Dalit literature, whether oral or written, has been an integral and enlivening part of Indian literary tradtions for centuries, eminent writer and academic U R Ananthamurthy has said.
For the depressed classes like tribals and those destined to live in the lower rungs of the social hierarchy literature had
always been a means to achieve "self-respect", the Jnanpith laureate said here last evening.
He was delivering a lecture on the "Contributions of Dalits to Indian literature", organised by Dr K Ayyappa Panicker
Foundation, in honour of the late Malayalam poet and scholar. Quoting from Kannada and other Indian languages, Ananthamurthy said while non-Dalits could write about the Dalit situation they could not claim to represent the Dalits.
There had been several examples of non-Dalits writing on Dalit situation, like the famous Kannada novel "Chomana Dudi"
by Shivaram Karanth. But there was a kind of arrogance when non-Dalits claimed to represent Dalits, he noted.
When Dalits themselves write about their situation, it imparts to the literature a new strength and idiom. Some kind of a protest had been part of the Dalit writings, especially in Marathi since the time of Bhakti movement.
Often the spark was convyed through the rejection of the generally accepted "respectful" language to express their
"disrespectful" situation, he noted. A collection of poems of Ayyappa Panicker, translated into English by writer and journalist P Raveendran Nayar, was released on the occasion.
Former Kendra Sahitya Akademi Chairman Sachithanandan and former diplomat T P Sreenivasan spoke on the contributions and influence of Ayyappa Panicker to Malayalam literature.