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Theorizing ‘Dalit’ for Anti-caste Movements

Dr Kiran S. Agawane, Assistant Professor of Political Science, SRM University Delhi NCR, Sonepat, Haryana, India


Lower-caste movement in India has been facing many external challenges. The most important are the increasing influence of Hindutva forces and neo-liberalism. However, the movement also faces some internal challenges. These include factionalism, lack of support from other communities, ideological deviations, etc. One of the major challenges or dilemmas faced by the movement is ideological differences in defining the word ‘Dalit’. A term ‘Dalit’ has been viewed with different perspective by various intellectuals and activists of the movement. For some, ‘Dalit’ is a word with revolutionary potentials and inclusive nature. For others, ‘Dalit’ is a word with demeaning connotation. Those who are against the usage of the word give an alternative i.e. Ambedkarite. They prefer to call themselves Ambedkarite instead of demeaning word ‘Dalit’. Though this debate is actually enhancing intellectual churning in the movement, but it has also created hindrances in creating solidarity among the intellectuals and social activists of the movement. This debate is not new to the lower-caste movement and politics in India.

In this research paper, I will attempt pursue this debate. In this paper, I am trying to argue that a rigid approach in using certain concepts in lower-caste movement will not help the movement. However, it will further create division among the lower castes instead of solidifying their unity.

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