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Abstract 85

Hari Prasad Tamta and Anticasteism in British Kumaon

Mr Deepak Kumar Arya, PhD Scholar, Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad, Telangana, India

The nationalist movement in British Kumaon primarily represented the views and demands of the upper caste Hindus. The Shilpkar castes[1] (presently recognised as Dalits) were excluded from participating in the national movements by the upper caste Hindus. This exclusion of the Shilpkars from the project of the nationalist movements led tHari Prasad Tamta and Anticasteism in British Kumaonhem to form committees, launch various programmes, and organise social movements centred around socio-political and economic(material) issues of the Shilpkars. Furthermore, these initiatives by the Shilpkars also gave shape to a set of ideas which can be used to conceptualise nation in ways different from the elite castes. I argue that this conception of nation was characterised by an anticaste position. Hari Prasad Tamta was one of the key figures who gave articulation to these views.

He was a Dalit leader born in 1887 in the Almora region of British Kumaon. His establishment of Tamta Sudhar Sabha (later renamed Kumaon Shilpkar Sabha in 1914) played a crucial role in making egalitarian demands on behalf of the Shilpkars. The demands were for the propagation of education, representation in Panchayat, land for the untouchables, removal of the caste slurs, prevention of drugs and intoxication, prohibition of child marriage, and promotion of window remarriage.[2] Based on these instances and more, I intend to argue that the Shilpkar imagination in British Kumaon envisioned an equal society based on strong anticaste principles.

Hari Prasad Tamta was also an editor of a Patrika that he carefully named Samta (equality). Through his writings in Samta, he tried to bring out and address the issues of caste in British Kumaon. By a close reading of a few excerpts from Samta, I wish to argue that Hari Prasad Tamta’s enterprise of “uplift[ing the dalits] to such a height that everyone would start treating them with love and as equals”[3] was driven by a strong anticaste politics. Through this analysis, I would be exploring questions such as -- what is the relation between anticasteism and nationalism in India? How should we look at Hari Prasad Tamta’s anticaste politics and its consequences for the Dalit community in British Kumaon? How did the conflict between the egalitarian conception of nation and Brahmanical conception of nation shape (and still shapes) India?

Keywords: Anticasteism, British Kumaon, Nation, Egalitarian politics, Shilpkars and Modernity


Joshi, Anil K. “BRITISH RESPONSE TO THE ‘DALIT’ QUESTION IN KUMAON: 1925-1947.” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, vol. 73, Indian History Congress, 2012, pp. 955–60,

Ram, Pani, krantidoot Rai Bahadur Hariprasad Tamta: Ek Jeevan Sangharsh, Samyak Prakashan, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 61.

Har Prasad Tamta, Samta, 6 May, 1935

[1] ‘Shilpkars’ is an umbrella term and it includes various lower castes. In 1925, they were officially recognised as Shilpkar by the British government. (Joshi, 2) [2] Ram, Pani, krantidoot Rai Bahadur Hariprasad Tamta: Ek Jeevan Sangharsh, Samyak Prakashan, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 61 [3] Har Prasad Tamta, Samta, 6 May, 1935

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