Dalit literature is the literature of the Dalits, by the Dalits. Since ancient times, the Dalits have been subjugated and marginalized by the upper caste Hindus. Expression of these experiences have long been silenced, often with religious and social sanction and relegated to the margins as non-literary. More recent is the trend to deny their existence altogether. Dalit literature is an attempt to bring to the forefront the discrimination, brutality, violence, poverty and ostracization faced by the Dalit community in India. Dalit literature is one of the most important literary phenomena in post-independence India that is trying to restore dignity to a community that has been wronged for ages. Their struggles relating to their stigmatized identity as “untouchables” are finally being acknowledged. Dalit literature has become synonymous with the Dalit consciousness, on both individual and communal levels. The writings of B.R. Ambedkar, Joitirao Phule, and Periyar constitute the foundation of Dalit sociopolitical movements and literary productions.
Arjun Dangle offers a definition of Dalit literature: “Dalit literature is one which acquaints people with the caste system and untouchability in India, its appalling nature and its system of exploitation. In other words, Dalit is not a caste but a realization and is related to the experiences, joys and sorrows, and struggles of those in the lowest stratum of society. It matures with a sociological point of view and is related to the principles of negativity, rebellion and loyalty to science, thus finally ending as revolutionary.”