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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Doubts re-surface...

Hello... anyone out there? Hey-loooooo.... anyone who can clarify this Dalit identity issue about which one of my recent posts talk???

In the meanwhile, there have been two occurences that further muddle my search.

1) I saw a footage in one of the 24-hour News Channel showing a mass conversion of 2000 Dalits to Buddhism in Mumbai
2) In today's The Hindu, there is a news item about how the Dalits are planning to protest by forcing their way into the Draupadi Amman Temple near Salem, to which they have been denied entry by the caste Hindus for the past years.
My researches on the web haven't yielded the result I seek. Could someone out there clarify my confusion. Who is a Dalit? Or what constitutes a Dalit Identity?
Thanks and much obliged.

1 comment:

Srini said...

Dear (sir) KK,

I have been reading your posts continually, but have not left 'prints' as you would call them as I thought I was not qualified enough to comment on most of the things, which have been said. Vis-a-vis the cricket posts, I couldn't agree more... and I have nothing else to say.

I did read your post(s) on Dalit Identity and I must say, quite apart from the satirically humorous touch your words seem to wear, they do pound us with deep and disturbing queries. I may not be able to provide clarifications in this regard but coming from a campus - SUPPOSEDLY cosmopolitan - I can say that a wholly different kind of politics is at play, which needs to be ingeniously and differently deconstructed.

It seems a bit like first wave feminism to start off with (I have great regard for the feminists, mind you!) where male-bashing was in some sense an inevitable aftermath of century after century of female oppression. So, in this case, it seems to be more a question of exclusion - than inclusion. And one need not be a rocket scientist to figure who the "excluded" are! And if you think that the exclusion is based on strictly economic grounds, well, you are caught unawares - it is not as everyone seems to know anyway. What is this identity then? I have not read up literature on the subject but I think experiences and observations, at times, dispel darkness much better than reading up material. To me the Dalit identity seems to be a rather shifting phenomenon; in flux from state to state perhaps, region to region and so on and so forth: the only common denominator is the wilful and the rather furious exclusion of the upper classes, from which plenty of things follow, which I hope is understandable. The identity, therefore, is not constant but of an evolutionary sort.

There is a body representing Dalits on campus, which does plenty of good work admittedly but is also - based on secondary sources - rigid and vengeful. It has representatives who are Hindus, Christians, Moslems and for all you know perhaps agonostics and atheists as well. Perhaps, then, from a normative standpoint economic and social pointers must constitute this identity, but from my experience I think they don't, which is sad and unfortunate.
I may appear contradictory and even circular: I said that the identity seems to be temporally vacillating or changing, but then I have also said that - I believe - there must be a normative cut-off. The problem is not so much one surfacing from contradictions but from this 'what is' and 'what ought to be divide' - where flexibility and rigidity are merely delineating and defining words and little else. With the result you have rigid designators but people cannot be rigid; or people who keep their identity - to derive whatever advantages: it happens all the time in this country, at every level - in spite of clearly changing economic positions and status.
The crux of the matter then is that in trying to eradicate a caste system we find ourselves in a catch 22 situation - not having wiped out classes yet we also have the problem of class (I somehow feel, intuitively, that this identity crisis, involving various religions and their various denominations, is a question of class and not caste, which has various ramifications) to handle now. So the proverbial limbo!

Sigh... hope I have not rattled the already obfuscated realm of identity politics in this country more... Only one thing seems manifest and obvious: that for the men and women at the helm of affairs, these identity crises are again conveniences, which help them divide and rule. We live in a state noted both for its religious reverence and self-righteous irreverence!

Frankly speaking, none of this is taking us a step nearer our goal. At the end of a rather elaborate exposition, that's a pretty humble opinion.