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.