Thursday, October 31, 2019

Most Important Dalit Woman Autobiography Writer

Baby Kamble (1929-2012) was an Indian activist and writer. She was born into an untouchable caste, Mahar, one of the largest untouchable communities in Maharashtra. She was a well-known Dalit activist and writer who was inspired by B. R. Ambedkar. Kamble and her family converted to Buddhism and remained lifelong practicing Buddhists. In her community, she came to be admired as a writer and was fondly called as Tai (meaning sister). She is widely remembered and loved by the Dalit community for her contributions of powerful literary and activist work. She is one of the earliest women writers from the untouchable communities whose distinctive reflexive style of feminist writing setting her apart from other Dalit writers and upper caste women writers (Ramteke,n.d). who gaze was limited and reflexivity incarcerated in caste and masculinity.

Kamble is critically acclaimed and known her autobiographical work Jina Amucha, written in Marathi. Feminist scholar Maxine Bernstein was instrumental in encouraging Baby Tai Kamble to publish her writings which Kamble had kept as a secret from her family. Bernstien discovered Kamble interest and her writings in Phaltan where Bernstein was conducting her research. She encouraged and persuaded Baby Tai to publish her writings which soon became one of the best autobiographical accounts on caste, poverty, violence, and triple discrimination faced by Dalit women.This auto-narrative chronicles Baby Tai's life story in precolonial to postcolonial India. It is deeply embedded with two important critical moments in the Indian history: freedom from the British rule and anti-caste movement led by Dr.B.R.Ambedkar. Thus, Baby Tai's auto-biography is just not personal account of a woman's life history but it is a deeply political and a critical record of the making of the nation from the vantage point of a very precarious social location. Jina Amucha public contribution is it is a nation's biography chronicled from the untouchable woman's point of view. It is also therefore a critical account the nation and its margins: lives of untouchables in a caste Hindu society.

One of the major portions of the book articulates caste and gender discrimination and multilayered violence suffered by Dalit women at the hands of the savarna (caste Hindus) and Dalit men. Kamble writes from an untouchable woman's perspective, not deterring from naming patriarchy in the untouchable community nor sparing the internalized patriarchy by Dalit women. This honesty and reflexivity has been largely missing in upper caste women's writings. Kamble also underscores how the caste Hindu women and men treated untouchables with contempt, disgust, and hate. This work became one of the most powerful and poignant auto-biographical writing in Marathi. The book was translated into English titled The Prisons We Broke by Maya Pandit and published by Orient Blackswan.

Baby Tai wrote several articles and poems focused on Dalits and also ran a residential school for children from vulnerable communities. She died on 21 April 2012, aged 82, in PhaltanMaharashtra.

Early life and marriage


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