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

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The Post-political Dalit Movement in Maharashtra

The contemporary Dalit movement in Maharashtra is marked by five distinct trends, that is, increased militancy, sub-caste assertion, middle-class activism, public symbolism, and a rightward shift. These are not manifested through political mobilisation but predominantly in sociocultural spheres. The congruence and divergence of these from B R Ambedkar’s normative political project need to be explored.

My heartiest thanks to Anupama Rao and Shailaja Paik for reading the earlier drafts followed by their meticulous comments.

In 2019, just before the announcement of general elections, the Dalit politics in Maharashtra gained the much-needed buzz. Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, a small political outfit mostly limited to the Akola district, decided to launch the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) by forming an alliance with All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), a controversial Muslim party from Hyderabad. The curiosity about the future of Dalit politics in Maharashtra has increased as this alliance had altered results in some closely contested seats and became a nightmare for the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. This re-emergence is vital as it was assumed that the independent Dalit politics in Maharashtra is almost dead. The VBA’s initiation may help to revitalise the dormant Dalit voices substantively and one can imagine a new political alternative against the contemporary hegemony of the Hindutva right. However, this task is difficult as in the last three decades, the conventional Dalit consciousness has improvised into non-political spheres. The collective notion of unified Dalit mass that objectively moves with normative political promise is unavailable. Today, there are multiple Dalit agents who are not obliged to any one moral prescription of B R Ambedkar’s political philosophy. Instead the Dalit groups are operating as free-floating rational agents, engaged to fulfil subjective sectional interests.

I would argue that there are no specific characteristics that bring a collective and homogeneous sense to the Dalit identity and its movement today. The Dalit social activism has remained fragmented, localised and autonomous. Any attempts to form broad political normative framework has failed here as the varied social assertions by the Dalits are agonistically related to each other. These fragmentations have distanced themselves from the egalitarian principles of social justice and are consistently adopting neo-liberal democratic modes to amplify certain subjective interests.

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Updated On : 24th Sep, 2019
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