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Abstract 8

Re-memorisation and Rewriting History: Analysing Select Life Writings of Dalit-Bahujan


Dr Anum Fatima

Assistant Professor, Centre for Distance and Online Education (CDOE), Aligarh Muslim University, Uttar Pradesh, India

The recent rise in autobiographies and memoirs have created a space for ‘re-memorisation’ of the lived experiences. Purposely, it serves as an entry point of a discourse to understand an individual subject within a collective identity. This ‘re-memorisation’ of caste experience by Dalit and low-caste women is significant because it rewrites a history that has conveniently decentred their narratives. The recognition and Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar award for Yashica Dutt’s memoir, Coming out as Dalit, is something worth celebrating. Similarly, disabled Dalit writer Sumitra S. Mehrol’s autobiography, Tute Pankho Se Parwaj Tak, is also noteworthy as it tries to unfold the complexities of caste, gender, as well as disability. These narratives are significant because of the self-reflexivity involved in understanding one’s standpoint by critically interrogating one’s private and intimate space. The autobiographical accounts of Dalit-Bahujans, however, face challenges at multiple levels. First, when one looks into the personal narrative in the forms of autobiographies, testimonies, among others, there is still an absence of such writings, particularly from India’s Hindi belt. Starting from the work of Kaushalya Baisantri’s Dohra Abhishap to Sushila Takhbhore’s Shikanje ka Dard, there are very few available Dalit women autobiographies. Works such as Kaveri’s Tukda Tukda Jivan and Rajni Tilak’s Apni Zameen, Apna Asman are some of the few that are worth mentioning. However, given the humongous volume of writing that Dalit literature is now producing, the lack of Dalit-Bahujan women’s autobiographies reflects a gap in contemporary literary practices. Second, the absence of Dalit women writing from the Hindi belt is also a consequence of the absence of Dalit women reaching a stage where they can critically reflect upon their own private space. The absence of engaging with such writings in pedagogic processes is one of the major bottlenecks. This absence has discouraged Dalit-Bahujan women from writing their life stories.Third, and most importantly, there also exists a complete absence of OBC and tribal women writings from the Hindi belt. The absence of such writings is an example of how the pain and agony of these women are routinely passed off as being insignificant. The absence of their autobiographical works impedes the understanding of the problems that they face in their everyday lives, since there is no written account of it.

This paper will make an attempt at understanding that how writing an autobiography is not only a a way of self-reflection but also a way to unfold the layered and historical caste experiences of Dalit, Shudra, and tribal women? This study will also try to unfold the significance of recentering the role and position of Dalit-Bahujan women. This is precisely because celebrating Ambedkar’s anniversary is not merely a ritual, but also about bringing the efficacy to his idea of Prabuddha Bharat, in which social justice for women is most important.

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