In Conversation with Shyamala Gogu, Dalit Feminist Writer, Poet and Activist
An Interview With Dalit feminist writer, poet and activist by Eligedi Rajkumar. Eligedi Rajkumar is a research scholar in the Department of Translation Studies at EFL-University, Hyderabad, India.
Rajkumar: Could you explain about your educational background?
I faced terrible financial problems. I may have even died for lack of food and nutrition as we were very poor. Therefore, I felt it better to die in the movements than die in poverty. I resolved to join the movements with a purpose to work for the people without any caste consciousness. I was unaware of the concept of community and Untouchability. I was facing humiliations but unaware that these humiliations were a result of Untouchability. I have gone through huge struggles in my life and have never broken down.
Rajkumar: Do you consider yourself a Dalit feminist or how would you like to describe yourself?
Rajkumar: I heard that you were active in Revolutionary organisations? How long you were with these organisations?
Rajkumar: Are there any texts translated into Telugu on women’s movement? What texts inspired you?
Rajkumar: Could you explain about Dalit feminism? What are the major differences between Dalit feminism and the Dominant-caste feminism?
The question of reproductive rights and democratic space within the family system rather than subjugation of women is the central issue in the Feminist Movement in India. Women should be able to enjoy democratic rights within the family. Discussion on these particular issues was started by dominant-caste Feminists, yet the very reproductive rights, social productive rights always remained part of Dalit and also artisan community womens’ life. The position taken by Dalit Feminism is that these particular rights of Dalit women, and families in particular, are controlled by the Hindu dominant caste system. And this is going on in all the villages in India as the Dalit families work under them as labourers, since it is the Dalits who only have all the productive agricultural knowledge. So it is mostly Dalit women for whom the reproductive rights are necessary for their family, community and for social production for entire society rather than for mere Dalit Family.
Rajkumar: Dalit feminists fight against Brahminical Patriarchy. Could you elaborate on it?
‘As a Dalit woman where should I fight this patriarchy?’ is the phenomenal question that disturbs every Dalits mind in India today. Since now days, the Dora2 disappeared in the village in the context of globalisation. The enemy also seems to be disappeared. The patriarchal symbol ‘Husband’ too seems to be changing. Today in India the lands in lakhs of acres are being given to SEZs (Special Economic Zone) instead of Dalits and poor as largesse. Handlooms, cottage and community and village products and utilities have also disappeared from even the very villages and communities once used to be hot beds for the same. Pots are given up almost and plastic pots and utilities have become rampant. Who is the enemy then? Brahminical Patriarchy has taken the form of Capitalism, bureaucracy, judiciary, political parties even socialism and communism ideologies including Naxalism which includes Manu,3 Landlord, Brahmin, Bania, a Member of Parliament, Legislative Assembly, a Minister or Chief Minister in the Government or a big Contractor or industrialist in the private sector. It is possible to look at it purely from Dalit feminist perspective.
Rajkumar: What are the important issues raised by feminist groups, writers, and organisations in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh?
Rajkumar: There is a gap between educated and uneducated women. Educated women motivate and act as stimulators. Do you think women rebelled against their oppression in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh?
Rajkumar: What is your experience and observations on Naxalite parties in Telangana and Andra Pradesh?
Take the case of one such Brahmanical Hindu caste, particularly, the Kamma; Kammas perpetrated a massacre on Dalit Madigas in Karamchedu (a village of dominant Kammas with scores of millionaires) in Prakasham district in Andhra Pradesh. Reddies too are not lagging behind; they too perpetrated a massacre on Dalit Malas in Tsunduru in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. I am only questioning here how and why all the communist and Naxalite parties in AP and Telangana are being run by only those leaderships who hail from such dominant castes, the same castes who actually perpetrate all the massacres on Dalits. Can they ever follow the Marxian theory ... is it possible for decades together? In Telangana these Communist dominant caste leaderships ran a comprador ‘Vishalaandhra movement’ using Marx, Engels and Lenin’s names like a mask and looted the entire Telangana, its people’s jobs, river waters, forests, lands and each and every resource for more than 50 years since 1948 to 2013. These so-called Communists of Andhra are only an offshoot of the comprador ‘Vishaalandhra Armed Movement’. It is no wonder if such Varna-caste oriented Brahminical communist parties are ignoring the Mahathma Jyothy Rao Phule and Dr Bheem Rao Ambedkar’s movements and theories right from the beginning of the birth of such a communist party. And it is only for of all these reasons that thousands of Dalits, Adivasis and other productive artisan communities, both women and men, are being killed by the State. Many Bahujana people who worked with the party have died because of Kamma-Reddy-Karnam-Brahmin oriented leadership communist parties which are existing in the State from the time of Hyderabad State since 1946.
I must say that most of the killed in the communist parties hail from Dalits, Adivasis and productive communities. It is only Kamma, Reddy, Karnam and Brahmin castes who are benefiting from such communist and Naxalite parties in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in many ways like caste power, social capital, Business, and in many professions, education, opportunities from Abroad.
I also feel that wherever there is a presence of Brahminical Naxalite party, there we find the absence of Bahujanism, Mahathma Jyothi Rao Phule and Ambedkar’s movements and writings. Bahujan concept was also hidden and suppressed by the Left groups in Andhra Pradesh. There is no even Marxism in Andhra Pradesh. It is like Manuvadam continuing in the name of Marxism.
Rajkumar: What do you say about your recent translated collection of stories Father may be an Elephant and Mother only a small Basket, but ...? Some of these stories are already published in Telugu magazines.
Rajkumar: Why did you edit Nallapoddhu, Black Dawn: Dalit women writing in Telugu? This book can be one of the bestsellers in India if it is brought in English.
About shyamala Gogu:
Shyamala Gogu is a Dalit feminist writer, poet, and activist in Telangana, India. She edited the following Telugu literary works: Nallapoddu: Dalitha Sthreela Sahityam 1921-2002 (Black Dawn: Dalit Women’s Writings, 1921-2002, an Anthology of Dalit Women’s Writings in Telugu language from Andhra Pradesh during 1921-2002. It was followed by Nallaregatisallu: Madiga Madiga Upakulala Aadolla Kathalu (Furrows in Black Soil: The Stories of Madiga and Madiga Subcaste Women) in 2006. ‘Thataki’ (Thataka) and ‘Madiga Badeyya’ are two Telugu short stories written by Shyamala published as Wada Pillala Kathalu (Dalit Childrens Stories) by Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Hyderabad in 2008. The same is also published in English with the book titled as Tataki Wins Again and Braveheart Bedeyya by Mango DC Books, Kottayam, Kerala in 2008. And in the year 2007, when Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Hyderabad, determined to document the lives of the most empowered women, it decided on doing the biography project of T.N. Sadalakshmi, who was not only by that time but even to this day the most accomplished and most politically empowered of women from Telangana Dalit (Madiga Caste), and the project was entrusted to Shyamala Gogu.
In 2011, Shyamala published the biography of one of Telangana’s leading women Dalit politicians, T.N. Sadalakshmi titled ‘Nene Balanni’ – T.N. Sadalakshmi Bathuku Katha (‘I Am an Empowered Woman’: The Life Story of T.N. Sadalakshmi). This biographical work of Shyamala is based on extensive research and a series of interviews she had conducted not only with T.N. Sadalakshmi but also with her family members, numerous community leaders, contemporaries in power, politics, opposition, Dalit and Madiga Dandora Movement for ABCD categorisation for Sub-castes’ Reservation, and Separate State movement for Telagana.
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