The Delhi University’s decision to remove certain works by two Tamil writers, Sukirtharani and Bama — whose works on Dalit women and their struggles have been celebrated by literary world — has caused uproar among sections of the progressive and intellegenstia in Tamil Nadu and rest of India.
Speaking to The Hindu , Ms. Sukirtharani, whose works Kaimaru (recompense) and En Udal (My Body) speak about injustices faced by oppressed women, said that she was “not surprised at all” by the decision taken by the University to omit her works.
She said: “I was not surprised at all. Dalit voices such as myself and Bama’s are speaking for all oppressed women, not just Dalit women. Our works have been included in the college syllabus of several states at an all-India level. I don’t see this necessary as an exclusion of just Dalit writers as we have seen how progressive writers whose works speak against caste, Hindutva, fundamentalism have also been removed in the recent past. These things will happen in our society, but we cannot be ignored. Our works have been translated in several languages abroad before it became familiar in India [outside Tamil Nadu].”
The writer felt that it was not correct on the part of Delhi University administration to remove her works from the syllabus without formal intimation.
“We should have been formally informed about why our works were removed. At the same time, we should also appreciate those who decided to include it in the first place. I am not going to seek an explanation. My work is for the society, for all oppressed women. My work Kaimaaru is about manual scavenging. We are sending human beings to space etc. but we still allow manual scavenging to continue in our society. When they want to project an image of India wherein there are no caste and religious inequalities, our works point out that caste and religious inequalities exist in our society. So, it is obvious that they want such works removed from the syllabus.”
Reacting to Delhi University’s decision, Ms. Bama said that she was “more angry than upset” and said that the anger would be reflected in future works.
Stating that she wasn’t sure which of her works - Karukku and Sangati – have been removed, Ms. Bama said, “ Karukku and Sangati have been taught in colleges in many States all over India and abroad. Sangati talks about life of Dalit women who stood against caste atrocities and discrimination, and it is about people who were very brave amidst oppression and violence. Karukku is an autobiographical work and talks about politics of Dalit people. For more than 25 years, it has been celebrated by students and many other people. It is not just my work which has been removed - works of Kancha Ilaiah and Mahaswetha Devi and Sukirthirani’s - have also been removed,” she said. [The DU had removed Sangati .]
She added, “For more than 2,000 years, we have been segregated, our histories have not been written. This government is trying to strangulate our voices, but we will shout. The youth of this nation have understood [what is happening]. Rather than being upset, we are angry. The anger will reflect in our works in future.”