The first Dalit autobiography to be published, Baluta caused a sensation when it first appeared, in Marathi, in 1978. It quickly acquired the status of a classic of modern Indian literature and was also a bestseller in Hindi and other major languages. This is the first time that it has been translated into English.
Set in Mumbai and rural Maharashtra of the 1940s and ’50s, it describes in shocking detail the practice of untouchability and caste violence. But it also speaks of the pride and courage of the Dalit community that often fought back for dignity.
Most unusually, Baluta is also a frank account of the author’s own failings and contradictions—his passions, prejudices and betrayals—as also those of some leading lights of the Dalit movement. In addition, it is a rare record of life in Maharashtra’s villages and in the slums, chawls and gambling dens of Mumbai.