Twice condemned: A Dalit and a Woman
I am a Dalit-middle-class, University educated, Telugu speaking Dalit-Christian-Woman. All these identities have a role in the way I perceive myself and the worlds I inhabit. I, as a Dalit woman, primarily write for Dalit women to uphold our interests. This statement of mine is necessary because if we do not define ourselves for ourselves, we will be defined by others – for their use and to our detriment. This voice is not representative of all Dalit women. However, I know that my voice is important because it is the voice of a socially denigrated category, suppressed and silenced.
That's M. Swathy Margaret writing in the latest issue of Insight magazine. Wow. Had been looking for a Dalit woman who would be an intellectual of this stature. Her bio in the essay reads: "M Swathy Margaret has submitted a path-breaking dissertation on Writing Dalit Feminist Discourse Through Translation: Translating Select African American Short Stories into Telugu. She is now pursuing her PhD at CIEFL, Hyderabad. She is also a research fellow at Anveshi, a Research Centre for Women’s Studies."
Here's more from that essay:
My own self-perception and understanding as a Dalit woman, as a point of intersection/an overlap between the categories “Dalit” and “woman”, took shape in the University of Hyderabad when I joined there for my M.A. in English.
I was given a nice room in the corner of the wing in the Ladies Hostel. But the only thing was that it was unused for a couple of years in spite of it being the best room in that wing, I was told. I did not ask why. Later I was told it was the room where one Dalit woman Suneetha hung herself to the fan, after continuous sexual exploitation and ultimate rejection by a Reddy man when the question of marriage came up. Some inquired if that fact scared me. The ghost that stared at me was not the thought of a hanging female body but it was my own body which is Dalit and woman and is as vulnerable as Suneetha’s. The stories of Dalit women being used and thrown by upper caste men, told and retold by my mother came back shouting loudly in my ears.
Read the whole thing.
Insight is a very readable Dalit youth magazine brought out by a group of students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University; they are associated with the Dalit Study Circle there. The thing about Insight is that it is refreshingly human, as opposed to the theorising of the Dalit academic pantheon, and at the same time brings forth academic work on caste in a human form. Its editor is the very dynamic Anoop Kumar.
You can read the magazine every month online and subscribe to the print version by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.