On 3rd Dec.2004 New India Foundation -Bangalore presented the New India Book
Prize, 2004 to prominent Hindi Writer Omparkash Valmiki on his book "JOOTHAN"
in a well organized programme at India International Centre at New Delhi.
Omparkash Valmiki awarded with One lakh rupee and a certificate. This book
translated in English and published from Columbia University press, New York,
America and also published in Tamil, Punjabi and Malayalam.
is the author of two collections of poetry and one of short stories. As
editor and publisher of numerous magazines, he has played a vital role in
the propagation of Dalit literature. Arun Prabha Mukherjee is associate
professor of English at York University in Toronto. She is the author of
Postcolonialism: My Living and Oppositional Aesthetics: Readings
from a Hyphenated Space.
C -5/2, Ordnance Factory Estate
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Joothan - An Untouchable's
Translated by Arun Prabha
"A searing memoir of the life of a sensitive and intelligent Dalit
youth in independent India. Joothan tells us how he overcame
contempt, humiliation, and violence to gain an education and join the
slowly growing ranks of Dalit intellectuals in India. Full of vivid
sketches of people and events, this book is indispensable to those who
would understand modern South Asia, and valuable for those interested in
gaining a comparative understanding of social discrimination and its
–Sumit Guha, Brown University
"A moving evocation of the underside of life in India. . . . An
excellent translation from the Hindi with a useful introduction to the
life of a man who deliberately uses his name, Valmiki, to signify his
identification with the lowly scavenger even though he has climbed up to
status as a middle class intellectual."
–Eleanor Zelliot, Carleton College, author of From Untouchable to Dalit:
Essays on the Ambedkarite Movement
"As an editor and writer, Valmiki has done much to stake out a space
for Dalit literary expression, well exemplified by this narrative.
Fascinating cultural and personal history."
Omprakash Valmiki´s Joothan, an autobiographical
account of his birth and upbringing as an untouchable, or Dalit, in the
newly independent India of the 1950s, is one of the first portrayals of
Dalit life in north India from an insider´s perspective. "Joothan"
literally means scraps of food left on a plate, destined for the garbage
or for the family pet in a middle-class urban home. It is related to the
word "jootha," which means polluted, and such scraps are characterized as
"joothan" only if someone else eats them. India´s untouchables have been
forced to accept and eat joothan for their subsistence for
centuries. The word encapsulates the pain, humiliation, and poverty of
this community, which has lived at the bottom of India´s social pyramid
for millenia. Although untouchability was legally abolished in the
constitution of the newly independent India in 1949, Dalits continue to
face discrimination, economic deprivation, violence, and ridicule.
Traditionally, Indian literatures have either ignored untouchables or
portrayed them as victims in need of saviors, as objects without voice or
agency. Valmiki has broken new ground with an authentic recording of these
unrepresented experiences. He tells the stories of life in the untouchable
caste of Chuhra, at the bottom rung of society; his heroic struggle to
survive this preordained life of perpetual physical and mental
persecution; the cruel obstacles he overcame to become the first high
school graduate of his neighborhood; his coming to consciousness under the
influence of the great Dalit political leader B. R. Ambedkar; and his
transformation into a speaking subject bearing witness to the oppression
and exploitation that he endured as an individual and as a member of a
stigmatized and oppressed community.
Dalits today constitute about one sixth of India´s population. Spread
over the entire country, speaking many languages, and belonging to many
religions, they have become a major political force. As a document of the
long silenced and long denied sufferings of the Dalits, Joothan is
not only a contribution to the archives of Dalit history, but a manifesto
for the revolutionary transformation of society and human
Foreword Arun Prabha
Preface to the Hindi
Introduction Arun Prabha