Caste is not unique to India, and no country, no matter how fundamental to its reality, should be confined to a single social group. Nonetheless, understanding India necessitates an understanding of caste. It is not only one of India’s most visible social aspects; it is also at the root of many of the country’s past and contemporary schisms. We have curated this list to unlearn and relearn history through the lens of caste.
1) Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand
This work, written by a prominent Indian writer in English and published in 1935, is a widely taught classic. It depicts a day in the life of Bakha, a Dalit manual scavenger who, in frequently florid language, sadly ruminates on his fate. Bakha notably attends a conference when Gandhi arrives towards the end of the tale. Nonetheless, it raises important considerations regarding how a fictional Dalit life is depicted in English literature.
2) Why I Am Not a Hindu by Kancha Illaiah
This book, which was released in 1996, is a mix of autobiography, ethnography, political analysis, and polemics. Part of his startling contention is that dalitbahujans’ social and cultural activities are so different from upper caste Hindus that they can’t be called Hindus at all. He intends to disprove hindutva, or Hindu fanaticism, with this claim.
It had a huge impact on the introduction of the dalitbahujan concept. Iliah defines dalitbahujan as a social group made up of Dalits and non-Dalit castes immediately above Dalits.
3) Annihilation of Caste by B. R. Ambedkar:
This literature is required reading for anyone interested in learning about caste in India. Ambedkar’s speech Annihilation of Caste, written in 1936, criticises the caste system in India and its continuation by Hindu religion. In the same year, Ambedkar released the lecture as a book, which went on to become a seminal text on the subject.
4) Savitribai Phule and I by Sangeeta Mulay:
Shabari, a young Dalit girl, reads Savitribai Phule’s diary in this book. Reading this motivates her to rethink her path and pursue other opportunities, despite the fact that she is a first-generation student in a world dominated by individuals with more resources. Savitribai’s political enlightenment causes her to question the duplicity of individuals who pretend to be progressive.
5) Coming Out As Dalit - Yashica Dutt
Yashica Dutt writes about her 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, and the paucity of Dalit voices in mainstream media in this personal memoir that is also a narrative of the Dalits. Dalit women’s movements and contributions, as well as attempts to resolve key questions about caste and privilege. This book, which is woven from personal accounts from her own life and those of other Dalits, challenges us to confront caste injustices while also serving as a call to action.
6) The Adivasi Will Not Dance - Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar
Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar brings to life a cast of characters who are as robustly flesh and blood as the soil from which they spring, where they live, and into which they must occasionally bleed in this collection of stories set in Jharkhand’s fertile, mineral-rich hinterland and the ever-expanding, squalid towns. THE ADIVASI WILL NOT DANCE is a mature, impassioned, and passionately political collection of short stories based on real-life events.