Dalit Movement in India and Its Leaders, 1857-1956

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M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd., Jan 1, 1994 - Dalits - 459 pages
3 Reviews
This book is, obviously based on primary source of information. Certain facts were duly corroborated by other sources. It has been objectively analysed, properly interpreted and systematically arranged in a consolidated form. It would be useful as a ready reference to the scholars, interested in undertaking intensive research on individual leaders, and their role in the movement. It would be beneficial to those activists who prefer to take lessons from their past. Therefore, the book is of great value.

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Untouchability, as its name indicates, is one of the dehumanizing aspects of India’s cast ridden Hindu society. M.K Gandhi defines the term as “a means of pollution by touch of certain
persons by reason of their birth in particular state of family.” To Dr. B.R Ambedkar it means, “the notion of defilement, pollution, contamination and ways and means of getting rid of that defilement. It is a case of permanent hereditary stain which nothing can cleanse.”
Origin of untouchability
Caste system divides Hindu society into four Varnas and later into thousands of caste sna d sub castes. Untouchability divides the Hindu society into two groups as touchables and untouchables. The caste system is based on Veda, Manusmriti and other religious scriptures whereas untouchability is based o traditional contempt of Buddhism, and continuation of beef eating. The caste system prescribes certain rules of internal behavior whereas untouchability is a matter of external behavior with the so-called lower castes.
The Laws of Manu in Manusmriti enumerates the criteria for untouchability. Impurity was imposed on the basis of the following factors .
• Birth
• Death
• Menstruation
• Territory
• Occupation
• Character
• Sex (women as impure)
• Physical unsoundness
• Mixed marriages
• Conversion
Theories behind the origin of untouchability
1. The Theory of Taboo
There is an interesting story behind the creation of the four Varnas in the Rig Veda which says Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishya and Sudra were created by God from the mouth, arms, thighs and feet respectively. They were assigned different roles as doing pujas, ruling the country, doing business and servitude of the three. The untouchables were the avarnas. The hierarchy of the caste system considered the untouchables as profane. However fails to explain the origin of untouchability.
2. The Theory of Race and Occupation
This theory says untouchability originated with Aryan invasion. The untouchables were non- Aryan and non- Dravidian aboriginals. They were conquered and subjugated by the Dravidians first and later by the Aryans. The Aryans vanquished the non Aryans and reduced them to mere serfs and assigned to the menial or filthy occupations. However therei s no record that the vanquished became untouchables.
3. Multi Casual Theory
V.R Shinde gives five reasons for the origin untouchability.
i. Doing filthy occupation
ii. Independent entities vanquished by wars and became untouchables.
iii. Those who were Buddhist and non believers in God, superstitions and Vedas and did not accept the supremacy of Brahmanism were made untouchables.
iv. The tribals not living like civilians also came under this category.
v. Those who performed pratiloma marriages in contravention to Dharnma Sastra were banished as untouchables.
4. Broken Men Theory
According to Ambedkar, traditional community consisted of two groups namely the nomads and the settlers. Occasionally there were tribal wars mostly for food. In the intra- tribal wars the weaker community gets defeated. They were either killed, displaced or subjugated. The defeated community were allowed to lived there separately doing filthy and menial jobs or doing the watch and ward for the oppressors. Later they became untouchables.
Another reason was the contempt for Buddhism which the displaced community embraced and the habit of meat eating. On the other hand the village people accepted the supremacy of Brahmins. The untouchables, having lost their livelihood and nothing to eat, were forced to eat dead cows’ flesh and meat. The broken men continued meat eating even though they embraced Buddhism. Actually Buddhism stood for an egalitarian society. The Brahmins did not like this. So only to claim superiority over the broken people, the Brahmins did not follow meat eating.
In the course of time Buddhism came to a decline which started from the period of Pushyamitra and becomes virtually complete in the period when Shankaracharya lived, during AD 788 to 820


A Process of Dehumanization
Factors Responsible for the Rise of Dalit Movement
Dalit Organizations
Chronology of Events and Achievements
Principal Dalit Leaders
Dalit Movement in Various States
Dynamics of Dalit Movement

Common terms and phrases

Bibliographic information