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

Part of the Contemporary Black History book series (CBH)


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.


Civil Disobedience American Racism African Diaspora Aggressive Violence Caste Hierarchy 
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© Nico Slate 2012

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