The rise of 'Dalit lit' marks a new chapter for India's untouchables
As caste divides fade, a fresh crop of writers is emerging
By Andrew Buncombe in Delhi
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Interview with ramnika rupta on dalit writer and publishers in India
A key figure in the emergence of low-caste writing is Ramnika Gupta. She is not a Dalit but she produces a quarterly magazine, Yuddhrat Aam Aadmi, devoted to previously marginalized writers. She estimates that she and her team of just three full-time assistants have published around 1,500 Dalit writers from across India over the last two decades. Large publishers regularly go to her for information about new talent. She helps on the condition that the publishers agree to produce a paperback edition that is affordable for ordinary people, in addition to the standard hardback run.
In the first-floor drawing room of her home, which also serves as her office, she noted that Dalit writers never lacked subject material. The highly influential writer and Dalit leader, B R Ambedkar, she explained, had said it was essential that low-caste people had their own literature and that they wrote about their own lives.
Mrs Gupta, who has herself written dozens of books on Dalit and tribal people's issues, said of the caste system: "India's culture discriminates. It's a state of exploitation. Everyone thinks 'He is lower than me' or 'I'm superior'. What we are trying to say is that we are all equal and if anyone is weak, we can help them to rise."
Dalit writers say the emergence of low-caste literature has taken place alongside a broader growth of consciousness and activism, particularly in urban India. While in rural India, caste remains all-pervading, in cities many of the signs and signals that identify a person's caste have vanished. In cities, too, Dalits are better organised to stand up for their rights.