Publishing and Disseminating Dalit Literature

Delhi University

17-19 December 2015

Local organisers: Tapan Basu and Raj Kumar

This conference was the 6th and last event organised within the AHRC-funded Research Network Series ‘Writing, Analysing, Translating Dalit Literature’. This conference was hosted by the English Department and the Centre for Dalit Studies at Delhi University, and followed on the first events of the series held in Nottingham and Leicester (June 2014), Montpellier (October 2014), the University of East Anglia (June 2015) and a workshop in Pune (December 2015). The focus was on the publishing, promotion and distribution of dalit literature. We invited papers on the politics of publishing dalit literature in Indian and European languages. We were also interested in exploring how dalit literature was disseminated to various audiences or how it was not disseminated. What were the obstacles? What kind of research was conducted on the market(ing) of Dalit writing by publishers or academia? Who were the readers anticipated by publishers and how did this influence which texts were being published and translated?

The conference followed a workshop format that included discussions with writers, publishers and keynote speakers as well as few traditional panel sessions.


Click here to see the conference flyer.

See below the list of abstracts:

Gopika Jedeja, National University of Singapore, South Asian Studies Programme

We are with your democracy, but…: The Politics and Location of Dalit literature in Gujarati publishing

In his critique of the recent struggle for the autonomy of the Gujarat Sahitya Academy, Dalit writer Dalpat Chauhan is unequivocal about his displeasure at the exclusion of Dalit writers from positions in the Academy as well as their exclusion from major awards. He also mentions the aid that the Academy has provided to other non-governmental literary institutions like the Gujarati Dalit Sahitya Academy for the publication of works on and by Dalit writers. The fact is that while the Gujarat Sahitya Academy may, in a small way, financially support the publication of Dalit literature, Dalit writers remain on the side-lines. Publication has been a struggle for Gujarati Dalit writers, with a large number of books being published and circulated privately. With the inclusion of Dalit literature in university syllabi, some main stream publishers do publish more ‘established’ Dalit writers. Within the Dalit community in Gujarat there exist complex social patterns as well, which leads to more publications by writers in certain sub-communities. Dalit women, due to lack of educational opportunities as well as a patriarchal structure within the field of Dalit discourse, find publication doubly difficult. This paper examines the politics of the publication and circulation of Dalit literature in Gujarat. It also attempts to unravel the positions of various institutions, state or otherwise, in the production and dissemination of Dalit literature in Gujarat. I will aslo attempt to engage with the reception of Dalit literature in Gujarat and its effect on the production of such literature.


Devika Mehra, PhD candidate, Jamia Millia University, Delhi, India; and Ruchika Bhatia, Assistant Professor, Janki Devi Memorial College, University of Delhi

Emergent Dalit Literature in the Graphic Form: Intervention in ‘Mainstream’ Literary Space or a Strategic Publishing Manoeuver

 With the emergence of Dalit narratives as graphic novels and illustrated works, a paradigm shift in the publishing scenario of Dalit literature can be seen. The paper is an attempt to study texts like Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land: Dignity of Labour in Our Times by Kancha Ilaiah, Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability by Srividya Natarajan and S. Anand, and A Gardener in the Wasteland by Srividya Natarajan to understand the politics of publishing contemporary Dalit narratives and the cause-effect behind production of such texts. By appropriating a popular art form as a mode of resistance, does it manage to break-free from and challenge the existing stereotypes regarding, both, Dalit narratives and graphic novels? Or as a carefully crafted enterprise which has its cover page, foreword, and special reviews all premeditated to promote a cause, does it become more than a text of resistance? Do such appropriations mitigate its revolutionary potential by succumbing to commodification and transforming it into merely a profitable product? Or, is it an intervention to create a new space in the ‘mainstream’ market for discourse on such issues? How do such initiatives by publishing houses and authors affect the text and its radicalism? The paper intends to analyze the seemingly broken links between the publishers’ agenda (objectives behind such texts), actual market (readers’ response), how it attracts scholarship (what makes these texts worthy of dialogue and research), and finally if they can be made part of larger academic curriculum (as a relevant topic of study). In order to understand contemporary Dalit literature publishing scenario, we propose to interview their distributors who can reveal ground realities, difficulties, and people’s mind-set for such texts and incorporate these findings in the paper.


Munira Salim, Lecturer and Head of the Department of English, Stewart Science College, Cuttack, Odisha, India; and Asis De, Assistant Professor and Head, Department of English Language and Literature, Mahishadal Raj College, Vidyasagar University, West Bengal, India

‘DALIT’ may be read as ‘Digitally Advanced LITerature’

  Writers and social activists perform a substantial role in shaping nearly every social awakening in any society under the sun. In the scenario of Indian Dalit literature, which is itself a product of social awakening in the postcolonial India, the role of writers and social activists naturally becomes a crucial one. But when the issues of publication and dissemination of Dalit writings are concerned, things seem to be different than the case of publication of non-Dalit literary productions. Till today, savarna (non-Dalit) publishers and editors are more or less reluctant in publishing Dalit literature on the excuse of limited readership. Only when Indian Dalit writers had started their own publishing houses (like ‘Fourth World’ publications in Kolkata), brought their own magazines and books, they found a gateway to extricate their experiences of caste atrocities.

Although Dalit writers may not find a substitute for the mainstream media like newspaper, radio or television channel to ventilate their lived experiences, they can have the internet as an important medium to disseminate their ideas to a wide spectrum of readers and intellectuals. To create adequate space for the Dalit issues and perspectives in the society, the writers, academics and intellectuals from both the Dalit and the civil society may initiate research forums, resource centers and team websites through the world wide web (like the PMARC, or the Dalits Media Watch Team). For the Indian Dalit writers, the ‘pixilated pane’ could be a proper medium of expression, which has virtually no business with the Hindu caste-based politics of publication. This paper attempts a justification in favour of such web initiatives, which could serve as a substantial platform to share, publish and disseminate ideas and ideologies of Dalit movements in modern India. In this paper, we would also investigate how the advantages of the cyber-world can transform the scope and range of publication Dalit literature as something ‘Digitally Advanced Literature’ of the Indian Dalits.


Shashikumar J., PhD Scholar, School of Translation Studies and Training, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi, India

Publishing Dalit Feminist/Womanist Writings – An afterlife of/for the Twice-Dead?

 During the colonial period, as it is defined in Sociology, Varna and Jati were loosely and interchangeably called as caste, which is said to be the result of hypergamous and hypogamous alliances between the four classes and their descendants. It has been broadly defined as the “form of existence fixed by birth”. In this paper, the Dalit women are called as “twice-dead”, as a binary opposite to “twice-born”, the English translation of the Sanskrit term, dvija.

In Dalit Feminist/Womanist discourse, if we pose a question as to what does Dalit need socially − Dalitism or Feminism/Womanism?  The Dalits have to answer they need both. Dalits, while fighting against untouchability/casteism/inequality/discrimination, if feminist/womanist questions take the forefront, the Dalit question might lose prominence. Hence, if Dalitists say Dalit Feminist/Womanist is irrelevant in Dalit discourse, Feminists/Womanists might think Dalit Feminism/Womanism might be harmful for Feminism/Womanism. These questions look meaningless if we delve deep into the realms of the discourse; both Dalitism and Feminism/Womanism have similar roots, if not the same roots.

Hence, it is not coincidental that both Dalitist and Feminist discourses came into prominence in parallel and almost simultaneously in the Indian academic discourse on the one hand, and leading to the formation of two major independent publishers in India: Navayana and Zubaan (Kali for Women leading to Zubaan and Women Unlimited, after the split) — dedicated to Dalit/caste and Feminist causes respectively, on the other. Thus, Dalits and women found a significant place in publishing discourse as well!

Though most of the major publishers in India have published books on Dalit women, it is Zubaan that has consistently published some of the best titles both on Dalit women and Dalit Feminism. Therefore, this paper focuses on their titles to deal with the topic of Dalit Feminism/Womanism in particular, and the publishing and dissemination of Dalit literature in general.

When we see these pretty large number of titles available on Dalit Women, what do they indicate? If we look at fiction, non-fiction and social sciences, the former seem to be less in number than the latter. What would that suggest? What made all these publishers turn towards Dalit women? And, what next?


Kalpna Verma, Research Scholar, Hindi Translation, Center for Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, India

Writing, Translation and Dissemination: A Glimpse of Dalit Women Writings

The emergence of Dalit literature in 1960s in various Indian languages such as Marathi, Telgu, Kannada, Tamil and Hindi, paved the way to expressing subjection and injustice in the form of autobiographies, short stories, poetry, scholarly articles and print journals. Translation as a phenomenon has played a pivotal role in the dissemination of this new wave of social and political participation of Dalit writers in mainstream literature either in other Indian languages or European languages. The process marked a new transition towards the outbreak of new experiences and social realism. People from marginalized as well as non-marginalized groups worked together at grassroot levels to present vibrating and unheard stories of social customs, practices, rights and religion as institution of oppression. Women in Dalit community had awe-inspiring stories to tell the world and some succeeded breaking through the barriers of humiliation, social atrocities, patriarchal violence and professional discrimination. They drew realist pictures in their autobiographies, short stories and other narratives.

The objectives of this paper are (a) to identify the texts that are translated in  English  particularly written by Dalit women in various Indian Languages whether stories, autobiographies, poetry and articles that have helped the wider audience to locate the other side of Indian realism and new literature, and (b) to highlight the psychological and social purpose of this dissemination of Dalit women literature and the political challenges, and why/how translation is in dire need to promoting writing activities among Dalit women. The paper will focus on the key issues behind these writings and translation in English and how it has sensitized people from other various groups. The paper will try to draw a coherent image of the politics of writing and translation of Dalit women’s narratives, their scholarly articles, their creative writings and their social participation. This would help the readers to identify the texts that are available to them for what purpose and to question the texts that are not looked upon by the publishers.

Vinod Verma, Associate Professor, Maharaja Agrasen College, University of Delhi, Delhi, India

Dalit Resistance to Caste: Publishing the Orally Publicised in the Age of Mass Media and New Media

Caste hegemony is publishing the publicised. Each member in caste society is publicised for his or her caste status as soon as one takes the first phenomenal breath in the socially coded environment and this premise is also valid for the last phenomenal breath one takes in caste environment. No birth or death and the whole stay between two extremes is possible in caste structure without being published what caste you are. But publishing the publicised by printing made it a complicated issue in a democracy where all are supposed to be equal. Changes in the media of recording i.e. from brain to modern print culture, to electronic and new media paved the way for a revolutionary resistance to the act of publicising the published in caste oral publishing relations. Ironically, caste hegemonic relations function better when speech is privileged over writing in an unrecordable situation as the publicised is integrally orally disseminated in caste structures. Therefore, comprehending the model of oral publishing and communication in caste social structures is crucial and at the same time developing an alternative model of publishing and communication to counteract the act of publishing the publicised is also equally crucial. This paper, therefore, aims at reinterpreting, redefining and changing the elements of a castist communication model. This model’s definitions of source, receiver, context, channel, message encoding, psychological and physical noise, message decoding, feedback and effect are pre-defined and they leave hardly any space for openness or redefinition of these elements. Or interestingly, the space for redefinition is allowed but not to go beyond reintegrating the dalit resistance into a certain religious fold or managing caste equations in politics. The paper will be a workshop on developing a model of dalit publishing and communication in the age of mass communication and new media restructuring the forced feedback and intolerable effect in the castist model of communication.


Collective panels


Panel 1: The Emergence and Dissemination of Punjabi Dalit Literature

Chair and academic: Rajkumar Hans, Professor of History, MSU, Baroda

Writer: Des Raj Kali and Balbir Madhopuri

Translator and academic: Neeti Singh: Assistant Professor of English, MSU, Baroda

Writer and publisher: Bhagwant Rasulpuri

In line with other vernacular literatures, Punjabi Dalit literature is a modern phenomenon. Print capitalism under the colonial aegis made it possible for dalit literary expressions reach the public domains, previously forbidden under the strict laws of Manu. Giani Ditt Singh emerged as a powerful writer, editor and publisher in the second half of the nineteenth century, though as a missionary of the resurgent Sikh movement. The second towering dalit poet to scale the highest popularity in the next 60 years, Daya Singh Arif was no longer ‘untouchable’ to the high-caste publishing houses as they minted money from thousands of copies of his works sold; remaining silent over caste/s was the best market strategy. Moreover, Arif’s poetry did not pose challenge to hegemonic discourses and hence was acceptable. Ad Dharam, powerful dalit movement in 1920-40s, developed its own papers and writers but was defeated by the divisive games played by upper-caste politicians. It was only from 1980s that an upsurge in Dalit creativity disturbed the early equations in the Punjabi literary world. Publishers had not been enthusiastic to print dalit writers and whatever saw the light of printing presses was largely due to individual initiatives. The persistent indifference of mainstream publishers also made some Dalit writers to take an entrepreneurial step in establishing publishing house/s. Bhagwant Rasulpuri’s ‘Parwaz’ is a best example of disseminating Dalit literature in the past few years. Circulation and distribution of Dalit literature remains a major challenge even in the post-liberalized ‘open’ world. Panelist Des Raj Kali, a major Punjabi Dalit writer, looks at theoretical imperative on the problematic, based on his assessment of the practical world of literature. Neeti Singh, as translator of Kali’s novel Shanti Parav, engages with prospects and challenges of translating Dalit texts. Bhagwant Rasulpuri, writer, editor, and publisher looks at challenges Punjabi Dalit writers face in the dissemination of their works as he also gazes at the publication world.


Des Raj Kali: How I view Dalit Literature in the Indian Literary World

Theoretical Frame: Negligible dissemination of Dalit literature is essentially a theoretical issue. After decline of Buddhism, dalits encountered a gigantic conspiracy in which they failed to pose a united front. Brahmins were terrified by awakening and enlightenment manifest in the Sant literature. New strategy was found to divide Dalits into sectarian panths; in a way ‘brahmanization’ of dalits began. That legacy continued through last millennia; the state has been an important instrument in decimating Dalit power. Materially deprived they were driven away from literary culture. Their oral literature was confined to devotional rendition of sectarian/cultic traditions. It is only in the 20th century that the tallest Indian thinker Dr B. R. Ambedkar envisioned Dalit unity in all spheres as liberating agenda for all by also using politically empowering term Dalit for all the untouchable caste-communities. No wonder it resulted in flourishing powerful dalit literary movements in the second half of the past century.

Practical world of Dissemination: Even though Dalit poetry of resistance and assertion established in Punjabi literature in the 1980s and other genres in 1990s, there was no easy channel for its dissemination. Indeed it faced unannounced but definite hostility from the publishers. On the one hand feudal lords of Punjabi literature maligned it as caste-oriented ‘backward’; on the other hand the ‘progressive’ leftists were also dismissive of its distinctiveness. Ironically, some Dalits, trapped in the hegemonic frames, opposed the autonomy of Dalit literature. Quite obviously, the publishers remained indifferent. Powerful Dalit poets like Lal Singh Dil were systematically neglected. It was only with efforts of individual friends and Dalit NRIs’ support that his works were printed. Caste insidiously continues to be a determining factor. For a shocking illustration, my novel ‘Praneshwari’ was commissioned by a Hindi publisher to an elderly Brahmin for translation. He returned the novel with a strong reaction that he could not translate this ‘sin’ as it turned him crazy; his mind started burning with the sacrilege. However, the rise and proliferation of Dalit literature in the last 30 years forced the literary magazines to bring out special numbers on Dalit Literature. But approach has been of condescension, even dismissive. It is only very late that market forces have started publishing it as it sells. Here also Dalit initiatives have been of central importance.


Balbir Madhopuri: Dalit Literature as a Mainstream Literature

The poetry of selected medieval Sants, famous for social equality and justice that was a challenge to the Brahmanical system, was collected by Guru Nanak personally from different places of India, later included in the compilation of Adi Granth in 1604. The books related to Guru Ravidas were published by Singh Brothers of Lahore in the early twentieth century. Literature of the Ad-Dharam movement of Untouchables was published by Kishan Steam Press of Jalandhar. Undoubtedly the Press had been an upper-caste preserve. To whatever extent the upper-castes could have been anti-dalit, the logic of print capitalism did not deter them to publish dalit literature. Money and market played down the caste logic. Ever since Dalit assertion and proliferation of dalit literary expression, the publishers look forward to publishing quality Dalit writings for their own business interests. Dalit literature has become an important vehicle of awareness among the fast expanding educated middle class of the downtrodden. It has become a tool against the hierarchical and injudicious Braminical culture. In a way Dalit literature has become a true mirror of Indian society. There is a growing reception of Dalit literature among upper caste educated people as they also become cosmopolitan in the globalised world. Slowly Dalit literature is becoming ‘mainstream literature’ with a bright future.


Bhagwant Rasulpuri: Publishing Dalit Literature

I have observed over years that Dalit literature has been looked at with negative lenses, with caste prejudices and ‘puritanical’ biases. Whenever Dalit literature in Punjab flourished in the past it encountered concerted though muted opposition. Positive responses have rarely come to appreciate Dalit creativity as caste prism affected the gaze of upper-caste critics. With the political assertion of Dalits in the 1990s, quite a few literary magazines brought out special numbers devoted to the themes of caste, religion and also on ‘dalit literature’. At best it reflected paternalism and at worse outright condemnation. When independent books by Dalit authors were published by the mainstream publishers, there was no attempt to properly advertise and popularise these texts. These were not brought to competitiveness.

Looking at this grim scenario some enterprising Dalit individuals ventured into diverse literary actions taking up this as a big challenge. Des Raj Kali launched ‘Pancham’ while Gurmit Kallarmajri started ‘Hashia’ and I instituted ‘Kahani Dhara’, all little literary magazines. Pancham was closed down due to financial constraints. Persistent apathy of established publishers toward Dalit literature made me launch ‘Parwaj’, a publishing unit in 2010. Eighty percent of its publications are from Dalit writers and have been well received. I could motivate great Dalit story writer Sarup Sialvi to pen down his autobiography that has been well acclaimed and reached many shores abroad. The biggest challenge of circulation, distribution and dissemination of Punjabi Dalit literature remains and stare us in the eyes.


Neeti Singh: On Translating Des Raj Kali’s Shanti Parva

As translator of Des Raj Kali’s novel Shanti Parva, I shall read excerpts from a first draft of the novel in English translation. I shall comment on aspects that were unique to this experience of translation, and shall examine the structural and stylistic dynamics that underlie this particular work of Des Raj Kali. Considering that the novel runs a length of just 80 pages in print, it spans an impressive scope in terms of content, structure and experimentation. Positioned between fiction and non-fiction, the narrative employs with brilliant ingenuity, the concept of the hyperlink, to accommodate a parallel rendering. On the one hand is the flow of autobiographical stories from the protagonist’s world, and on the other hand is the continuous, surreal (albeit intellectual) babble of three old characters in the underbelly – the lower half – of each page. Kali’s combining of fiction and non-fiction, the unique page layout, and the multi-layered, polyphony that is achieved, is bold, unique and brilliant indeed.

To say the least, the novel subverts standard expectations of a fictional narrative. It teases the reader out of habits of lethargy, and prompts him/her to employ active reading-skills; it is in its own flavour, as Roland Barthes would say, ‘a writerly text’. With Shanti Parva, Des Raj Kali has opened up new possibilities in narration and narrative technique.

Furthermore, if time allows, I shall endeavour to examine and share, my experience of translating Shanti Parva  –  the creative ploys, improvisations and compromises that every translation must resort to, the limitation of perception and interpretation, the cultural gaps and the leaps – the frustrations faced and the areas of relief – all of which is part of the translation process.


Panel 2: The Subaltern Voice, or Publishing from the Margins

Chair and publisher: Urvashi Butalia (Zubaan)

Publisher: Ruby Hembrom (Adivaani, Kolkata)

Publisher: Arpita Das (Yoda Press)

Publisher/newspaper: a representative from the newspaper Kutch Mahila Vikas Samiti

 This panel looks at the ways in which women publishers and writers are writing the margins, looking at how to foreground marginalizd voices. It will feature publishers who have focused on tribal writings, on sexuality and on gender, and will include journalists who have set up a rural newspaper in north India. The idea is to discuss how women write from the margins, what they face when seeking publishers, whether their voices are appropriated by mainstream publishers and more.

This panel is curated by Zubaan Publishers, an independent publishing house focusing on books by and about women, with a special focus on marginalized communities.


Panel 3: Bangla Dalit Literature I

Gendering Dalit Literature in Bengal: Questions of Marginalization, Hegemony, Appropriation

Chair and Publisher: Mandira Sen, Director, Sage-Stree Samya

Writer: Kalyani Thakur Charal, Writer, Publisher and Activist

Journal Editor: Sannjeev Chandan

This panel will explore the question of gender as it is introduced into the field of publishing Dalit literature. Based on actual publishing experience from 1990, Stree (‘women’) began by concentrating on women’s studies, but found caste rearing its head when focusing on questions of social discrimination and social justice, its multifarious issues not easily confined to a women’s studies list, and founded Samya, (‘equality’) to publish Dalit writings. Who are the writers and the readers? As the readership changes and widens with translation into European languages being a vital part of publishing Dalit literature, questions of who the readers are need to be addressed. New considerations and conundrums are created. Women Dalit writers, more marginalised than male Dalit writers, gain prominence with being published in English and hope this will have positive repercussions on their home market. The panel will discuss these serious implications of selection, editorial interventions, translator’s ideologies, and indeed, all that is part of the actual process of making a manuscript and then converting the manuscript to a published book, drawing on the experience of a Dalit writer and a scholar and a translator as well as Samya’s publisher.


Panel 4: Bangla Dalit Literature II

Perceptions of the Dalit in Bengal: An ideology of Class or Caste?

Chair and Translator: Sipra Mukherjee, Professor, West Bengal State University

Publisher: Ananta Acharya, Director, Democratic Action Forum of Dalits, Women and Minorities.

Writer: Manoranjan Byapari, Winner of Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi Award.

 This panel will explore, in the light of the long Marxist history of the state (from the founding of the Communist Party of India, 1925, and the seven elected governments of the Left Front from 1977-2011), the issues that are at the forefront when writing and publishing Bengali Dalit literature. It will situate in history the coming of Bengal’s Dalits to Marxism, survey the experience of the Marxist movement given their particular caste identity, their gradual alienation from state Marxism which insisted on the priority of class and not caste as the basis for discrimination, and look into the politics that the Bengali Dalit envisions for him/herself now.


Panel 5: The Role of Academia in the Publishing of Dalit and Adivasi Literature and Art

Chairs and academics: Raj Kumar and Tapan Basu

Publisher: S. Anand

Graphic novels artists: Aparajita Ninan, Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam

Co-chaired by two academics who have done extensive work on Dalit Studies, this panel, which will comprise 1) the editor of a well-known, Delhi-based, publishing house which publishes Dalit writings and writings from/about radical social movements worldwide, 2) a graphic designer who has illustrated a text by the anti-caste intellectual, Jotiba Phule, and 3) two artists from the Adivasi belt of Madhya Pradesh who work with clay and paint on paper and canvass, promises exciting presentations( in Hindi and English) and discussion with a multi-disciplinary, multi-media and multilingual focus. It is hoped that the three artists, two from the tribal peripheries and one from the metropolis, will be able to engage with each other about their artistic production, and also with members of the urban intelligentsia, within the panel and in the audience, regarding issues of the politics and economics of the dissemination and circulation of Dalit and Adivasi literature and art in the cities. What role, and how much importance do publishers and members of the academia (mostly non-Dalit) have in this process? Are they really interested in the projection of the Dalit perspective on the world, as represented through items of Dalit creativity which they help to popularise, or is it self-promotion which they seek by climbing on to the bandwagon of an increasingly fashionable interest in the study of marginal discourses within the academy and outside? These are some of the questions which are likely to come up in the course of the discussion session.


Panel 6:  Publishing Dalit Literature: Anthologies, Edited Collections, Individual Texts

Chair and academic: Nicole Thiara

Editors and Academics: Joshil K. Abraham and Judith Misrahi-Barak

Publisher: Aakash Chakrabarty and Rimina Mohapatra (Routledge representatives)

Academics and Translators: Raj Kumar and Sipra Mukherjee

Major publishers in India generally have very distinct publishing identities and different policies when dealing with such issues as national and / or global publishing, publishing translations or not, etc. This panel will focus on the politics of such choices, and more particularly on the issue of giving access to texts through anthologies, edited collections or individual texts. What are the reasons behind the choices made by major publishers, what are the expected, or unexpected, consequences? Why favour anthologies, or edited collections, or individual texts? In the context of the publication of Dalit literatures and Dalit criticism, can / should the same arguments be used as in other contexts, or does it have to be different by necessity?

Routledge participating in the panel will give us the opportunity to gain insights into the way Routledge define their policies in the long-run, and what their choices are based on. While publishing many books on social exclusion, what is the specific place given to Dalit literature, if any? It will also be interesting to gain better understanding into the readers’ response and expectations.
The panel will also take the perspective of editors of edited collections, of academics, and translators of individual texts.


Panel 7: Dalit Literature from South India: Language, Translation and Dissemination

Chair and academic: K. Satyanarayana

Writer: Satish Chandar (Telugu), Cho Dharman (Tamil)

Translator and newspaper editor: S R Ramakrishna (Bangalore)

Dalit Literature in South Indian languages is not widely available in English. It is only recently that we find Tamil Dalit writing in English (Bama, Imayam, Sivakami and others) available to the wider national and international audience. Bama was also translated into Telugu and other languages. With the global attention on the Dalit question in the 1990s, International publishing houses paid special attention to Dalit literature from Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu among other Indian language literatures. In this context, some anthologies of Dalit writing and the works of individual authors (autobiographies, novels and short stories) were published in English translation by mainstream publishing houses. Perhaps for the first time, Dalit literature from South India is now visible to the larger public at the national and international levels. The problem of invisibility of Dalit literature in South Indian languages outside the regional sphere is part of the larger problem of the translation and dissemination of South Indian language literatures.

Telugu writer, poet and critic Satish Chandar, Tamil writer Cho Dharman, Translator, Music Composer and journalist S R Ramakrishna and Critic and editor of Dalit literature K. Satyanarayana will discuss in this panel’s issues such as the politics of translation, strategies of dissemination and the lack of critical attention on South Indian literature in general and also Dalit literature in particular.


List of bios:

Joshil K. Abraham completed his Masters in English Literature from Pondicherry central University, India, and has taught in colleges in Kerala and Delhi. He worked as Research Assistant in Cinema Studies Department, SAA, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. He has presented papers in international conferences including the Conrad Conference held in Bath Spa University, UK in 2012. He is co-editor of the Routledge volume Dalit Literatures in India (2015). He is currently working as an Assistant Professor at G B Pant Engineering College, IP University, Delhi, and is Head of Humanities and Applied Sciences.

 Ananta Acharya, Publisher and Editor of journal, Chetana Lahar (Wave of Consciousness).  He is Director, Democratic Action Forum of Dalits, Women and Minorities (Dafodwam), an organization that works towards bringing about equality and justice in Indian society. Chetana Lahar is the publication of Dafodwam which publishes writings by Dalits, women and religious minorities. The writings include both creative and non-fiction writings which deal with subjects related to Marxism and Indian rationalism. The writings are on movements of protest, inequity, exploitation, inequality, caste, class, gender and minority.

Anand is the publisher of Navayana. He is the co-author of Bhimayana, and has annotated the critical edition of Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste.

Tapan Basu taught at the Department of English, Hindu College, University of Delhi, for over twenty-eight years before taking up a position as Associate Professor at the Department of English, University of Delhi. His areas of teaching and research interest are American Literature (African-American Literature in particular) and Caste Studies (Dalit Studies in particular).

He has been the recipient of the University Grants Commission’s Junior Research Fellowship (1979-80), the Fulbright Pre-Doctoral Scholarship (1988 – 89), under the aegis of which he was a Visiting Fellow at Yale University, the Fulbright-Hays Travel Grant (1988–89), the South Asian Research Program Fellowship (2006), awarded by the Social Science Research Council, New York, and the Ferguson Fellowship (2006–2007), awarded by the Ferguson Centre for African and American Studies, the Open University, Miton-Keynes, U.K.

He is the co-author of a monograph, Khaki Shorts Saffron Flags: A Critique of the Hindu Right, published in 1992 by Orient Longman Publishers. In the field of Dalit Studies, his publications include Translating Caste (New Delhi: Katha, 2002), and two recently published articles, ‘Dalit Experience Re-cast(e): Some Reflections on the Translation of Dalit Literature from the Regional Languages into English’ and  ‘Writing Humiliation, Righting Humiliation: Marking the Dalit Moment in the History of India’s Untouchables and Beyond’. He is also the co-editor of a forthcoming text-book of Dalit Writing, entitled Listen to the Flames (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015).

Ruchika Bhatia is presently employed as an Assistant Professor at the Janki Devi Memorial College, University of Delhi. Her key areas of interest are gender studies, issues of sexuality, and studying the representations of gendered identities within a society. Her pre-doctoral dissertation topic was ‘Gender Performativity, Melancholia, and the Issue of Queering: Understanding Judith Butler’; she dealt with the significant idea of gender performativity and its association to the process of gendering, identity formation, and cultural identifications. Other areas that she is interested in include the subject of sexual dissidence and its importance in understanding the ideologies of modernism; and how autobiographical writings are integral in understanding the process of subject-formation and individuation. She is also a post graduate in Advertising and Public Relations from the Indian Institute of Mass Communications, New Delhi.

Urvashi Butalia is co-founder of Kali for Women, India’s first feminist publishing house and is currently Director of Zubaan, one of the two houses set up when Kali ceased operations in 2003. She is also an independent scholar and writer. Among her best known publications is the award winning history of Partition: The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India.

Manoranjan Byapari, famous now as the rickshaw-puller who became a writer and won prizes, began to learn to read and write in jail when he was in his early twenties. Byapari has won the highest literary prize in the State: Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi Award. He has been invited to conferences in Delhi, Hyderabad and Pune, among other cities. His writing, translated by Meenakshi Mukherjee in Economic and Political Weekly, was among the first to bring Bengali Dalit writing to the nation’s attention. He is author of Itibritte Chandal Jeebon (History of My Chandal life), Anya Bhuban (Another World), Chhannachhara (Rootless), Chhera Chhera Gadya (Fragmented Prose), and many others.

Aakash Chakrabarty is Commissioning Editor at Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, Informa plc. He has over 9 years’ experience in the publishing industry, having worked with leading trade and academic publishers. He has an overarching interest in history, sociology and literature, and is presently focusing on Indian politics and public policy. He has a Masters in English literature from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, and graduated from St. Xavier’s, Kolkata. He likes reading, travelling and photography, all of which run parallel to his editorial interests.

Satish Chandar is an independent editor, a trendsetting poet and an inimitable satirist. He is known for launching and reviving newspapers. He formed the entire editorial team and conceived editorial content during the launch (in 1996) of ‘Vaartha’ newspaper as the Associate Editor and revived ‘Andhra Prabha’ Daily (in 2004) as the Chief Editor. He founded A.P.College of Journalism (in 1997) at Hyderabad.

As a poet, he has brought out three anthologies of poems (Panchama Vedam, Pasupu Jabilli and Adi Parvam) and a long poem (Nanna Cycle). His poems were translated into many Indian languages besides English. His poems in ‘Panchama Vedam’ are part of curriculum in Telugu literature at Post graduate level in all Universities of Andhra Pradesh (India).

His satirical columns on contemporary politics, social relations and human values have made him a household name in the two Telugu speaking states. His seniors fondly call him ‘Andhra Art Buchwald’ for his wit and humor.

Though his short stories are less in number, critics often quote them.

As Media teacher, he has produced thousands of journalists who constitute a major chunk in Media folks of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Arpita Das, Publisher and Founder, Yoda Press, an independent press publishing works by young and old writers, with a special focus on sexuality studies. Arpita is also Adjunct Faculty in Publishing at Ambedkar University, Delhi.

Asis De is Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature in the Department of English, Mahishadal Raj College (Govt. Sponsored Post Grad College), Mahishadal, West Bengal, India. His M. Phil dissertation was on the search for home and identity in V.S. Naipaul’s fiction. His PhD dissertation (recently submitted in Jadavpur University, Kolkata) concentrates on the study of Identity negotiation in newer/ diasporic cultural spaces with particular reference to the fiction of Amitav Ghosh and Ben Okri. In a number of publications (Orient Blackswan and Atlantic mainly) and conference presentations in India and in Europe (Belgium, Germany and England), he has worked on the issue of cultural identity and transnationalism in Asian, Caribbean and African fictional narratives. Presently his research interest also includes Indian Dalit and Tribal literatures in translation. He also teaches Anglophone Postcolonial Literatures, Cultural Studies and Diasporic Literatures in two Universities in India as Guest Faculty. He is a member of some eminent research organizations like Postcolonial Studies Association (UK), GAPS (Germany), EACLALS and IACLALS.

Cho Dharman, the son of Solaiappan and Ponnuthai of Urulaikudi village of Koyilpatti, is a leading Dalit writer and is widely known as one of the karisal writers. For a while he worked in a textile mill. He has published two novels Thoorvai (Agaram, 1995) and Koogai (Kalachuvadu, 2005) and a non-fiction work, Villicai Vendar Pichakkutti (Marutha, 2002). His short story collections include Eeram (Sindu Publishers, 1992), Sogavanam (Sarulatha Publishers, 1996), Vanakumaran (Mathi Publishers, 1998), and So. Dharuman Kathaigal (Marutha, 2003). He received the State Award from the Tamil Nadu Government in 2007, the award of “The Tamil Literary Garden” from Toronto University in 2008, the best short story writer of the year “Ilakkiya Chinthanai award” in 1992 and 1994, and the “Katha award” in the year 1993. Some of his works are translated in English, Hindi and Malayalam. His novel, ‘Koogai’ is translated in English and Malayalam. Translations of his stories have appeared in journals including Indian Literature, and in national dailies like The Indian Express, Economic Times, and The Hindu.

Ruby Hembrom is the founder of Adivaani, an independent publishing house that focuses archiving and publishing the work of Adivasis in India.

Gopika Jadeja is a graduate research student with the South Asian Studies Programme at the National University of Singapore. Gopika edits and publishes a print journal and a series of pamphlets for Five Issues, a performance-publishing project. Gopika’s translations of poetry as well as her poetry have been published in various journals and magazines. A recipient of the Charles Wallace Scholarship for Creative Writing, she has published a chapbook of poems in collaboration with Visthar-Bangalore. She is currently working on a project of English translations of poetry from Gujarat and a collection of her (for lack of a better phrase) own poetry.

Des Raj Kali has produced hundreds of articles on dalits, culture and literature in various magazines including ‘Tehalka’ and has been conferred upon several awards as fiction writer. He has been a key Panel Speaker at Jaipur Literature Festival (2010) and Speaker at Samanvay Samagam, Habitat Centre, Delhi. He has offered regular features on All-India Radio, Jalandhar since 2013. His Punjabi stories and novels have been translated into Hindi, Urdu, English, Bengali, Tamil, Kashmiri, Gujrati and Rajsthani. Five of the projected series of Kali’s seven novels enmeshing a mythological past and a real present have already been published with critical acclaim. He also made a major contribution in the film ‘Kite mil ve Mahi’ and has regularly participated in seminars and conferences at the universities of Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Kashmir, Chandigarh and Delhi.


Raj Kumar is Professor in the Department of English, Delhi University. His research areas include autobiographical studies, Dalit literature, Indian writing in English, Odia literature and post-colonial studies. He has been a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla in 1999 and has published in journals such as Social Action, Sateertha Bulletin, The Fourth World, Creative Forum, Language Forum, Jadavpur Journal of Comparative Literature, Indian Literature, Social Scientist, Journal of the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies and The Economic and Political Weekly. Raj Kumar has also translated literary texts from Indian languages, especially Odia into English. His book, Dalit Personal Narratives: Reading Caste, Nation and Identity has been published by Orient BlackSwan, New Delhi in 2010 and got reprinted in 2011. His English translation of Bheda, the first Odia Dalit novel is scheduled for publication by Oxford University Press in 2015.

Balbir Madhopuri was born and raised in Madhopur a small village in district Jalandhar, Punjab. Though he was a child labourer (on farms and in forests), he managed to attend school. He began writing poetry as a teenager, attended college and post-graduated with a degree in Punjabi. His writings focus primarily on the experience of Dalits and the curious situation of casteism amongst Sikhs, a community that moved away from Hinduism and its divisions. Balbir’s autobiography Chhangiya Rukh in Punjabi has reprinted ten times and was translated into English by Tripti Jain (OUP, 2010). Madhopuri has authored 14 books in Punjabi and translated 29 works from Hindi and English into Punjabi. Balbir retired as the editor of Yojna (Punjabi) a monthly published by the Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Devika Mehra is a research scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi. She is currently working on Children’s Cinema as a genre in India for her Ph. D. She is interested in children’s literature and popular culture, especially how they construct and reconstruct ideas of childhood, and the influence of media conglomeration, globalization and consumerism on the world of children’s literature in India and the World. Her pre-doctoral dissertation was on the changing constructions of childhood in select British and American children’s fiction where she attempted a symptomatic and cross-cultural comparative study of eleven cycles written between 1940s till 2010. She has recently presented a paper, ‘Locating Constructions of Childhood in Dalit Literature’ at a conference (International Conference on Dalit Literature and Historiography: Resistance and Reconstruction) held at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; and another, ‘Constructions of Childhood Pranks as Modes of Resistance in West Asian Cinema’ at the National Seminar: South and West Asian Literature and Film: Narratives of Modernity, Department of English, Punjabi University, Patiala, in February 2014.

Judith Misrahi-Barak Associate Professor at Paul-Valéry University Montpellier, France, currently teaches English and Postcolonial Literatures. Her Doctorate was on the Writing of Childhood in Caribbean Literature. She has published articles on Caribbean and Indo-Caribbean writers and the Caribbean and Indian diaspora (Atlantic Studies, Commonwealth, The Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Moving Worlds, The Journal of the Short Story in English, The Journal of Haitian Studies, The Journal of Transnational American Studies…), as well as book chapters in edited collections, including most recently Narrating Nomadism: Tales of Recovery and Resistance (G. N. Devy, G. V. Davis & K. K. Chakravarty, eds. Routledge, 2012) ; Tracing the New Asian Diaspora (Om Dwivedi, ed. Rodopi, 2014). She has organised several international conferences with invited writers. She is General Editor of the series PoCoPages (Coll. ‘Horizons anglophones’, Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée). The latest volume is Diasporas, Cultures of Mobilities, ‘Race’ Vol. 2 (2015).

Her latest edited book is Dalit Literatures in India (co-edited with Joshil K. Abraham, Routledge, 2015).

She is Co-Investigator on the AHRC Research Network Series ‘Writing, Analysing, Translating Dalit Literature’ (Principal Investigator Dr Nicole Thiara, Nottingham Trent University, Uk), 2014-15.

 Rimina Mohapatra is Publishing Manager at Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, Informa plc and the key liaison for editorial desk production for the Routledge India list. She has an experience of nine years in academic publishing, involved directly with over 650 books in the humanities and social sciences, both print and electronic, and has had an active role in the origination and development of the Routledge India programme in South Asia founded in 2005. She completed her MPhil in Philosophy from the University of Delhi and MA in Philosophy from St. Stephen’s College. Her MPhil dissertation was on a Kantian critique of linguistic minimalism entitled ‘Problem of Method in Linguistic Inquiry: How is Biolinguistics Possible?’ She was Junior Specialist at the Department of Philosophy, University of California Santa Cruz for a brief period and Junior Research Fellow, University Grants Commission of India. Among her publications include Reading Hegel: The Introductions (co-edited with Aakash Singh, 2008, 2013). She is currently working on a second collection of Hegel’s writings (forthcoming 2016), and has eclectic interests across metaphysics, knowledge, literature, arts and culture.

 Sipra Mukherjee is Professor, Department of English, West Bengal State University. Her research interests are religion, caste, folklore, oral literatures. She is translating Byapari’s autobiography (Sage-Stree Samya, forthcoming). Sipra has been Visiting Fellow at the Department of English, University of Hyderabad, and Guest Faculty at Department of English, University of Calcutta. She is Guest Faculty at School of Cultural Texts and Records, Jadavpur University since 2013. She has published with Anthem Press, Brill Books, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Oxford University Press, permanent black, Ravi Dayal, Routledge, Sage, Sahitya Akademi and Taylor &

S R Ramakrishna is the translator of poet Siddalingaiah’s autobiography, A Word With You World, from Kannada to English. His other widely read translation is Birds, Beasts and Bandits, which narrates the jungle adventure of Krupakar and Senani following their kidnap by the notorious forest brigand Veerappan. Ramakrishna is now working on a translation of Dr U R Ananthamurthy’s autobiography, Suragi. His original writing and translated work have appeared in many dailies, magazines and literary journals. An MA in English from Bangalore University, his M Phil dissertation is about problems in literary translation between Kannada and English. He now works in a senior editorial capacity with The New Indian Express, Bengaluru. Earlier, he was resident editor of Mid Day, Bengaluru, and assistant professor, Asian College of Journalism. He founded and edited The Music Magazine (, India’s first online music magazine, for five years. In recent years, he has scored music for several award-winning Kannada films.

Bhagwant Rasulpuri has been active on the Punjabi Literary scene since 1990. His first collection of stories Chanan di Leek was published in 1992. It was followed by Main, Shaitan te Indumani (1997), Teeja Netar in 2005, Maran Rutt in 2010, Kuvelay Turya Pandhi in 2013.  His two books for children- Raje de Insaff (2014) and Sanjhe Wahde de Bute (2014) were published by Deepak Publishers, Jalandhar. A children’s book Hardeep Ate Ohdi Vehiman Maan (2011), both in Punjabi and Hindi was brought out by National Book Trust India, New Delhi. Three books translated by him have been published by the National Book Trust of India in 2007), 2009 and 2013. He also translated Bhagwan Das’s Main Bhangi Haan in 2006.

He started publishing a monthly magazine SUR SANJH in 1999 as its Publisher, Printer and Editor. Thereafter he launched a quarterly magazine KAHANI DHARA in 2006. Having experience in publications, Rasulpuri launched his own publishing unit Parwaz in 2010 and has published dozens of books, mainly by Dalit writers. His stories have been published in other languages as he has also been conferred with several awards.

 Munira Salim is a lecturer and Head of the Department of English, Stewart Science College, Cuttack (Govt. aided) Cuttack, Odisha. Her research interests include Subaltern Studies/Feminist Studies. At present she is pursuing her PhD in Ravenshaw University, Cuttack, Odisha. In her PhD dissertation she is focusing on the selected autobiographies of Dalit Women. In conference presentations, she has presented papers on’ Eco-criticism’ and ‘Bama’s Karukku’. She also teaches Communicative English at graduate level since 2006.

 Mandira Sen has worked in publishing for over four decades, starting with six years in Boston, then as a freelancer with Oxford University Press, Oxford, and in India with Orient Longman. From 1984 she started on her own, and in 1990, formed the partnership of Bhatkal and Sen with the Bhatkals of Popular Prakashan, Mumbai, which publishes two imprints: Stree (gender studies from 1990) and Samya (on culture, caste, and the writings of dalits, from 1996). She is a pioneer in publishing dalit writings.  Since September 2015 she has joined Sage to publish Sage-Stree Samya. She is based in Kolkata.

Satyanarayana is Professor in the Department of Cultural Studies, English and Foreign Languages University (EFL-U), Hyderabad. Active in the student movement during the 1990s, he was the Founder-General Secretary of Kula Nirmoolana Porata Samiti(Forum for Caste Annihilation). He has also edited the little magazine Kulanirmoolana.  He co-edited two volumes of South Indian Dalit writing: No Alphabet in Sight, 2011, and  Steel Nibs Are Sprouting, 2013. He also co-edited a new volume (with Gopal Guru, Devesh Kapur and Ramnarayan Rawat), The Dalit Studies: New Perspectives on South Asian History and Society (forthcoming from Duke University, USA).

 Shashikumar oversaw translations from Indian languages into English at Oxford University Press India. Currently, he is pursuing PhD candidate in Translation Studies at IGNOU, New Delhi. He is a bilingual translator, translation studies scholar, academic, educationist and a creative Dalit writer in Kannada. He is currently translating Annihilation of Caste published by Navayana into Kannada.

Neeti Singh is Assistant Professor in English with the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara. She published a poetry collection The Serpent of Slumber, 1995, the critical book Medieval Bhakti Poetry in India, Its Inception, Cultural Encounter and Impact with special reference to the work of Kabir and Nanak, 2004, and translated and introduced Bhai Jaita’s Sri Guru Katha, 2015. Dr Singh holds a visharad degree in Hindustani Classical music (vocal) and she was as an active member of amateur theatre groups like the Shakespeare Society and Centre for Performing and Visual Arts, Baroda, from 1989 to 1995. She acted in 10 full length English plays. Her poems (in English) have been published in journals like Indian Literature, Kavya Bharati, The Poetry Journal of India (Delhi), Kunapipi, and in the Toronto Review edited by M.G.Vasanji from Canada. Working on Black Verse, my next collection of poems exploring the dark side of the mind/nature.

 Kalyani Thakur Charal is a writer, publisher and an activist in her mid-forties. She writes in Bangla and is a gifted poet and is equally prolific in her non-fiction writings. She is author of Phire Elo Ulongo Hoye (And Returned Naked), Je Meyev Aandhar Goney (The Girl Who Counts Darkness), and has authored a series of books under the pen name of Chandalini (the Chandala Girl), such as Chandalini Bhane, Chandalinir Kabita, Chandalinir Bibriti, among other published writings. She began editing a wall magazine some twenty years ago in her Working Girls’ Hostel, and now edits a journal Neer which publishes writings by women from the margins. Her autobiography, Ami Keno Chhanral Likhi (Why I Add Charal to My Name), is forthcoming.

Nicole Thiara teaches postcolonial and contemporary literature at Nottingham Trent University. Her area of research is Dalit and diasporic South Asian literature. She is author of the monograph Salman Rushdie and Indian Historiography: Writing the Nation Into Being (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) and has published articles in the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, the Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies and Contemporary South Asia.  She is Principal Investigator on the AHRC Research Network Series ‘Writing, Analysing, Translating Dalit Literature’ (Co-Investigator Dr Judith Misrahi-Barak, Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, France), 2014-16.

Kalpna Verma is a research scholar of Hindi Translation course at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has taught Hindi Translation as an optional course to B. A. (Honours) Foreign Language students at Jawaharalal Nehru University.  She has presented papers at various seminars on Translation, English Literature and Language, Hindi at J. N.U, Delhi University, and English and Foreign languages University, Hyderabad. Her research work includes translation of a Dalit woman’s autobiography (Sushila Takbhore) Shikanje Ka Dard from Hindi to English. She is widely engaged in the translation of Dalit Literature. She has published papers on the literature of marginalized communities.

Vinod Verma is Associate Professor, Department of English, Maharaja Agrasen College, University of Delhi, India. He was born in 1962 in a Chhippa hand-block printing community, was a school drop-out when 10 years old and a child-labourer for seven years. He passionately pursued studies when 17 years old, starting with alphabets of English and earning an M.Phil. in English Literature. He has been associated with MAC, University of Delhi, English Department, since 2001 as Associate Professor. Between 1992 and 2000 he ran an NGO for socially and economically under-privileged children’s education. Co-editor of DU textbooks The Individual & Society and Living Literatures, he has researched Dalit writings and Bhakti/Mukti Literature in Indian vernaculars for the last ten years and shared it in conferences held in Indian and UK universities. His published works include critical papers on Dalit Literature, Kabir, poetry, drawings, book cover designs, digital paintings, photographs and films. He also conducts workshops on Dalit Arts, Visual Design, Film Appreciation, Performing Arts and Photography & Film-Making.

Durgabai Vyam was born, circa 1974, in the village Barbaspur in Dindori district of eastern Madhya Pradesh in the Gond tribe. She started making dignas at the age of six—using different kinds of clay to draw colourful patterns on walls during festivals and weddings. Never formally schooled, in 1996, she moved with her husband Subhash Vyam to Bhopal and worked with the legendary Pardhan Gond artists Janagrh Singh Shyam. Since 2001, she has done illustrations for more than a dozen books in English and Hindi, primarily for children. The Night Life of Trees, coauthored by her, won the BolognaRagazzi Award in 2008. Her most celebrated work Bhimayana was published in 2011.

Subhash Vyam was born in 1970 in the village Sanpuri, Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh. He began working with clay at the age of 10. He began his artistic career sculpting in wood. Since 2001, he has been doing paintings on canvas and paper. Bhimayana is his first book and he worked with his wife Durgabai on it. He lives in Bhopal.