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The Subaltern Speaks

Preeti Dewan and Deeba Zafir

Edited by Subhash Chandra Kushwaha
Saamayik Prakashan, 2009, pp. 335, Rs. 500.00


Jaatidansh Ki Kahanian edited by Subhash Chandra Kushwaha is a thoughtprovoking and unique collection of essays and stories in Hindi by dalit writers. What distinguishes this anthology from other anthologies of dalit stories in Hindi such as the one edited by Ramanika Gupta is an entire discursive section dealing theoretically with issues which are also raised through the medium of the stories.The trope of sting, as the title signifies, is used by the writers of this anthology to emphasize the pain arising out of the venomous nature of the castesystem which is regarded as the biggest impediment to social regeneration that gives the lie to our claim to modernity. The Preface itself is a trenchant critique of Hindu religion, society and values, much in line with the thinking of Phule and Ambedkar. However, as the editor adds, other religions in India have also been infected by caste, though the degree and density may vary. The editor provides a comprehensive view with a host of references to contemporary events to raise the moot point that despite all the markers of modernity, the sting of caste continues to rent the social fabric and is paralleled by racism at the international level. The Preface is an impassioned urging for a revolutionary ideological initiative against caste but it is also accompanied by an awareness that a united resistance has not been possible on account of lack of unity among dalits. The creation of the backward castes is seen as a safetyvalve provided within the caste system to maintain status quo. Kushwaha rues the reactionary attempts of dalits to escape the shadow of caste by changing names or adopting regressive cultural practices as also their participation in communal riots to point to the paucity of constructive will and vision among dalits.The editors salvo of charges also includes in its ambit the visual and print media for its casteist coverage, the Left leadership for its blinkered emphasis on class over caste as well as those sections of society who oppose reservations but do not find anything wrong with paid seats or the dual system of education. Kushwaha regards literature as a tool to maintain social identity and therefore subjects it to a similar critical scrutiny to examine its role in the perpetuation of the caste divide.   The section on Dalit Discourse traces the history of the representation of caste from Buddhist literature in ancient ...

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