5 Books to Read in order to understand Indian Caste and Privileges

Ishika Aggarwal
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books on caste system in india

There is no time to ignore the caste divide prevailing in the country, and to understand more about it, here are the essential readings that you must refer to!


 

Now is not the time to ignore the intersection of caste divide with other crimes and issues. We have recently seen one of the most brutal rapes cases, where 4 Thakur men (Upper Caste) allegedly raped a 19-year-old Dalit girl and the way authorities have been treating the whole case only emphasises that there is a caste issue, that is being involved in the narrative of the case. Other such examples may include incidents of Brahmanic oppression, the work roles assigned and associated with the members of the Dalit community. Them being given a lower social order in the class structure makes them vulnerable to being subjugated to the oppression of the upper caste. Their long-lived history has shown the same and hence, to understand why caste matters, we need to read about the scholarly texts that take a look around the Indian Caste and Privileges.

 

5 Books to Read in order to understand Indian Caste and Privileges

 

1. B. R. Ambedkar’s Caste in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development

It won’t be wrong to say that the author of the book, Caste in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development was among the early members who started campaigning against the social discrimination in India and strived for equal rights for Dalits, women and labourers. Caste in India was a paper written by Ambedkar, describing the social phenomenon strategising how Brahmins adopted the endogamous matrimony and imposed their self proclaimed elitism. For Ambedkar, “the superposition of endogamy on exogamy means the creation of caste” as what he has written in his book. While Caste in India is one basic book, there are other readings on caste and privileges by Ambedkar including Annihilation of Caste, Who were the Shudras, The Untouchables are to name a few.

Read more: 7 Highly Recommended  Books on  Indian Politics, thank us later!

2. Om Prakash Valmiki’s Joothan

Joothan is an autobiography of Om Prakash Valmiki, an Indian writer and poet who is known for his milestone in the Dalit Literature. Joothan is his own account of dealing with caste oppression in independent India. His account gives a detailed idea of what it is like to be a member of the suppressed community. It is the first autobiographical account in Hindi Literature and it was translated in English by Arun Prabhas Mukherjee. In his account, Valmiki has beautifully emphasised on what is caste and what education means to the underprivileged.

3. Urmila Pawar, The Weave of My Life: A Dalit Woman’s Memoirs

Nothing would be better to know Dalit stories from Dalit Women’s perspective. Urmila Pawar is one of the prominent figures of feminist movements and Dalit rights movements in India and so is what is being reflected by her work The Weave of My Life: A Dalit Woman’s Memoirs. The book is in Marathi, and she takes the reader through her life over the decades from her childhood to her conversion to Buddhism, going to Bombay and joining the emancipating Dalit Movement.

4. Viramma with Josiane Racine and Jean Luc Racine, Viramma: Life of an Untouchable

Viramma: Life of an Untouchable is a collaborative biographical project. Written by Viramma with inputs of Josiane Racine and Jean Luc Racine, 1998, the book is  based on the life of a Tamil Dalit Woman, it is a part ethnography, part biography conducted by France based ethnographers. Even though it was first published in French and then later, was translated in English, the book is there, in this list because it highlights the struggles of being a Dalit woman and how female Dalit voices are yet not getting spaces in the political and social setup.

5. Poisoned Bread: Translations from Modern Marathi Dalit Literature, ed. Arjun Dangle

Prisoned Bread is a collection of the First Anthological account of Dalit Literation. It is a collection of contributions of more the eighty writers all notable for Dalit Literature and Dalit Rights Movement. The book edited by Arjun Dangle is an internationally acclaimed Marathi – Dalit Literature including poetry, fictions, autobiographical accounts, critical essays and non-fiction write-ups.

These are a few books handpicked from the Dalit Literature that every Indian must read to understand the caste and politics around the caste-based classification. Hope these will enlighten you. Happy Reading.

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