Editor's Note: Naked display of dissent straddles the boundary that separates fear from revolution. For India's Dalits, this proclamation of dissent has assumed many forms, both passive and combative. It has mutated over the millennia before BR Ambedkar prodded the word Dalit into mainstream consciousness, and transformed anew since then. Some things have not changed — songs remain the sinew of Dalit protest in almost all its configurations. And the lyrics that sew these together continue to serve as a manifesto of resistance. The poems in this series, drawn from Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi and curated by Krupa Ge, founding editor of The Madras Mag, represent the prosody of contemporary Dalit literature. They are accompanied by Chennai artist Satwik Gade's illustrations.

In the 12th edition of this column, meet Telugu-English poet Aruna Gogulamanda.


I’m Aruna Gogulamanda and have been writing for a couple of years now. I write in both in Telugu and English and have written a number of poems in both the languages. As a research scholar, at UoH I chose “Select Dalit and Non Dalit Women’s Autobiographies” as my area of work. Choosing this topic made me understand my women and how they are treated in this country that boasts of treating its women as goddesses.

I’m from a middle class family — my father, an agricultural officer and a staunch follower of Marxist philosophy and mother, an orthodox Christian. I observed the women of Dalit ghettos whenever I visited my grandparents’ house and watched them toil to make ends meet and how they were abused by everyone around.

Later, when I chose the Dalit Woman as my research area, I truly understood the reasons behind her oppressed life. I saw my mother toiling like any other Dalit woman, though, we are a little better off because of my dad’s job, having big families to look after from both the sides. I saw my aunts who were scared to face landlords when they went out to fetch water and firewood in the fields. Poor, young Dalit girls were sexually abused and left with no other option but to surrender or commit suicide.

As women coming from the next generation, who have better voices and the strength to stand tall and express the multifaceted oppression faced by our women through our writings, we face acute criticism from men around us, including Dalit men. Men from our own community dictate terms to us about what to write and what not to, or try to peep into our personal lives and don’t hesitate to attempt personal attacks or to push us away from writing.

This is what made me write for my women seriously. Nothing much is done in bringing out the Dalit woman’s inner struggle and strong voice despite all the odds stacked against her. I penned my lines to present to society how unusual it is being a Dalit Woman. The Dalit Woman is the other for the whole of Indian society.

Indian Feminism, which has come out as a protest against the patriarchy of our society, has turned a deaf ear to the Dalit Woman’s pain, the suffering and the terror she is put though by the Brahminic society that has made her a mere object of hatred, desire and contempt. Her availability at fields and construction sites without any protection, in order to earn food and livelihood, has made her available to men. They make use of her physical self in every possible way and then discard her as an untouchable in the end. This hardly finds any representation in Feminist Literature.

My poems try to portray the ghastly treatment many poor Dalit women go through every day to make ends meet. The many, many atrocities against her that continue to this day in this country in the form of rapes, naked parading and character assassination and domestic violence made me write about her. I wanted to depict the differences and the extreme difficulties of living with caste stigma in this country.

The poem I am presenting as a part of this column goes like this:

ఆమెకు చెప్పారు

ఆమెను రవికవేసుకోవద్దన్నారు.

ప్రతీమగాడూ ఆమెను వస్తువుగా చూడాలని.

తన పసిబిడ్డల లేతపొట్టల ఆకలితీర్చేందుకు

తనకుతానే పావుగా మారిన ఆమెకు..

వంచిన నడుం ఎత్తరాదనీ

తలెత్తి నడవరాదనీ

ఆమెకు చెప్పారు.

తనపాకవద్దో, కామందు మండువాలోనో

తిండికీ నీళ్ళకీ  నోచుకోక

మానవ యంత్రంగా నిరంతరం పనిచేస్తూనే ఉండాలని

వాళ్ళామెకు చెప్పారు.

ఆకలికేడుస్తున్న బిడ్డకు పాలుకుడపాలనే ఆశను చంపుకొని

సలపరిస్తున్న పాలిండ్లబాధను

పంటిబిగువున దిగమింగి పనిలో పాతుకుపొమ్మని

ఆమెకు చెప్పారు.

పెనిమిటిపెట్టే చీవాట్లనూ,

యజమానిచేసే అత్యాచారాలనూ

మౌనంగా భరించి పడుండమడమే తప్ప


తనకంటూ ఓ శరీరముందని ఏనాడోమర్చిపోయిన

ఆమెకు చెప్పారు.

ఎర్రటి ఎండలో సూరీడు ఆమె రంగును దోచుకుంటే

ఆమె అందాన్నీ,సౌకుమార్యాన్నీ కామందు జుర్రుకుంటాడు.

దురాశ తీర్చుకున్నాక  ఆమెను అంటరాని పురుగువని విదిలించిపారేస్తాడు.

పీడ అనీ

వాడిపారేసిన ముట్టుగుడ్డలా అపశకునమనీ,


వాళ్ళామెను అవమానించారు.

ఆమె కళ్ళు

ఎండిపోయిన రెండు గాజుగుంటలు

అవిచెప్తాయి ఆమెలాంటి ఎన్నో కధలు

పొలాల్లోనూ, రోడ్లపైనా ఎన్నెన్ని వందల చావులు

కడజాతిలో పుట్టినపాపానికి తమ తల్లులూ పిల్లలూ చవిచూసారో

శపించబడిన జాతిలో జన్మించినందుకు ఎలాంటి మూల్యం చెల్లించారో  అవి చెప్తాయి.


రేగి, జడలు కట్టిన ఆజుట్టూ

అరకొరగా తప్ప ఆదేహాన్ని దాచని మాసికచీరా

మొద్దుబారిన చేతులూ

పగిలిన మడమలూ

యవ్వనం దోచబడి ముడతలుదేరిన మోమూ....చెప్పలేవు.

ఏళ్ళకేళ్ళుగా ఎన్నెన్ని అవమానాలు తాగుతూ క్షణానికోసారి వీళ్ళందరూ చచ్చిపోయారో

ఎన్నెన్ని భయాలతో, చీత్కారాలతో..

జీవచ్చవాల్లా చస్తూ బతికారో చెప్పడానికి వాటికి నోరులేదు.

ఆమెకు చెప్పారు

ఆమె మురికని



స్త్రీ దేవతైన ఈ వేదభూమిలో

ఆమె దళిత అని.


She was told!

She was told

Not to wear a blouse

To allow every male

Watch her as a device.

She was told

To bend her back, not walk straight

To fill the tender tummies, keeping herself a bait.

She was told

To toil all day long in the fields

As a human machine

Deprived of food and water.

She was told

To swallow the pain of not feeding her baby

Though her lactating breasts pine to sate its hunger.

She was told

To take the insults, jeers, beatings and assaults,

For being born a woman, in a cursed clan.

She was told

To take the daily thousand cuts

Of sexist remarks, acts and assaults

Of her man and master.

She was told

That she is bad omen.

A bloody sanitary pad, useful but a disgusting topic.

The relentless sun beats oh her

Her dreams, beauty and youth

Sacrificed in the service of the land, the hut, the master.

Her eyes two dry hollows bear silent witness

To hundreds of deaths of her mothers, daughters, sisters

Their dreams, respect and their bodies.

Her calloused hands, her unkempt hair

Her cracked heels, her wrinkled hair

Tell the tales of living through fears and years

Of centuries and millennia of violations and deaths.

She was told

That she was dirt,

She was filth and

In this sacred land of thousands of goddesses

She is called a Dalit.

Both, the original as well as the translation are by Aruna Gogulamanda