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"Situating the Caste and Gender-based Atrocities in Herstory of Dalit Women: A Reading of Dalit Feminism and Intersectionality”

Ms Sanghamitra Baladhikari

PhD Scholar, Department of English, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

The Dalit community is a victim of the casteist tendencies and actions in India. In the book Broken Voices Mason John Valerie stated that it is estimated in India today one in twenty five people suffers caste discrimination on the basis of their work, their blood line or their religion. With facts such as rape cases of dalit women in India, assaulting of dalit community and the casteiest attitude of mainstream society, the experiences of oppression among the dalit and especially dalit women is overwhelming. In the book Spotted Goddesses: Dalit Women’s Agency-Narratives on Caste and Gender Violence, the author Roja Singh cited a significant finding which throws light on the facts of violence against dalit women in India. The author cited the documentation of the human rights organization in the state of Tamil Nadu named People’s Watch, which recorded “1,346 cases of rape of Dalit women and 4,410 specific cases of physical violence against Dalits in 2009; only 268 of these cases made it to the courtrooms”. The Dalit women’s cry for dignity has been a long-standing struggle in the history of India. The thousand-year-old caste system in India has established a social hierarchy that segregates the narratives and experiences of dalit women from the mainstream discourse of rights. The narrative and experiences of dalit women, which in this paper, I propose to title as Herstory. Their stories reflect the nature of abhorrent atrocities and oppression that the community has undergone, past and present. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw has theorised the concept of Intersectionality in feminist theory, which means multiple modes of marginalization. The intersectional approach explores the ways in which a person or a community’s social identity can intertwine in generating experiences of oppression and discrimination. Firstly, in this paper, through the intersectional approach the author will examine the experiences (Herstories) of Dalit women in India experiencing gender-based atrocities and the depths of inequalities with special emphasis on the analysis of specific case of violence where caste intersects with gender, for example, the Hathras rape case . The theorisation and implementation of anti casteist policies in India proclaiming voices of women began in India with the Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s initiatives. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is still considered to be a feminist who chronicled the rights of dalit women in the women’s struggle in India. As the second aim of the paper, the author will historicise Ambedkar’s policies in attempting to uplift the dignity and social status of dalit women, whose rights were so ruthlessly violated, and voice suppressed. Thus, there is a need to relook caste based violence of dalit women through the dalit feminist approach in the public discourse.

Keywords: Intersectionality, Dalit Feminism, Herstory, Anti-casteism, Violence, Ambedkar

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