Monisha Raman explores Karukku, a seminal work on Dalit life by Bama, which remains the most important work penned by a Dalit woman about living in a small town in Tamil Nadu as a member of a suppressed group, even after 25 years of publication.
When Karukku was first published in 1992, it came in for much criticism from many Tamil literary stalwarts. At a literary festival, an established writer called it reportage. The colloquial language used in the narration was not welcome by many in the writing community. However, the work established itself as among the most prominent voices in Dalit feminism. The English translation by Lakshmi Holmstrom, published by Oxford India Paperback in 2000, is having a successful run with its second edition. This work holds the credit of being the first autobiography of a Dalit woman writer from Tamil Nadu.
On 31 st December, 2017, some met in Fort Shaniwarwada in Pune to commemorate a historic event from January 1st 1818, a battle in which the Peshwas (Brahmins) were defeated by the British forces though the loss was huge on both sides. This had been a part of the third Anglo Maratha wars which led to British domination in Maharashtra ultimately.
The programme had speeches and cultural performances and police presence. The British victory nearly two hundred years ago was seen as a Dalit victory over Peshwas as Dalits had manned the British army against the Brahmin Peshwas. On January 1 st 2018, one Dalit was killed in the violence that ensued over the meet among different groups who clashed over differences of opinion.
Number of activists, some of them allegedly communists as Maoist involvement was suspected, were arrested over the event. What bordered on the ludicrous was that one activist was arrested for possessing incriminating documents like Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The judge is reported to have said: “War and Peace is about war in another country. Why were you keeping these books at your house?” Read more
Who reads Hindi literature these days? And who writes it?
For a language rightly claiming to be spoken by more than 400 million people, such questions seem astonishing. But they aren’t, for one precise reason. In last two decades, almost entire Indian middle class has shifted towards English. Private schools and universities and all premier institutions teach in English. All corporate firms and private companies prefer and promote English as their medium. English is gradually developing as a household language for the upper middle classes. On the other hand, Hindi is spoken and used as the medium of study only in the families of first-generation school students. The class character of Hindi has shifted. It is no more the language of the Brahminical order or the ‘upper’ caste sensibility; it is thriving as a language of Dalits, Adivasis and marginalised people.
The impact of these changing sensibilities can easily be seen in the literary works written in 2016. A number of novels have traced and addressed the issues of communities that are gradually being pushed towards the margins. Akaal Men Utsava by Pankaj Subeer is one such novel. As the name suggests, a festival is being arranged despite the ongoing drought because otherwise designated funds will lapse. It’s more than a simple satirical piece; Subeer is able to juxtapose the irony of the festival and the tragedy of a farmer. Bhagwandass Morwal’s novel Halala raises the burning issue of Halala – a practice prevalent in sections of the Muslim community and being discussed these days as a part of the debate on triple talaq. But this novel is not written for the political debate. The book is about the brutal suppression of woman under the garb of a social practice sanctioned by religion. It also answered the general complaint that the space for Muslim characters has been reducing continuously in Hindi writing. Read more
Source: The Wire