Dalit Literary Movement

Hopeless and leaderless, the demise of Ambedkar left the ‘Dalit Panthers’ without a unifier; devoid of a figurehead who would have their grievances recognised and press the government’s buttons for greater rights for the ‘scheduled castes’ with what little influence he had. It became like a dream, far from being fulfilled, and for the Dalit’s a nightmare, leaving them demoralised. It yet again, left the Dalit population feeling dejected, as if been put in a checkmate and worst of all back to being ‘untouchables’ with their efforts swept behind in synchrony with their leader’s death.


Not all was bleak though. The 1960’s saw a new wave of educated youth, all Dalits, that thrived on poetry, prose as a passive means of getting their message across. Their determination to have their rights recognised was unparalleled. It was uncommon for anyone to not know that the media was dominated by Brahmins and majority of media conglomerates were Brahmin as well. The educated Dalits affirmed faith in the power of the pen.  These educated youths with their awakened sense of consciousness entered the literary realm, which was primarily dominated by caste Hindus and their supposedly sophisticated writings. This young generation or the new Dalit intelligentsia wanted to articulate themselves in their own words and in their own style, without a sense of borrowedness. In other words, this was attempt by the Dalit Panthers to un-caste the literary world. In brief, a period of frustration and despondency gave birth to the Dalit Literary Movement. Arjun Dangle commenting on the nature of Dalit literature says:

“Dalit literature portrays the hopes and aspirations of the exploited masses. Their fight for survival, their daily problems, the insults they have to put up with, their experiences and their outlook towards all these events…Dalit literature is one which acquaints people with caste system and untouchability in India, its appalling nature and its system of exploitation.”

Dalit Panther of india-namdev dhasal

The Dalit Literary Movement commenced with the notion of ‘speaking for oneself’. This later developed into identifying problems, envisaging problems experienced by the scheduled castes. The collective effort to channelize their thought through their writings paved way via Little Magazine movement of 1967 which, in the words of Lata Murugkar, “challenged and protested against the monopoly of the established caste Hindu writers’ ideology in the literary field”


Conclusively, it can be understood that the Dalit Panthers that are often confused with the Black Panthers in the USA, were not as fierce compared to their American counterparts, even though they used literature to get their movement across. In times of a revolution, to be the stronger party, the use of force is necessary.

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