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Trajectories of Dalit Mobilisations

Towards Political Power, Social Equality and Justice

Dalit Politics in Contemporary India by Sambaiah Gundimeda, Oxon, New York, Routledge, 2016; pp 32 + 298, 995.

Dalit Politics in Contemporary India is essentially a study on Dalit politics from three principal “axes” as interpreted by the author, Sambaiah Gundimeda. The first relates to the historical context in which the anti-caste and Dalit protests took their origins in the later part of the 19th century in present-day Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Second, it has been authored in the context of contemporary debates, especially when the space of democracy is expanding in India, with increasing instances of the lower-caste assertions which have challenged the cultural hegemony and the political domination of the upper-caste Hindus. Finally, it concerns itself in terms of a comparison of political developments in North and South India. Although not the first attempt at comprehending the historical underpinnings that have informed Dalit politics, it seems more engaged in understanding the contours that shape contemporary Indian political realities.

The author is interested in unearthing the validity of the comparative political framework that narrativises the politics of North India in terms of the Hindu–Muslim divide, quite in contrast to South Indian politics, which are much influenced by caste divisions. Despite, taking cues from these lines of thinking, the author at the very outset clarifies that he will also bring in the Ambedkarite perspective to cull out the complexities behind the political developments. It has been asserted that despite pioneering research on B R Ambedkar and Dalit movements, such intellectual initiatives suffer from limitations because of their propensity to confine their scholarly interests to developments that took place in the colonial period. Gundimeda prefers to examine the strategies of Dalit mobilisation and the political trajectories, somewhat in continuum with the colonial past and the postcolonial present. These efforts undoubtedly keep the reader’s imagination open to the deconstructivist imperatives of the binaries like the “theoretical–personal,” “empirical–theoretical,” “objective–subjective,” “scholarly–non-scholarly,” and last but not the least, “personal becoming the political.” Gundimeda also seeks to find an answer to the raging academic aspersions, which continually berate Dalit cultural assertions and activisms for their inadequacies in developing a theoretical understanding of their own. Academics often fail to notice that Dalit assertions, which epitomise the quotidian narratives of struggle and victimhood, are not simply empirical and thin in terms of theory.

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Updated On : 26th Sep, 2018


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