ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Quest for a Real Dalit Swaraj

Indian Political Theory: Laying the Groundwork for Svaraj by Aakash Singh Rathore, 2017; Routledge, pp 222,  450.

Aakash Singh Rathore warns us about the unduly prolonged presence in India of theories that are totally foreign to the country’s everyday people. In view of this, he suggests redirecting our attention towards the lived experience of Indian political life, thus proposing a “return to tradition,” but with a caveat and a principle that would guide this return: “the principle that any modification to be made must benefit the least advantaged and that those changes that do benefit the least advantaged are legitimate” (p 2). The “return” would justify Singh Rathore’s plan to examine “the inadequacy of transatlantic political theory.” This process makes it possible to lay the ground for the “preconditions of swaraj,” as “the activity of being oneself” through a “look within” and an “excavation downwards.” While a “thick swaraj” insists on the “nature and purity” of Indian tradition, a “thin swaraj” points towards hybridity and pluralism.

Singh Rathore considers M K Gandhi and B R Ambedkar as the most prominent representatives of these two positions. Would it be possible to reconcile their divergent views on swaraj (and those of their present-day followers), given the well-known antagonism bet­ween them? Having examined Thomas Pantham’s, Ramachandra Guha’s, and Partha Chatterjee’s attempts to resolve the tension between Gandhi and Ambedkar, Singh Rathore concludes that he is “quite sceptical about the vali­dity of such attempts of reconciliation” (p 170). Even Gandhi’s and Ambedkar’s mutual aim in wanting to abolish unto­uchability does not go far enough to match Ambedkar’s determination to annihilate caste altogether.

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Updated On : 10th May, 2019

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