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Situating Dalit Identity: A Potential Thought

Rarely in Indian history – since! the employment of mythological text Manusmriti has there been a favorable representation of Dalit culture and life style in the domain of everyday socio – historical paradigms, let alone the sphere of the epistemological paradigms of literary activities. The worshipers of the Manusmriti – the cast Hindus – have till today imposed upon Dalits the identity of being "Acchut" (untouchable), which has become their only definition. The overarching irony is that even Dalit "intelligentsia" issuable to wipe out the social stigma of "Acchut" label attached on their foreheads by the caste Hindus. Thus, Dalits are still "Acchut", in the main, to images created by the caste Hindus.

Rarely in Indian history – since! the employment of mythological text Manusmriti has there been a favorable representation of  Dalit culture and life style in the domain of everyday socio – historical paradigms, let alone the sphere of the epistemological paradigms of  literary activities. The worshipers of the Manusmriti – the cast Hindus – have till today imposed upon Dalits the identity of being “Acchut” (untouchable), which has become their only definition. The overarching irony is that even Dalit “intelligentsia” issuable to wipe out the social stigma of “Acchut” label attached on their foreheads by the caste Hindus. Thus, Dalits are still “Acchut”, in the main, to images created by the caste Hindus.

In fact, it is shameful for the whole Indian continent that despite 60 years of independence we have not been able to erase the curse of untouchability from our society. There are scores of  laws against untouchability but in practice they have never been implemented honestly. The recently happened
Khairlanji event is a vivid example of this deliberate negligence. This underlines the fact
that dalits still are savagely attacked in the rural countryside and even in the urban milieu untouchability still knock-sat the closed doors of such institutions as the arranged marriages, the cast Hindu temple, the private sector, etc. The cultural hegemony of the cast Hindus remains virtually intact. Dalitness continues to exist as much as an idea as a physical reality. And the dalit remains at the bottom of the intellectual and emotional landscape of contemporary, India.

I strongly believe that the Hindu social system is a historically specific social construct; a discursive formation based upon the Manav  Dharma scheme of Manu who is the chief architect of the Hindu society, and the theory that the  cast  Hindus, particularly Brahmans, have all the privileges and the Shudra (Dalits) do not have even the rights of a human being. Nothing can show the shamelessness and absurdity of this Manav Dharma better than turning it upside down. The discourse of Manusmriti, on analysis, reveals a bios that privileges certain epistemic while under-privileging certain others. The privileged classes are here no doubt, none other than the caste Hindus and underprivileged Dalits. The caste Hindus have made their best efforts to establish a hegemonic social power by dissembling its epistemological premises and social – historical paradigms as being normative so that what is a historically specific social construct, is made to appear essential and incontrovertible. Language, being relational and constitutive, shapes and constructs it, giving it hegemonic power by contextualizing it. Further, this central discourse posits what does not conform to its normative standards as the marginal (Dalit discourse here in his context) to simultaneously designate and denigrate its alterity. The marginal discourses are accommodated, contained, excluded and even silenced by the central discourse, and its meaning, value and identity have become conditional concepts determined by the moderators of the central discourse.

However,marginal discourses, I assert, have the power, by virtue of their alterity, to offer resistance to the hegemony of the central discourse by interrogating its hollowness, incongruities and contradictions thereby effecting the disruption of its normative claims. Moreover, by exposing and revealing how in
society with the help of sophistry, dominant culture. have become automatized agency, Marginal discourses can allow subversive elements to identify the determinants of hegemony and eventually alter power configuration in their favor.

Here I would like to use the theoretical framework developed by Michael Foucault to understand the relationship between power and knowledge in the construction of images of Dalits in the Hindu social system where the scheme of Manu has been instrumental in the subjugation and marginalization of
knowledge from Dalits. These knowledge would otherwise challenge or rupture the apparent linearity of Manav Dharma. Subjugated knowledge is  defined by Foucault in Power – Knowledge as being “the
historical contents that have been buried and disguised in functionalist coherence or formal systematization.” The insurrection of subjugated knowledge  “allow us to rediscover i the ruptural effects of conflict and struggle” (Foucault: 1972) that the new order or functionalist coherence “is designed to mask” (Foucault: 1972). Subjugated knowledge also’
                       …a whole set of knowledge that have been disqualified…a particular, local, regional knowledge…which owes its force only to the harshness with which it is opposed by everything surrounding it.

In Indian context, official history has served to marginalize or subjugate ‘Dalit’ knowledge, customs and beliefs and further ensured a privileged place for the caste Hindus- Brahmanical knowledge in particular as the foundation of Hindu social system. The caste Hindu culture has come to be considered the ‘natural’, central or dominant culture which is passed on through birthright. I assert that Manav Dharma is a fiction that both creates and substantiates a political reality that is itself fictitious. A more equitable account of history is possible if official history is mediated by a reading of ‘Dalit literature’ as history. Counter histories that both disrupt the apparent linearity and homogeneity of the caste Hindus
historiography and foreground subjugated ‘Dalit’ knowledge are emerging in a growing body of writings by ‘Dalit’ literature that can be read as ‘history’.

This takes interesting dimensions at the level of literary discourse. Dalit Writing in India has begun to emerge discursively as powerful visible forms of protest against a chequered history of exploitation both in the  sociopolitical materialist and discursive realities. This discourse has become site for the
contestation and negotiation of identities at several levels and in several ways. The construction of ‘Dalit’ as identity category evoking a sense of homogenized collective community has evinced a problematic relationship within the social, historical, political and discursive frameworks of
conceptualizing national identity. This is largely because the socio-political and discursive marginality historically assigned to with this rubric has been concomitant with the epistemological otherization of Dalit identity within the natural framework.

Dalit literature resembles the legendary bird phoenix which kills itself on a funeral pyre but is reborn from the ashes: Dalit literature too, is born from the ashes of the anguish, anger of the unjust social system based on caste and class inequities and is an expression of the agony suffered by these deprived groups for ages. Dalit literature, in the main, is an attempt to establish an independent identity for the
Dalits. It engages the theme of protest directed against the existing intellectual and social system. It also opens several debates on the issues of caste and identity politics. Dalit literature has become an expression of community rather than the individuals by challenging traditional literary aesthetics,
traditional slogans, ideologies and idioms of   existing literature, which they assert, do not capture the reality of the oppressed.

As far as the mode of expression of Dalit  literature is concerned, it can be seen that the poetry has been its dominant mode of expression. In addition to this, Dalit literature has produced a spate of autobiographies, few novels and short stories as well. One has to be especially sensitive to the distinctive aesthetics created by Dalit writers whose language is generally direct, spearing and its imagery hair-raising and hard-hitting. Dalit literature is being represented through various regional
languages such as Tamil, Malayalam, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Punjabi, Oriya, Hindi and others. What
is interesting to note is that there are many common elements of anguish, anger and protect in the Dalit literature of these various languages, the reason being the commonality of the repressive caste and class categories that exist in various parts of the country.

Dalit literature has produced many writers, poets committed both to literature and to literature as a weapon’ against social injustice.

One of the most existing things and the most recent trend in the ever-changing field of Dalit literature that has been taking place is the increasing importance of woman poets, novelist and autobiography writers.

Nevertheless, the disappointing thing for the Dalit Literature is the fact that till now it has not been recognized as full – fledged marketable national literature. While Dalit literature has been academic possibilities, it is being equated with on Maharashtrian Dalit literature especially that which is available in easily consumable translated anthologies. The mindset of such researchers has to changes that
Dalit literature does not confine to Maharashtrian Dalit literature but it expands beyond that in other different regional languages as well. Now the situation is changing slowly as English translations of
Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Kannada, Oriya, Bhojpuri Dalit literatures are becoming available. But it is
disappointing that it has not changed sufficiently for Dalit literature to be considered nationally or internationally marketable as bonafide ‘Indian literature.’

It has been noted that Dalits find greater publicity when mediated, represented or incorporated in the texts of mainstream writers such as MulkRajAnand, Mahashweta Devi,Gail Omved , Arundhati Roy etc. This explicitly shows that Dalit voices are variously mediated, appropriated, co-opted, accommodated and even commoditized, which has to stop immediately. What I believe is that Dalit literature must be produced by Dalits themselves who have well awareness of what it is to be a Dalit. I do not disagree with the view that there are many prominent non-Dalit writers who have contributed significantly to
Dalit literature; but what I contend to say is that they must stop showing their sympathies towards Dalits by taking credits. After all they are the ones who have subjugated ‘Dalit’ knowledges. Dalitsare now capable of “doing it ourselves”about their inhumane experiences.

I assert that unless Dalits control the content, the publishing, the ultimate presentation of the articles or texts then it is not Dalit literature  that it ceases to be Dalit when it is interfered with, when it is tampered with by the mainstream writers. It is no good for Dalits to be writing what the caste Hindus i.e.
mainstream writers, what their publishing companies, what governments, government agencies decree that they ought to write. The Dalit literature must come, flow freely from the Dalit people, for the Dalit communities without any restrictions placed upon them. Dalit writers must come to grips with the fact that they are Dalit. Now if they are sincere about Dalits, about their feelings for it; if they are sincere
about wanting justice for Dalits, then that commitment must be made and they must be united and directed with one slogan “we will do it ourselves”.

The Dalit search for identity grows out of the development of a new consciousness and a need to come to grips not merely with the question of “identifying” as a dalit person, but seeking to know, to understand, what can be the components of a dalit identity, credible to individuals, which they can select, and which
they can build upon in order to attain a personal identity, to demand aggressively their share in
the shaping of the destiny of the nation and most importantly to seek radical empowerment and complete self assertion.

It is, a problem which has not been addressed to any great extent in India by researchers from the Mainstream discourse. My article is centered on changes taking place in the structures of tradition-oriented people and is defined within a Dalit framework of thought. The Mainstream discourse has focused, by and large, on the accommodation and segregation of Dalit people into a caste Hindu world of culture and living,a world where Dalit identity is absorbed. The dalit people have started analyzing the problem of caste discrimination, socio-cultural discrimination to seek radical empowerment in the society and started projecting a time when Dalits would grab hold of their identity themselves. The Dalits have conscientized Dalit masses for assertion, protest and mobilization against the act of
monopoly on every social institutions by the Indian upper castes. They are threatening the Brahmanic hegemony on all theoretical issues.

Living an untouchable life in Indian caste society is a tremendous unfortunate affair as the untouchables are thrown not only to the lowest rung of the social ladder but also they are compelled to swallow inhuman tortures. Untouchability, in basic sense, is out and out an Indian phenomenon, and it has deeply penetrated into the social philosophy of the totalistic Indian life where the privileged sections of the stratified society enjoy the life at the cost of the untouchable sections which have been forced to do all sorts of menial and labourious jobs, work as scavengers and sweepers and removers of carcasses of dead animals in the villages and also as the carriers of night soil. Because of this the fate, of the
untouchables has become miserable and what is important to note is that it is being continued
in one form or other through the ages.

The September 29, 2006 butchery of four Dalits in Khairlanji village of Maharashtra’s Bhandara district by the upper caste villagers is not only a heart-breaking and hair-raising reminder of the anti-human nature of caste prejudice but also the fact that Dalits in India are thrown not only to the lowest rung of the social ladder but also they are compelled to forcibly swallow inhuman tortures being practiced and continued in one form or the other in India even today. The victims, members of the Bhotmange family, were bludgeoned to death in full view of people of the village and their mutilated bodies were dumped in a nearby canal. The ‘Provocation’ for this bestial killings was that Dalit Bhotmange family members
were educated and asserted their right to a life of dignity despite their poverty, which was clearly unacceptable to the upper caste villagers.

The Khairlanji incident is not an isolated case, there are many more recent incidents such as-the desecration of Dr. Ambedkar’s statue in Kanpur; Dalits only in the 21st Century getting the nod to enter The Jagannath temple from caste Hindus in Orissaon December 17; eighty Dalit families from Kadkol in Karnataka’s Bijapur district were “punished” by caste Hindus with social and economic boycott for
drawing drinking water from the village tank to which they had been denied access for decades.
These and many more such incidences have exposed the diabolic dimension of the atrocities
committed against dalits and the prevalence of the pernicious caste prejudice in Indian society.
The atrocities against dalits have become common, for more frequent and for more brutal. They are on the increase all over the country.

The atrocities are anti human such as butchering the dalits, beating them and chopping off their bodies, raging dalit women ad girls, parading them naked and burning them, forcing the dalits to consume human excreta and urine, poisoning their water sources, evicting them from their land and
places of living and denying them access to public places including temples etc. The atrocities on dalits are all outrageous violations of human rights and criminal offences. The provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 are not being used effectively to prevent
the offences and punish the culprits. There is increasing tendency of police officials of not writing FIR sand asking dalits to give complaints in writing on plain papers. The role of National Commission for Scheduled castes and Scheduled Tribes, State commissions of SC/ST, law and order machinery and judiciary in arresting the discrimination and violence against dalits needs to be questioned and

One of the outstanding facts about the Dalit in rural India is their lamentable and extreme poverty.  clothed and cold in winter, badly housed, and insufficiently fed, they belong to the poorest of the land. They are greatly in debt on account of loans both for the purchase of raw materials with which to carry
on their traditional occupation and for seed and for cattle for their agricultural enterprises. In
most cases their obligations are such as to keep them in perpetual bondage to their creditors;
and as a consequence, they are never able to rise above the lowest economic level. In many
instances the whole family is engaged in satisfying the insatiable demands of the zaminders or some other creditors. They live at the back and call of others, and are obliged to do a great deal of work for which they receive no pay whatever. This is but a phase of the general condition of depression in which they live. They have been so conquered and broken by centuries of oppression that they have but
little self respect left and no ambition. Their condition is in reality serfdom, and at times they
are sore oppressed. They are the worst sufferers and have to bear the brunt of the rigidity of the caste system.

The social and economic lives of Dalits in cities or towns have relatively improved compared to the Dalits living in villages. A Dalit in urban setup is generally a government servant, a teacher in a state school, a lecturer, a reader or a professor in the central universities or a politician. However, he is never a member of the higher judiciary – except for the first time the first Dalit Chief Justice of India has recently been appointed – nor an eminent lawyer, industrialist or journalist. His freedom operates
in designated encloses: in politics and in the administrative posts he is required because of
constitutional policies. The fact of the matter is that in areas of contemporary social exchange
and culture, his “untouchability” becomes his only definition. Not only this; even the right to
pray to a Hindu god has always been a high caste privilege. Intricacy of religious ritual is
directly proportionate to social status. The dalit, in a nutshall, has been formally excluded from
religion, from education, and is a pariah in the entire sanctified universe of the “dvija.” The
dalit is physically indistinguishable from the upper castes, yet metaphorically and literally,
the dalit has been a “shit bearer”, toiling at the very bottom of the Hindu caste hierarchy.

Dalits are the main targets of what can be termed “caste-related crimes’. In the rural
countryside, stripping, hocking to death, massacres and chopping off heads are the
marks of a horrific bestiality inspired by the unshakable joint of dirtiness. The dalit body,
powerful, suppressed and perennially dirty from such tasks as removal of dead cattle and
waste, towing, or toddy (collecting juice from the bud of palm tree flowers) is to be violently
exorcised, ritually cleansed, from the pure “Aryan”body of the Hindu caste system.

The Theory

The Dalit people, in voicing the need to “grab” or “build” their identity, place
themselves unconsciously within the theoretical framework provided by the
sociology of knowledge. Within this frame work, the society into which one is born is
conceptualized as a social construct, and identity is the result of social processes within
that construct. Caste system in India is not only the age old and depth oriented socio~cultural
phenomenon but it has also been working, since the remote period, as the symbol of Indian
social practice with the help of hierarchical categories. The purity-pollution concept
developed round the Brahmanical order not only to make discriminations amongst the
different caste sand community groups but also to dictate their modes of behaviour inside and
outside the pale of Chaturvarna pattern of classification exclusively fashioned under
mythological viewpoints. The Hindu caste hierarchy refers to the mythological law of
Manu who is the chief architect of the Hindu society and whose law has formed the
foundations on which it is built. According to Manusmriti in the hoary part four predominant
Varnasemerged from various parts of the Holy Body of the creator:

31. But for the sake of the prosperity of the worlds he caused the Brahmana, the Kshatriya,
the Vaisya, and the Sudra to proceed from his mouth, his arms, his thighs, and his feet.

87. But in order to protect this universe He,the most resplendent one, assigned separate
(duties and) occupations to those who sprang from his mouth, arms, thighs, and feet.

88. To Brahmanas he assigned teaching and studying (the Veda), sacrificing for their own
benefit and for others, giving and accepting (of alms).

89. The Kshtriya he commanded to protect the people, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to
study (the Veda), and to abstain from attaching himself to sensual pleasures;

90. The Vaisyato tend cattle, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study (the Veda), to trade, to
lend money, and to cultivate land.

91. One occupation only the lord prescribed to the Sudra, to serve meekly even these (other)
three castes.(lslam:2004}

It is to be noted that this Varna system is characterized by two distinct patterns. The first
three of this group i.e. the Brahmanas, the Kshatriyas and the Vaishyas are entitled to go
through the initiation ceremony to have “sacred thread.” It is for this reason these three
groups are known as dwija or twice-born. As days went on, the Sudras who were destined to
serve the three upper groups in all walks of their life,were practically detached from the arena of
the higher social groups in the schematic structure of Chaturvarna principle and thus
they were forced to live outside the general habitations governed by the higher upper
castes. later on Sudras became so much unsanctified that, as was assumed by the three
groups in the Chaturvarna, their very touch would defile the members of the higher upper
groups. Hence, there developed a consciousness of keeping them aside and
preferably out of touch. The fierceness of the societal norms transformed that consciousness
into the very ill-fated situation known as untouchability.

The word “dalit” or “crushed underfoot” or “broken into pieces” is the contemporary
version of the word “untouchable”. “Dalit” owes its genesis to the nineteenth-century
writings of Jotirao Govindrao Phule as well as to the literature of the Dalit Panthers, a political
group formed in 1972 in the state of Maharashtra. British colonial census takers
grouped together all those communities’ neighbours considered “polluted” and called
them “untouchable”. “Harijan” or “children of god” was Mahatma Gandhi’s term for dalits.
Today most untouchable castes would prefer to use the term “dalit” as an identity of assertion.
Prior to adoption of Dalit as an identity, untouchables were addressed by different
names such as exterior castes, depressed castes, out castes, Pariahs, Mlechha, -Chandala,
Avarnas, Achhuts, Pariahs/ Panchama etc. These identities had stigma, segregation and
contempt at large.

New Perspectives

Dalit people in the past have been thwarted, exploited and forced to do all sorts of
menial, and labourious jobs, work as scavengers and sweepers, removers of
carcasses of dead animals in the villages and also as the carriers of night soil in their efforts to
respond to the Hindu Caste hierarchy system which is to a great surprise still being practiced
and continued in one form or other even today in the 21st century. If Dalits now wish to follow
a different path and locate themselves in a Dalit world, then, in terms of the constitutional
provisions made available to them above, they must locate themselves in a world of meaning
that has characteristics that are specifically. Dalit, a world which is legitimated, made
credible to the self, at all levels of “theorizing”. It is not enough, for the construction of identity,
for individuals to locate themselves unilaterally within a particular “world”. Identity is a social
construct; its maintenance depends not only upon the individual, but upon the readiness of
others to confirm the chosen identity of the individual.

The construction of Dalit identity may lead to a conflict situation as the theorizing of Dalit
people about a “Dalit” world of meaning within which a dalit identity may be found, may well be
at variance with that of mainstream theorizing. The maintenance of the “world” of meaning of
the mainstream group (dwija i.e. twice born) may then be threatened by version of a deviant
world, held by a visible group that has been excluded from the mainstream. The Dalit
“World”, as a site for the location of identity, must therefore be studied not in isolation, but
in relation to the mainstream upper caste society.

An understanding of the “objective reality” for Dalit people, that is knowledge about dalit
world which is objectified and taken for granted, demands an understanding therefore,
at the conceptual level, of the machinery by which the world of dalit society has been
managed in the past, and is being managed in contemporary society by the dominant upper
caste groups. The only machinery used by upper castes isthe fact that they have tried to establish
dehumanizing, mythological philosophy of Manusmriti as fundamental law of the country
or to enforce Manusmriti as part of legal set up, which preaches for the enforcement of codes,
which are barbaric, inhuman, racist and forcist and most importantly casteist. If there is
nothing wrong with casteism in Hinduism then who are Manu’s Sudras? How can one call
Manu’s code humane when it has the following contents in chapter 8:

A once-born man (a Sudra), who insults a twice-born man with gross invective, shall have
his tongue cut out; for he is of low origin (code number 270). If he mentions the names and
castes Gati)of the (twice-born) with contumely, on iron hail, ten fingers long, shall be thrusted
hot into his mouth (271). If he arrogantly teaches Brahmanas their duty, the king shall
cause hot oil to be poured into his mouth and into his ears(272). With whatever limb a man of
a low caste does hurt to (a man of the three) highest (castes),even that limb shall be cut off;
that is the teaching of Manu (279). A low- caste man who tries to place himself on the same seat
with a man of a high caste, shall be branded on his hip and be banished, or (the king) shall cause
his buttock to be gashed (281). If out of arrogance he spits (on a superior), the king shall
cause both his lips to be cut off; if he urinates (on him), the penis; if he breaks wind (against him),
the anus (282). A man who is not a Brahmana ought to suffer death for adultery
(samagrahana); for the wives of all the four castes even must always be carefully guarded
(359). A Brahmana who approaches unguarded females (of the Kshatriya or Vaisya(castes),or a
Sudra female, shall be fined five hundred (panas); but (for intercourse with) a female (of
the) lowest (castes),one thousand (385). (Islam : 2004)

Reproduced parts of Laws of Manu need no further elaboration and commentary, as these
are too glaringly venomous, fascist and degenerated against untouchables who are
referred to as Sudras by Manu. There is a recent flood of low priced editions of Manusmriti. In
one of such editions, the back cover has the following illuminating description of Manusmriti:

The Manusmriti is the oldest social system of the world which establishes constitution and
justice. Largely the social and judicial systems of today’s India are modelled after this book. It is
an essential book for each family, organization and society.

It is important to note that this Manusmriti is based upon the theory that the Brahmana is to have all the privileges and the Shudra is not to have even the rights of a human being, that
the Brahman is to be above everybody in all things merely by reason of his high birth and the
Sudra is to be below everybody and is to have none of the things no matter how great may be
his worth.

It may be mentioned here that after Independence, India has undergone great
social and structural changes. Not only was the form of government being changed from
foreign administration into self-rule, but also the cultural, regional and linguistic boundaries
within the nation was being redefined. A new experiment in nation-building was being
undertaken in all spheres of life. The basic Indian social reality, however, remained
unchanged. It was the reality of pluralism, a pluralism of caste-discrimination, religious
separation and cultural identities. It was a pluralism which graded social groups into those
with more power and those with less power. Indian society was relatively dominated by the
“upper castes” who were rich and powerful and therefore played important role at the centre of
the decision-making process and a whole lot of people who were poor and didn’t have any
access to sources of power were apparently excluded from the decision-making process.

The irony, however, lies in the fact that in spite of the secular and democratic goal
accepted by leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian leadership at the time of independence
was predominantly Hindu in religious sentiment and in political vision. This
“Hinduness” sentiment of the dominant community largely affected the nation-building process in India. It affected the conditions of the Scheduled castes. They were removed from their status as a minority in
Hindu society and the concept of justice to weaker sections came to mean privileges to
those who paid allegiance to Hinduism. For example, in the constitution (Scheduled Castes)
order, 1950, it was clearly mentioned that no person who professes a religion different from
Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of the Scheduled Caste. Till date Scheduled Caste
status has not been extended to Dalits belonging to Muslim and Christian religious.
Even in 21st Century, our newspaper is not free from a headline relating to some sort of
violence against Dalits or a crime committed on Dalits. The very recurrence of Dalit assertion and
Dalit movement stand testimony to their ongoing discrimination and victimization. In
fact, the very identity of ‘Dalit’ is nothing but a reaction against it hegemonic order, a challenge
against perpetual oppression and a counter identity against an irrational Brahamanic order
that seeks to dehumanize and enslave a section of Hindu fold on ascriptive ground. It represents
a voice that has perpetually remained unheard;  an identity that has long been
derecognized/ suppressed; a category that has hitherto been deprived of its dignified
existence. It is not enough to revile Brahmanism and upper caste hegemony and declare them
the root of all evils. What is important for Dalits is the question of empowerment.

Facing each other, the Dalits and the caste Hindus exemplify the characteristic
relationships of the dominated and the dominant. As the dominant impose their ideas
and will on the dominated, they offer a scheme of justification to maintain their position. The
dominated, on the other hand, either accept such schemes or refute them in a way suitable
to social circumstances. And this has been the standard social script for the Dalits. The clear
traditional notions of dominance and privilege are becoming blurred as democratic law,
politics and economies. release new forces in India. Urban centers usually show this effect
more, where the weakness of the strong and the strengths of the weak are constantly
uncovered in new ways. In this circumstances the dominant feel threatened and the weak
emboldened for new reasons. This is evident from the fact that gradual awakening of the
Dalits under the leadership of the towering personalities, no doubt, has exerted a strong
protest against the unjust thinking patterns nurtured by the advantageous caste groups.
The emergence of a newly developed perception of identity among the Dalits has
brought forward a challenging force against the age-old system of exploitations at cultural,
economical and political levels.Now new phase has emerged, which raises the expectations of
the lowest and the fears of the highest. In this ethos, Dalits especially in the cities have begun
to argue that they are much more than their abjectly low status in relation to the caste Hindu
reflects. They dare to question the schemes of the Hindu social precedence. Dalits insist that
they are not merely “The signified”, they signify as well. Despite their long-standing
dependence on the dominant Hindu social system, they offer evidence that they are alert
and sensible about themselves and the larger society in which they live. If they must face
numerous concrete problems in everyday life, they seek survival with social dignity. They are
ready to challenge the tradition as they test the promises of Indian democracy. Thus, compared
to the last decades of last century, much has, in this 21st century, changed for them more than
ever before perhaps; but compared to what they should have in a democratic society, these
changes are hardly enough.

The issues of positive self-image, social fairness, and practical effectiveness engage the
contemporary Dalits in India. To survive in today’s political culture, therefore, the Dalits
must have not only a positive cultural ideology … but also an ideological voice; they must have an
effective cultural reasoning.

A fundamentally positive ideology and assertive identity are therefore indispensable to the contemporary Dalits. As Derrida has said, “In deconstruction the opposition is first.. …to
overthrow the hierarchy”. The construction and deconstruction of differences actually go hand
in hand in indigenous thought and experience, each must not only culminate in the other but
also transcend itself and the other. A Dalit genuinely experiences a “double bind”, perhaps
a sociological expected condition among the deprived. Hence, whatever he thinks,
constructs, and does, a “deconstruction” immediately takes over. As he assembles his
new identity, he also feels that a dispersal and blurring take place. As he decides on a new
plan, a dissipation begins to occur. This recalls Derrida’s subtler conjugations of “structure”
and “deconstruction.”

We can employ two Derridian concepts to interpret the overall condition of a dalit. These
concepts prove to be congenial vehicles for reflecting on a deep civilizational paradise and
ambi.guity that neither the caste order nor a dalit can get away from. Generally, as we have
seen, when a Dalit comments on his civilizational condition, he forces the observer
to think about the caste order as a paradoxical segment of the much larger Indic cultural
system. I will bring in Derrida here essentially for a “rectified” structuralism that I think refines
certain concepts and procedures in exactly those ways that would render them more
sensitive to a Dalit’s condition as well as Indian circumstances. Let us remember that Derrida.
“argues within a particular philosophical system but at the some time attempts through
the productivity of language to break or exceed that system.” He tests the limits of
logocentrism, engaging in “deconstructive reversals.” If “deconstruction” means that “we
must do a thing and its opposite, and indeed we desire to do both, and so on indefinitely,” the
Derridan “double bind” helps us characterize the civilizational blind in which a Dalit in fact
exists. He continuously constructs and’ deconstructs himself in relation to the caste
Hindu (and vice versa), without knowing whether this “perpetually self ,deconstructing
movement” could ever be total and complete.

To sum up, now it is important for the Dalits to construct a new wave of direct opposition
against the caste system. They need to reorder, reformulate and review the equation of the
caste Hindus versus Dalits. Dalits must interrogate accepted notions regarding caste
and class relations in contemporary society by engaging themselves in a continuous
deconstruction of formulated notions that govern critical perception of social intercourse.
The recent militant protests by Dalits in different parts of Maharashtra could herald a
new phase in Dalits activism as youth disillusioned with traditional political
frameworks seek to assert their rights on the streets. The protests were not just a reaction to
one incident – the desecration of Dr. Ambedkar’s statue in Kanpur or even the
Maharashtra government’s inexcusably slow response to the bestial killing in Khairlanji of
four members of the Bhotmange family. The political system has failed to read the signs of
the anger boiling up in Dalit youth and the out built of fury in the form of militant protests was
a consequences of years of frustration over the indifference of the government towards Dalits.
Educated Dalit youths are disillusioned with the existing political leadership and are looking for
ways to express their dissatisfaction. But the question that needs to be asked in why would
thousands of ordinary Dalit youths come out on the road and vent their anger in this way unless
their sense of disillusionment with the system had not already reached boiling point? The
caste Hindus must understand the basis of this fury or get ready for a siege.

” It is disgraceful to live at the cost one’s self respect. self respect is the most vital in life. Without it, man is a cipher, To live worthily with respect, one has to overcome difficulties. It is out of hard and ceaseless struggle alone that one derives strength, confidence and recognition”          – Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

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