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Certificate by the superior/head of the department




This is to certify that the dissertation “Dalits in India” is a record of research work done by I. Plavendran, a full time student of the Post-graduate Diploma in Journalism and Mass communication, in the School of continuing education Madras Christian College, during the year 2004-2005.

This dissertation represents an entirely original work done by the candidate under the supervision of Fr. Davasia Puthiyaparambil




Head of the department

Place: Chennai

Date :19-05-05



                                                                                      Project Guide





































Statement by the candidate


I hereby state that the present dissertation titled “Dalits in India” is my original work and that it is not previously formed the basis for award of any degree, diploma, associates, fellowship or other similar titles.



Place Tambaram

Date: 19-05-05

                                                                        Signature of the candidate


































I am deeply indebted to Fr. Davasia Puthiyaparambil

for his valuable guidance. Sincere thanks to the members of St paul’s Printing Press for their effective print out and bringing out this dissertation in a right time. I also gratefully acknowledge the service of Mr. Livingstone and Mr. Gorjen.
















Dalits and media













A Paper Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree in Bachelor of Philosophy







Under the Guidance of

Fr. Davasia Puthiyaparambil










February 2004

St Pauls School of Philosophy

Mumbai – 50




C o n t e n t s


General Introduction............................................................. 1


Chapter 1: Meaning and condition of Dalits

1.0   Introduction................................................................... 3

1.1   Who are Dalits?.............................................................. 3

1.2   Historical conspectus..................................................... 5

1.3   Situation of Dalits today................................................. 6

1.4   Economic status of Dalits............................................... 7

1.5   Dalit Women................................................................... 8

Chapter 2:  The religion of Dalit

2.0         Introduction................................................................... 11

2.1   Characteristics of folk tradition...................................... 12

2.2   Perception of masses and artistic expression.................. 14

2.3   Problems and prospects of Dalit religion......................... 17

Chapter 3:  Caste and alternative culture

3.0   Introduction................................................................... 19                                                          

3.1   Layers of Castes.............................................................. 20

3.2   Communist movements and upper castes...................... 21

3.3   Abolition of castes as principle....................................... 23

3.4   Alternative religion......................................................... 25

Chapter 4:  Principles of restructuring Dalits movements

3.0         Introduction................................................................... 28

4.1   Building up the culture of equality................................. 29

4.2   Reconstruction of rural culture....................................... 31

4.3   Propagation of rural arts................................................. 32

4.4   Economic reconstruction................................................ 33

4.5   Political reorganization................................................... 34

Chapter 5: Dalits and Media

5.1         Introduction………………………………………………………….35

5.2         Abuse of Dalits in Christian Media……………………………..36

5.3         Dalits and Print……………………………………………………..37

5.4         Dalits Film Festival…………………………………………………38


General Conclusion................................................................ 35


Bibliography........................................................................... 37


General Introduction



            Dalits are considered as the most vulnerable people in the world. They have been termed as oppressed, broken, and downtrodden. Some 160 million people in India live a dangerous existence, shunned by much of society because they are termed as ‘untouchables’ or Dalits, literally meaning “broken” people—at a bottom of Indian caste system. Dalits are discriminated, denied access to land, forced to work in degrading conditions, brutally abused even killed at the hands of the police and higher castes groups of the society. The philosophical background for the Dalit movement has been provided by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. The annihilation of castes was a concept initiated by him.

Dalit is another name for India’s ethnic group, which is called by frequently used terminologies like Scheduled caste, the untouchables, a patronizing word coined by late Mahatma Gandhi is “Harijan” (children of God). These so-called Dalits, untouchables or Scheduled caste constitute 20% of India’s population. This is close to or little less than the half of the total population of USA and little more than the population of Russia. These people are the victims of systematically sanctioned persecution by the society since the time of immemorial. These Dalits were systematically excluded from the mainstream of the society in all spears of life other than being used as slave labourers for the so-called Hindu high castes. According to the estimate of the planning commission, 83.2% of the total number of bonded labourers belong to the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes. In addition, in UP 91.7% of total bonded labourers are from the scheduled caste, followed by AP and Karnataka both 80.5%.

          I would like to focus on two issues, which are great concern to our democratic society. First is untouchability and secondly the atrocities against scheduled caste persons. Untouchability is officially abolished, according to the Article XVII of the Indian constitution. However, the practice of untouchability is a part of daily living in Indian society more so in rural areas. They are named as the voiceless class. They are socially discriminated, politically suppressed and economically pushed to backward from the mainstream of the society.

Dalits and tribals form the core of the poor oppressed in our country. They form what is called the ‘enduring groups’ of castes and tribes (which have not shown upward mobility in their social positions or significant change in their material conditions through the ages) and have collectively remained at the bottom of their hierarchical and stratified Indian society, through 3000 years or more. Dalits and tribals ‘adivasis’ people who were either conquered or excluded or isolated from the main framework of the society.

They are crying for deliverance from enslavement in their own country, suffering untouchability and impoverishment under caste-class oppression. They are denied of their ‘image of God’, they are considered as the ‘no people’, and sub humans, by the upper-strata of the society.

We can see that the separation of Dalits even in the present day Church; the Christian Dalits are marginalized and discriminated. They are forcefully being driven away from Churches for lack of equality, fellowship and pastoral care. The Christian youths are disillusioned and their alienation from the Churches leads them to be wandering aimless Christians. Their agony is being aggravated through the inhuman practice of child labour, which denies children’s rights to a carefree, joyful, healthy, secure and enlightened life. They are exploited of their energy often under long hours of toil and hazardous conditions. Going through the following chapters we will travel with the Dalits of India. Their untold agonies and cries are voiced in these chapters. No movement is able to bring viable change in the society if it has no guidelines or programme of action. The following chapters will reveal to us the way out for the present condition of Dalits. 


















Chapter I


Meaning and conditions of Dalits


1.0 Introduction

          Untouchables are the single largest persecuted minority in the world because of their low status in the Hindu religion. They have been systematically deprived by the so-called High caste Hindus in every sphere of life. Article seventeen of the Indian constitution abolishes untouchability. It says, “Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden”. Dalits are looked down upon, pushed to a corner and there are slipped to the eternal darkness in the society. What made them to alienate from the main stream of society? What are the present conditions of Dalits? What made them to be termed as “polluted” by others? The journey through the life of Dalits will not end without analyzing the conditions of the women Dalits. The world’s largest untouchable society is searching for its identity. In this chapter, I am presenting the real face of Dalits. Today, in a village, the Dalits are not allowed to sit equally with the Hindus, but the same Dalit will sit in the public transport. In the village, Dalits are freely allowed to serve Coffee in urban restaurants but they cannot face another person in the village.        

1.1 Who are Dalits?

          Dalits and tribals form the core of the poor and the oppressed class of our country. They form ‘enduring groups’ of castes and tribes and collectively at the bottom of the hierarchical and stratified Indian society through 3000 years or more. Dalits and tribals ‘adivasis’ are ancient tribal communities who were either conquered or isolated from the main frame work of the society, built on the basis of the religio-cultural-social ideology of the caste system.[1] There are about 250 million Dalits in India.  There is meager improvement in the socio-economic condition of Dalits in the past 50 years, which is not enough when compared to non-Dalits. Of course, much more needs to be done.  The urgent need is to have a national sample survey on Dalits.  Every fourth Indian is a Dalits.  There is no proper survey to give the correct number of Dalits women in India.  They are generally scattered in villages and they are not a monogamous group.  About 75% of Dalits live below poverty line.  Economic backwardness of Dalits is mostly due to injustice done to them by the high castes and due to exploitation. From time immemorial, they worked like slaves, sold as commodities resulting in their social discrimination, economic deprivation and educational backwardness. 

          The Hindu Brahmincal caste ideology or Varnashrma dharma, with its ideas of pollution and purity, has become the instrument for legitimizing power and privilege in a hierarchical and unjust social order. Brahmins with their priestly and scholarly functions were the purest and the highest in the social hierarchy; Kshatriyas, with their soldierly ruling functions came second, and Vyasyas with their trading and financial activities came third in the hierarchy. The three Varnas together constituted the dwijas or Twice born. Who could wear the sacred thread and participate in the sacred rites. Sudras, with their cultivation and crafts came last in the ritual order.[2]

Economically, Dalits were forbidden to own land and have been excluded from most of the profitable forms of employment. Politically they have no power. The poor Dalits in the villages are more or less treated as slaves. They cannot go to the police even if their women are raped because they are economically dependent of their oppressors. Socially they are no people. Even animals are allowed go to the Temples and use the public places like roads and public wells, but Dalits are not allowed  to use because of their so-called ‘polluting’ nature. All aspects of their culture are negatively spoken of. Psychologically, they are made to be ashamed of their own existence and identity. They are made to live in places away from the main part of the village. These places often congested, for example about 100 houses in an acre. They are mostly ecologically abused villages.

          The most unfortunate thing for the Dalits is that the name through which they are called by the upper castes and through which, they were subdued and marginalized. These names were given by others and not chosen by untouchables themselves.  Naturally, these names were most degrading. For the practical reason they were left of the Varna system, since the ruling forces felt that these people cannot be considered even for being grouped among the respected ones.


1.2 Historical realities

          Throughout history, the Dalits were oppressed by every other group. They were completely pushed to the lowest strata as menial servants. Slavery in a different form was experienced by these people. They were forced to stay outside the villages and were treated as polluted beings. They were not allowed to the villages. An extreme form of untouchability was experienced by these people. In the words of A.P. Nirmal, “They did not enjoy the nomadic freedom. As an outcaste, he/ she was also cast out of his/her village. The Dalit bastis were always and are always on the outskirts of the Indian village. The Saravnas also tied as earthen pot around the Dalits neck to serve as spittoon. His spirit should not pollute the earth. If even a Dalit was forbidden to learn Sanskrit or some other languages, the oppressors gagged him permanently by pouring molten lead down his throat! The Dalits mothers and sisters were forbidden to any blouses and the Saravanas feasted their eyes on their bare bosoms.”[3] This particular description reveals the systematic and gradual decline of the nomadic life and being segregated as untouchables. This reveals how the upper castes cunningly manipulated the lower castes.

The Dalits were given the ray of hope by the Bhakti cult that originated in the twelfth century. They expressed concern for Dalits as one of its ideals. Besides prominent saints like Ramunaja, Ramananda, Kabir, Tukram, Meerabai and Chaitanya cult also attracted in its fold. However, Bhakti cult did not bring any social change. Then there came the Muslim rule, which admitted Dalits into martial services, which hitherto had been the exclusive domain of the upper castes. Some of these Dalits soldiers rose up to be leaders. Kalapahad, a Dalit ruler in Bengal was a terror to the caste Hindus who exploited poor Dalits.

          In 1542, the Christian missionaries started arriving, the first being St. Francis Xavier from Portugal who came to Goa. In the South the Danish missionaries, Bartholomew Ziegenbalg and Henry Pluschau established their mission in the kingdom of Tanjore. William Carey arrived at Bengal in 1792 and established the Baptist mission.[4] It can be said that the Christian missionaries first started some serious social and educational work among untouchables. It is without doubt, the seeds sown by the Christian missionaries, which were the root cause of Dalit upsurge but ‘conversions’ were interpreted as a challenge to the Hindu society. The Dalits’ situation was still the same when the British arrived here and established the empire. The British administration however did not bother themselves about the condition of Dalits, since their goal was to plunder the country economically.

However, the colonial policies provided new opportunities for the Dalits, which they had not had a chance before, such as entry into civil services, the military and the educational sectors. The Dalits were soon filing the army ranks and found employment in factories and mills run by the British. A significant milestone during the British rule was the directive by the administration in 1858, which declared open the government school in Mumbai to all castes including the untouchables.[5] The judicial systems set up by the government also gave the untouchables an opportunity to uphold their rights, though in a very limited way. After Independence, the Dalits were given separate identity to enjoy certain rights under the Indian condition. Even though these are only provided constitutionally, these things are seldom realized and rarely implemented. Their condition remains the same as before the Independence. The rise of various Dalit movements promised deliverance but in spite of their existence, there is no significant change.   

          In conclusion, we can say affirm that Dalit history is the only a means, which can help us, recover our past, which has deliberately been destroyed by others. It will help us to revive and survive what remains the symbol of Dalits to create new ones. It will help the Dalits to shape the present economic, social and political existence, which of course will help us to plan.

1.3 Situation of Dalits today.

Dalits are generally enumerated as Hindus though a growing number of awakened Dalits are claiming the contrary. Even today, high caste Hinduism is deeply unsure of the religious identity of the untouchables. During the national struggle and communal riots, Dalits were claimed as the part of Hinduism. Hinduism prescribes the study of the Vedas for Dalits and still they are banned from temples. The term ‘untouchables’ does not exist as a legal category, consequently the untouchability was abolished by article 17 of the Indian Constitution of 1950. Yet the same constitution recognized the existence of untouchables by including the schedule of untouchable castes. They do not have formed a solid group either in the past or in the present. They are not recognized as the homogenous group because of the absence of a single ethnic identity, common physical form, cultural outlook, language etc.

1.4 Economic status of Dalits            

          The most common feature of all the Dalits is the wide spread poverty. They are not only called Harijans but they are pushed aside at the bottom Indian society in material terms. It is to be noted that the 90 % of Dalits live in rural areas are dependent on agriculture. Krishnan rightly remarks “India’s remarkable agricultural civilization and economy are built on the bones of the Dalits agricultural Labour castes and cemented with their blood and sweat.”[6] Dalits provide food for the whole nation but they themselves are starving because they have poor sharing in the agricultural land holding. Studies reveal that there is correlation between the rural poverty and landlessness. Therefore, we can say that without bringing up majour changes to reduce the inequality in agricultural land holdings, the Dalits dream of attaining a more viable economic situation will continue to be limited.

          It is to be noted that the number of land reform programmes are neglected and they have not really rooted in the lives of Dalits. Poverty is common everywhere in the world but in India Dalits are denied of their economic advantage and they are discriminated and isolated in the name castes. We need to evolve a “Caste” strategy to fight against exploitation of the marginalized people. Ambedkar did incorporate many principles of Marxism and his Neo-Buddhism, philosophy of change, primacy of economics, class animosity, exploitation, nationalism, socialism etc.

However, the question arises who will lead the Indian economic movement, it is to be given to the Indian proletariat. The Industrial proletariat is caste ridden and itself is negalitarian, hence unfit to lead the revolution unless it strives to abolish the caste system. For Ambedkar, it was the social Proletariat, the masses of the scheduled castes and tribes, who should be leading the Indian revolution.[7] Therefore, to attain perfect equality in India it is necessary that there should be eternal struggle against the class system. Psychologically Dalits are made to feel ashamed of their art form. Food habits, their religion and even their very existence. Women are also made to feel to shame and fear. Tamil culture holds the view that the shame and fear are the ornaments of good women. These two emotions drastically affect communication and render people powerless and obedient. Ecologically Dalits are made to live in places that do not have enough space for decent life. These places are usually unhealthy. They are not allowed to go to certain places like Temples and roads and thus their living place is reduced. If anyone is made to live in such a condition, he/she will loose self-confidence.   

1.5 Dalit women

          Dalit women are the victim of unjust systems of capitalism and casteism and her their is characterized by subordination, violence drudgery and sex exploitation. In UP there is an alarming increase in the number of atrocities of stripping women and parading them naked, molestation and rape. Human sexuality, a happy experience of companionship and a means of communication at the deepest leaves, is forced on Dalit women as a measure of retaliation and as a sign of rejection and exclusion. It is not accidental that social reformers like Periyar and Ambedkar who opposed caste system and fought against patriarchy.

          Hindus Jurisprudence the Manu Smruti, lays down the code of conduct with regard to women. A woman is not entitled to any religious vow except to serve her husband, she is not allowed to recite any Vedic Mantra, she is sexually insatiable and her company can be commanded by an upper caste infant. She can be deserted for not having a son, or for having a harsh tongue. A widow is considered inauspicious; she should not be present at any social rites and wear jewellery or good clothes. She is a man’s possession in short the position of women and the Sudra is the same, devoid of all rights and independent existence. We encounter a struggle between the Brahmincal and non-Brahmincal stricture.[8]

          Down thorough the centuries, discrimination is shown towards women in all the spheres and aspects of her life. The Hindu religion, which is built on the caste system, has a majour impact on the status of Dalit women. Manu’s law is the law of the land of India. The following are the Manu’s sayings on women:

1.     A wife has no right than to serve her husband.

2.     A woman is sexually insatiable.

3.     A woman’s company as mother, sister and daughter is not to be there with a man in a solitary place lest his passions overpower him.

4.     If a woman is barren, the husband can remarry another woman.

5.     In order to discipline the wife her husband can beat her up.[9]

In a family, she is the breadwinner. She does all the household works. With the dawn, she goes to work in the fields. Dalit women work so hard and often they do not fill their stomach instead, they go to bed often filling her stomach with water. In Indian society, the Dalit women are not treated as a human being. Poverty, dowry, murders, widow burning, female infanticide have assumed new forms with modernization and technological advancement. The rural Dalit women face more atrocities from the upper caste men and women. Any time the upper caste men can use them as they like. Untouchability does not have any place here. The financial status of Dalit women is very adverse. Dalit women are estimated to contribute 80 % social labour to strengthen the Indian economy. There is no restriction on Dalit women going to work. There are free to do jobs that normally kept of from the upper caste women i.e. menial, filthy and unwelcome. They live in below poverty line, though she does hard work she will not earn much because there is cheap labour in the Indian economy. Even in the twenty first century, they live in the outskirts of the village, which is often filled with dirt and no facilities of drainage, toilets, washing and drinking water and so on.

Mechanization, liberalization, globalization have made the Dalit women’s life worse. Development as it implies promotes patriarchal culture. Women who role beedis, zari workers, weavers, gunny bag stitchers, garment and carpet makers and entire section of women who are engaged in strenuous work suffer from various disorders. They suffer from backache, shoulders and so on. Our constitution stresses on the need for promoting the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people. They have no voice and face. They are not allowed to have individuality if their own. The religion of the land had prescribed severe punishment in case they violate the rules given by Sudras. They cannot think of becoming any other person and confine themselves in the four walls of their home. These types of violence committed to women ranges from female foeticide, female infanticide, denial female children and education and so on.

So long the ‘isms’ of the Hindu religion remain the guiding principles of Indian life, so long as the  thrones of power are occupied by the high caste men, so long as the corridors of power are treaded by men, the Dalits and OBCs remain mute, blind and action less there is no redemption for them. They have to keep their eyes open, ears keen, mind alert and voice out their demands fearlessly, join hands to fight for their rights. Only this vigilance and eternal preparedness to struggle against injustice would end humiliation of the mothers, sisters and the daughters of India. This will be realized when the women and the Dalits, unite, educate and agitate.












Chapter II


    The religion of Dalits

2.0 Introduction

The Dalits, i.e., the broken people of our country are in a historical struggle for the last 150 years, to build a new identity within the nation’s existence. The challenge before them to bring a social order, which will put an end to their centuries old political and economic marginalization and heal their religious wounds as untouchables with a new spiritual wholeness. As for the religious identity is concerned they search for the liberation from the upper castes through the struggles led by the Dalits in different directions in the past. As a result, we find them in numerous anti Brahmincal, historical movements of protest within the Hindu heritage as well as religions like Islam, Sikhism, Christianity and Buddhism. In recent years, we find increasing tendencies among the Dalits writers to draw inspiration from some of their own original myths, symbols, gods, and heroes in order to rebuild then distorted religio-cultural identity.

This chapter exclusively deals with the religion of Dalits. Folk religions are the religions of the marginalized, religions of the oppressed and broken people. Dalits have been considered no people, but studying them thoroughly will make us to understand their struggle for the liberation and justice. There is a saying in Tamil, which goes like this “Muppathu Mukkodi Devar”. According to this saying there are three hundred and thirty million gods in India, which only points to the innumerable forms of the manifestation of god. The majority of the manifestations are found in the popular religions. The strong and big group who control and propagate there religion failed to give importance to the folk religion. For example in India the upper caste groups have presented their classical, sanskritic Hinduism as the religion of the all Indians for ages, suppressing other forms of religions. Therefore, it is importance for us to study the characteristics of the folk religion. Their practices and beliefs will be for us a revelation, which will make us to admire the rich culture of India.


2.1 Characteristics of folk traditions.   

a.        It is non-established, non-formalized and non-institutionalized religion. Comparing with the majour religions like Christianity, Hinduism and Islam the folk religions have no structure and have no recognized religious leader. Folk faiths and practices often function beneath the surface, as a kind of religious underworld, probably frowned upon ridiculed or even persecuted, or possibly tolerated as a concession to common people’s ignorance. Yet they have pure forms of faith, there has been in reality an unrecognized incorporating of many religious features of that folk life. For example; Female and Mother deities, sakti cults, yoni-Liga, averting evil eye, sacred trees, sacred bath, sacred rocks and hills etc. The religious life of well-integrated character of tribal people, with its normative, institutional forms of expression, is clearly a kind of ‘established’ religion for the concerned tribal people.[10]

b.        Folk religion can be categorized as non-elitist. One does not share its life as the result either of birth in a privileged family or even generally of initiation by a prescribed rite. It is open to any one at any time. We must remember that no religions in the world flourished without the activities of people with special gifts of insight, some professional storyteller, singers, soothsayers etc. Even in folk religions, these things are taking place. Therefore, we have to re-work the tradition in response to new conditions; there should be a separate machinery to look after the progress of the folk religions.

c.        Folk religion springs up within Local communities and it is the direct response of the local conditions rather than being a sharing in a centrally national or global tradition. Therefore, no one should assume that folk religion is the same wherever found globally. There are common patterns but there is important diversity. Changes in the conditions of that local world affect the folk traditions in two contrary ways. It may bring about a crisis in the folk traditions and these days the folk traditions have been traumatized by the rapid changes introduced by the modernization and technology. Huge number of tribals moved from primal traditions to one or other majour faiths. Secondly, the interaction of folk tradition and modernity is crucial for the Dalits today. The importance of individual, mobility, the scientific spirit and its objectivity, rationality, the sense of belonging to the global community are to be stressed.

d.        Language plays a vital role in culture and its symbolism. The nuances, idioms, the implicit imaginary, the very sounds used in language differ greatly in our language. In folk language local idiom differs so much from elicit use of the same language.[11]

e.        We can also see that there is a lot emphasis on healing in folk traditions. It gives importance to the body and spirit of the individual, that psychosomatic unity and the whole life of the community. It’s emphasis on relating the recovery of wholeness to the spirit—world as well to the wide range of leaves, roots etc., point to a very different perception of healing from the basic assumptions of Western practice.

f.          Perhaps the most prominent feature of folk region is its reference to the Spirit World like tree, world, stream, earth, rock and hill. Ecstatic change of one’s spirit awareness is needed if there is to be fruitful channeling of the power to heal, to help, to counsel etc. of that spirit—world. Again the drum is often a key instrument of such ecstatic participation that is why so many Christians of rural background find themselves to drown to similar practice of ecstatic spirituality.[12]

2.2 Religious perception of the masses and their artistic expression

          The religious perceptions, the myths, and the worshiping of deities of the Dalits are mostly similar to those of the Tribals and even the language style and the non-Sanskritic vocabulary are the same to both. From the very fact that the religion of Dalits and the Tribals is distinctly different from the Hindu religion, we can say that these groups have some art forms, song traditions and symbols, which are special to these groups. The great poet Vamana who wrote a hundred pieces of simple moral poetry used only desi structure and they are well known to the common people. Many others also used the couplet forms. In our times poets coming from a Dalit caste produced great works of powerful poetry challenging the caste system and strongly condemning the caste people oppressing the Dalits. The community dances and martial arts like stick dance are being part of the Dalit and tribal ritual processions. These and others forms of artistic expression create an emotional liberation, they also have a strong unifying force, and they urge the Dalits and tribals to overcome their oppression. It is to be remembered that in Dalit or in tribal communities there is hardly anything which can be called a Kacheri (performance) or a stage play, which is performed by some experts and enjoyed by others. The Chekka Bhajans (group dances with wooden symbols) of the village and Kummi dances of the women are good examples of this kind of group celebrations.

          It may be said that the Tribal and Dalit arts do not have many complicated symbols with great philosophical meaning as we see in the arts of Vedic culture. Many  Dalits symbols are simple and easily accepted and interpreted by the community and closely related to their daily life and activities. For example, the Dalits in some parts of South India at one of their great festivals, make the image of the a clay bull and takes it in procession. They do not forget to insert the pair of ears of paddy in its mouth. This is their way of feeding the bull so that their harvest may be rich.


  1. The pot. The earthen pot or a group of pots of varying sizes form a basic and important art form in the village festivals and household ceremonies of the Dalits. Some times these pots are painted on the household ceremonially with archaic white and red designs of dots and lines. A pot represents plentiful ness and prosperity. It is also a powerful symbol of womb and tomb.
  2. Rangavalli designs and wall paintings. These paintings are done during the harvesting season in South India. Early morning the women of the household or the girl child wash the doorstep and the floor outside and make these designs with white limewater. Some times these symbols are supposed to undo the effects of the ‘evil eye’ of the on lookers. The rangavalli patterns show interesting abstracted images of chariots, serpents, padmas and variations of mandalas. So also on the clothes that the Dalit women wear, one sees some interesting patterns related to their culture. On olden days Dalits women used wear particular coloured saris to denote their place in the society. The design of mango, or peacock or the elephant and the cobra are common symbols these people’s clothes.
  3. Clay figures and wooden figures: Terracotta horse figures are symbols of protection in some communities of Dalits and tribals.[13] In many places in south India, these terracotta horses are standing at the entrance of the village as guardians and protectors. Kondapalli and Tiripathi in Andhra Pradesh are famous for small wooden figure and hand made images of deities skillfully carved by artisans.
  4. Creation of Myth and painting: it is good to study a tribe to analyze the expressions of tribals and Dalits. The Rathva Tribe in Gujarat is one of the twenty-Seven protected groups, which had survived from the ancient times in geographical isolation away from the urban centers and outside the main stream of the Hindu society. The main wall of the verandah of the Rathva house is considered sacred to Pithoro the God of fertility. The story of the main myth is painted by the members of the village community of on the wall having marked a central ‘holy’ area surrounded by painted complicated border design. The picture area itself is divided into three horizontal sections the upper one for the world of Gods, the middle one for the wedding procession of Pithoro who is one of the most revered of the Rathva deities and the one who is believed to have been born to an unwed woman. The bottom portion depicts the actual myth of creation wherein are shown the earth, the mystical farmer, the cow and the bull and various creatures of the forest and the field.[14]
  5. The drum. It is of great importance in ancient cultures and it is of very significance in the traditional role of any Dalit communities, throughout India’s Tribal communities especially in the North East. Drum is also given great significance in some Vedic sources, in Saivism and even in some Krishna traditions.


2.3 Problems and prospects of Dalits religion

          The basic problem of the Dalits or folks religion is that there is unwanted bias in the minds and the hearts of people. This bias is formulated in the form of the study of the classical, literary and cultural spears. The first problem is that of defining what is meant folk or Dalit religion. Too often folk culture is taken to mean traditions that are relics from the past. In danger of being lost, these old traditions are being preserved in our folk museums and folk craft centers. What I hold is that the folk cannot be used exclusively to mean what is handed from the past. It needs to be understood as the immediate and dynamic situation of the present than past.

          These folk traditions are too often seen exclusively in terms of arts, crafts, design, music, dance, stories, and proverbial sayings etc. obviously folk culture does include all these arts and crafts. However, unless we see folk culture as essentially the expression of a distinctive consciousness and forms of feeling and living enhanced human communities for millennia we miss their significance.

          Similarly, folk religion is too often identified with rural ways of life, people who lived close to earth’s life, responding to the rytham and the challenges of nature, these alone have been seen as practitioners of folk lore. There is much truth in this but again we must not assume that the millions of rural people who recently have become urbanized and industrialized are therefore no longer following folk traditions whatever radical changes in consciousness this process may introduce. There is overlap between the terms culture and religion. All religions have their cultural dimensions, but not all culture have religious dimension. For while culture has to do with all those values and symbols while religion concerns with the ways of the people often as communities within the wider community. One has to bear in mind that the term culture and religion are closely intertwined. It is only by acquaintance with the wider cultural dimension of folk life that there is any hope of identifying folk religion with a society.                                                      
































      Chapter III


           Caste and alternative culture



3.0 Introduction

          One of the important problems in India, which is related to the base structure of Indian society, is casteism and its inhuman expression called untouchability. Though the Indian society is known for its cultural plurality, its social structure mainly caste system cutting across all cultural barriers continue to divide the people in the name of caste and religion. The political parities in India are not free from the casteism. In such a context, the minority and the downtrodden communities are often forced a life of degradation and disintegration. The principle of unity in diversity is not sufficiently true in reality. The terrific number of atrocities against the Dalits in every state painfully reinstates that Indian society is fundamentally caste-discriminatory.  Caste is defined as a rigid social structure in which social hierarchy is maintained historically. The word caste is originated from Portuguese root ‘casta’ signifying breed, race or kind.

The devastating social practice of caste discrimination calls for serious study and in-depth analysis of the problem of the caste system, in order to pave way for the intelligible and meaningful alleviation of casteism the philosophy of Ambedkar is more relevant to respond to this social context. Because Ambedkar as a Dalit is one of the fervent fighters against the casteism and promoter of social justice in favour of the liberation of Dalits. His contribution towards the removal of casteism goes beyond the boundaries of any political and theoretical reductionism in India. His life was oriented towards to establish a just Indian social order.

The main emphasis of this chapter is to find out the ideological foundation of caste system and untouchability with reference to Hinduism and to reconstruct the philosophy of liberation, which ultimately will promote a practical and political response to the problem of caste slavery. Thus, Hinduism as a religion and a social order is the majour area of enquiry of the present chapter. The caste system is the black spot in the beautiful face of Mother India, which will not be erased unless each one feels the need of finding out the caste layers and trying to abolish it with a firm political will.



3.1 Layers of Castes

Filled with layers of castes, Indian society has been promoting inequality from time immemorial. Its structure is marked by graded inequality, based on Varna, caste and untouchability. Our economic inequality is also mainly due to these piles of castes. There is integral relation between the caste system and the complexity of the social and economic order. The vast socio-economic disparities though changing in form have been increasing not decreasing. Social anthropologists and economists are engaged in the discussion of the inter-relation between the caste and the class. Even those they believe in the primacy of economic relations in social evolution have begun to do some rethinking.

There are two majour theories that are believed to explain casteism. First is the religion based on the ideologists developed by Brahmins harking on the laws of Manu secondly, the creation of the Hymn of the Rig Veda, puranic myths and epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. These theories came to be known as Varna theories. The Aryan priests, lawmakers divided the society in to a caste system of four parts. They created four hereditary divisions of society, putting their own priestly class at the head of the caste system with the title of earthly gods or Brahmans. Second in rank were Kshatriyas who suppose to rule and teach people. There were Vaisyas who are known as merchants and traders. The fourth was Sudras who were known as workers and peasants. The first three are twice born as these men are entitled to wear the sacred thread while Sudras are not. The untouchables are outside the Varna system. The four groups have originated from divine and emerged from the portion of creator. Brahman emerged from mouth of God, Kshatriyas from his arms, and Vaisyas from his thighs and Sudras from his feet. Far lower than the Sudras and out of the social order are the untouchables.[15]

Varna literally means colour and refers to the distinction between the Aryans and Dravidians. The complexion of Brahmanas obtained was white, that which Kshatriyas obtained was red that which the Vaisyas got was yellow that which was given to Sudra was Black. The implication of the colour identification is that the Brahmanas had the attribute of Goodness (Sattwa), the second order had the attribute of passion (Rajas), the third got the mixture of the two i.e. both goodness and passion (Sattwa and Rajas), while the lowest order got the remaining attribute i.e. Darkness (Tamas). However, one must remember that the caste and Varna are not the same but two different things and Varna is not the reason for the origin of castes.[16]

Hierarchy also decides the diet and occupation. The vegetarian caste occupied the highest position and thus vegetarians are expressed as evidence of high status. Liquor drinking, eating the pig etc. are tend to lower the ritual rank of caste. Similarly, degrading occupation such as leatherwork, cutting hair etc. tends to lower the rank. The Varna scheme has enabled the people to grasp the caste system by providing them with a clear scheme. It has provided the common social language, which holds good for India as a whole. The seed for the caste system in India was shown by the Varna system.

3.2 Communist movement and upper castes

          The communist movement emerged with a clear plan of abolishing the caste structure in Indian society. The movement was well spread in India especially in the regions of Telengana, Andhra Pradesh. Those joined the communist movement chose to combine the poor people and property owners calling them agriculturist class. It was only the communist party, which demanded complete independence for India. Even so, it was not able to displace the congress from the leadership of the nationalist movement. One of the reasons was its failure to analyze the class character of the party. In spite of having committed members in the party, they were not able to make their presence felt and spread it among the workers and peasants.[17] Although they fought heroically in the first ever-armed struggle in India i.e. in Telengana, after the police action, one section of the upper castes joined hands with the ruling party.

          There is no doubt that many sacrificed for the cause of caste drive, especially from the castes of Brahmins, Kammas and Reddis. Many of them took active part in the Telengana armed struggle. Notable among them were Panchadri Mallikarjunudu, Balredddi and many others like them, dedicated their families, properties and even their lives to the struggle. The other two main parties, viz the CPI and the CPM there were Putchalapalli Sundaraya and Chandra Rajeswara Rao and many others who had worked hard for the Communist Movement.

          However, the Indian communist movements did not understand the firm grip of caste on Indian society in conducting their activity. Even in the central Telengana and Srikakulam agitations, the roots of castes were neither snapped nor the untouchability eradicated. They wrote books on the abolition of caste society but in practice the problem of caste and untouchability were not tackled marriages alliances continued to be made within the same family. Only leaders were involved in the party but the families continued to merge in the ocean of caste. Observing the movement Katti Padma Rao says, “The communist Movement, which had completed seven decades of its existence, never tried to apply the principles of Dialectical Materialism propounded by Marx and Engels to Indian society. Had it be done, it is no exaggeration to state that a proper policy would have been evolved for a fight against caste”.[18] When the communist movement was in its high tide, a few inter caste marriages did take place but they were only symbolic expression. The percentage of Reddis and Kammas were also higher than the backward classes, Scheduled castes, Scheduled Tribes and other minorities. According to Marxist theory, it is assumed that all the changes are brought about by the economic struggle. However, we must understand the condition of the poor people; they do not have the courage to step in the field of the landowner to cultivate the land. On the other hand, we see that the Indian communist party was not able to take any decision because of the lack of clarity. It was not even to popularize the scientific attitude of Buddhism. Its main emphasis had been on the economic struggle, under impression that a change in the economic foundation could lead to a change in the whole system. Within the party, there were mixed opinions to take up this task as a result divisions began to widen with in the party.

          The cause for all these is the absence of a strong social slogan. In addition, there is need for a scientific theoretical background to lead the revolution. Marx and Engels fought relentlessly against the religious ideas of their day. They gave scientific interpretations to their ideology. What we want today is that a powerful intellectual and scientific revolution for the cause of the Dalits. Moreover, the Dalits movements and the communist should come together to fight for the Dalits, because if the enemy sees us alone we will be destroyed.

3.3 Abolition of caste

          Dr. Ambedkar rightly said “On the foundations of castes you can’t build a nation, you can’t build a morality.”[19] Annihilation of casteism is one of the most essential elements in Ambedkar’s socio political frame. It cannot be done just by abolishing the sub-castes nor by inter caste marriages. The caste system should be abolished in its spirit and letter. For Ambedkar the ideal world would be society based on liberty, equality and fraternity. An ideal society should be mobile, full of channels for conveying a change taking between one part to the other side of the land. If Hindu society is to become a casteless society, it will involve a reorganization of the whole society. If revolution against caste system should succeed in India, there should be an open revolution against the landlords, this could be organized by Dalits. The political leaders and upper castes cannot organize this revolution; it is evident from the struggle of last fifty years.[20]

          If Hindu society is to become casteless society, it will involve a re-organization of the whole of that society. All the sections of the Hindus should come to gather and fight for the cause of the Dalits. If revolution is to succeed in India there should be open revolution against the caste superiority of the landlords. They promote the casteism in the rural areas. Dalits could organize this revolution. It is evident from the past that the leaders of the upper caste cannot conduct revolution. Because it is evident from the nature of their struggle that the mode of their revolution is based on economic struggle. As Dr. Ambedkar puts it, a Brahmin can never be revolutionary for he likely to have one defect or the other. They are not able to overcome from the grip of caste. On the contrary, a Dalit would never like the caste system to continue.[21] The Dalits want the casteism to disappear and replaced by alternative culture. As Ambedkar said, the consciousness of a Hindu, in whichever party he might happen to be, whichever theory he might profess to hold, is only “one consciousness, i.e. caste consciousness.”[22]

          This movement must be conducted based on Ambedkar’s principles, until the Dalits achieve their freedom-economic, social, and political. For conducting this fight, Ambedkar formulated a devise. For he said, “I believe that unless we totally change our social attitude, we cannot achieve any kind of progress. There is no doubt about this. Either for a defence against attacks or for a counter attack, we cannot organize Hindu society in its present form. We cannot build any thing on the foundation of castes, it is sure to crack in to bits and pieces.”[23]

          Untouchability will vanish only when whole of the Hindu social order, particularly the caste system, will be dissolved. It is an uphill task because every institution is sustained by some sort of sanction. There are three types of sanction: there are legal, social and religious. The vitality of the Hindu religion depends upon the nature of the sanction. Unfortunately, the guiding force behind the cast system is a religious sanction, for the caste originated from Vedas, which are the sacred book of the Hindu religion and are sacred to the Hindus and they are infallible.

          The destruction of caste could be achieved by turning the people’s mind from Dharma Sastras. Caste is not a creation of Dharma Sastras, Puranas and Vedas, the system had been mentioned by them, and thus they increased the people’s faith. They had only codified the castes that were existing, but they have not themselves created it. They might be helped for the growth and strengthening the system.

          The Varna system, which came in to exist was based on occupations because of division of labour in the policy of production by slave labour in the gradual evolution of society, which in turn become the caste system. Thus, it has a social foundation consisting of the pattern of production and its relations. Therefore, one of the ways to annihilate caste system could be propaganda against the beliefs in caste system and caste system may not be destroyed by this alone, there should be complete dismantling of the social system of the Hindus. As Indian society had evolved into the Hindu society, it was possible to destroy the social and political domination of the upper castes, only with the destruction of castes. For this, the lower castes should organize themselves into a social class. This was similar to the theory of class conflict, propounded by Marx to suit the conditions in Europe. It is to be remembered that the foundations of Hindu society cannot be destroyed without uprooting the foundations of the Hindu ideology. The caste system cannot be removed by changing the surface.

          Annihilation of castes has a broader dimension. It is the practical unity of man and the solidarity of humanity in fraternity. Ambedkar explained it in is famous final address in the constituent Assembly. “The second thing we are wanting in, is the recognition of the principle of fraternity. Fraternity means a sense of common brotherhood among Indians. It is the principle, which gives unity and solidarity to social life. Without fraternity, liberty and equality are no better than the coats of pants and it is very much essential to forget the caste difference.[24]


3.4 Alternative Religion

          This alternative principle is not a product of today, nor of our making. The Indian subcontinent has seen so many powerful philosophical and social movements. One of such movements is that the Buddhist culture. The Buddhist can be the alternative culture to Hinduism. In the first stage of the development of Buddhism in India, the social outlook came forward as an antidote to Hindu religious arrogance. The Buddhists conducted their propaganda in a variety of forms to take the message of social revolution to the hearts of the people. Buddha adapted the language of the people among the masses, as an alternative to Sanskrit. His teachings are preserved in the Tripitakas, which are in Pali. Pali is connected with one of the Prakrit languages and had its origin in the northwest region of India.

          The Buddhists brought their principles and teachings to the people in methods quite different from those adapted by the Brahmin-dominated Hindu society. This movement which was initiated six centuries before Christ, tried to develop an alternative culture. Culture is generally something, which reflects the life style and the thought pattern of the people and the society. A change in culture affected in the sphere of education, art, literature and philosophy of the society concerned.

          To propagate their culture the Buddhists adapted a variety of methods: Stupas, Viharas, Buddhists caves, pillars. Buddhists Girigas and places of sculpture in India are widely known. The Buddhists used the Araamas as perement places for their dwelling, thinking, and for developing new thoughts.[25] The impact of Buddhist culture could also be seen on the leaders of Bhakti Movement, with its emphasis of the humanist approach in the middles ages, like Kabir and Nanak. Ramakrishna Paramahansa also was influenced by the teachings of Buddha. Though these leaders took the humanist element from Buddhism, they could not adapt the sanga theory, because in it expressed the veiew of equality, freedom from the caste, unity and equal rights for women. In their effort to evolve an alternative culture, Buddhists looked at lives from all angels and initiated new developments. They merged their life with society.

          What is Buddhism? It is humanitarianism; it is something like the gospel of humanity preached by the positivists whose doctrine is the elevation of man through man—that is through human intellect, human intuitions, human teaching, human experiences, and accumulated human efforts—to the highest ideal of perfection. The reason for the Buddhists standing so firmly for humanism was its total absence in Hinduism. They kept away from the rigid religious practices of Hinduism and looked the world from the human point of view and its growth. During the Asoka’s reign, Buddhism was the national religion of India. Asoka ruled for thirty-six years, during these years the values of Sanga Dharma and Manavata Dharma was reflected in that age. In his own time, Buddha was called by names because of his service to humanity in many fields. He was called by the names of Sakya Muni, Sakya Simha, Siddhartha, and Mahapurusha etc.[26] The reason for the Buddhist culture so deeply rooted and widespread covering many parts of the world is its service to humanity and its universality.

          It is therefore important to note that if the caste system is to be exterminated, it cannot be done without destroying the Hindu culture, it will not be destroyed merely because of the inter castes marriages. It requires a change in education, a change in way of living, a radical reconstruction of education and culture. It is also vital to reorganize our arts i.e. Painting sculpture etc. and promote them as an alternative to Hindu culture. This would also serve to eliminate caste system.

          Dalits have their identity, they have their religion, and they have a unique culture i.e. Buddhism. It can be an alternative religion to Hinduism. If we choose to go ahead forgetting the Buddhist culture, it will be very difficult to provide an alternative to Hinduism. Buddhist culture spread its light of social revolution not only in the Indian subcontinent but also some in some of the parts of Asia. Therefore, it can be an alternative religion to Buddhism. It can provide vitality and strength to the struggles of Dalits and it can lift up the fading spirits of Dalits.
























Chapter IV

Principles of restructuring Dalits movements



4.0 Introduction

            If any one wants to bring about change in the social order, they have to lay down the principles of their reconstruction programme i.e. the programme of action. First, there should be a common ideology for all the Dalits. It is out of this that they can discover the strategies for change in the society. The common ideology will have to emerge out of the movements for change. We have to reconstruct the roots of Dalits oppression, their history of alienation and subjugation by the dominant culture. We have to rediscover the sources for the Dalits identity through the process of research and reflection.

          There should be unity in diversity. The search for the common ideology cannot ignore the existing linguistic, religious and cultural diversities or the geo-political realty that has scattered Dalits into the four corners of the country. The unity among diversity based on the socio-cultural and politico-economic oppression of Dalits draws them together in a common quest for liberation and for a just society.

          The women’s movement in India has emphasized that the Dalits women are the dust of the dust in Indian society—the thrice oppressed, brutalized and abused not only by the upper castes but Dalit men too. They are the victims of patriarchal constraints within the Dalit fold. The Dalits movements must take into consideration the patriarchal restraints that have denied Dalit women their identity and value as the human person.[27] The women’s movements must be seen as the partner in the search for a society of justice and human dignity.

          The need for humanism in action must be stressed for social rejuvenation. From time to time, those against the upper castes sang the song of humanism all over India as poets, singers and devotees. In this music of humanism are hidden their anguish, agony and the anger to fight. All of them however, preached different principles with different outlook.

          This chapter deals with the concrete steps for the upliftment of Dalits and other downtrodden people. It is important to draw action plan for the effective and useful struggle against the upper castes and the other dominating groups in the society.  


4.1 Building up the culture of equality

          The entire essence of Hindu culture is contained mainly on caste. If the foundations of castes are blown up, we can find that there is some kind of equality within the society. The abolition of caste should be the principle programme of any movement. One of the principles is that there should be continuous inter caste marriages. Anti-caste marriage platforms must be built up in every village, to facilitate inter-castes marriages. It will facilitate to change in the order of caste system. It will also help to build a just order in the society.

          Caste suffixes like Sharma, Sastri, Choudary, Gowd, Naidu, Reddy, Raju, Yadav etc should be banned. The names should not reflect the castes they belong. This will reduce the identification of a particular caste. Instead, one must name the child after great social reformer, scientist, educationalist or statesmen. In a way a kind of social awareness is creates in the mind of children. There should be abolition of the practices of dowry system, the human dignity must be valued, and there should be equal status for the women and children.

          People must give up the traditional caste occupations and through education, they must generate new sources of income. To improve the standard of living each one must have a strong financial backing and sound economic system. To realize this goal one must  work hard to pursue in the cultural, financial and political fields. All the symbols should be removed from the houses; they should exhibit sign of new culture. The pictures of B.R. Ambedkar, Mahatma Phule and Periyar E. V. Ramaswami Naickar could replace the traditional and mythological Hindu gods’ pictures and so on.

          The houses should be named after great Dalit reformers or with the words, that suggests equality. For example: Samata Nilayam, Ambedkar Nilayam, Sneha Nilayam, Mahatma Nilayam, Charvaka Nilayam, Buddha Nilayam, Manavata Nilayam, etc.[28] These words will increase the social consciousness of the people and eradicate the inequality among the people. Above all each house should become the humanist centre where small village can be seen. This family will become nucleus of new village, so that the spirit of humane qualities and spirit of brotherhood can be promoted and the values can be cultivated in the hearts and minds of the Dalits. What we do not get at home we will not get in the street, what we do not get in the street we will not get in the village what we do not get in the village we will not get in the state what we do not in the state the nation cannot offer, therefore it is imperative and important for us to cultivate values at home, to realize this dream each home should become the centre of teaching humanist values.

          There should be a personal library at home. It will improve the intellectual caliber of the people. They must prevent their houses and the minds of their children from becoming the instruments to be utilized in favour of Hindu culture and capitalist structures, instead there should be books promoting equality and brotherhood. There should be collection of books written by the intellectuals on history, culture and society.

          People should stop completely the celebration of Hindu festivals. These Hindu festivals can be replaced by the days like: New Year 1 January, Mother’s Day 15 January, International Women’s Day 8 March, Dalit Unity Day 17 July, United Nation’s Day 24 October etc. These days will create social awareness among the people to build the culture of reality. It will also lay a foundation for a new social order in the society.

          Above all people should remove the economic disparities; it is the basis of one’s development. The present condition is alarming the rich becomes richer every day and the other hand and in contrast the poor remains poor. They cannot come up in their life it is a social stigma on our face. Therefore, the primary aspect of each Dalit should have the attitude of raising   the standard of living and the economic conditions. The building of culture of equality has become necessary in the programme for removing the conflicts of race, caste, class, sex and language. In a democracy, the equal right is given to all to perform his/her social duties. Therefore, one cannot claim to have the higher stature and the other the lower stature this view goes against the principle of democracy. The time has come to uproot the caste tree that has been growing for thousands of years. These programmes of action to remove the inequality of the people will be realized only when each one feels the need to grow oneself and let the others to grow.

4.2 Reconstruction of rural culture

          India lives in villages said Gandhi. The heart of India does not lie in the cities but in the rural areas. More than the 70% of India’s population lives in villages. In rural India, caste plays a significant role. There are many streets which being named after a caste or the other. In addition, all the Hindu ritualistic practices are done according the caste tradition. Therefore, there should be a ban on the naming the streets and villages after a caste. As for culture, art forms, based on religion should not be encouraged: only popular and non-denominational art forms must be promoted. We should promote the sport activities among different castes; this will be an effective means to eradicate caste disparities and expedite social change and establish social unity.

          Villages continue to be the basis of agriculture and the support of manual workers yet, untouchability, illiteracy, ill health and poverty make people life miserable around the countryside. We have to dig up the foundations of Hindu, social system, which is the cause of the suffering of the Dalits in India. First, the names of the villages with the caste identity should be changed. People should give up the practice of building houses and colonies on caste basis; instead, we can be built common colonies, with equal status for all castes. The village festivals should represent the art forms of the people as a social harmony.[29] The arts like drum dances, group dances and other folk art forms should be represented in the interest of promoting social culture. People can install the statues of great social reformers like Br. Ambedkar, Mahatma Phule and Periyar E. V. Ramaswami Naickar. Every Panchayat has to have a library to promote the social values of the people this will also eradicate the illiteracy and unscientific knowledge of the people. They can also build community halls as venue for discussion of village problems. The rural language must be fostered and promoted it will help greatly to preserve the native culture. To improve the health conditions of the rural people the government should organize health centres.


4.3 Propagation of rural arts

          In India, popular arts, different from those representing Hindu culture has been flourishing since ancient times; these have been represented on the people’s literature and art forms. They had sprung from the people; therefore they should be promoted by the people. The literature of the languages of the suppressed castes and tribes must be brought to light. The living literature closely lined with the life and culture of the people should be examined. There are many art forms, which form part of the family tradition of certain castes and are considered low in society. For instance, there is wealth of music, and valuable library heritage in the songs of the fisher folk, the hymns of the shepherds, well known as the Golla Suddulu, the proverbs of Rajakas (Washerman) the music of Nayi Brahminis (barbers).[30] These people have to be taught these kinds of art and literature to provide an able alternative culture.

          Instead of encouraging harikathas and Purana Pathas, we have to promote new art forms that enrich the art forms of people like, Burra kathas, Jakkula kathas and Jamukula kathas. We have to find out the brave hearts and heroes in these art forms and try to promote them. By bringing forward the groups songs of the Dalits, we will be contributing to a cultural renaissance of the Dalits.

There should be value based spread of education. At this stage, we must build schools of science education, to promote scientific approach, removing illiteracy among the lower castes, we should understand the history and culture of Dalit and strive for the establishment of a society based on equality. The percentage of educated people is very low among Dalits and other backward classes. Therefore, it is even more necessary that education of women should be encouraged. In every institution, there should be sufficient number of seats reserved for women. At present Dalits and other backward minority women, have no education and new means of livelihood. The gifts and talents of the Dalits have been drying up. They have to be helped to regain their self-confidence and self-respect. For this, the slave mentality and the superstitions imposed on them by the Hindu traditionalists have to be eradicated. In their place, a scientific outlook and a life style enlightened by the spirit of freedom will have to be promoted. Faculties must be provided to enable women to occupy equal status with men in political, economical, social, cultural and all other fields. For this professional education centres should be started for the women so that they may develop in life with the sense of responsibility towards the society.

4.4 Economic reorganization

This is most important field of development in any society. It is the basis of the growth of the society. Unless one is equipped with the good economic base, the progress will not be realised. Economically India finds herself in the hands of capitalists who control the World Bank, International Monetary Fund. The poor classes form 85 percent of the population of the country. Indian government every year borrows thousands of crores from the World Bank and keeping the India in a state of slavery. The present scenario of the ‘feel good factor’ of the government may not last long. The value of the Rupee progressively going down, the prices of the commodity correspondingly going up, they create chaos in the lives of the people. The Dalits, the backward classes and poor have become the victims of unemployment and under employment. They suffer from poverty, malnutrition and ill health. Unable to feed the children properly they go for the menial jobs. Living on the roads, on the pavements, under the bridges, by the side of the drainage canals, in slums they are steeped in poverty.

Indian constitution calls for the ‘socialistic’ pattern of society. The land of the people should be nationalized that all people may get equal share of the land. The economic imperialism of the West should be fought vigorously, voice of the poor nations in the international forums like WTO, IMF, World Bank must be raised to hear the conditions of the Third World countries. Land should be distributed for the Dalits, backward classes and minorities, it is their main source of income. The fight for the land must continue, covering excess lands, banjar lands, and those under Hindu religious and charitable endowments they must be distributed for the landless labourers. Among the formers, unions should be formed to raise the voice of the voiceless.

Therefore, the prime motive of the government should be that of raising economic condition of the poor and Dalits. The standard of the living of the people must be raised, the labourer deserve his wages. Unless and until they are equipped with good economic activities, development will remain a dream in their lives.


4.5 Political Reorganization

          Politics is the back borne of a country; the development of a nation largely depends upon the quality of its government. Political power is vital to reorganize any system. The founding members of the Indian National Struggle were from the upper castes. That is why the demands of the members were made according to their whims and fancies. Their political power is based on the interest of the Hindu religion, they follow the capitalist system and as far the society is concerned, they give importance to the upper class. Therefore, it is important to control the administration of the country. Political life of the people must be strengthened from the grass root level. The Dalits must have political power and the aim of the Dalits should be to provide alternative culture in the society.

          Against the unjust political authority of the upper castes, the Dalits backward and minority classes have been conducting agitations in some part of the country, but these agitations are suppressed by the people who favour the upper castes. Dalits should understand that they are descendants of indigenous Indian tribes. They must be informed that after being dominated by ruling classes for the last 5,000 years, the historical necessity has now come for them to become united to be equipped for political power.

          Parties and other organizations in the name of different castes and tribes should come together to form a party. They should have one symbol one motto i.e. “achievement of Dalit Rule” and united from village to the national levels. For replace the Hindu rule with the rule of the Dalits, women, youth, students, intellectuals, small traders, workers and ordinary people should put up a good fight. Therefore, capturing political power is necessary to raise Dalits and other backward people from poverty and from the social stigma of caste.       









Chapter V

Dalits and Media


5.0 Introduction

Now a day, Dalits issues have picked up the attention of the international media. The international communities have no idea about the devastating consequences of the caste discrimination. This caste business is a curse to India. As long as it continues to survive, there is no hope for India as a country to come up in the international stage. It is dirt with in and nobody wants to talk about this. Here are a couple of discussions about Dalit issues in the foreign media. Generally most Indians are not sensitive to caste discrimination that is faced by their own fellow Indians. The Hindu religion wants Dalits to fulfill their Karma perfectly. Most Indians would talk against apartheid or racism but they will not address some of our critical issues that shun our growth and development. Parents do not teach their children to elders set very bad example by showing hatred and discrimination to the people who are low in the social status or who are Dalits.


5.1 Abuse of the Dalits in the Christian Media

Rev. John Duraisamy, an editor of Sarvaviyabi, a Tamil Weekly from the archdiocese of pondicherry-Cuddalore published two cartoons consecutively on 4&11th July 1999. he published them deliberately to insult, to humiliate and to degrade the 240 million Dalits or the untouchables of India. The editor wanted to take some revenge on the dalit population and therefore he abused his power and authority to degrade the Dalits. The editor could be arrested The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, sec. 3,4,5,6,7, The Scheduled castes Scheduled Tribes (prevention of atrocities) Rules 1995, sec 3(1) (X) for the use of derogatory language against Dalits. Humiliating Dalits in the form of language or sect is an offence which is punishable by a term of six months to five years of imprisonment with a fine. The government of India enacted the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (PCR Act) to enforce the abolition of untouchablity under Article 17 of the constitution. The PCR Act punishes offences that amount to the observance of untouchability. There are two cartoons that provoked millions of Dalits in India and abroad. Many were shocked to witness this kind of apartheid within the church and expressed their deep regrets to the editor and  to the archbishop of Pondicherry.

Dalit history reveals that the dalit community had a rich culture of it’s own. Here, Dalits who are the children of the soil found ways of expressing their identity through folk arts and classic arts in oral and written forms. But these rich cultural treasures were stolen from them by the Brahmins and upper caste oppressors. Their cultural heritage was desecrated and destroyed and a foreign culture was imposed upon them. The Brahmins and upper caste oppressors saw to it that the Dalits would never produce a culture of their own. Even while destroying the culture of the Dalits, the Aryans absorbed many Dalit art forms and codified and modified them to suit their evil purposes. Dalits having been deprived of their glorious culture, which gave them meaning and strength to their existence, became a cultural people and consequently a powerless people, ie. No people. They were made to depend on Aryans to supply them with the signifying system and value system. The Aryans ingeniously used the art form and the various traits of their culture to openness and dehumanize the Dalits.

          The culture which is supposed to give a meaning system and value system to a society was made into an instrument of oppression and domination. This manipulation of culture to dehumanize the Dalits has continued down unabated through the centuries even till today. Just as casual look at those who are at the helm of communications made in India will prove that the manipulation of culture continues and the dominance of Brahmins and the upper caste is here to stay. The Dalits have neither money powernor the political clout to make their voices heard. It is the upper caste that determines what the dalits should think and how hw should act and how he should se is status in the society.

          Bu the use of electronic media and the print media, the upper caste society has successfully preserved its dominance and has tried to convince the world that the so called low castes people are indeed low people. What is even more outrageous is the attempt to make the Dalits themselves believes and accepts that they are low and worthless only to be despised and cast to become the outcastes.

5.2 Dalits and print

          If one were to term the Indian media as “as extended campus of Nathdwara temple”, it may be dismissed as “usual Dalit bitterness, a substitute to reason”. Here in lies yet another example that mirrors the conscience of this institution. The Washington DC hosted the world’s largest media convention called “Unity 2004”, attracting as many as 8,100 American journalists. So important was the event that both the US President nominee John Kerry addressed those assembled. The conference has almost become a American journalists’ Olympiad, held regularly every five years. It was first organized in Atlanta (1994), with 6,000 journalists attending. The figure went up to 7,000 at the following conference in Seattle (1999).

          Can one cite any other occasion, anywhere in the world, when such a large convention, lasting five days (August 4 to 8 in this case) has been hosted? Needless to add, this particular journalism Olympiad was a majour subject of discussion in the American media. India churns out 43,828 publications, including 4,890 dailies, in 18 principal and 81 lesser spoken languages and dialects. How come none of the publications covers Unity 2004?

          Most major Indian newspapers and news channels subscribe to American news agencies. Most even have their own representatives in the Us. Many editors are known to read American newspapers off the internet. News channel have special foreign desks to copy foreign news channel programmers. Didn’t this great convention merit coverage worth even a single column? Or a 10 seconslot on newspapers carry at least one page on international news. Even news channels regularly telecast an international segment. If this was a case of sheer lack of information, then most Indian journalists are incompetent. However, it stands “poltically incorret” to describe them so. Anyway it will be utterly foolish to allege that the Indian media did not know of Unity 2004.



5.3 Dalit Film Festival

          The very idea of a Suresh Lele in a Dalit Film Festival might sound utterly ridiculous. But such is the dalit condition in India. Lele’s film Mahadiga was acreened at the Cochin international Film Festival (CIFF) held between  August 6 interesting. While CIFF began on August 6, where a Dalit filmmaker got the opportunity to screen his film, another film festival had just ended on Agust 5, in the city of Netwark in the US.

            Beginning June 30, the Bleet Film Festival concluded on August 8, a 40-day exercise, where dozens film makers competed for best film, actor, director and soundtrack awards. The FNBFF was celebrating its 30th aniiversary , indicating that the annual exercise had begun in 1974. I understand that the FNBFF is not alone, there are many more similar agencies hosting Black film festivals all across the US. Will there be a Dalit film festival, say by 2020? By our standards, that would be a milestone in the history of the Dalit movement, albeit half a century behind the Black. It would be in order to state here that the first Black film The Railroad Porter was made in 1912, directed by Bill Foster, a pioneering Black film maker. The first Black film production company Lincoln Motion pictures was founded in 1915.what they want today is not jobs, but to live without being humiliated and harassed, said the Uttar Pradesh, India, official to the Time magazine reporter, describing the situation of his country's Dalits, or Black Untouchables. Meaning "broken and crushed," the Dalits are the descendants of India's first people, who were conquered by invading Aryan hordes around 2500 years ago, when Hinduism first took root in that country. They make up about one sixth of India's population, numbering around 160 million.

In 1935, the British rulers of India wrote a list of "scheduled classes" to "increase representation by lower-Castes in the Legislature, in Government employment, and university placement," according to a 1999 Human Rights Watch report. India's constitution guarantees that 15 percent of all government posts and university openings be reserved for Dalits. In 1955, "untouchability" was abolished by the Protection of Civil Rights Act. It looks good in print, but the reality doesn't come close.

Dalits would have to carry a cup around their neck to keep any spittle from "dirtying" the streets they walked on. They wouldn't be allowed to enter temples, or even certain parts of town. Once, Dalits had to beat on drums to announce their approach, so as not to dirty an upper-Caste person with even the touch of their shadow. They work the most menial jobs, cleaning toilets, sweeping streets, burning corpses. If a Dalit were to touch an upper-Caste person, they could expect to have that offending limb severed. This includes the poor guy who sleeps with the wrong upper-Caste woman, and his own sexual member. Of

course, this doesn't go for the upper-Caste men, who must simply "mutter daily prayers," as one reporter put it, after deflowering a Dalit bride on her wedding night, before her helpless husband's eyes. While some changes for the better have taken place, the progress is slow, too slow for some Dalits.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who coined the term "Dalit" was the first Dalit man to force the world's attention onto the plight of his Caste. Born in 1891, he was educated at New York City's Columbia University, by a scholarship from the Maharajah of Baroda, earning a Ph.D., and a D. Sc. from the University of London. When he returned to his homeland, he began urge a change in the system, forming political parties, opening universities for Dalits, publishing newspapers by and for Dalits, and helped write the Indian Constitution. Ambedkar became an outspoken opponent of Hinduism, once leading a mass public conversion to Buddhism of half a million followers. He is now a revered figure to the Dalits.

While a few Dalits attain positions of "power" such as Kocheril Ramon Narayanan, who became the first Dalit President of India in 1997, a largely symbolic post, this is rare. Dalits in many parts of India are picking up weapons and fighting back against the entrenched system of Caste apartheid, demanding their rights and an end to the Caste system. Others toil on in fear, intimidated, terrified to cross the line between servitude and self-governance.









General conclusion


The document, by Pope John Paul II, ‘Gaudium et Spes’ begins with a shocking statement “The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well.”[31] Therefore, the joys and hopes of the Dalits should be the joys and hopes of the government of India. Going through the different chapters, we have come to know that Dalits have history, they are oppressed and they will build an alternative culture. Therefore, it is imperative and important that the traditional functions of the Church i.e. fellowship, worship, proclamation, service and teaching be reinterpreted in such a way that the liberative dimension of Christian faith may become the dominant reason for the Church’s existence.

          It is important that Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist may not only be treated as identification marks for the members of the Church but also as acts through which God’s actions for the reconciliation with the marginalized class may be proclaimed and through which all denominations of the Christian faith may share a common meal. The Church also should immediately ensure equal status to women in the leadership and decision making process.

          The activities of the women’s fellowship and Sunday school should be radically reformulated to reinterpret the biblical faith to the crucial existential issues facing the women and the people in general. Women also should be given greater role to participate in the Church’s activities and make conscious effort to lead them to bright and promising future.

          There is a crying need for the Churches to proclaim solidarity with the Dalits and they should support in definite terms all movements whether it be religious or secular. There is also an urgent need to relocate its institution in rural areas and reorient its priority for the Dalits. There is also a growing need for the National counsel of Churches in India to join hands with the Catholic Bishop Conference of India to monitor the image of the Christian faith projected through the national media Doordarshan, All India Radio. They should use the media to protect and raise voice for the voiceless.

          The government must also act. Many of the deprived people, after years of waiting, are loosing patience. Their attitudes are changing, now they decided to take the matter in to their own hands, convinced that only their activities will do them justice. The perfect and modern example would be the people’s war group, which controls the many districts in Andhra Pradesh, runs several people’s courts, and asks the government to redistribute the land. The legal measures must be strengthened too. The constitution of Nyaya Panchayats will certainly be a great help. The emphasis of this institution should be on people’s participation and justice. Voluntary associations can play an important role. They must set up social justice cells in rural and urban areas. These must enroll advocates, journalists, social workers and other interested persons. They should try to conduct literacy campaigns, para-legal training, and efforts must be made to mobilize public opinion on crimes against untouchables.

          We claim to be the largest democracy. The constitution begins with the solemn acclamation “We the people of India”. Who are the people? The richest, the VVVIPs, mafia and the like? On the other hand, do they include the lowest, the least, the lost and the last? Is justice for the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, the bonded labourer and the suppressed gender? The kingdom of God is within you said Jesus. From the Vedas to Vivekananda rings the message that every human being is Divine. If every human being is divine, every Dalit is also a divine. Therefore, if we ignore the suppressed and the oppressed we defy God and defy His omnipresence.


















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Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1998.



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Deborah Premraj, From role to identity, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 1998.


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Devasahayam, Frontiers of Dalit Theology, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1998.


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Gnana Robinson, Religions of the Marginalized, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2002.



Jacob, The Dalit Situation In South India, Bangalore, NESA, 2002.



James Massey, Indigenous people: Dalits, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 1998.



John C.B. Webster, The Dalit Christian A history, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2000.


John Desrochers, India Today, Bangalore, Centre For Social Action, 1988. 


Joseph Putti, The Fair Deal, Bangalore, Kristu Jyoti College, 1993.



Katti Padma Rao, Caste and alternative culture, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1998.




Laxmi N. Berwa, Asian Dalit Solidarity, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2000.




Madan G. R. Indian Social Problems Vol I, New Delhi, Allied Publishers, 1987.




Matt Matravers, Justice and Punishment, New York, Oxford University Press, 2000.




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[1] Devasahayam, Dalits and women, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1995, p. 75



[2] Devasahayam, Dalits and women, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1995, p.76



[3] John C.B. Webster, The Dalit Christian A history, Delhi ISPCK, Publications, 2000, p.56


[4] John C.B. Webster, The Dalit Christian A history, Delhi ISPCK, Publications, 2000, p. 60


[5] John C.B. Webster, The Dalit Christian A history, Delhi ISPCK, Publications, 2000, p. 66


[6] James Massey, Indigenous people: Dalits, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 1998, p.48


[7] Mohan Larbeer, Ambedkar on Religion, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2003, p. 34


[8] Devasahayam, Dalits and women, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1995, p.48


[9] Devasahayam, Dalits and women, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1995, p. 56


[10] Gnana Robinson, Religions of the Marginalized, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2002, p.15


[11] Gnana Robinson, Religions of the Marginalized, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2002, p.17

[12] Gnana Robinson, Religions of the Marginalized, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2002, p. 20


[13] Gnana Robinson, Religions of the Marginalized, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2002, p. 23


[14] Gnana Robinson, Religions of the Marginalized, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2002, p. 22


[15] Katti Padma Rao, Caste and alternative culture, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1998, p.20



[16] Devasahayam, Dalits and women, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1995, p.44



[17] Katti Padma Rao, Caste and alternative culture, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1998, p.25


[18] Katti Padma Rao, Caste and alternative culture, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1998, p.28


[19] Mohan Larbeer, Ambedkar on Religion, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2003, p.47


[20] Mohan Larbeer, Ambedkar on Religion, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2003, p.66


[21] Laxmi N. Berwa, Asian Dalit Solidarity, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2000, p.69


[22]  Mohan Larbeer, Ambedkar on Religion, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2003, p.75


[23]  Mohan Larbeer, Ambedkar on Religion, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2003, p.75

[24] Mohan Larbeer, Ambedkar on Religion, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2003, p.59

[25] Arvind P. Nirmal, Towards a common Dalit Ideology, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1999, p.89


[26] Devasahayam, Frontiers of Dalit Theology, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1998, p.97


[27] Devasahayam, Dalits and women, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1995, p.122



[28] Katti Padma Rao, Caste and alternative culture, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 1998, p.138

[29] Arvind P. Nirmal, A reader in Dalit Theology, Chennai, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute, 2000, p.157


[30] George Oommen, Local Dalit Christian history, Delhi, ISPCK Publications, 2002, p.59


[31] Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, Mumbai, St Pauls Publications, 1995, p.794

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