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The problem

THE idea of Dalit as a perspective has evolved during the past ten years of my research on Dalit society and history. I see my work as a conversation with Dalit writers, writings and politics, one that has fundamentally re-shaped my own intellectual journey. As a caste Hindu, I have been struck by the absence of Dalit points of view within mainstream Indian historiography, and by the necessity of bringing these points of view into active dialogue with caste Hindu narratives of Indian history, society, nationalism and colonialism. The articles in this issue seek to take seriously Dalit perspectives by bringing them into conversation with caste Hindu perspectives which are far too often passively accepted, not simply as the authoritative representations of Indian society and history, but as the only representations. My own education really began in 1992-93 when Dalit friends pointed out in no uncertain terms that there are no Dalits in Indian history. However, they also made it clear that Dalits and Dalit mohallas are some of the most common objects of study for the sociology and anthropology departments of various universities. Dalits are made into objects of study in ways that caste Hindus and their neighbourhoods rarely if ever are. As I began to pursue this, I found that I had a great deal to learn from my many interactions with Dalits in different parts of North India, and from Dalit writings in the Hindi language, both past and present. These writers and intellectuals had points of view on everything that were markedly different from the rest of Hindu/Indian society. Their views of Hindu religion and society, Indian history, nationalism, colonialism, and the larger world, stood in sharp contrast to what I had learned during my formal education at Delhi University. In my own research I have attempted to bring Dalit perspectives into conversation with the agendas of mainstream Indian historiography. The platform provided by Seminar offers an opportunity to extend this conversation. I will offer two examples to illustrate what I mean by a Dalit perspective. The examples, one from the 1940s and another from the 1990s, capture the contradiction between the positions of Dalits and non-Dalits over what constitutes secular politics. A recent familiar event, the decision of the Bahujan Samaj Party to form a government in UP with the support of the Hindu-right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party in 1995 is one example. Prior to this, in 1992, the BSP had walked out of its alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP). BSP leaders argued that as far as Dalit priorities were concerned, there was no real difference between the Congress, the BJP and the Samajwadi Party. The BSPs refusal to have any alliance with the SP, and its electoral alliance with the BJP were described by the

mainstream media and intelligentsia at the time as opportunist, and its refusal to join what were portrayed as the secular forces was severly criticised. The second example is of the Congress nomination of Ambedkar from the Bombay Legislative Assembly to the Constituent Assembly in July 1946, paving the way for his appointment as law minister in Nehrus cabinet. Predictably, the Hindi media in UP welcomed this decision and described it as a final triumph of Indian (Congress) nationalism. On the other hand, many Dalits viewed Ambedkars turnaround as a betrayal of their struggle of the last 20 years, especially the sustained agitation by the SCF (Scheduled Castes Federation) throughout the 1940s. Ambedkar addressed this criticism in one of the most important speeches of his career, delivered in April 1948 at Kanpur. He clarified that he had joined the government to ensure that the Dalit agenda, for which he had fought for 25 years, was incorporated into Congress policies. In addition, he asserted that Dalits must transform their separate identity into a political force with its own distinctive agenda. Not surprisingly the media, especially the Hindi media in the Cow belt, vilified him for preaching communal politics of the Muslim League variety. These two disparate examples bring home the point that both Ambedkar and the BSP had a distinctive Dalit agenda which was not recognized as legitimate by mainstream Hindu opinion. In this note, I will lay out the broad contours of the Dalit agenda that was fashioned in North India in the 20th century. The category Dalit is now extensively used in both academic and non-academic literature across the world, and in India even the most orthodox elements in Hindu society, as well as the intelligentsia, have taken to using the category Dalit. Indeed, today we can talk of a virtual Dalit Studies in which Dalits are studied from a range of positions and standpoints around common themes: their struggles, identity politics, and efforts to achieve social justice, equality and power, battles for reservations, and ritual status, to name a few. But this begs the question: why should Dalit Studies be confined to studying Dalits? Instead of viewing Dalits as an object of study, I wish to propose that the category Dalit can also be used as aperspective for approaching the study of Indian/Hindu society and history, colonialism and nationalism, democracy, modernity and the larger world. In this, an attempt is made to evaluate and study Indian society and history, literature, labour, gender, Hindu religion, intellectual formations, the Dravidian movement, and democracy from Dalit standpoints. There is a fundamental rupture between Dalit and non-Dalit writers and activists in the ways they analyze and interpret various facets of our society and history. What we have are two different worlds. We thus propose that Dalit is a perspective. This point is demonstrated by outlining the evolution of a perspective in Uttar Pradesh that emerged through Dalit social and cultural struggles, Dalit politics and Dalit writings. We suggest that through these diverse activities Dalits worked out their own distinctive world view during the first six decades of the 20th century, a

perspective that did not exist earlier, but emerged in the 1920s and slowly acquired a concrete form between the 1940s and 1960s. Ultimately, it is a perspective that today shapes and influences different facets of Dalit lives, and has the potential to reshape the larger Indian society, as well. By the 1960s, a commitment to the liberation of Dalits, social and economic progress, a sense of pride in Dalit identity, and a firm resolve to resist the domination perpetuated by Hindu society had all become securely ingrained in the minds and actions of both Dalit activists and ideologues, commitments which are evident today. Dalit identity became the foundation for the formation of a new politics, raising a new set of issues and mobilizing all Dalit castes collectively under a single umbrella. The core issue of refashioning a pure, untouched identity remained, but the most significant contribution of this new politics lay in the emergence of a Dalit identity as a foundational category for social and political organization of knowledge, lives and agendas. Dalits questioned and rejected categories like untouchables, Depressed Classes, Scheduled Castes, and Harijans that were coined by colonial and Hindu/nationalist discursive practices. This was not merely to contest dominant ascriptions of their identities but also, more importantly, to question the notions of impurity and pollution attached to their community, identity and history. Various Dalit castes in different parts of India raised this issue independently by claiming that they had discovered a pure past, and a pure identity, either within Hindu religion or outside of it. Familiar examples are the assertions of the Adi-Dharmis and Balmikis of Punjab, the Satnamis of Chattisgarh, the Namasudras of Bengal, the Chamars, Pasis and Bhangis of UP, the Shilpakars of Kumaon, and the Mahars and Chambhars of Maharashtra. I would characterize these initiatives as the first stage in the evolution of a Dalit perspective. Through a range of organizations and caste mahasabhas, Chamars were the first Dalit community to launch a struggle to redefine their identities in UP in the 1910s and 1920s.1 This struggle was launched initially to contest the dominant colonial and Hindu narratives of their untouchable identity by emphasizing the purity of their lives and by demanding a status equal to that claimed by caste Hindus. From police files we have sustained evidence that in the 1920s Chamar mahasabhas mobilized their communities in urban and rural areas by organizing meetings and demonstrations to sustain and spread these ideas.2 It was in the rural areas of the western districts of UP that the movement began to appeal to well-off Chamar agricultural peasants. Although Chamar protests were evident in many parts of the state, there is evidence to assert that the most organized and sustained agitation took place in western Uttar Pradesh. These protests were first noticed in 1922 in the districts of Meerut, Moradabad, Bulandshahr, Badaun, Bijnor, Bareilly, Pilibhit, Agra and Aligarh. By 1923-24, evidence of Chamar protests came from other districts like Saharanpur, Etah, Etawah, Mainpuri, Mathura, Dehradun,

Lucknow, Unnao, Kheri Sultanpur, and Pratapgarh, as well as from districts in eastern UP like Benares, Jaunpur, Basti and Gorakhpur. To sustain the movement, a series of practices were promoted and adopted by Chamar organizations, such as abstaining from impure practices like leatherwork, eating beef and consuming alcohol, maintaining a vegetarian diet, and engaging in specific Hindu religious and ritual practices. In addition, Chamar groups also demanded access to schools and education, and protested against the practices of untouchability, numerous illegal cesses and begari imposed on Chamar peasants by caste Hindus. From early on Chamars were keen to show their loyalty to the British government, a fact reflected in the nature of resolutions passed at these meetings. In December 1927 the leaders of the Adi-Hindu Mahasabha in UP made a claim for a more inclusive achhut or untouched identity to unite disparate Dalit castes. The Mahasabha laid out its agenda in a conference held on 27 and 28 December 1927 in Allahabad, an event that was widely reported and discussed in contemporary newspapers in UP.3 The conference was proclaimed as the first AllIndia Adi-Hindu conference, and was attended by 25,000 Dalits from UP. Another 350 delegates participated from Punjab, Bihar, Delhi, the Central Provinces, Poona, Bengal, Madras and Hyderabad. The Adi-Hindu Mahasabha was described as a movement of all untouchables and Swami Achhutanand was declared their true leader. The struggle against social injustice was described as achhut nationalism, social uplift as their religion, and self-respect as their Home rule, and the audience was advised to ignore Hindus who called them traitors. By emphasising their achhut identity, the leaders of the Adi-Hindu Mahasabha were hoping to build a new politics that would bring together all Dalit castes Doms, Mehtars, Pasis, Lal Begis, Dhanuks, Koris, and Chamars. As an evidence of these claims see the Adi-Hindu petition published after this article. Simultaneously, the Adi-Hindu Mahasabha raised these issues in a petition submitted to the Simon Commission during its tour of India in 1928. The Simon Commission received similar petitions from Dalit organizations in different parts of UP and India. They provide us with useful material to understand the various facets of the Dalit agenda that were being assembled around this time.4 What is striking is that most Dalit organisations which submitted petitions to the Simon Commission were unanimous in claiming a separate achhut identity, making this a marked feature of Dalit politics of the time. Most of the ideas of the Adi-Hindu movement were also widely shared by other Dalit groups across UP, including the Adi-Dharmis from Dehradun, the Kumaon Shilpakar Sabha of Almora, the Jatav Mahasabha of Agra, the Dom Sudhar Sabha of Garhwal, and the Chamar Sabha of Kanpur. Further, evidence from CID weekly reports of these years (1926-30) indicates a good deal of activism conducted by Adi-Hindu organizations.

Through their struggles in the 1920s and 1930s, Dalit activists and organisations in UP gradually formulated an agenda that addressed the concerns of their community as well as issues that mainstream nationalist organisations like the Congress had raised with regard to the vision of an Indian nation and democracy. A more passionate and elaborate discussion of these themes is evident in Chandrika Prasad Jigyasus book, Bharat Ke Adi Niviasiyon Ki Sabhayata (The Civilization of Indias Original Inhabitants) published in 1937 from Lucknow. In claiming that achhuts were the original inhabitants of India and descendants of the dasas, asurs and dasyus mentioned in Brahmanical Hindu texts, Dalits were challenging, both colonial and Hindu interpretations of their identity. Achhut was declared as the identity of all untouchables, separate from the Hindu community. Adequate safeguards for achhuts in various elective bodies in the form of separate electorates was a demand which was to become the cornerstone of their struggle in the coming years. Indeed, by the 1930s, their charter of demands included proportionate representation in legislative bodies, reservations in government jobs, adequate Dalit representation in the Congress ministry, permanent rights over land by changing the tenancy acts, fixed wages for agricultural labour and for the removal and skinning of dead animals, rights to use public wells, the abolition of begari, the right to convert to any religion, and rejection of the term harijan. Ambedkar ki Awaz Arthath Achhuton ka Federation (The Voice of Ambedkar or the Federation of Achhuts) was the title of Nandlal Viyogis 1947 book published in Allahabad. The title proclaims the significance of Ambedkar and the Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF) in reshaping achhut identity and politics in the 1940s by giving it a new voice or awaz. A new feature of achhut politics in the 1940s was the emergence of the SCF as a party offering a political platform for all achhuts. In particular, the Federation brought together diverse achhut political and social groups including Jatavs, Raidasis, Pasis, Dhanuks, Chamars, and others into a single political formation. By the 1940s proportional representation, education and an emphasis on a shared separate identity had acquired wider social support among achhuts.5 The appeal of the SCF lay in the fact that it provided an organisational body for Dalits to launch a concerted campaign against the ill-effects of the Poona Pact, particularly its denial of proportional representation for Dalits. Adi-Hindu leaders from UP as well as from other parts of India were present during the foundation of the SCF in Nagpur on 18 July 1942. In UP, the SCF was considered a worthy successor to the AdiHindu Mahasabha and rapidly replaced branches of the Mahasabha all over the state. According to Viyogi, the SCF also replaced achhut organisations like the Adi-Dharm Mandal in Punjab, the Depressed Classes League of Namasudras in Bengal and the Depressed Classes Association in the Central Provinces. The SCF attracted Dalit organisations, particularly Chamar organizations like the Jatav Mahasabha of Agra, the Raidass Mahasabha of Allahabad, and the Kureel

Mahasabha and Chamar Mahasabha of Kanpur. The Kumaon Shilpakar Mahasabha was the only non-Chamar organisation to join the Federation in its initial stages. Gradually, the establishment of district branches of the SCF also attested to its growing popularity in urban centres of UP. District branches were established in Agra, Aligarh, Allahabad, Etah, Etawah, Lucknow, Kanpur, Meerut, and Kumaon. The Uttar Pradesh SCF decided to launch a satyagraha in both 1946 and 1947 to protest against the Poona Pact, the Congress and the Cabinet Mission Award for rejecting their demands for proportional representation and a separate electorate. The SCF launched two different satyagrahas in Lucknow against the non-representative character of the Legislative Assembly, the first in July-August 1946 and the second from March to May 1947. There were other issues as well, which I have discussed elsewhere, including the abolition of begari, distribution of land to Dalits, free education and scholarships, and reservations of jobs within the government services. To reiterate, the achhut agenda laid by the Adi-Hindu Mahasabha in 1928, including a programme for defining a set of rights, seemed to have reached fruition by the 1940s. It was no longer the idea of the Adi-Hindu Mahasabha alone, but one that was shared by various Dalit organizations in UP and beyond. This vision of achhut politics and commitment to rights continues to shape the lives of Dalits today. It is my submission that by the 1940s the idea of united interests across all castes of Dalits under the shared identity of achhuts acquired hegemonic acceptability among groups who previously would not have recognized themselves as belonging to the same community. It was this perception of a shared agenda that convinced Ambedkar to join the Congress Ministry in 1947. The formation of the Republican Party of India in 1956 did not represent an abandonment of achhut identity and politics, nor did it represent a move to class politics as suggested by a host of scholars. By framing the formation of the Republican Party of India as a shift from caste to class, we miss the Dalit point of view which envisioned the possibility of building political alliances without losing the focus and power of a united achhut identity and agenda. To cite one example, the Republican Party of Indias slogans summed up the mood of the times and revealed the ideological moorings of the party; Jatav-Muslim bhai bhai: Hindu kaum kahan se ayee (Jatav-Muslims are brothers: where did the Hindus come from) or Thakur, Brahman aur Lala: kar do inka munha kala (Thakurs, Brahmans and Baniyas: blacken their faces). If anything, these slogans indicate that the Dalit struggles against domination by Hindu society were fought along caste lines by emphasising a separate identity. Rather than dissipating, the attractiveness of a shared Dalit identity has continued to grow. The most enduring legacy of the Adi-Hindu movement in UP was the conceptualization of a separate Dalit identity which was not merely a political

category but also a social and cultural category a way of thinking not just about Dalits but also about Hindu society. It is only through a recognition of the history of this movement and the way of thinking which accompanied the movement that Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu and millions of other Dalits were able to describe the Congress as a Hindu party, or advance their criticism of the left polity for refusing to address issues of social inequity. The sense that Dalits of UP had in the 1940s and 50s, and still have today, of having their own agenda, was made possible only through the history and political organisation of these decades. The unmistakable feature of this struggle and its enduring legacy has been the conception of a clearly defined notion of a Dalit politics and agenda. Through the struggles and writings of the past century, Dalits have forcefully articulated a distinct vision and perspective by engaging with Congress nationalism, colonialism, Hindu reform organizations, and the communist movement. This issue of Seminar reflects and engages with this vision in ways that force us to dramatically re-evaluate caste Hindu representations of Indian history and society. RAMNARAYAN S. RAWAT

* The author can be contacted at rrawat@nd.edu Footnotes: 1. Chamar Sabhas like Jatav Mahasabha, Jaiswar Mahasabha, Jatiya Chamar Sabha and many such sabhas were formed at the village level. 2. Officially known as Police Abstracts of Weekly Intelligence, Criminal Investigation Department (CID), UP. The weekly CID reports provide detailed accounts of Chamar protests in UP. See various CID reports between 1922-1926. 3. Report of All-India Adi-Hindu Mahasabha, 7 January 1928, submitted to the Simon Commission. Appendix: List of Memoranda, Evidence-UP/427, Report on United Provinces (3 Vols) Indian Statutory (Simon) Commission, OIOC, British Library (London, UK). 4. Almost all the representations are also available in the private papers of John Simon. MSS. Eur. F. 77/Simon Collection, Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library. 5. See Rawat, Partition Politics and Achhut Identity: A Study of the Scheduled Castes Federation and Dalit Politics, in Suvir Kaul (ed.), The Partitions of Memory: The Afterlife of the Division of India(Bloomington, 2002), pp. 111-139.

The brown mans counter-apartheid


CHANDRA BHAN PRASAD

IS the brown man intrinsically a racist? Well, it is difficult to state it affirmatively, and equally difficult to negate it. India has been a hierarchal society since its remotest antiquity. The brown mans intellectual personality is organically inseparable from the history he has lived through. The brown mans cultural trait thus seeks a civilizational context, where a system of hierarchy must pre-define his existence. As a matter of social reality, the brown man has not, in his intra-societal existence, ever seen a world without hierarchies. Hierarchy, therefore, becomes a very part of his extended personality. What happens, or is likely to happen, when the brown man encounters a new civilization, a new social context, the White West for instance? The inter-civilizational or inter-social context offers three possibilities for a brown man. In the absence of hierarchy, he aspires, strategically though, to dissolve into a new context for the sake of a good life. Alternatively, he creates a new hierarchy and submits before the White man. Or, he looks for a social/racial group, upon whom he can practice apartheid. In September 2001 when I was in Durban, a Black journalist narrated an interesting story. When apartheid was officially done away with, Indian immigrants to South Africa, in particular the Patels, would avoid restaurants where Black waiters served. After further investigation it was found that the Blacks hated Indians more than their White masters, because, the Indians in this case, routinely engaged with the Blacks as their subordinates. Similar stories can be found in the US as well, where the Brown man treats the Black population as potential subjects. Hierarchy, therefore, thrives on other continents as well where Indians have found their cultural world. The brown mans encounter with the British offers a classic explanation hierarchy as a brown mans social requirement. The British came to India as traders. Eventually they became rulers, but never slavers or slave owners. In the first age of globalization, going abroad for trade, competing for trade monopolies, often resulting in wars, establishing colonies, was all part of trade, and trade alone. In that process, however, a new situation of rulers and the ruled, or colonial powers and colonies, evolved. The British encounter with India was just that.

The British had come to India for trade, not to civilize or enslave. In the process,
however, they turned into civilizers howsoever unintended that may have been. The civilization project was, therefore, only a byproduct of the trade project. And that was driven by basic human sense that fundamental human sense which differentiates man from other species.

Confronted with a new situation, location, or time frame, other species adapt or perish. Humans, however, attempt to change the situation, context, and adapt to it as far as possible, and survive. To the British, India, more than a hostile climate must have come across as a social hell. They, therefore, relied more upon changing India than adapting to it. Even from the profit viewpoint, India had to turn into a good market, and Indians into good consumers. Even to plunder Indias natural resources, there needed to be industry, and a workforce which could handle newer machines. Even from a cultural viewpoint, there had to be a class of people who could dress properly, learn table manners and language, with whom the British could share a few moments. In that process, the British, though unintentionally, had undertaken a civilize-India project. As a byproduct, they established the foundations of a modern state system a system of district administration, post and telegraph services interconnecting a huge land mass, a judicial system, police force, a modern army and the railways came into being. Their most decisive intervention was the creation of a modern education system. The British in fact, laid down the foundations for Indias IT boom. But for the British, India may well have looked the way Afghanistan or Nepal do today. We are generally aware of what is being taught in Indian madrassas today. The madrassas produce scholars that are often so unfit that they can even fail to differentiate between a balloon and condom. What if Indias indigenous education system had not been destroyed and replaced by a modern western-type education system? Consider the syllabus of the Benaras Sanskrit College, one of the most advanced centres of indigenous learning at that time: Subject: Sanskrit grammar number of students 78; Sanskrit literature (sahitya) 28; Sanskrit rhetoric (alankara) 16; Sanskrit mathematics (jyotish) 12; Sanskrit logic (nyaya) 07; Sanskrit law (smriti) 21; and Sanskrit medical (vaidya) 13.
1

Now we have two situations to compare with a British India with non-British
India and India with Afghanistan and Nepal. Afghanistan and Nepal escaped the British colonial project and lived with their respective Muslim and Hindu culture, customs and learning. Where do they stand today even by South Asian standards? Had India too escaped the British blessings, with the Benaras Sanskrit College syllabus (one of the most advanced ones of the time as it had a British hand in its creation), how different would India have been from these two countries?

The brown man is highly problematic, to say the least. He assigns no role to history as it evolves. He perceives history as an engineered one, and isolates its evolution from a time frame. In the process, he throttles the very nerve centre of history as an autonomous phenomenon. History as it unfolds goes beyond the control of the history makers. The British, in trying to create a civil social context for India, lost control over the direction of history, which began unfolding in its own way. They had to face a freedom movement. In that sense, while colonizing India, the British laid the foundations of a freedom movement, and of a free India.

The Brown man is essentially a mud-field of contradictions. The more it moves


the more entangled it gets. It therefore tends to turn motionless, even as time retains its speed. The mind of the brown man itself thus turns into an extended mud-field. Strangely though, from that mud-field, no flower or plants originate. The brown man thus is intellectually jammed. To the brown man the British were not traders; they were conquerors, plunderers and slavers. The British were White. In the larger wisdom of that mud-field, a White man can only be a conqueror, plunderer and slaver. The White is not only a colour, it is a race as well. So, that race by virtue of being a race can be nothing but a conqueror, plunderer and slaver. At the start of the Afghanistan war, an important Indian novelist was ostensibly lecturing the tribals of Madhya Pradesh about the USs motive in the Afghanistan war Bush Sr. invaded Iraq for oil; Bush Jr. has invaded Afghanistan for oil, and oil alone. She was soon corrected by her disciples, in a closed door conference though. To this very important novelist, Afghanistan, a Muslim country, must be oil rich since to most Indians, Islam and oil go together. So, she thought she had, in her wisdom, captured the US intentions behind the Afghanistan war.

The brown women are no different from brown men. To them White-West must
invariably be greedy, slaver, and conqueror. They, by virtue of being a different race, must be like that. If this is not apartheid, what else is it? The Whites have practiced apartheid, a truth no doubt. But the brown man too can be racist, and practice counter-apartheid; this too is a truth. The brown mans counter apartheid is best reflected in his view on Lord Macaulay. In the brown mans imagery, Macaulay is remembered for his Indians in blood, colour... but British in taste colonial project. The official textbook, produced by NCERT, and written by a brown historian, Professor Bipan Chandra, tells the young Indian minds in his Modern India: Western education

was expected to reconcile the people of India to British rule. To substantiate his claim, Chandra cites a passage from Macaulays Minutes on Education: We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect. Another brown scholar, Professor Sumit Sarkar, in his Modern India, a book meant for university students, remembers Macaulay for his English educated intelligentsia brown in colour but white in thought and taste colonial project. As we can see, this professor hasnt even seen Macaulays Minutes as it contains no term such as white. Clearly, like most brown scholars, this gentleman has lifted that sentence from some other author, who too had not read Macaulays Minutes. Since Macaulays quote in question is virtually a household phrase amongst educated Indians, so any one writing the history of modern India can just frame a sentence to convey the meaning they wish to be conveyed to future generations of Indians. If confined to the brown mans imagery of Macaulay Indians in blood, colour... but British in taste, then the brown man is certainly right in his theorization of the Whites slaver project.

Racism or apartheid of any kind, anywhere, flourishes on falsehood and


irrationalism. Practitioners of apartheid, of all hues, anywhere, have necessarily to be dishonest in their articulations. Unsurprisingly, the brown man does disappoint us in his racist pursuits. The following is the full text of that passage which Macaulay wrote on 2 February 1835: In one point I fully agree with the gentlemen to whose general views I am opposed. I feel with them, that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population. Now, after having read the full passage, a question must be asked why doesnt the brown man quote the full passage? The full passage is made up of 129 words. The sentences which are often cited, as Professor Bipan does for high school students in India, count for 43 words. Had he quoted the full passage, he

would have to accommodate another 86 words. Was there a space constraint? Or, was there a brown man at work, practicing his counter-apartheid? Most Indian history writings suggest that Macaulay was class conscious, and thats why he argued to form a class of persons. But those with the patience to decode Macaulays inaugural sentence In one point I fully agree with the gentlemen to whose general views I am opposed. I feel with them, that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people, can understand the situation. The British Parliament while extending the monopoly charter of the East India Company (1833) had made it mandatory to spend at least one lakh of rupees annually on the education of the natives.

The company officials were divided into two camps the Orientalists, and the
modernists (or the Utilitarians). The Orientalists argued that the native culture, religion, morality, knowledge and education system was great, and money must be spent in promoting that. The modernists led by Macaulay, argued that the native knowledge, language, culture, morals, etc. were far inferior to the British and hence, the British model of education must be introduced in India. But, both the camps agreed on one thing that with limited resources they could not undertake a project of providing education to all Indians. This clearly shows that Macaulay was not pursuing a class agenda. Those familiar with the life and works of Macaulay would know that if at all he was class conscious, then he stood for the proletariat, and not the bourgeoisie. To prove the fundamental charge that Macaulay was contemptuous of Indias knowledge system, languages, and culture suggesting that he was a racist the brown man cites Macaulay that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.

Taken out of context, this quote does paint Macaulay in a racist light. In fact,
the brown historians have never reproduced the full quote, putting his thought in perspective. The following is the full quote: I have no knowledge of either Sanskrit or Arabic. But, I have done what I could to form a concrete estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanskrit works. I have conversed both here and at home with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valuation of the Orientalists themselves. I

have never found one among them who could deny "that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia". The brown man, mischievously using some of Macaulays quotes, paints Macaulay as an Angrej, a somewhat racist slaver, hell bent on proving British superiority. The brown man never contextualizes Macaulays Minutes that he was arguing for a modern, science based education for Indians. Equally, that he was arguing against those officials in the Company who were insisting on continuing with the existing indigenous system of education. If Macaulay was an angrej with the mentality of a racist slaver, why would he have said the following in his groundbreaking Minutes on Education: The first instance to which I refer, is the great revival of letters among the Western nations at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. At that time almost everything that was worth reading was contained in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Had our ancestors acted as the Committee of Public Instruction has hitherto acted; had they neglected the language of Cicero and Tacitus; had they confined their attention to the old dialects of our own island; had they printed nothing and taught nothing at the universities but Chronicles in Anglo-Saxon, and Romances in Norman-French, would England have been what she now is? What the Greek and Latin were to the contemporaries of More and Ascham, our tongue is to the people of India. The above quote, never reproduced by the brown man, clearly shows that Lord Macaulay was a rationalist extraordinaire, and a neutral critic. The opinion he held about 19th century India was similar to the opinion he had of 15th century Britain.

Was Macaulay alone in his insistence that a modern, science based education be
introduced in India? One of Indias greatest social reformers, a brown himself, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, in his petition submitted to William Pitt on 11 December 1823, twelve years before Macaulay wrote his famous Minutes, says the following: We understood that the Government in England had ordered a considerable sum of money to be annually devoted to the instruction of its Indian Subjects. We were filled with sanguine hopes that this sum would be laid out in employing European Gentlemen of talent and education to instruct the natives of India in Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, Anatomy and other useful Sciences, which the Nations of Europe have carried to a degree of perfection that has raised them above the inhabitants of other parts of the world.

Nor was Macaulay alone in rejecting Sanskrit based education. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, an exceptional brown reformer, says the following in his petition: The Sanskrit language, so difficult that almost a life time is necessary for its perfect acquisition, is well known to have been for ages a lamentable check on the diffusion of knowledge.

Talking of the uselessness of indigenous education, Roy adds: Neither can


much improvement arise from such speculations as the following, which are the themes suggested by the Vedanta: In what manner is the soul absorbed into the deity? What relation does it bear to the divine essence? Nor will youths be fitted to be better members of society by the Vedantic doctrines, which teach them to believe that all visible things have no real existence. It is now crystal clear that Lord Macaulay, as a humanist and liberalinternationalist, was arguing for the good of India. Why then does the brown man pick on Macaulay as villain. Macaulay wasnt the founder of the East India Company, he wasnt a military officer, he wasnt the British king he was a historian, a great rationalist who also fought against the slave trade in Europe, and he thought of good for India. Strangely though, the brown man does not target Robert Clive, who in the battle of Plassey fought on 23 June 1757, won an empire for the British. With just 3000 soldiers, he took on Siraj ud Daulas 50000 strong army, and won the battle in a few hours. In that battle, Clive used guile more than military strength. Yet, Robert Clive is not the hate subject that Macaulay has become. It is here that the brown mans counter-apartheid can be best understood. Lord Macaulay was a scholar, and the first Britisher to peep into the inner hole of the Oriental despotism. He was also the first Britisher to foresee an independent India. This hurt the brown man doubly We colonized you at our will, and we alone make you worth an independent nation. Were not most leaders of the national movement British educated?

The following part of Macaulays famous speech, delivered on 10 July 1833,

in the British House of Commons (twenty five years before India formally became a colony of the British Empire in 1858), will forever make the brown man feel civilizationally vandalized:
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It would be, one of the most selfish view of the case, far better for us that the people of India were well governed and independent of us, than ill governed and subject to us; that they were ruled by their own kings, but wearing our broadcloth,

and working with our cutlery, than that they were performing their salaams to English collectors and English magistrates, but were too ignorant to value, or too poor to buy, English manufactures. To trade with civilized men is infinitely more profitable than to govern savages. That would, indeed, be a doting wisdom, which, in order that India might remain a dependency, would make it an useless and costly dependency, which would keep a hundred millions of men from being our customers in order that they might continue to be our slaves. The following part of the same speech will forever keep the brown man culturally traumatized: The laws which regulate its growth and its decay are still unknown to us. It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government; that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English history.

At the time, there was no Web search facility, no aircraft, and no information
revolution. Yet, Lord Macaulay had an idea of Brahmins, Sudras and Parias. Which brown man, in his proper senses, will salute Macaulay for this section of the same speech: Or, to go to India itself for an instance, though I fully believe that a mild penal code is better than a severe penal code, the worst of all systems was surely that of having a mild code for the Brahmins, who sprang from the head of the Creator, while there was a severe code for the Sudras, who sprang from his feet. India has suffered enough already from the distinction of castes, and from the deeply rooted prejudices which that distinction has engendered. God forbid that we should inflict on her the curse of a new caste, that we should send her a new breed of Brahmins, authorised to treat all the native population as Parias. The brown man the liberal, right, and the third-sex alike, lives with a sense of spiritual superiority. But, Macaulay was to question even that the Hindu sense of inhuman sense. The brown man, therefore, has to catch someone the British as slavers (as civilizer in fact), and Macaulay as a symbol of that slaving project.

The brown man has a problem. The truth is that India actually became a colony,
colonized by a different race. That race was indeed superior in trade, knowledge, technology, civility, and humanity. Lord Macaulay, as a liberal-humaninternationalist, symbolized all that. But, even more he was about truth, unpopular in Britain, and as a common mans spokesperson, as a light of liberty. With the end of British rule the brown man is free, free to imprison truth. The Hindu civilization, the Brahmin society, and the entire oriental personality of the brown man was critiqued by Macaulay. But since the British were White, a race, colonizers, superior then, and superior now, and therefore, must be seeing us with contempt such is the self-perception of the brown man. Instead of celebrating Macaulay as the earliest Gandhi, if Gandhi symbolizes Indias freedom movement, and as the latest Pt. Nehru, if Pt. Nehru symbolizes modernity, the brown man has turned Macaulay into a villain. This is nothing but a massacre of parents by their own children a counter apartheid, where the brown man never traversed the seven seas, which the Whites did, the White therefore must be taken to task by a morally correct Hindu civilization which can rarely be intellectually correct. Unless the brown man acquires the intellectual capacity to read Macaulays July 1833 speech, February 1835 Minutes on Education, and IPC of 1838 (which came into effect in 1859) and understands the scientific drive of the British, he will always stand as an accused practicing counter apartheid in the world of scholarship, and history as well.

Footnotes: 1. Source: Selections from Educational Records, 1781-1839, p. 40. 2. Sumit Sarkar, Modern India: 1885-1947 (Delhi, 1998 [1983]), p. 2. 3. columbia.edu/itc/mealac/.../macaulay/txt_commons_indiagovt_1833.html

Representing Dalit selfhood


ANUPAMA RAO DALIT means ground down, or broken to pieces in both the Marathi and Hindi language. First used by B.R. Ambedkar around 1928 in his newspaper Bahishkrit Bharat, the term gained new visibility in Maharashtra during the 1970s in the context of the literary and cultural efflorescence that saw the birth of Marathi Dalit sahitya. Today, the widespread currency of the term is also a

belated recognition of Dalit militant claims upon a history of humiliation and suffering. This article draws on material from the cultural and political history of Maharashtra to suggest that the seemingly self-evident and obvious history indexed by the term Dalit bears further scrutiny. I argue that Dalit is not a name so much as it is a field of contestation and significance. The emergence of the Dalit as a political subject is historically contingent, and problematizes dominant narratives of secular nationalism. As a politics of minority, Dalit politics revealed the Indian nation to be the political manifestation of Hindu majoritarianism. More significantly still, I would argue, is the necessity to think about Dalit critiques of caste inequality as forming a crucial chapter in a broader, global history of subaltern imaginations of political emancipation. In the sections that follow, I examine three sites that reflect the complex and historically contingent circumstances under which Dalit emancipation was imagined: Jotirao Phules efforts to make Dalits crucial members of a larger political and ethical community of shudra-atishudras defeated by wily Aryan Brahmins; B.R. Ambedkars efforts to carve out a political identity for Dalits through his theory of minority; and finally, important postcolonial representations of Dalitness as literary artifact. Together, they suggest that: (i) caste, and especially untouchability, is the deep structure of secular and religious configurations of community, and that (ii) we cannot imagine rights and recognition without an account of Dalit political modernity.

Outside Hindu history the politics of naming and the constitution of


community: Jotirao Phules Satyashodak Samaj which was established in 1873 brought both non-Brahmin and Dalit activists in western India together around a critique of caste Hinduism. The politics of (re)naming was a central element of caste critique, drawing attention to habits and practices that had been naturalized so as to justify Brahmin hegemony. Indeed, as Phule noted, British colonization had enabled novel alignments of secular and ritual power. In this context, naming was a form of ideology critique, and a strategy of countering religious superstition through rational thought, by taking control over the act of representation. The category of the shudra-atishudra was a result of Phules effort to produce a new ethical community, as well as a unified political constituency, that could be united in the struggle against Brahminism. If low caste identity was defined through its fundamental antagonism to Brahminism, its positive force derived from the genealogy of these communities which lay outside (Aryan) Hindu history. In a typically brilliant move, Phule transvalued colonial and national fascination with theories of Aryan conquest to argue that a permanent and irreconcilable hostility between Brahmins and non-

Brahmins characterized caste society from its inception. Phules definition of history as the history of caste conflict further enabled his recuperation of a valiant Dravidian and Kshatriya history for the downtrodden communities. And here, Phule privileged the untouchable communities of Maharashtra, the Mahars and Mangs, for putting up the strongest resistance against the AryanBrahmin invaders. Phule argued that the term Mahar meant Maha-ari or the Great Enemy, and that the Maha-ari had been severely punished by the Aryan Brahmins for the resistance. As punishment, the Maha-ari had been banished from society, condemned to poverty, and to feeding on dead carcasses. Eating of carrion was the most significant symbol of the Maha-aris defeat, and it would become a recurrent theme in explaining the root cause of the untouchables degradation. Phule thus recuperated Dalit history as a militant history, accompanied by degradation and defeat.
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Early dalit activists such as Gopal Baba Valangkar also argued that the Mahars,
Mangs and Chambhars were Dravidian Kshatriyas who fiercely resisted successive waves of Aryan invaders. Valangkar was an active member of the Satyashodak Samaj and after his retirement as an army havaldar in 1886, went on to found the Anarya Dosh Pariharak Mandali in 1890, in the town of Dapoli in Bombays Konkan region. In July 1894, Valangkar submitted the first important petition to the Bombay government demanding equal employment and civil rights for the untouchable communities. Valangkar was also the author of a 1888 polemical text, the Vinanti Patra. An extensive critique of caste exclusion, The Vinanti Patra is the first available record of Dalit literature in western India. In this text, and in the reply to H.H. Risleys questionnaire regarding the origins and practices of various castes, Valangkar provided an account of Dalit identity that deepened the history of humiliation. To remind the Maha-aris of their continued exploitation at the hands of the Aryan Brahmin invaders, Valangkar incorporated a repetitive structure of degradation and humiliation into his narrative of defeat and argued that the Mahar Kshatriyas had eaten meat to survive the Mahadurga famine of 1396. Again during the peshwai, the lower caste and untouchable communities found themselves facing severe religious exclusion under a Brahminical state. Thus in Valangkars account, Phules narrative of Dalit degradation assumed a repetitive structure that was reproduced across the historical epochs.

Though the narrative of defeat and degradation remained constant, other aspects
of this account underwent important emendation. Written in 1948, Ambedkars

essay, The Untouchables: Who Were They and Why They Became Untouchables, challenged the racial theories adopted by Phule and Valangkar, partly in reaction to colonial accounts of caste as another manifestation of racial difference, but also in reaction to the experiences of National Socialism and the Holocaust that defined the changed historical context in which Ambedkar wrote. In his history of the untouchables, Ambedkar extended the critique of Hindu history by introducing Buddhism as a forgotten agent of history, thereby locating religious and political antagonism at the very heart of this subaltern community formation. Unlike Valangkar, Ambedkar altogether bypassed the necessity of arguing that the untouchables had been stigmatized for their practices, e.g., the adoption of degrading practices such as scavenging, eating beef or carrion. Instead, Ambedkar produced Dalit as a distinctive ethical and political community. He argued that the untouchables were a distinct group of Buddhists, the Broken Men, who belonged to a group of wandering tribesmen defeated in battle as nomadic society gave way to settled agriculture. The Broken Men had become dependent on eating dead cattle for sustenance, and later, they were punished for refusing to accept Brahminism by being stigmatized as untouchable. In turn, the untouchables were represented as broken men, degraded, homeless, and fated to inhabit the margins. A destitute, territorially dispersed community of suffering, they were historys detritus. Locked in an antagonistic relationship to Brahminism from the very start, they were historys losers who exemplified a crucial space of alterity. Ambedkars conversion to Buddhism in 1956 was thus a return to a religion that he described as an indigenous democracy that had included women, outcastes and royalty alike. A complete rejection of Hindu inclusion, it was also was also a critical effort to remake Dalit selfhood by placing the Dalit self outside the deforming narratives of Hindu history. In this Ambedkars actions echoed, even as they effected a significant break from, earlier efforts to use history itself as a form of political and ethical critique.

Within the space of politics Dalits as minorities: Dalits were a territorially


dispersed community of suffering. The critique of caste ideology as well as efforts to narrate the Dalit self had marked their exceptional status. What, however, was the best mechanism for redressing a history of humiliation and discrimination? Is it possible to define a stigmatized and socio-economically marginal community as both equal to, yet different from, other political constituencies? That is, is it possible to equalize the status of unequal subjects even while maintaining their historic or cultural distinctiveness? Indeed this is the more global problem of recognition that feminists as well as other minority groups have encountered. Lets trace this problem through a brief excursus of the Dalit question, however.

Ambedkar sought to democratize community from within through the critique of political Hinduism, and to democratize community from without by changing the grounding principles on which minority was defined. As we shall see, both required working through politicized manifestations of community, or communityas-constituency.

During the 1920s, Ambedkar began arguing that the Depressed Classes ought to
be recognized according to a new principle of minority, one capable of addressing the complex and multi-layered nature of caste inequality, whose manifestations could not be neatly divided between religious-ritual and secular domains. Ambedkars efforts to represent Depressed Class interests as the class interest of a vulnerable and stigmatized community, tried to move away from colonial definitions of religious communities as political actors, as had occurred with colonial conceptions of the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority. Rather, it was the material consequences of exclusion destitution, poverty, illiteracy that Ambedkar highlighted in an effort to redefine the principle of minority. Increasingly, however, it became clear that untouchables negative relationship to Hinduism was the crucial link in suturing together the distinct manifestations of caste inequality. Ambedkar argued that untouchability was central to the caste Hindu order. From his position as spokesperson for an exceptional community, degraded and yet possessing a latent political power, Ambedkar argued that the untouchables formed the glue of the Hindu order although they were despised and marginalized. The principle of untouchability provided the single point of unification for the touchable but otherwise fragmented Hindu castes. In every other respect, differences of belief and practice fractured Hinduism irretrievably. To locate untouchability, that which was extraneous or supplementary to caste Hinduism as castes secret, was perhaps the most powerful attempt yet by anyone to provide a systemic theory of caste. How could this negative principle become manifest when it was precisely its misrecognition that reproduced the caste order? How to make the Depressed Classes visible as a separate element whose interests were orthogonal to the Hindu community? We can use a Marxian analogy to argue that just as withdrawing labour power brings the economy to a standstill, what Ambedkar formulated for use as a political weapon, the demand for a separate electorate, was the caste equivalent of a general strike.

Prime Minister Ramsey Macdonalds Communal Award of 16 August 1932


allowed the Depressed Classes a double vote. They could vote for Depressed Class candidates through a separate electorate in areas where Depressed Class voters

predominated, and they could also cast a vote in the general (Hindu) electorate. The award thus marked the anomalous status of the Depressed Classes as a degraded Hindu minority, within and without the Hindu community. Why had Ambedkar demanded a separate electorate for the Depressed Classes when other Depressed Class leaders, including his most significant political rival, M.C. Rajah, had shifted away from an earlier demand for separate representation? Answering this question requires that we engage a little further with the political logic of separate electorates. Ambedkar understood Hindu ideology as justifying a complex form of inequality, characterized by secular and religio-ritual forms of exclusion. Thus if Gandhi (and Congress nationalists) characterized untouchability as a problem of religious inclusion, Ambedkar politicized the putative split between these two domains, and simultaneously questioned the terms of religious and political inclusion to argue that the horizon of emancipation could not be contained within existing social relations. But how was this sophisticated theorization of caste society to be operationalized? The separate electorate appeared to be a procedural mechanism that could enable thick results.

By this I mean to suggest that because there was no single procedural mechanism
or political form that could respond to the complexity of caste inequality, the separate electorate was an overdetermined political option from the start. By drawing attention to the Depressed Classes as a politically vulnerable non-Hindu community, the separate electorate could also position the Depressed Classes as politically consequential, since both Hindus and Muslims would have to recognize that the Depressed Classes had the power to bring about a decisive shift one way or the other. The separate electorate was a mechanism of (historical) redress because it endowed the Depressed Classes with political value by positioning them as an exceptional community on par with both Hindus and Muslims.
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Ambedkar had repeatedly argued, however, that the Depressed Classes were distinguished by material deprivation, by their physical vulnerability, and by their stigmatized status within the caste order. They represented an altogether different principle of minority. This was indeed the political conundrum of Dalit identity: theirs was an identity to be transcended, not reified, but this could only happen by identifying themselves as a stigmatized community. One had to embrace ones status as a degraded subject in order, simultaneously, to transcend that position. Instead, Gandhis fast-unto-death and the ensuing Poona Pact, by reaffirming the identity of the Depressed Classes as degraded Hindus, also made the problem of untouchability an internal problem for the Hindu community. And here, there was no possibility of democratization, as the Hindu majority, the perpetrators of caste inequality, were being asked to consent to transform themselves and forego

their caste privilege. So far as Ambedkar was concerned, Gandhian reformism, with a focus on changing the hearts and minds of even the most orthodox Hindu, substituted penitence for procedural equality. It was not until after national independence, in fact, that full political citizenship would again come to be conflated with the reform and secularization of Hinduism.

Dalit selfhood as literary artifact: Gandhis intense and life-long struggles with
the self were public knowledge. The experiment was his improvisational form as he breached the boundaries between private conscience and public life, performing the self as an artifact that was constantly made and unmade. We do not, however, have similar access to Ambedkars interiority. This is indeed startling given that we possess autobiographies of other important national leaders. Gandhi and Nehru come immediately to mind of course, as does their reliance on the trope of discovery, whether it be the mysteries of the body, as with Gandhi, or of the authentic India, Bharat, which for Nehru was peopled by the simple peasantry rooted to the soil, lacking consciousness of the nation as a whole. It is not that Ambedkar did not write, or speak to others, about his experiences of exclusion and the ferocity of caste Hindu discrimination. It is, however, a collective self that emerges as the source of literary expression, and it is a Dalit self denied social recognition, which speaks of alienation from the nation-form. Why Ambedkars hesitation in writing the self? Is it possible to think of an autobiography of the Dalit community, rather than of the self?

The repeated experience of exclusion from public space was an important element
of Dalit narratives. Ambedkar wrote of travelling as a young child, and subsequently revealing his identity to a kindly stationmaster who had assumed he was an upper-caste child, that in turn effected a repulsion in the man. Ambedkars description of the stationmasters visceral response to the revelation of his caste identity parallels Fanons famous description of racial corporeality, Mama, see the Negro! Im frightened! In Fanons account the disgust and fear induced in the colonizer by the sight of the black body is paralleled by the self-hatred of the colonized. Caste identity is, however, different since it is not manifest upon the body, permitting some amount of dissimulation. For instance, Ambedkars difficulties in finding housing in Baroda on his return from the United States revolves, again, on counterfeit identity. He identifies himself as a Parsi to secure housing, only to be discovered, yet again. The precarious possibilities of dissimulation are constantly threatened by discovery. For the untouchable, as for the coloured man, public conveniences became sites that made them aware of the discriminatory grid of daily life.
3 4 5

If Ambedkars self emerges as the product of repeated experiences of exclusion,


he was in turn represented as enabling a profound transformation of community. Representative of an earlier generation of Dalits with experience of direct participation in Ambedkars movement, Shantabai Danis Ratra Din Amhi (1990), Vasant Moons Vasti (1995), or even Narendra Jadhavs account of his fathers life Amcha Baap Ani Amhi (1994), recall the social and political upheavals of the 1920s-1950s. Moons depiction of his life, like Jadhavs fathers, is so closely tied to Ambedkars movement as to render self and community as one, held together by Ambedkar. Indeed Ambedkars name accumulates a sort of fetish value as it is repeated, circulated, made to stand in for the man, the movement, and for the Dalit future itself. It was not until the 1970s, however, that the problem of Dalit self-hood was staged as a problem of literary self-representation, one that overturned traditional ideas about literary form and content. Dalit sahitya, the literature that emerged from this transformative period in Maharashtras politics in the 1970s, was deeply identified with the neighbourhoods and the working class ethos of Bombay. Dalit sahitya came to be defined by the often sexualized language of the Bombay slums, and by the disfigurement of literary Marathi. Namdeo Dhasals famous collection of poetry, Golpitha, (1972) that focused on the red-light neighbourhood in which he grew up, comes to mind. The progressive Brahmin playwright, Vijay Tendulkar, noted that Golpitha was an object lesson in the desperate material circumstances and the easy exchange of violence and intimacy that saturates Dalit life: This is the world... of the jobless, of beggars, of pickpockets... Dhasals Golpitha where leprous women are paid the price and fucked on the road, where children cry nearby, where prostitutes waiting for business sing full throated love songs...
6

For upper-caste Marathi readers of the time, autobiographical accounts came to


predominate their exposure to Dalit sahitya. Baburao Baguls Jevha Mi Jaat Corli Hoti (1963), Shankarrao Kharats Taral Antaral (1981), Pawars Baluta (1978), and Lakshman Manes Upara (1980) focused on narrating the painful histories of Dalit selfhood. Let us turn briefly to Daya Pawars autobiographical novel, Baluta (The Share), published in 1978. Baluta draws upon the quintessential symbol of the Dalits humiliation, having to beg for leftover food as baluta, or his traditional village share as renumeration for performing stigmatized labour. Understood more broadly as the Dalits share or lot in life, Baluta historicizes the figure of the stigmatized Dalit by locating him

within an economy of suffering. The narrator of Baluta undercuts the presumed veracity, the reality effect of the autobiographical from the start, characterizing his story as a secret that must not be revealed, perhaps because of the shame as well as the pain that attaches to confronting the (collective) self of which he writes. Dagdu Maruti Pawar Who carries as his portion This baluta of pain Tied up in the folds [padaraat] of his clothes Because of the structure of Indian society I am only the beast of burden Who manifests his words His desire was that No one should be told I also feel That we should not reveal this to anyone.
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Pawar plays on the relationship between secret and revelation instead of celebrating the autobiographical as an authentic act of self-representation. Indeed, Dagdu Maruti Pawar is both a character as well as a concept; he is the secret sharer of Indian society, whose shameful experiences cannot be related without disavowing the pact of caste Hindu secrecy. The problem of Dalit selfhood also requires a transformation in ideas of autobiographical interiority.

Through this brief discussion of different aspects of a genealogy of the Dalit


political subject, I wish to make a more provocative argument, and this is to suggest that the Dalit is Indias first modern, democratic subject. Stifled by the regulations of caste, degraded and humiliated, she had to think modernity through democracy, instead of crafting a nativist modernity that countered the colonial masters while falling short of democratizing the illiberal economies of caste. And yet, Dalit emancipation remains an unfinished project.
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In this brief inquiry into distinct modalities of Dalit emancipation I have suggested that the problem is two-fold that it is a problem of political rights and social recognition, but also a question of language itself, of how to approximate Dalit pain and suffering. In the process, history, politics and culture are all revealed to be critical sites where Dalit inclusion was rendered problematic, if not impossible. If defining Dalit produced a crisis in each of these terrains, it was because Dalit activists and intellectuals especially Ambedkar posed the problem of equality not as an abstract thought experiment, but from the embodied space of stigmatized selfhood. Caste subalterns did two things: (i) they questioned the terms of religious and political inclusion, and revealed that the horizon of emancipation could not be contained within existing social relations, and by so doing (ii) they suggested that the experiences of caste subalternity can never be fully encompassed by the enumerative logic of the political majority and minority, nor the ameliorative logic of a reformed Hinduism. If caste, and especially untouchability, is the deep structure of secular and religious configurations of community and nation, can we address Indias political modernity at all without also addressing the subject who inaugurates that modernity the Dalit?

Footnotes: 1. Gulamgiri, Keer and Malshe, p. 72. 2. Bahishkrit Bharat, 20 May 1927, editorial. 3. A Childhood Journey to Koregaon Becomes a Nightmare in Writings and Speeches, Volume 12, Part I, pp. 661-691. 4. F. Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, Evergreen, 1952. 5. Back From the West and Unable to Find Lodging in Baroda, Writings and Speeches, Volume 12, Part I. 6. Cited in S.P. Punalekar, Dalit Literature and Dalit Identity in Ghanshyam Shah (ed.), Dalit Identity and Politics, Sage, Delhi, 2001, p. 228. 7. Lit. vatylya, that which is apportioned. 8. Frontispiece, Daya Pawar, Baluta, Granthali, Mumbai, 1993 (seventh edition). The translations are mine. 9. Such an argument challenges extant studies of anti-colonial nationalisms relationship to colonial modernity, including those perspectives associated with the Subaltern Studies collective.

Re-reading Periyar
RAVIKUMAR

IF one was asked, Who invented the test tube baby? it is likely that a western scientist will be credited. But a Tamilian would contradict you, claiming that it was actually Periyar who was responsible for this scientific miracle. In the same vein if you asked him who introduced modernity to Tamil culture, he would once again name Periyar. There are many such appelations attached to him, the main one being the saviour of the Untouchables. This may explain the widespread culture of Periyar worship in Tamilnadu, notwithstanding the fact that he himself protested against all forms of idol worship. But instead of debating whether we should accept their god as our god, the question is whether Periyar deserves to be regarded as the saviour of the untouchables? The Hindus organised a meeting in Mumbai on 30 September 1932, (i.e., a week after the signing of the Poona Pact), to form an All-India Anti-Untouchability League. Since Gandhi, who planned it, did not like the name, it was changed it to Servants of Untouchables Society. It was on this occasion that the Hindus joined together to fight against untouchability. There were eight members on the board. Ambedkar, M.C.Rajah and Rettamalai Srinivasan were included as representatives of the untouchables. All three subsequently withdrew from the board. Gandhi then renamed it as Harijan Seva Sangh. In his book, What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables, Ambedkar explains the circumstances which led to his joining this forum: After the Poona Pact, I proceeded in a spirit of forget and forgive. I accepted the bona fides of Mr. Gandhi as I was asked to do by many of his friends. It was in that spirit that I accepted a place on the Central Board of the Sangh and was looking forward to play my part in its activities (133). He added that he had wanted to discuss the programme of the Sangh with Gandhi but could not do so as he had to leave for London to participate in the Third Round Table Conference. However, he did write a detailed letter to A.V. Thakkar, Secretary of the Sangh, giving concrete proposals regarding the services to be rendered by the Sangh.

Ambedkar understood that Hindus approach the issue of untouchability in two


ways. First, most Hindus believe that the individual belonging to the Depressed Classes is bound up with his personal conduct. Second, they believe that the fate of the individual is governed by his environment and circumstances. Accepting the second view as comparatively sound, Ambedkar felt that the League should not dissipate its energy fostering private virtue, but should concentrate on a programme that will effect a change in the social environment of the Depressed Classes (135).

The programme drafted by Ambedkar had four components: (i) a campaign to secure civil rights; (ii) equality of opportunity; (iii) social intercourse; and (iv) agency to be employed. Let us examine the significance of these proposals in detail.

The campaign to secure civil rights: This all-India campaign should aim to
secure to the Depressed Classes the enjoyment of their civic rights such as taking water from the village wells, entry in village schools, admission to village chawdi, use of public conveyance, etc. This programme, he wrote, will bring out a social revolution in the Hindu society, without which it will never be possible for the Depressed Classes to get equal social status (Ambedkar, vol. 9, p. 135). Such a social revolution would inevitably result in the breaking of heads and in criminal prosecutions by one side or the other. In this struggle, the Depressed Classes will suffer badly because the police and the magistracy will always be against them. The moment the caste Hindus see the Depressed Classes trying to reach equal social status with them, they will announce complete boycott of the Depressed Classes (135). The League should have an army of workers in the rural parts of the country to encourage the Depressed Classes to fight for their rights and help them with legal proceedings arising from these battles. This programme would involve disturbance and even bloodshed, he said. The salvation of the Depressed Classes will come only when the caste Hindu is made to think and forced to feel that he must alter his ways. For that you must create a crisis by direct action against his customary code of conduct. The crisis will compel him to think and once he begins to think he will be more ready to change than he is otherwise likely to (136). Equality of opportunity: The reason for the misery and poverty of the Depressed Classes is due to the absence of equality of opportunity which is in turn due to untouchability (137). He explained that they could not enter the economic sphere or involve themselves in trade as no Hindu would buy from them. Their situation is similar to that of the Blacks who were the last to be employed in the days of prosperity and the first to be sacked in times of adversity. In addition, untouchables were confined to the lowest paid departments irrespective of their efficiency. Even in the low paid departments he cannot rise to the highest rung of the ladder (137). They could not earn like the caste Hindu employees because of social discrimination. Ambedkar said that the Anti-Untouchability League must create public opinion against this injustice and immediate set up working groups to deal with cases of inequality. Much can be done by private firms and companies managed by

Hindus by employing them in their offices in various grades and occupations suited to the capacities of the applicants (138).

Social intercourse: The League was encouraged to take steps to annihilate the
nausea felt by caste Hindus towards untouchables. Ambedkar felt that the admission of the Depressed Classes into the houses of caste Hindus either as guests or servants would help achieve this. He wondered, however, whether those who were on friendly terms with untouchables on normal occasions would come to their rescue in times of distress. The Depressed Classes will never be satisfied of the bonafides of these caste Hindu sympathisers until it is proved that they are prepared to go to the same length of fighting against their own kith and kin (138), if necessary like the Whites of North America did against the Whites of the South for the emancipation of the Negro. Agency to be employed: The League was to employ a large army of workers to carry out this programme. Persons belonging to the Depressed Classes were to be appointed, who alone will regard the work as loves labour (139). But the Anti-Untouchability League did not pay any attention to these proposals; they did not even acknowledge his letter. History records the way the Congress used the Harijan Seva Sangh to kill the movement of untouchables after the withdrawal of the three representatives from the League.

These proposals put forth by Ambedkar applied to all non-dalit organisations


which claimed to work for the uplift of untouchables. Hence, Periyars Dravidian movement and its activities must also be judged in this light. Let us review his activities in relation to each of these proposals. Campaign for civil rights of the untouchables: It is necessary to understand that Periyars movement was not started for the uplift of the untouchables. When nonbrahmin leaders in the Congress party ventured to create an association in Madras challenging the Justice Party in 1917, Periyar supported the move by sending a telegraphic money order for Rs 1000. In turn he was selected as a vice-president of the association. Later, Rajaji persuaded him to join the Congress in 1920. Periyar stood by Gandhi who entered Indian politics in 1919 and captured the Congress. He remained a sincere Congressman until his resignation from the party in 1925. Gandhi involved himself with many causes on his entry into politics, but he never touched the issue of untouchability. The problem of untouchability gained attention only in the 1930s, during the First Round Table Conference. Many leaders acknowledged the validity of the claims made by untouchables, who demanded

social security on par with other minorities and did not want to be clubbed with the Hindus. It was only when untouchability became an unavoidable question that Gandhi moved on the issue. His objective was achieved by the Poona Pact in 1932. Periyar, who headed several of Gandhis protests, resigned from the Congress before Gandhi took up the issue of ineducability. During the tumultuous time of the Poona Pact, he was travelling in Europe. He neither organized any protests for the civil rights of the untouchables, nor did he participate in protests organized by them. He only made public speeches. Moreover, he spoke about untouchability mostly at conferences that were organised by untouchables.

Periyar spoke against the leaders of this community, criticising them for
demanding reservation in jobs, education and politics: You are roaming around asking for more wages, a ministership, jobs, education. Are these sensible demands or honourable? He described untouchability as the worst kind of atrocity in the world. He stated that no one had done any useful work to annihilate the practice and everybody was fooling the people by simply talking about it. Unfortunately, he too never crossed that boundary. The only thing that Periyar did was to offer advice to the victims of untouchability. He did not create a crisis among caste Hindus by direct action that opposed their attitude, as suggested by Ambedkar. Periyars followers cite his Vaikkom movement. First of all, it is important to note that the Vaikkom movement was not conducted in connection with untouchables. Let us look at what Periyar said about it: The Vaikkom movement was sparked by a small incident. Our lawyer friend, Madhavan., B.A., B.L., went there to appear for a case. The court campus was part of the Rajahs palace. The "pandal" made for the Rajahs birthday celebrations covered the court campus too. Madhavan had to enter the court. The Rajahs birthday prayers began. Since the lawyer belonged to the Eezhava community, he was prevented from entering the court . Castes like Eezhavas, Asaris, Vaniyars, weavers were not supposed to walk on that road. The leaders of the humiliated Eezhava community decided to fight against this condition. Nineteen leaders, including lawyer Madhavan, barrister Kesava Menon, P.K. Madhavan and George Joseph participated in the agitation. All of them were arrested and as president of the Tamil Nadu Congress, Periyar was asked to continue the satyagraha by the Congress of Travancore. The agitation looked more like a social event than a political one. This was the background to the agitation. Periyar was given a grand welcome; the police commissioner himself came to receive him. If we compare it with the agitation led by Ambedkar at Chawdar tank

in Mahad, only then will we understand which one created a crisis among caste Hindus.

In March 1927, a conference of untouchables was held at Mahad in which more


than 2500 people participated. At the end of the conference the participants led by Ambedkar went to the Chawdar tank for water. The Hindu inhabitants of the town saw the scene. They were taken by storm. They stood aghast witnessing this scene which they had never seen before. For the moment they seemed to be stunned and paralyzed. The procession in form of fours marched past and went to the Chawdar tank, and the untouchables for the first time drank the water. Soon the Hindus, realizing what had happened, went into frenzy and committed all sorts of atrocities upon the untouchables who had dared to pollute the water (Ambedkar, vol. 5, p. 250). It is apt here to remember what Dhananjay Keer had to say about it: The offended orthodox Hindus sharpened the claws of the social boycott. Confirmed zealots and purblind bigots from the orthodox and reactionary camp forbade the Untouchables to take their rounds in the villages and dislodged them from their lands. They refused to sell them corn and picked quarrels with them under this or that pretext, and prosecuted and jailed quite a number of them (Keer, p. 78).

Periyar describes the scene in Vaikkom: Everyday 200-300 activists had food in
the big pandal. Heaps of coconuts and other vegetables were stored. The cooking was done as in a marriage hall. This helps us understand the seriousness of his protest for we are forced to ask what kind of relationship the Nadars in Tamil Nadu, who are the equivalent of Eezhavas, maintained with Dalits. Let us now look at S. Gurusamys piece in Kudiarasu, the official organ of Periyars movement, condemning Gandhis fast against the proposal that untouchables should have a separate electorate. The article was titled, Gandhis Suicide (quoted in S.V. Rajadurai and V. Geetha, p. 186). Gurusamy writes: Near Devakottai Nadars and Maravars of your great Hindu religion are beating up Adi-Dravidars, attacking women for covering their breasts and setting fire to huts. Dont you preach to them the greatness of your Hinduism? The Nadars, who were once treated as untouchable, (even as unseeable) have been involved in violence against untouchables in Tamil Nadu. But the devotees of Periyar hide this truth and instead claim that he fought for the untouchables in Vaikkom.

Periyar never did anything for the untouchables with as much commitment as he worked to promote khadi in every nook and corner of Tamil Nadu or to cut 500 coconut trees from his land as part of the agitation against toddy drinking. When he spoke about the problems of untouchables, he equated those with problems faced by non-brahmins. Since he viewed the problem of untouchability as equivalent to the treatment of sudras by brahmins, he could say: There is no difference between ourselves and you in terms of our philosophy of social life. This same is the problem in temples too, he said, adding that the term Sudra is more humiliating than the word Pallar or Parayar. By saying this, he usurped from the untouchables even the position of victims. Instead of rising against the atrocities of caste Hindus, he took steps only to pacify them.

Around the time Gurusamy wrote in Kudiarasu about Adi-Dravidas being beaten
by Nadars and Maravars, Periyar justified their actions: I am agitated to hear about the atrocities done to Adi-Dravidars by other castes. But, when I think of their actions, I also understand that they are not responsible for what they have done. They are doing this because of the faith they have in their religion; because of the idea of karma and fate, that is all. He even accused the untouchables, who rose against such atrocities, saying: You think only at that moment as great injustices and do not reflect on why it happens, what is the reason behind this, and what we can do to purge it. You are not ready to listen to those who take steps and join with them in their action. Did he ever conduct a protest opposing the caste Hindus? Did he ever provide any help to the untouchables? Or did he at least create a crisis in the attitude of caste Hindus? No is the only answer to all these questions that anyone who has a conscience will give.

Equality of Opportunity: Until today untouchables have not got equal


opportunities in any social sphere. But Periyar kept on insisting that they already had sufficient reservation. The hostility was explicit in his campaign against the Constitution as well as on other occasions. Periyar described the Constitution as written by brahmins to suit their own interest and to enjoy all kinds of privileges. Commenting on the constitutional safeguards provided to the untouchables, he said: Dr. Ambedkar fought for his Adi-Dravida (untouchable) community. They told him, "You can ask whatever you want. We will oblige. But dont talk about others." Accordingly, Ambedkar sought solutions for his community alone. So they drafted the Constitution giving due reservation to the untouchables. They have given placements to Adi-Dravidas as

demanded by Ambedkar. At least he got that much. Will anyone demand like that for our community? No. While giving this much reservation for Adi-Dravidas, they say that our demand for reservation is not justifiable. Do we need to quote any further to determine whether Periyar felt happy or sad over the rights secured by the untouchables? On another occasion he says: If Muslims and Scheduled Castes get reservation, leaving the rest to be occupied by the Brahmins, then who will ultimately get affected? What will happen to you, the non-brahmin Tamils, the Dravidians, other than the Muslims and Christians? What will happen to your future? In the reservation policy that existed between 1927 and 1947, 14% untouchables got only 8.33% reservation. That too was not exclusively for the untouchables. It fell under the category Others, which was largely occupied by Parsis, Jains and some other caste Hindus. It was obvious that the above mentioned sections had greater opportunity of education than the untouchables. The British government also knowingly allowed that.

The untouchables were not only deprived of their rights in jobs, but deprived of
their place of survival by caste Hindus. Mullaly, who served as the sub-collector of Chingleput in 1889 was deeply disturbed by the fact that the untouchables did not even have a proper place to reside. After his visit to a street of the untouchables in Tirukkazhukkundram, he identified that the untouchable settlement covered only 3.46 acres but had 34 houses in which 65 families lived. The total population living in that area was 333 individuals, an average of 10 persons per house: To form a proper conception, it must be remembered that each house consists of only one room, 12 by 8 feet. In his diary entry for 7 July 1888, Mullaly described the situation in Palar village: I find that most of the paracheri (paraiyar cheri or paraiyar living area) lands are entered in the names of the Mudaliars (vellala Mirasidars) and that they threaten to evict them (the paraiyars) if they dont work gratis or very cheaply for them (Irschick, p. 171-172). The non-brahmins who were described as equivalent to the untouchables in social life by Periyar, never allowed the untouchables to better their lot. They treated them inhumanely. This historical truth continues even today. Periyar led many agitations demanding equality of opportunity. But it was only for those castes described as non-brahmins and not for the untouchables. Even when he talked about reservation on 25 April 1940, he classified government employees in two categories brahmin and non-brahmins.

Social Intercourse: Before considering Periyars role in this regard, let us look at
his memories of childhood. In the annual issue of Navamani 1937, he says, When I was six years old, I was sent to a Tinnai school. It was located a little away from Erode town. (Now, it has become the centre of town). It was surrounded by the houses of Chettiars (a trading community). We could always hear the sound of the oil press, mat and basket makers were busy doing their jobs on the roadside. Some Muslim huts were also there. So, those living around the school either belonged to Chetty, Christian or Muslim communities. In those days people belonging to higher castes would not take food in their houses. So when I went to school, I was also given similar instructions: "They belong to the lower castes. Dont drink water from their houses. If you want, drink it from your teachers house." Later, when I saw people in the teachers house contemptuously washing the glass that I had used, I began drinking water and sometimes also I have eaten snacks on festive occasions from the houses of Chettiars and Christians. I have eaten from the houses of Muslims too, Periyar recalls with revolutionary fervour. He continues: I was later prevented from continuing my education for being involved in these unpardonable crimes. His legs were tied. Once both my legs and my shoulders were put in stocks for more than 15 days. I still used to go out to play with them (Sami. Chidambaranar, pp. 29-32). Is it possible that in a household where Periyar was put in stocks for drinking water, untouchables would be admitted? Is it because of this that Periyar never gave a responsible position to an untouchable in any of his institutions? This continues even today. No untouchable is given a respectable position in the Dravidian parties. Even those who argue that Periyar worked for the untouchables only cite the participation of untouchables at the lowest level. They cannot provide evidence of anyone holding a higher position. They repeatedly refer to a few of his actions as revolutionary, like Periyars meetings with Ambedkar, the publication of the Tamil translation of AmbedkarsAnnihilation of Caste and the intercaste marriage conducted by him between Annapoorani Ammal, an untouchable woman, and a non-brahmin. Neither Periyar and nor those in his movements were ever involved in an agitation against their kith and kin over the question of mixing with untouchables as proposed by Ambedkar. Untouchables serving food in Justice Party meetings, and eating in an untouchables house were claimed as achievements of the Dravidian movement in the 22 April 1947 issue of its journal, Viduthalai. Nowhere do they record a meeting led by an untouchable. Perhaps they felt that an untouchable was fit only for serving food.

Agency to be Employed: Periyars movement did have an agency. But its aim
was not the one mentioned by Ambedkar. Of course, untouchables participated in his movement. But their function was to invite Periyar and arrange meetings. Even those movements of untouchables that hail Periyar did no more than arrange meetings for him. He came to those gatherings and gave advice. This shows that Periyar and his movement learnt little from the proposals made by Ambedkar. Yet the argument that Periyar did a great deal for the uplift of untouchables is deeply rooted in Tamil Nadu.

Gandhi had to resort to numerous gimmicks to cheat the untouchables. The only
plausible reason for this is that he had to face the great power called Ambedkar. But, unlike Gandhi, Periyar cheated them easily. Periyar appropriated the sphere of protest set up by Pandit Iyothee Thass and Rettamalai Srinivasan without even acknowledging them. Had Ambedkar been born in Tamil Nadu, he would have been completely blocked out by these non-brahmin leaders. Ambedkar did not conduct a detailed study of Periyars Self Respect Movement. But the views he expressed in the proposals I cited earlier are applicable to Periyar and his movement. While describing direct action in the context of the campaign for civil rights for untouchables, Ambedkar says: I know the alternative policy of adopting the line of least resistance. I am convinced that it will be ineffective in the matter of uprooting untouchability. The silent infiltration of rational ideas among the ignorant mass of caste Hindus cannot, I am sure, work for the elevation of the Depressed Classes. First of all, the caste Hindu like all human beings follows his customary conduct in observing untouchability towards the Depressed Classes. Ordinary people do not give up their behaviour just because somebody is preaching it. But when a custom is believed to have behind it the sanction of religion, mere preaching, if it is not resented and resisted, will be allowed to waft along the wind without creating any effect on the mind The great defect in the policy of least resistance and silent infiltration of rational ideas lies in this that they do not compel thought, for they do not produce crisis (Ambedkar, vol. 9, p. 136). These words are best understood as a criticism of Periyar and his movement.

We cannot say that Periyar never created any crisis. His protests relating to the
issue of non-brahmins did create such crises. In matters relating to untouchables, however, his attempts remained at the level of rhetoric.

Ambedkar concludes his book, What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables thus: The Untouchables will still have ground to say: "Good God! Is this man Gandhi our Saviour?" (vol. 9, p. 297). If the deeds of Periyar are analysed, the Dalits in Tamil Nadu would ask a similar question: Good God! Is this man Periyar our saviour?

* All quotes of Periyar are from Ve. Anaimuthu (ed) Periyar E. Ve. Ra. Sinthanaikal, (3 volumes), Sinthanaiyalar Pathippakam, 1974.

References: Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Volume 9, Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, 1990. _______ Volume 5, Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, 1989. S.V. Rajadurai and V. Geetha, Periyar Suyamariyathai Samadharmam, Vitiyal Pathippakam, 1996. Sami.Chidambaranar, Thamizhar Thalaivar: Periyar Vazhkai Varalaru, Periyar Suyamariyathai Pirachara Niruvana Veliyeedu, 1996 (10th edition). Dhananjay Keer, Dr. Ambedkar Life and Mission, Popular Prakashan,1997 (third edition, 9th reprint). Eugene F. Irschick, Dialogue and History: Constructing South India, 1795-1895. Oxford University Press, 1994.

Dalit politics in Tamilnadu


RAJ SEKHAR BASU

IN the southern Indian state of Tamilnadu, a majority of Dalit men, women and children work as agricultural labourers in return for a pittance. They live a life steeped in poverty and find it difficult to throw away the shackles of debt bondage that have been passed on to them from previous generations. The practice of segregation continues and Dalits are forbidden to enter places of worship, to draw water from public wells or wear shoes in the presence of the dominant upper caste groups. In such a situation, the Dalits are forced to perform the lowly occupations which are often stigmatized as polluting.
1

In most villages Dalits are made to render free service in times of death, marriage or any village function. They are forced to clean the village, dig graves and dispose

off the carcasses of dead animals. Any effort to subvert the practice of untouchability leads to social boycott and acts of retaliatory violence. The attempts on the part of the Dalits to convert to Buddhism, Christianity or Islam, seldom offer them an opportunity to discard the label of untouchability.
2

Significantly, the prevalence of the caste system adds an economic dimension to the social scenario of rural Tamilnadu. R. Balakrishnan, the Chairman of the Tamilnadu Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes had observed, The caste system is an economic order. It prevents someone from acquiring land or receiving an education. It is a vicious cycle and an exploitative economic arrangement. Land owning patterns and being a high caste member are coterminus. Also there is a nexus between (being) lower caste and landlessness Caste is a tool to perpetuate exploitative economic arrangements. Such a statement obviously implies the degraded state of Dalit agricultural labourers, most of whom happen to be landless.
3

The lack of access to landed resources compounds the economic problems of the Dalit masses. This state of helplessness is exploited by upper caste landlords and rich peasantry belonging to the intermediary caste groups. Economic liberalization too has had an adverse effect on the livelihood of these underprivileged groups as the downsizing of the public sector has diminished the job opportunities for Dalits in state owned enterprises. Further, globalization and the entry of corporate giants have deprived a section of the Dalits from exercising ownership rights over land which in the past had been assigned to them as Panchama lands. The assignees were forced to sell these lands to the other castes in order to survive the pangs of starvation. Yet, these lands continue to be recorded year after year as DC (conditional) lands in official revenue records. It is ironic that the assignees of DC lands themselves have no real understanding of the conditions that have been laid down for the exercise of occupancy rights over such lands. The inability on their part to comprehend the intricacies of land transfer have been of great advantage to the upper caste landlords and land speculators. No wonder, attempts on the part of the Dalit Joint Action Committee and the Save Panchama Land Movement to force the government to restore all such lands to their original Dalit owners have resulted in mayhem and rioting.
4

Consequently, the state of Tamilnadu has been ravaged by caste clashes. The
clashes between Thevars (a backward caste) and Pallars (Dalits) have been in the headlines of the national dailies for now well over a decade. It is often argued that the sense of self-esteem and freedom among the Dalits resulting from the governments policies of protective discrimination have encouraged the land
5

owning background and upper caste groups to strengthen the foundations of the old social order.
6

This strife torn atmosphere has generated predictable responses from radical minded academics and grassroot level Dalit activists in Tamilnadu. The functioning and relevance of the governmental structure, as practiced and sustained by the post-colonial state, have come under close scrutiny and criticism. The attempt on the part of the Indian nation state to be representative of all lingustic and religious groups has come under heavy attack. All talk of plurality in terms of religious and cultural experiences have been looked upon as calculated moves aimed at erasing the differential experiences of groups within the contours of the Indian nation state structure. M.S.S. Pandian has argued that moral regulation by the modern state is integral to the existence of nations, as it remains an effective ploy in the creation of an ever-elusive homogenized citizen subject. Since citizenship does not have any connotation, what essentially is represented in the personality of a citizen is a result of changing power dynamics in a nations biography. Pandian observes, The contest around citizenship staged by those social groups that find themselves inadequately or not represented at all in the citizens figure, reproduces most often the very language of the nation. While, at one level, the claim to citizenship is presented as a claim to equality, at another level it is essentially a narration of irreconcilable differences. Presumably, it is the other aspirations that strengthen the demands for an alternative nationhood with rights to an alternative state.
7 8 9

Incidentally, there have been some moments in contemporary Indian politics when
attempts were made to obliterate the language of the nation state. The writings of the Tamil Dalit intellectuals known as the Pondicherry Group represents what may be seen as an example of such a trend. Raj Gowthaman, A. Marx, Ravikumar and others have attempted a rethinking on questions related to power and culture, in particular on the complexity of issues relating to Tamil/Dravidian nationalism.
10

The interest in Dravidian nationalism is no recent phenomenon in Tamilnadu. In


the early decades of the twentieth century, the Dravidian movement led by E.V. Ramaswami Naickar had tried to counter the challenge of the hegemonic Indian nation through the construction of Tamil/Dravidian nationalism. This phase of the Dravidian movement advocated a form of nationalism which was territorially undefined and allowed sufficient space for different identities to articulate themselves. The movement upheld a more inclusive notion of citizenship by
11

integrating the aspirations of lower castes, religious minorities and non-Hindi speakers. The Dravidian movement leaders in Tamilnadu invented a glorious Tamil past to silence the unwelcome product of north Indian imperialism or depredating Brahminism. Thus, what was essentially arrived at was an undifferentiated/homogenized non-Brahmin, who was still awaiting his/her nation.
12

The current Dalit intellectuals have started questioning the logic behind the construction of the Tamil/Dravidian. Their questions essentially focus on (a) Whether the citizen figure of the Tamil/Dravidian adequately represents the Dalits and (b) How did this category of undifferentiated non-Brahmin (which was an essential attribute of Tamil/Dravidian) pose obstacles for the Dalits in their quest for a sovereign identity and separate politics? The proponents of the Pondicherry Group tried to find answers to these questions in an era that witnessed the Ambedkar centenary celebrations, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the rising brand of Hindutva politics.
13

In his two books, Dalits Paarvayil Tamil Panpadu and Dalit


Panpadu, Gowthaman questioned the claim of homogeneity in Tamil culture. Instead, he characterized the whole of Tamil culture as a relationship between the hunter and the hunted. He rediscovered in the classical Tamil literature a world of unequal social relations and a hierarchical system. This stood in sharp contrast to Dravidian nationalisms advocacy of classical Tamil literature as the epitome of Tamil greatness. Gowthaman expressed the opinion that classical Tamil literature had always been the voice of the upper castes and seldom the voice of the Dalits. The Dalits and other labouring classes had toiled hard as the producers of wealth. But, the priestly classes, royal families and landlords, who lived by exploiting these classes, had succeeded in establishing their domination through ideology and violence.
14 15

It has been pointed out that Gowthamans narrative of Tamil history differs from that of mainstream Dalit discourse in the way the Dalit past has been reconstructed. While the mainstream Dalit discourse had tried to represent the Dalits as the authors of the Indus Valley civilization, Gowthamans narrative of the Tamil past depicted the world of lowly hill cultivator, hunters, fishermen and pastoralist communities. The social life of these groups was believed to have been communal and more or less egalitarian, since there was hardly any internal differentiation. In other words, it was through such a narrative that a Dalit counterculture was sought to be projected.
16

M.S.S. Pandian has argued that the other past of the Tamils, which was silenced by Dravidian nationalism but underwent a revival in the hands of the Pondicherry Group, essentially represented a faceless past, without heroes or heroic episodes. This past stood for the erasure of the civilizational high points of
17

Tamil culture and celebrated the traditions of those who were believed to be beyond the pale of this civilization. This projection had all the possibilities of eluding the trap of nationalism.
18

Incidentally, the Pondicherry Groups search for Dalit liberation was not limited
to a specific territory and advocated mobilizing under-privileged groups or communities, all of whom could be a source for a new brand of politics. Gowthaman argued that Dalits should build a Dalit sub-national culture based on the culture of the tribals, who are treated as without a nationality like the Dalits. However, this Dalit sub-national culture was viewed as an oppositional culture, which was bereft of formalization into any form of power. Gowthaman believed that state, caste, religion, God, morality, justice, norms governing man-woman relationships, as well as ideologies of family and literature, were all institutions that highlighted civilizational achievements. Thus they had to be resisted. This resistance meant resignifying as positive, as well as celebrating, those cultural practices that the upper caste institutions deemed as lowly.
19

Members of the Pondicherry Group, particularly A. Marx and Ravikumar, have


argued that nationalist invocation of the past cared little for the ordinary and denied them of any valid location in the society. They believed that defecating and urinating on heroes could be the beginning of displacing one set of heroes with another. However, there is also a clear message of defiance implicit in these acts. The aim on the part of the Dravidian nationalists to construct Dravidian literature as of exemplary literary quality was defined as an act of getting involved with the very structure of power, which they sought to demolish. Such ideas have at times also been replicated in the writings of the mainstream Dalit leaders of Tamilnadu. Thirumaavalavan, a vocal Dalit leader of Tamilnadu with a very radical bent of mind, categorically asserted that the upper caste bias of the Dravidian parties the DMK and AIADMK can only be resisted if the Dalits organize themselves. Nevertheless, he seems reluctant to snap ties with these parties because of electoral compulsions. Thirumaavalavans position thus seems to be both radical and compromising.
20

In contrast, the Pondicherry Groups political agenda is one of moving from a


faceless past to a faceless future a future denuded of all difference. As Gowthaman has observed, Our problem is not one of becoming owners of wealth or richer or crypto-Brahmin. To become owners, we need several workers.

Likewise, to become rich, we need several poor. To become a crypto-Brahmin one needs a series of lower castes including the Dalits. That is why we do not need the order of domination and subordination. Only when the Dalit protest culture destroys this order, we shall arrive at the consciousness that one need not either be a crypto-Brahmin or a drudging Dalit. [Instead] let us be human beings We call those who are not bound by domination and subordination as human beings. The desire for power as a solution to the powerlessness of the Dalits has also been strongly criticized. Finally that since Dalit liberation basically stands for destruction of power, the yearning for power could lead to the destruction of Dalit politics.
21 22

The Pondicherry Groups vision of politics, therefore, stands at a distance from


both Dravidian nationalism as also mainstream Dalit politics in Tamilnadu. While the Dravidian movement and the mainstream Dalit politics seek solutions within the construct of a nation, the Pondicherry Group stands for a disentanglement from the trap of the nation. But, there may have been several other objectives that guided the perceptions of this group. In fact, through the entire exercise of critiquing as well as rejecting the civilizational claims of modernity, the Dalit activists try to claim a space for autonomous Dalit politics. This new political project, which is specifically addressed to the lower castes, gives rise to a sphere of politics outside the modern civil society/public sphere. The defiance that has been displayed in conceding to the demands of Indian upper caste modernity, has heralded the appearance of the subaltern counter public. As M.S.S. Pandian observes, this is a public where a language of caste instead of the language of speaking caste by other means is validated, encouraged and practiced. Nonetheless, modern civil society with its emphasis on modernity continues to resist the articulation of lower caste politics.
23 24

Footnotes: 1. For more details, see Broken People: Caste Violence Against Indias Untouchables, Human Rights Watch, New York, 1999, pp. 23-24. 2. Ibid., p. 27. 3. Ibid. 4. Brindavan C. Moses, Panchama Land in Tamil Nadu in M. Thangaraj (ed.) Land Reforms in India, Tamil Nadu: An Unfinished Task, Volume 9, Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2003, p. 130. 5. For more details, see The New Resistance: Dalits and the Politics of Caste, Frontline, 18 November-1 December 1995, Vol. 12, No. 24; The Sunday Statesman (Calcutta edition), 15 September 2002. 6. Broken People, op.cit., p. 82.

7. M.S.S. Pandian, Stepping Outside Histroy? New Dalit Writings From Tamilnadu in Partha Chatterjee (ed.) Wages of Freedom: Fifty Years of the Indian Nation State, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1998, p. 292. 8. Ibid., p. 293. 9. The claim to equality which is often couched in the language of rights inevitably endorses the nation state as the sole arbiter of citizenship claims. This involvement of the nation state brings forth a homogenizing desire, resulting in innumerable number of differences. For more details, see Ibid. 10. M.S.S. Pandian, New Dalit Writings From Tamilnadu, op.cit., p. 294. 11. Ibid., pp. 294-295; see also, M.S.S. Pandian, "Denationalising" the Past: "Nation" in E.V. Ramaswami Naickars Political Discourse, Economic and Political Weekly, 16 October 1993. 12. M.S.S. Pandian, New Dalit Writings From Tamilnadu, op.cit., p. 295. 13. Ibid., p. 296. 14. For him the culture of the Tamil nationality needs to be explored as it was often discussed in the context of the Indian nation. In fact, several contradictory elements were seen to exist within Tamil culture. In a sense, the culture of the Brahminised upper castes widely differed from that of the Dalits, a result of the subjugation of the latter by the former. For more details, see Ibid., p. 302. 15. M.S.S. Pandian, New Dalit Writings From Tamilnadu, op.cit., p. 303. 16. The depiction of the Dalits as authors of the Indus Valley civilization was restricted not simply within the boundaries of Tamilnadu or other parts of the erstwhile Madras Presidency. In the case of Punjab, the lower caste leaders owing allegiance to the Adi Dharm movement traced their identity to an ancient civilization that had been destroyed by the Aryans. In UP, the Chamar leader Swami Acchutananda articulated the view that untouchables were the first inhabitants of India, the rightful owners of the land. The Aryans were alleged to have destroyed their culture and civilization and transformed them into untouchables in the society. Swami Acchutananda popularized the view that Adi Hindus had their roots in the Indus Valley civilization of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro. For more details, see Mark Juergensmeyer, Religion as Social Vision: The Movement Against Untouchability in Twentieth Century Punjab, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1982, pp. 2-3; Christophe Jaffrelot, Indias Silent Revolution: The Rise of the Lower Castes in North Indian Politics, Permanent Black, Delhi, 2003, pp. 201-202. 17. M.S.S. Pandian, New Dalit Writings From Tamilnadu, op.cit., p. 304. 18. Ibid. 19. Gowthaman stated that it was through beef eating and drinking that the resistance to upper caste disciplinary institutions could be built. For more details, see Ibid., p. 305. 20. Thirumaavalavan, Uproot Hindutva: The Fiery Voice of the Liberation Panthers (Translated from the Tamil by Meena Kandasamy), Samya, Kolkata, 2004, pp. 51-53. 21. For more details, see M.S.S. Pandian, New Dalit Writings From Tamilnadu, op.cit., p. 308. 22. Ibid. 23. M.S.S. Pandian, One Step Outside Modernity: Caste, Identity, Politics and Public Sphere, Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (Codesria), Sephis-Codesria Lecture No. 4, Amsterdam/Dakar, 2002, p. 20.

24. Ibid.

The Balmiki critique of modernity


OMAR KUTTY

IN this essay, I explore the conditions of an overtly political anxiety felt by many of the Dalit activists whom I met while conducting fieldwork among Delhis Balmiki community. I found that the grassroots activists who became my friends and acquaintances often disparaged their own movement for its ego problem, that is, the tendency of leaders to splinter off into their own groups and contribute to the endemic fragmentation that plagues the Dalit movement. The same activists were also quick to point out a problem of insincerity among organizations in the movement: an obsessive concern with registration, rank and office even when seemingly little on the ground work is being done. Such anxiety about the ability of their movement to successfully organize is a general feature of social movements but Balmikis too frequently interpret these problems as signs of a failure to be fully modern. In this essay, I argue that the problems of fragmentation and superficiality do indeed indicate a failure to be modern, but that this is not a failure of the Dalit movement itself, but is rather the result of a tension within modernity. Briefly characterized, this is a tension between, on the one hand, the needs of a modern state for disembedded identities and impersonal procedures and, on the other hand, the fact that the very oppression being fought by Dalits happens primarily in the interstices of such abstractions. The central argument of this essay, then, is that a subtle but radical critique of modernity is occurring within Dalit civil society in general and Balmiki civil society in particular.

In a series of influential essays on civil society, Partha Chatterjee argues that the
traditional taxonomies of political theory are inadequate for describing the sociopolitical landscape of India and other former colonies in the contemporary era of world history (Chatterjee 2001, 178). In particular, it is the category of civil society that does not accurately describe the relationship between the state and society for most of the globes population. He argues that civil society as an ideal continues to energize an interventionist political project, but as an actually existing form it is demographically limited (39).

The form in question is based on those characteristic institutions of modern associational life originating in western societies which are based on equality, autonomy, freedom of entry and exit, contract, deliberative procedures of decision making, recognized rights and duties of members, and other such principles (172). The civil society form is limited to a fairly small section of "citizens" (172) because [m]ost of the inhabitants of India, he argues, are only tenuously, and even then ambiguously and contextually citizens in the sense imagined by the constitution (38). Indias majority of non-citizens, Chatterjee claims, do not relate to their government in the ordered and principled space of civil society, but rather in the much more tumultuous space of political society. Whereas civil society consists of individual citizens interacting with their state on the basis of a set of legally defined procedures, political society operates by a very different set of rules. For a start, the non-citizens of political society, organized through political parties, unions and other organizations tend not to exercise simple civic or political rights but rather demand collective social rights as communities. In stark contrast to the legalistic procedures of civil society, political society even allows mobilization on the basis of illegality, as for instance, slum-dwellers fighting to remain on their land. Because the state is more than willing to interact with its non-citizens in these ways, we witness the extensive networks of patronage, corruption and influence-peddling that are notorious in contemporary India. This combination of illegality, social rights, collective subjectivity and governmental flexibility thus forms an alternative axis of state-population relations that Chatterjee believes to be absent from western modernity (see 177-78).

At the centre of Chatterjees argument then, is an empirical claim that civil


society as an actually existing form is present for some namely the global elite but not for the majority of the worlds population who instead relate to their states via the norms of political society. My fieldwork among Delhis Balmiki community provides evidence that contradicts Chatterjees claim.
1

The Balmikis the contemporary name adopted by most safai karamchari or sweeping castes of northern-western India ought to belong to the domain of political society in so far as they tend to act as a community, demand social rights, depend on patronage in the form of municipal corporation sweeping jobs, and participate in various forms of patrimonial and legally suspect politics. The various sweeper castes of North India (Balmiki, Bhangi, Churha, Mehtar etc.) are categorized and counted as scheduled castes and as such are eligible for reservations in the public sector as well as for special financial assistance schemes (such as those granted by the National Safai Karamchari Financial and Development Corporation).

Nonetheless, during ethnographic fieldwork conducted among the Balmiki


community between 2003 through 2004, it became clear that there was no shortage of Balmiki/safai karamchari organizations that fit the form of western civil society, but rather a vast surplus. Organizations dedicated to education (primary/secondary coaching and some technical training), Balmiki rights advocacy (antidiscrimination and anti-atro-city), and the struggle against the privatization of Delhis safai karamchari positions were active throughout the areas in which I worked. These groups were grassroots in so far as they were composed almost entirely of Balmikis themselves. While it is true that some of the organizations were led by the so-called creamy layer of educated Balmikis (mostly government servants), only a few of these could be truly called elite as many leaders merely held Class III positions as clerks. Of the organizations that I came into contact with (more exist), only two were led by persons who could be classed as elite (i.e., they had some combination of the following: advanced degrees, Class I employment, housing in prosperous neighbourhoods, and/or better material possessions such as large flats, new cars, etc.). The remainder (many of which orbited around the Union leadership) were staffed by persons who were less educated (some had only passed Class 10), less gainfully employed (e.g., they owned small shops, worked in them, or were otherwise under-employed or even unemployed) and tended to live either in slums, regularized slums, resettlement colonies, or in government housing projects.

Although forming an underclass of NGOs, these associations fit Chatterjees


description of civil society because they are based on equality, autonomy, freedom of entry and exit, contract, deliberative procedures of decision making, recognized rights and duties of members, and other such principles (Chatterjee 2001, p. 172, emphasis added).Most of the organizations had a complete set of office bearers whose names could be rattled off by any of the other officers. They also usually had some sort of constitution or manifesto, a set of bye-laws and plenty of greeting cards, letterheads and receipt books. Decisions were made democratically or, at least, voting was nominally a part of the life of the organization. My observations of associational life among Delhis Balmiki community show that the ideal and normative discourses of civil society as defined by Chatterjee are alive and well. It is relatively easy to show that Balmikis are mimicking the ideals and discourses of civil society, but Chatterjee is asking whether or not they actually put them into practice. This question, it appears, is incorrectly formulated. To Chatterjee, there is a difference between the ideal, which energizes political activity for most

Indians (in so far as at least the trappings of civil society/democratic process are in place) and the actually existing form, which exists only for a small elite. Rephrasing these terms more precisely, a difference is being drawn between mere form and actual practice. Let us for a moment reflect on the seemingly compulsive interest in maintaining the proper form of the organization. Nearly every organization that I encountered, no matter how small and fledgling, had a letterhead, business cards, some sort of manifesto or other official paper detailing the names of the president, the general secretary, the treasurer, etc., even when there werent necessarily any members other than the office bearers or any funds in the bank. The more active groups did occasionally hold rallies and write letters to politicians or government officials, and these activities required member participation and fund management. However, these activities hardly seemed to warrant the elaborate institutional structure of the groups. Members were culled from the vast network of family and friends in which the office holders were embedded; the small amounts of funds involved were raised and spent informally on things like banners, stationary and pens. Record keeping was at best spotty. Despite the apparent meaninglessness of the actual posts, titles seemed to be highly valued. Most Balmiki organizers, it seems, were reducing the form of democracy to a mere formality.

At the meetings and functions of these Balmiki groups, the mass exchange of
greeting cards was standard practice. Employment, when it was prestigious, was mentioned, otherwise people gave their social service and political affiliations top billing. Cards often listed more than one affiliation. I was given a greeting card by a man who listed himself as the spokesman of one organization, the general secretary of one its branches, the national general secretary of another organization, the chairman of another group, and the general secretary of yet one more association.

To put this in perspective, let us also consider one organization that did not follow
this pattern. Unlike the others which usually claimed to have general Balmiki welfare as their agenda, this group was dedicated exclusively to education. Though its founders were Balmiki residents of a Balmiki slum, they organized in the name of Dalits on the basis of Ambedkarite principles. The two lead activists of this group frequently dissuaded me from talking to other organizers because, as they put it, they were bogus; they had all the trappings of the organization but didnt do any actual work.

My experience verified this claim and that my friends organization was quite different: they conducted regular classes for several hours per day with minimal resources and virtual disregard for formal titles and obligations (I still dont know who was officially president, even though it was always quite obvious who was in charge). The leader of this group frequently warned me not to waste time talking to most Balmiki and other Dalit leaders saying that everybody is the president of a sangh, a kendra, or a dal, but if theyre all leaders, who are the followers? So the problem with most Balmiki organizing, as far as this group was concerned, was that it was all form and no content, formality without any practical consequence. I gradually came to realize that there was considerable merit in their remarks but also, more importantly, that this reduction to formality is not without its own cultural significance. Obviously, more is happening at these meetings than just social or political activism; they are socializing opportunities as well. The meetings, which came complete with alcohol, food and gift exchange, often felt more like parties. Such events, not unlike their western counterparts, make ordinary socializing seem more legitimate while simultaneously providing opportunities for networking to caste compatriots across the vast city (useful for making marriage alliances and business deals).

In one group, the president, also a well-known union leader, was always the centre
of attention, the host, and the man to which all the others deferred, even in their joviality. Each gathering felt more like a fte for him than an actual meeting. This was perhaps a relatively extreme case of sycophancy, but it appeared to be the general rule that hierarchy of position (e.g., president, general secretary, treasurer, etc.) followed predictable patterns. Those with greater seniority tended to be honoured with higher positions and when younger people were made president there usually seemed to be some external way to account for their high prestige level, such as family connections, power within the union, success in business, or a good government job. The organizations, even though ostensibly democratic, appeared to be using the titular structure of the organization as a way of recognizing and reiterating hierarchy. This hierarchy had a clear impact on the deliberative-democratic procedures, but it did not obviate the form. Discussions were held, opinions were heard, and even voting was held (non-secretively). Yet at the same time there were clear acts of deference during the discussion and not once did I witness the will of the president being openly contradicted (if so, the organization would fissure). Formal equality and deliberative procedure were in some sense present, yet democracy was failing in crucial ways. Something, I am arguing, is wrong with the way that Chatterjee has conceived of the problem because the difference between ideal (mere) form and actual form is in fact quite difficult to distinguish.

By way of clarification, I am not arguing that this is just homo


hierarchicus dressed in new clothes. What I hope to demonstrate, rather, is that some configuration of everyday practice is interfering with the execution of the process of civil society without disturbing the form (it doesnt particularly matter what that configuration of practice is). In other words, all the formalities can exist and actual democracy can still fail because moment-to-moment pragmatic social interactions (in this case hierarchically configured ones) can interfere with the process. Moreover, the distinction I am drawing in contrast to Chatterjee between success at the level of form and failure at the level of everyday practice is intrinsic to civil society and all similar legal-bureaucratic, procedural institutions.
2

It is well beyond the scope of this short essay to prove the universality of the claim but some simple commonsense examples can illustrate the point. Nepotism is extremely common among the elite level organizing that Chatterjee would classify as civil society. (Think of Indira Gandhis many stints with esteemed social service organizations in her early career. Also think about the Bush family!). Western activists and scholars have also argued that race and gender oppression occurs in the micro-practices of everyday life which is precisely why simple legal and political change is not considered adequate for their rectification.
3

Chatterjees mistake is in not accepting democracy/civil society as anything other than form a set of procedures for ensuring equal access, voluntary participation, and majority rule. None of this, however, can happen without actual human beings executing the procedures. People, however, can only interact with one another through pragmatic encounters (even though these may be mediated) and in these encounters any number of anti-democratic social practices can interrupt democracy without disturbing its form. This is as true of the UK and the US as it is of India and Indonesia. What differs, I would argue, contrary to Chatterjee, is not the number of people who do or do not engage in the actually existing form of civil society, but rather the types of pragmatic social practices that interrupt the abstract procedures of civil society, be they nepotistic, hierarchical, or gendered. What differs, in other words, is the manner and modality of civil societys failure rather than its extent.

Modernity, which includes civil society and democracy, is unique in that it is a


social system that effaces its own pragmatic nature through social processes of abstraction, but it is impossible for modernity to completely efface the contextbound moments of everyday life from which it is built; erasure always leaves a
4 5

smudge. Having said that, there is something radical about the way Balmiki and most Indian civil society practice exposes the truth about democracy. In its very obsession with titles, it takes the procedures of democracy and turns them into formality, that is to say, mere form. This desiccation of civil society serves, I argue, as a reminder of the concrete social relations that civil society and democracy must efface in order to realize themselves. For this reason, liberalmodernists perhaps find these practices disturbing (see for example Clarke 1998b; Ndegwa 1996).

It is in this context that Balmiki politics can be read as at once a part of civil
society and a critique of it. To elaborate this point, I turn to Aditya Nigams argument that Dalit political action is unknowingly a critique of modernity precisely because it challenges the abstract and universal notions of humanity, citizenship, etc. upon which the discourses of civil society and democracy depend. Nigam argues that, while espousing a thoroughly humanist ideology, Dalit politics: ...represents in its very existence, the problematic "third term" that continuously challenges the common sense of the secular-modern. This resistance to these categories of modern politics is, at its core, a resistance to the very universalisms that characterise the emancipatory discourses of modernity which placed at their very centre the abstract, unmarked citizen Universal Man or the equally abstract "working class", as the subject of history. Dalit politics in my reading is deeply resistant to both the ideas. (Nigam 2000). This is a familiar theme in North Atlantic race and gender politics (see Hooks 1981), but what is not clear in Nigams formulation is why the category Dalit is not simply a new abstraction. While Dalit, like AfricanAmerican or woman, is non-universal in so far as it demarcates a subset of all possible members, it is nevertheless another abstract social category that homogenizes its constituents. The Combahee River Collective famously dealt with this political problem when it boldly proclaimed to a white, middle class, heterosexual feminism that not all women were equal in their oppression (Combahee River Collective 1982). Similar new social movements and difference-based politics have developed in India as well (Omvedt 1994). The new politics addresses serious issues, but its reasoning steers dangerously close to a paralyzing problem: that of infinite differentiation. Once what Nigam calls the insurrection of little selves (2000) starts, how do you stop the potential schizophrenia long enough to have a political movement?

This is, I believe, where the specificity of caste becomes relevant. By its very
nature, caste references postulate potentially endless division. Banias, for example, are divided into 30 to 40 subcastes with names such as Disawal, Kapol, and Modh that are in turn further divided (Shah and Desai 1988). Government categories such as SC, ST, and OBC are, of course, (politically contentious) lists of historically underprivileged groups and are thus divided by nature. Ambedkar argued that caste was particularly pernicious in its capacity to endlessly divide and subordinate political subjects and hence simple class based ideologies like socialism were inappropriate for India. This fissiparous propensity has always plagued the formation of a Dalit identity; Balmiki politics exemplifies the problem.
6 7

In Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and other areas where Balmikis are strong, the Balmiki activists will argue that when Mayawati and others invoke the word Dalit, they are in reality referring to Chamar-Jatavs, who enjoy a virtual monopoly on reserved seats. The Balmikis argue that, due to the dominance of Chamar-Jatavs among Dalits, a separate set of reservations is now necessary. In Haryana, reservation policy divides SCs into a Block A and a Block B as a way of insuring that not all the reservations go to the relatively prosperous among the underprivileged of that state.
8

In challenging the legitimacy of one sub-universal (Dalit) and replacing it with


another (Balmiki), the Balmikis force our attention to the absurdity of infinite differentiation. They are politicizing one division and it is not hard to imagine the SCs and STs who get left behind by the B list asking for yet further divisions. More pointedly, it is not hard to imagine some future world in which the former Mehtars of Delhi politicize their identity against the relatively prosperous sheheri Balmikis. Balmiki politics, then, is not marking an unmarked category but rather an already marked one. To a conservative, this mincing of political identity is reason enough to ridicule the very idea of positive discrimination as a hopelessly flawed project (see Shah 1996). To a progressive, such fissioning goes too far and destroys the unity of social movements. To both sides, there is something absurd about dividing a division. But the absurdity is not the fault of the Dalits. Rather, it lies in the contradictions of modernity itself. In order for the liberal notion of citizenship to have meaning, a level playing field must be created. But the creation of the level playing field through positive discrimination leads to the problem of infinite differentiation and hence contradicts the very nature of citizenship as an institution of equality and universality.

This contradiction is no coincidence. Abstract universalisms by their very nature


erase the concrete, context-bound particularities of social life. It is precisely in the latter that the most pernicious and intractable mechanisms of oppressions exist, be they of caste, gender, community, race, or what have you. The only way to rectify this situation within a modern welfare/developmentalist state is through positive discrimination which, in turn, requires new forms of abstraction (like the identity of Dalit itself). Its a vicious circle: the only solution to the violence of abstraction is more abstraction.
9

That said, we must not abandon ourselves to a romantic and ultimately impossible politics of anti-modernism. As Nigam argues, Dalit politics and new social movements do not obviate citizenship as an abstract universalism but actually make it more meaningful by forcing it to deal with social reality. I agree, but not only because positive discrimination helps produce a more level playing field. The insurrection of little selves embodied in the Dalit critique of nationalism and in the Balmiki critique of the Dalit movement, and in the gender critique of both, and in all the would-be identities that are struggling for political recognition makes the concept of citizenship more meaningful because the very discomfort produced by its threat of infinite differentiation is a nagging reminder of the social reality that modernity tries to erase.

I have described two different ways in which Balmiki politics troubles the liberalmodernist ideas of what a political movement should be. The first is its reduction of civil societys form to mere formality and the second is its potential to infinitely divide political identities. Both tendencies may appear as ineffective, inefficient and self-defeating and to some extent they are. But neither Balmikis nor Dalits, nor any other oppressed people need to change their tactics. Their politics should not be seen as flawed but rather as a complex response to the contradictions of modernity that does not fall prey to the sirens of an appealing but futile antimodernism.

References: Ambedkar, Dr. B.R. 2002. The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar edited by Valerian Rodrigues. Oxford University Press, New Delhi. Butler, Judith. 1993. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. Routledge, New York. de Certeau, Michel. 1983. The Practice of Everyday Life, translated by Steven Rendall. University of California Press, Berkeley. Clarke, G. 1998. Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Politics in the Developing World. Political Studies XLVI, 36-52.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 2000. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton University Press, Princeton. Chatterjee, Partha. 2001. On Civil and Political Society in Post-colonial Democracies in Civil Society: History and Possibilities edited by Sudipta Kaviraj and Sunil Khilnani. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. The Combahee River Collective. 1982. A Black Feminist Statement, in All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Womens Studies, edited by G.T. Hull, P. Bell Sciott and B. Smith. The Feminist Press CUNY, New York. Hanisch, Carol. [1969] 1978. The Personal is Political in Feminist Revolution: Redstockings of the Womens Liberation Movement edited by Kathie Sarachild. Random House, New York. Harper, Ian and Christopher Tarnowski. 2003. A Heterotopia of Resistance: Health, Community Forestry, and Challenges to State Centralization in Nepal, in Resistance and the State: Nepalese Experiences edited by David N. Gellner. Social Science Press, New Delhi. Hooks, Bell. 1981. Aint A Woman: Black Women and Feminism. South End Press, Boston, MA. Omvedt, Gail. 1994. Peasants, Dalits and Women: Democracy and Indias New Social Movements. Journal of Contemporary Asia. 24,1:35-48. Ndegwa, S. 1996: The Two Faces of Civil Society: NGOs and Politics in Africa. Kumarian Press, West Hartford. Nigam, Aditya. 2000. Secularism, Modernity, Nation: Epistemology of the Dalit Critique. Economic and Political Weekly, 25 November (Web version). Sayer, Derek. 1987. Violence of Abstraction: the Analytic Foundations of Historical Materialism. Blackwell, Oxford. Sayer, Derek. 1991. Capitalism and Modernity: An Excursus on Marx and Weber. Routledge, London/New York. Shah, A.M. [1991] 1996. Job Reservation and Efficiency, in Caste: Its Twentieth Century Avatar edited by M.N. Srinivas. Penguin, New Delhi. Shah, A.M. and I.P. Desai. 1988. Division and Hierarchy: An Overview of Caste in Gujarat. Hindustan, Delhi. Weisgrau, Maxine K. 1997. Interpreting Development: Local Histories, Local Strategies. University Press of America, Lanham.

Footnotes: 1. My fieldwork was conducted primarily in a north-west Delhi slum. In order to protect the identity of my informants, neither their names nor the names of their organizations will be used in this essay. 2. Similar observations have been made by Wiesgrau (1997) and Ian Harper and Christine Tarnowski (2003). 3. This is a long standing theme of feminist politics embodied in the slogan, the personal is political (see Hanisch [1969] 1978). A theoretical take on this point can be found in Butler (1993). 4. Derek Sayer argues a virtually identical point (1991).

5. Dipesh Chakrabarty (2000) makes the point in his analysis of the two histories of capital that History 2 is not transparent to History 1 but nevertheless registers itself indirectly, through traces. 6. This is a recurring theme in Ambedkars writing; see especially Annihilation of Caste and Caste, Class and Democracy in Ambedkar (2002). 7. Manohar Yadav makes this point in an editorial titled, Dalit "Sahibs" and Masses in the The Deccan Herald, 28 June 2002 and reprinted at http://www.countercurrents.org/dalit-yadav280603.htm. 8. In E.V. Chinnaiah vs. A.P. (5 November 2004) the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot further sub-divide the SC/ST category: But (the state) cannot take away said benefits on the premise that one or another group among the Scheduled Castes has advanced and, thus, it is not entitled to the entire benefit of reservation. The impugned legislation, thus, must be held to be unconstitutional. (C.A. no. 6758/2000, p. 346). 9. The phrase comes from Derek Sayer (1987).

More than a dai


SARAH PINTO

Since action is the political activity par excellence, natality and not mortality may be the central category of political thought.
Hannah Arendt1

CHILDBEARING is political. We see the convergence of reproduction and power in different times, places, and ways: in debates over reproductive rights, in the ways the handling of birth can involve subtle and not so subtle hierarchies, in the monitoring and control of fertility, as ideologies such as pro- or anti-natalism capture the ethos of a political moment. Or, as philosopher Hannah Arendt suggests, birth can be thought of as political in its very nature through the force of newness it represents. Gender politics require we continually ask what may be political about spaces deemed at a remove from politics. For many rural women, perspectives on the state, institutions, and group identity are shaped as much in neighbourhoods and angans as in arenas like party politics and social movements. In households, where the female body is a multivalent force, what Arthur Kleinman calls the local moral world, has daily bearing on Dalit women through their work as birth attendants and through their own childbearing histories. For many, especially those whose work brings them in intimate contact with birth, childbearing is a political activity in ways that defy the categorical division intrinsic to much scholarship and public discussion of health and health-care: between women as birth-workers and as birth-givers.
2 3

In thinking about gender and caste in rural contexts we would do well to consider how Dalit womens visions of power and subjectivity, their sense of a place in the world, emerge in the domain of reproduction. Put differently, asking What is a dai? may be another way of asking about the political subjectivity of rural Dalit women. In 2000/2001, while conducting research on dais in rural Uttar Pradesh, I lived in a small, mixed-caste village about 80 kilometers from Lucknow. There I met an elderly Chamar woman, known as Rakeshs Mother to some, Chamarin Dadi to others. She worked, along with her sister-in-law, as her villages designated postpartum care-giver. Though she was a trained dai, according to a UP-wide family planning initiative, what it meant to be a dai was not so clear. For Rakeshs mother, birth-work preceded her involvement with the family planning scheme. Both her work and training formed the basis for an adversarial relationship with those representing state power. She had a grown son and a grown daughter; her family and household were small. Her relationship with the women and families she served was also often contentious, though her work and skills were valued. Underpaid by some, well remunerated by others, she was teased by some caste-Hindu children and revered by others. Besides being a skilled birth attendant, she was highly regarded for her knowledge of birth songs and often summoned to gatherings to sing old songs that had been all but replaced by songs patterned on film fare. Rakeshs mother seldom spoke to her sister-in-law, who was quieter, with a gentle demeanour. Unlike Rakeshs mother, she displayed on her house the painted sign given during her training, identifying her as a trained dai.

Just as local moral worlds pull our attention to the complexities of personal
histories, they also require that we not take for granted what it means for Dalit women in particular to be a dai. Though I had spent time in cities exploring state and NGO attitudes to dais, it was by living in a rural community that I began to understand that the term itself (generally understood to mean midwife) embodies a complex story about culture, power and history. I also saw that far from being bastions of pre-modern social realities, rural home-births involved objects, practices, techniques and meanings characteristic of what we think of as modernity, defying distinctions between institution and household, or state and civil society. Home births involved biomedicine such as injections of antibiotics and labourstimulating drugs. These were given by upper-caste men and women acting as selftaught doctors (though the urban public largely blames low-caste birth-workers for this dangerous practice). Home-births were often chosen (and not exclusively by uneducated women), preferred to what were perceived as threatening,

expensive and inaccessible hospitals. Through family planning schemes and uplift projects, home births engaged institutional figures, state programmes, transnational forces (with their capital, drugs and moralities), and also their shadows, residuals of failed infrastructure in the form of moral ideals about how one should or should not reproduce.

One of the first things I learned about dais is that their work is often
miscategorized. Dais here dont do deliveries, I was told by an NGO director at the beginning of my fieldwork. I eventually learned from Rakeshs mother and others in her position that the local realities of rural birth begin not with an Indian traditional midwife, but with a division of labour at the heart of the question, What is a dai? Rakeshs mother, like Dalit women in her position in other villages, is summoned to homes just after a baby is born. She begins her work by cutting the umbilical cord, severing the baby from what is considered the life-giving (and potentially life-taking) placenta, the lotus. As well as cleaning the baby, disposing of the placenta (a symbolically critical act with sacrificial undertones) and cleaning the birth room, she conducts the massage deemed necessary for recovery. In one instance, I watched as she rubbed the legs, stomach, back and arms of a jacca, asking quietly where pain persists, paying attention to those areas, and advising on the length of confinement (in wealthier families, such advice is given by Pandits). After four or five days her work is finished, and on a day marked by household feasting, gift-giving, the initiation of breast-feeding, and a bath for the jacca, she takes her payment and leaves. After this, a non-Dalit woman, usually a naoun (woman of the barber jati) continues daily massage for a variable period. In central Uttar Pradesh, the work of bringing a baby in to the world is delineated between those who assist in deliveries and those who perform the healing, cleansing and symbolically critical tasks during the most vulnerable post-partum phase when, as women told me, mother and baby are symbolically and spatially located outside of their normal social webs. The latter work is done by Dalits and falls into the scope of jajmani, while labour and delivery are most often handled by family members. Many women, of all castes and communities, deliver babies over the course of their lives, some gaining local renown for their skills and called to neighbours homes for difficult cases.

But such birth specialists, unless they are also Dalits and designated post-partum
workers, do not conduct post-partum tasks. The two-fold reason for this avoidance,

as women describe it, exemplifies the ambiguous nature of Dalit womens work: it is avoided out of respect for the women who own it and fear of its dangerous qualities. Some Dalit women may be skilled baby deliverers called to homes to assist in birth, and many conduct deliveries in their own households. But baby-delivering is beyond the domain of jajmani, remunerated out of happiness rather than obligation, and is categorically distinct from post-partum labour. There are many ways to think about this system. The delineation of post-partum work involves the social cordoning off of defiling bodily substances, relegating stigmatized labour to Dalits in familiar ways. But it also involves tasks aimed at recuperation and symbolically vital transitions. Ushering mother and baby through a phase of vulnerability and social disarticulation (as one woman told me, a newborn baby has no jati), Dalit women manage the time-space of the sor (space of post-partum confinement) in which the healing of the body parallels the social reintegration of the person. While all of these acts can be understood through the idiom of pollution taboo, to think of Dalit womens labour solely in those terms is to undermine its symbolic, physical and social value.

Scholars have at times looked for untouchables acceptance of subordination in


the degree to which they participate in subordinating ideologies. It has been suggested that untouchables do not ascribe to notions of karma or dharma, constructs which justify their exploitation, and that they possess a distinct culture beyond that of caste hierarchy. Meanwhile, evidence that untouchables do participate in their own subordination has been found in the ways some rank untouchable jati according to the very formulas that shape their own status.
4 5 6

Outlooks shaped in the sor are not matters of acceptance or rejection of ideologies, pollution-related or otherwise, and it should come as no surprise that Dalit women have perspectives on their work that are difficult to pin down. For them, caste is not a stable concept, and their sense of dirt and pollution is nuanced. Where caste-Hindu women described Rakeshs mothers work as polluting, Rakeshs mother referred to it as ours. Through brusque dismissals of my questions, silence as much as exegesis, she reminded me that post-partum work involved only dirt and just trash. Yet, silence speaks as well. How are we to understand Rakeshs mothers broad and vague language? In her overt dismissiveness and in the space of her labour, she is neither sweeper nor flawed midwife. Watching her work, I had a sense that the most stigmatized elements may also be the most potent: cord-cutting a form of sacrifice, severing a life-source in order to establish a new person, and placenta disposal critical to managing the vulnerable bareness of new life.
7

In many rural caste-Hindu homes, conflating gandagi with pradushit, dirt with
pollution, seemed integral to contemporary concepts of caste in which notions of hygiene overlapped with disparaging caste ideologies. Yet it seemed to be the semiotic work of many untouchable birth-workers to hold the two concepts apart. Rakeshs mothers own relationship to pollution ideology did not involve loud rejection. Indeed, ambiguities were strategically sustained, as the symbolic delineation of post-partum work was her means to an income to alleviating dependence on male kin. Pollution may be an exaggerated trope of anthropological studies of Hindu life. But it remains a critically ambiguous component of modern rural identities. Dalit women may reject the notion that their work is polluting while taking advantage of caste-Hindu constructs to demand payment, safeguard work, and preserve the domain in which their skill is valued. Like the urban midwife described by R.S. Khare, rural Dalit women I met refused a vision of the casteassigned view of "the sullied (maila) body and immoral soul", favouring a practical approach to ideology. For women otherwise without independent income, stigma is a delicate equation.
8 9

The more overt politics of modernity is no less delicate. Ideas associated with
progress are as negotiable as meanings of pollution. Twentieth century caste politics, grounded in visions of social progress, has addressed the relationship between action and identity, asking how designated work (real or exaggerated) relates to subordination. Forms of upward mobility (often divided into sanskritization and rejection of Hinduism) in which social movements are situated remain difficult to align with the local stakes of reproduction, where ideas about work and status relate more to development than caste politics. Rakeshs mothers nephew is a man known locally as Masterji. He lends his name to his mother, a respected post-partum worker called Masterjis Mother. With landholdings, a large brick house, and a sanskritized lifestyle, his position as a well-regarded schoolmaster has made him exemplary of improvements in the lot of Dalits. When I spoke with him about his mothers birth-work, he said, in a voice marked by delicacy, The old women do this work because they are not educated to know it is wrong. These are old things, things of the past. But when our people began to become more educated, they learned that such work is dirty and they gave it up. As critical as education is to the well-being of women, in liberal ideologies of modernization such as Masterjis, the root of stigma seems to lie within individuals (and their learning to make the right choices), rather than in the messiness of social relations. Or perhaps Masterjis view better represents a form

of sanskritization. In either case, where dirt indicates lack of consciousness (a different kind of stain), stigma is replaced by ignorance as the source of low status. Similarly, in early 20th century caste-movements, as iconic work was seen as linked to caste status, Dalit women were urged to abandon birth-related work, often to their chagrin. Control of Dalit womens labour relates to sanskritization on the one hand (as Dalit women take on constraints of pardah and abandon work outside the home) and to modernization on the other, demonstrating an affiliation between the two that makes womens independence the price of group mobility.

Anthropological representations of birth as patently polluting may follow, perhaps


too closely, Brahmanical formulae on the one hand and frameworks of intervention on the other. But when we consider post-partum work (a kind of labour not amenable to concepts of progress or valorizations of midwifery), we see stigmatization in the way dirtiness is conjoined with ignorance and low status. Stigma re-emerges in political narratives that eschew notions of pollution. Though Masterjis comments bespeak a critical male Dalit consciousness, the ambiguities they employ obscure women as agents and political actors with their own often strategic relationships between body, caste and self. What is a dai? Trying to understand the complexities of birth-work, I posed this question to many women. In rural UP the word dai evokes a traditional identity acquired through a modern definition. The idea of the traditional midwife is, perhaps, less useful descriptively than in the context of development, as a way of defining not so much what something is as where a person stands in the moral and structural scheme of things. For some women, baby-delivering was dai ka kam; for others, post-partum workers were dais. For others, tellingly, the state makes you a dai (a reference to those who had received training). Better educated people used the term for my benefit, as a translation for references I might not have understood. But for the most part, the term was not used in rural households. Postpartum labour was referred to euphemistically as applying the oil (a reference to massage), and specific names or kin terms were used to talk about women who delivered babies.

Colonial renderings are also inconsistent about what a dai is, but all too consistent
about how we are to think of this cipher. Portrayals of dais as dirty, ignorant and superstitious enabled one of the functions of the colonial institutionalization of womens medical care: blaming dais and traditional practices for a range of social and physical ills. As 19th century colonial writings shifted from representing the dai as the appropriate person to assist in childbirth to the symbol of superstition and dogged resistance to change, abolition of dais
10 11

became a goal of womens organizations and elite society. Low-caste women became the antithesis of modernity. During this period the first dai-trainings were held, beginning a long history in which one of the primary ways Dalit women were linked to the state was through dai-training.
12

Dai-trainings remain a familiar feature of rural life. Schemes, organizations, and


policies come and go in rapid succession. A glance over the five year plans for the state of Uttar Pradesh finds that dai-training has been part of the picture of progress for decades, while the length of proposed training has shrunk from six months to six days, and the role imagined for trainees shifted. In present-day official discourse dais are rendered in stark terms as either hindrance or boon to public health. Hanging on a vision of the traditional midwife, the two sides of this argument share common ground. Both imagine Dalit womens work as a flawed version of an imagined standard (midwifery) while making Dalits perpetual trainees, objects (but not subjects) of development. In some public health forums the complex nature of post-partum work is now being acknowledged, but the question of how this pertains to Dalit womens role as Dalit women in institutional structures remains, for the most part, little examined. Even in trainings whose aim is to incorporate Dalits and transform their social position, the place they are given often formalizes their low social status. They remain at the bottom of institutional hierarchies and on the margins of institutions, trainees but seldom paid workers. For some women, the idea that training will transform them into the ideal trained midwife is laughable. One woman showed me the shiny, unused delivery kit she had received at her training in the 1960s, and described the way the new identity as village midwife was untenable given the social context of her caste position and the lack of institutional support.

Even trainings advancing respect for traditional knowledge focus


overwhelmingly on cleanliness, reiterating the matter at the core of concepts of untouchability. While hygiene is a crucial issue for reproductive health and matters such as tetanus no small concern, it is worth noting that the bulk of efforts promoting cleanliness are aimed at Dalit and lower caste and class women. In everyday interactions in villages, such frameworks underscore many caste Hindu womens stereotypes of Dalits as unclean, providing politically legitimate language for divisive sentiments. As debates about dai-training focus on traditional knowledge and the value of local agents rather than on the lived complexities of actual people, Dalit

womens presence as speaking subjects within such programmes remains largely symbolic. When narratives are sought in official settings (trainings in which women are told your voice is important, conferences in which Dalit women are put in front of an audience to speak about their experiences) their words are often silenced by authority figures speaking to them as, and only as, trainees. Their presence is deployed in the service of legitimizing intervention and demonstrating participatory development. At the other extreme, well-meaning training manuals that speak praisingly of birth-workers may go too far in avoiding mention of caste status or stigma, placing trainees in an idealized social context. In the course of one of my early meetings with Rakeshs mother, she became engaged in a heated argument with the supervisor for a large-scale state family planning scheme. She asked forcefully if there would be a tankhah for her services in her community, and listed expenses that went into her training. The supervisor said with some disdain, Those days are over. You cant always demand money from the government. It was her duty, he said, to get a fixed rate from clients. (As I later learned, many clients pay trained post-partum workers less than previous jajmani payments, either assuming they are receiving government wages, or saving remuneration for those who deliver babies and are more highly regarded by institutional programmes.) The supervisor turned to me. These women cant go on expecting the government to do everything for them. They must learn to collect money for themselves, to not be dependent. There are some people who just repeat the same thing over and over again, Sitaram, Sitaram, demanding something from the government; these women are like that they are just parrots.

What is participatory development for Dalit women, who, as trainees


are encouraged to speak, but not about things that matter, whose voices when raised are ridiculed as mimetic? A recent truism of rural health intervention states the need to improve demand for services. Policy documents encourage loud and strident voices, just as more sensitive trainings now remind rural women that their questions and stories are valuable. Yet when voices are raised (or when demands come from the wrong people and are aimed in the wrong place) they become evidence of moral failing. Just as dirty work can signify lack of political consciousness, loud voices can signify an incorrect mode of citizenship public demands instead of a spirit of privatization. Rakeshs mothers anger becomes a burden to national progress. It has been noted that the post-partum period can be critical to state control as a point of insertion of power via contraceptive technology and through discourses on postnatal health. While this is true in the context of medical technology and sterilization programmes, it is equally true for Dalit women beyond the tradition/modernity split, as their relationship to governance is shaped
13

through their involvement in post-partum care in the household. The stakes of this politics of birth emerge not so much within but on the margins of medical institutions. Dalit women not only bear children under the eye of the state, but enter into progress narratives through their birth-work, even as they perform labour unrecognizable to a progress story dependent on training midwives.

Often neglected in conversations about dais is the fact that Dalit women have
stakes in development as women giving birth. As Kalpana Ram points out, a division between women as birth-workers and birth-givers guides most research and writing on the topic of dais, echoing a split in reproductive policy that leaves Dalit women with a divided sense of self (and that impinges on all rural women). On the one hand, in state family planning programmes, local agents closely monitor reproduction, recording not only pregnancies and births, but also contraceptive use and, by extension, sexuality. The intimate quality of Dalit womens relationship to and knowledge of the bodily lives of women in the village is replaced by the broad surveillance of the state, as Dalit women themselves become objects of surveillance. And on the other hand, beyond family planning, the states attention falls away as quality maternal care was, during my stay in rural UP, immensely difficult to get. State hospitals were poorly staffed, under-equipped and inaccessible in districts with poor infrastructure (bad roads, unreliable electricity and phone lines), while private ones were, for many, too expensive.
14

For Dalit women, biomedicine beckons with promises of health, while institutions
repel with a range of threats. A mother of six tells me she has withheld vaccinations from her children because needles dont suit us, referring both to what are felt to be the heating properties of western medicine and to the threat that the needles and drugs of official institutions offer marginalized people. Others tell me that birth is just friendlier, easier, better in the village. Others fear the large scope of operations caesarians and forced (or surreptitious) sterilization. Others have more extreme fears: if they need an abortion, or a labour-induction, it is better that it comes from known local (usually uncertified) hands, than hospitals where people suspect, as one woman told me, they put poison in the needle for the poor people. But fears are not unalloyed; women also long for good care, safe deliveries, and comfortable means to limit pregnancies. Demand (or lack thereof) is hardly a matter of knowledge or education; rather, it involves navigating webs of power. The stakes of giving and withholding care (amid extreme obstacles) are the

outcomes of marginality defined as a delicate balance between longing and mistrust.

Birth-workers bear a particular relationship to forms of power concerned with the


body, suggests R.S. Khare, a sensoria and self of the powerless based in praxis rather than ideology. In the context of rural birth and rural Dalit women, the praxes and ideologies of modernization can be put alongside those of caste. Both are intrinsic to citizenship and its everyday elements: pathways and roadblocks of getting through life, feelings of belonging (or not), conflicted desires that shape a sense of oneself in relation to ones nation. When casteism is a web of tensions that flow through institutional moralities (hygiene, institutionalized birth, etc.) as much as through religious or household ones, and where development isthe driving vision of modernity (as Akhhil Gupta suggests for rural India ), Dalit womens perspectives are difficult to locate in political frames that call for loud voices, direct resistances, or submission to the choices offered by visions of progress. In the emotional domain of childbearing, both power and outrage are piecemeal, negotiated where they can be, grappled with in everyday interactions.
15 16 17

Discussions of dais easily return to the multi-layered power and threat of the
female body, both politically and in religious ontologies. But Dalit womens special relationships to reproduction help us turn the conversation toward the inherently political quality of birth and the post-partum stage. If, as Arendt says, natality (not mortality, as political philosophers often attest) contains the germinal elements of political thought, then perhaps we can imagine that actions in relation to the newness of life invariably entail perspectives on power. In such a domain, Dalit women who perform work at once stigmatized and revered, maintain a political subjectivity that is not always loud or even overt. Theirs are perspectives formed in intimate spaces where lines between persons are drawn, contested, and refracted through institutions staking a claim on reproduction, sexuality and fertility. The ambiguity Dalit women show to pollution echoes their ambivalence about the state and NGOs that fail to deliver on promises, or about a vision of progress in which the burden of blame has fallen, over a century, on them. The state makes you a dai, one woman tells me. But this is the same state that, another says, wants to get rid of the small people through forced sterilizations or other imagined means that marginalized women associate with medicalized birth. In the rural areas so often reified as backwards, and for people often considered, by their gender, caste-status, and illiteracy to be lacking in

political consciousness, we must continue to ask, rather than take for granted, what is a dai? And we must go on questioning the stakes of the politics of the body as well as the body politic for Dalit women as birth-workers and as birthgivers.

Footnotes: 1. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998 [1958]), p. 9. 2. Arthur Kleinman, Experience and its Moral Modes: Culture, Human Conditions, and Disorder. The Tanner Lectures on Human Values. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1999), p. 359. 3. Kalpana Ram, Epilogue: Maternal Experiences and Feminist Body Politics: Asian and Pacific Experiences in Maternities and Modernities: Colonial and Postcolonial Experiences in Asia and the Pacific, ed. Kalpana Ram and Margaret Jolly (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) 275-298. 4. Pauline Kolenda, Caste in Contemporary India: Beyond Organic Solidarity (Menlo Park: Benjamin/Cummings, 1978). 5. Gerald Berreman, The Brahmanical View of Caste, Contributions to Indian Sociology 5 (1971). 6. Michael Moffatt, An Untouchable Community in South India: Structure and Consensus (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979). 7. Women told me that the placenta houses the life force of the fetus; unlike many urban health-workers I met, rural women know that the umbilical cord attaches the baby to the placenta, not to the mother. 8. R.S. Khare, Cultural Diversity and Social Discontent (New Delhi: Sage, 1998) p. 159. 9. Ibid. p. 148. 10. Imrana Qadeer, Our Legacy in MCH Programmes in Gender, Population and Government ed. Maitreyi Krishnaraj, Ratna M. Sudarshan, and Abusaleh Sharif (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998) 267-289; Geraldine Forbes, Managing Midwifery in India in Contesting Colonial Hegemony: State and Society in Africa and India ed. Dagmar Engels and Shula Marks (London: British Academic Press, 1994) 152-174. 11. Forbes, 1994, p. 171. 12. Ibid. p. 167. 13. Cecilia Van Hollen, Birth at the Threshold: Gender and Modernity in South India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). 14. Ram, 1998. 15. Khare 1998, p. 147. 16. These elements of political identity affective, performative, and practical modes of relating persons to the nation have been theorized and debated in recent scholarship resituating the way we think about what citizenship means, notably in Linda Bosniak, Citizenship Denationalized in Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 7(2) (2000) 447-509; Carol Greenhouse, Citizenship, Agency and the Dream of Time in Looking Back at Laws Century, Austin Sarat, Bryant Garth and Robert A. Kagan, ed. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002: 184-209); Saskia Sassen, Globalization and its Discontents (New York: New Press,

1999), Aihwa Ong, Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999) and others. 17. Akhil Gupta, Postcolonial Developments: Agriculture in the Making of Modern India (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998).

Dalit chetna in Dalit literary criticism


LAURA R. BRUECK

DALIT consciousness is an oft-used term. It is a concept that appears frequently in discussions of Dalit politics and identity. It can, at times, refer to the notion of politicalawareness, in the sense of consciousness-raising among certain sections of the Dalit population, and at other times refer to a collective notion of identity among diverse Dalit communities. For example, regarding Swami Achhutanands publication of the newspaper Achut in the early 20th century, Badri Narayan and A.R. Misra (2004) write, No event in modern times has played such a significant role in awakening Dalit consciousness as the print medium and Swami Achhutanand was its architect in the northern belt of the country (p. 17, emphasis added). Gopal Guru (2001), conveying a different sense of the term, in an essay about the contested terrain of naming and identity currently presided over by the term Dalit, suggests that although the Dalit category has been put to political use by various agents at the all-India level, it has yet to become an integral part of the deeper Dalit consciousness (p. 105, emphasis added). Indeed in the pages of this very magazine in 1998 Eleanor Zelliot wrote an essay entitled The Roots of Dalit Consciousness, describing those elements in Dalit collective culture which allow pride, self-respect and a vision of the future (p. 28). These uses of Dalit consciousness are genuine attempts to describe what are complex and amorphous concepts at best, shared constructions of meaning and perceptions of community and self that proliferate to different degrees across a huge and disparate pan-Indian Dalit community. But in recent years Dalit authors and critics in the Hindi literary sphere have been attempting to develop a more specific definition of Dalit consciousness, one that is articulated in the expressive and interpretive practices of writing and reading. I will henceforth refer to this representation of Dalit consciousness as Dalit chetna, both to preserve the Hindi terminology and highlight the distinctive nature of the concept. Dalit chetna has emerged in recent years in a large body of Dalit literary criticism as a theoretical tool with which the architects of Dalit

literary culture are able both to set boundaries for the growing genre of Dalit literature and launch a distinctly Dalit critique of celebrated works of Hindi literature. This article will focus on the second of these twin critical projects. Dalit chetna is a fundamental component of an emerging theory of Dalit aesthetics, or saundaryashstra. Critical commentaries such as Omprakash Valmikis Dalit Shitya ka Saundaryashstra (Aesthetics of Dalit Literature) include chapters on the definition and correct understanding of Dalit chetna. Three anthologies of essays, interviews, poems and stories published in the late nineties and edited by Delhi-based publisher of Dalit literature Ramnika Gupta entitled Dalit Chetna: Shitya (Dalit Consciousness: Literature, 1996),Dalit Chetna: Kavita (Dalit Consciousness: Poetry, 1996), and Dalit Chetna: Soch (Dalit Consciousness: Thoughts, 1998) are compilations of works by myriad Hindi Dalit writers and critics debating the specific understandings and applications of Dalit chetna. More recently, the first line of Alok Mukherjees 2004 translation of Sharankumar LimbalesTowards an Aesthetic of Dalit Literature reads, By Dalit literature I mean writing about Dalits by Dalit writers with a Dalit consciousness (chetna) (p.1). He goes on to define Dalit consciousness as the revolutionary mentality connected with struggle. Ambedkarite thought is the inspiration for this consciousness. Dalit consciousness makes slaves conscious of their slavery. Dalit consciousness is an important seed for Dalit literature; it is separate and distinct from the consciousness of other writers. Dalit literature is demarcated as unique because of this consciousness (p. 32). Limbale is clear that Dalit chetna is an indispensable attribute of the Dalit literary aesthetic. It is intimately tied to the emancipatory ideology of B.R. Ambedkar, and it is the yardstick by which the dalitness of Dalit literature is measured.

Ambedkar persists as the primary symbol and inspiration of struggle and freedom
in Dalit political, social and literary imaginations. Hindi Dalit author and critic Omprakash Valmiki (2001) grounds his detailed definition of Dalit chetna in the Ambedkarite ideology of emancipation. Dalit chetna obtains its primary energy from Dr. Ambedkars life and vision. All Dalit writers are united with respect to this truth. The major points of Dalit chetna are: 1. Welcoming the vision of Dr. Ambedkar on questions of freedom and independence; 2. Being for Buddhas rational, intellectual perspective and concepts of no-god and no-soul, and being against the hypocrisy of Hindu law and custom; 3. Being against the caste system, against casteism, against communalism;

4. Being against social divisions, and in support of brotherliness; 5. Taking the side of independence and social justice; 6. Supporting social change; 7. Being against capitalism in the financial sector; 8. Being against feudalism and Brahmanism; 9. Being against supremacy; 10. Disagreeing with the definition of great poetry by Ramchandra Shukla. 11. Being against traditional aesthetics; 12. Taking the side of a caste-less, class-less society; and 13. Being against hierarchies of language and privilege (p. 31). Points 10 and 11 illustrate the clear connection between the concept of Dalit chetna and literary production. As the following discussion will demonstrate, the act of deconstruction that the concept of Dalit chetna articulates with respect to mainstream Hindi literary culture and canon is being enacted methodically as an exercise in critical re-reading and revisionist aesthetics in public fora of Hindi Dalit literary critical discourse.

What I wish to demonstrate here are the ways in which the concept of Dalit chetna
is being developed as a strategy for Dalit critical analysis, a kind of test by which Dalit critics can judge the dalitness of any work of literature, whether written by a Dalit or non-Dalit. Though I am not suggesting that the definition of Dalit chetna is in any way fixed, or its tenets universally agreed upon, I do want to underscore that it is almost without exception regarded by Dalit writers as the ideal for all Dalit literature, which is generally measured within the Hindi Dalit literary sphere by means of how closely it adheres to this ideal. It is a concept that permeates discussions of both the future directions of Dalit literature, as well as the critical re-readings of major works of literature of the 20th century that have widely been heralded as progressive in Hindi literary circles. It is about these works of literature that Dalit writers and critics are most interested in offering their own analysis in order to locate their social and political stance in a position relative to Dalit literature. The focus is on writing that includes Dalit characters, or descriptions of Dalit life and experience. The critical act of reading

and analysis, with a separate set of theoretical tools, allows Dalit readers to be restored to the position of subject, to be the ones writing, rather than simply being written about.

In such readings it is extremely important not just that a Dalit character is present,
but rather how the character is portrayed, and how realistic the narrative is. Though there is certainly a range of interpretations of Dalit chetna among Dalit readers and writers, in its generally accepted avatar it denotes a loyalty to and an expression of the Ambedkarite message of the human dignity of Dalits. It is Dalit experience rendered realistically, but for Dalit writers this realism is also dependent upon how honourably the Dalit character is portrayed. With respect to Premchand, Dalit writers and critics have generally looked favourably on his stories that depict Dalit characters as simple, moral, hardworking and compassionate, however victimized they may be by the caste system. But in Premchands realism, sometimes a corrupt system breeds corrupt victims, as in his story Kafan, largely regarded in dominant Hindi literary histories as one of his most classic stories. In this famous story, the two main characters are Dalits, but rather than being idealized victims they themselves are slothful and immoral, and as Premchand writes, knew how to profit from their impotence. Though many non-Dalit critics have detected in Premchands story a critique of institutionalized systems of poverty and caste oppression that are forces for dehumanization, many Dalit writers have severely criticized Premchands depiction of these two Chamr characters as such heartless and lazy drunks.

For example Bhrtya Dalit Shitya Akdem (BDSA) president


Sohanpal Sumanakshar (2005) writes, Why would Premchand make such a characterization of [Dalits] in "Kafan"? Only so that he could win the praises of the upper caste brahmins and have them call his work "literature". Premchand indeed won the praise of the brahmins and was bestowed with the rank of emperor for his literature which displays dalits as loveless, soulless, base characters (p. 18). For Sumanakshar, such characters are not realistic, and his notion of realism is inextricable from the requirements of honour and forthrightness outlined in the concept of Dalit consciousness. According to some, a lack of Dalit consciousness can come from a confusion between caste and class-related oppression. Omprakash Valmiki, a celebrated Hindi Dalit writer whose autobiography Joothan (2003) was recently translated and published in English, also finds fault with Premchands characterization of the Dalit men in Kafan, suggesting that Premchand wrongly conflates Dalits with farmers and peasants who face economic

exploitation but who do not suffer from the specific problems born of the system of caste inequality. Valmiki writes: The characters of Ghisu and Madhav in his story "Kafan" are Chamars, but the story does not raise any issue that is related to the problems of Chamars or Dalits. There is only a detailed depiction of their idleness and heartlessness. Even leftist critics believe this story of Premchands to be his best and most artistic. Many critics say that Ghisu and Madhav are representative of the agricultural class which is known as the lumpen proletariat (Valmiki 2004, p. 28).

The charge here that Premchand ignores the caste-related abuses faced by Dalits
in a leftist, Marxist-progressivist outlook on Indian society is not uncommon among Dalit writers and critics. Valmiki argues further, Not just Premchand, but several Hindi writers, thinkers and critics put all farmers, labourers, and Dalits in the same box when they think about them. But all these people do not have the same problems caste is purely a religious and social issue, one which influences every other aspect of life. In Premchands works, this is a point of confusion (Valmiki 2004, p. 28). In these critiques it becomes clear that the boundaries of the Hindi Dalit literary public are drawn in part in the space between caste and class, and Dalit critics are careful to mark their ideological difference from Marxist thinkers. Caste and its attendant problems are, in their thinking, entirely separate from economic inequality which is a symptom of social oppression rather than its cause. Premchand is relegated to the margins of Dalit public space by figures such as Valmiki, then, for failing to recognize the primacy of caste over class in the Dalit socio-political perspective.

Similarly, the point comes up repeatedly in Dalit critical discourse about


Premchand that in matters of social reform, he was a follower of Gandhi, not Ambedkar. This is a significant matter for Dalit writers who feel that Dalit chetna was inspired solely by Ambedkar and who view Gandhi as a traitor to Dalits in the name of national unity. Mohandas Naimishray, another of Hindi Dalit literatures respected and most frequently translated authors writes, Was Premchand a storyteller with a Dalit chetna? The conception of Dalit chetna is so well-defined that it is not possible to attribute it to Premchand. He was a Kayasth by birth and Dalits cannot be blind to this fact... During Ambedkars Mahar movement when theManusmriti was burned, Premchand kept silent and this is sufficient basis to say that he was not a Dalit writer (qtd. in Valmiki 2004, p. 28). Premchands political affiliations and public expression outside of literature are intrinsic to his inability to understand and convey a sense of Dalit chetna.

True to the form of public debate, however, there is another side to the literary and ideological debate over Premchand, one which suggests Hindi Dalit writers need to rethink the ways in which they judge and categorize literature. Anita Bharati, member of both the Dalit Lekhak Sangh (Dalit Writers Forum) and the Centre for Alternative Dalit Media (CADAM), both in Delhi, criticizes the reactionary responses of members of the Dalit community, such as the BDSA, who categorically refuse to include Premchand as a contributor to Dalit literature. She writes in defence of Premchand: So then what is this opposition of Dalit writers towards Premchand? On one hand they believe that besides "Kafan" his stories "Thakur ka Kua", "Pus ki Rat", "Sadgati", and "Ghasvali" to be great Dalit stories, but on the other hand, taking up the subject-matter of "Kafan" they label him with epithets like "anti-Dalit" and "non-Dalit". If we were to make a comparison between Premchands Dalit characters and other Hindi writers Dalit characters, then we can decidedly conclude that Premchands characters are everywhere more prominent, argumentative, fearless, rebellious, and willing to clash with Brahmanism (Bharati 2004, p. 210).

Other Dalit writers too have warned of the danger of defining Dalit literary
reception along caste lines. Literary critic Mohammad Azhar Dherivala (2004) suggests expanding the notion of Dalit chetna to include authors such as Premchand in an article about another of Premchands short stories, Thakur ka Kua (The Thakurs Well). This story generally garners more positive response in Dalit circles than Kafan and is often used as an example of how sympathetic Premchand could in fact be towards Dalits. A poignant story with blameless Dalit characters, it illustrates the depths of the depravity of Dalit existence. In his article highlighting the Dalit chetna inherent in such a portrayal, Dherivala includes a powerful statement about the dangers of caste-based interpretations of literature: By dividing contemporary authors, writers and poets into "Dalit writers" and "non-Dalit writers", we are not only dividing literature, but arent we also trying to join Dalit chetna with some kind of "agenda"? Another danger from creating this kind of division is that it may seem that "Dalit literature" and "savarna (upper caste) literature" should be separated. In doing this we will impose a hierarchical division on literature. This question has been brought up here because in trying to impose their standards or "agendas" on Premchand, [Dalit writers] are forcing him into the guise of a "non-Dalit writer", and they will have closed off his literature from being included in this wider meaning of "Dalit" (p. 16). Dherivalas appeal to rethink ascribing the authority to represent Dalit consciousness only to those who are Dalit by birth represents the more liberal, inclusive side of an ongoing, deep-seated debate in the Hindi Dalit literary public. Can only Dalits experience and epitomize Dalit chetna? Should a specific caste

identity be required in embodying a narrative subject who is authorized to tell stories of caste-related suffering? These are fundamental questions about who constitutes the Hindi Dalit public sphere, about who has the ultimate authority to speak, not as an individual, but as a representative of the community.

Several contributors to volumes of Dalit literary criticism have also focused their
attention on the works of early 20th century Chhayavd poet Nirala, and their evaluation of the nature of his writing has generally been much less contested than that of Premchand. True to the spirit of classic Chhayavd lyrical content and style, many of Niralas poems are romantic odes to nature and love, though a few of his poems do express clear critical commentary about social inequalities. It is to these poems that some Dalit critics have turned to measure their conformity to Dalit chetna, resulting in a largely positive response and attempts to claim Nirala for a growing list of contributors of Dalit chetna to traditional Hindi literature.

Although Valmiki, above, expressed a refusal to accept those writers heralded by


nationalist-era critics like Ramchandra Shukla as the epitome of Hindi literary aesthetics, supporters of Shuklas critical legacy have also joined in the discussion. Several special issues of the journal of the Acharya Ramchandra Shukla Research Institute in Varanasi, Mndand, have over the last several years been dedicated to critical discussions surrounding Dalit literature. In one essay, critic Devdas Tembhare (2000) suggests inroads Dalit chetna has made in 20th century Hindi literature beyond works penned by Dalit authors. Much of his attention is on the works of Nirala. Tembhare suggests, In contemporary Hindi poetry, Nirala voiced a preliminary form of Dalit chetna in his poem "Breaking Stones" (Voh Torti Patthar). Indeed he did not name the character in the poem a "Dalit", but is not the description of her condition the description of Dalits in reality? (p. 6). Tembhare goes on to highlight sections of both Breaking Stones and Beggar (Bhikshuk), pointing out the affinities between poetic descriptions of a woman labourer and beggar that express both sympathy for the individual and outrage at the manifestation of social inequalities, and the kind of revolutionary mentality so often ascribed to Dalit literature. He suggests, Nirala was not a Dalit, he definitely had a deep sympathy for Dalits. At the time of the abovementioned poems by Nirala, the notion of "Dalit chetna" for changing the minds of the masses did not exist, but his importance in developing the concept of Dalit chetna was no less significant (p. 6).

Dalit literary critic Rajkumar Saini (2000) also credits Nirala with a prescient understanding of Dalit chetna. He cites a verse of Niralas as one of the first literary appearances of the term Dalit. He writes: In the history of modern Hindi poetry, the great poet (mahkavi) Nirala was probably the first to use the word Dalit: Dalit jan par karo karun dnt par utar ye prabhu tumhr shakti varun. [Show compassion to Dalits/come lord Varuna and end their suffering/with your power.] It can be said that Nirala is praying for Dalits, offering a message of compassion, but todays Dalit chetna has little faith in prayer or compassion. Rather it has developed and been organized with protest as its aim. It is aggressive and infectious and gives precedence to resistance, opposition, and struggle. Nirala wanted this too, but in his time such a Dalit chetna had not yet developed (pp. 93-94).

Sainis analysis suggests an evolutionary understanding of Dalit chetna.


Attributing the beginnings of the elaboration of the concept in literature to Nirala, he also allows that poetry such as Niralas written today would not stand up to the Dalit chetna test. Dalit chetna today is a thoroughly modern critical concept in the mode of deconstruction. It is an expression of denial, a theoretical tool that contributes to the destabilization of traditional notions of social hierarchy and cultural authenticity. Contemporary Dalit critics are specific about both the current nature and the importance of Dalit chetna. According to Valmiki (2001), Dalit chetna is elemental in opposing the cultural inheritance of the upper castes, the notion that culture is a hereditary right for them, and one that is denied to Dalits. He suggests, Dalit chetna is deeply concerned with the question, "Who am I? What is my identity?" The strength of character of Dalit authors comes from these questions (pp. 28-29). In Valmikis sense of the term, Dalit chetna is what gives Dalit literature its unique power. Like Limbale, he asserts that this sets it apart from more traditional literature. And though there have been other writings by Dalits in the history of Indian literature, such as Bhakti poetry and the early 20th century writings by Dalits in the little magazines of western India, these failed to change traditional understandings of caste in society and cannot truly be called Dalit literature because there was no expression of Dalit chetna. Rather, the

concept of Dalit chetna is wholly modern, even deconstructive in its ability to clear the way for a new understanding of Dalit identity. Dalit chetna does not just make an account of or give a report on the anguish, misery, pain and exploitation of Dalits, or draw a tear-streaked and sensitive portrait of Dalit agony; rather it is that which is absent from "original" consciousness, the simple and straightforward perspective that breaks the spell of the shadow of the cultural, historical and social roles for Dalits. That is Dalit chetna. "Dalit" means deprived of human rights, those who have been denied them on a social level. Their chetna is Dalit chetna (Valmiki 2001, p. 29).

In conclusion, Dalit chetna has become an essential component of the growing


Dalit literary critical lexicon. And such literary criticism is increasingly developing as a critical component to the Dalit project of claiming space in the public discursive sphere. Now Dalit writers are not only in a position to represent their own lives and tell their own stories, as they have been since the advent of Dalit literature several decades ago, but with the creation of a new Dalit critical discourse, they are also in a position to assess the representation of their lives by others. In some cases they may reject works that have long been understood to have sympathetic Dalit characters, and in other cases they may find affinity with authors who have not traditionally been celebrated as socially engaged. But the discussion will undoubtedly continue, and with it the definition and critical employment of the concept of Dalit chetna will continue to evolve and be refined.

References: Bharati, A. (2004). Kafan aur Dalit Stree-Vimarsh, Sandhaan: 209-213. Dherivala, M. A. (2004). Thakur ka Kua: Dalit Chetna ka Dastavej, Apeksha 8: 16-18. Gupta, R., ed. (1996). Dalit Chetna: Sahitya. Hazaribag, Navlekhan Prakashan. Gupta, R., ed. (1996). Dalit Chetna: Kavita. Hazaribag, Navlekhan Prakashan. Gupta, R., ed. (1998). Dalit Chetna: Soch. Hazaribag, Navlekhan Prakashan. Guru, G. (2001). The Language of Dalit-Bahujan Political Discourse in Dalit Identity and Politics, (ed.) G. Shah. New Delhi, Sage, 2: 97-107. Limbale, S. (2004). Towards an Aesthetic of Dalit Literature: History, Controversies, and Considerations. New Delhi, Orient Longman. Narayan, B. and A. R. Misra, eds. (2004). Multiple Marginalities: An Anthology of Identified Dalit Writings. Delhi, Manohar.

Saini, R. (2000). Dalit Chetna aur Sahitya in Dalit Prasang, (ed.) P. K. Vandhopadhyay. Delhi, Shilalekh: 93-102. Sumanakshar, S. (2005). Rangbhoomi ko Jangbhoomi banane ke liye zimmedar kaun? Apeksha 10: 16-18. Tembhare, D. (2000). Samkaleen Hindi Kavita mein Dalit Chetna, Naya Mandand 8(16): 5-9. Valmiki, O. (2001). Dalit Sahitya ka Saundaryashastra. Delhi, Radhakrishna. Valmiki, O. (2003). Joothan. New York, Columbia University Press. Valmiki, O. (2004). Premchand: Sandarbh Dalit Vimarsh, Teesra Paksh (14-15): 25-32. Zelliot, E. (1998). The Roots of Dalit Consciousness, Seminar (471): 28-32.

Ensuring liberalization: economic and social


D. SHYAM BABU

SEVERAL events during the last couple of years have left Dalits with familiar doubts about their place in Indian society. First, there was a national debate on job reservations in the private sector, which continues. Through the 2004 Lok Sabha elections the people made it amply clear that they did not share, in fact resented, the euphoria that India (was) shining. Partly in response, however haphazardly, the new government broached the issue of quotas in the private sector. In doing so it at least displayed some empathy with Dalits and tribals and sought to integrate them into the fast expanding private sector. However, the debate on the subject led to two unfortunate but wholly foreseen outcomes. First, the organised private sector has made it clear that it would not embrace any socially redeeming policies in its hiring practices. Second, and a more deleterious outcome is that what was hoped to be a debate to help Dalits has been transformed into a debate on merit, in which the age-old negative stereotypes on the community are advanced to perpetuate exclusion. Once again, the government has declined to extend reservations to the armed forces. While merit was the excuse to deny Dalits a place in the private sector, national unity and integrity came handy in the case of armed forces. It is ironical on many grounds. A country like the United States actively recruits minorities into its services and does not consider it a threat to social cohesion. In India, on the other hand, a policy to benefit weaker sections has been sacrificed for social cohesion that does not exist.

On 12 August 2005, the Supreme Court declared that the state could not impose reservations on private unaided professional colleges. Incidentally, the judgment recalls with a touch of irony the good old times when education used to be charity or philanthropy but fails to mention that lower castes and Dalits were denied that charity even in those good old times. Clearly the times, both old and new, dont seem to hold much for the disadvantaged. In the good old times it was the Manusmriti, in colonial times it was the martialrace argument (with regard to recruitment in the British India army), and now it is meritocracy in the modern period all are justified in their time by society, state and judiciary with one common result: exclusion of Dalits from the mainstream. Though the exclusion of Dalits is real, one needs to take into account the progress made since independence. However, be it employment or access to education, the fact that reservations are required in this time and age is a sad commentary on the state of the community. There can be little dispute with basic facts, though. First, Dalits find themselves at the bottom of most human development indicators. Even the government has admitted this. Second, their social and economic backwardness is clearly related to their religion-sanctioned exclusion from all walks of public life. Third, discrimination is not a thing of the past but an everyday reality.

With independence and the adoption of a modern constitution, the situation has
fundamentally changed. Unlike in the past, nobody can now openly justify the discrimination suffered by Dalits. Moreover, the government is mandated by the constitution to end discrimination. But even 55 years on, the situation for the Dalits remains equally dismal in the rural areas and the progress the community has made remains confined to a tiny section that acquired mobility due entirely to jobs in the government. What, then, explains the sorry state? There is no dearth of rules and programmes, or budgetary allocations designed for Dalit welfare, but their impact remains marginal. This paper reasons that Dalit welfare has been treated narrowly as a matter of economic upliftment in the hope that economic development would pave the way for social equality. It also draws inspiration from old concepts like state-society dichotomy and Gunnar Myrdals soft state, though they were never treated as operative realities in India and their relevance for social policy cannot be overestimated even today.

In 1950 the Indian nation agreed in a fit of absent-mindedness, as it were to


the creation of a modern constitution based on universal values. But it was never treated as a settled fact. Religious extremists attacked it as it was not based on Manusmriti; communists and socialists thought it was not radical enough; and most others felt it was not sufficiently Indian because it drew inspiration from ideals and models developed elsewhere, especially in the West. No doubt, it has become a fait accompli and nothing more. A case in point is the argument by Hindutva groups that the Ayodhya case is related to faith and the courts should not have jurisdiction over their claims. The argument has not gained any currency, though, but those who have resorted to that school of thought cannot be dismissed as inconsequential. In other words, the predominant sentiment is that whatever values the constitution espouses do not have to be honoured if they are not in conformity with traditional values. Similarly, opposition to Dalits and their development is premised on a tradition which freezes their socio-economic place at the bottom. In most caste-related conflicts, as a result, non-Dalits use tradition-sanctioned caste hierarchy, not constitution- mandated equality, as justification to continue discrimination against the community. It is naive to expect that functionaries charged to implement welfare provisions are unaffected by tradition. But the trouble is there is no such realisation while approaching the subject. Harriss-White writes, while emphasising that Myrdals soft state has become softer, State capacity has become increasingly dependent on the private social identities of the personnel who happen to occupy positions in the local State.1

In August 2000, President K.R. Narayanan constituted a committee of


governors2 to review welfare programmes designed to help SC/STs, highlight constraints and bottlenecks, and make recommendations. The committee made several recommendations but did not address the question of how or whether societal prejudice could be a factor explaining failure of welfare programmes. However, this is not to criticise the committee which did a good job with regard to administrative aspects, its mandate, but to highlight that the Dalit problem cannot be treated merely as an administrative issue. Moreover, unlike in reviewing the success of schemes like the Special Component Plan, which can be quantified, something the governors committee did well, how does one factor in social prejudice, except by rejecting it as extraneous or irrelevant? Extraneous or irrelevant it is not. Therefore, Dalits are victims of not only the problems of governance per se but also of social prejudice. While reforming governance is a continuing process, the social aspects need immediate attention.

The failure to do so has resulted in the emasculation of the state, in a functional sense, insofar as Dalits are concerned. The original proactive welfare state was reduced to mouthing political slogans by the early 1980s but, since 1991, even those slogans have been discarded as inconvenient. Populism and vote-bank politics are adjectives now used to delegitimise any socially redeeming initiatives and arguments. The absence of any serious debate had deleterious consequences and Amartya Sen very aptly sounds the warning, Silence is a powerful enemy of social justice.3 To that extent, the states will to be proactive is severely limited. This process does not only affect the economic development of the Dalits but is evident even in protecting their human rights. Most atrocity cases end up in acquittal because the civil and police administration lacks the capacity to ensure rule-based governance as well as the conviction of those who perpetuate violence on the community. This has become a pattern leading to the erosion of Dalits confidence in the state. Overall, a hostile society and an indifferent state are unlikely to produce a conducive environment where Dalits would be able to improve their social and economic conditions.

There is something deceptive about the terminology of liberalization.


Liberalization in the present context only means economic liberalization. Even the seemingly neutral usage, economic reforms hides more than it reveals. In popular perception liberalization may be associated with liberalism but it does not contain any liberal elements of individual liberty tolerance, rule of law, equality, and so on. And they cannot be taken for granted in a country in which caste and communal divisions and discrimination are a rule, not an exception. The trouble with India is that at the time of independence, as Ambedkar mentioned, political democracy did not ensure social democracy; now in the days of economic liberalization, a parallel process is missing to free the society from obscurantism, narrow mindedness and caste prejudice the inhuman features of society that keep Dalits in poverty and denial.

Negligence or unwillingness to reform society was responsible for the failure of


the earlier system insofar as helping Dalits to stand on their feet. Now the country has embarked on a new economic course without paying any attention to social reform. The results cannot be different. The Dalits apprehension of being left behind is turning into despondency. Can the Dalit problem be solved by mere macro-economic changes without looking into its social and political aspects as well?

The vibrant civil society that India is rightly proud of mostly spends its energies on other issues such as environment and civil liberties. Notwithstanding the importance of these issues, their resolution howsoever understood, has limited relevance to the Dalits. First, most civil society groups are top-down in their structure as well as outlook and an age-old issue like caste discrimination tends to be ignored. In any case, it proved to be much more resilient to change even under the combined onslaught of Ambedkar and Gandhi, and lesser mortals with limited vision and capabilities could not hope to eradicate it. So, it remains an existential reality. Second, most civil society groups target the state, or the development model and not the society, the reason for the Dalits backwardness. It is no secret, either, that very few Dalits find their voices heard in the civil society deliberations, though there may be many Dalits as flag-bearers in these groups.

However, the role of civil society in Dalit emancipation is indispensable and, in


fact, its silence during the last five decades has led to further worsening of the situation. According to Amartya Sen who clearly identifies the problem: The right to comprehensive participation in democratic politics can be the basis of social and political use of "voice" through arguments and agitations to advance the cause of equality in different spheres of life. Indias democratic practice has been less than vigorous in some of these issues, and these lacunae are among the major inadequacies in the use of democracy in India today. The future of stratifications related to class, caste, gender and other barriers will depend critically on how they are addressed in political engagement and participatory social actions in the country. Despite the frustration with democracy expressed by many people, disappointed particularly by the slow progress against societal inequality, what is really needed is a more vigorous practice of democracy, rather than the absence of it.4 Sens prescription is important for several reasons. For a start, stratification has seldom been regarded as a problem. Here one needs to make a distinction between state action by way of legislative debates and through administrative measures and response of the civil society. Moreover, unlike gender or class inequality which attracts some attention, caste discrimination has fewer takers. Even more perverse has been the use of the language of social justice to further the cause of OBCs, which is economic advancement. That the OBCs are economically backward cannot be denied, but to equate them with the SC/STs as victims of caste discrimination, though possibly valid in a historical context, does not hold in contemporary India. Being the middle castes, they compete with those above them in caste hierarchy but refuse to accord equality to those below them, the Dalits. The history of more than a century of the so-called anti-caste movements led by the OBCs is reflective of this contradiction.

Two, it is vitally important to create an environment in which stratification of any sort be it based on class, caste, or gender does not enjoy legitimacy. It is not enough for a civil society group, for example, to argue that its main concern is only gender equality. Such a segmented approach, the bane of most civil society activism, cannot help if it remains oblivious to universal values. The third reason why Sens viewpoint deserves national attention is the need to imbibe universal values. Economic liberalization is good in a narrow sense of promoting competition or encouraging private sector development, but falls far short of a blueprint for national development if it were to be implemented, as is now the case, in isolation of social realities. A true liberalization of society is the antidote to most problems of stratification and the resultant economic deprivation. This is not just a Dalit agenda and needs to be seen in the context of universal values of rule of law, equality, justice and a sense of fair play.

Footnotes: * The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of RGICS or its Governing Council. 1. Barbara Harriss-White, India Working: Essays on Society and Economy (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 246. 2. Chaired by P.C. Alexander, then Governor of Maharashtra, the committee included other governors M.M. Jacob (Meghalaya), Justice S.S. Kang (Kerala), V.S. Rama Devi (Karnataka), Suraj Bhan (Himachal Pradesh), M.M. Rajendran (Orissa), and Babu Paramanand (Haryana). It submitted its report to the President on 28 April 2001. 3. Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity (London: Allen Lane, 2005), p. 39. 4. Sen, op cit., p. 36.

On claiming dalit subjectivity


S. ANAND

It is usual to hear all those who feel moved by the deplorable condition of the Untouchables unburden themselves by uttering the cry, We must do something for the Untouchables. One seldom hears any of the persons interested in the problem saying, Let us do something to change the Touchable Hindu. It is invariably assumed that the object to be reclaimed is the Untouchables. If there is

to be a mission, it must be to the Untouchables and if the Untouchables can be cured, untouchability will vanish. Nothing requires to be done to the Touchable. He is sound in mind, manners and morals. He is whole, there is nothing wrong with him. Is this assumption correct? Whether correct or not, the Hindus like to cling to it. The assumption has the supreme merit of satisfying themselves that they are not responsible for the problem of the Untouchables. B.R. Ambedkar

SINCE my initiation into the anti-caste debate following an engagement with Kancha Ilaiahs Why I am not a Hindu: A Sudra Critique of Hindutva Philosophy, Culture and Political Economy (Samya, 1996) where he foregrounds his own subjectivity as a sudra golla-kuruma (an OBC) I, a middle-class heterosexual Tamil brahmin male, have preferred to be critical of brahmins and brahminism and have rarely engaged with or written about dalit issues. Even in my professional career as a reporter, I have engaged more with brahmin hegemony and issues of brahmin subjectivity rather than issues that concern dalits. In doing so, I have, of course, drawn on my reading of Ambedkar, the nonbrahamin critiques of brahminism, and my engagement with the dalit movements.
1

I have subsequently treated debrahminisation, in the personal and social spheres, as an unending process. Caste identity is not just a question of consciousness; it is a matter of structure, of power. Even if I were to cleanse my consciousness of all caste sentiment, I would remain in the eyes of the world a brahmin. Brahmin functions for me not as an originary identity, but as a social location that I cannot exit. Since the identitarian, structural and hierarchical aspects of caste function in a relational, relative sense, I cannot individually or socially cease to be a brahmin. I cannot erase the benefits and privileges that accrue to me from a brahmin birth one of which is my essay in this issue of Seminar but can try to use this privilege to interrogate brahmins and brahminism. Since I have charted the trajectory of my undying brahmin self in detail elsewhere, I shall not further flog the issue. My objective here, partly in response to Ambedkar, is to point out that the object to be reclaimed is the Touchable Hindu, the nondalit.
2

In the invitation to write for this issue of Seminar, the contributors were sent an
exploratory note which boldly stated: Instead of viewing Dalits as merely a category or an identity that refers to a group of people, a cluster of castes who self identify themselves as Dalits, to the studies of identities, self-respect movements, social justice, equality, power, reservations, and so forth, the familiar tropes of analysis, I wish to propose that the category Dalit represents a "perspective" to

studying and understanding Indian/Hindu society and history, recent experiences of colonialism and nationalism, democracy, modernity, and the larger world.

This proposition disturbed me a good deal and brought back memories of my


unwitting, short-lived involvement with the bimonthly journal The Dalit as an editor in 2002. With the ghost of my involvement with The Dalit yet to be exorcised, Rawats proposition triggered a slew of questions: Can the category dalit merely represent a perspective? Can it just be a standpoint? Can it be reduced to a theoretical method of intellectual and political inquiry, like say marxism, poststructuralism, feminism or even poststructuralist feminism? A mode of understanding towards which anybody can aspire by using certain tools? And what are the tools/ideas/texts that would enable a dalit perspective? Can a dalit perspective be divorced from the experience of being termed an untouchable? What does all this mean especially when dalit does not refer to a homogenous group?
3

First, we need to understand, if not define, the term dalit. Both popular and academic usage of dalit has come to function as a politically correct substitute for Scheduled Caste, harijan, untouchable, Depressed Classes and other antiquated descriptive terms. Yet, it is argued that dalit does not refer to a caste identity; that it in fact refers to those who fall outside the chaturvarna system; that dalit has an emancipatory potential which caste categories like kurmi, madiga or brahmin do not have; that dalit is not a caste, but an anticaste subjectivity. For Ravikumar, not all Scheduled Castes can be termed dalit, but only those who are born into castes designated as untouchable can claim the dalit space. Dalit is a subjectivity which one consciously chooses by rejecting caste. In Derridean terms, it is an expression of denial. However, dalit has been corrupted as yet another term of reference for those who were once regarded as Scheduled Caste, harijan or the Depressed Class. The term dalit denotes caste when used by nondalits and is a rejection of caste when used by dalits. Failing to understand this, others see dalits as organising under the rubric of caste. This begs the question: can we term anyone who disapproves of caste as dalit? Only victims of untouchability can deny the caste system and take on the subjectivity of a dalit. One cannot become a feminist because one is born a woman. The feminist position is taken up consciously. And only a woman can assume that subjectivity. Similarly, only an untouchable can claim the dalit subjectivity. But s/he must also realise that this subjectivity is subject to change. If it is turned into a rigid identity, it runs the risk of being ruined as a caste identity.
4

Such an understanding definitively excludes the possibility of those not born into
untouchable castes those who have not experienced untouchability claiming to occupy the dalit space. Since the ex-untouchables are not a homogenous group, the details of what untouchability entails vary across geography, class and gender. There is room for plurality of experiences and perspectives. Untouchability is not a singular experience; what holds dalits together is the structural fact that they have all been termed untouchable and subjected to exclusions of varying degrees, and their rejection of that identity. Dalit, thus, is related to identity, and at the same time is anti-identity (the rejection of the ascription of untouchability). Ravikumar also argues that dalit is not a permanent state of being but a temporary one; a state determined by the politics of our times. He is also wary of the dangers of defining, demarcating and theorising this space. Once that is done, dalit studies would emerge as an academic discipline, a dalit perspective would become a space that the mainstream can seek to occupy, and dalit would settle into becoming yet another approach for an intellectual understanding of the world around us.
5

Rawat is not alone in positioning dalit as perspective. In her much-cited


essay, A Dalit Feminist Standpoint, written in the context of the emergence of autonomous dalit feminist groups in Maharashtra and following the call to commemorate 25 December (the day Ambedkar and his followers burnt a copy of the Manusmriti in 1927) as Bharatiya Stree Mukti Divas Sharmila Rege, a brahmin, argues that such a standpoint is more emancipatory and concludes:
6

A transformation from their cause to our cause is feasible for subjectivities can be transformed. By this we do not argue that non-dalit feminists can speak as or for the dalit feminists but they can reinvent themselves as dalit feminists. Such a position therefore avoids the narrow alley of direct experience based authenticity and narrow identity politics. (Emphasis in original.)

Conflating non-brahminical renderings of feminism with the dalit feminist


standpoint (DFS), Rege asserts her right to encroach. Her position is of course part of a dissenting trend that resists mainstream Indian feminisms idea that women can make common cause and speak together across castes, and emerges from a concern with the emphasis on differences in feminist politics. DFS is a demand on mainstream feminists to engage with the realities of the caste dynamics

of patriarchy and the specificities of dalit womens oppression. Warning us about the narrowness of authenticity-based identity politics, Rege claims that nondalits can reinvent themselves as dalit feminists, which is to say that they can transcend their nondalitness. Such a standpoint refuses to realise that existing identities must be thoroughly understood before they can be either transformed or dismantled. There is a need to realise that identities are not something to transcend or subvert but something we need to engage with and attend to.
7 8

Extending Reges line of reasoning would enable me to claim that it is possible


that I, too, as a progressive nondalit can claim to represent a dalit standpoint, what Rawat terms a perspective. I could even claim to represent a DFS if I assume an intellectually and morally righteous position and reject the narrowness of experience-based authenticity. Such logic, which seeks to divorce experience from knowledge formation, can also be used to claim that nondalits can produce dalit writing. It challenges the reification of experience as a ground for a politically charged knowledge claim; it challenges the claiming of epistemic privilege by dalits, and the authority of experience claimed by oppressed categories, thus opening the doors of theorising dalit subjectivity to nondalits. If we view dalit as a subjectivity emerging from the rejection of a stigmatised identity, then we must be wary of the usurping of such a subjectivity by nondalits. Paula Moya, seeking to salvage identity from both the postmodernist and essentialist onslaughts, says: The significance of identity depends partly on the fact that goods and resources are still distributed according to identity categories. Who are we that is, who we perceive ourselves or are perceived by others to be will significantly affect our life chances: where we can live, whom we will marry, (or whether we can marry) and what kind of educational and employment opportunities will be available to us an ability to take effective steps toward progressive social change is predicated on an acknowledgement of, and familiarity with, past and present structures of inequality structures that are often highly correlated with categories of identity.
9

In the context of caste society, the question of identity is inextricably linked to


issues of representation. Since identity assertion is driven by a quest for equality, for social justice, the question of representation becomes most significant. When nondalits like Rege, Rawat, I and scores of others engage with dalit issues with relative ease and equanimity, the space for such engagement is linked to our

caste identity; its a space we claim/occupy by privilege of birth since goods and resources are still distributed according to identity categories. It is the ease with which such a space becomes available that should make us even more selfconscious about the politics and dangers of access. Therefore, when we seek to delink dalit from experience deny its ontological significance and position it as yet another approach to epistemic activity, or of doing politics, the issue of representation can be left unaddressed, as it often is. It can lead to a situation where nondalits can claim to wield the dalit perspective, assume a dalit or even a dalit feminist standpoint, and continue to exclude dalits from this sphere and this is what happens. Those keen on a purposive, progressive politics must be especially alive to this scenario since it threatens to replicate structures of discrimination and exclusion in other words, untouchability, as Chandra Bhan Prasad frames it: Untouchability is such a doctrine that it does not fully liberate even the most rational, most emancipated, progressive-minded person from practising it, howsoever unconsciously. Contrary to the popular perception that untouchability is a social evil, it is in essence a doctrine of exclusion if there is not a single dalit who is an editor of a national daily, an anchor on TV channels, or a member of the Confederation of Indian Industry, it is not by accident, but because of the doctrine of untouchability.
10

The media, being in the private sector, claims immunity from the state policy of
reservation and excludes dalits systematically. In the humanities and social sciences, and the academia in general, the exclusion of dalits in state-funded institutions despite the policy of reservation continues and remains inadequately addressed. The burgeoning self- financed research centres CSCS in Bangalore, CSSS in Calcutta, Sarai-CSDS in Delhi also do not have a policy of structurally accommodating dalits as producers of knowledge; they do figure as subjects of research for nondalits. After 23 years, the Subaltern Studies enterprise has yet to admit a dalit historian in its charmed circle. Such structured exclusion leads to a significant number of nondalits making dalits the subject of their research and documentation. These nondalits, however, rarely account for or are made to account for their own caste selves. The caste identities of most (nondalit) social scientists, intellectuals and journalists remain a matter of conjecture and inference based on surnames, or personal knowledge of a person. Whereas the dalits-assubjects remain caste-marked, the caste identities of nondalits, and the inevitable and inescapable biases that inhere, are never made available for public scrutiny.
11

For instance, a recent research article in EPW, Work, Caste and Competing
Masculinities: Notes From a Tamil Village, sought to map the shifting dynamics of masculinities among mudaliar men and dalit men in a Tamil village. The conclusions and theorisations arrived at by the three nondalit authors about the relationship between caste, class and gender among mudaliar and dalit men and women has attracted criticism from Tamil dalit circles. Besides a critique in the Tamil journal Pudhiya Kodangi, a response appeared in EPW too. C. Lakshmanan, contesting the methodological, empirical and theoretical claims made by Anandhi et al, points to the problem of the nondalit subjectivity of the researchers: Particularly, when non-dalits articulate dalits cultural milieu and their social spheres, they expose their subjective notions. He finds the exercise blemished owing to the reflection of the non-dalit subjectivity of the authors.
12 13 14

This is not of course an isolated instance of nondalit theorisation of dalit subjectivities, but is one of the few instances where the claims of nondalits have been squarely challenged. Since the article by Anandhi et al draws parallels with the constitution of subordinated African American masculinities, it is significant that contemporary white academicians do not go about theorising the tensions of black-white masculinities without making available their own racial subjectivities for scrutiny.
15

In another instance of nondalit theorisation of dalit (and bahujan) writing, Aditya


Nigam offers a reading of what appears to be the dalit and nonbrahmin celebration of modernity, as in fact being a critique of modernity: The task that I seek to undertake is to read the dalit movement and its discourse as a text, against its own self-perception, in order to extricate the elements of an epistemology of its critique of modernity. For such a reading which seeks to reduce the dalit engagement with issues to a mere text that needs to be understood against its own self-perception the meaning of the dalit movement and dalit writings is something that has to be extricated by a nondalit theorist, a problem that Gopal Guru alerts us to, as we shall soon see.
16

Says Nigam: It is by now common sense that there has been a considerable
investment in modernity and its emancipatory promise among the dalits and more generally, among the many non-Brahmin castes. And he seeks to challenge this common sense by offering us a reading which makes it appear that Chandra Bhan Prasad, Kancha Ilaiah, Periyar and Ambedkar are in their own ways critiquing the modern through their relentless resistance to the idea of abstract citizenship, the insistence on what was called communal proportional

representation inscribed in the very heart of dalit and non-brahmin politics from its very inception. The almost life-and-death contestations that took place around this issue and which unrepentant modernists like Nehru and Namboodiripad found so embarrassing, and which eventually found their embodiment in the Indian Constitution, points to the need to examine afresh the various layers of this relationship between the dalits and modernity.
17

Where Nigam errs is in his partaking of the brahmanical commonsense that has constructed Namboodiripad and Nehru as unrepentant modernists. The dalit and non-brahmin critiques if they can at all be collapsed into a monolithic dalitbahujan category hardly ever looked at players such as Namboodiripad and Nehru as modernists in the first place. Chandra Bhan Prasad the unapologetic modernist who publicly celebrates Macaulays birthday in fact dubs Namboodiripad as an unrepentant upholder of the caste system and characterises him as someone who Hinduised Marxism. The problem, therefore, lies in accepting the dominant brahmanical paradigm of modernity as a given, and then reading the dalit rejection of this paradigm as a critique of modernity. This is not the forum to engage expansively with Nigams formulations; but we need to ask: what is Nigams subjectivity while offering us this Epistemology of the Dalit Critique? Is it a marxist, brahmanical or postmodern subjectivity? Where is the need for a non-dalit to offer an epistemology of the dalit critique? Are dalits incapable of constructing an epistemology of their own?
18

In an incisive intervention, Gopal Guru interrogates the claims of nondalits acting


as gatekeepers of theory in the realm of social sciences, and offers a moral critique of the intellectual representation of dalit issues. Here, he demolishes the theoretical claims that have been made on behalf of dalits by nondalits. With a unique formulation called TTB the top of the twice born Guru offers us a new term to refer to those castes which most social scientists so lazily, casually and insensitively refer to as upper castes (internalising the relativist upper-lower binaries as real). Laying bare the intellectual, material, political and moral conditions that deny the dalits-adivasis-OBCs the space that is required to nurture their reflective capacity, he concludes: Indian social science represents a pernicious divide between theoretical brahmins and empirical shudras. Guru goes on to paint a bleak picture of the consequences of nondalits dominating the dalit theoretical space:
19

In view of the complete lack of theoretical intervention from dalit/bahujan scholars, some non-dalit messiahs have offered to represent dalit/bahujans theoretically. Their claim to fight this reverse orientalism on behalf of dalits looks attractive. It is argued by the TTB that they need to intervene in the dalit situation at the theoretical level only to restore voice and visibility to dalits and ultimately advance the dalit epistemological cause. But this also ends up producing reverse

orientalism in a very subtle way. The claim to offer epistemological empowerment to dalits involves a charity element which by definition is condescending these scholars choose to theorise dalit experience standing outside the dalit experience. This representation thus remains epistemologically posterior. (Emphasis added.) Three years hence there has not been any serious nondalit response (from the high priests of social science theory) to Gurus passionate critique. Writing in a special issue devoted to gender in a journal run by the Ambedkar Study Circle in Jawaharlal Nehru University, Swathy Margaret asserts her turf: If we do not define ourselves for ourselves, we will be defined by others for their use and our detriment.
20

Gurus and Margarets voices should serve as warnings to enthusiasts like Rege, Rawat, Nigam, myself and scores of nondalits anxious to play progressive parts in the dalit cause, but unintentionally tripping on our own undying caste selves. Rather than using dalit as perspective and denying the task of editing The Dalit or a Seminar issue on dalit(s) to dalits, we would do better to heed Ambedkars suggestion and say: Let us do something to change the Touchable Hindu.

Footnotes: * This essay owes a lot to discussions with Ravikumar, the detailed comments offered by Nathaniel Roberts, the response of Meena Kandasamy and the reactions of Ramnarayan Rawat. 1. For an account of my own caste subjectivity as a mediaperson and also for an analysis of caste and the print media, see my Covering Caste: Visible Dalit, Invisible Brahman in Practising Journalism: Values, Constraints, Implications, edited by Nalini Rajan, Sage, New Delhi, 2005, 172-198. Also see my Brahmans and Cricket: Lagaans Millennial Purana and Other Myths. Navayana, Pondicherry, 2003. 2. See my essay, Notes on my Brahmin Self in Insight, July-August 2005, 11-16, available at <http://insightjnu.blogspot.com 3. The hypocrisy was made worse by epistemic charity my name not figuring as editor in the imprint page for the two issues I had edited. The Dalit folded up in April 2003. 4. The Duty of Irresponsibility, special address at a workshop organised by Ministry of Social Welfare, Government of Kerala, for young dalit writers in Thiruvananthapuram on 16 March 2005; forthcoming in a collection of Ravikumars writings, Venomous Touch, Samya, Kolkata, 2006. 5. Chennai-based Meena Kandasamy, former editor of The Dalit, says: When a dalit writer comments on a water dispute, or cinema, he need not necessarily be exercising his dalit subjectivity. Personal communication. 6. Rege in Anupama Rao (ed.) Gender and Caste, Kali for Women, New Delhi, 2003, 90-99. 7. Paula M.L. Moya, Introduction, in Reclaiming Identity: Realist Theory and the Predicament of Postmodernism, eds. Paula M.L. Moya and Michael R. Hames-Garcia. Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 2001 and University of California Press, Berkeley, 2000, 9.

8. Ibid., 17. 9. Ibid., 8. 10. Untouchability and its "Hidden" Agenda, in Dalit Diary: 1999-2003, Reflections on Apartheid in India, Navayana, Pondicherry, 2004, 56-57. 11. See Gopal Guru, How Egalitarian are the Social Sciences in India?, Economic and Political Weekly, 14 December 2002, 5003-09. 12. S. Anandhi, J. Jeyaranjan and Rajan Krishnan, in EPW Review Of Women Studies, 26 October 2002, 43974406. 13. See Ko. Raghupathy, Dalithkal Meedana Arivu Vanmurai (Intellectual Violence on Dalits) in Pudhiya Kodangi, June 2004, 15-17. 14. Dalit Masculinities in Social Science Research: Revisiting a Tamil Village, Economic and Political Weekly, 6 March 2004, 1088-09. 15. An engagement with recent debates surrounding black masculinities in the US clearly shows a predominance of African American interlocutors male and female rather than whites theorising black subjectivities. For instance, feminist Cora Kaplan has the distinction of being the only contributor who is not African American (p. xi) in the volume Representing Black Men, eds. Marcellus Blount and George P. Cunningham, Routledge, New York and London, 1996. Kaplan demonstrates how the liabilities of turf protection can be worked through, to an extent, when the writer approaches the other from a cultural critique of her own subject position. In A Cavern Opened in My Mind: The Poetics of Homosexuality and the Politics of Masculinity in James Baldwin, Kaplan bases her analysis of Baldwins representation of racialised genders and sexualities in a personal engagement with his work as a left-wing, middle-class, white woman. 16. See Secularism, Modernity, Nation: Epistemology of the Dalit Critique, in Economic and Political Weekly, 25 November 2000, 4256-68. 17. Ibid. 18. See To the Editor, NY Daily Tribune, in Dalit Diary, 31-33. 19. How Egalitarian are the Social Sciences in India?, Economic and Political Weekly, 14 December 2002, 5003-09. 20. Insight, March-April 2005, 3.

INDIA STINKING: Manual Scavengers in Andhra Pradesh and Their Work by Gita Ramaswamy. Navayana Publishing, Chennai, 2005. EVEN those engaged with Dalit questions rarely concern themselves with the fate of manual scavengers, despite the fact that this activity represents the worst expression of the beliefs engendered by the caste system untouchability, puritypollution, dharma and karma. Few amongst us seem to be aware that despite The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act in 1993, over 1.3 million people continue to be employed as manual scavengers in private homes, in community dry latrines (CDLs) and deep sewers managed by the municipality, in the public sector such as the railways and

by the army. Nothing, however, is more telling about our attitude than the fact that this arrangement exists in many district courts and worse, the judiciary at least in one instance held the destruction of such latrines as illegal. Clearly, even destruction of illegal public property, more than a decade after the passing of a central legislation, is deemed a crime. Nothing about this slim booklet by publisher-activist Gita Ramaswamy makes for a pleasant read, and not merely because of the subject matter. Ramaswamy is suffused with rage at the continuation of this degrading activity. Even more that progressive radicals seem so unconcerned. As she explains, both her husband and she, when they first came into public contact with the scavenging community, were only involved with matters of education and wages. It was as if improvement in material circumstances and knowledge would be sufficient to eradicate this social evil, a continuing Marxist fallacy. Today, she is wiser. Based on an extensive survey of the practice in Andhra Pradesh, and subsequently a movement to destroy such conveniences, Ramaswamy and her colleagues in the Safai Karmachari Andolan hold out a mirror to our social attitudes. Slowly we realize that an activity which can easily be abolished through use of technology, resources and training still continues primarily because of our unconcern. Unfortunately, those stigmatised as bhangis too develop a stake in the system, seeing even these menial jobs as reserved for them and thus a source of security. They, one suspects, know only too well how difficult it is to escape the clutches of untouchability. And perchance we think that the scourge is confined only to the Hindus, Ramaswamy introduces the reader to Muslim-Dalit subcastes engaged in these tasks. How did the system of manual scavenging emerge? After all, excavations at Lothal reveal that our ancestors had water-borne toilets even in Harappan times. Even medieval townships had more sophisticated sewerage systems. So why did it continue? Is it, as Ramaswamy suggests, that given our social prejudices we refused to improve the technology of sanitation? This seems a little too pat. Nevertheless, a proper explanation is still awaited. Meanwhile, given the nature of our habitations, both rural and urban and neglect of toilets the demand for manual scavengers continues unabated. And as labour is cheap, there is little impetus to either improve systems in railways and municipal sewerage or introduce technology. Equally, I am not fully convinced by Ramaswamys discussion of Gandhi and Ambedkar with respect to eradication of untouchability. Possibly she could profit from reading the tract The Flaming Feet by the late D.R. Nagaraj who perceived both leaders as complimentary and subsequently highlights the grudging respect that the two social reformers developed for each other and their respective social projects to eradicate untouchability one seeking to alter the selfperception of the twice-born Hindu, the other to eradicate the caste system. As she

herself admits, Ambedkars movement, for all its radical promise, failed to involve the bhangis and effectively transcend his Mahar base. And the communists too concentrated primarily on forming unions and striking for higher wages, neglecting issues of culture and identity. Various government programmes to convert dry latrines into water pour-flush systems languished. Interestingly, even the Sulabh Shouchalaya programmes, though representing a definite improvement in toilet technology, continue to employ only the scavenging castes in their various facilities, thus failing to break through the untouchability barrier. Today, Ramaswamy advocates a complete demolition of such facilities, arguing that the state will move towards alternatives only when faced with no-option. The rest of this brief booklet presents a menu of what we as concerned citizens can do. The options may appear somewhat utopian or insufficient; nevertheless they do have the merit of forcing us to face ourselves and our prejudices. Harsh Sethi

THE SHAPING OF MODERN GUJARAT: Plurality, Hindutva and Beyond by Achyut Yagnik and Suchitra Sheth. Penguin, Delhi, 2005. GUJARAT has suffered an image problem ever since March 2002. Quite undeservedly so. Mention Gujarat, and people start talking about Godhra and communal riots and Narendra Modi and the Baroda Bakery case. Indeed, the subtitle of this book draws attention to that episode. But let the tail not wag the dog. The first rule to follow when reading this excellent book on Gujarat is not to worry about the last three years of Gujarats history but look at the previous two or three thousand years instead. Achyut Yagnik and Suchitra Sheth have given us a readable, well informed and intelligent book on Gujarat which discusses the history of Gujarat over the many centuries but especially the modern period. The first two chapters provide a general background on the ethos of Gujarat especially its mercantile culture. The next chapter Oppressive Encounters goes through the history of Muslim rule. The authors are in the secular mode of Indian progressives, so they try to be as fair as possible. The point to make, which they dont, is that Hindu rulers were no less oppressive and arbitrary than Muslim ones material conditions of the majority of the population does not vary according to whether the ruler is of one religion or another. The cruel Muslim and the kind Hindu ruler or the syncretic Muslim ruler and the fanatical one are later inventions of the nationalist movement. Kings were exploiters regardless of their religion. All that happens is that an excessive emphasis is placed in the nationalist retelling of history on temples and mosques.

The fourth chapter is on the British Raj. The point is well made that the British were alien but modern rulers who had a framework of law unlike the arbitrary feudal rule of Hindu or Muslim kings. The impetus to social reform given by western education and example is well covered. Chapter five is about the arrival of a modern textile industry and the swadeshi reaction. The next three chapters are about Gandhi and the independence movement except that the eighth chapter is more about Hindus and Muslims. The last three chapters are about postindependence Gujarat and about Hindutva. There is a dearth of regional histories in India. The independence movement was so focused on playing up the unity of India that it downgraded histories of regions and gave a central role to national history. But as I have argued before (in my Development and Nationhood, Oxford, 2004) India is a supranational idea whose territorial boundaries only got fixed in late 19th century by the British, only to be changed again on partition. The so-called provinces are nations on their own and their individual histories should be studied without presuming that there was always an India with the present boundaries and that provinces were just subordinate creatures. If we take this approach, what is striking about Gujarat is that it is the first modern nation in India. Bengal has an equal claim but in terms of modern industrialisation by the natives, Gujarat is way ahead of Bengal. Gujarat, in fact, is the first capitalist nation in Asia. Its social structure, even though broadly defined by Hindu society, was much less hierarchical than elsewhere in India since Brahmins were subordinate to Banias and were themselves more worldly than spiritual. There are ample examples of this in the chapter on industrialisation in this book. Brahmins take the lead in starting textile mills and go from a life in administration or law to opening up mills. This flexibility in the social structure extended to Muslim society as well since the mercantile ethos is shared by both communities in Gujarat. The dominant elite was Vaishnavite but the worship practices were not heavily ritualised and the spirit of the bhakti movement pervaded. Jain influence also modified the virulent orthodoxy of Hinduism found in other parts of India. This is the sort of material Max Weber saw in Protestant Europe which gave rise to capitalism. After this early start as a modern capitalist society imbued with the spirit of social reform, Gujarats trajectory begins to falter only after independence. For one the neutral umpire provided by foreign rule was removed and there was open season for local groups to challenge the hegemony of the old Vaishnavite industrial/commercial elite. The adoption of state-led industrialisation sapped the strength of the old elite as they were now at the mercy of the new apparatchiks for advancement.

Even then things remained stable till the formation of the Gujarat state. The politicisation of Gujarat began with the battle between the elite and the newly emerging communities such as the Patidars who did not share the mild social reformist ethos of the old elite. Things went from bad to worse as the Congress built up the KHAM coalition as a counterweight to the Patidars. Communities were treated as vote banks and Muslims too were just another vote bank. But once you are a vote bank your separate identity as Dalit or Kshatriya or Muslim becomes your valuable marker, your asset in accessing political favours. In the battle for scarce public goods, if I can marginalise your community, there is more for me. So the polity gets fragmented into separate vote banks where citizens are citizens last and their particular caste members first. Ironically the secularist as much as the communalist emphasises the community identity above common citizenship. Politics also dominates commerce. New money is made by being on the inside of politics rather than by enterprise and so this new money is hand in glove with the political parties. While the old elite was independent of state patronage and indeed hostile to foreign rule, the new elite is a poodle of the politicians. A nexus of crime, money and politics forms everywhere and violence becomes endemic to political life. In this sense Gujarats story merges into the tragedy of India as a whole. The weight of recent events hangs heavy on the authors who are at some pain to be seen as fair and even-handed. But the real merit of the book is in opening our eyes to the story of Gujarat as a modern society evolving out of its medieval origins. The story is told in a wide-ranging manner, dealing with social, economic and political aspects along with literature and culture. Gujarat will no doubt outlive its present bad name. This history tells why it will do so since Gujarat has some deeprooted strengths, above all the common sense of its commercial culture. Meghnad Desai

A VIEW FROM THE MACHAN: How Science Can Save the Fragile Predator by K. Ullas Karanth. Permanent Black, Delhi, 2005. ACCORDING to Ullas Karanth wild animals have dominated his consciousness ever since he can remember. His father, a well-known Kannada writer, was not only deeply interested in the natural world himself, but also lacked faith in formal education of any kind. So, until he joined high school directly at the age of 11, Karanth was free to wander the woods around their home in rural Karnataka to his hearts content, picking up natural history skills that would prove vital years later.

Today, Karanth is a renowned wildlife scientist who has spent virtually his entire adult life actively involved in conservation. His training and single-minded dedication, combined with a gift for clear thinking, makes him a formidable voice of reason, and this collection of 13 essays an invaluable contribution to the growing body of literature on Indias wildlife and its conservation. Karanths metamorphosis from amateur naturalist to wildlife scientist is both unusual and fascinating and is well documented in the first few essays of the book. After graduating from college he tried his hand at being an engineer and, later, toiled for several years as a farmer on the outskirts of the Nagarahole forest. Wildlife was a hobby, albeit a serious one. Then, well into his thirties, he took a radical decision to abandon both vocations and train himself as a wildlife biologist. This decision was spurred by the conviction that for conservation to succeed it had to be based on a solid foundation of modern wildlife biology. A meeting with a delegation from the Smithsonian at the Bombay Natural History Societys international wildlife conference in 1983 paved the way for his journey to the United States to pursue a degree in wildlife biology. Since then, it is the study of the tiger that has dominated his life, and he has come to be recognized around the world for his exemplary work on the severely endangered big cat. This fascination with the ultimate predator was probably fuelled in no small measure by the shikar tales that he read as a school student, in particular the feverishly gripping accounts of Kenneth Anderson. Andersons books of high adventure in the South Indian jungles have inspired many an Indian naturalist and Karanth too came under their spell. He got to know Anderson quite well later, and writes with admiration, affection and humour about the irascible Scot, whose enthralling stories have lost none of their shine to this day. The first six essays in the book are in the nature of personal reminiscences, written in an easy conversational style. These cover the period up to the beginning of Karanths study of predator-prey relationships in Nagarahole, Karnataka, in the mid-80s, and include a chapter on his close friend of nearly four decades, the courageous and steadfast forest range officer, K.M. Chinnappa. The two first met in Nagarahole in the late 60s and found common ground in their passion for watching animals rather than hunting them. Under Chinnappas diligent and tough stewardship, the Nagarahole that Karanth had come to know, with its large-scale logging and rampant poaching, gradually underwent a miraculous transformation, turning into one of Asias finest wildlife reserves. It was undoubtedly this transformation that made Karanths pioneering research here so productive for over two decades. While the books first five chapters are engaging and informative, its true worth lies in the latter eight. Karanths incisive intellect is at work here, and he

provides us with rare insights into the world of tigers, helping to dispel the fog of confusion that seems to enshroud their conservation. These essays do demand more from the reader, but they are, in my opinion, essential reading for every serious naturalist and conservationist. Throughout the book Karanth highlights the need for science in conservation and decries the science deficiency that extends to almost every aspect of wildlife management in India including, importantly, the monitoring of tigers. In the chapter The many ways to count a cat he demolishes fundamentally faulty home-grown methods of monitoring wildlife populations, such as waterhole census, block census and pugmark census, which gained widespread acceptance only because they have gone unchallenged for far too long. This pseudo-data, according to him, then enters the public domain without going through the scientific process of peer review and publication. The result of this, he argues, is that reliable, scientifically proven methods are ignored. Wildlife conservation, he asserts, is no different in many ways to running a large and complex business enterprise. In this enterprise it is imperative that wildlife scientists be the accountants and auditors. While recognizing that old-style natural history and field craft the domain of traditional hunters, collectors and naturalists still forms the backbone of modern wildlife biology, he points out that this is only valuable when brought under the framework of science. He warns that without scientifically accurate methods to measure the effectiveness of our actions, our efforts are bound to flounder, much like a business enterprise that carries on without ever drawing up a balance sheet. The last two chapters of the book are devoted to a discussion of the larger questions confronting conservation in India today. How do we define wildlife conservation? Why should we try to conserve wildlife? In these chapters Karanth argues against the newly fashioned paradigm of "sustainable use" whose proponents advocate "wise use" of nature reserves by "local people". He cites a world-wide study of wildlife hunting that concluded that most local hunting in tropical forest areas, either for the pot or for markets, is unsustainable because it is occurring at intensities way above the productivity of the targeted animal populations. Karanth is one of the most lucid and pragmatic voices in wildlife conservation today and, in this deceptively small book, he articulates a strong case for more science in conservation. The books discrete chapters are extremely useful because I can see readers wanting to delve into some of the essays again and again. This is an important book that has come at a time when the tigers domain is besieged by numerous problems, and needs to be read by everyone who is concerned about the conservation of this fragile predator. Shekar Dattatri

UNTOUCHABLE CITIZENS: Dalit Movement and Democratisation in Tamil Nadu by Hugo Gorringe. Sage, New Delhi, 2005. THE book under review is a significant contribution to the emerging studies on the recent assertion of subordinated peoples across the world. A part of the larger project of understanding cultural subordination and Dalit challenge in different regions of India, the book attempts to provide a comprehensive perspective of the contemporary Dalit movements their struggles, achievements and limitations in the broader framework of democratic social transformation and politics. Hugo Gorringe focuses on Dalit politics in Tamil Nadu with specific reference to the Viduthalai Chiruthaikkal (Dalit Panther Iyakkam or DPI). For the purpose, he employs data collected through extensive field surveys, and interviews from different categories of movement activists male and female, leaders and NGOs. The author has consulted numerous source materials, including government records, reports of various commissions and press clippings. Besides, while spending a year (1999-2000) in Tamil Nadu, mostly Madurai district, he also visited many parts of the state as part of the field survey. The explicit ascendancy of caste in the political sphere as a tool of political mobilisation was a fallout of the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations, especially the 27 per cent quota in central government jobs for the OBCs. The pro-Mandal movement initially earned the solidarity of Dalits across the country and also reopened the debate on caste with renewed vigour, facilitating caste-based mobilisation of different communities towards political ends. Subsequently, the implementation of the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, particularly in panchayati raj institutions, exposed the deep-rooted casteist mindset of the caste-Hindus, a euphemism for the dominant castes, in a state where the Dravidian movement/politics had espoused the cause of social reform and equated social justice with anti-Brahmanism. Over the period, the anti-Brahmin politics not only compromised its core ideals but also turned out to be anti-Dalit. Indeed, the book serves as an eye-opener to many who romanticise the Dravidian movement/politics. As Gorringe rightly argues, caste remains the dominant idiom of social organisation in India, even though its parameters have been significantly altered (p. 123). Change in the socio-cultural realm is considered as a threat to the hegemony of the Backward and Most Backward Castes, if not of the Brahmins. So far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, he says, The immediate opponents of the Dalit were [are] the Backward Castes Thevars (especially the Maravar clan) and Kounders, and Most Backward Caste Vanniyars (p. 122). Further, he maintains that Brahmins remain influential but are seldom in direct competition with the Dalits and so there is little enmity between the two communities. Other landed castes resent calls for land reform and higher wages, but Brahmins are often

absentee landlords and so any contact is mediated through the intermediate castes. Hence, the Dalit-intermediate caste division has become the prime faultline of caste conflicts in Tamil Nadu. The meteoric rise of the Viduthalai Chiruthaikkal in the political firmament of Tamil Nadu, especially in the northern parts, comes at a historic juncture wherein the Dalits remain isolated and have increasingly become the target of caste-based repression even for genuine demands for better wage and basic facilities. Gorringe has traced the emergence of the DPI in Madurai since 1982 when it was led by M. Malaichami. After his demise in 1990, R. Thirumaavalavan took over the reins, drawing inspiration from the Dalit Panthers of Maharashtra, and made it a mass movement. Gorringe provides a sketch of the different phases of DPI from a radical social movement to a political party which participates in electoral politics. Its earlier position of a blow for blow and boycott of electoral politics had more appeal among the younger generation. The shifts in its political stand, mobilisation strategies and even compromises have been discussed at length. Since then, the organisational structure had a convenor (R. Thirumaavalavan), and two general secretaries at the state level. Downwards, there have been a number of assistant general secretaries, district secretaries and coordinators, city representatives, womens wing leaders and prominent activists with a support base. However, all offices and positions in the movement are purely informal, and are yet to be institutionalised into a formal structure and mode of functioning. The cadres and sympathizers of the DPI are drawn mostly from the Dalit communities, with the Paraiyars being numerically dominant though the Pallars and Arundhathiars constitute a significant support base. The DPIs radicalism (despite the transition) and the skill and charisma of Thirumaavalavan, a powerful and eloquent orator, are the reasons that continue to attract the Dalit youth as well as masses to the movement. Moreover, Gorringe provides a critique of a whole range of issues which he considers vital to the DPI, viz., centralised decision making, absence of a systematic organizational network, overdependence on the leader/hero-worship, and lack of encouragement to women officer-bearers and activists. Nevertheless, in a short span of time, the DPI has been able grow as a political force in Tamil Nadu. It goes to the credit of the DPI that it has given confidence and security to the marginalised in several parts who are/were in the thrall of repression by police and caste-Hindus. Further, Gorringe reveals the naked realities prevailing in the state despite the existence of several statutes and constitutional guarantees. He explains why the exclusion of Dalits from the main body of society continue in many forums physical, spiritual, material and cultural (p.73). Discussing Article 17, abolishing untouchability, and the Bonded Labour System (abolition) Act 1976, he comments on the absence of effective enforcement and implementation of these statutes at the

grassroots level. To strengthen his argument he provides empirical evidence. The case of Somankottai village in Erode, the home district of Periyar E.V. Ramasamy, rationalist leader and founder of the Dravidian movement, offers a painful example. Prevalence of the pernicious two-glass system in tea stalls in the village exposes the tall claims of the Dravidian movement/politics. Gorringe also highlights dichotomist perceptions about its prevalence: rural vs urban, from among Dalits. While the urban Dalit is appalled and says that he would rather die than take tea like this, the rural Dalit laments whether the practice would come to an end if one dies (p. 113). Gorringes book stands apart from others inasmuch as it adequately substantiates using relevant data, the economic and material conditions through which cultural subordination is permeated. It argues that persistence of caste discrimination and strongly embedded prejudices are primarily due to the Dalits dependence upon the dominant caste landlords for their livelihood. Nearly 80 per cent of Tamil Dalits in the employment market work in the agrarian sector and 64 per cent of them are agricultural labourers (p. 154). In the government sector too they face discrimination right from the point of recruitment. The constitutional provision for reservation in employment remains unfulfilled in most government sectors. Only 31.6 per cent of the vacancies for the Scheduled Castes, notified through the employment exchange, are filled up (p. 153). In other words, around 68.4 per cent of the vacancies reserved for Scheduled Castes remain unfilled. Even a cursory examination reveals that only the lower categories of jobs have a higher proportion of Dalits viz. sweepers account for 81 per cent in group IV. Such being the case in government, one can easily imagine Dalit representation in the private sector. Gorringe also touches upon problems of Dalit entrepreneurs and their limitations. A recent newspaper report details the pathetic plight of the TAHDCO industrial estate at Tirupur, the booming hosiery town. An exorbitant rate of interest at 16 per cent, bureaucratic red-tapism and apathy has made a group of 54 entrepreneurs, who gave up lucrative professional jobs to opt for this, languish without adequate capital. The denial of opportunities and quotas on hollow grounds have crippled their business ventures even as their counterparts continue to reap profits. This definitely shows a definite correlation between caste, capital and socio-economic status (p. 147). Indeed, this has created a disjunction between the aspirations fostered by democratisation and the continuing dependency of the community, which jeopardises their (Dalit) upward mobility and empowerment. A point of criticism, though. Gorringe uses the term Tamil Dalits and Tamil Dalit women (p. 166, 189, 205 and elsewhere) causally without realising that this could mislead the reader. The intention might be to denote Dalits in Tamil Nadu, but this assumes different connotations when a linguistic prefix is used to refer to a sociopolitical and cultural identity. This could even be construed as misrepresentation, considering the passion for language with political overtones in the state. This is

important since a sizeable section of Dalits speak languages other than Tamil, and continue to cling to their linguistic identity. This apart, the book is an important contribution to the study of caste and political mobilisation in Tamil Nadu, of great use to students and scholars alike. C. Lakshmanan

Further reading
BOOKS Ahir, D.C. (ed.) Dr. Ambedkar on the British raj. New Delhi: Blumoon, 1997. Ajnat, Surendra (ed.) Letters of Ambedkar. Jalandhar: Bheem Patrika Publications, 1993. Anand, Mulk Raj and Eleanor Zelliot (eds.) An anthology of dalit literature (poetry). New Delhi: Gyan, 1992. Anthoni Raj, Thumma. Dalit liberation theology: Ambedkarian perspective. Delhi: ISPCK, 2000. Antony, M.J. Dalit rights: landmark judgements on SC/ST/Backward classes. New Delhi: Indian Social Institute, 1997. Azariah, M. The un-Christian side of the Indian church: the plight of the untouchable converts. Bangalore: 1985. Bandopadhyay, Sekhar. Caste, protest and identity in colonial India: the Namasudras of Bengal, 1872-1947. London: Curzon, 1997. Bardan, Kalpana. Of women, outcastes, peasants and rebels. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. Berreman, Gerald D. Caste and other inequalities: essays on inequality. Delhi: Manohar, 1979. Berwa, Laxmi N. Asian dalit solidarity. Delhi: ISPCK, 1999. Beteille, Andre. Backward classes and the new social order. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Bhai, P. Nirmal. Harijan women in independent India. Delhi: B.R. Publishing Corporation, 1986. Bhole, R.R. An untouchable speaks. London: Britain Publishing Company, 1944. Biswas, Swapan Kumar. Gods, false-gods and the untouchables. Delhi: Orion, 1998. Bondurant, J. (ed.) Harijan: a journal of applied journalism, 1933-35 (19 vols.). New York: Garland, 1973. Briggs, George Weston. The chamars. New Delhi: D.K. Publishers, 1997 (first published in 1920). Burman, B.K. Roy (ed.) Social mobility movement among scheduled castes and tribes of India. New Delhi: Registrar General of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, 1970. Chahal, S.K. Dalits patronized: the Indian National Congress and untouchables of India, 1921-1947. Delhi: Shubhi Publications, 2002. Chandra, Kancha. Why ethnic parties succeed: patronage and ethnic headcounts in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Chandra, Ramesh (ed.) Dr. Ambedkar: science and society. New Delhi: Shree Publications, 2000. Charsley, Simon R. and G.K. Karanth. Challenging untouchability: dalit initiative and experience from Karnataka. New Delhi: Sage, 1998, (Cultural subordination and the dalit challenge, Vol. 1). Chatterjee, Debi. Up against caste: comparative study of Ambedkar and Periyar. Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 2004. Chatterjee, Partha. On civil society and political society in post-colonial democracies. In Civil society: history and possibilities (ed.), Sudipta Kaviraj and Sunil Khilnani. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Chatterjee, Partha. The politics of the governed: reflections on popular politics in most of the world. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. Chaudhary, S.N. (ed.) Changing status of depressed castes in contemporary India: essays in honour of Professor S.C. Dube. Delhi: Daya Publishing House, 1988. Chinna Rao, Yagati. Dalits struggle for identity: Andhra and Hyderabad, 19001950. New Delhi: Kanishka, 2003.

Chinna Rao, Yagati. Dalit studies: a bibliographical handbook. New Delhi: Kanishka, 2003. Chitnis, Suma. A long way to go: report on a survey of scheduled caste high school and college students in 15 states of India. New Delhi: Allied, 1981. Clark, Sathianathan. Dalits and Christianity: subaltern religions and liberation theology in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998. Corbridge, Stuart and John Hariss. Reinventing India. New Delhi: Oxford, 2000. Dangle, Arjun (ed.) Poisoned bread: translations from modern Marathi dalit literature. Hyderabad and Bombay: Orient Longman, 1992. Das, Bhagwan (comp.) Selected speeches of Dr. Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar. Banglore: Ambedkar Sahitya Prakashana and Ambedkar Memorial Society, 1980. Das, Ganga. Who worship false gods: a rejoinder to Arun Shouries worshipping false gods. New Delhi: S.K. Associates, 1997. Debroy, Bibek and D. Shyam Babu (eds.) The dalit question: reforms and social justice. New Delhi: Globus Books and Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, 2004. Deliege, Robert. The untouchables of India (Tr. from the French by Nora Scott). New York and Oxford: Berg, 1999. Dube, Saurabh. Untouchable pasts: religion, identity and power among a central Indian community, 1780-1950. New York: State University of New York, 1998. Fernandes, Walter (ed.) The emerging dalit identity (the reassertion of subalterns). New Delhi: Indian Social Institute, 1996. Fisher, F.B. Touching the untouchables: Indias silent revolution. New York: Macmillan, 1920. Fishman, Alvin Texas. Culture change and underprivileged: a study of Madigas in South India under Christian guidance. Madras: The Christian Literature Society for India, 1941. Franco, Fernando (ed.) Pain and awakening: the dynamics of dalit identity in Bihar, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. New Delhi: Indian Social Institute, 2002. Franco, Fernando, Jyotsna Macwan and Suguna Ramanathan. Journeys to freedom: dalit narratives. Kolkata: Samya, 2004.

Franco, Fernando, Jyotsna Macwan and Suguna Ramanathan. The silken swing: the cultural universe of Dalit women. Calcutta: Stree, 2000. Fraser, Nancy and Linda Gordon. Civil citzenship and social citizenship. In The condition of citizenship (ed.), Bart van Steenbergen. London: Sage, 1994. Freeman, James M. Untouchable: an Indian life history. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1979. Fuchs, Stephen. At the bottom of Indian society: the harijan and other low castes. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1981. Fuchs, Stephen. Children of Hari: a study of the Nimar Balahis in the central provinces of India. Vienna: Verlag Herold, 1950 and New York: F.A. Prager, 1951. Fuller, C.J. Misconceiving the grain heap: a critique of the concept of the Indian jajmani system. In Money and the morality of exchange (ed.), J. Parry and M. Bloch. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Galanter, Marc. Competing equalities: law and the backward classes in India. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984. Gandhi, M.K. Caste must go and the sin of untouchability (compiled by R.K. Prabhu). Ahmedabad: Navajivan, 1964. Gokhale, Jayashree B. From concessions to confrontation: the politics of an Indian untouchable community. Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1993. Gooptu, Nandini. The politics of urban poor in early twentieth-century India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Gupta, Dipankar. Interrogating caste: understanding hierarchy and difference in Indian society. New Delhi: Penguin, 2000. Gupta, Ramnika (ed.) Dalit chetna: soch. Hazaribag: Navlekhan Prakashan, 1998. Gupta, Ramnika (ed.) Dalit kahani sanchayan. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2000. Gupta, S.K. The scheduled castes in modern Indian politics: their emergence as a political power. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1985. Gupta, Shanti Swarup. Varna, castes and scheduled castes: a documentation in historical perspective with a classification index to scholarly writings in Indian journals, 1890-1990. New Delhi: Concept, 1991.

Guru, Gopal. Dalit cultural movement and dialectics of dalit politics in Maharashtra. Mumbai: Vikas Adhyayan Kendra, 1997. Hiro, Dilip. The untouchables of India. London: Minority Rights Group, 1982 (second edition). Indian edition published by Dalit Sahitya Academy, 1984. Ilaiah, Kancha. Buffalo nationalism: a critique of spiritual nationalism. New Delhi: Samya Publications, 2003. Jadhav, Narendra. Dr. Ambedkars economic thought and philosophy. Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1993. Jaffrelot, Christophe. Indias silent revolution: the rise of the low castes in north Indian politics. Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003. Jaswal, Surinder Singh. Reservation policy and the law: myth and reality of constitutional safeguards to scheduled castes. New Delhi: Deep and Deep, 2000. Jatava, D.R. A silent soldier: an autobiography. Jaipur: Samata Sahitya Sadan, 2000. Jogdand, P.G. (ed.) New economic policy and dalits. Jaipur: Rawat, 2000. Jogdand, Prahlad Gangaram (ed.) Dalit women: issues and perspectives. New Delhi: Gyan Publishing House, in collaboration with University of Poona, Pune, 1995. Joshi, Barbara R. Democracy in search of equality: untouchable politics and Indian social change. Delhi: Hindustan Publication Corporation; and Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1982. Juergensmeyer, Mark. Religion as social vision: the movement against untouchability in 20th century Punjab. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982. Kamble, N.D. Atrocities on scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in postindependence India (15th August 1947 to 15th August 1979). Delhi: Ashish Publishing, 1982. Karlekar, Malavika. Poverty and womens work: a study of sweeper women in Delhi. Delhi: Vikas, 1982. Keer, Dhananjay. Dr. Ambedkar: life and mission. Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1962, second edition; Third edition, New Delhi: D.K. Publishers, 1987; first published in 1951 (also available in Marathi and Malayalam).

Khare, Ravindra S. The untouchable as himself: ideology, identity and pragmatism among the Lucknow chamars. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985. Kotani, H. (ed.) Caste system, untouchability and the depressed. New Delhi: Manohar, 1997 (Japanese Studies on South Asia No. 1). Kshirsagar, R.K. Dalit movement and its leaders 1857-1956. New Delhi: M.D. Publishers, 1994. Lal, Shyam. From higher caste to lower caste: the process of asprashyeekaran and the myth of sanskritization. Jaipur: Rawat, 1997. Lal, Shyam. Untold story of a bhangi vice-chancellor. Jaipur: University Book House, 2001. Limbale, Sharankumar. Towards an aesthetic of dalit literature: history, controversies, and considerations. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2004. Louis, Prakash. Casteism is more horrendous than racism: Durban and dalit discourse. New Delhi: Indian Social Institute, 2001. Lynch, Owen M. The politics of untouchability: social change in a city of India. New York and London: Columbia University Press, 1969. Macwan, Joseph. The stepchild (angaliyat). Translated by Rita Kothari. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004. Mahar, Michael J. (ed.) The untouchables in contemporary India. Tucson, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press, 1972. Manickam, S. The social setting of Christian conversion in South India: the impact of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionaries on the Trichy-Tanjore diocese to the harijan communities of the mass movement area, 1820-1947. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1977. Massey, James (ed.) Indigenous people: dalits, dalit issues in todays theological debate. Delhi: ISPCK, 1998 (first published in1994). Massey, James (ed.) Dalits in India: religion as a source of bondage or liberation with special reference to Christians. New Delhi: Manohar, 1995. McGavran, D.A. Indias oppressed classes and religion. Jubbulpore: Mission Press, 1939.

McGaw, A.G. Out from Indias outcastes. New York: Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, 1914. Michael, S.M. (ed.) Dalits and modern India: vision and values. New Delhi: Vistaar Publications, 1999. Moffat, Michael. An untouchable community in south India: structure and consensus. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979. Mohan, J. History of dalit struggle for freedom: Dravidian parties and dalit upsurge in Tamil Nadu. Pondicherry: Dhamma Institute of Social Sciences, 2001. Moon, Vasant (ed.) Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar: writings and speeches, 18 Vols. Bombay: Government of Maharashtra (1990-2003). Moon, Vasant (ed.) Growing up untouchable in India: a dalit autobiography (Tr. from Marathi by Gail Omvedt, with an introduction by Eleanor Zelliot). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2001. Mujahid, Abdul Malik. Conversion to Islam: untouchables strategy for protest in India. Chambersburg: 1989. Mukherjee, D. Caste and outcaste. New York: 1929. Murugkar, Lata. Dalit panther movement in Maharashtra: a sociological appraisal. Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1991. Naimishray, Mohan Das. Caste and race: comparative study of B.R. Ambedkar and Martin Luther King. New Delhi: Rawat, 2003. Nancharaiah, G. Dr. B.R. Ambedkars strategy of economic development and its relevance. In Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Memorial Lectures (Hyderabad: Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Memorial Trust, 1995), [This Lecture was originally delivered on 6 December 1994]. Narang, Harish (ed.) Writing black writing dalit: essays in black African and dalit Indian writings. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, 2002. Narasimham, K.V. The alternative. Bangalore: Dalit Sahitya Academy, 2002. Narayan, Badri. Inventing caste history: dalit mobilisation and nationalist past. In Dipakar Gupta (ed.), Caste in question: identity or hierarchy? New Delhi: Sage, 2004 [Contributions to Indian Sociology, Occasional Series 12]. Narayan, Badri and Misra, A.R. (edited, compiled and translated). Multiple marginalities: an anthology of identified dalit writings. New Delhi: Manohar, 2004.

Olcott, Henry S. The poor paraiah. Madras: 1902, [pamphlet]. Omvedt, Gail. Ambedkar: towards an enlightened India. New Delhi: Penguin Viking, 2004. Omvedt, Gail. Dalits and the democratic revolution: Dr. Ambedkar and the dalit movement in colonial India. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1994. Oommen, George. Paths of dalit liberation in Kerala: interaction with christianity and communism, 1854-1966. Surrey: Curzon Press, 1996. Pai, Sudha. Dalit assertion and the unfinished democratic revolution: the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh. New Delhi: Sage, 2002. Paswan, Sanjay and Paramanshi Jaideva. Encyclopedia of dalits in India (11 Vols). New Delhi: Kalpaz, 2002. Pathak, Bindeshwar. The road to freedom: a sociological study on the abolition of scavenging in India. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1991. Prabhakar, M.E. (ed.) Towards a common dalit theology. Delhi: Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1989. Prabhu, P.N. Report of the seminar on casteism and removal of untouchability. Bombay: Indian Conference of Social Work, 1955. Prashad, Vijay. Untouchable freedom: a social history of a dalit community. New Delhi: OUP, 2000. Punnisingh, Kamla Prasad (eds.) Bharatiya dalit sahitya: pariprekshya. Delhi: Vani Prakashan, 2003. Ram, Nandu. Beyond Ambedkar: essays on dalits in India. New Delhi: HarAnand Publications, 1995. Rao, Anupama (ed.) Gender and caste: issues in contemporary Indian feminism. New Delhi: Kali for Women, 2003. Rawat, Ramnarayan S. Partition politics and achhut identity: a study of scheduled castes federation and dalit politics in UP, 1946-48. In Suvir Kaul (ed.) The partitions of memory: the afterlife of the division of India. Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001. Shah, Gyanshyam (ed.) Dalit identity and politics. cultural subordination and the dalit challenge. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2001.

Singh, Tej. Aaj ka dalit sahitya. Delhi: Atish Prakashan, 2000. Teltumbde, Anand. Globalization and the dalits. Nagpur: Sanket Prakashan, 2001. The Bhopal document: charting a new course for dalits for the 21st century. Bhopal: Government of Madhya Pradesh, 2002. Thorat, S.K. Ambedkars role in economic planning and water policy. Delhi: Shipra, 1998. Tilak, Rajni. Padchaap. Delhi: CADAM, 2000. Valmiki, Omprakash. Dalit sahitya ka saundarya-shastra. Delhi: Radhakrishna, 2001. Viramma, Josiane and Jean-Luc Racine. Viramma: life of an untouchable (Tr. from the French by Will Hobson). London: Verso, 1997 (Unesco collection of representative works). Viyogi, Kusum (ed.) Samkaleen dalit kahaniyan. Hapur: Muhim Prakashan, 1998. Zelliot, Eleanor. From untouchable to dalit: essays on the Ambedkar movement. New Delhi: Manohar, 2001 [1992]. Zelliot, Eleanor. Bibliography on untouchability. In Michael J. Mahar (ed.), The untouchables in contemporary India. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1972, [This perhaps was the first ever systematically compiled bibliography on Dalits].

ARTICLES Baxi, Upendra. Caste, class and reservation. Economic and Political Weekly 20(10): 1985. Beteille, Andre. Race and descent as social categories in India. Daedalus 96: 1967. Beteille, Andre. The scheduled castes: an inter-regional perspective. Journal of Indian School of Political Economy 12(3-4): 2000. Guru, Gopal and V. Geetha. New phase of dali-bahujan intellectual activity. Economic and Political Weekly 35(3): 2000.

Guru, Gopal. Dalit baudhikta aur sanskritik divare. Prarambh (Dalit Sahitya Visheshank) 1(3): 2004: 4-14. Jeffrey, Robin. (Not) being there: dalits and Indias newspapers. South Asia 24(2): 2001. Mayer, Peter. Inventing village tradition: the late 19th century origins of the north Indian jajamani system. Modern Asian Studies 27(2): 357-395: 1993. Nigam, Aditya. Secularism, modernity, nation: epistemology of the dalit critique. Economic and Political Weekly 35(48): 2000. Pandian, M.S.S. Dalit assertion in Tamil Nadu: an exploratory note. Journal of Indian School of Political Economy 12(3-4): 2000. Parry, Jonathan. The gift, the Indian gift and the Indian gift. Man 21: 1986: 453-73. Ramachandran, Shalini. Poisoned bread: protest in dalit short stories. Race and Class 45(4): 2004: 27-44. Rawat, Ramnarayan S. Making claims for power: a new agenda in dalit politics of Uttar Pradesh, 1946-48. Modern Asian Studies 37(3): 2003.

SEMINAR ISSUES Redressing Disadvantages (549): May 2005; Exclusion (508): December 2001; Dalit (471): November 1998; Reserved Futures (375): November 1990.