DEAR ALL,PLEASE FIND HERE A LETTER ISSUED BY GIRIJA KEER, ONE OF THE CONTESTANTS FOR 84TH ALL INDIA MARATHI LITERARY MEET. THIS IS ONE OF THE LITERARY MEETS OF THE UPPER CASTE ELITES IN MAHARASHTRA. THESE ELITES HARDLY HAVE ANY CONCERN FOR THE CULTURE OF THE OPPRESSED SECTIONS OF THE SOCIETY. THIS MEET IS ORGANISED BY THE ALL INDIA MARATHI SAHITYA MAHAMANDAL, WHICH IS ONE OF THE MOST UNDEMOCRATIC BODIES OF THE CULTURAL ELITES IN MAHARASHTRA. THIS LITERARY MEET IS HEAVILY FUNDED BY THE STATE.GIRIJA KEER EXPRESSED SOME INSULTING REMARKS ON THE LITERATE / ILLITERATE BAHUJANS OF MAHARASHTRA. SOME PEOPLE RAISED OBJECTIN TO THESE REMARKS. KEER HAS RELEASED A PRESS NOTE IN WHICH SHE HAS EXPRESSED HER VENOMOUS VIEWS IN THE FORM OF CLARIFICATION.KEER HAS OPENLY AND UNSHAMEFULLY EXPRESSED HER HATRED FOR THE PEOPLE WHO ARE LIVING (IN FACT WHO ARE FORCED TO LIVE) IN THE SLUMS. ONLY 790 PERSONS OUT OF OVER 100 MILLION PEOPLE OF MAHARASHTRA HAVE BEEN IDENTIFIED AS THE MEMBERS OF THE MAHAMANDAL. THIS MICROSCOPIC ELITE ONLY ELECTS THE PRESIDENT OF THE MEET. THE DEMAND THAT THESE BODIES, SINCE THEY HAVE BEEN FUNDED BY THE STATE, SHOUD BE DEMOCRATISED HAS BEEN OVERDUE FOR LONG. WHILE CRITICISING THIS DEMAND, SHE HAS BEEN QUITE ARROGANT AND HAS SAID,” THE QUESTION THAT HAS BEEN RAISED IS – WHY ONLY 790 PERSONS OUT OF 10 CRORE HAVE RIGHT TO VOTE?….MY ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION IS – “SHOULD WE ALLOW 10 CRORE PEOPLE TO VOTE? SHOULD THOSE SLUMDWELLERS, WHO ARE NOT SO REFINED AND WHO HAVE NO TASTE FOR LITERATURE, BE ALLOWOED TO CAST(E) VOTE?” SHE HAS FURTHER ADDED THAT THE ILLITERATE SHOULD NOT HAVE RIGHT TO VOTE. THIS MEANS THAT ONLY THE LITERATE HAVE CONSCIENCE AND, CONSEQUENTLY, RIGHT TO VOTE.GIRIJA KEER HAS ALSO MENTIONED THE SOCIAL WORK THAT SHE HAS DONE FOR THE PEOPLE AT THE GRASSROOT LEVEL. THE UPPER CASTES HAVE ALWAYS FORSTERED THE PARTON-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IN THE SOCIEY WHEREBY THE OPPRESSED SECTION WILL ALWAYS LIVE AT THE MERCY OF THE OPPRESSORS. HER WORK IS NO WAY DIFFERENT THAN THIS.MANY DALIT WRITERS HAVE NOW BECOME ASPIRANTS FOR THIS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. MANY OF THEM HAVE ALREADY BEEN DEFEATED OF HUMILIATED BY THE UPPER-CASTE VOTERS AND LITERARY GOONS AND GUNDAS. SUCH ASPIRANTS WILL EITHER NOT CONDEMN GIRIJA KEER’S REMARKS OR DO SO ONLY TO WIN SYMPATHY TO WIN THE RACE. ONE SUCH WRITER IS CONTESTING THIS ELECTION NOW.I FEEL THAT GIRIJA KEER’S OFFENSIVE REMARKS SHOULD BE CONDEMNED COLLECTIVELY. THIS IS NOT AN ASSAULT ON THE SLUMDWELLERS ONLY; THIS ALSO IS VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA. SHE HAS UNDERMINED THE VERY BASIC POTENTIAL OF EVERY PERSON, IRRESPECTIVE OF LITERACY, TO HAVE CULTURAL OR LITERARY TASTE. IN FACT, SHE HAS EXPRESSED HER CONTEMPT FOR THE WHOLE TRADITION OF SAINT TUKARAM, CHOKHAMELA, ANNA BHAU SATHE AND HOST OF THOSE WRITERS COMING FROM LOWER CASTES AND WHO DID NOT HAVE FORMAL EDUCATION. SUCH DISGUSTING REMARKS SHOULD BE CONDEMNED COLLECTIVELY.
– DILIP CHAVAN
Here is an interesting symposium that puts together some very fine thinkers. Satyanarayan from EFLU is putting together an anthology of Dalit writings from South India. I have heard him speak and read his articles. He is an original. Very focused and clear in his thinking. Not at all simplistic in his oppositional discourse. Then there is Umesh, a very fine historian. His earnestness makes his scholarship more valuable. Venkat Rao from EFLU has been speaking the Balagangadhar logic regarding caste. So it would be an interesting exchange to watch out for.
Department of English
A One-day Symposium on Dalit Studies in the Indian Universities
31 March 2010
Venue: Dean Hall, Administrative Building,
SRTM University, Nanded
We deem it necessary to see critically how the dalits across India see an emergent pan-Indian dalit cultural identity. This cultural identity is being articulated through creative writing in many Indian languages. It has been through such creative writings, also known as dalit literature, that the dalits have repudiated norms of untouchability, oppressive caste structure and the normative ideology of brahminism. The emergence of dalit consciousness and dalit voice across India during the last three decades has received considerable attention in the realm of social sciences. However, the so-called mainstream literary theory has largely remained uninfluenced / unaffected by the literary, cultural, theoretical and ideological issues raised by the new writers.
Dalit literature emerged as the revolutionary literature and challenged the norms, standards and principles of the so-called mainstream brahminical literature, aesthetics and literary theory. Dalit literature is not the literature of mere protest or negation. It aims at dismantling the existing structures of exploitation and restructuring the global society.
Started in Marathi during the seventies, dalit literature is now being written in several Indian languages. These literatures, barring languages, do share the egalitarian ideology and expose the exploitative mechanisms latent in the Indian society. The rise of dalit women writers in many parts of India has raised many issues pertaining to brahminical patriarchy, dalit male chauvinism and specificity of the dalit women’s exploitation. Many dalit women writers have refused to subsume their ideological and practical issues in the overarching rubric of Indian feminism. Apart from creative writing, there have been attempts to theorise caste, patriarchy and culture. However, such writings hardly find any space in the curricula in the Indian universities, leaving them lopsided and socially irrelevant.
It is now being widely accepted that educational system is exceptionally important in maintaining the status quo in the society. Curriculum happens to be actual means whereby a particular worldview is inculcated in the learners’ minds. Basil Bernstein suggests how a society, selects, classifies, distributes, transmits and evaluates the educational knowledge it considers to be public, reflects both the distribution of power and the principles of social control. Since the curriculum is a result of deliberate selection and organization of the cultural knowledge in the syllabus, textbook has been the significant issue in educational research. The traditional curriculum designed for courses in literatures at the UG and PG levels has either underrepresented or not represented the literatures produced and theories developed by the subaltern writers and intellectuals. Marginal incorporation of dalit literature into the curriculum, which is predominantly brahminical and patriarchal, only serves to legitimise it.
This symposium aims at discussing the state of courses in dalit studies / literatures in various universities and colleges and hopes to explore the commonalities in the experiences of the teachers committed to contribute to alternative pedagogy. The Department of English of SRTM University, Nanded plans to start an interdisciplinary course in Dalit Studies from the next academic year. The deliberations in this Symposium will also be hopefully useful in designing and conducting of this course.
Dr. K Satyanarayana (Head, Department of Cultural Studies, EFLU, Hyderabad)
Dr. Venkat Rao (Department of Literatures in English, EFLU, Hyderabad)
Dr. Umesh Bagade (Professor and Head, Department of History, BAMU, Aurangabad)
Prof. Rahul Pungaliya (Dept. of English, Abasaheb Garware College, Pune)
Dr. Bhagwan Jadhav (Dean, Faculty of Arts, SRTM University, Nanded)
Dilip Chavan – email@example.com