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A New Identity

A.K. Verma

By Pradeep K. Sharma
Shipra Publications, Delhi, 2006, pp. 178, Rs. 450.00


Indian democracy has seen the mobilization of the subalterns in the later half of the 1980s culminating in the enthronement of a third front called Janata Dal both at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh, a state which gives direction to national politics. Uttar Pradesh is perhaps the first state where the dalits have been able to form governments under the leadership of a dalit party (BSP) and a dalit leader (Mayawati) four times (1995, 1997, 2002, and 2007). This is a feat in itself as such a possibility was unthinkable a few years ago. The empowerment of dalits could not have been possible without a high level of political consciousness among dalits, which could be made possible only because a very long and strong dalit movement preceded that, culminating in the formation of BAMCEF, DS-4, and, finally, BSP. But, behind the emergence of such powerfully organized dalit political outfits, the dalit literature played a very significant role. The book under review seeks to examine and analyse the interconnect between dalit politics (leading to their empowerment), dalit consciousness, dalit movement, and dalit literature.   The author makes a distinction between the ‘shudras’ and ‘panchamas’; and he would include dalits, schedule castes and the harijans into the latter category – that by implication suggests that shudras and dalits are two different categories – an idea, though known to the sociology people, may not be so familiar to others and the common man. Most of the people and even academics understand dalits as shudras.   The basic assumption of the author is that the literary works internalize the ‘political’ of the time, and that was more manifest in the case of the dalit literature as those who produced dalit literature suffered and very closely experienced the sufferings of fellow dalits at the hands of the society and its discriminatory caste system. The author argues that the dalit literature was basically a protest literature, had its own literary aesthetics, and was ideologically oriented. In this entire study, the author has used ‘ecological model’.   Sharma has traced the evolution of the term dalit. Initially, the term depressed people was used for them popularized by Annie Besant in her writing “ The Uplift of the Depressed Classes” (1909). The term Schedule Castes was used for the first time in the Government of India Act 1935, a term that had been coined by the Simmon Commission in 1928. Later on they were addressed as harijans – a term given ...

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