Dalit literature is the forum and the medium of expression of the experiences of the communities that have been excommunicated, marginalized, exploited and humiliated for ages in the Indian caste-ridden Hindu society. (The term dalit literally means the downtrodden, depressed and underprivileged.) Dalit literature reflects dalit experience and sensibility, attempting to define and assert dalit identity from a primarily dalit point of view. In many ways, it is a protest literature which faithfully mirrors the stark realities of the dalit situation and becomes an important weapon to strengthen the dalit (political) movement. The dalit author Sharankumar Limbale calls it “the burning cry of untouchables against the injustices of thousands of years.” The first known dalit writer is the thirteenth century untouchable Bhakti poet of Maharashtra, Chokkamela. The origins of dalit literature in the contremporary usage of the term, which is largely written and published in regional Indian languages, are in the late nineteenth century. In modern times, because of the legacy of Mahatma Phule and Babasaheb Ambedkar, dalit literature got impetus in Maharashtra and Ambedkarist thought is still the lifeblood of much dalit literature. Although most of the pioneering works have been produced in Maharashtra and the adjacent Gujarat, dalit literature has today taken substantial shape in a variety of Indian languages such as Kannada, Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam. A large number of these texts are also available in English translations for a wider audience. Some of the most widely read writers of dalit literature available in English translation include Laxman Gaekwad (The Branded), Bama (Karukku and Sangati), Naredra Jhadav (Untouchables: My Family’s Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India), Sharankumar Limbale (The Outside: Akkarmashi), Joseph Macwan (The Stepchild), Om Prakash Valmiki (Joothan: A Dalit’s Life), Baby Kamble (Our Existence) and...
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