Dalit Poetry

Yes, The Subaltern Can Speak- An Introduction by Huzaifa Pandit

Rahee na taqat-e-guftaar aur agar ho bhi
Kis umeed say kahiye ki aarzoo kya hai

No desire to speak
exists now, and even if it were to be
In hope of what should I speak
And let desire stray free.


Resistance, in its truest sense, is not merely a foolhardy defiance, and a reckless dissipation of resources in the hope of a moral victory. Rather it must be strategized and structured, and one effective way of ensuring it is stitching alliances. The tyrannized Kashmiri for example, ought to support the cause of the oppressed Dalit, and the Dalit in turn will empathize with the suffering of the Kashmiri, and in a similar vein, each subaltern group – Muslims, tribals, and farmers can collectively channelize their energies to create a new paradigm of protest that unsettles the foundational aspect of Brahmanical Patriarchy – divide and rule. In this spirit of solidarity, Kashmir Lit is publishing poems by two Dalit poets – Poems in English by Chandramohan Sathyanathan and translations of hindi poems by Anita Bharti.

Sathyanthan brings to his poems a unique subaltern empathy that allows him to engage with the marginalization of Muslims globally via the reified networks of Islamophobia. As the 2018 fellow of The International Writing Program, IOWA he observed the racial profiling, discrimination and well-oiled networks of anti-muslim hatred closely, and coupled with his own experience as a Dalit transformed his anguish into a series of three exquisite poems. His almost staccato verses eschew the heavy metaphoricity and faux-cynicism popular with the urbane English speaking class, and rather relies on an almost declaratory archiving of the mundane and routine that characterize institutional violence. A simple act as revealing a surname -so familiar to the Dalit, the choice of beach dress elicits a hostile ‘interrogation’ where the subaltern is forced to concede and confess a role in everything “from the Big Bang to the drifting of Pangaea”.

Anita Bharti, a Dalit woman poet, writes in Hindi about the marginalised Dalit experience, and the double subaltern – the Dalit woman. Translated by Nupur Jain and Huzaifa Pandit, the series of poems about a Muslim woman Rukhsana document the aftermath of Muzaffarnagar riots that broke out in Uttar Pradesh, India in 2013. The series of ten poems documents in painstaking detail the normative othering of the Muslim minority in India, as the state colludes with a brahminal Hindutva to uproot a people. The poems refuse to correspond to the aesthetics and richness associated with poetry, yet with their simplicity and plain nature provide a rebuttal to the hegemonies of academia, and the literary world that is often complicit in the censoring of narratives. Nupur’s essay that accompanies the translations provides a fascinating insight into the mechanisms of translation, and the processes through which a text is produced and disseminated. Huzaifa Pandit’s translations of the complete set of the series compliment the translations by Nupur, and provide a demonstration of production of alternate texts by translation.


Three Poems by Chandramohan Sathyanthan

Ten poems by Anita Bharti