‘Returning an award is a privilege’: Dalit writer Manasa Yendluri
In an unprecedented manner, at least 33 writers had returned their Sahitya Akademi awards in 2015 as a form of protest against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government. But these ‘privileges’ are reserved only for the upper castes, said Dalit writer Manasa Yendluri at the Hyderabad Literary Festival on Sunday, January 29. Manasa is a recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar – 2020, for her collection of Telugu short stories, Milinda. She was speaking at the session ‘Writing from the Margins’ and was accompanied by another Dalit writer, Kalyani Thakur Charal.
“Even if someone gets killed in my own family, I would have accepted the honour. Dalits, whether educated or uneducated, never had the privilege of getting acknowledged or honoured on bigger platforms, especially by the government,” Manasa said, while recalling a conversation with a friend who had asked her how it felt to accept an award under the BJP government, which is facing accusations of increased atrocities against Dalits and Christians.
Stating that the Telugu literary world is dominated by Kammas, Brahmins, and other upper caste communities, she said that there are only a few Dalit writers. “So I would never return my award,” she said, adding, “I belong to a larger section of a community who were always neglected and looked down upon for centuries.”
Manasa said that her writings about LGBTQIA+ persons were her way of drawing attention to the community and welcomed anyone from the community to tear up her books if they took offence.
“Being a straight woman, writing about LGBTQIA+ persons is definitely a second-hand job. It is just a small noise I want to make about them through my writing. In the Telugu literary world, the upper caste men and women were writing stories about Dalits. And when Dalits emerged as writers, they threw these books out the window. So I also wish that someone would tear the pages of my LGBTQIA+ stories and write their own stories drawing from their own personal experiences,” she said.
Speaking at the event, poet and author Kalyani Thakur Charal, who belongs to the Matua community, talked about the poor representation of Dalits in Indian literature. Describing the inequality, she said, “It is like a relay race. Dalits have just started whereas the Brahmins and others are miles ahead.” She, however, expressed confidence that one day Dalit writings would become mainstream and the others would be relegated to the “margins”.
During a conversation with this reporter, Kalyani said that it was a very conscious decision to write books and ‘occupy’ the space. “We have to write about ourselves. We have to talk about ourselves,” she asserted. Kalyani has written seven books, including her autobiography, and published it on her own.
Courtesy : The news minute
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