Dalit Feminism

 

M. Swathy Margaret

(First published in the March-April 2005 issue of Insight Young Voices magazine)

I am a Dalit-middle-class, University educated, Telugu speaking Dalit-Christian-Woman. All these identities have a role in the way I perceive myself and the worlds I inhabit. I, as a Dalit woman, primarily write for Dalit women to uphold our interests. This statement of mine is necessary because if we do not define ourselves for ourselves, we will be defined by others – for their use and to our detriment. This voice is not representative of all Dalit women. However, I know that my voice is important because it is the voice of a socially denigrated category, suppressed and silenced.

 My own self-perception and understanding as a Dalit woman, as a point of intersection/an overlap between the categories “Dalit” and “woman”, took shape in the University of Hyderabad when I joined there for my M.A. in English. I fell in love with the sprawling campus instantly. Some familiar-looking young men came to my aid in filling the endless forms and challans, saying they are from the Ambedkar Students’ Union. Hearing Ambedkar’s name I knew I belonged there. However, it did not take much time before I realized they refused to see an equal intellectual comrade in me. Like the majority of men, they acknowledge a dalit woman’s presence as only fit for handing over bouquets to the guest speakers they invite for their meetings. At the most, she can give the vote of thanks. They do not consider her in important decisions or in writing papers. Later I learned that excluding women from their committees was a deliberate policy they followed as they believed women’s presence would cause “problems” and come in the way of serious politics. Women inevitably mean “problems”, their sexuality being an uncontrolled wild beast waiting to pounce upon the unassuming dalit men in the movement. It is assumed that they divert the attention from the larger concerns of the movement.

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Shampoo & social equality

Ila Patnaik

Economists have tended to focus on expenditure patterns, consumption and income to assess poverty and inequality in rural India. Within these categories, the debate among economists normally focuses on the average consumer or the one living below the poverty line. This approach fits well with methods for studying changing inequality in most countries. However, it ignores the most important aspect of rural India—the inequality created by the caste system.

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Dalit woman thanks nun for newfound courage

CATHNEWS

A dalit woman has thanked a Catholic nun for helping her to overcome the prejudice and corruption that could have cost her livelihood.Upper caste parents voiced opposition to Teju Bai’s job as a school cook in Madhya Pradesh, asserting that her former “untouchable” caste status would render the food impure and inedible.“But I did not back down, because I was aware that prejudice due to someone’s ‘untouchable’ status is no longer legal,” said the 40-year-old mother of four.

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‘Names of women folk poets wiped off’

INDIA BLOOMS

New Delhi:  Names of several women folk poets were systematically wiped off, said Vishnu Khare, well-known poet, translator and critic.He was speaking at the 11th Friday Seminar Lecture series organized by the School of Gender and Development Studies, IGNOU. The topic of the lecture was “The Daughters of Punna and Mutta: Contemporary Women Poets in Hindi”.“The MA Hindi course being taught in our Universities is a Hindu Course. It has not been secularized. We need to hijack Mir, Ghalib , Umrao Jaan Ada into the Hindi curriculum and secularize it,“ said Khare.

 

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Tamil Dalit literature: an overview.

THE FREE LIBRARY

Dalit studies in Tamil has its foundational stage. Historically, Dalit literature witnessed a rather late start in Tamil as compared to its counterpart in Marathi or Kannada. As a result, theorization of Dalit writing or a systematic critical corpus has not been developed yet. The author urges the literary critics to start a critical exercise so that justice can be done to properly evaluate the vibrant, multi-faceted, articulate and radically innovative Dalit creative writings in Tamil which we have witnessed in recent years.

 

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Untouchable: Dalit women in India

 
Laura Smith-Gary
 
(First published Equal Writes website in September 2009)
 
Earlier this summer, in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state and the home of over 190 million individuals, fury and small-scale violence erupted when a Brahmin (upper-caste) political opponent of the state’s Chief Minister appeared to suggest the Chief Minister, a Dalit  woman (that is, from the lowest case, often known as “untouchable” because contact with members of this caste was thought to be contaminating), be raped in order to understand the pain of rape victims.
equal writes

Chief Minister Mayawati had been holding public ceremonies in which Dalit rape victims were given a small amount of compensation money (the equivalent of about $500) by government officials. Rita Bahuguna Joshi, a Brahmin (upper-caste) woman who is the leader of an opposing party, said that the women should “throw the money at Mayawati’s face and tell her ‘you should also be raped and I will give you ten million rupees’”.Joshi was arrested on charges of promoting social enmity, insulting a woman’s modesty and insulting a person of lower caste. Riots erupted, and protesters set fire to her house. The charges against her carry a possible sentence of ten years in prison.

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