Dalit writer Shantabai K Kamble passes away at 99

Prominent writer Shantabai Krushnaji Kamble, renowned as the first woman Dalit autobiographer, passed away on Wednesday morning at the age of 99. Her last rites will be performed at the Koparkhairane crematorium.

AgenciesUpdated: Thursday, January 26, 2023, 02:49 AM IST
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Pune: Prominent writer Shantabai Krushnaji Kamble, renowned as the first woman Dalit autobiographer, passed away on Wednesday morning at the age of 99. Her last rites will be performed at the Koparkhairane crematorium.

The mother of the late Professor Arun Kamble, a founder-member of the Dalit Panthers of India party and politician, Shantabai is survived by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Top Dalit personalities paid rich tributes to Shantabai and recalled how “the writings of her life’s struggles helped fill a gaping void in the Dalit literature” after Dr BR Ambedkar’s Constitution gave the universal right to education in India.

“Thereafter, many women got educated, some even started writing, but Shantabai laid the foundation for giving a strong voice to the weaker section of society and the downtrodden. Her immense contribution to Dalit literature can never be forgotten,” said a close family friend Milind Kamble, the President of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DICCI).

It was in March 1983 that the 60-year-old, retired government school teacher Shantabai started penning her autobiography in Marathi, ‘Majhya Jalmachi Chittarkatha’ which was published as a series of articles in the Purva magazine.

The series caught the popular imagination and in June 1986, it came out in book form, later it was made into a tele-serial for Doordarshan Marathi as ‘Najuka’ (August 1990 onwards).

As it grew into popularity, the autobiography was subsequently translated into Hindi and other languages, plus English and French (‘The Kaleidoscope Story Of My Life’) for global audiences, and a few chapters were published in Femina magazine.

The autobiography is also prescribed as part of the syllabus in the University of Mumbai Marathi literature, where her late son once served as the Head of the Department of Marathi, and years later an animated version also came out as ‘Naja Goes To School’.

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