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MGU Library catalog › Details for: Towards sociology of dalits (v.1)/

In this project Hugo Gorringe is revisiting previous work on Dalit movements in Tamil Nadu and seeking to chart their institutionalisation into political parties. He will be working with Roger Jeffery to analyse changing trends in Dalit voting in the state too. The project is primarily based on qualitative, ethnographic fieldwork in Tamil Nadu. In India, Dalit ex-Untouchable movements have engaged with political institutions in recent decades by creating political parties and contesting elections. Although Mayawati is touted as a potential Prime Minister, disillusioned movement activists see political participation as compromised and corrupt.

Caught between the compulsions and compromises of electoral politics, Dalit parties have been unable significantly to erode caste discrimination Mehrotra The entry of radical Dalit movements into Tamil political institutions in the s was a major milestone Gorringe , but as yet there is no systematic study of the impact of Tamil Dalit parties.

Our proposed ethnography of a Dalit party will link research on the changing dynamics of caste Kapadia , Heyer, , Mosse and literature on political institutions Subramanian , Rajadurai and Geetha Consequently systemic forms of exclusion that impede Dalits from participating fully in politics are neglected. Our research will interest scholars of social movements, social inequality, caste, politics and Indian society.

Read a wide-ranging and informative interview with VCK leader J.

The Research

Gowthama Sannah. He offers an account of Dalit protest from the s to the present day and takes issue with several established readings of this history. A brief video and account of the research may also be found here. In September we organised a workshop on the institutionalisation of marginal actors.

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The workshop heard papers on the varying strategies of Dalits, women, Muslims and Backward Castes as they seek to get their concerns recognised by established institutions. We considered the tactics they adopt, the gains they achieve and the compromises they are forced into in the process as well as looking at the unintended consequences of such institutionalisation. Professor James Manor gave the key note lecture and reflected on some of the significant gains made by marginal groups over the past few decades as well as reflecting on continuing issues.

For full details on the workshop see here. To read my paper for the event see here. The use of the term and the social disabilities associated with it were declared illegal in the constitutions adopted by the Constituent Assembly of India in and of Pakistan in However, this name is now considered condescending and offensive. The term Dalit later came to be used, though that too occasionally has negative connotations.


The official designation Scheduled Caste is the most common term now used in India. Kocheril Raman Narayanan , who served as president of India from to , was the first member of a Scheduled Caste to occupy a high office in the country.

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Many different hereditary castes have been traditionally subsumed under the title untouchable , each of which subscribes to the social rule of endogamy marriage exclusively within the caste community that governs the caste system in general. Traditionally, the groups characterized as untouchable were those whose occupations and habits of life involved ritually polluting activities, of which the most important were 1 taking life for a living, a category that included, for example, fishermen, 2 killing or disposing of dead cattle or working with their hides for a living, 3 pursuing activities that brought the participant into contact with emissions of the human body , such as feces, urine , sweat, and spittle, a category that included such occupational groups as sweepers and washermen, and 4 eating the flesh of cattle or of domestic pigs and chickens, a category into which most of the indigenous tribes of India fell.

Orthodox Hindus regarded the hill tribes of India as untouchables not because they were primitive or pagan but because they were eaters of beef and of the scavenging village pigs and chickens. Much confusion arose on this issue because the unassimilated hill tribes never accepted their relegation to the ranks of the untouchables, nor did they seem to realize that their status was decided on a purely behavioral basis.

Until the adoption of the new constitutions in independent India and Pakistan, the untouchables were subjected to many social restrictions, which increased in severity from north to south in India. In many cases, they were segregated in hamlets outside the town or village boundary. They were forbidden entry to many temples, to most schools, and to wells from which higher castes drew water.

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Their touch was seen as seriously polluting to people of higher caste, involving much remedial ritual. In southern India, even the sight of some untouchable groups was once held to be polluting, and they were forced to live a nocturnal existence.

These restrictions led many untouchables to seek some degree of emancipation through conversion to Christianity , Islam , or Buddhism. The modern constitution of India formally recognized the plight of the untouchables by legally establishing their ethnic subgroups as Scheduled Castes a population of some million in the early 21st century.

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Dalit History and Sociology

In addition, the designation Scheduled Tribes about 85 million was given to the indigenous peoples of the country who fall outside of the Indian social hierarchy. Besides banning untouchability, the constitution provides these groups with specific educational and vocational privileges and grants them special representation in the Indian parliament. In support of these efforts, the Untouchability Offenses Act provides penalties for preventing anyone from enjoying a wide variety of religious, occupational, and social rights on the grounds that he or she is from a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.