USA based Professor delivers talk on “Decoding Dalit literature” in Jamia Millia Islamia

What is Dalit literature? Who can write Dalit literature? was the crux of the talk on the topic “The Creative Intrusion of Real Lives in Dalit Fiction”, delivered by Laura R. Brueck, Associate Professor of Hindi Literature, North Western University, USA. The talk was organised by the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Jamia Millia Islamia on 2nd February 2017.

She focused on the works of Uday Prakash and Ajay Navaria, two contemporary Delhi-based Hindi language authors, who focus on dynamics of caste in contemporary India. She also considered each author’s innovative usage of narrative techniques to blur the boundaries between real and fictional life narratives. She argued that reading these texts through the critical lens allow us to understand them as gaining new opportunities for Dalit writer. Through this, they can challenge the conventional form of fiction and history by reconstituting with a difference biographical narratives from real life as well as history and literature.

Laura talked about the writings of Uday Prakash’s Mohandas and Ajay Navaria’s Hello Prem Chand. She argued that in this story Ajay imagined a dialogue between Gandhi and Ambedkar.  Ajay has tried to bring a shift in the relationship between iconic figures such as Gandhi, Ambedkar and Prem Chand from historical context to modern understanding. She added that social and political meaning of Dalit past reinvented and reconstructed through Dalit literature.

She has put light on the differences in writings of Dalits and non- Dalit writers through the works of Uday Prakash and Ajay Navaria.  She has analysed the way both the writers have dealt with the Dalit issues. She recently authored a book, ‘Writing Resistance: The Rhetorical Imagination of Hindi Dalit Literature’.

Ajay Navaria, Professor of Hindi Literature in Jamia Millia Islamia, aptly remarked that lives of Dalits in ghettos make them to think from a different angle that they are not part of mainstream society. This creates a gap between them and a feeling of anger and anguish persists that becomes difficult to overcome. But in urban areas where the population is heterogeneous, this element of the feeling of seclusion is minimal. It is argued that the level of anguish is not similar in the writings of an urban-based writer as his relation with the exploitation is indirect. Ajay employed Dalits in impressive position in the contemporary world and gives heroic and success stories of Dalits.

Rahul Ramagundam, Associate Professor at Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy concluded the talk by urging the students to explore the question of humiliation in a different form. He stressed that there is a need to understand the pain Gandhi experienced in South Africa when he was fighting against racism and the atrocities Ambedkar faced in India against casteism.

This talked was witnessed by Mohd. Shafiq, Dean, Faculty of Social Science, Dr Sonia Director, Centre for the Latin American Study, Dr Padmanabh Samrendra, Associate Professor, Dr. Arvind Kumar and many scholars and students from English Literature, Hindi Literature, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Department of Political Science and Dr K. R. Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minority Studies.


(Contributed by Afaque Haider, A Jamia research Scholar)

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