Many of us have the privilege (and the audacity) to say that tragedies associated with Dalit lives are just news to us. We read about them during our morning tea or a passing glance to a news update on our phones. No matter what we say, the lack of knowledge among masses and representation in the society is disturbing and while we use hashtags such as ‘all lives matter’, we might as well come back to our home ground and survey and understand the scenario here.
Yashica Dutt’s memoir, ‘Coming Out as Dalit’ is a singular voice, controlling the narrative and yet, sharing it with thousands of Dalits whose voices are unheard and their sufferings, unnoticed. Yashica was raised to fit into the Upper Caste. Her parents changed their surname to a non-Dalit one just so they weren’t subjected to the taunts. But her Dalit-ness never really left her. When the awakening happened, it was a new kind of power, one that was determined to change the world for better, one step at a time.
‘Coming Out as Dalit’ takes us through the history of Dalit movement, Ambedkar’s teachings, and anecdotes that are gut-wrenching, both to read and process. Dutt has undergone immense mental trauma in order to hide her true identity and she goes on to say that it’s not just her but thousands of people who have to go through the same, throughout their life.
Yashica Dutt’s memoir, ‘Coming Out as Dalit’ is a singular voice, controlling the narrative and yet, sharing it with thousands of Dalits whose voices are unheard and their sufferings, unnoticed.Tweet
Women of the Dalit community are looked down upon, often abused- a thing the Upper Caste feels entitled to. The police brutality as well as that of the society is considered too small an issue to pay heed to. The memoir starts with Rohit Vemula’s suicide, an event that garnered enough media attention to make us aware of the caste discrimination that has penetrated into the very fabric of the society. She moves on to other stories, some heard while others, unheard of.
Yashica Dutt uses her memoir and her words to amplify these voices and highlights how a singular narrative will never bring about the required change. More stories need to come out, about years of oppression, and that adequate platform be provided for these stories to reach each and every member of the society. Dutt demands change and has equipped herself with tales and facts, ones that cannot be ignored anymore.
Blurb (as on Goodreads):
Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s tragic suicide in January 2016 started many charged conversations around caste-based discrimination in universities in India. For Yashica Dutt, a journalist living in New York, this was the moment to stop living a lie, and admit to something that she had hidden from friends and colleagues for over a decade—that she was Dalit.
In Coming Out as Dalit, Dutt recounts the exhausting burden of living with the secret and how she was terrified of being found out. She talks about the tremendous feeling of empowerment she experienced when she finally stood up for herself and her community and shrugged off the fake upper-caste identity she’d had to construct for herself. As she began to understand the inequities of the caste system, she also had to deal with the crushing guilt of denying her history and the struggles of her grandparents and the many Dalit reformers who fought for equal rights.
In this personal memoir that is also a narrative of the Dalits, she writes about the journey of coming to terms with her identity and takes us through the history of the Dalit movement; the consequences of her community’s lack of access to education and culture; the need for reservation; the paucity of Dalit voices in mainstream media; Dalit women’s movements and their ongoing contributions; and attempts to answer crucial questions about caste and privilege. Woven from personal narratives from her own life as well as that of other Dalits, this book forces us to confront the injustices of caste and also serves as a call to action.
Thanks to Aleph Books for the e-book. All opinions are my own.
This post contains Affiliate link. If you purchase the book through the link, I will get a very small amount of it.