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Dalit Movement in India

The Dalit Movement can be characterised as having two kinds of protest ideology.One which emphasizes withdrawal,self organization and establishes a parallel source of legitimacy and the other which abandons brahminical Hinduism and embraces another religion to raise its self respect and worth.

The Dalit Movement can be characterised as having two kinds of protest ideology.One which emphasizes withdrawal,self organization and establishes a parallel source of legitimacy and the other which abandons brahminical Hinduism and embraces another religion to raise its self respect and worth. The first ideology formed the basis of the Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Movement while the second was the basis of Mahar Movement led by Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedhar. The origin of the SNDP movement lies among the Izhavas of Kerala.In the traditional caste hierarchy the Izhavas were considered as unapproachable so much so that they had to maintain a distance of atleast 34 feet from the Nambudri Brahmins. They suffered from many civic and ritual disabilities. They were not allowed to worship in the temples of caste Hindus or to take bath in the tanks of Hindus.Toddy tapping was considered to be a defiling occupation .They could neither wear any footwear nor built pukka houses.Some of the Izhavas chose to convert to Christianity and while a majority remained in the fold of Hinduism and vowed to fight against their disabilities. This was possible mainly due to the efforts of Sri Narayana Guru Swamy.He was a charismatic leader and was responsible for a thorough transformation of the style of life involving new religious beliefs,ritual and outlook.He propagated the ideology of   withdrawal and self organization that raised their self-respect,honor and worth of individuals. It was an ideology of protest against the  brahmanical value system of hierarchy and pollution.The SNDP movement was one of the most successful attempts of the untouchable castes to alter the traditional balance of power besides improving their own position.

 Another notable Dalit movement was the one led by Dr Ambedkar which became popular as Mahar movement. This movement represented an ideology of protest in the form of abandoning Hinduism and embracing Buddhism which is more egalitarian  than Hinduism.Mahars were a numerically significant caste who fell under the untouchable category. They were made to do various menial jobs as cutting firewood,sweeping and digging graves etc. They were denied access to wells,schools and to the services of barbers and washermen. The entry of Dr Ambedkar in the 1920s made the Mahar movement more radical than reformative.It adopted a new strategy of aggression and protest against the attitudes of caste Hindus towards the untouchables.He adopted the ideology of anti-caste Hinduism and relied on the political machinery to achieve the basic rights.Dr Ambedkar was able to win political representation for the untouchables and as an architect of Indian Constitution introduced many constitutional safeguards in favour of the scheduled castes.In 1956 he along with his followers embraced Buddhism.This was an act of great significance for the Mahar movement as it signalled the ideology of abandoning Hinduism and embracing a  more egalitarian movement.

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  1. drelayaraja

    On August 9, 2010 at 1:29 am


    Wonderful share. Even today there are places where dalits are treated badly. they are given seperate tea glasses, not allowed in many temples and treated inhumanely by the so-called upper caste.

  2. Sekhar babu

    On February 4, 2011 at 2:07 pm


    Jai Bheem,
    I read your blog on ‘Dalit Movement in India’.I feel happy.I too have a blog on ‘Seperate Dalit Rashtra Movement’(SDRM).Please see and give your advices and suggestions…..

    Thanks in advanace..
    T. Sekhar Babu,
    State President(SDRM),
    Nandigama,
    Krishna Dist ,
    Andhra Pradesh.
    Mobile No:+91-9705661611.

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