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Abstract 6

Craving for Identity: Subaltern Anguish in “The Prisons We Broke”

Dr Pritam Singh,

Assistant Professor of English, S. N. M. T. Government Girls College, Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, India

Baby Kamble’s The Prisons We Broke, probably the first autobiography by a Dalit woman in any Indian language. She portrays the real picture of the degraded position of Mahar community in the twelve chapters of this book, keeping her own life out of her autobiography. She doesn’t focus on any single character and its development, instead, her book is a manifesto of her community. She demonstrates how caste and religion converge to perpetuate exploitative practices against Dalits. Her autobiography can easily be divided into two parts. The first half portrays the oppression and exploitation of the Mahar community and the second half brings forth the transformation and awakening of the Mahar community under the influence and leadership of Dr. Ambedkar.

The term ‘subaltern’, given by Antonio Gramsci, is generally used for someone of inferior military rank. Subalternity is subordination, inferiority, exploitation or hegemony by the superior on the inferior. By this definition the subaltern in the Indian society are Dalit, Bahujans, women and minorities. When it comes to subaltern writings and its production, nothing can be more original and authentic than the literature written by a subordinate. As for Dalit literature, only the Dalit and Bahujan can very well write and describe the kind of inhuman behavior they have faced in every walk of their lives.

The paper centers on the lives of Mahar community presented by Baby Kamble and try to find out how this community was ill-treated and subordinated by the upper caste. The inhuman conditions in which these people have lived and survived for so many years is really painful to see and hear. And how with the advent of Baba Saheb Ambedkar, this community or the Dalits in common have tried to identify their righteous place, is what narrated by the writer in her autobiography.

Keywords: Dalit, Mahars, subaltern, identity, religion, caste.

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