Beyond Dalitness: Start Annihilating Caste and Claiming Humanness

Milind Thokal

milind thokalThe process of learning and unlearning is inevitable and will continue forever but some basic concepts must always remain at the core where we must never have any confusion, keeping it more simple, straightforward, and to the point. Let's start with the very basic word ‘Dalit’. Dalit is a Sanskrit word that means ‘Divided, Broken, Scattered’. This is nothing but a nomenclature given to people belonging to the lower castes, characterized as "Untouchable". The word encompasses thousands of castes or we can say it is an umbrella under which all the Scheduled Castes and Tribes fall.

The word gained popularity through the Dalit Panther Movement when they adopted this term as an act of confident assertion, rejecting Mahatma Gandhi's nomenclature of Harijan, children of God. Dalit Panther defined this word in their 1972 manifesto as: “A member of Scheduled Castes and Tribes, Neo-Buddhist, the working-people, the land-less and poor peasants, women, and all those who are being exploited politically, economically, socially and in the name of religion”. We must introspect on whether that has benefited us or has the word became a handy marketing tool in the hands of the upper castes.

The debate on the usage of the word ‘Dalit’ has been going on for years. Many have different perspectives regarding this but we must come out of it now as it has gone on for enough time. This narrative of words is a gambit to oppress us and a threat to our human existence and nothing else, we don't need it. Every human is from the same species of homo sapiens and no one should be treated as subhuman. People claiming to be Dalit Scholars, Dalit Activists, Dalit Ambedkarites and characterizations like Dalit Love are all nonsense where you are trying to label yourself as subhuman (different than others) or Dalit.

For example: 1) if there is a discussion on TV channels or any event of debate when the anchors of the event announce the names of the debaters or intellectuals they will never say 'brahmin scholar/intellectual/activist'. What they say is Political Scientist/Human Rights Activist/Public Intellectual etc. But when it comes to the other side, they will profoundly say Dalit Scholar/Activist/Intellectual etc. 2) We read newspapers, watch news and when there is any news of violence against Dalits what the media reports is 'Dalit woman raped, Dalit Man hacked to death', etc. It is very dangerous that they label atrocities like that, rather it should highlight the oppressor. But you won't see these same media houses highlighting news as as 'Brahmin woman raped, Brahmin man hacked to death' etc. Understanding this difference is a basic necessity.

Let's take a deeper look into how such usage of the word 'Dalit' is against dignified human existence. Assume small circles of different castes from the oppressed sections. Now draw a bigger circle outlining these small circles and encircle them and then label them as 'Dalits'. What this does to us is that we are now bound to identity and not what we want to claim, that is Humanness. What we are madly claiming is Dalitness which is absolutely not needed to highlight the oppressor. However, now you may ask, how to assert against the upper castes? The point is you don't need any identity as such to assert. Your assertion must highlight the oppressor and not your oppressed stories.

Recognizing the changing caste structures and analyzing it and then plotting the oppressors' plans is what we need. Assertion of identity is just one part but this terming and obligating ourselves into this structure has many latent issues which after all have benefited the upper castes in the longer run. We have Jotirao Phule and Dr. Ambedkar on our side this is the biggest threat to, and assertion against the upper castes. These theories of nomenclature have been discarded by Dr.Ambedkar: you can read this in his Writings and Speeches under the heading nomenclature in volume 2. The point is we don't want any nomenclature because we are being made commodities in the hands of upper castes and we must introspect this and start analyzing this plot of nomenclature, otherwise we will revolve around this for centuries where we will keep circling and encircling ourselves. Start Annihilating Caste and Claiming Humanness.

At the end, I would like to quote Dr.Ambedkar here and I request you all to read and introspect on these lines:

My final words of advice to you are Educate, Agitate and Organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of the human personality”.        



Milind Thokal completed his B.A in English Literature from SPPU. He is currently a law student at DES SNFLC, Pune.


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