For Marathi writer and Dalit literary icon Sharankumar Limbale, a Dalit is one who fights against caste. And today, he says, the lines of that fight are much clearer. The rise of the BJP to power, he believes, has brought fascist forces in the country to the fore. This leaves writers in a state of unrest.
“We are no more in a comfortable state. The unrest has been created by the government. We are now more vigilant and hence more creative,” he says, talking to The News Minute after a national seminar on Dalit Literature, Art and Aesthetics, organised by The Institute of English in Thiruvananthapuram. However, says Sharankumar, we could not have reached where we are today if not for the contributions of secular governments, particularly of the Congress, which has failed to strengthen anti-fascist forces despite ruling the country for decades. “They didn’t really care for social change or for the minorities- caste or economical. In that way, the BJP is government is just the succession of the previous governments,” he added.
But Sharankumar does not feel content with merely lamenting or protesting the loss of freedoms. Criticising the government for denying people their right to the freedom of expression is only one method of opposition in democracy, he says. “There are other methods like opposition through writing and other forms of creativity.”
The author of over 40 books in Marathi, Sharankumar’s Akkarmashi is one of his most popular works, the subject for numerous stage adaptations. A loud voice of reason against casteist practices, Sharankumar says that such politics is also the dividing line between the mainstream and writers like himself. “Most of them are writing about gods for the middle class. They have been repeating Hindu philosophy in their writing for ages, and imitating the Indian epics. We are writing for people’s rights and to strengthen democracy. That is the modern principle, that is modern philosophy."
Other dividing lines, such as the current segregation between women’s writing, Dalit writing and other minority literary cultures, however, should and will fall, he believes. In the future, all of these will merge together to create an authentic Indian literature. “There is only Hindu literature in the country now, not Indian literature,” he says.
Unity is his recurring message and diagnosis of the problems faced by Dalits too. Even with the recent uprisings of Dalits in many parts of the country, he holds the view that only the more advantaged factions among Dalit communities have taken the lead thus far. “All Dalit castes should stay united. The minorities among Dalits should be made a part of such uprisings. It will happen in the near future. The Dalit world will become more powerful. They will unite and agitate.”
Optimistically, he sees the first moves towards unity of secular forces already beginning. “This will strengthen democracy. Taking this forward, it could grow as a movement against the caste system as well. More women, more Dalits have access to education now. The change will be triggered by that.”