha hostel in Jawaharlal Nehru University get a common reaction: “You want to meet the rapper?” Sumeet Samos, a 23-year-old student of Latin American Studies at the university, is popularly identified as the rapper who articulates Dalit and Muslim concerns.’

‘Jai Bheem’ is how Samos’ greets people. His hostel room is laden with books on Dalit literature and history. The walls of his room are painted in different shades of blue with posters of Dalit icons. Samos himself wears a blue cap and loosely fitted trousers and shirt to appear like a professional rapper.

Sumeet, who was born and brought up in a village in southern Odisha, was always inclined to poems and music but did not know much about rap music until he came to JNU.

“I was always interested in dancing and singing. I was often called to Dalit functions in our Basti to perform. I would also write poems concerning the Dalit community. However, when I came to JNU a couple of years ago for my masters, I attended Dalit meetings and too often I noticed that people would get bored with long speeches. By that time I was familiar with rap music, so I thought why can’t we articulate our concerns using rap, “ said Samos.

“I was also inspired to do this after reading about such forms of protest during the Black and civil rights movement in America. I learnt that their form of rap was conscious rap, mostly used by activists of the Black movement, “ he added.

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Sumeet said three important components of his rap are to identify the wrongs done to the community, who has done it and for whom he was singing. Talking about his activism as a Dalit, he said he was not involved with any political group before coming to JNU but was always conscious of politics and the oppression against members of the community.

“I wasn’t active with any political group in Odisha but even then if anyone would tease me or pass any remark against me, I would retaliate. Later when I came to JNU, I joined BAPSA, a mostly Dalit and Muslim platform challenging the old structures of power in the country,” Sumeet said.

The journey from a small village to the most prestigious university in India has been anything but easy for Sumeet. The young rapper recalled, “I remember how much I wanted to come out and study but it was all so difficult. There was no one to guide us, whatever we had to do was to be on our own, although today I am proud that I could achieve all this and I am able to somehow contribute to the larger Dalit cause.

“My source of motivation on the campus has been students coming from marginalised communities like Muslims and Adivasis along with Dalits. I feel their pain and hence make sure that I talk about them in my rap songs,” he said.
To increase his reach Sumeet uploads his videos on Youtube.

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