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Dalit Literature and the Problem of Revealing True Identity@ BYOB Party, April, 2016 (Part 1)

The seventh BYOB Party was held in collaboration with Artwist, which believes in whole brained education.  Umakant Soni who runs Artwist says, “Learning is not only through books; it’s an experiential process.”  At Artwist kids, parents and senior citizens learn through play.

joothanAbhaya started the session with Joothan, an autobiography by one of the most important voices in Marathi Dalit literature.  “This book is very similar to Lakshman Mane’s Apara.  The story starts with a childhood spent in utter poverty and misery in rural areas and an inclination for education which helped the author break out of surroundings and connect with the growing Dalit(Untouchable) movement in cities. More than incidents of outright violence, the most heart wrenching incidents are those where initial affection and cordiality are shattered once the author reveals caste.” Abhaya found this part of the book as a revelation, “Consider the eternal suspicion that lurks in the mind of a Dalit—he expects that he will be treated badly.  The question he asks himself continuously is whether the other person is nice because he does not actually care about caste or has he misunderstood?”

Abhaya cites that this question is relevant in India today. “A large number of people claim that they are caste blind, because they do not know the caste of their friends and colleagues. They might spare their friends a great deal of internal turmoil if they acted as they did in spite of knowing their caste.”

The author’s surname, Valmiki, confused those around them. Many people mistook him to be an upper caste and treated him with respect, only to pull the rug from under his feet when his true caste is revealed. People are forced to lead a double life and move to cities to conceal the identity that others disrespect.

This is definitely a relevant book in these times when discrimination is rampant. Have you read any books that deal with discrimination or racism? Tell us about it.