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The Unheard Word: A Dalit Publishing Company's Struggle For Survival In Maharashtra

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The Unheard Word: A Dalit Publishing Company's Struggle For Survival In Maharashtra

No one dreams of becoming a publis­her. One is brought into it. So, what brings a Dal­it person to English-language publishing? A first-hand experience of the trials faced by publishers working with Dalit literature

Dalits write back: Covers of books pußblished by Panther’s Paw Publication

I founded the Panther’s Paw Publication in 2016, a year after I got my Master’s degree from TISS, Mumbai. At that point, I neither had money, nor publishing capital in terms of working knowledge. Besides, it is a rare equivalent to madness if a first-generation learner is determined to be a publisher in India, where people are spending less and less money on books, and where there is absolut­ely no guarantee to survive financially or supp­ort from cultu­ral bodies. But back then, to pur­sue publishing, I knew I had only one thing. I had people who understood why I wanted to do it. Living for three years in Mumbai, I have found a few people from the anti-caste movement who are book fanatics in their own ways. My str­ength as a publisher also comes from liste­n­ing to their life stories, in which their literary pursuits challenged their material needs and necessities. Their conviction in books also ceme­n­ted my jou­r­ney with books. No one dreams of becoming a publis­her. One is brought into it. So, what brings a Dal­it person to English-language publishing?

A Dalit person can be killed for anything and everything under the sky in Ind­ia: be it for riding a horse at a wedding, keeping a moustache, drinking water, loving someone not from his caste or having a ringtone of a song that celebrates the legacy of Ambedkar. A Dalit person can be killed for exercising common sen­se in a caste society. For a Dalit person to journey into the world of words, writing them, pub­l­ishing them, and circulating them in caste society is a major event that comes at a price, risk and danger. To be able to write, publish and circulate his stories, histories, songs, etc., a Dalit person has to come to terms with his own fear and choose between fear and fight (against caste) with his only weapon, books.

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