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Abstract 17

Solidarity from a Position of Privilege should be Self-critical: Reading Bama’s Sangati as a Feminist with Savarna Privileges

Ms Ilina Gupta

Postgraduate Student, Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, West Bengal, India

This paper is based on Bama’s feminist narratives, focusing on sangati and how the savarna women should not read it without being self critical. Can a savarna women read Bama without being ashamed of their own privilege? Bama in her sangati, or events as it directly translates into talks about three generations of Dalit women and the various means of oppression they face from men. These men belong from oppressed as well as privileged caste communities and the Dalit women face a bifold oppression of caste and gender. Bama doesn't talk about savarna women in Sangati apart from saying that they don’t have the experience of facing the horrors outside, because they are overwhelmed with the horrors inside where they are restricted to. Thus Sangati might seem like a solidarity call for women across the caste boundaries. But can a savarna woman feel equally disgusted towards the dalit men who are oppressed by their savarna landlords and take it out on individuals below them in the social hierarchy, the women of the house?

In this paper I would also like draw a light on Bama’s target audience. She wanted the paraiya community to read and understand the injustices carried out on the women of the community. She wanted the women to be vocal about their rights. Most importantly she must have wanted all men to be ashamed of the violence they perpetrate. But what did she want from the women living in the houses which “were at great distance from our streets”. What reaction did she expect from the savarna women who and whose ancestors are very much responsible for the oppression of Dalits as well as the combined oppression of caste and gender carried out on dalit women? When Bama writes about the fact that the girl infants were not fed enough breast milk, it is because the mother had to work and her family's economic crisis wouldn’t let her income suffer for someone who will not be a breadwinner in the family. Brahminical forces of caste and gender has rendered the dalit community and especially it's women as class minority. Thus as Bama stated, dalit women has to work since birth. As a child they have to take care of young children and then find some income source the earliest. A savarna women of somewhat privileged class will bring in a house help, who is almost always from the oppressed caste to do their house work especially if she's a working woman. This woman will do the house work, and the house work of other houses to go back to her own house and do more work, just to wait for her husband who might abuse her physically and sexually. Bama writes about this woman. So when that savarna woman reads her work, how can she feel the solidarity without the guilt and the self criticism? I would like to conclude with Bell Hooks' statement that she'll welcome white women’s but she’ll not discuss the abuse perpetrated by black men around white women.

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