Jai Prakash Kardam, a prolific Hindi Dalit writer,
was born in a poor Dalit family in Ghaziabad,
UP. India. He worked as an un-skilled labourer
in construction and factories. He worked in different
capacities in State/central govt./ Bank, and in
Central Secretariat official Language Service
(Govt. of India) as Deputy Director. At present,
he is the Second Secretary in the High Commission
of India in Mauritius. He has been editing an
annual magazine Dalit Sahitya (Varshiki) since
1999. As many as 15 research works for M.Phil
/ Ph.D. have so far been completed on him and
some are going on in different Universities in
India and abroad. This major Dalit writer talks
to Dr. Nilanshu Kumar Agarwal about several issues
of Dalit literature in a detailed and pedantic
NKA: Dalit Literature unfolds the seething discontent
of the Dalits towards their age-old exploitation
by the upper caste people. In a way, this branch
of literature is a volcano of protest against
the highly irrelevant and insignificant evil custom
of untouchability. The dragon of untouchability
has entered the sub-conscious/ unconscious layers
of Indian psyche. It can not be easily eliminated.
Dalit Literature may, in the long run, help in
eradicating this caste-bias from the Indian mind.
To be very honest, this literature of the marginalized
has carved a niche for itself in Indian Literature.
Where does this literature stand right now? What
is its future? What should be done to promote
it more? Your suggestions, please.
JPK: Dalit literature has become the central point
of the Indian literature now. It has created an
important discourse, which has raised the burning
questions related to the problems of the Dalits
and made the society awakened about it. In spite
of the fact that there are so many writers, critics
etc. who still do not accept or recognize Dalit
literature, it has increasingly acquired the space
in the world of literature. Today Dalit literature
is included in the syllabi at under-graduate and
post graduation level and a large number of research
works have been done and are being done in different
universities in India and abroad. In fact, Dalit
literature has broken the silence and non-livingness
of the literature and made it living and progressive.
Considering the journey of Dalit literature by
now, it can be said that the future of this literature
is very bright.
NKA: As a literature of the oppressed sections
of the society, do you think it to be similar
to the Literature of Black People in USA? Or do
you find some differences between the two?
JPK: Yes, it is quite similar to the literature
of Blacks in USA or Negros in Africa. But, it
has some specific characteristics also, which
are not found in black or Negro literature. These
are the opposition of caste-system and untouchability.
Blacks and Negros have faced racial discrimination;
they were not untouchables like the Dalits in
India. This is the reason that Dalit literature
is more aggressive, powerful and sharp-edged than
the literature of the Blacks and Negros.
NKA: The literary text is used as a tool in the
hands of the powerful to control the oppressed.
The post-colonial critics are unearthing the colonial
agenda in the text of the West. They believe that
the Western literary text was a weapon in the
hands of the empire to control the minds of the
subjects. Similarly, the feminists are revealing
the male bias in the major literary texts. Do
you think that there is a need for Dalit Literary
theory too, which may expose the prejudices towards
the Dalits in Indian Literature? Are there some
Dalit theorists, working on these lines?
JPK: It is the established truth now that so called
(Indian) literature has always been used by the
caste Hindus to oppress, suppress and exploit
the Dalits. Dalits have been given the opium of
religion and exploited in the name of fate and
God. They have been taught the philosophy of Gita
to work selflessly, not to make any demand for
their hard work. Whatever is given by the master
should be accepted happily as the will of God.
NKA: Are there efforts to explore Dalit consciousness
in other creative arts like painting, theatre
and music etc.? Please elaborate.
JPK: Of course, there are Dalit Natya Munches
in existence. There are a number of Dalit folk
artists, singers, musicians and painters who are
doing their best to express Dalit feelings and
raising the voice against inequality and exploitation
through their art forms.
NKA: What difference do you find between Dalit
Literature by a Dalit and Literature about the
Dalits by a non-Dalit?
JPK: I would like to quote here the words of Dr.
Manager Pandey, a renowned Hindi critic, who wrote
in the preface to a collection of Dalit short
stories edited by Ramnika Gupta that “Only
ash knows the experience of burning”. This
indicates that Dalits know the experience of burning--
burning in the fire of sorrows, hatred, disrespect,
injustice, inequality and untouchablity. Non-Dalits
do not have this experience. Dalits have specific
experiences of life, which non-dalits do not have.
Only Dalit writers can express their experiences
in an authentic manner but not others. Non- Dalit
writers may be sympathetic to the Dalits, they
may be their well-wishers but their experiences
about Dalits are not their self-experiences. They
are the observers of torture and exploitation
of Dalits, they are not sufferers. This difference
of experiences between Dalit and non-Dalits makes
the difference between the writings of Dalit and
non-Dalit writers. Hence, Dalit literature is
the literature of Dalits based on their lives
NKA: English Language has become a global language.
The translation of regional languages Dalit Literature
into English may definitely give a great boost
to this innovative literature, because the authors
may find a larger reading public in the other
countries. One of your works has been translated
into English by G.W.Briggs. You must have seen
how English translation of a particular work increases
its readership. What efforts are being made to
translate the native Dalit Literature into English
JPK: No doubt, if Dalit literature is translated
into English, it can convey its message to a larger
mass, not only in India but at the international
level also. In the time of globalization Dalit
issues should also be globalized. The main objective
of Dalit literature is to sensitize the society
to the basic problems of Dalits and in Hindi and
other languages, Dalit literature is breaking
the thousands years’ silence of literature
and trying to sensitize the society. Responsible
persons should take initiative to translate Dalit
literature into English and other foreign languages,
though some short stories, poems and pieces of
text (novels and autobiographies) have been translated
into English, French, German and other foreign
languages. My own short story and poems have been
translated into English. But efforts made or being
made in this direction are not sufficient, much
more is needed to do. Dalit literature is included
in the syllabi in a number of universities world
wide. During October 2006 when I visited Germany
to participate in Frankfurt World Book Fair, I
was surprised to see that Dalit literature was
being taught in Bonn and Hamburg Universities
and some students were doing research also on
Dalit literature. In fact, Dalit literature is
attracting students and scholars from the whole
world. Scholars from US, UK, Germany, Japan, Korea
etc. are doing research on Dalit literature. I
personally know Ms. Saraha Baith (UK), Ms Laura
Brueck (USA), Dr. Heinz Werner Wessler (Germany)
and Ms Toral (Canada) who have met me in connection
of their research on Dalit literature. These scholars
and such type of other scholars also are advocating
and raising voice of Dalit literature at different
forums at international level.
NKA: What measures are being taken to introduce
Dalit Literature in the syllabi of Indian Literature?
Are your works prescribed at some universities?
JPK: I think a writer’s job is to write
only. It is others’ job to evaluate it in
terms of changing environment of society and literature
and to introduce in the syllabi. Dalits themselves
are not in a position to introduce Dalit literature
in syllabi, as they are not at key posts in the
Universities. Even they are also not members of
the syllabus committees. We have raised our voice
at national level through participation in the
seminars/ symposiums at universities in different
parts of India. It is pleasant to learn that Dalit
literature is a part of syllabus now in a number
of Indian universities. As far as my work is concerned,
my novel ‘Chhapper’ is prescribed
in syllabus at MA/ M.Phil level at Hyderabad,
Shivaji, Mumbai and Cochin universities. Some
of my short stories and poems are also included
in the syllabus at Indira Gandhi National Open
University (IGNOU) and other universities at BA
/ MA level.
NKA: Some scholars have written doctoral dissertations
on you. What aspects of your personality/ writings
are explored in these theses?
JPK: About 15 scholars have done their research
on my life and work. Most of the dissertations
are focused on my novel ‘Chhapper’
as it is considered as the first novel in Hindi
Dalit literature. Other works are focused on my
short stories and poetry etc.
NKA: As editor of Dalit Sahitya( annual magazine
of Dalit Literature), what are the major areas
of concern in the growth and development of Dalit
JPK: As editor of Dalit Sahitya Varshiki (Annual)
my main concern has been to introduce the socio-economic
and political, religious backwardness and exploitation
of dalits to sensitize the society to make their
attitude towards dalits positive. My main motto
through this Annual magazine is to point out the
root causes of the illiteracy, unemployment, poverty
and social backwardness of dalits. My humble effort
is to give voice to the voiceless and sense to
the senseless and at the same time to warn the
privileged classes to give their due rights to
dalits and treat them as equal human beings. It
is in the interest of development, progress and
prosperity of the society. Freedom and human dignity
of dalits must be valued.
NKA: Besides this all pervading Dalit consciousness,
what are the other themes of your writings?
JPK: Besides Dalit consciousness, I have written
on other issues also. But my main focus has always
been on social problems.
NKA: You have authored certain books for children
too. Are those books also having the same Dalit
voice? Or is there anything else.
JPK: No, these books are based on general subjects
such as science/ scientific approach. One book
is based on saints, one is on great scientist
C.V.Raman and the novel ‘Shamshaan ka Rahasya’
is based on kidnapping of children and smuggling
blood and parts of their bodies by a group of
sadhus. Some of the books are based on Buddhist
NKA: You worked an unskilled labourer. And now,
you are the Second Secretary in the High Commission
of India in Mauritius. Your career graph shows
your extraordinary growth over the years. What
factors (inner and external) were responsible
for the exemplary rise in your career?
had nothing with me except my will power, determination
and hard work. I had worked hard. There was a
total darkness in my life when my father expired
in 1976 and I was studying in 11th class only.
Being an eldest among all my brothers and sisters,
I was the only person to support my mother to
run the house. So, instead of going to school
I started going to work as unskilled labourer
for five rupees a day. I utilized my time and
energy, the only thing I had. My chacha Harpal
Singh and his two friends Mukut Lal Tomar and
Hukam Singh always encouraged and inspired me.
Not only moral and emotional support, he supported
me financially also. Had he not supported me I
would not have achieved any thing in my life.
Dr.Devi Singh and Sh.Ram Sahai were other persons
in my village who gave me moral support. They
showed me the path and I translated their thoughts
into action. I wanted to become an engineer, but
due to our hardship I could not take admission
in B.Sc. in 1977, after passing the Intermediate
exam with Science subjects, as I could not manage
Rs 140/- for admission fee. Next year, in 1978
I was able to take admission in B.A. with financial
help of my chacha, but my admission was for name
only. I was not able to go to college, as I did
not have proper clothes, shoes etc. During this
period, I worked in a steel factory for Rs 180/-
per month and as a Munshi with a tax advocate
for Rs 200/- per month. I taught tuitions also.
Due to this drawback of my life, I could not get
opportunity to study as a student like others.
I got first Government job in 1980 as an Ameen
in sale Tax Department. In 1981, I joined as a
clerk in the same department. In 1984 I joined
Vijaya Bank in Allahabad and in 1988 I joined
Central Secretariat Official Language Service
as a Translator and in 1989 I was selected as
Assistant Director, through UPSC and joined Ministry
of Commerce. In 1996, I was promoted as Deputy
Director and joined Department of Culture. Later
I worked in Ministry of Rural Development. In
2006 I was promoted to the post of Joint Director,
but in the mean time I was selected on deputation
to the post of Second Secretary (Language and
Culture) in the High Commission of India. With
service, I continued my study and did MA in Philosophy,
Hindi and History respectively and Ph.D. in Hindi.
In 1978 I was selected in Indian Air Force for
the post of Airman (Technical), but I did not
join as my younger brothers were not doing well
in their studies and my presence was needed in
the family. I passed PCS (UP) also, first time
I could not succeed, Second time I was selected
for subordinate service, which I refused to join.
NKA: Tell us something about your present assignment
at Mauritius. How is it helpful in your career
as a writer?
JPK: My portfolio in the High Commission is to
deal with the work of education, promotion of
Indian languages and culture. I have close interaction
with educational as well as Socio-Cultural institutions
and persons in Mauritius. I am in regular touch
with writers also and this helps me in keeping
me active in writing. Moreover, I have to attend
so many socio-cultural functions where speeches
are also required. Some times, I prepare speeches
for High Commissioner also. Experience of Writing
helps me a lot in preparing or delivering speeches.
I consider this assignment as an opportunity to
gain some different type of experiences, which,
at later stage, may be translated into literary
forms. Writing has always been helpful in my career.
My writing experience has played an important
role in my selection to the post of Assistant
Director and to the present post also.
The interviewer Dr.Nilanshu Kumar Agarwal is
Senior Lecturer in English at Feroze Gandhi College,