Dalit autobiographies written in the late 1990s retain the belligerence and the anger of the autobiographies written in 1980s yet they turn overtly self-conscious in their expression and attitude. They belong to what may be termed as the late phase of post-Ambedkarite aesthetics of dalit expression or ‘post-Ambedkarite aesthetics II’. During this phase dalit expression is no longer as spontaneous and organic as it seems to have been influenced by a host of other ‘extraneous’ considerations.
First there is an underlying desire to sound positive, affirmative and autonomous. Instead of decrying their wretched destinies vis-a-vis the privileged position of the upper caste people, the dalit protagonists tend to assert their different predicament. Dalithood is not to be camouflaged, nor is it to be denied. During the late-90s, many of the dalits, who earlier lifted surnames of the upper-castes to conceal their low-caste status, flaunt their low-castes by retaining them in their surnames.
Of late dalit autobiographers even while they complain of social discrimination and exploitation, make an all out effort to uphold their distinct identity.Second, dalit expression appears to be derivative in the autobiographies of post-90s. As dalit autobiographies appear in other Indian languages such as Hindi, Punjabi, Kannada etc., the primary impetus comes from the Marathi ones. While Marathi autobiographies of 1970s provide the basic model, the autobiographies in other languages remain at best derivative and therefore far less authentic in terms of the honesty of expression. Not only highly educated dalit – teachers, professors and bureaucrats – enter into the ‘business’ of writing their own life-narratives, they seem to thrive and cash on new found academic support, sustenance and sponsorships. In the Ambedkarite phase, many Marxist and progressive writers and thinkers collaborated a lot towards the dalit enterprise; in the post-Mandal phase, dalits continue to have the intellectual support from the much-hyped subaltern historiographers.
Kishore Kale’s Kolhatyache Por (1994), Prem Gorkhey’s Gair107