Advertisement

The Dalit Panthers: Race, Caste, and Black Power in India

  • Nico Slate
Part of the Contemporary Black History book series (CBH)

Abstract

The word “Dalit,” from the Marathi for “broken” or “crushed,” has come to replace “untouchable” as the most common label for the more than 160 million people who live at the bottom of the caste hierarchy in India and other parts of South Asia. Names matter—never more so than when dealing with the identity of an oppressed minority. In 1972, a group of young Dalits in Bombay formed the Dalit Panthers. On August 15, 1973, the twenty-sixth anniversary of Indian Independence, the Dalit Panthers organized a march of some two hundred people through the streets of Bombay (Mumbai) in a celebration of what they called “Black Independence Day” (“Kala Swatantrya Din”). Drawing on the legacy of the Black Panthers, the Dalit Panthers challenged a narrative in which “independence” had already come to the Indian people. The very name “Dalit Panthers” marshaled notions of blackness and Black Power to present Dalit resistance as militantly unbounded by the triumphant complacency of self-proclaimed “democratic” nation-states.

Keywords

Civil Disobedience American Racism African Diaspora Aggressive Violence Caste Hierarchy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Dalit Panthers Manifesto, Barbara Joshi, ed. Untouchable! Voices of the Dalit Liberation Movement (London: Zed Books, 1986), 145. The 2001 Indian Census listed the population of Dalits or “scheduled castes” at 167 million and the population of “scheduled tribes” at 84 million. Together, these disadvantaged communities constitute approximately one-quarter of India’s population. Dalit communities also exist in Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere in South Asia. See www.censusindia.gov.in (accessed March 29, 2011);Google Scholar
  2. Lata Maurugkar, Dalit Panther Movement in Maharashtra: A Sociological Approach (London: Sangam Books, 1991);Google Scholar
  3. Jayashree Gokhale, From Concessions to Confrontation: The Politics of an Indian Untouchable Community (Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1993), 264;Google Scholar
  4. N. M. Aston, ed., Dalit Literature and African American Literature (Delhi: Prestige Books, 2001);Google Scholar
  5. Vijay Prashad, “Afro-Dalits of the Earth, Unite!” African Studies Review 43 (2000): 189–201;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Anupama Rao, The Caste Question: Dalits and the Politics of Modern India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009).Google Scholar
  7. 2.
    Slate, Colored Cosmopolitanism; Gerald Horne, The End of Empires: African Americans and India (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2008);Google Scholar
  8. Vijay Prashad, The Karma of Brown Folk (Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, 2000) and Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Plurality (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2001);Google Scholar
  9. Sudarshan Kapur, Raising up a Prophet: The African American Encounter with Gandhi (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  10. 3.
    Slate, “Translating Race and Caste”; Daniel Immerwahr, “Caste or Colony? Indianizing Race in the United States,” Modern Intellectual History 4, no. 2 (2007): 275–301;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Balmurli Natrajan and Paul Greenough, eds., Against Stigma: Studies in Caste, Race and Justice Since Durban (Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan Press, 2009);Google Scholar
  12. Kamala Visweswaran, Un/common Cultures: Racism and the Rearticulation of Cultural Difference (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. N. M. Aston, ed., Dalit Literature and African American Literature (New Delhi: Prestige, 2001).Google Scholar
  14. 4.
    Alfred Sauvy, “Trois Mondes, Une Planete,” L’Observateur, August 14, 1952; Leslie Wolf-Phillips, “Why ‘Third World’?: Origin, Definition and Usage,” Third World Quarterly 9, no. 4 (1987): 1311–1327;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. B. R. Tomlinson, “What was the Third World,” Journal of Contemporary History 38, no. 2 (2003): 307–321;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993);Google Scholar
  17. Brent Hayes Edwards, The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003);Google Scholar
  18. Sean Chabot, “Framing, Transnational Diffusion and African American Intellectuals in the Land of Gandhi,” International Review of Social History 49, no. 12 (2004): 19–40;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Everett M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations (Glencoe: Free Press, 1962).Google Scholar
  20. 5.
    Sugata Bose, A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kris Manjapra, “The Mirrored World: Cosmopolitan Encounter between Indian Anti-Colonial Intellectuals and German Radicals, 1905–1939,” PhD. Dissertation, Harvard University, June 2007;Google Scholar
  22. Claude Markovits, The Global World of Indian Merchants, 1750–1947: Traders of Sind from Bukhara to Panama (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 6.
    Jonathan Rosenberg, How Far the Promised Land?: World Affairs and the American Civil Rights Movement from the First World War to Vietnam (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006);Google Scholar
  24. Nikhil Pal Singh, Black is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004);Google Scholar
  25. Bill V. Mullen, Afro Orientalism (Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press, 2004);Google Scholar
  26. Carol Anderson, Eyes Off The Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944–1955 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003);Google Scholar
  27. Marc Gallicchio, The African American Encounter with Japan and China: Black Internationalism in Asia, 1895–1945 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2000);Google Scholar
  28. Penny Von Eschen, Race against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937–1957 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997);Google Scholar
  29. Brenda Gayle Plummer, Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935–1960 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 7.
    Komozi Woodard, A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Timothy B. Tyson, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999);Google Scholar
  32. Nikhil Pal Singh, Black is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004);Google Scholar
  33. Kevin Gaines, American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates in the Civil Rights Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. For useful overviews, see Fabio Rojas, From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007);Google Scholar
  35. Peniel E. Joseph, ed., The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era (New York: Routledge, 2006);Google Scholar
  36. Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ’til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2006);Google Scholar
  37. Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar, Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004).Google Scholar
  38. 8.
    Joseph, The Black Power Movement and Waiting ’til the Midnight Hour and Matthew Countryman, Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006).Google Scholar
  39. 9.
    Simon Wendt, The Spirit and the Shotgun: Armed Resistance and the Struggle for Civil Rights (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007); Tyson, Radio Free Dixie; Slate, Colored Cosmopolitanism.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 12.
    Simon Wendt, Spirit and the Shotgun, and Timothy B. Tyson, “Robert F. Williams, ‘Black Power,’ and the Roots of the African American Freedom Struggle,” The Journal of American History 85, no. 2 (September, 1998): 540–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 13.
    LeRoi Jones, Home: Social Essays (New York: William Morrow & Company, 1966), 85;Google Scholar
  42. John Oliver Killens, Black Man’s Burden (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965), 108–110 and 120; Slate, Colored Cosmopolitanism.Google Scholar
  43. 23.
    “The American Dream,” July 4, 1965, in A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Clayborne Carson and Peter Holloran, eds. (New York: Warner Books, 1998) and Daniel Immerwahr, “Caste or Colony? Indianizing Race in the United States,” Modern Intellectual History 4, no. 2 (2007): 275–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 24.
    Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, “Black Power on the Move,” The Bharat Jyoti, March 15, 1970. And see Nico Slate, “‘I Am a Coloured Woman’: Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya in the United States, 1939–41,” Contemporary South Asia 17, no. 1 (March 2009): 7–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 25.
    Sanjay Paswan and Pramanshi Jaideva, eds., Encyclopaedia of Dalits in India, vol. 2, Struggle for Self Liberation (Delhi: Kalpaz Publications, 2002), 105–106;Google Scholar
  46. Gopal Guru, “The Language of Dalit-Bahujan Political Discourse,” in Dalit Identity and Politics, Ghanshyam Shah, ed. (New Delhi, Sage, 2001), 98–99.Google Scholar
  47. On intersectionality, see Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color,” Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (1991): 1241–1299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. and Leslie McCall, “The Complexity of Intersectionality” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30, no. 3 (2007): 1771–1800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 27.
    Gail Omvedt, “Ambedkar and After: The Dalit Movement in India,” in Shah, ed., Dalit Identity and Politics, 153; Sanjay Paswan and Pramanshi Jaideva, eds., Encyclopaedia of Dalits in India, vol. 3, Movements (Delhi: Kalpaz Publications, 2002), 319–328.Google Scholar
  50. 28.
    Maurugkar, Dalit Panther Movement in Maharashtra, 44 and 237; K. P. Singh, “Liberation Movements in Comparative Perspective: Dalit Indians and Black Americans,” in Dalits in Modern India: Vision and Values, Second Edition, S. M. Michael, ed. (New Delhi, Sage, 2007), 162–178; Paswan and Jaideva, eds., Encyclopaedia of Dalits in India, vol. 2, Struggle for Self Liberation, 106.Google Scholar
  51. 29.
    V. T. Rajshekar, Dalit: The Black Untouchables of India, 3rd ed. (Atlanta, GA: Clarity Press, 2009), 2 and 21.Google Scholar
  52. 32.
    C. Joe Arun, Constructing a Dalit Identity (New Delhi: Rawat Publications, 2007), 146–150.Google Scholar
  53. 33.
    Daya Pawar, “You Wrote from Los Angeles,” in Sanjay Paswan and Pramanshi Jaideva, eds. Encyclopaedia of Dalits in India, vol. 11, Literature (Delhi: Kalpaz Publications, 2002), 45.Google Scholar
  54. 34.
    Quoted in Eleanor Zelliot, From Untouchable to Dalit: Essays on the Ambedkar Movement, 2nd ed. (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1996), 280–281 and 299.Google Scholar
  55. 35.
    Edward Luce, In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 113; Harish S. Wankhede, “Margins to Centre,” Tehelka.com (November 21, 2008); Jeremy Kahn, “India’s Anti-Obama,” Newsweek (April 27, 2009); Ashutosh Varshney, “Obama and India,” Seminar 593 (January 2009);Google Scholar
  56. William Julius Wilson, More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2009);Google Scholar
  57. Cornel West, Race Matters (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1993).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Nico Slate 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nico Slate

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations