Arvind Adiga, a Brahmin from coastal Karnataka recently got the Booker Prize for his novel ‘White Tiger’. The novel describes the travails of a Dalit man from north India and how he finally triumphs over his slavery to the feudal upper caste and becomes an entrepreneur in the IT city of Bangalore.
Many reviewers have mentioned that the novel represents the struggle of a Dalit Man and his attainment of the ‘Indian Dream’. Several so called Dalit intellectuals got this book to the notice of the editor of Dalit Nation. We finally read the book and tried to put it in perspective within the overall Dalit literature and body of knowledge. What we found in this process was not in consonance with the rest of the reviewers.
The author of ‘White Tiger’ divides India into two – the Light part and the Dark part. The land of darkness is the cow belt states of North India – UP, Bihar, MP. The land of light are the states of the south especially cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad. This is the basic flaw of the novel. The author has assumed that caste equations are predominant in the northern Indian villages and the southern cities are lands of milk and honey where free will and thereby entrepreneurs can thrive. In the northern villages the destiny of Dalit men are fixed and irrevocable. The Dalits are born in such squalor where the parents forget to name their children. They finally end up as the servant, cleaners and car drivers of the upper feudal caste.
The basic problem with this premise is that it gives a clean chit to the southern cities. The editor of Dalit Nation has lived in Indian metropolitan cities and is well aware of the deeply entrenched casteism in these cities. The IT industry in Bangalore is no haven of equality (Read our article – Dalits must agitate for reservation in private sector). We have proved this time and again that the majority of the resources in the cities are appropriated by the upper caste and they control all major business and administration. But Arvind Adiga finds it the right place for the Dalit hero of the novel to escape and find emancipation.
In the whole book there is no mention of our great leader Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. There is mention of Gandhi in a disparaging way but nowhere the messiah of Dalits is mentioned. The Brahmin author of this novel has no clue about Dalits and northern India and how much the Dalits venerate Babasaheb. The Brahmin Adiga even fails to mention the term Dalit in the whole of the novel. Dalit is a powerful term and it is through this identity all our oppressed brethren relate to each other. It is a clever ploy of the upper caste writers to avoid such words as Dalit and thereby strip them of our identity.
Babasaheb taught the mantra – ‘educate, organize and agitate’. But this novel does not contain any elements of the Dalit mantra. The Dalit hero, Balaram Halwai is uneducated and there is no effort or striving among his community towards education. They seem to be happy in their illiteracy and their impending destiny of life long slavery. And how does the dalit hero escape from the slavery of the upper castes. He works as a car driver to his American educated feudal lord and finally murders him, steals his money and escapes to Bangalore. What is the message the Dalits should take from this stupid book. That they should murder and steal and that is the only way our for them. What nonsense. Is this what Babasaheb taught them.
Why did not the hero of the novel and his community get educated , organized themselves and agitate against the upper caste people. This is what Babasaheb would have done and this is what he exhorted the Dalits to do all his life. But for the Brahmin Adiga the only way out for a Dalit is to murder, steal and live like a fugitive.
And how does our Balram Halwai gets deliverance in Bangalore. He opens a transportation company for call centres by renting out a few vehicles. Is this the success story of a Dalit. I was anticipating the Dalit hero to become a CEO of a software company. But he again ends up as driver or rather a person who hires many drivers.
Does not Arvind Adiga know that we have a Dalit Chief Minister Mayavathi, does he even know who people like Jagajivan Ram and K.R.Narayanan were. Does he know that Babasaheb had a Phd from Columbia University. He finally made the Dalit hero to become the the scum of the IT industry in Bangalore and he wants us to believe that he has found his salvation there. Babasaheb was a lawyer himself and he did not believe in murder or stealing. He believed in the law and was the first law minister of Independent India. Babasaheb was a socialist and believed that state reform is needed for the emancipation of Dalits. But here the Brahmin Adiga gives us a false hope in free market capitalism. The very same capitalism which fuels feudalism and exploitation is praised by the author. What a shame.
Novels like these should be shunned by Dalits as they deny our heritage and demonize our people. The ‘White Tiger’ is neither empowering nor can it emancipate Dalits. In short it is just a piece of junk written by an upper caste Brahmin. This piece of junk is given some Booker or Hooker prize and the upper caste readers read these kinds of novels thinking that this is the Dalit condition and they can rest in peace. The aim of Dalits is social reform through state legislation and cultural revolution. But how can a shameless pseudo intellectual scumbag Arvind Adiga understand this. All they are interested in is the Hooker prize and international readership. We dalits do not need India to be the ‘White Tiger’ we will convert it into the ‘Black Panther’.