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This the Dalit autobiographies of 1980s are

This is exactly what
the Dalit historical narratives in Tamil Nadu has done, as it not only
criticized the prominent histories of the Tamil nation but it has also taken
its responsibility of letting the Dalit people know their respectable place in
historical period.

The Dalit scholars
argue that the history written by others does not have any trace of the Dalit
people. Hence they write their history themselves.  This presentation of Dalits glorified past
serves an important purpose by generating the feeling of being not a dirty or
impure community, but rather a community of having led lives equal to all in
the society.

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Apart from these
historical narrations, Tamil Dalit intellectuals have also attempted a
rethinking on questions related to power and culture, in particular on the
complexity of issues relating to common Tamil/Dravidian nationalism.1 The
notion of Tamil/Dravidian nationalism constructed by Periyar to counter the
challenge of the hegemonic Indian nation came to huge scrutiny from these Dalit
intellectuals. The Dalit scholars questioned the logic behind the construction
of this undifferentiated non-Brahmin bloc, as it left Dalits position
unexplained.

In fact Dalit scholars
like Raj Gowthaman have rather questioned the claim of homogeneity in Tamil
culture by arguing that history of Tamil land is and always been a history of
exploiter (privileged classes) and exploited (Dalit castes).

The Dalit literary
scholars questioned the claims of Dravidian scholars that classical Tamil
literatures are the epitome of the Tamil greatness. Rather Dalit scholars argue
that classical Tamil literature only represent the voice of the upper-castes
and very rarely the voice of the Dalits. This feeling leads an attitude of high
self-respect for oneself and for the community, which eventually leads towards
community laying stake at all the privileges that have been earlier excluded to
them by others. Tamil Dalit literatures ranged from autobiographies to the
publications of the works of the obscured Dalit leaders and intellectuals like
Ayothidass Pandithar, who has played a major role in the Dalit literary
traditions by founding the Dalits first journal, Oru Paisa Tamilan, way back in
1902.

Dalit autobiographies
are not only important part of the Dalit literatures but also a vital part for
Dalit assertion, as it makes people living with similar kind of social
suffering to interact and unite. However, the Dalit autobiographies of 1980s
are not the first time that Dalits have tried to write about their personal
life, in fact way back in 1939 Rettaimalai Srinivasan, a Dalit scholar had
published his autobiography called Jeeviya
Saritira Surukkam.2

Dalit autobiographies
are not only written in Tamil but rather in many other languages throughout the
country, but what remain similar in all these autobiographies is the mention of
the inhuman system of untouchability. Therefore these pieces of Dalit
literatures strive to promote ideology against untouchability.

Central to the Dalit
assertion is addressing and resolving the contradiction between the formal
political equality and the substantive inequality in the social and economic
sphere.3 But
this self-assertion by the Dalits is premised upon material and educational
advancement of Dalits. Caste clashes in the southern Tamil Nadu have
predominantly involved two communities the Thevars (a backward caste) and the
Pallars (a Dalit caste), whereas in northern part it involves Vanniyars (a
backward caste) and the Parayars (a Dalit caste). Dalits in Tamil Nadu have
predominantly long suffered from exploitative economic relationship and have
frequent been the victim of atrocities.

However, changes since
the early 1990’s have altered the economic relationship between the Thevars and
the Pallars and have changed the contours of the conflict. Having benefitted
from the state’s policy of reservations in education and from the income
provided by relatives working abroad, particularly Gulf countries, the Pallars
have become much less dependent on Thevar employment and have begun to assert
themselves in the political arena.

The Thevars have responded to this threat to
their hegemony with violence and Dalits too have begun to fight back.4 Like
most Dalits in rural India, the Pallars traditionally were employed as
agricultural laborers on Thevar lands and were usually paid less than the
prescribed minimum wages. In early 1990’s, Pallars began to enjoy minimal
upward

1 M S S Pandian, “A New Dalits Writing From
Tamil Nadu,” in Wages of Freedom: Fifty
Years of the Nation State, ed. Partha Chatterjee (New Delhi: Oxford
University Press, 1998), 294.

2 K A Gunashekaran, The Scar, trans.V Kadambari (Chennai:Orient Blackswan,2009), xi.

3 K. Srinivasulu, “A Valuable Intellectual
Resource on Dalits Writing,” Economic and
Political Weekly 46, no.36 (2011): 31.

4 M S S Pandian, “Dalits Assertion in Tamil
Nadu: An Explanatory Note,” Journal of
Indian School of Political Economy 2, no. 3-4(2000): 502.

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