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Author starts publishing house to propagate Dalit literature

To develop anti-caste sensibilities among people, Yogesh Maitreya, a Mumbai-based Dalit author-translator, started a publishing house called Panther’s Paw Publication.

Author starts publishing house to propagate Dalit literature


Yogesh Maitreya was introduced to the writings of Dr BR Ambedkar early in life. Though his forefathers belonged to Mahar, a Dalit community in which Ambedkar was born into, in 1956, his grandfather converted to Buddhism to shun the oppressive caste system. While doing a course in literature in his hometown in Nagpur, he noticed that there wasn’t much Dalit literature in English. The books that were available were written by upper-caste writers for upper-caste readers. He shifted to Mumbai to do his Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and was looking for a job. During that time, he met JV Pawar, one of the founding members of Dalit Panthers. He started translating the book written by Pawar from Marathi to English. The first book he translated was Ambedkarite Movement After Ambedkar written by Pawar.

“Once the translation was over, I started looking for publishers. But unfortunately, no ‘mainstream’ publication houses supported me – they were not willing to publish the book stating various invalid reasons like ‘there is no scope for Dalit literature’, ‘nobody is interested to read Dalit non-fiction’, and so on. I started looking for self-publication options and did some research on it. It took around 8 months to learn how to develop a book, finalise layouts, book covers, fonts, paper quality, printing process and so on. Once I was on the right track, I started my own publishing house called Panther’s Paw Publication,” he says.

The 33-year-old author-translator says that setting up a publishing house was a refreshing experience. For Yogesh, the publication is not a business, it is a movement. So far, they have published six books. The youngster noticed that publication houses in India aren’t much supportive of translating Dalit literature from regional languages to English. “There are a lot of Marathi writers who excel in writing Dalit fiction and non-fiction. But they are not recognised by publishers,” Yogesh adds.

Currently, Panther’s Paw Publication is working on three books —  first is a fictional account inspired by Savitribai Phule, the first female teacher of India, second is an English poetry collection by a female author-illustrator, the third is a small Marathi biography of Ramabai, the first wife of Dr BR Ambedkar, written by JV Pawar. Yogesh says that though there are enough Dalit books in vernacular languages, most of them are not getting enough popularity when compared to other writers. “Dalit literature is definitely emerging. But since there is no representation of it in the media, they aren’t getting the spotlight they deserve. Dalit writing should be given more space in India. So that, they can make stories of the community heard and spread across the world,” he sums up.

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