In the words and images of the dalit woman lies the untold histories of anti-caste struggles, resistance, strength and intelligence in surviving odds which few other humans experience. That she survives is not the marker, that she dreams and works for a better life, for herself and her offsprings despite and against the storm of negative forces -is the celebration of her fighting spirit. She is pitted against all institutions like an alien individual, who has to first make herself visible to the unseeing eye, state her rights to the deaf ears and keep up a sustained battle with the institution, for it to deliver -be it education, law, health, housing or any other. The dalit woman rag picker, the flower seller, the stone quarry worker, the construction laborer, the sex worker, the panchayat leader or the urban homemaker are all bound by one single dream -a dignified living. They all dream of a world that treats their children better than it does them. They have a vision of an egalitarian tomorrow.
This vast democracy, its policies on education, its long line of thinkers and educators have only this to offer the dalit women -lowest literacy rates. Thus, a large chunk of dalit women’s articulation is accessible only in the oral form. A form that is so easy to ignore, so very easy to step in and be her interpreter, become her ‘saviour’. And proceed to develop one sided theories on her victimhood, secure in the knowing that she is not going to challenge its content from the same platforms. These theories inform policy formulation without the dalit woman’s actual participation in it. Policies are put in place for her, like she is a commodity to be managed, controlled and pacified for a short time, when the world proceeds conducting its other important businesses of keeping things normal for the ruling classes. To wait for institutional education to empower her, means a wait of several generations, which in turn will increase the lag between upper caste Indian women and dalit women, which also means accumulation of several more entangled policies, that would require the dalit woman to unentangle. This takes away enormous amount of her energy which could be better used towards her community’s needs.
Both, the ignoring and misinterpretation of her words and actions has to be tackled simultaneously. This trampeling of her articulation has to change and it has to change fast.
When I discard institutions for their snail like pace in responding to her articulation, what alternatives are there?
Technology? Technology that readily and faithfully records and transcribes the dalit woman’s articulation against exploitation and engraves her direct demands for a better society -without mediation by others. Wondering how…..
Photo courtesy Jitendra Kumar Jatav’s album, Faces.