Chandal Jibon (2009) is the story of Jibon, a boy born into the hitherto ‘untouchable’ Chandal (or Namasudra) community in East Bengal, whose parents flee from East Pakistan and arrive as refugees in India. The story of the boy’s journey to adulthood – is also the story of the experience of the subaltern Bengali refugee community and of caste oppression, humiliation and violence, providing a trenchant bottom-up view of post-1947 Bengal and of Calcutta in the turbulent Naxalite era. It is a tale of the indomitable human will to survive.
In this excerpt from Manoranjan Byapari’s novel, Chandal Jibon, the author writes about the abysmal and inhuman living conditions and treatment of low-caste refugees from East Pakistan in the early 1950s in the Shiromanipur camp in West Bengal. V. Ramaswamy translates.