It was the birth centenary celebrations of Dr B R Ambedkar in the year 1991 that gave hope of a resurgence of the Dalit liberation struggle. The decade 1990-2000 witnessed a great resurgence in Dalit literature and art. In the final years of that decade Dalit Murasu, a magazine exclusively for Dalits, came out.
Dalit Murasu, was started by Punitha Pandiyan, a Dalit activist turned journalist, in 1997. For 16 years it acted as a mouthpiece for Dalits.After its arrival, mainstream magazines in Tamil Nadu started to provide space for Dalit writing and ideology in field reporting, works of fiction and non-fiction. Due to a financial crisis the magazine was suspended in April 2012 but, almost a year later, is to be published from May 2013. It was the only magazine that spoke for Dalits after Oru Paisa Thamizhan, published by Pandit Iyothee Thas, a renowned Dalit activist of the 1880’s.
Speaking to City Express Punitha Pandiyan shared his 16-year journey with the magazine. “I came to Chennai in 1991, the year of Dr Ambedkar’s birth centenary celebrations. Notable personalities from the Dalit community stepped into politics, literature and art at that time, but there was no media to carry Dalit issues,” he said.
“In 1996 a magazine called Dalit Voice was published from Bangalore. Using that as a model I started Dalit Murasu in 1997,” he continued. “The magazine changed the perception that Dalits could not run a magazine.”
While Oru Paisa Thamizhan carried dialogues on Tamil nationalism, the magazines started by Dr Ambedkar carried discussions on caste as a principal contradiction. Dalit Murasu follows the path of Ambedkar, along with the ideology of Periyar. “We had a financial crisis last year, but we managed to raise funds and clear our debts. The upcoming issue will focus on disputes between the SC castes in V Puduppatti near Rajapalayam”.
Punitha Pandiyan concluded by saying, “I have staked my whole life on this magazine and I hope it will be a change-agent in this caste-ridden society.”