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Interrogating Dalit Politics, Rethinking Anticaste Resistance: A Reading of Select Telugu Dalit Poetry

Ms Amrita Banerjee Mukherjee

Independent Researcher, West Bengal, India


Dalit literature in general and Telegu Dalit literature in particular produced after the 1980s is revolutionary and militant in spirit. Brahminism and its injustice towards the Dalits, the protest against the hegemony of dominant castes, anger, self-respect, search for roots, social exploitation are the themes of Dalit literature. The origin of Dalit movement in Andhra Pradesh was a historic event. The earlier social movements argued that economic revolution was the basis for all revolutions. Contrary to this, the Andhra Pradesh Dalit movement erupted with the proclamation of self-respect. The cruel, inhuman incidents of Karamchedu and Tsunduru/Chunduru were the major causes of the birth of what we can also termed as anticaste movement. Dalits, having realized the major role play in society and the humiliating reward they get in return now fight for the rights they have been denied for ages. They felt it is high time to assert their rightful place in society.

Poetry is the refined expression of the powerful feelings and philosophical ideas of the poet. While defining Dalit poetry, Waman Nimbalkar states that, “The Dalit poetry is very loyal to Dalit life. It naturally reflects emphatically the scorching of the Dalit mind because its umbilical cord is linked with Dalit society.” Dalit poets voiced the dumb suffering of thousands of the Dalits for many generations. The poets showed their anger and protest and challenged the supremacy of the dominant castes.

In this paper I have selected three translated Telegu Dalit poems to look into the focal point of the discussion i.e. interrogating Dalit politics, rethinking anticaste resistance, through the mediums of self-respect and self-love. The first one is Challapalli Swaroopa Rani’s “Banned from History” which is an autobiographical poem by itself, narrating all the sufferings she had been faced throughout her life because of the “mean caste” from which she belongs. The second poem is “Love for the Birthmark” by Darla Venkateswara Rao. This poem is all about “self-respect and self-confidence”. And the last poem is “I as Myself” by Jajula Gowri where the poet talks about “the system of Chaturvarna” to describe their plight as the “fifth” caste in the eyes of the society. The poems are selected in this paper to represent and discuss themes such as interrogating history, protest against religious sanction of caste discrimination, social injustice, atrocities on individual Dalits, the suffering of Dalit women, and at last the remaining documents supporting the anticaste movement.

Keyword:- Anticaste movement, Dalit poetry, Telegu Dalit manifesto, Suffering, Self-respect.

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