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Dalit Women’s Writing in Telugu

 

Challapalli Swaroopa Rani

(Published in EPW in 1998)

It has taken a long time for dalit women to overcome their oppression as women, as dalits and put to creative use the gains of social and literary movements. There are of course common issues that bind dalit men and women, like untouchability and caste oppression. But women also suffer from patriarchal oppression. These concerns are constantly foregrounded in dalit women's poetry in Telugu and is evident in the form, content and the emotions that they express. However, dalit women's poetry in Telugu still needs to develop beyond the confines of patriarchy.

The alphabet is now a weapon in the hands of 'untouchables' - a weapon to attack the oppression perpetrated by brahminism for centuries, Dalits denied learning and respect, have now crafted self-respect from their humiliation, strengthening their castes and destroying 'sanatana' values and traditions' People who have been denied a basic humanity and have been outcasts for centuries, have now stormed into literary avenues' roaring. Today 'untouchable' voices rule Telugu literature. That is the fierce wind of dalit poetry.

What is Dalit Poetry?

Before beginning a debate on which poetry is dalit potery it is necessary first to look for some clarity on who are dalits. There was recently a wide ranging debate on 'who are dalits' among literary friends. Some people argued that along with the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and backward castes, minorities and women should also be considered dalits. After some discussion, they came to the conclusion that only 'malas' and 'madigas' who belonged to the SC category should be considered dalit. In general, there is considerable confusion as to who are dalits. Notwithstanding the above debates, dalits could be defined as people who have been subjected to untouchability and denied social, economic, political and cultural rights. What is dalit poetry? Whose poetry is dalit poetry? These questions have also generated considerable debate. Writing by dalits that is based on dalit consciousness will reflect the painful lived experiences of dalit people. The fact of being born a dalit alone is not enough to write dalit poetry. Dalit consciousness is a critical factor in dalit writing, The question of whether non-daiits can write dalit poetry has also come up from time to time. Writing by upper castes that expresses dalit reality in terms similar to that by dalit writers can be called sympathetic poetry. There is an unanimous view that only those who suffer oppression can adequately represent that oppression.

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Chithralekha's family attacked again

 

Eramangalathu Chitralekha

chitraOn October 21st I was attacked again. This time they rounded up and beat my husband Sreeskanth because now they are scared to touch me.

Sreeskanth has been living a life of social exclusion for a long time now. His relatives have abandoned him, his friends don't talk to him, except very secretly, and no one in the auto stand also talks to him. But they keep taunting him saying that he is under a Pulachi (Pulaya/Dalit woman) and is a good for nothing. But he bears it all silently. After my auto was burned there was an attack on his life. At that time they mistook my brother-in-law for him and he was stabbed on his back very badly and only escaped death very narrowly. Then we had to run away from our house. Later we came back and we started driving our auto in Edattu.

After I was beaten up in the mob attack on May 18th, which I had written about earlier, my legs have swollen up and am unable to drive the auto regularly. So recently Sreeskanth was driving the auto and was earning some money. I, in the mean time, was trying to fight the many cases.

On October 21 st they started taunting him again as usual and as usual he just bore it without saying anything. Then all of them including Rameshan who is one of the culprits in the case for burning my auto, started beating him up. Sreeskanth is all alone in the auto stand, and no one supports him or even talks to him. So very quickly they outnumbered him and beat him down. They also took his money and his mobile, which has all our numbers and with which we contact everybody when in trouble.

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Popular mythologies and their implications for violence against women

 

Violence against women in India – A review of the popular mythologies and their implications for VAW

Cynthia Stephen

India's reputation as a destination for spiritual seekers seems to have faded in recent years. Reputed worldwide to the be the land of the oldest living civilisation, with a rich culture, living tradition, and a climate of ahimsa (non-violence), as exemplified by the struggle against the British colonisers which was almost bloodless, and resulted in the Independent Indian nation on the 15th of August, 1947.

A part of this tradition, it is claimed, is revering women in the form of the mother or the goddess. Proponents of this viewpoint cite a verse to the effect that "Where women are worshipped there the gods reside". But there has always been ample evidence that this was more observed in the breach; that the societal structures discriminated severely against women in all arenas: economic, social, legal, political, personal. The evidence came in the 1970s, in the form of the Report "Towards Equality" – A report of the Status of Women in India. The elite women who formed the study team, set up by the Central Government, were stunned at the disparity between men and women in India. It was in the aftermath of this study, which was prepared for the first UN World Conference on Women in Mexico in 1975, that the government of India began to undertake policy measures and provide funding for work among and for women.

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The patriarchal and moralistic discourse of 'Save our Sisters'

 

Shaheen Ahmed

shaheenLast weekend after I woke up in the morning, I went through my usual morning ritual of turning on my computer after a cup of coffee and leafing  through my mails and social media feed. It's not surprising to see pictures, videos, website links, memes, etc. go viral over Facebook or Twitter these days and once such ad campaign went viral all over social media since last Friday (6th September). Friends, colleagues, journalists, academicians, feminists and a lot of people I connect with over social media were sharing the link to the 'Save Our Sisters' campaign online.

I am sure by the time one reads this article, most of us have seen the campaign. Apart from the national media, a lot of international media including Huffington Post, the Independent, Buzzfeed etc have carried stories centering around this campaign since yesterday. Popular feminist forums such as Jezebel and A Girl's Guide to Taking Over the World have also lauded it as being a groundbreaking campaign driving home issues related to domestic violence and sex-trafficking.

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What I have to say: Chithralekha

 

On May 18th, 2013, Chitralekha (the dalit woman autorickshaw driver from Payannur, Kerala, who has been fighting CITU/CPM men and who has faced repeated attacks from them in the past) and her family were attacked at her home by a mob of 30 plus men, including her neighbors. This article is her account of what transpired on that day.

Eramangalathu Chitralekha

chithra savari

On May 18th I was on my way to the railway station to take my daughter to her hostel in Trivandrum. We wanted to catch the Malabar express at night. It is because I am afraid to keep her here that I am sending her so far off to study. The time would have been around 8, 8.15. Some Bengali workers were there in my house as some construction work was happening in my house that day.

We had just got out from the house into the narrow road in front of my house. Suddenly Ravi, Manoj, Pradeepan and a few others came forward to attack us. When my brother resisted they started beating him up. I took the auto and ran inside with my daughter. My husband Sreeshkanth was in the house as he was sick with diabetes. My brother also came running in. By then they had called people over the mobile and a crowd gathered in front of my house.

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Structural overhaul needed to end violence against women: UN Special Rapporteur

 

Structural overhaul to end violence rooted in multiple forms of discrimination and inequalities

AIDMAM

New Delhi, May 2, 2013.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo has highlighted the fact that without addressing root causes of structural inequality and oppression, India cannot hope to address violence against women. 

In her media statement issued yesterday, Ms. Manjoo, has raised critical questions to the Government of India on the swift law and order approach that has been adopted to deal with issues of violence against women. With reference to the new rape legislation following the Justice Verma Committee report, she has not minced words in saying, "It is unfortunate that the opportunity to establish a substantive and specific equality and non- discrimination rights legislative framework for women, to address de facto inequality and discrimination, and to protect and prevent against all forms of violence against women was lost" 

Her statement recognizes the deeply entrenched structural causes of discrimination and violence and the varied manifestations on girls and women. This includes multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence based on socio-­economic situations. Her mention of caste based discrimination in this regard, clearly highlights the multiple barriers faced by Dalit women in accessing justice and fundamental freedom. Ms. Manjoo has further reiterated that the notions of male superiority combined with realities of social exclusion and marginalization, power and powerlessness, economic dependence and religion and cultural practices are at the core of violence faced by women from excluded communities.

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