Question 4: What do you understand by Dalit literature? Discuss Dalit writing from the contrasting perspectives of privileged/disadvantaged.
Ans: Dalit Literature is the literature for the Dalits written by the Dalits. It is the literature to combat the hideous atrocities towards the Dalits. The atrocities against the lowest stratum reached the maximum limit during the eighteenth century. A never ending fire was constantly flaming in the hearts of the downtrodden. The attitude of rebellion emerged and developed among the Dalits, who were oppressed and suppressed for centuries in the traditional social pattern. Dalit literature has provided a new voice and identity to the communities that have experienced discrimination, exploitation and marginalization due to hierarchical caste system. Dalit literature has established itself as a separate category of writing in many of the Indian languages. Several writings under this category have emerged as a strong voice of Dalit communities in different literatures over the last five decades. The impact of Dalit writers and writings has also compelled the literary associations and akademis to recognize as a separate category of literature and reward it through several means.
Dalit Literature from the perspective of disadvantaged: Dalit writers have presented faithfully Dalit life, Dalit milieu, and Dalit culture in their writings. Human being and humanity is the base of Dalit literature. The Dalit writings are dominated by realism. Society and surroundings come first then individual in Dalit writings. The foundation of Dalit literature is entirely different from the mainstream literature. Sharankumar Limbale, Arjun Dangle, Omvedt Gail, Om Prakash Valmiki, Harish Mangalam, and other Dalit writers, have presented new rational and sociocultural based aesthetics for Dalit literature. The Dalit writers and critics have depicted their rational facts to justify Dalit aesthetics. According to Sharankumar Limbale, the scholar Dalit writer and critic: “Equality, freedom, justice and love are the basic sentiments of people and society. They are many times more important than pleasure and beauty. There has never been a revolution in the world for the sake of pleasure and beauty. Many governments have been overturned for equality, freedom and justice. This is history. . . The literature that promotes equality, freedom and justice is revolutionary, and emphasizes the centrality of the human being and society.”
Dalit literature is the literature produced by the Dalit consciousness. As it is known fact that Dr. Ambedkar struggled till his last breaths for the unity, equality, identity, fraternity, and liberty of all Indians including women and Dalits. To acquire the identity of Dalits, he had studied India’s past which was written in the sacred texts of the Hindus. Dr. Ambedkar through his critical assessment of Hindu religion, Hindu mythology, classical and sacred literary texts of Hindus, and Indian history brought great awareness among Dalits. As a result, Dalit literary writers have presented their own life, culture, existence and struggle which are not presented before world yet. By presenting firsthand experiences of being Dalit, the Dalit writers have jolted the non-Dalits on one hand and presented the world a new literature called ‘Dalit Literature’, on the other.
Dalit Literature from the perspective of the privileged: The basic difference one can notice in the literature of the non-Dalit writers and the Dalit writers is that the first presents the romantic view of the life and the later realistic view of the life. Arjun
Dangle in his article Dalit Literature: Past, Present and Future, has noted that
‘this literature of the Dalits is intimately related to social reality and is not imaginary or entertainment oriented.’ (Dangle 255). Similarly, in an interview Harish Mangalam, a Dalit writer and acritic remarks: “Non-Dalit writers describe the beloved’s cheeks by comparing them with roses and liken the beloved’s lips to rose petals.” (Trivedi Tongues 161)
The non-Dalit writers can present Dalits and Dalits’ world, but not as authentic as by the Dalit writers. As a result, Dalits are not satisfied with the literature of the mainstream writers. It is because the mainstream literature presents the picture of the non-Dalits’ world. In the mainstream literature, the real world of the Dalits with their centuries old pains, humiliations, agonies, traumas, miseries, atrocities, alienation, sufferings etc. have not ever been justified. What the best the mainstream authors can do is to feel pity and sympathy. Further, they can offer some minor changes within the existing unequal framework of Indian caste-system. So, Dalits want representation of the real world of theirs in the literature. And it is one of the desires which have given birth to the Dalit literature. Non-Dalit writers have certainly presented Dalits but in a mild presentation i.e. sympathetic and piteous. Thus, their concentration is on the wretched inhuman conditions of the Dalits. They never presented Dalits with Ambedkarite ideology. In the hands of mainstream writers, Dalits are nothing but tragic lots. The centuries old pains, traumas, and sufferings, cannot be presented realistically by the non-Dalits in their literature because they are the viewers and doers and not the victims and sufferers.