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Kamal Nayan Choubey

By Charu Gupta
Permanent Black  in association with Ashoka University, Delhi, 2016, pp. i-xvii 336, Rs. 895.00


A new extension of Hindi literature i.e., Dalit literature emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s by the meticulous attempt of many Dalit writers and editors like Rajendra Yadav, who gave opportunity to many new Dalit writers to express their life experiences in his magazine Hans. The emergence of Dalit literature also led to the numerous new researches regarding the quandary of Dalits in colonial India and their representation in different artistic forms. The issue of Dalit women and their experiences, however, has been an under-researched area. It has been a dominant tendency to submerge the question of Dalit women under the meta-categories of ‘Dalit’ and ‘Woman’. The book under review aims to focus on the plight, experiences and representations of Dalit women in colonial UP. It examines practices of hierarchy within the Hindu community and probes how social difference was an enduring aspect of caste gendering. It presents the regulation of caste and gender at the level of day-to-day life and also reveals Dalit resistance from the hidden archive. Charu Gupta accepts that this book is an ‘auto-critic’ (p. xiii) of her first monograph, Sexuality, Obscenity, Community (2003), in which she analysed the complex and intricate relationship between Hindu nationalism, gender and the Hindi print-popular archive in colonial India and presented Hindu women as a monolithic category. In the book under review, however, she has tried to disentangle the complexity of this category and focused on gender and caste distinction of colonial North India, particularly UP. The author has used rich and understudied archival sources, primarily published in Hindi newspapers and journals, cartoons and some crucial literary work, to highlight the convoluted and mutual relationship between social reality and its miscellaneous print representations. Through these sources the writer has unravelled the different layers of the day-to-day life of Dalit women, who face many discriminations both on the basis of her caste and gender. She has made a painstaking attempt to focus on the distinct individual needs and desires of the Dalit women and also questioned the accepted norm of Dalit literature to situate the woman self within the larger Dalit collective. In colonial North India Dalit male writings were primarily a critique of caste injustice and a plea for recognition but they were ‘largely coded as male’ (p. 267). Gupta identifies the story titled ‘Chhut ka Chor’ (Thieves of the Subordinate), written by Mohini Chamarin in August 1914, as ‘probably ...

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