Education Intercepting The Dalit Way of Being

Abstract: Through readings of Adhir Biswas’ memoirs – Deshbhager Smriti [2010. 4 vols. Kolkata: Gangchil] and Allar jomite paa [2012. Kolkata: Gangchil] – as well as Manoranjan Byapari’s autobiographical work Itibritte Chandal Jibon (2012), I study the importance of education in the lives of first-generation literate Bengali Dalit immigrants. I evaluate the journey of Biswas and Byapari from being labelled as “chhotolok”, towards becoming a part of the bhadralok social group, redefining what it means to belong to either group. I observe how education enables incorporation of these writers into the mainstream elite lifestyle and why this process of assimilation is riddled with difficulties from both ends. By briefly referring to the antagonistic relationship between the subalterns and the landlords in the Indian scenario, I note how traditional social markers of the colonial bhadralok are increasingly challenged in the postcolonial period by the non-bhadralok masses through unconventional counter-narratives. Furthermore, I discuss the role that education plays in legitimizing the position of marginalized people, such as refugees, in post-partition India. How does literacy change the perspectives of Dalit refugees towards their surroundings, and what significance does the act of writing hold for them?

Sarbani Banerjee
Taylor and Francis Online