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Paper 5

Representing Caste and Gender Underpinnings of the Adivasis: Journey from Subjugation

to Resistance in Mother Forest

Dr Reshmi S.

Assistant Professor of English, M. E. S. Asmabi College, Kodungallur, Thrissur, Kerala, India

The literature of the marginalized addresses issues related to social justice affecting the people who occupy the peripheries of community and society. The vulnerable life experiences of the most marginalized or the tribal people labelled as “adivasis” are less explored by the mainstream society. Tribal narratives unfold the hidden layers of indomitable politics which situate them as subalterns. The emergence of Dalit literature interrogated the stereotypical representation and portrayal of tribals as practiced by the traditional conventions and dominant discourses. The alienation, silencing, othering, misrepresentation and exploitation of adivasis in the name of land as landless and homeless has been an age- old practice. The impact of globalized economy adversely steered the lives of tribals making them experience more instances of injustice. 1980’ and 1990’s witnessed the third world feminist struggles and emergence of independent Dalit women’s organisations. Dalit Feminism intersects between caste, class, sexuality, gender and power relationships. The paper analyses the marginalized voice of a Dalit woman and social activist named C.K. Janu through her personal reflections in Mother Forest, which deftly sketches her journey from an ordinary tribal girl to an Adivasi leader and later as the chief spokesperson to protest against government. The confiscation of lands and exploitation of labour affected adivasis to a greater extent. The protest of the adivasis critiquing the policies of the government become the prime concern of the work. The framework of the prose is structured through Janu’s childhood and politically active adulthood. The study employs theoretical underpinnings of Shailaja Paik’s Dalit Women’s Education in Modern India and discusses the educational transformation of women from Dalit communities. The tribal woman’s fight against hegemonic forces is represented through the conflict between civilization and modernization. Janu represents the organic intellectual who resist hegemony by articulating struggles of their class. Paik recognises that the identity of Dalit women is attributed not only by caste but also by gender. Education brought them out of the village to the urban places but they become political subjects. The interconnectedness of tribals and nature points to their harmonious coexistence in forest with an emphasis on their community life, ecosystem and indigenous knowledge. The self -alienation from the outside world and confinement to the pristine nature rendered them happiness. The journey of tribals beyond their place opened the outside experiences before them. Soon forests become no entry zones and boundaries are demarcated. Caste oppression started by denying access to the natural resources. As such Mother Forest is a Dalit woman’s self-journey of gaining a new subjecthood. Balmurli’s ‘From Jati to Samaj’ advocates the need for anti-caste politics to work towards solidarity. He talks about differentialist casteism operating within twin modes- heterophobia and heterophilia. Sharmila Rege’s “Real Feminism” questions whether Dalit resistance can be conceived as cultural or not. The paper maps the grounded histories and cultural realities to negotiate power, carves their agency and contribute to feminist thought. The work is a consciousness raising for adivasis to stand together by way of resistance and to keep their struggle alive.

Keywords: Adivasis, Organic Intellectual, Ecology, Feminist Politics, Silencing and Othering.

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