What is the role of Dalit literature as an integral part of Dalit voice in the fight against casteism in indian society? - Letsdiskuss
LetsDiskuss Logo
Ask Question


Posted 06 Apr, 2019 |

What is the role of Dalit literature as an integral part of Dalit voice in the fight against casteism in indian society?

Ruchika Dutta

Teacher | Posted 08 Apr, 2019

Before discussing Dalit literature and its role in Indian society, let’s discuss literature in general. For example, what exactly is literature?

If you ask me, literature, above all, is a form of expression, just like any other art form. It is a way one can let out their anguish, happiness, loneliness or any other kind of feeling. So the very definition of “literature” allows it to become a representational voice of people.

dalit-literature-letsdiskuss(Courtesy: The Indian Express)

Now let’s talk about the Dalit community in Indian society. The recent state of the community which stands at the lowest level in Indian hierarchical structure is not unknown. Most of the recent cases of mob lynching in different Indian states reported the victims to be Dalits. This is the condition of the community currently, and it was even worse earlier.

Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar was right in his vision when he claimed that the untouchables and other lower castes and India will not be safe in the future because Hinduism is the dominant religion in the country. Hinduism is based on the Varna system and according to the Varna system, Dalits need to be segregated from the rest of the society. Even the holy scripture of Manusmriti gives Dalits a status even worse than animals.

dalit-literature-letsdiskuss (Courtesy: Colombo Telegraph)

Now Indians being god-fearing, have always practiced on these principles. This means that Dalits have always been subjected to social discrimination and oppression in Indian society. You must have read about their conditions while in schools.

So the Dalit community has more than one valid reason for letting their voice out through literature and other art forms. And this practice started very early.

The first accounts are that of the oral traditions that are still alive in the form of folk songs and poetries. Most of them are in regional languages but if you try to know their meanings, you will find that they tell the tales of the wrongs done with them.

dalit-literature-letsdiskuss (Courtesy: Literary Theory and Criticism)

Then these communities started documenting the accounts of their struggles on leaves and stones. It was very late that they started acquiring formal education and writing the literature as we know it today.

If you are a literature student or a voracious reader, you must have come across the novels like Joothan, The Untouchable Spring, and The God of Small Things. Even Premchand, who was not Dalit but an upper caste man, wrote a lot about Dalit community and its plight in pre-colonial rural India. His short story Kafan is the most heartbreaking tale of the poverty which engulfs this community.

dalit-literature-letsdiskuss (Courtesy: The Spoof Post)

The Untouchable Spring shows the struggle of generations and acquaints us with the culture and tradition of the untouchables, and how they converted into Christianity to escape the Hindu Varna System. The God of Small Things is a modern, post-colonial take on the life of lower castes in India.