Envisioned as a coming together of voices from marginalised communities, and as a challenge to the mainstream literature festival culture, the capital will see its first Dalit Literature Festival early next week.
To be held on February 3 and 4 at Kirori Mal College, it is being organised by groups such as Ambedkarvadi Lekhak Sangh, KMC’s Hindi department, Rashmi Prakashan Lucknow, Ridam Patrika, National Alliance for People’s Movements and Delhi Solidarity Group.
“The main thrust is to rework the idea of ‘Dalit’. In the past year, we have witnessed a trend in the administration, government and judicial system to discourage the use of the term — to encourage an alternative vocabulary. But it is the product of socio-cultural struggle of the last 50 years or so,” said Pramod Mehra, a professor at IGNOU.
In August 2018, the I&B Ministry had issued an advisory: “… media may refrain from using the nomenclature ‘Dalit’ while referring to members belonging to Scheduled Castes…” In October 2018, DU’s standing committee for academic affairs recommended the term not be used in academic discourse.
“The word includes oppressed communities like adivasis, farmers, labourers, denotified tribes, women and the transgender community. Voices from all such oppressed groups shall be a part of this festival,” said Suraj Badtiya, a writer and founder member of the festival.
Writers, artists and poets from 15 languages — including Marathi, Gujarati, Nepali, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi, Telugu and Punjabi — will participate in 18 sessions over two days. “Large literature festivals do not invite Dalits, tribals and transgender persons… This festival is a statement that we have been written about by others enough — we write about ourselves,” said Badtiya.