Reinterpreting Dalit Movement Analysis

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The article ‘Reinterpreting Dalit Movements in Colonial and Post Colonial India’ by Raj Sekhar Basu discusses the study Dalit activism and identity, and its relevance in the 20th century. Caste is and always has been an integral part of the functioning of Indian society. However, it was the Mandal commission that first led to questions about the effect of caste consciousness in modern day India. There have been varying opinions on how caste affects other social institutes such as economy and politics. The constituting of India as a ‘casteless democratic society’ led to the reluctance of educated sections to acknowledge caste as an identity even while they may at the same time perpetuate it. Caste identity and its formation has become a field…show more content…
The intrusion of upper castes led to the loss of whatever little land they previously held. They were turned into sharecroppers, and placed in a distinctly lower socio-economic bracket. The higher class of the Rajbansis called themselves the ‘twice born caste’ and created myths about Kshatriya lineage in the hopes of attaining equal status in the society. Swaraj Basu further opines that the movement, organized by the aforementioned ‘articulate’ sections was not against the caste system itself, but aimed towards obtaining the social standing of the upper castes. Their efforts towards Kshatriyaization included the establishment of the Kshatriya committee and developing ties with the Bharatiya Kshatriya Mahasabha. This movement was not homogenous as it held very little allure for the poorer classes, who, for example, joined with Muslim poor in the Tebhaga movement to overthrow a group of upper caste landlords. In the end, the Kshatriya movement failed, and the Rajbansis did not emerge as a distinct or powerful group. Thus, Basu demonstrates how the identities of individuals based on class are as important as caste, as is the relation between the…show more content…
The differences in opinions, actions, and objective are evident within each caste, thus proving that religion and economic standing have as much a part to play as caste in the formation of identity. The author discusses two studies; both of which attempt to keep away from Marxist and Subaltern frameworks. However the concept of Marxism, namely, the ‘lower class’ rising against the ‘upper class’, is prevalent in the studies of Prashad. The subaltern theme of de-brahmanization is also present in both studies. The studies however, still manage to remain objective. The author demolishes the beliefs of ‘Modern’ historiography, which merely identify the Dalits as a group that is worked on by external forces. Basu shows that Dalits were not passive recipients of change, devoid of agency. He challenges the school of Cambridge Historiography, by showing how the Dalits role in colonial society was not just as followers of the elite. Thus, this article itself is a new form of history writing and does not fall completely under any one school of

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