Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Social, Economic and Political Reverberations of Untouchability: Kumud Pawde's "The Story of My Sanskrit"

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Social, Economic and Political Reverberations of Untouchability: Kumud Pawde's "The Story of My Sanskrit"

Article excerpt

Kumud Pawde's essay, "The Story of My Sanskrit", is an extract from her autobiography Antasphot. This paper is an attempt to study the social, economic and political implications of untouchability in India after nearly 20 years of independence. This essay is important not only because it is a pioneer in Dalit Feminist Studies but also because it traces the path of a Dalit woman in the public sphere of education and employment. The economic aspect exposes the resistance of individuals at various levels of bureaucracy in implementing the constitutional measures put in place by the Government of India. The pervasive depth and strength of untouchability becomes a reality when Pawde elaborates how even politicians in the highest echelons remain only mute spectators in the face of society's negation of the rights of the Dalits. What is significant about the narrative is the unsentimental and factual tone and the strong sense of individual assertion.

Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies-for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put herself into the text-as into the world and into history- by her own movement.

- Helene Cixous, 347

The essay "The Story of My Sanskrit" is an extract from Kumud Pawde's autobiography Antasphot (1981). Born in 1938, in Nagpur, at a time when India was on the threshold of total independence, into a family belonging to the Mahar community, the lowest of the castes, Kumud Pawde exemplifies rare courage and perseverance in the pursuit of her dream of academic excellence. The discrimination that was meted out to the people of this section of society is a well-documented fact. These were people who were not allowed to even draw water from the wells that were used by the upper castes. They had to carry pots for their spittle and brooms to wipe out their footsteps on the road to prevent defilement of the other castes. Living on the fringes of society, in abject poverty, totally dependent on the charity of the upper castes, they did soul-destroying menial jobs like disposal of human waste and the dead bodies of the villagers. They had to bear untold social and economic repression and atrocities. Burdened further were the women who had to bear severe sexual exploitation. To underline their subjugation, they were not allowed to dress or wear jewelry like the women of the upper caste. Pawde's autobiography, probably for the first time, details the struggles of the life of an untouchable woman who had the courage to enter the public sphere. The essay underlines how the field of education, a true leveler of individuals, also becomes prey to discrimination and suppression. It forms a continuity with those, as Omvedt (1994) says, alternate traditions, established by stalwarts like Pandita Ramabai, Tarabai Shinde, Ambedkar, Periyar and the Dalit Panthers, which questioned the hegemony of Hinduism in Indian society and sought to alter it.

Under the guidance of Dr. Ambedkar (1891-1956), the people segregated as untouchables, underwent a transformation. He ignited an awareness in them to question the immense suppression they were being subjected to in the name of religion. The Marathi word Dalit means ground or broken to pieces. The untouchables anointed themselves with this name and took a step toward annihilating the stigma of untouchability. The literature that brings to light the subjugated lives of the Dalits and validates their suffering is Dalit Literature. Mahatma Phule (1828-90) laid its foundation as early as the 1880s in his writings which analyzed and fiercely attacked the inhuman practice of untouchability. The beginning of the 20th century saw the emergence of writers like S M Mate, Gopal Baba Valangkar, Pandit Kondiram and Kisan Phagoji Bansod. The movement picked up momentum with the publishing of Dr. Ambedkar's articles, through which he was able to inspire the Dalits to break the mental shackles of thinking of themselves as slaves and untouchables. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.