The Stepchild

Topics: Dalit, Caste system in India, Caste Pages: 16 (4662 words) Published: May 2, 2013
Table of Content

[1] Introduction (what is Dalit?)

[2] Social status of Dalits

[3] History of Dalit Literature

[4] Dalit Writers

[5] About the Writer (Joseph Macwan)

[6] Stepchild – As a First Gujarati Dalit novel

[7] Conclusion

[8] Bibliography

[9] Webography

[1] Introduction (What is Dalit?):-

Dalit means broken, oppressed, untouchable, downtrodden and exploited. They come from the poor communities which under the Indian caste system used to be known as untouchables. They constitute nearly 16% of the Indian population. Dalit is a designation for a group of people traditionally regarded as Untouchable. Dalits are a mixed population consisting numerous castes from all over South Asia; they speak a variety of languages and practice a multitude of religions.

Dalit is not a new word. Apparently, it was used in the 1930 as a Hindi and Marathi translation of ‘depressed Classes’, a term the British used for what are now called the Schedules Castes. In 1970 the ‘Dalit Panthers’ revived the term and expanded its reference to include schedules tribes, poor peasants, women and all those being exploited politically, economically and in the name of religion. So Dalit is not only a caste but it is a symbol of change and revolution.

The word "Dalit" does not appear in any sacred scriptures or historical texts of India. It is actually a word based on 17th-century European notions about the Indian caste system. The word is derived from Sanskrit, and means "ground", "suppressed", "crushed", or "broken to pieces". It was first used by Jyotirao Phule in the nineteenth century, in the context of the oppression faced by the erstwhile "untouchable" castes of the twice-born Hindus.

According to Victor Premasagar, the term expresses their
"Weakness, poverty and humiliation at the hands of the upper castes in the Indian society."

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi coined the word  Harijan, translated roughly as "Children of God", to identify the former Untouchables. The terms "Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes" (SC/ST) are the official terms used in Indian government documents to identify former "untouchables" and tribes. However, in 2008 the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, noticing that "Dalit" was used interchangeably with the official term "scheduled castes", called the term "unconstitutional" and asked state governments to end its use. After the order, the Chhattisgarh government ended the official use of the word "Dalit".

"Adi Dravida", "Adi Karnataka", "Adi Andhra" and "Adi-Dharmi" are words used in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradeshand Punjab respectively, to identify people of former "untouchable" castes in official documents. These words, particularly the prefix of "Adi", denote the aboriginal inhabitants of the land.

[2] Social status of Dalits:-

While discrimination based on caste has been prohibited and untouchability abolished under the India, discrimination and prejudice against Dalits in South Asia remains. Since its independence in 1947, India has implemented an affirmative policy of reservation, the scope of which was further expanded in 1974, to set aside and provide jobs and education opportunities to Dalits. By 1995, of all jobs in India, 17.2 percent of the jobs were held by Dalits, greater than their proportion in Indian population. In 1997, India democratically elected K. R. Narayanan, a Dalit, as the nation's President. Many social organizations too have proactively promoted better conditions for Dalits through improved education, health and employment....
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