In The Caravan, S. Anand provides an overview of modern Dalit literature, as well as insights into the portrayal of Dalits by many famous non-Dalit writers like Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, and Rohinton Mistry. While often sympathetic, he notes, these portrayals also tend to be unidimensional, where "Dalit characters lack distinct subjecthood prior to their involvement with high-caste characters." Anand is co-founder of Navayana, "India’s first and only publishing house to exclusively focus on the issue of caste from anticaste perspective."
The journey of modern Dalit literature has been a difficult one. But even though it has not necessarily enjoyed the support of numbers (in what has come to be the trade publishing market) we must engage with what Dalits are writing—not simply for reasons of authenticity, or as a concession to identity politics, but simply because of the aesthetic value of this body of writing, and for the insights it offers into the human condition. In a society that is still largely unwilling to recognise Dalits as equal, rights-bearing human beings, in a society that is inherently indifferent to the everyday violence against Dalits and their near-total ghettoisation in various spheres of social and cultural activity, in a society unwilling to share social and cultural resources equitably with Dalits unless mandated by law (as seen in the anti-reservation discourse), Dalit literature has the potential to humanise non-Dalits and sensitise them to a world into which they have no insight. But before we can understand what Dalit literature is seeking to accomplish, we need first to come to terms with the stranglehold of non-Dalit representations of Dalits.