Wednesday, 4 December 2013


 Dalit Movement can be called as a collective agitation of Dalits against the
exploitation both in the form of class, caste, creed, cultural and social
exploitation in the society. This exploitation is due to the discrimination followed
by age old caste hierarchical tradition in the Hindu society. This hierarchy has
been the cause for oppression of dalits in each and every sphere of society since
centuries. It has subjected the Dalits to poverty and humiliation. Dalit movement
is a struggle that tries to counter attack the socio – cultural hegemony of the
upper castes. It is a movement of the masses that craves for justice through the
speeches, literary works, dramas, songs, cultural organisations and all the other
possible measurers. So it can be called as a movement which has been led by
Dalits to seek equality with all other castes of the Hindu society.
Whenever the term „Dalit movement‟ is used in Kannada literature, it generally
refers to the movement of the 1970‟s and after 70‟s of the 20th century. But it is
not in the first time that such movement has taken place. There are many such
movements in the annals of Karnataka history.
In the history of Karnataka, it was in the first time, in 12th century Basavanna
raised his voice against caste discrimination in the northern part of Karnataka
state. This social reform movement led by Basvanna in 12th century A.D. gave
rise to a new kind of writing in Kannada literature. It is named as “Vachana
Sahitya”. After this, a non- Brahmin movement took place in the old Mysore
state in the year 1917. It was led by Vokkaligas and Lingayats of the then Mysore state. It‟s aim was to uplift the Socio-economical status of non Branhmin
castes. This movement was supported by some organizations. They are – The
Vokkaliga Sangha set up in 1906 and Central Muslim Association set up in 1909.
After these developments among the non Brahminical castes of the then Mysore
state, The honourable Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV decided
to give75% reservation for non Brahmin castes in the administration of the State 1
, other than these two movements it was „Dalit Movement‟ which emerged in
1970‟s aimed to bring social change. It took the responsibility of achieving
equality in all spheres of life and establishing social justice to each member of
the society. The other movements emerged during this period were Peasants
Movement, Language Movement, Women‟s Movement, etc.
The word “Dalit” was firstly, dominantly used by, the writers and Artist Federation
of Karnataka in 1973. To understand the meaning of the word „Dalit‟ it is useful
to know a few definitions about the word, Gangadhar Patwade, a Marathi Dalit
writer says :
For me the word Dalit denotes not Only caste, if means the man who is exploited
economically, socially by the Traditional of the country. He does not Believe in
God, religion, rebirth, Holy books, Heaven, Hell of this land, Since all these things
have made Him a slave, he believes in Humanism, The real symbol of present
Dalit is Change and revolution.According to Basavalingappa a Dalit ex-minister of Karnataka Government, the
word „Dalit‟ means :
The word „Dalit‟ is not pertaining to any caste, it includes the poor, exploited, and
workers of all castes. Who are unable to work upright in the society are regarded
as Dalits
But a few others gave different definition for the word „Dalit‟. Among them Prof.
Aravinda Malagatti defines :
The people who are economically, socially Politically exploited from centuries,
unable to live in the society of human beings have been living outside the village
depending on lower level of occupation, and unable to spell Out their names,
lived as „untouchable‟ are regarded as „Dalits‟ 4
This difference of opinion can be seen on the question who are Dalits? But most
of the people believe that, the word Dalit mainly pertaining to the “untouchables”.
Because untouchables are the group of people who exploited in every sphere of
life. The Dalits are called by other different names also : Dasyu, Dasa,
Atisudra, Panchama, Tirukulattar, Adikarnataka, Adi Dravida, Schedule – Caste
etc. but Dr. Ambedkar termed them as “Depressed Class”. 5
The Birth of Dalit Movement : The opportunity to get education after
independence ushered new thinking from among the Dalits. One of the
causes for emergence of Dalit movement in Karnataka was the speech of
Basavalingappa. Basavalingappa was then one of the ministers of
Karnataka Government. He was invited to a function in Mysore on 15.11.1973 Then In his speech on “Tradition, social structure and New
Views,”.he said that Kannada Literature is Boosa literature”. 6
The intension behind calling Kannada literature as “Boosa” (fodder) was
misinterpreted in media. Then pseudo Kannada lovers protested against this
statement and demanded for the resignation of Mr Basavalingappa.
Basavalingappa was made to resignation for his ministerial berth. This incident
made the Dalits to get knit together to lit the lamp of enlightment. The second
incident happened in Kolar on October 23rd 1971. The Potter Sheshagiriyappa
was killed by upper castes in a land dispute. This incident was also taken up by
the Dalita Sangharsha Samiti to seek justice. The third factor was the problems
of factory workers in Badravathi, Shimoga District. It gave rise to the
establishment of “Dalita Sangarsha Smithi” (DSS) in Badravathi.
Inspite of all these stray incidents, the main guiding principle was Ambedkar and
his writings. Ambedkarism is the main back bone of all Dalit movements,
emerged from the different parts of India in general, Karnataka in particular. All
these factors become important reasons for the emergence of „Dalit movement in
1974 under the eminent leadership of Prof. B.Krishnappa in Karnataka. The Dalit
movement erupts like a volcano all over India around 1970. The Dalit
movements are called by different names in different states of the country,such
as ;
1. Ad – Dharm Movement in Punjab
2. Nama Sudra movement in Bengal
3. Adi – Dravida movement in Tamilnadu
4. Adi – Hindu movement in Kanpur
5. Pulaya movement in Kerala 6. Untouchable movement in Maharashtra
7. Dalit movement in karnataka7
Growth of Dalit movement in Karnataka :The birth of Dalit movement in a way,
it is the birth of awareness among Dalit‟s, which can be termed as „Dalit
consciousness‟. Dalit consciousness is a mental state of people, who always
aspire to throw away the yokes of exploitation. It may be economical inequality,
social inequality, or cultural inequality in the society. Dalit consciousness
doesnot accept somebody is superior than others. It rejects such an ideology.
Due to Dalit movement D.S.S. branches were opened in many villages of
Karnataka state. New revolutionary songs were written by eminent writers and
activities. These songs were sung in every village. Educated Dalit and
intellectuals begin to talk about the problems of poor and about exploitation and
humiliations from the upper castes without any hesitation educated Dalits tried to
explain to the other illiterate brothers about the required change in the society.
Dalit Movement gave rise to the birth of many writers and journalists. Due to the
new consciousness about the ideas of Dr. Ambedkar a new group of thinkers
emerged among Dalit community. Many writers and journalists through their
writing made the people to be aware of exploitation and attrocities carried on
them. Inspired by the intelligentia of the Dalit community, thousands of students,
lawyers, peasants, workers, officers, writers, and people of all occupations joined
the movement to wrestle against the age old caste imposition put on them.
The important writers of Dalit movement in Karnataka are Devanoor Mahadeva,
Dr. Siddalingaiah, Prof. Arvinda Malagatti, Mullur Nagaraj, Gangaram Chandala.
Dr. M.N. Javaraiah (MANAJA) Dr. Govindaiah, Munivenkatappa, K.B. Siddaiah, L. Hanumanthaiah, H. Balaraju, Indudhar Honnapura, Devaiah Harave, and
Mogally Ganesh etc.
As the results of movement, number of Journals and Dailies came out. Many of
them served as the mouth piece of the movement. The important journals
among them are :
„Dalit voice‟ by V.T. Rajashekar
„Hosa Dikku‟ by M. Gopinath
„Panchama‟ by Govindaiah
„Ambedkar Vahini‟ by Polanki Ramamurthy
„Andholana‟ by Rajashekar Koti etc.,
Nowdays the „Dalapada‟ awards are given by „The Karnataka Dalapada
Academy‟ for the writers and workers who works for the movement and for the
social change. The early period of the Dalit movement was restricted only for the
social problems of poor without putting any barrier of caste. The movement
entered politics in 1983. Then the ambiguity can be seen among the leaders of
the movement while taking political stand. One of the founder leaders of Dalit
movement in Karnataka, Professor Krishnappa wanted to follow the foot steps of
Dalita Soshita Samaj Sangarsha Samiti of Uttarpradesh and ask the people to
support. B.S.P in the state. But rational thinkers like professor K. Ramdas and
others wanted to continue this movement without entering directly to the politics
of the state, but by becoming the pressure group in the politics. A few more
leaders in the movement began to think that our nation and state was ruled by
Congress party since independence and it failed to eradicate Dalit problems. It
proved futile to achieve constitutional goal. It was the party which defeated Dr.
Ambedkar in his contest for the drafting committee of the constitution. Having these thoughts in their mind. They decided to support a non – congress party in
the state.
The leaders of the Dalit movement argued that our political leaders who were
elected from reserved constituently were unable to avoid the attrocities which
have been happening on Dalits. They never raised their voice in assembly to get
facilities for the poor dalits from the government. So they made canvas against
those Dalit politicians and it resulted in defeat of Dalit politicians in KGF and in
T.Narasipura etc. in 1985 DSS declared its support to Janata Party. This
decision of the leaders led to the partition in D.S.S. The people who were
supporting political parties believed that, our problems can be solved through
politics. And they believed in „Ballot‟ than „Bullet‟. They argued that „being the
citizens of democratic country they believed in the ways of „Buddha‟, „Basvanna‟,
and „Ambedkar‟ and they recognized their group as „Active Committee‟
(Sanchalaka Samithi) of D.S.S. The other group of people who thought of staying
away from the politics were influenced by Karl Marx theory, they showed their
interest to struggle against government themselves as “Coordination committee”
(Sanyojaka Samithi) of D.S.S. In the later period even is the Active committee of
D.S.S. again splits in to two divisions. They are „Praja Vimochana Chaluvali‟
(PVC) Karnataka „Samata Sainkika Dala‟ (SSD).
The group of people who believed in Democracy again supported the Janatha
Party. But local parties were able to attract the local leaders of the movement by
offering money, and position in the party, gradually lost its importance as a
movement having the aim of social change. It is became a puppet in the hands
of professional politicians, mean while the Dalit movement in the different states
also entered politics for example
„Dalita Mahasabha‟ of Andrapradesh,Dalit Panthors of Maharashtra. The leaders of the movement entered into the politics because they believed that
: “The power is needed to destroy the power”, They having a great faith in the
political power, enthusiastically entered the politics. But due to the lack of
quality leadership and organizing capacity, they failed to get the real political
power. The entry of D.S.S. to the field of politics created a gap between the
leaders and cadres of the movement. The common people were more confused
by the leaders in supporting a particular party, Because the leaders of the
movement were supporting different parties for the sake of money and to fulfill
them personal desires.
The other organizations of the Dalit movement are ;
1. Karnataka Dalita Sangarsha Samithi (Active Committee)
2. Karnataka Dalita Sangarsha Samithi (Coordination committee)
3. Karnataka Dalita Sangarsha Samithi (Ambedkar Vada)
4. Karnataka Janandolan Sangha
5. Karnataka Dalita Kriya Vedike
6. Karnataka Samata Sainka Dala
7. Karnataka Dalit Federation Committee
8. Karnataka Dalit Kriya Samithi
9. Praja vimochana movement
10. Dalit writers forum
11. Karnataka Dalita Jagruthi Samithi
12. Ambedkar Jagratha Maha Samithi
13. Karnataka State SC/ST Federation 14. Karnataka Madiga Dandora.
15 Karnataka Dalita Vidyarthi Okkuta
16 Karnataka Dalita Artists Federation
17 Karnataka Women Federation
The Dalit movement in Karnataka worked through these organizations. Recently
the D.S.S. has launched a new party in the state named as “Sarvodaya
Karnataka Party” with the help of „Raitha Sangha‟ of Karnataka, Devanoor
Mahadeva and K.S. Puttannaiah of the Raitha Sangha, are the main leaders of
this party. But we have to wait and see the progress of this party in Karnataka
state politics. Other than this a few leaders of D.S.S. began to introspect
themselves for the result of D.S.S. struggle in Karnataka and many leaders
agreed that, they have not succeeded in their attempt to take this movement for
a higher level so a few people like Sridhar Kaliveer and other thought of going for
a different way and they suggested „Bahujana Samaj Party‟ is other alternative
for the prevailing condition in Karnataka. Now, Dalits of Karnataka are eagerly
waiting for the result how for this decision is going to give fruit to Dalit people.
It is concluded that the Dalit movement which was born to achieve its aims of
bringing equality and peace and prosperity to the people has not achieved its
goal, may be due to the fact that it had became a reactive element. The
protests or the strikes are happening only when exploitation come to light through
newspapers. A few programmes are arranged, only during the birth day of
Ambedkar, and the day of his Parinibbana (death day) on 14th of April and 6th of
December respectively. Otherwise, the movement and the organizations are
inactive without any protest or agitations, till they come across any new atrocities.
But one has to agree to the point that, the Dalit movement as created awareness in the society and it gave self respect to the poor Dalits. It really
created an identity to the people. This movement opened the eyes of upper
caste educated masses about their wrongdoings, and their unjustified attrocities
on the weaker sections of the society, for the first time in the history of
Karnataka. People came to know about their strength and they had come to
know that the practice of untouchability is punishable according to the law. It was
the first time after independence people began to revolt against wrong
conventions, they made number of protest all over the state irrespective of
castes. This movement helped many microscopic minority to unite among
themselves under one organisation. This period is considered as questioning
period, about the inhuman behaviour of conventionalists. And it affects every
field in the state of Karnataka.
It is known that the pioneers of many movements were the commoners. They
only have the capacity to bring in change in the existing order. Movements are
needed for the poor only. The people who are the beneficiary of the present
may not bother about the people who are suffering, Because they have utilized
the disunity, disintegrity and poor conditions of the lower caste people to their
advantage. They have collected all the fruits of hard work done by poor. So they
are never bothered about the condition of the society, therefore these kinds of
movements are necessary for the depressed classes of the society to make
revolutionary and radical changes in the society, such movement play a surgical
role in the society, where all the people can live with equality. In one of his
speeches, about the importance of the movement to the society professor, D.
Javaregowda, ex-vice Chancellor of Mysore University has said:
The decline of this country means the decline of sudra and atisudras of this land.
They were exploited for thousands of years, to uplift these people it may take one
or two centuries in order to decrease this period, this kind of movements and
revolutions are necessary 8Dalit Literature : While talking about Dalit movement in Karnataka, one cannot
forget its contribution to the field of Kannada literature. It gave raise to a new
trend in literature named as „Dalit literature‟. It emerged out of friction in religion,
political, economical and social fields. Dangle, a Marathi Dalit writer and the
thinker says that “the Dalit literature is not a caste literature nor a literature of
vengeance and not a literature which spreads hatred but it is associated with
Dalit movement to bring change.” 9
The Kannada Dalit literature emerged in a different platform due to the
disagreement of „Kannada Sahitya Parishath‟ (The State association for Kannada
literature) to present a programme named as „Dalita,Bandaya, Sahitya
Sammelana”, in 1979 in the annual programme of Association. It led to the
separate forum in literature called Dalit literature by „Dalit writers Association.
After having different literary forum it began to include the women writings, and
writings of minorities (Muslims), by thinking that, they are also exploited from the
Hindu society and they too expect change in the existing condition. Some
educated sudra writers also contributed for the growth of Kannada Dalit literature.
After sometimes the sudra‟s who had sudra consciousness in their mind, they
revolted against the Brahminical tradition
to bring equality in society. They decided to go hand in hand with Dalits and Dalit
movement. They realized that it is a healthy society, that they can live
peacefully only when there is a harmony between both Dalits and Sudras.
What is Dalit literature?. Is it a literature written by Dalits on their own lives or it
includes the literature written by non Dalits on Dalits? The questions leads to a
very comprehensive discussion. But it is very difficult to draw a boundary line in
between these two types. But generally speaking. Dalit literature refers to the
writings of Dalits on Dalit life. The Dalit writers argued that the experiences and the humiliation undergone by Dalits cannot be imagined or explained by non dalit
writers. So one may find slight difference in the writings of non dalits on dalits.
In this discussion many writers from both dalit and non – dalit communities were
participated. Non dalits who wrote about Dalit life were identified as only „protest
writers‟. Because they were not the suffers of „untouchability‟. Though they
expressed their anger against the injustice of the society. Their ideas were more
concerned with economic inequality. But the prime concern of Dalit writers was
social injustice. So these Dalit writers considered their own writings as Dalit
literature. They concluded the writings of non dalit “on dalits” as protest
literature. This conclusion of few Dalit writers has made a negative impact on the
non dalit writers who were writing on Dalit life. If more works to come out by
non-dalits on dalits, it may contributed towards making Dalit literature more
Dalit literature has expressed itself in several genre‟s such as :
1. Prose
2. Poetry
3. Short stories
4. Drama
5. Autobiography
Through these genres Dalit literature serve the society to remind the
mistakes and faults of the society. The writings of non – Dalits on Dalits and
Dalits on themselves is differentiated by Narendra Jadhav as follows : “The
difference is that between the love of a mother and love of a nurse”
The Dalit literature is comparable to the Black literature of Africa, the notion,
feelings, pain, exploitation, harassment, expressed here could be seen even the
writings of Chinua Achebe, N.Gugi Wa Thiango, Wole soyinka etc. There is a
similarity between the tradition and cultures expressed in the writings of Dalits of
India and these African writers. Dalit literature is special than other literature because the Dalits who lived out of villages able to preserve their rich culture. It
is not contaminated or altered by mingling with other cultures. Such culture gets
expressed of it‟s custom, belief in its adaptability of language. The language
looks totally different from the other existing languages, style, presentation,
subject matter etc. The another feature of Dalit literature is, it tries to compare
the past situation of Dalits to the present and future generation not because to
create hatredness in Dalits towards upper castes. But to make them aware of
their pitiable condition and to show them a way to channel their struggle against
the oppressors.
Many writers in the past were writings about the kings and queens and
their pastimes. All those writings came out just to get benefit from the kings by
praising them. Some poets compared their guardians or kings and queens for
the great heroes and heroines of legends. Even they went up to the extent of
comparing them to the Gods and Godesses. All these metaphors are
questionable in the present time. They were not successful themselves in
bringing their contemporary world or situation to the present readers. They never
dealt about the common people, who had been working since morning till
evening. One can find hardly the works which subjected common man, who
served in the court of king by undergoing through the process of castration.
There are not many poems about common soldier, who dies for the eccentric
wars which king made against his neighbour without caring for the lives of
soldiers. There are not many works which were written on these subjects in the
past days. One never get the description of women whose husbands died in the
war field and about their condition. It happened because the situation or the
atmosphere which existed in those days restricted the writers to write on a few
subjects. Therefore, it was Dalit movement which made everyone in the society
to look towards the last man of the social hierarchy of the caste system. Before
Dalit literature, the literature which existed earlier, concentrated only on one class of people and it gave lesser importance for the subjects concerning the
Dalits. So without Dalits as a subject the past works may be regarded as a
partial literature because of its failure to concentrate on the last humanbeing
who lived contemporary life. Dalit literature is rare and rich literature, its variety
was available through the writings of new writers. Its importance is rightly
putforth by eminent writer Devanoor Mahadeva :
If handful of depiction of Dalit world in my stories could change the direction of
Kannada literature, it in unimaginable to think what change may happen if every
man of this dark continent speaks.
Dalit literature came out by the educated Dalits, and it successfully reached
uneducated Dalits also, through folk songs and simplicity of language. It
created awareness among the sleeping community in the den of illiteracy, without
knowing the reason for their plight. Through this successful reaching their men, it
fulfilled the message of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar who instructed the educated
Dalits about what are their responsibilities in awakening, uplifting them to
achieve equality.
One of the Chief features of Dalit literature is protest and rejection of Brahminism
but not the Brahmins. The Brahminism is a mental state which accepts
superiority over another man. It affixes inferiority to the another fellow in the
hierarchy of caste system. It gives more respect and more profit for the caste
which is up in the ladder of caste system, and as it goes down the ladder Profit
and respect also decreases. It‟s contribution for the dalit (Scheduled) caste
which is lowest of all the castes is nothing but exploitation, jeering, mockery, and
slavery. This mental state of Brahminism not only exists in Brahmins but also be
in Sudras, who simply ape the ideas of Brhaminical practices without testing
them with scientific temperament. The contribution of Dalit literature in Karnataka
to the field of Kannada literature is less in size, if it compared with Marathi Dalit literature. But it has clearly depicted the pangs of Dalits to the external world
which they had been tolerating since centuries together.
The Language of Dalit literature : Dalit writers are using different kind of
language than that of the language used in earlier times in literature. They use
the language which is known to them and considered rustic by the previous
writers. Dalit writers are interested to portray their people‟s past. So they follow
the language of their own people and their dialect, without refining it. Therefore
it gets a special attention in Kannada literature. For Example, the language
used by Devanoor Mahadeva in Odalala and Kusumabale, it is so colloquial and
different from written language of the city people. This kind of language,could
only express the real feelings and intensity of the writer. The reader and the
people then only can identify the „Dalitatwa‟ or „Dalitness‟ in Dalit literature. Dalit
feelings come from Dalit language only. No other language could express it
exactly. So Dalit feelings + Dalit language = Dalit culture. Dalit language
contains harshness, unusual diction, it is similar to the life condition of the dalits
in the society.
Dalit literature is mainly composed by Dalits and their experiences would never
be the same from the experiences of others. All these experiences could come
out of the writers mind without any alteration because society had fed these
qualities to the Dalit writers. Therefore the same language and experiences are
reflected in the writers works. So the readers have to receive the same
language and phraseology which were heaped on Dalits since centuries. It is not
so judicious to expect a refined or polished language from the Dalit writers
because they are brought up facing life, with those hard realities of life.
Therefore the readers have to accept the style of the language of Dalit writers.
The language used in Dalit literature is unknown to the external world. It was
there in the Dalit community but when all of a sudden when this language gets the literary form, it commonly astonished the people who never showed interest
to listen to it. This style of writing brought special recognition for the both
language and work of art.
Dalit literature has originated from dalits heart and mind like a volcano. In the
early stage the nature and quality may be different like flames which can be seen
in the early stage of the eruption of a volcano. But after certain period when
volcano becomes calm, it gives precious materials from earth‟s womb. Similarly
here also after the purgation of anger the finest quality of work and craft of
language is possible in dalit literature.
The scope of Dalit literature: Dalit literature is an emerging literature, it has
found its own voice. Their stories told in Marathi, Tamil, Hindi and Kannada and
Telugu are now being translated into English, French and Spanish. The Dalit
writers no longer depend on empathy of non dalits to tell the world, their own
story. In fact Dalit writing seems to be getting on the list of every major publisher
in India. Dalits are developing with the help of globalization, with the help of
computer and internet, they are ready to establish their relationships with the Afro
– American and African writers. As the features of these literatures are also one
and the same.
Dalit literature is slowly emerging as a discipline of academic study as well. The
Department of studies in English at the University of Pune, features Dalit and
Afro-American literature in a course entitled “Literature of protest”. Even in the
University of Mysore The Department of studies in English prescribed “Dalit
literature” for the P.G.course as one of the optional papers. And also in “Central
institute of English and Foreign Language”, at Hyderabad and U.S. Universities
offering „South Asian Studies‟ are thinking also positively about Dalit issues.
Thus Dalit literature has found a place in academic and public reading. It is
attracting both educated Dalits and non Dalit readers. It has shown the signs of
growing still better. Because, the writings made by Dalit writers so far are the
writings of first generation of educated Dalits. As the number of educated Dalits
increases in the future years, the Dalit community has the hopes of producing
even better works both in quality and quantity.


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