A stage in our name

A translation movement seeks to bring the experience of Adivasi and Dalit writers to the attention of a larger readership.

Should Adivasi and Dalit literature be considered a separate genre in India? Beyond the merits of this ongoing debate, the question itself would today undoubtedly remain largely impossible even to pose had it not been for the work of 80-year-old Ramnika Gupta and her Ramnika Foundation, from Jharkhand. For decades now, she has worked to publicise the voices of hundreds of Adivasi and Dalit writers from across India. Not only were many of these writers previously unheard of outside of their communities, but with help from the Foundation's All India Tribal Literary Forum (AITLF), many have received nationwide recognition and even accolades. Among others, these have included Mangal Singh Hazowari, the noted Bodo poet and writer; Yeshe Dorjee Thongchi, from the Sherdukpen tribe in Arunachal Pradesh; and Jadumani Besra, the Santhali author who writes in the Oriya script. Each of these has in recent years won the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award, conferred by India's National Academy of Letters.

Set up in 2002, AITLF and the Ramnika Foundation have assisted in the publication of works in some 27 Adivasi languages, including Mizo, Chakma, Koke Boroke, Khasi, Jaintia, Garo, Bhilodi, Mundari, Ho, Kurukh, Kharia, Santhali and others. Given her long experience (in addition to her activist work, she has authored close to 70 books), when Ramnika Gupta is today asked to explain why Adivasi and Dalit literature needs special recognition, she translates a few lines of poetry in response. This particular selection comes from "Stage", written in a Bhil dialect by Vahru Sonawane, a revolutionary Maharashtrian Adivasi poet and also the AITLF's general-secretary:

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