Omprakash Valmiki is dead. The man who gave us a penetrative insight into the life of a Dalit in ‘post-imperial’ India by dissecting his own life with trembling, emotional, anti-surgeon-like hands in his masterpiece Joothan (a passage from which, in English translation, is available in The Exercise of Freedom) has left many metaphysical questions about the nature of literature for us.
Can the Dalit word also be jootha (ritually contaminated)? What happens when these words leap from the pages of a book or off a computer screen and enter non-Dalit eyes and minds? Is Joothan, then, not its own weapon, cutting in half any ambiguity towards putting an immediate end—the title of two others books by Valmiki: Bas! Bohut ho Chuka (Stop it! That’s enough) and Ab Aur Nahi (Not any more)—to the horrors, and the horrible ideas, it documents.
Such weapons never die.
Read an obituary here.