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Dalit writers have been expressing their experiences, thoughts, ideas, and feelings about their lives in the casteist social system of India through their writings. Initially, they resorted to the genre of poetry and later moved to other genres of literature. Autobiography has been a popular genre of Dalit Literature. It places an authenticity of experiences of Dalits in the Indian Orthodox Hindu Caste System. Dalit autobiography is the most important tool of Dalit literature. They are narratives of the self. It transforms an experience of pain into a narrative of resistance. These narratives do not isolate the individual from his environment, family, community and society at large. Moreover the oppression, struggle, assertion and quest for identity of the narrator seem associated with the society. They are expression of the reality of human life in a perspicuous language. This paper tries to explore the relationship between literature and culture from a subaltern perspective, taking into consideration Dalit literature, especially Kannada. Kannada Dalit Writer Dr. Siddalingaiah through his writings gives a mirror image of the lamentable and desperate state of Dalits.
The history of Dalit Literary Movement is centuries old but the Little Magazine Movement around 1960’s and the motivation gained from the Black Panther’s Movement of America gave an impetus to Dalit writers. The movement started in Maharashtra and it slowly spread to other states like AndhraPradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. While analyzing the various type of Dalit protests occurred throughout India, the dissent of the Dalit women must also be taken into consideration. The Dalit women in India suffer from duel disadvantage, of being a Dalit and of being a woman. The sexual violence they had to encounter under the Zamindari system is distressing. One particular quality that makes Dalit women stand apart is that, amongst all the sufferings and humiliations they face, they stand united as a community. In most cases they are the sole bread winners. They do not look upon their husbands as providers and protectors. The perseverance they show among all the odd factors is worth mentioning. The indignation they face from the Caste Hindus and the domestic violence they suffer from their husbands in this patriarchal world are well reflected in the writings of Dalit women. The writings of Dalit writers like Rajat Rani Meenu, Kaveri, Sushila Takhur, Raj Bharari ,Tara Parmar; Meghana Pathe ,Bama and Sivakami were tales of survival and rebellion.
Ooru Keri shows that the Dalits have not escaped from the clutches of the blind faith. They are god-fearing people. Some of them are possessed by gods and goddesses, but there is no mention of the gods and goddesses possessing any non-Dalits. The Dalits are possessed by the specific gods and goddesses. They have to get rid of such phenomena because these are some of the reasons for their poverty and miserable life. Siddalinaiah tells us about many ghost episodes, but he says that he is an atheist now. He remembers: “By that time I had already lost faith in god.” (72).This is not the case only with him to be a theist in his childhood and an atheist in his later life, but it is with many educated Dalits. Another Dalit autobiography, Government Brahmana, shows that its writer, Arvind Malagatti, was also a strong believer in the existence of gods and goddesses. But, later on, he became a staunch atheist. Siddalingaiah`s autobiography indicates that he is a progressive thinker. His thoughts are revolutionary.
Ooru Keri begins with the description of his house. Dalits are outcast; they are living outside of the village. Ainoru are upper caste in the Indian society, they have a land, on the land they constructed a beautiful home with a huge well and a pumpset cabin. The water from the pumpset irrigated their lands. Ooru Kere reveals a social injustice, “Our People trudged to a flower garden some distance away and fetched water from the well by its side. I never saw any one but the dalits fetch water from this well” (Siddalingaiah 2). The upper cast people never allows draw a water from their well or pumpset, there was a separate well for dalits and upper caste people. In the early days, before the globalized, upper caste people exploit dalit. They treat dalits as a non-human being or like animals. Siddalingaiah narraties a painful non-human incidents, the Dalits children and women are watching a terrible incident, “A man had fastened a yoke onto the shoulders of two others, and was ploughing Ainoru’s fields. It was amusing to watch the two men trundle on like bullocks, while the third followed them swinging a whip and making them plough. A strange agony gripped me the moment. I realized that of the men carrying the yoke was my father. Some women who came to where we were standing and sighted what a plight have befallen poor Dyavanna!” (Siddalingaiah 2). The dalits had a bit of land or some time landless. The dalits should collect food from the Brahmin and Ainoru’s house that left over poori and chitranna(rice) and they collected Ainoru’s old tattered shirts and pants that his son had discarded. Dalits are illiterates; they strongly believed in the Goddess, they have a Mari temple in their colony. Maramma and Jaldagere Amma was their goddess, women were worshiped a particular day every week. They dreamed a variety of dreams, Dead grandparents, parents and brothers and sisters hunted them in their dream. Other interesting incidents depicted in the autobiography, Dalits strongly believed in others words, one day a holy man came to their village and predicted that a rain of fire and deluge would end the world in fourteen days. The next day they invite their gusts and relatives cooked their favourite dished and eat together. But he did not believe in that he said, “I must say the people of our colony took good advantage of this situation” (Siddalingaiah 5).
He narrates another painful incident that there was a drought everywhere, people struggles to get a food, some people offers ceremonial feasts to rain goes. The upper caste people believe that if they offer a ceremonial feasts rain would come, “During such feasts, the Dalits were made to sit in a corner. We were noticed only after people of the upper castes had been served” (Siddalingaiah 7). Siddalingaiah was a minute observer of the Indian society; he narrates incidents without fear, not only Indian society but the Government also did injustice to Dalits. Government has provides facilities to only upper class people, they enjoys political and financially privileges, he narrates “A tarmac road, laid by the government, divided the village and the Dalit Colony. On that side were houses of caste people. Buses plied on the road” (Siddalingaiah 9). The post-independent of Indian society is very cruel, Dalits don’t have freedom to walk freely on the road, touching of upper caste is also considered as a big crime. He narrated one of the incidents in his autobiography. When he was a child, he was running on the street at a wild speed, he had brushed against the clothes of someone coming from the other direction, that men stopped in anger and scolded him like anything but luckily his grandmother saved him. Every dalits should wishes to the upper caste, ‘Namaskar’ with two folded hands but they never wish or reply them. Teacher always exploits students, dalits students started chasing them out into the forest to collect firewood, and it was the job of dalit students to collect firewood to their master’s house. He expresses his feelings, “To me, roaming in the hot sun and gathering firewood seemed a hard task” (Siddalingaiah 17).
Dalits always exploited by the upper caste people. Dalits are great devotes and believes in the god and goddess, basically they scarifies sheep or buffalo. Siddalingaiah narrates very interring incident that how religious hypocrites exploits dalits in the name of god and religion. In the India history, dalit women always exploited by dalit men and the upper caste men. Women are like a machine to fulfil a sexual desire of men and upper caste men. She does not have respect in a society. The upper caste man is waiting an opportunity to have sexual intercourse with them, if they oppose, they will try to rape or sometime they will kill and throw their dead body somewhere or accused them that she forces to have sexual intercourse. Siddalingaiah narrates a painful inhuman incident in his autobiography, a women who had no husband or children, she used to drink heavily, she was around forty but looked bewitching, she went to work as a labourer and returned home always tottering and dropped off to sleep, “One summer night she lay on the street opposite her house. She was in deep sleep, and her clothes were dishevelled. A rough passing by noticed this went up close and squeezed her. She did not protect, and his love sport continued. Two others saw this and followed his example; she moaned in her slumber but didn’t resist them. Word got around and lots of men gathered, each waiting for his turn. By day break several from the age of fifteen to seventy, had enjoyed the free facility” (Siddalingaiah 25).
A Socio-economic inequalities and exploitation had been a part of dalits in India. In Ooru Keri, Siddalingaiah tells that, many dalits unable to repay of debits and heavy interest on it, some time they attempts to suicides. He narrates his own father incident, “My father had become a huge debtor. Bringing loans was, to him, as easy as drinking water. But he found it very hard to repay them. One day two men beat him on the street. He was wailing and trying to escape. The more he tried to escape the harder they beat him Terrified, we went closer. Some people managed to free him, and he escaped more blows. He was injured all over his body and his clothes were torn. Those two men were agents of the moneylender. They had assaulted my father because he hadn’t repaid a lone in time” (Sidalingaiah 37). He was unable to bear up humiliation, one day, he drank a poison but luckily he escapes and recovered from the death.
Sidddalingaiah was great influenced by Periyar Ramaswamy Naiker, once he was invited by Periyar Reception Committee to Bangalore; he delivered a lecture at Town Hall. Periyar speaking style was very attractive; Periyar began his speech saying, “There is no god, no god, no god at all. He who created goo is an idiot. He who propagates god is a fool. He who salutes god is a wild beast” (Sidalingaiah 91), he was mocking the stories of puranas. His main intention was to destroy the caste system in India, he encouraged inter-caste marriages. Siddalingaiah narrates the political suffering of the dalits and dalit political leaders. The Boosa episode, it was a great literary movement in Karnataka. B. Basavalingappa was a controversial minister in the Devaraj Urs cabinet; he once said ‘Gandhiji did not know the meaning of truth’, it amazed many people. Another occasion, “he said much of ‘Kannada literature was boosa’, meaning cattlefeed” (Siddalingaiah 94). This statement is the case for the Boosa agitation. The Dalit students arranges really in support of Basavalingappa to show the strength of dalits. D.R.Nagaraj, Ki. Ram. Nagaraj Kalegowda, Nagawar were great supporter to him but the rally was not successful became upper caste people never supports the Boosa agitations. B. Basavalingappa had to resign from his ministerial position because of pressure from the traditionalist, his political rivals and the agitation. His resignation made him very popular among the dalit classes. After resignation of Basavalingappa some students forcibly smearing religious marks like the nama and vibhuti (Ash) on the forehead of passers, if they suspected that someone was can atheists, they sought in writing from him that god existed. Siddalinga’s Ooru Keri narrates a social injustice and exploitations of Dalits and women in the post-independent Karnataka. During J.H. Patil’s Janata Dal government the same incident repeated but the government did not protect the dalit minister. The dalit minister B. Somashakar, a Higher Education Mister also resignation to his Minster post. The upper caste people simple file “falls Malpractice” case, when he was a studying LL.B.
Thus the literature of a community is a replica of their culture. The languages they use in the literature show their literary as well as artistic heritage. Dalit literature which is actually an outpour of the trials and tribulations of the outcastes, which is a testimony of the sufferings of the ‘other’, is distinct because of the so called colloquial and uncivilized language they use. The Dalit language goes against the established codes of a standard language which is considered pure and divine. This paper is an attempt to reflect on social injustice, humiliation, political suffering, economical suffering, and exploitation of Dalits in Prof. H. Siddalingaiah’s Ooru Keri, a Dalit autobiography. Which can be claimed as the autobiography of a community, one can identify how culture and literature of an alienated society are interrelated?
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