Dr. Sharankumar Limbale: A Dominant Literary Voice Striving for Liberty, Justice and Humanity for Dalits
A Literary Interview by Capt. Dr. Arvind Nawale
“Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar's thoughts and movements inspired me to write.
The pains and pangs of Indian Dalits are subjects of my literature. I stand for human dignity. The world of oppressed is battlefield for me.”
- Sharankumar Limbale
The Present interview is published in my book Nation with Discrimination, ISBN 978-81-921254-5-9, ACCESS, NEW DELHI
Sharankumar Limbale (b. 1956), a well-known Dalit activist, writer, editor, critic and author of 40 books is one among the most renowned Dalit voices in India. Most of his writings are in Marati and translated into English and other languages. At present, he is working as a Professor Regional Director (Pune Division) of the Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University, Nashik. He is a good academician as well as a writer and he occupied so many positions till date. He is an illustrious writer and his writings mostly rest on the Dalit struggle and identity. He is known for his poetry, short stories and particularly for his master-piece, autobiography Akkarmashi (2004). His autobiography is written in Marati language and translated into Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Punjabi, Gujarathi, Malayalam languages. Anyhow, it caught the attention of the world especially after translated into English as The Outcaste by Santhosh Bhoomkar. He got many awards and won the wider acclaim from the public for his literary talents. His critical work Towards an Aesthetics of Dalit Studies (2004) is considered as a most resource book on Dalit criticism. He is a member of many academic and cultural organizations and many scholars did and engaged in active research on his writings. He won prestigious 14 awards for his literary and social contribution. His other books include Udrek [poetry collection], Bahujan, Zund, Hindu, Upalya,[ novels] Dalit Brahman,[ short stories] Dalit Sahityache Saundarya Shastra[ criticism] and so on.
AN: Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Please tell us a little about yourself. Who is true Sharankumar Limbale? Dr. Sharankumar Limbale, a Professor or Sharankumar Limbale a Dalit writer. Which Limbale you love most?
SL: Sharankumar Limbale as an author. I love my writing because of it’s commitment to the movement and masses. I am writing for social change. It is my responsibility being an author and born as dalit. I am tightly fastened with expectons of downtroddens. I can’t survive witout masses. I am not human being but a living weapon. I am a war. My writig is a battlefield. It is my noble duty to write for dalits.
AN: Who/what made you want to write?
SL: Thoughts of Dr. Ambedkar and dalit movement inspired me to write. Atrocities against dalit made me to react. My writing is reaction against brutal and unhuman caste system. Equality, freedom, justice, democracy are streams of my blood. I never tolerate injustice against common man irrespective of his caste. I want to see a beautiful Nation without exploitation, corruption and atrocities. From thousands of years dalits are neglected. Now we are aware of our rights and power. Dalit literature is a manifesto of our movement. My life is part and parcel of dalit movement. Movement is MY LIFE.
AN: You are one of the major voices in Dalit literature. How Dr. Ambedkar’s writing and thoughts influenced on writer in you? Can you say about your journey as a Dalit writer? Apart from Dr. Ambedkar, who else has made an impact on your writing?
SL: I am writing from my school days but it was an immitaion of high caste authors. It was not true feelings. I came in contact with dalit movement in my youth and I am changed totally. This change is new birth for me. It made me to march towards masses. But it is true the writing of Marathi progressive writers influenced me in my college days to think.
AN: What books have most influenced your life most?
SL: An Annihilation of Caste by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Golpeetha by Namdev Dhasal and Baluta by Daya Pawar. These books are search lights in my life.
AN: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
SL: I want to be an author. It was my lovable dream. But dalit movement made me dalit writer. Now I can’t write imaginative, false and entertainment literature.
AN: Will you please tell us something about your childhood memories? How was your parentage and bringing up all about? Is this background flowered writer in you?
SL: I have written my autobiography The Out Caste: Akkarmashi. It is published by oxford university press. Please see it. I have written everything in it. It is not an autobiography of a person but a social document of dalits. It is helpful to understand me as well as dalit community and its struggle.
AN: What inspired you to write your much acclaimed autobiography, The Outcaste?
SL: My different and defamed life story. Daya Pawar wrote his autobiography named Baluta and then Laxman Mane wrote his autobiography Upara. These two books are well received and debated. There was need to come forward and to continue this literary form. This was the beginning. I feel to place me on public front because my life has social meaning. It is the example of dalit community how they are harassed. I have written this book for social cause.
AN: How did you come up with the title The Outcaste?
SL: I, translator Santosh Bhoomkar and editor Mini Krishanan of this book decided the title. It is matched the original Akkarmashi.
AN: How your family helps in your writing,
SL: No.... no. they are uneducated. I took help from my friends. I had discussed with them when I was writing. This was beginning period. No one knows how to write and what to write a dalit autobiography. Daya Pawar was pathfinder. We followed him.
AN: How your family members react on your confessional mode of writing? Was there no disliking on your confessional mode? For example- You described in your The Outcaste in very frank language how you are outcaste, your childhood where you and your fellow Dalits were brazen out with grinding poverty and hunger as well as rank inequity by high-caste Indians. You described bigoted incidents in your public school where you and other Dalit children were expected to accept leftover food from the high caste children. You also were not allowed to draw water from public wells. You had to wait for high caste people to draw the water for you and pour it into your hands or cups. You exposed about how Dalit women have been either beguiled or forced into sexual encounters with high caste men. The high caste men, who think touching a Dalit might "pollute" them, never think themselves ‘polluted’ while raping a Dalit woman. What were reactions of your family and relatives after publication of book?
SL: At the first time of publication, I had been attacked by every one of my family and community. When my autobiography received and well debated I became a hero, then the resistance became normal.
AN: Is any distressing/embarrassing experience you faced after publication of The Outcaste?
SL: Before publishing the book only my villagers were known that I am an outcaste boy. Even today sometime I faced ill-treatment especially in marriage engagement of my children, but not in movement and social life.
AN: Are experiences depicted in your writing based on someone else you know, or events in your own life?
SL: Movement is person for me, friend for me, society for me, life for me and mother for me. I have depicted only the movement.
AN: Name few others that you feel supported you outside of family members.
SL: My friends. Suryanarayan Ransubhe, Nishikant Thakar, Laxman Gaikwad, N. M. Shinde, Hrishekesh Ayachit and others.
AN: Are you feeling optimistic about the possibilities for creating social change through your literary work? Do you think it’s important for writers to be socially active?
AN: What is your biggest struggle with your writing?
SL: Time is the biggest struggle.
AN: What are some of the unexpected and notable responses to your writings?
SL: The great writer Amaruta Pritam, Kamaleshwar, Rajendra Yadav, Ramnika Gupta, Alok Mukharjee, Arun Mukharjee, Hon. Sushilkumar Shinde, Ajit Kour are the persons who admired me always.
AN: You got many awards and won the wider acclaim from the public for your literary talents. That's really great! How have your life and/or your relationship with writing changed since such awards?
SL: No ...no. Awards are only recognitions. Awards can help to reach public at large but can’t change writing process. I am not writing for any awards. I am writing for social cause.
AN: With the growing translation of works by Dalit writers from various regional languages into English, Dalit literature is on the edge to attain a national and an international attendance as well as to masquerade a major defy to the traditional concepts of what forms literature and how we read it. What do you think about it?
SL: We have to understand caste system of India, and then we can understand dalit literature in true sense. But it is impossible for every reader. Literature is a mirror of society. One can understand the social structure of Indian society which is based on discrimination and inequality thorough dalit literature. No one can read dalit literature for the entertainment. It is a literature of social cause and for social change. Reader can know social reality about Indian dalits thorough dalit literature. One can take inspiration to struggle against injustice in his life. Dalit literature is a noble message to live and let live as human.
AN: What do you think of future of Dalit literature?
SL: Whenever there is caste system and inequality in society dalit literature will be there to defend human values.
AN: What do you think the future holds for a Dalit writer?
SL: We should think to rebuild beautiful and progressive India. We should work together to minimize the age-old gap between dalit and non dalits. We should prepare to ready for new changes because of globalization. We should talk on national problems. We should talk on population, unemployment and command man. We should talk on brotherhood and sisterhood.
AN: What aesthetic considerations should be taken into account in interpreting Dalit writing?
SL: I have explained in detail in my book Towards An Esthetics Of Dalit Literature published by Orient Longman.
AN: Is it appropriate to apply to Dalit literature, the criteria used in assessing the work of non-Dalit writers generally, and high-caste Hindu writers in particular?
SL: Why not? How can we compel literary critics to follow our parameters? One can use his criteria to assess dalit literature. It is another way to understand the dalit literature. It will help us to know other side of our literature and we should welcome our critics. This is the healthy way. We should welcome and appreciate our critics. It is the need to assess the dalit literature on base of art, but no one dare
AN: Your novel, Hindu translated from the Marathi into English, mirrors present-day conflicts in India and intensely demonstrates the negations within most individuals, their negotiations, densities and the plight of women who suffer gender discrimination regardless of their caste. Please tell where did the seed for this novel come from and how did you develop it?
SL: I have written trilogy. Hindu is second novel in this trilogy. I want good translator to translate this trilogy.
AN: What kind of criticism you longs to have on your writing?
SL: Very welcoming, encouraging and supportive.
AN: What are you working on now? What can we expect soon?
SL: I am writing in Marathi. Only Marathi readers can read me soon.
AN: Thanks. Let your pen run and should keep on running for issues around you. All the best for your future literary ventures.
- Capt. Dr. Arvind Nawale