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Paper 103

Thinking Bureaucracy through Dalit Politics

Mr Venkata Narayana M. B., Assistant Professor of Sociology, Loyola College, Chennai, India


The first question that one must pose to think anticasteism is to understand the question of its terrain. What is the terrain of anticasteism? The answer to this question is that the field of anticasteism is that of politics. Politics here is not an object to be studied. Rather this paper attempts to understand anticasteism as a politics by understanding politics as the terrain of subjective, thought within its subjectivity and in its interiority. This conception of politics first as a thought, therefore as one that cannot be reduced to an object and has to be thought in its singularity and subjectivity, I borrow from Sylvain Lazarus’s work “Anthropology of the Name”. Politics here is the realm of people’s thought, more specifically in the ‘elsewhere’ or ‘possibility’ of people’s thought. As soon as the category of ‘possible’ in thought becomes the designator of politics, politics exists purely in the realm of subjective and can only be thought through the subjective and its prescription of the possible. Anticasteism of all forms prescribe equality against the oppression of caste. Any theorization of anticasteism as an object of scientific enquiry would violently ignore the prescription of the politics of anticasteism and therefore stifle it. Developing this theory of anticasteism as a politics, I specifically elaborate a particular aspect of dalit politics from Tamil Nadu. Through interviews and analysis of the speeches of Thol. Thirumavalavan of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (formerly the Dalit Panthers of India, hereon referred to as VCK) specifically on his understanding of bureaucracy and the state machinery I show the fundamentality of the above mentioned elaboration of politics. In light of the removal of the flag of VCK at the village of Meallur situated in the district of Salem and the ensuing violence on the party cadres by the police, Thol. Thirumavalavan speaking at a protest rally in Valluvar Kottam, Chennai would argue the necessity of distinguishing and understanding bureaucracy as distinct from the elected government. He argues that it is within this distinction of the permanent bureaucracy and the changing governments one has to understand police brutality against dalits in India. I probe into this separation through interviews with Thol.Thirumavalan so as to understand how a dalit politics thinks bureaucracy as well as electoral state power. In doing this I hold onto and reinforce the idea of politics as a thought in singularity as a defining aspect of anticateism.

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