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Tamil Dalit literature: an overview.

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Dalit studies in Tamil has its foundational stage. Historically, Dalit literature witnessed a rather late start in Tamil as compared to its counterpart in Marathi or Kannada. As a result, theorization of Dalit writing or a systematic critical corpus has not been developed yet. The author urges the literary critics to start a critical exercise so that justice can be done to properly evaluate the vibrant, multi-faceted, articulate and radically innovative Dalit creative writings in Tamil which we have witnessed in recent years.

 

The present paper critically evaluates the various themes and trends present in Tamil Dalit writings and suggests for certain curative measures.

 Dalit studies in Tamil is at a nascent stage. Critical reception to Dalit literature in Tamil is not rooted in a well-articulated critical paradigm. A nuanced, theorized reading of Dalit discourse is imperative in a context of impressionistic   responses and biased readings governed by caste identity of writers. Dalit literature witnessed a rather late start in Tamil as compared to its counterpart in Marathi or Kannada. As a result, theorization of Dalit writing or a systematic critical corpus has not been yet put in place. Such a critical exercise requires to be evolved at the earliest to keep pace with a vibrant, multi-faceted, articulate and radically innovative Dalit creative output in Tamil in recent yearsDalit voice  is a political magazine published in Bangalore, India that claims to express the views of the Dalit movement. The current full title is "Dalit Voice: the voice of the persecuted nationalities denied human rights

in literature could not find its distinct place in Tamil literary domain until late 1980s or early 1990s. The Dravidian politics that made its presence felt in Tamil Nadu, formerly Madras, state (2001 provisional pop during the nationalist movement and the subsequent coming to power of political parties consumed by Dravidian ideology in the period ranging from the sixties to eighties of the twentieth century led to an effective silencing of the Dalit voice in literary/cultural domain. The self-respect movement was an anti-Brahmanist movement founded in 1925 by E.V. Ramasami Naicker in Tamil Nadu, India. The movement has the aim of achieving a society where backward castes have superior rights, and advocated discrimination and persecution of Brahmins as part of of the Justice Party in the twenties and thirties of the last century sought to subsume

 

To classify, include, or incorporate in a more comprehensive category or under a general principle:  the Dalit category (categorized as Harijan at that point of time) into the backward castes. The benefits that accrued to the backward castes following an agitation for better representation in legislature and in the job sector were not allowed to reach the Dalits among the backward castes.

 

Similarly, the anti-Hindi agitation of the sixties, spearheaded by Dravidian political parties subsumed caste identity within a linguistic identity. It was a mass agitational movement but the linguistic agenda of the movement contained the caste frictions and divisions embedded in Tamil social, cultural space. Literature influenced by Kzhagam ideology, while foregrounding social inequalities and economic disparity did not allow caste discrimination within a homogenous  - homogeneous  linguistic community to raise its head. The Dalit voice remained submerged and Dalit consciousness did not find a favourable ground to break free of the Dravidian fold dominated by other backward castes.

 

The seventies and the eighties witnessed a generation of writers whose writings were influenced by Marxist ideology and were marked by experimental narrative structure and positing of debates concerning ethical, social issues that influenced "Tamil culture." The Dalit identity was subsumed, by these writers within a class identity. The Dalit was represented as a worker and his oppression in an unequal social structure was defined strictly within the paradigm of capitalist oppression of the working class. This was also the period when Tamil literature refers to the literature in the Tamil language. Tamil literature has a rich and long literary tradition spanning more than two thousand years. The oldest extant works show signs of maturity indicating an even longer period of evolution.  (novel, short story or plays) was increasingly invading the middle-class culture with its anxieties centered on honour, social prestige, women's chastity and erosion of moral fabric in the face of women entering the workplace. Discrimination of Dalits and social injustice   is a concept relating to the perceived unfairness or injustice of a society in its divisions of rewards and burdens. The concept is distinct from those of justice in law, which may or may not be considered moral in practice.  were discussed by a novelist or two but not with the radical force that characterize Dalit writings of the early 1990s. Poomani's early novels that were published between 1979 and 1982 were mild interventions that foregrounded Dalit lifestyle in rural society polarized by caste and social hierarchy

 

A fundamental aspect of social organization that is established by fighting or display behavior and results in a ranking of the animals in a group. . But, Dalits in his novels were not invested with a radical, Ambedkarite consciousness or organized solidarity. Their protests were largely individuated or marked by, interestingly, black humour

 

Humour marked by the use of morbid, ironic, or grotesquely comic episodes that ridicule human folly. The term came into common use in the 1960s to describe the work of novelists such as Joseph Heller, whose Catch-22 (1961) is an outstanding example; Kurt., that sought to subvert caste hegemony over their lives. Daniel, a Sri Lankan Tamil writer, whose novels in the 1980s, brought up the issue of persecution and oppression of Tamil Dalits in Sri Lanka officially Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, island republic (2005 est. pop. , left considerable impact on young writers in Tamil Nadu. Daniel, however, foregrounded class-strife as primary source of social discrimination. Dalits in his novels are shown to offer an organized protest against their landed tormentors but only under the able leadership of upper caste, Marxist comrades who vow to work for their upliftment.

 

It is only when the Dalits take to recording their experiential reality in autobiographical or fictional mode that Dalit literature managed to carve its own space in the Tamil literary space. The romanticized, sentimentalized Dalits of Poomani and Daniel find an authentic voice and affirmative presence in the writings of Sivakami, Edayavendan, Unjai Rajan Abimani, Bama, Anbadavan, Gunasekaram, Imaiyam and others.

 

Dalit literature in Tamil has many firsts to its credit. The first Dalit novel in Tamil written by a woman Dalit writer, Sivakami, was published in 1989. The novel, Pazhiyana Kazhidalum (1989) discusses the issue of Dalit leadership and point out pitfalls inherent in an imitative   model wherein Dalit leaders duplicate corruption and manipulative politics prevalent among empowered, upper caste politicians. The novel advocates the need for an organized, educated, Dalit youth that stands united by ideological commitment and sincerity of action towards empowerment of Dalits. Such a leadership, consisting of young men and women is projected as the novelist's vision to curb intra-Dalit strife and ensuring of social justice. This novel's significant contribution to Dalit literary discourse lay in its foregrounding of Dalit men's violent treatment of Dalit women at home.

 

Dalit patriarchy is an important subject of concern in Tamil Dalit literature. Sivakami's novel prepared the ground for a sustained critique of domestic violence and abuse of Dalit women at home by Dalit men--fathers, brothers, sons, fathers-in-law, brothers-in-law, apart from sexual and occupational harassment faced by Dalit women outside their homes at the hands of upper caste men and the police. In her second novel, Aanandayee (1992), Sivakami focuses on violent exploitation of woman's body and points out how the family as an institution is embedded in patriarchal, oppressive system that is blatantly unjust to women. Dalit women's sexuality (whether daughter's, wife's or beloved's) is violently contained and repressed. Sivakami was one of the earliest Tamil Dalit writers to draw attention to the dual oppression of Dalit women--on account of their gender and caste, at the hands of the upper caste men as well as Dalit men.

 

In 1992, another significant Dalit work in Tamil was published. The first Dalit autobiography in Tamil, written by a Dalit woman, Bama, was published and was warmly received by readers and critics. Karukku (1992) discusses oppression borne by Dalits at the hands of state (police), panchayat  council - a body serving in an administrative capacity; "student council" , the upper castes and at the church. Bama also highlights how Dalit women are oppressed further by Dalit men at home. The collusion of patriarchy with caste hegemony is a harsher and more unjust suppression of Dalit women as shown in the works of Sivakami and Bama. Bama's Karukku discusses various forms of violent oppression unleashed on Dalits, specifically on the Paraiyar caste. A significant aspect of this work pertains to the oppression of Dalit Christians at the hands of the church. Institutionalized religion discriminates against Dalits in direct contravention A term of French law meaning an act violative of a law, a treaty, or an agreement made between parties; a breach of law punishable by a fine of fifteen francs or less and by an imprisonment of three days or less. In the U.S. of biblical tenets. While Christianity, unlike Hinduism, does not recognize caste divisions, church in India is casteist in its dealings. Karukku depicts how Dalit Christians are not allowed to sing in the church choir, are forced to sit separately, away from the upper caste Christians, are not allowed to bury their dead in the cemetery within the village, behind the church, but are made to use a different graveyard beyond the outskirts. The Paraiyars who converted to Christianity in order to escape casteist oppression at the hands of orthodox Hinduism are shown to be greatly disillusioned as they are not able to escape cabinet oppression within the churchfold. Further, reservation benefits are not granted to Dalit Christians as theoretically, Christianity does not recognize caste. The government's reservation policy fails to take into account the gap between belief and practice and Dalit Christians face the brunt of it. Bama traces her personal disillusionment Angry Young Men disillusioned postwar writers of Britain, such as Osborne and Amis. [Br. Lit.  with the church and her walking out of a nunnery after seven years of stay as she found unjust, unchristian, discriminatory conduct of church authorities towards Dalit Christians.

 Bama's work points out that the church distorts the real image and teachings of Christ and preaches docility, meekness and subservience to the faithful while suppressing the radical, liberative teachings of Jesus. She hence urges upon Dalits to educate themselves, read the Bible themselves and recognize Jesus as a defender of the oppressed. Markku's Yathirai (1993) also shows the gap between biblical teachings and church practices. Dalit writers in Tamil place an enormous emphasis on possibilities of empowerment of Dalits through education. Education, they argue, empowers Dalits to rise above casteist codification The collection and systematic arrangement, usually by subject, of the laws of a state or country, or the statutory provisions, rules, and regulations that govern a specific area or subject of law or practice. of social relations. In Bama's Sangati (1994), Dalit women's dual oppression on account of gender and caste is depicted in great detail. Sangati is a feminist narrative wherein Bama endeavors to expand feminist agenda to enlist caste oppression as a subject of concern. Bama regards herself as a Dalit feminist and has emphasized the need for formula of a Dalit feminist standpoint. Feminist agenda has to eschew of its bourgeois, elitist .The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.  bias and evaluate Dalit cause within its framework. Dalit women face daily threats of rape, sexual assaults, physical violence at the workplace, in public arena as well as violence at home. Sangati strings together Dalit women's experiences in the language of Dalit women.

Bama's contribution to Dalit literature is significant in  Terms of Use are rules set up by the owner of an intellectual property or service to govern how they may be legally used.

 

In many cases, terms of service are used as a contractual agreement between a company and users of a service they provide.  of Dalit vocabulary. Her use of Dalit spoken idiom as her narratorial voice gives a distinct resonance to her writing. The author-narrator and the characters use the same non-standardized, spoken Dalit vocabulary. Her syntax reflects the speech patterns of Dalit women. She uses the confessional, conversational mode of narration in both Karukku and Sangati. Bama's writing celebrates Dalit women's lives, their wit, their humor, their resilience and their creativity. They are shown as hardworking, courageous women who work ceaselessly at home and outside and manage the household single-handedly when their menfolk  men collectively, esp. the men of a particular family  are rounded up by the police over trumped up charges. The community bonding, the solidarity among neighbours in a cheri (Dalit colony) are valorized. Despite dual pressures of work at home and in the fields / workplace, Dalit women are forced to put up with enormous violence at male hands. Dalit men abuse their women no less than the upper caste men, argue Bama's narratives.

 Bama's writing celebrates Dalit women's subversive strategies to overcome their oppression. While some act as shrews and overwhelm their alcoholic, violent husbands with their verbal tirade and thereby escape physical violence, some others wrestle with the men while a few of them choose to walk out on their abusive husbands. Bama's writing as that of Sivakami is an activist intervention. All Dalit writing is to be perceived as political writing, as a strategy of resistance to social oppression. Bama through her writing hopes to influence Dalit women readers to shape their lives positively. Her works lay a lot of emphasis on empowerment of Dalits through education. Bama's third novel, Vanmam (2002) argues for forging of better unity among Dalit groups and to avoid intra-Dalit strife.

 Dalit literature in Tamil voices concern over friction among the various Dalit communities. It points out that intra-Dalit strife strengthens the hands of the upper caste, landed class and the vote garnering politicians. Warning against the tendency to homogenize to convert into material that is of uniform quality or consistency throughout; to render homogeneous.  Dalits at large, thereby easing their distinctive culture and differences in lifestyle, beliefs, customs and economic position, Dalit literature, nevertheless, underscores the need to bury differences among Dalit groups and offer an organized, united resistance to social, political oppression of their community. Dalit writers in Tamil have made effective intervention in formulating innovative, radical experimentation in linguistic and aesthetic paradigms and have offered challenge to critics who are dismissive of Dalit writing on grounds of traditional aesthetic norms. Dalit writers experiment in terms of genres and expand the limits of literary language to include spoken, conversational, earthy vocabulary of the marginalized. Their use of folklore, legend, myths, swearwords render their narratives closer to everyday life. Dalit writers argue that their works require / merit an alternative aesthetic paradigm that is aware of Dalit lifestyle and experiential realities. The violence that pervades Dalit lives invades their literary expression and they trounce hegemonic, traditional, mainstream literary / aesthetic parameters and surge ahead to formulate a fresh, alternative, innovative, radical literary idiom. Such an exercise leaves its impact on generic as well as linguistic norms. Bama's Sangati, for instance, is catalogued as a novel in libraries but it defies easy categorization. It is a Dalit woman's history. It tells the experiences of Bama's maternal grandmother even as it incorporates Bama's and her contemporaries' experiences. It thus draws upon autobiographical as well as a community's history. It stands for every Dalit woman's history.

 It is a cultural biography of a community. It is also a powerful feminist narrative. Bama's "novel" is an activist intervention in literary domain and renders Dalit writing as essentially an act of political exercise.

 Tamil Dalit writers have employed various genres for self-articulation. In every genre that they choose to write they also make significant reformulation and render their choices as political, interventionist choices. Their choices have begun to leave a positive impact on mainstream literature. The short story has been used by Dalit writers as a powerful tool to underscore oppression of Dalits, their fight against their oppressors as well as to point out certain regressive anomalies within the Dalit community. The interrogative and self-reflexive nature of Tamil Dalit discourse renders it a significant pointer to contemporary social / political reality. Collections of short stories have been published throughout the nineties and thereafter. Apart from Sivakami's three collections and Bama's two, there have been many more writers who have brought out collections of short stories and continue to publish in journals and little magazines. Some of the short-story writers have written novels, poetry and plays as well. Abimani has brought out three collections: Nokkadu (1993), Tettam (2001) and Oorchoru (2003). Edayavendan has three collections to his credit: Nandanar Teru (1991), Vadai Paudum Vazhvy (1994) and Tai Mann (1996). Imaiyam's Mann Baram was published in 2004 while two of his novels Koveru Kazhudaigal (1994) and Arumugam (1999) had made a significant contribution to debates and discussions on Dalit discourse is Tamil Nadu.

 Dual oppression of Dalit women on grounds of caste and gender forms an important issue of concern in Tamil Dalit literature. This self-reflexivity of Dalit discourse stands out as a distinctive mark of Tamil Dalit literature. Poets, play wrights, short-story writers and novelists repeatedly foreground the gender-caste intersection in Dalit lives. Representation of Dalit women is an integral aspect of Tamil Dalit literature in terms of space and voice granted to Dalit women characters. Dalit women characters are portrayed as lively, vibrant, earthy, witty, hard-working women who have inner strength to face crisis and work tirelessly at home and outside. Their songs, dances, community cooking at weddings bring out their innate talent. Dalit women characters often outnumber Dalit male characters even in plays despite the fact that women's presence in theatre has been traditionally far less noticeable. A playwright like Inquilab presents a Dalit woman character as a Sutradar in one of his plays Meetchi (2003). Gunasekaran's play Bali Aadugal (1999) takes up the question of interlocking of gender and caste concerns most forcefully. The play depicts the conspiracy of priests and upper castes to offer a human sacrifice

 Offering of the life of a human being to a god. In some ancient cultures, the killing of a human being, or the substitution of an animal for a person, was an attempt to commune with the god and to participate in the divine life.  to appease the village deity. The proposed sacrifice is interrupted as the man whom they have assigned for the sacrifice manages to run away from the site. The elders then lay their hands on a Dalit and decide to offer him as sacrifice. The Dalit man, Uduman turns around to plead with the village elders to release him and accept his wife as an offer of sacrifice. His proposal is accepted and the Dalit woman (simply called "Uduman's wife") is sacrificed. The play shows the co-opting of Dalit males to patriarchal ideology. Dalit men treat their wives as Dalits are treated by the upper castes--unjustly, violently and arrogantly. By not allowing a name to the Dalit woman character, by naming her only as Uduman's wife, the playwrights points out that Dalit women are not allowed an independent individual identity and are perceived as wives, daughters, sisters, mothers. Dalit patriarchy allows Dalit women's subjugation  and perpetuates hierarchical relations within Dalit community.

 

Unjai Rajan's short stories depict how Dalit women get beaten up by their husbands at home. After a day of hard labour in the fields, tending to the cattle and cooking for a large family, the tired woman refuses sex to her drunken husband who bashes her up severely. (Nallum, Egiru 1996). Sexual exploitation of Dalit women workers at workplace and sexual violence at the hands of husbands at home forms a subject of concern in many Dalit short-stories. Abimani's short stories bring out the gender pressures over Dalit women and caste hegemony over women at large. In one of his stories, Abimani depicts a Dalit male's appropriation of an upper caste woman's body on the strength of his gender although he is restrained by his lower caste status in matters other than sexual. Dalit writers in Tamil, thus offer thought-provoking subtexts to gender-caste traffic in Dalit lives. Abimani's stories point out that the upper caste women are oppressed as well in a patriarchal society just as Dalit women are oppressed by caste hegemony and Dalit patriarchy. He thus argues for resistance to all modes of oppression and underscores the affinity between Dalit and women in general. He holds that the two groups should rise together against patriarchal and other oppressive social structures.

 Anbadavan's poems discuss issues like reservation benefits to Dalits and animosity of the upper castes towards Dalits on account of the policy of reservation, Dalit women's gender oppression and the need for Dalits to organize themselves to empower themselves politically as well as avail of their constitutional rights. His poetry also underscores that Dalits cannot always avoid taking recourse to armed resistance to counter orthodox biases and traditional forms of discrimination heaped on them continually over the years. "If one takes up weapons, respect follows suit", he argues in one of his poems. (Kavichi 2003, translation mine) He envisions that Dalits would affirm their rights and take their turn at the seat of power to challenge acts of violence by upper castes on Dalits. Dalit poets use fantastic, confessional, satirical, realistic modes of writing and employ conversational,. At times they also resort to sanskritised vocabulary as a political strategy: to appropriate linguistic hegemony of dominant castes and expose their hypocrisy in denying the right to learning to Dalits.

 Dalit women's sexuality is an important domain of creative / critical concern in Tamil Dalit literature. Dalit writers discuss the containment of Dalit women's sexuality from pre-puberty stage to menopause by family and caste-bound society. Dalit women are not allowed to attend school after attaining puberty, are subjected to sexual assaults by much older husbands, are sexually harassed or raped by fathers-in-law, brothers-in-law if they are widowed, are subjected to regular beatings by alcoholic husbands or abusive sons and are loaded with heavy labour at home and in the fields/ factories besides taking over the nurturing of numerous children and the aged. Almost all Dalit writers, in whichever genre they write in, depict a similar graph of a Dalit woman's life/career. Sexual assaults at home and rape at workplace or custodial rape are the most encountered experience of Dalit women. Dalit writers foreground such a sexually repressive and oppressive social structure that invades the domestic as well as prevails over the social space. Their writing calls attention to collusion of caste hegemony and patriarchal structure which seek to control a Dalit woman's sexual life and conduct.

 

The gendering of Dalit discourse in Tamil acquires a problematic nuance in Imaiyam's fiction. In Imaiyam's novels Dalit women are shown to be subjected to sexual harassment sexual harassment, in law, verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, aimed at a particular person or group of people, especially in the workplace or in academic or other institutional settings, that is actionable, as in tort or under equal-opportunity statutes.  by their male superiors at workplace. Poor Dalit women workers, like washerwomen are raped by the upper caste patrons and they are forced to keep silent so as not to lose their livelihood. (for example, Mary in Koveru Kazhudaigal, 1994). Imaiyam also depicts how Dalit women are forced to commodify themselves in order to stave off poverty and help themselves and their dependents survive. In his novel, Arumugam, Imaiyam depicts Dalit women who have to work as commercial sex workers in order to meet two ends meet but have internalized a moral value system that renders them torn between the ethical and the pragmatic. Their maternal cravings remain unfulfilled and often, as in the case of Chinnponu, meet a cruel, violent death at the hands of their clients over an argument regarding their professional fee. Imaiyam also highlights the poignancy of a widow who is torn between her maternal protectiveness towards her son and her sexual desire for a companion. The young widow seeks hard to repress .Imaiyam's Dalit women are lovingly portrayed. They use an authentic, colourful vocabulary, are endearing, energetic and very loving towards their men. But unlike other Dalit writers, Imaiyam adopts a moral, bourgeois stand regarding Dalit women's sexual conduct or for that matter regarding sexual assaults on Dalit women. He holds them responsible for their conduct/ for what befalls them without taking into account the unjust, oppressive casteist, patriarchal structure within which they are located. Women in his novels get hysterical over "loss of honour" and are emotionally dependent upon men and crave for male protection, even if only that of a five years old son. Imaiyam's critique of Dalit women's sexuality or moral censure of sexual attacks on Dalit women wherein he holds them culpable Blameworthy; involving the commission of a fault or the breach of a duty imposed by law.

 Culpability generally implies that an act performed is wrong but does not involve any evil intent by the wrongdoer.  instead of perceiving them as victims of collusion of patriarchy and casteist social structure is a dissonant, anomalies and dissent located with in Dalit community. Imaiyam also holds urbanization, migration of Dalits to urban pockets as responsible for loss of honour among Dalit women.

 The ideological position of Dalit writers merits attention in such a context. If a Dalit writer adopts a regressive ideological position, could he hope to work for liberation of Dalits? Can Dalit liberation gain from non-liberal, rightist right·ism also Right·ism

 What are the appropriate or pragmatic ideological affinities that would aid in Dalit empowerment? These are some of the critical concerns of Dalit critics and Dalit activists.

Literary criticism on Dalit literature in Tamil has largely been confined to issues pertaining to Dalit identity, self-articulation, Dalit aesthetic paradigms and re-readings of literary classics. The debate regarding who is a Dalit writer refuses to die down although it continues to remain a fruitless one. A Dalit by birth does not necessarily write progressive, liberationist literature (as Imaiyam does not). Critics like Raj Gautaman who has brought out collection of critical essays on cultural, social and political concerns of Dalit community, re-readings of literary classics, critical evaluation of contemporary Dalit writing has taken the position that Dalits and women as oppressed groups have to forge affinities and work together against forces of oppression. Writers like Sivakami and Bama also opine that feminism has to reinvent itself in order to integrate the woman question with the Dalit woman question. Feminists need to interrogate the middle class, upper caste biases in their stand point, comments Sharmila Rege. An assimilation of Dalit history and the struggle of the marginalized would help feminist theory Feminist theory is the extension of feminism into theoretical, or philosophical, ground. It encompasses work done in a broad variety of disciplines, prominently including the approaches to women's roles and lives and feminist politics in anthropology and sociology, economics,  to address the question of Dalit empowerment more meaningfully. Similarly, Marxist thinkers in India need to come to terms with the ground reality of caste and work towards a casteless/classless society. The influence of Ambedkarite thought is substantial and significant in Tamil Dalit discourse. Writers posit Ambedkar's call to Dalits to "Educate unite and organize" as a central statement in their works.

 

Dalit literature has gained a positive impetus through Dalit publishing houses and more significantly through translations. Dalit publishing houses like Vitiyal Pathipagam in Coimbatore undertakes not only publication of Dalit writings but also publishes translations of Dalit works from other Indian languages into Tamil. This traffic between Tamil and non-Tamil Dalit works through the exercise of translation is a healthy, positive intervention / trend in Dalit studies. However, it needs to be pointed out that Tamil Dalit works are translated less into other Indian languages. While Tamil Dalit writers have a better access to non-Tamil Dalit texts through translation their works have not received significant visibility in other Indian languages. This traffic requires a better balanced flow In Atmospheric Science, Balanced Flow is an idealization of atmospheric motion when forces acting on a parcel are balanced. Idealized, steady state Balanced flow is often an accurate approximation, and is useful in improving qualitative understanding of atmospheric motion. Many Tamil Dalit texts have been translated into English and French. A more useful critical intervention in Dalit studies would be a well-balanced Aadan-Pradan (mutual exchange) of Dalit texts in Indian languages. The cultural and political unity of Dalits would stand to gain positively through such an exercise. Sivakami has recently translated her first novel, Pazhiyana Kazhidalum into English as The Grip of Change (2006). Bama's and Imaiyam's novels are already available in English translations. More Dalit poetry, plays, short stories and critical debates as found in Dalit and literary journals require early translation. Dalit literary criticism has to reach out to a well-theorised framework to ground its critical readings. After nearly two decades of sustained and vibrant creative output, Dalit writers merit an ideologically articulate, theorized, critically nuanced reading of their works. Tamil Dalit studies has to chart out its critical course of intervention as a tool to aid Tamil Dalit writers' agenda of working towards Dalit liberation / empowerment through writing.

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