Dalits writers cautioned against self-sympathy

TIRUCHI, AUG. 21 . Dalit writers were cautioned against getting engulfed in self-sympathy at a UGC-funded national seminar on ``the conditions of the oppressed and their emancipation in Tamil literature'', organised by the Department of Tamil, the Bishop Heber College, recently.

The tendency of Dalit writers to project their sufferings in their works was viewed as being counterproductive by Tamil scholars, who explained that it would not help the community to come out of their shell - of thinking that being under perennial subjugation is a way of life. Rather, the rich past of the Dalits in the cultural, social and spiritual spheres should be highlighted, they insisted, and expressed concern over the trend of emancipated Dalits to ignore the cause of their deprived ilk.

Christodass Gandhi, Managing Director, Tamil Nadu Warehousing Corporation, said unless Dalits shed their attitude of meek submission and equip themselves to stand up to their oppressors, their living conditions would remain the same. Submission was tantamount to giving a handle to the oppressors. He was also critical of the "escapist" approach of the administration in finding "easy alternatives" to the problems arising out of sharing of common resources in villages. Laying of separate paths, and earmarking of borewells and wells for use by Dalits, would only perpetuate the social divide in villages, he pointed out. He was circumspect about the contribution of non-Dalit writers on Dalits, where symbolisms of caste hegemony were clothed in their accounts of the Dalits' sufferings.

He, earlier, received the first copy of the book comprising compilation of papers meant for presentation in the national seminar, from the Director of the College, D. Swamiraj.

Sivasubramanian, retired Professor of V.O.C. College, Tuticorin, viewed the suppression of Dalits from political, economic and cultural dimensions. Citing instances of religious conversion of Dalits on their own volition, mainly for escaping from social oppression, he said creating awareness and making Dalits socially conscious of their rights can be possible only if writers of Communist leaning, Dalit writers and writers opposed the ideals of `Sanatana' dharma.

D. Swamiraj regretted the denial of educational opportunities for Dalits in established Christian colleges and spoke of the services rendered by the Bishop Heber College to the oppressed sections of the society ever since its inception.

The UGC released its funds, approving the topic chosen by K. Poornachandran of the College's Tamil Department. Y. Tennyson, Vice-Principal and Head, Department of Tamil, presided.