Dalit Issues

by Ms. Pushpa Bhave and Ms. Pradnya Lokhande

My comments

My class notes

Summary from the Program

Dalit Problem: Dalit Consciousness - Prof. Pushpa Bhave

What is commonly called a "dalit" problem, is a creation of the Hindu religion and specially the Varna structure. So one is born a "dalit," one's lineage is "dalit" and there is no way out of the stigmatized position. The word "dalit" came into usage after independence. The word traditionally used was "untouchable" or "Shudra" - the fourth varna. This word came from the Hindu notion of purity and pollution. The discourse was - "I am pure, you are polluted." A clever justification of the social difference was given with the help of the Karma theory. One is born into a "dalit" family because of one's accumulated bad deeds. On account of such birth, basic human rights were denied to the so called "lowly born." So the dalit problem is really a Human Rights problem.

For human beings who are born to "dalit" parents, it is the problem of getting over the feeling of being lesser human beings, of being invisible in the history of the nation, of searching for a new identity and of redefining one's culture and roots. The dalit consciousness thus has negative and positive areas.

If we briefly go into the history of structuring and expressing of the "dalit" consciousness, we find some important landmarks:

About My Poetry - Prof. Pradnya Lokhande

Being Daya Pawar's daughter was never a burden, not even a responsibility in the traditional sense, though many people expect that I bear that burden and responsibility. But being his daughter certainly evoked a definitive responsiveness. I was right from childhood very sensitive, very responsive to the stimulus I received from the literary and political environment of Phule-Ambedkarism in which I was groomed. I grew with Dalit Panther, Dalit Literature and Parallel, Left and Progressive, Political/Literary movements, of which my illustrious father was an important part.

Let me state here that I have always looked upon myself as a complete woman, a dalit-woman. I attained my youth when the feminist movement was taking shape in our country and I respond to it in my own way. Namdev Dhasal, the famous Dalit poet says, "every writer has a class character." I agree and extend the statement - "every writer has his/her own literary character." My father wished that I would have my own style. The style, the form, the content of my poetry is unique, individualised without being individualistic in the Brahmanical - Bourgeois sense. My terrain does not allow me to be indifferent to the exploitation, oppression and deprivation that my class-caste-gender has to undergo in this uniquely caste-ridden, patriarchal society. This society is changing, giving space even to the educated dalit women, but it is also creating newer and bigger gaps in the male-female, Brahmin - dalit consciousness.

My poetry is a statement of my comprehensive experience. I come from a family that performed tamasha - an open, no-bar, no-taboo folk form. My poetry tries to be an open, no bar, no taboo expression of my whole existential environment. My poetry is defiant. It defies even the framework of traditional defiance. Yet it is not alien and aloof vis-a-vis that defiance. The personal is political. My poetry is personal and hence political. It can't be apolitical. My poetry is that of a Dalit Panther, a she-panther for whom the jungle with its wild abandon is also poetry.

My Notes

Dalit Issues - Pushpa Bhave Prodnya Lokhande

- "Dalit problem" not created by the Dalits, but by the Hindu caste 
  system - Varna system
- four levels:  brahmins, chatriya (warriors), shatrya (tradesman), shundra
- sublevels within caste
- you are born where you are because of bad deeds in previous lives
- women are considered lower than men
- Varna system described as "division of labour"
- you _cannot_ change caste
- in time of war (ie. emergency) there may be changes...
- caste system challenged in medieval times 
- getting into the British army got people out of the caste structure
- British took on some Dalits as cooks - totally inappropriate to the 
  brahmins, I guess - an important step
- the British though found "divide and conquer," il. don't break up the 
  caste system, set the Muslims against the Hindus...
- Gandhi used the word "Harijan," "God's children" - for everyone?
- Gandhi said "having untouchability is a stigma on Hinduism"
- in the 60s, there were "Dalit Panthers" because of the American "Black 
  Panthers"
- it fractured over politics - some leaders followed Marxism, others followed American practices

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