Inspired by Black History Month, a group of Dalit women in India decided to start celebrating April as Dalit History Month – to reclaim the agency that Dalits had been stripped off. In honour of Dalit History month, followers of BR Ambedkar commemorate Dalit voices that have been silenced far too long, and shine some light on the lived experiences of the marginalised. This initiative aspires to debunk caste bias and attempts to quash a mindset that pushes ostracised minority communities to the periphery.

Poetry: Love After Babel & Other Poems, Chandramohan S

This politically charged anthology of poems by Dalit poet Chandramohan S fosters a sense of solidarity among the marginalised groups of India. The poems explore national silence towards gendered violence, the beef controversy, the exclusion of women of minority groups from mainstream feminist discourse, and other concerns that require our immediate scrutiny. The poems are direct, often metaphorical, bear no trace of ambiguity, and revolve around caste-based atrocities committed against Dalits. They also address other instances of prejudice, like Islamophobia, which we are battling every day. Love After Babel & Other Poems examines the ever-changing structure of society and delves into age-old dynamics that disfavour the marginalised.

Poetry: Days Will Come Back, Kamal Dev Pall, translated from the Punjabi by Rajinder Azad

This is the first Punjabi Dalit poetry collection to be translated into English. Punjab for the most part is rendered by popular imagination as a lush, fertile land, abounding in prosperity. This image, which has further been bolstered by cinematic narratives, strategically excludes the Dalit voices that have significantly shaped Punjab. Days Will Come Back introduces us to the crucial role Dalits played in the history of the region and how the prosperity of the state has been shaped by Dalit love, labour, and aspirations. Pall reiterates that Dalit literature, which is rife with hope and literary and intellectual splendour, has been wrongfully relegated to an inferior position.

Poetry: A Current of Blood, Namdeo Dhasal, translated from the Marathi by Dilip Chitre

Namdeo Dhasal, the nonconformist Marathi poet, barely received any formal education. But that did not deter him from becoming a poet of the highest calibre. In this collection, Dhasal doesn’t sugarcoat the current political reality of Dalits. The aggression in his poems is almost tangible and mirrors the poet’s personal encounters with the brutalities of casteism. At times Dhasal goes back to Ambedkar and asks for his forgiveness for idolising him, as Ambedkar was not a fan of idolatry. Brimming with justified rage, Dhasal hopes for a time when oppressive social hierarchies will be invalidated and humanity will prosper free of caste prejudices.

Fiction: The Runaway Boy, Manoranjan Byapari, translated from the Bengali by V Ramaswamy

Semi-autobiographical in nature, The Runaway Boy chronicles the life of Jibon – a Dalit boy displaced by the Partition. Jibon is the representative of a major swathe of our population that lives and dies in poverty, is mercilessly exploited by the powerful, and never given a shot at redemption. Jibon’s life at a refugee camp after Partition is harrowing, where access to even a fistful of rice is a privilege not everyone can afford. When he is barely a teenager, he runs away to Calcutta to strive for a better future. But given his Namashudra caste identity, his is a life that refuses to converge with hope.

Fiction: Thunderstorm: Dalit Stories, Ratan Kumar Sambharia, translated from the Hindi by Mridul Bhasin

Sambharia’s anthology of fifteen short stories sheds light on the various facets of the Dalit community. Unsettling, ironic, and dreary, Thunderstorm reflects the barbarous injustices doled out to the lower castes and how reluctant we are to rectify our own prejudices. There’s no respite for the marginalised in the world Sambharia portrays – here poverty and greed surpass blood ties, money defines the equation between the oppressor and the oppressed. Despite all the wretchedness, love and integrity make an appearance once in a while, making us believe that nevertheless, humanity will persist.

Fiction: Seasons of the Palm, Perumal Murugan, translated by from the Tamil by V Geetha

Murugun’s protagonist Shorty is a farmhand for a powerful landlord who spends his days herding sheep and tilling fields. There are fleeting moments of happiness he experiences amidst nature and in the company of his friends, but for an “untouchable” boy like him, misfortunes and hunger are always lurking in the corner. The lives of Shorty and his friends stand in sharp contrast to those of the children of the upper caste who have imbibed an authoritarian and casteist attitude from their feudal parents. Seasons of the Palm is a grim portrayal of the relentless degradation that the Dalit community experiences at the hands of the upper castes.

Memoir: Strike a Blow to Change the World, Eknath Awad, translated from the Marathi by Jerry Pinto

Dalit Mang activist, Eknath Awad’s autobiography, Strike A Blow To Change The World, captures the stories of humiliation the Mangs are subjected to by the upper castes. Awad speaks about his own struggles in a caste-based society, how he achieved an education despite being born in abject poverty, and his motive behind joining the Dalit Panthers. He revisits his days of activism, which include spearheading the Land Rights Movement and working with an NGO doing advocacy work for Adivasis. Awad is candid about his own failings and freely accepts his propensity for resorting to violence while settling disputes. He also talks about his decision to return to Marathwada and continue fighting against discriminatory politics.

Memoir: Coming Out As Dalit, Yashica Dutt

Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s death in 2016 triggered a series of crucial conversations about caste and caste-based violence. At that very moment, Yashica Dutt, a journalist living in New York, decided to stop living a lie and finally come to terms with her identity as a Dalit woman. Up until then she had hidden her caste identity from her friends and colleagues even though she experienced the guilt of denying her history and lived experiences of her ancestors. Weaving together personal anecdotes along with the experiences of other Dalits, Dutt focuses on her community’s lack of access to quality education, Dalit women’s movements and their contributions, and the dearth of Dalit representation in mainstream media.

Memoir: Untouchables: My Family’s Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India, Narendra Jadhav

Narendra Jadhav’s memoir tells the awe-inspiring story of his family’s struggle for equality and justice in caste-plagued India. He writes about his father’s refusal to please the oppressor as he raises his voice against bigotry by trying to forge a dignified future for his children – an aspiration that continues to burden the Dalit community. Based on the author’s father’s diary entries and stories, Untouchables is a story of courage, resilience, and, above everything, love. Jadhav sheds light on his parents’ world and doesn’t shy away from depicting the bleak reality of the Dalits – their hunger, fear, and daily endurance of abuse.

Non-fiction: Dalits and the Making of Modern India, Chinnaiah Jangam

Thematically divided into three parts, the book looks at nationalism through the Dalit lens. It challenges the monolithic concept of nation that has been popularised by caste Hindus and sheds light on how despite the stigma attached to their identity, Dalits negotiate and work towards fashioning their own identity. Just like any other community, the Dalits are imperative to the politics and making of India. Jangam zooms in on the world of the Dalit intellectuals whose work and activism have forever changed the definitions of nation and nationhood. Through Telugu Dalit writings and how they engage with our sociopolitical landscape, Dalit and the Making of Modern India urges readers to examine their inherited caste privileges.

Non-fiction: Dalit Panthers: An Authoritative History, JV Pawar, translated from the Marathi Rakshit Snawane

Pawar’s book is a firsthand account of how and why the Dalit Panthers came into being in Maharashtra. Pawar analyses its reach and takes us back to the formative years of this unprecedented anti-caste movement. As one of the founding members of the Dalit Panthers and a general secretary of the group, Pawar has been responsible for maintaining all the correspondence and documentation. Dalit Panthers brings to the fore caste-based atrocities that have gone unnoticed. The book offers an indispensable take on the fanaticism of the upper castes, including valuable insights for Bahujan activists.

Non-fiction: We Also Made History: Women in the Ambedkarite Movement, Urmila Pawar and Meenakshi Moon, translated from the Marathi by Wandana Sonalkar

We Also Made History documents the lives of more than forty Dalit women and bears testimony to their fortitude and unwavering resolve to dismantle structural inequality against the Dalits. Originally published in Marathi, it delineates the legacy of Dalit women leaders whose contributions haven’t earned the acknowledgement they deserve. The book encapsulates their position in the domestic sphere, how they stood tall in the face of social stigma, and toiled to bring radical change. Pawar and Moon traversed Maharashtra tracking women who had front row seats to Ambedkar’s movement. Drawing on periodicals and personal correspondence, this contemporary classic extends to Dalit women a recognition that has been long overdue.