Dalit Literature: A Critical Exploration
Edited by Amar Nath Prasad and M.B.Gaijan
Published by Sarup & Sons, New Delhi
Rs. 850 (Pp. 318+16)
Thousand of books are written and edited on marginal literature. Dalit Literature: A Critical Exploration, edited by Amar Nath Prasad and M.B.Gaijan, is not the black sheep of that flock. What is it, that one can say in single sentence that is unique of this edited book? It is the pattern in which the idea of Dalit literature evolves, progresses and emerges that makes this book unique and worth reading. See how it happens: the first page of the first article reads: I reject….I reject….I reject. This is the voice of protest, which is synonymous of all marginal literature. The last article quotes J.V.Dave …nowhere a revengeful Dalit anger anywhere although the author is a Dalit lady. But there is evidently a humanist sense… This change in angst clearly shows how Dalit literature has matured to embrace human justice and aesthetic sense. This design in the selection and order of the articles makes this book unique one.
The editing is quite impressive. The selection of articles / research papers is excellent. None of the edited books one ever read would have such a variety and scope in its theme. Thematically the book is very rich. It has 21 well research papers. The critical exploration of Dalit anxiety, Dalit sensibility, Dalit dilemma and Indian Dalichtomy is appealing in all these articles. Various facets of Dalit literature from Chokamela: the pioneer of Dalit movement to Arunthati Roy’s God and Daxa Damodaran’s Shosh…. is selected in this anthology.
The beauty of the book lies in its language. It seems editors have worked on the language of all the articles to make it simple and appropriate to the theme discussed in the book. Words after words, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraphs flows as smoothly as water flows in river Ganga. However, this calmness or silence is only the upper current of river Ganga. The under current is as furious and fiery as that of volcano burning inside. It voices the silence of the marginalized and the oppressed as its theme. The theme emerges as naturally as flowers from buds. This makes reading this book a journey, which we wish, should never end.
Read these excerpts to believe it:
“The Poet (Tagore) has not portrayed outcast as miserable, pitiable or helpless. Their condition, portrayed by him, is no doubt pitiable but it is created by the orthodox Indians… Tagore has highly praised their human virtues in their wretched situation. The poet has his own way to raise the issue, different from Gandhi. He has not used Gandhi’s term ‘Harijan’ for Outcaste. He has boldly exposed the hypocrisy of the orthodox … the poet has consciously and earnestly tried to raise the issue of the insulted community.”(Pg 102)
“Arundhati Roy has heralded a revolutionary attitude against the mal-treatment of the untouchable, the vulnerable and the down-trodden. Though these ‘Mombatties’ have no glass, no protection, no support to face the surge of the fast wind, yet in comparison with ‘Laltain’, they are not rigid and stubborn but ever ready to burn another lamp. The Mombaties of Roy’s world which she calls them the God of Los, The God of Small Things, are bound to suffer much insult something’s with causes and sometimes without any cause. The ‘Laltain’ on the other hand, is well fed and well protected. (Pg.269)
“The novel (Shosh) has other sub-themes. Dalit issues it presents but in a different way. Here Dalits are not degraded. Generally it is believed the Dalit writing is merely a cry of Dalits protest. This novel is quite different from that opinion. It is the genuine appeal to human beings to remove al social inequality based on sex or caste. Here Dalits do not protest against non-Dalits’ cruelty but non-Dalit protagonist protests against non-Dalit’ cruelty on Dalit. (Pg.312)
The book opens with Darshna Trivedi’s article. It sets the tone of the entire critical exploration on Dalit literary theory. She quotes form Rig Veda to recent Marathi poems to prove her argument, which she does quite successfully. She has critically examined the origin of the term Dalit, compared dalit literature with mainstream literature and concluded her article with future of Dalit literature. Her article opens with the angst-ridden voice (quoted form a Marathi Dalit Poem):
“I reject your culture. I reject your parmeshwar centred tradition. I reject your religion based literature.”
Prof. B.S.Nimavat’s article takes us back to 13th and 14th century. In his article, he explored into the realm of Chokhamela, the Mahar Maharashtrian saint in the Bhakti tradition. He deals with rarest of the rare incident, Mahar guru and Brahmin disciple. The beginning of his article is quite effective. He quotes Prof. Gangadhar Pantawane: “To me, Dalit is not a Caste. He is a man exploited by the social and economic traditions of the country…. Dalit is a symbol of change and revolution.” Dr. S.K.Paul has very effectively explored Dalitism: its growth and evaluation. He is of the opinion that lack of real sincerity and commitment at the political level and the silence of the Dalits in the key political and bureaucratic positions is the root of all the evils against dalits in society. He is of the view that Dalitness is essentially a means towards achieving a sense of cultural identity and for that purpose Dalit literature should not only highlight the disadvantages and difficulties together with atrocities and inhuman treatment given to Dalits but its main object should be to bring social awakening among the downtrodden.
This anthology has given good space to regional literature, especially Gujarati Dalit literature. Dr. Pathik Paramar has critically analyzed the Gujarati Dalit poetry in a very exhaustive and comprehensive way. Read the following quotation (of the poem) from his article:
“Who is wounded
That is I
To whom since the centuries
You refuse to know…
You are talking about the wound,
I am living with the wound.”
“I tell them:
This head, is Sambooka’s,
These hands are Eklavaya’s
This heart, Kabir’s.
I am Jabali Satyakama.
But still I am a man.”
He, thus, observes the suppressed voice of the Dalits, their self-experience of injustice and atrocities and their furious expression on the Brahminical traditions. Dr. Rupali Burke’s observations are path breaking. We have read articles and research papers passing running comment on how mainstream literature is different form marginalized literature. But none has given thought provoking and well-evaluated point to point discussion as she has given in her article Reversing Centrality and Marginality: Gujarati Lalit Literature Vs. Gujarati Dalit Literature. Harish Mangalam’s article is gist of his experience as a poet. Being (himself) a poet, none can evaluate origin and development of Gujarati Dalit poetry as he can. He has observed that Gujarati Dalit poetry initiated on a note of revolt, anger and impulse. Slowly and steadily, it flowed smoothly in the sea of mainstream literature. Gujarati Dalit poetry today, has tremendous freshness of expression.
All other articles are also well researched and throw new insight in the field of Dalit literature. Space does not permit to discuss all of them separately in this review. They all are worth reading for study and research.
All these beads are connected into a beautiful Shabri-mala by the thread, which is made of four articles written by both the editors. These articles share their views on dalit in various literary genres - from Tagore’s poetry to Arundhati Roy’s novels to Gujarati Dalit Novel. Dr. Amar Nath Prasad critically examined the fact in three novels of Roy that God never makes any difference between a touchable and an untouchable. He tried to ascertain that no society or nation can ever progress without the co-operation of the Dalit and the downtrodden.
Dr.M.B.Gaijan’s two articles exhibit Dalit consciousness in Tagore’s poetry and Roy’s God of Small Things. Dalit-empathy and dalit-angst is displayed in Tagore’s poetry and Roy’s novel respectively. The book ends with his third article on Shosh – a Gujarati Dalit Novel. Symbolically speaking, it is not the end, but the beginning of new Dalit literature. It is one of the six articles on Gujarati Dalit literature in this book. Dalit literature has travelled a long day’s journey into nights. The revengeful Dalit voice becomes the voice of humanist in Shosh. This last article opens a new chapter in the Dalit literature. It seems to say that the literature, which began as a protest literature, has matured to encompass humanity and aesthetic justice.
The book is edited so meticulously that it has almost everything that one need to read when it comes to Dalit literature. A must read book for student and researchers of Dalit literature.