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Barishaler Jogen Mandal is a Bengali novel by Debes Ray, published in 2010 from Kolkata, India. The book revisits the socio-political arena of Bengal during the final decade of colonial rule by construing Namasudra politician Jogendranath Mandal (1904 –1968) as the central figure. This article studies the novel as a literary appendage to anti-caste thought—as an attempt to reclaim the Dalit history of the nation and re-establish the significance of J.N. Mandal in the history of anti-caste politics. My reading of the novel reflects Bakhtinian perspective of inseparability between form and content. The novel traces evolution of J.N. Mandal’s political disposition through novelisation of history, while addressing the nation building processes in late colonial South Asia and developing conceptual understanding of Dalithood in terms of imposed powerlessness as well as wisdom and culture acquired in the intimate connection they share with the habitat through everyday struggle for survival. I argue that the author develops his locus throughout the novel by adopting J.N. Mandal’s own standpoint. With adherence to a definite sudra perspective, the text navigates history, challenging many of the discipline’s standardised interpretations. It engages with the discourse of power by strategically situating itself at the peripheral locus of the Dalit life-world, and develops the narrative of power as it would appear from that fringe. By doing so, it effectually calls for a conceptual inversion of power, re-centring it in terms of Dalit history.
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