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International Indexed & Referred Research Journal, April, 2012. ISSN- 0975-3486, RNI-RAJBIL 2009/30097;VoL.III *ISSUE-31  ...
International Indexed & Referred Research Journal, April, 2012. ISSN- 0975-3486, RNI-RAJBIL 2009/30097;VoL.III *ISSUE-31co...
International Indexed & Referred Research Journal, April, 2012. ISSN- 0975-3486, RNI-RAJBIL 2009/30097;VoL.III *ISSUE-31co...
International Indexed & Referred Research Journal, April, 2012. ISSN- 0975-3486, RNI-RAJBIL 2009/30097;VoL.III *ISSUE-31Th...
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  1. 1. International Indexed & Referred Research Journal, April, 2012. ISSN- 0975-3486, RNI-RAJBIL 2009/30097;VoL.III *ISSUE-31 Research Paper—Political Science Continuing Revolution of Dalit Identity Paradigms and Possibilities in Punjab April, 2012 * Nirmal Singh * Research Fellow in the Deptt. of Political Science, Panjab University ChandigarhA B S T R A C T The present paper is based on an exploratory study of the experiences of Dalit community in Punjab while providing special considerations to the Scheduled Castes. It is an attempt to find out those castes oriented features of Punjabi society which are unique and separate from the socio-cultural pattern of the other parts of India. The main objective of the study was to study and analyze the exclusion of Dalits in socio-economic and political spheres. The study was to identify spheres of exclusion, discrimination, practices and process in which they manifest in. This paper is based on secondary data, which were collected from published documents including Census Reports of India and Punjab, Research Reports, Books, Journals, Newspapers.Historical Perspectives of the term "Dalit" as well as Dalit categories. The constructions of the The term Dalit is a passive participle of the identity of Dalit, its strident critique of the Hindu so-Sanskrit root dal meaning to crack, split, open, etc. cial order and the present political system, and prom-Dalit implies those who have been broken, grounded ise of an alternative social justice have raised Dalitdown by those above them in a deliberate and active consciousness and expectations. Now Dalitness is away. There is in the word itself an inherent denial of source of confrontation and is a matter of appreciatingpollution, Karma and justified caste hierarchy. Ac- the probability of ones total being. Individual culture,cording to the Panther, the category Dalit is a revolu- social burden, and Dalitness cannot be isolated fromtionary one for its hermeneutic ability to recover the one another.revolutionary meaning of the historical part of the Historical Perspective of Dalit Upliftment inDalit people. Still later, Namdeo Dhasal, who was one Punjab The distinguishing feature of Dalits in Punjabof the founders of the Dalit Panther movement (1973) is that they constitute the largest proportion of the SCmade an effort to widen the scope of this term to in- population, i.e., 28.85 per cent (2001 census) com-clude Scheduled Castes, Tribes, Neo Buddhists, land- pared to 23.62 per cent in West Bengal, 21.4 per centless labourers and all those who are economically in Uttar Pradesh, and an all India average of 16.4 perexploited. The clearest definition of Dalit in its con- cent ( 2001, Census). Today it is estimated that thetemporary usage comes from a letter written to Zelliot proportion of Dalits may have risen above 32 per centby Gangadhar Pantawane, a professor of Marathi at in the state of Punjab. Dalits are sharply divided intoMillind College : 38 castes, scattered in different religions (Hinduism, Dalit is not a caste. He is mainly exploited by Sikhism, Christianity and Buddhism), mostly land-the social and economic tradition of this country. He less, economically marginalized, socially oppresseddoes not believe in God, rebirth, soul, holy books teach- and politically neglected. According to the official list,ing separatism, face and heaven because they have Punjab has 38 castes of Dalits Among these Chamarsmade him a slave. He does believe in humanism. Dalit and Balmikis are the most numerous castes.The majoris a symbol of change and revolution. group of Scheduled Castes are Mazhabi, Ad Dharmis, The term "Depressed classes" was mentioned Ramdasia, Balmiki, Bazigar, Mahasa, Megh, Sansi,in the census report 1921, but since the enactment of Bauria etc. These castes comprise 92 per cent of the SCthe Government of India Act 1935, the Dalits are con- population. Among Scheduled Castse, the four largestsistently referred to as "Scheduled Castes." The term census categories are Mazhabis (31 per cent, Chamars"Scheduled Caste" is an administrative coinage and including Ramdasia Sikhs (27 per cent), Ad-Dharmisterms such as Chandala, exterior caste, Harijan, Dalit, (15 per cent), and Balmiki (12 per cent). The untouch-etc. have been in currency, each of which had a differ- ables were either engaged in agricultural productionent origin. The Scheduled Caste form, ….the fifth as agricultural labourers or as carrying out certainorder in the four-fold society of Hindu theory of caste. unclean occupation such as scavenging.In recent years the term "Dalit" has been discarded as a)Dalit Upliftment in the state of Punjaba socially reactionary category by a section of the com- The practice of untouchability or discrimination againstmunity who prefer "bahujan" over both the Buddhist the low castes among the Sikhs was attributed to the60 RESEARCH AN ALYSI S AND EVALU ATION
  2. 2. International Indexed & Referred Research Journal, April, 2012. ISSN- 0975-3486, RNI-RAJBIL 2009/30097;VoL.III *ISSUE-31continued influence of Hinduism on the community. carrying out Shuddhis. Such organization was "Jat PatThus the struggle against caste and Untouchability, Todak Mandal" founded by Bhumanand at Lahore inwhich were seen as the core Hindu values, came to be 1922. "Megh Uddhar Sabha" (Sialakot), "Dayanandimplicated in the movement for a separate Sikh iden- Dalits udhar Sabha" (Dina Nagar), "Megh Sabha"tity. . The Kuka movement was founded by Bhagat (Lahore) etc.Jawar Mal, generally known as Sian Sahib in the 1840s. Arya Samaj was probably a significant factorIts headquarters were at Hazro in the then Punjab, now in the founding of Ad-Dharm. For once the youngin Pakistan. The main purpose of this movement was Scheduled Caste members had tested equality and powerto purify Sikhism by removing certain abuses and through the Arya Samaj. They wanted it for their own.superstitions that crept into from Hinduism. Sikhism, There were already societies for untouchables upliftin its ideological self image, not only Sikh gurus "be- within the Samaj, but they were in fact controlled byyond all doubt, vigorous and practical denouncers of upper caste leaders. Prior to the founding of Ad-Dharm,caste" (McLeod, 1996: 87). The movement became a Scheduled Caste member of Arya Samaj, Sant Ram,popular among the Namdhari Sikhs. a Megh from the out-skirts of Hoshiarpur city, began The Christian movement in Punjab was gain- a new movement for the Scheduled Caste equality froming strength and assertiveness in the years following within the Arya Samaj. Sant Rams organization "Jat1857. By 1857, the European missionaries had estab- Pat Todak Mandal" (Society for the Abolition of Caste)lished Mission stations at Amabala, Amritsar, Delhi, was founded in 1922.Jallandhar, Kangra, Kotgarh, Lahore, Ludhiana, Ad-Dharm flourished from 1925 to 1935 inMultan, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Sabathu and Sialkot. the central Punjab districts of Jallandhar andFrom those individuals who had taken the lead in Hoshiarpur, claiming perhaps a million adherents. Theseeking baptism, it spread through kinship, village name of the movement "Ad-Dhram", signified theand even business connections in the Sialkot, central concept: that the Scheduled Castes (the un-Gujranwala, Gurdaspur, Lahore, Amritsar and touchables) were not members of Hinduism, Islam,Ferozpur districts. In Punjab 99.9 per cent people of Sikhism or any other "Upper caste religion". Rather,Christian community are converted from the down- they were members of a distinctly separate religioustrodden class and adopted the Christian religion. The community. Indeed, the oldest religion of India. TheyDalit Christian caste origin is continuing to haunt claimed that theirs was the "Ad-Dharm", the "originalthem and depriving them of equal rights, even in the religion", worshipped by the pre-Aryan ancestors ofnew religion structure to which they have converted. modern India. We are not Hindus. Our facts are notIn spite of their conversion to Christianity, a majority Hindu but Ad Dharm. We are not a part of Hindus andof the Christian in lower categorys still facing serious Hindus re not a part of us .discrimination and degradation in society and suffer It was able to give a new sense of identity tofrom what is called structural violence. the Chamars of Doaba. They have since emerged as a Buddhist revolution was revolutionary in proud and influential community. The revived Ad-transcending Vedic tribal particularties and denying Dharm movement attempted to widen the scope of thecaste and gender inferiority . A few conversions to Ad-Dharm religion by including in its fold the ChuhrasBuddhism in recent years indicate the changing orien- (Sweeper Caste), Mazabi Sikhs, Ramdasias, andtation of the Punjabi Dalits to Buddhism though it is Ambedkar Buddhists. In August 1978, the young peoplelargely confined to the intelligentsia. Singh Sabha of Boota Mandi established their own version of themovement launched during 1920 also tried to create Dalit Panther, the Dalit Sangarsh Samiti, which hastheir own depressed class movements to encourage launched demonstrations and agitation in sympathyScheduled Caste support. It was after this movement with the Marathawada University issue in Maharashtrathat the low caste Sikh was appointed as priest in the and against local atrocities in Punjab. Before the found-local Gurudwaras and if he began to give equal treat- ing of the Ad- Dharm, a Dalit member of the Aryament to members of all caste Samaj from Hoshiarpur had established an organiza- The militant reformism of Arya Samaj ap- tion the "Jat Pat Todak Mandal" in 1922. The centralpeared to provide an answer to the crisis of the upper theme of the "Jat Pat Todak Mandal" was that ofcaste Hindu elite in Punjab. It offered a progressive intercaste marriages.ideology based on traditional values. Also accelerat- The trouble started in Talhan when Ad-Dharmis de-ing were confrontations with Arya Samaj both the manded representation in the management of a villageSingh Sabha and Arya Samaj launched a campaign of religious shrine. The Committee that managed theshuddhi (purification and conversion ceremonies). A shrine and dealt with the finances was largely domi-large number of organizations came into existence for nated by landowning Jats. However, the Jats refused to RESEARCH AN ALYSI S AND EVALU ATION 61
  3. 3. International Indexed & Referred Research Journal, April, 2012. ISSN- 0975-3486, RNI-RAJBIL 2009/30097;VoL.III *ISSUE-31concede the demand of Ad-Dharmis for representa- tion have persisted within Sikhism. The caste hierar-tion in the committee. The Ad-Dharmis claim that the chy among the Sikhs is distinct from the Hindu CasteJats had called the police, who chased them away and order with Brahmin at the top. There were also somebeat them up when they insisted on fair representation changes in the caste nomenclature after their conver-in the committee. The Jat also issued a letter to the non sion to other religion. The caste hierarchies among theAd-Dharm residents of the village, directing them to Hindus and the Sikhs became competitive in the sense"socially boycott" the Ad-Dharmis. The most impor- that the castes that acquired higher caste status aftertant of the Guru Ravi Das deras in Punjab today is the converting to Sikhism belonged to the Shudra castesdera located in the village Ballan, 10 km. from the as Hindus (McLeod, 1976:85) .town of Jallandhar. It is locally known as Dera The material base of caste system, the pre-Sachkhand Ballan. The Dera was set up by the Sant vailing structure of agrarian relations in rural societyPipal Dass sometimes during the early 20th century. where caste divisions had become important functionalRavi Dasis have emerged as a strong and autonomous prerequisites for the working of agrarian economycaste religious community, an outcome of vibrant Dalit remained relatively unchanged. It was mainly duringidentity movements in Punjab from last eight decades. the post Independence period, particularly with theEssentially, this is an assertion for equality by the Dalits agrarian transformation experienced in the state fol-who dispite Sikhisms egalitarian nature and empha- lowing the success of Green Revolution that the socialsis on a casteless society, find the present state of af- structure of rural Punjab underwent a significantfairs too stifling and unjust. Seen in this historical change. Economically, the Scheduled Castes, both Sikhcontext, the street violence in Punjab following the and Hindu, stand in subordinate relationship with theVienna attack on 24 May 2009 leading to the death of Jat Sikh peasantry, who work as agricultural laboures.a senior Ravi Dasi religious leader would appear more Economic conflict over wages with the dominant Sikhlike a cause of assertion of the Ravi Dasis political peasantry, therefore, are a further factor which havestrength and a statement of their united identity than contributed to the weakening of the religious and cul-a case of caste conflict. tural affinity of the lower castes to Sikhism.b) Present Socio-Economic and Political Scenario The Ad-Dharmis of Boota Mandi inof Dalit Category Jallandhar, who control the leather industry, are the The position of Dalits in the state of Punjab richest among the Scheduled Castes of Punjab. Simi-is quite different from that of Dalits in other parts of larly, some sections of the Scheduled Castes, particu-India. Consequently, the Punjab case underlines the larly the Chamar, and Ad-Dharmis, have acquiredimportance of regional context in understanding the administrative position in the state administration.Dalit question in this sub-continent. The ideological They tended to behave as that Jats do" (Paramjitbasis of untouchability was marking weak. The cul- S.Judge, 2004:10). 60 percent of Punjab villages, theture and history of oppression of Dalits in Punjab was Mazhabi and other Sikh Scheduled Castes had theirrelated more to the structure of the economy and the separate Gurudwaras indicating the continuing prob-ruling interests of the land owning agricultural caste lems of insult and humiliation on the basis of caste.and the political elite. Brahminic influence was prob- Commercialization and mechanization of agriculture,ably never so strong in Punjab as in most other parts on the one hand, and the introduction of democraticof India. The untouchables in Punjab remained out- political process on the other, have together trans-side the pale of Vedic and Brahmincal knowledge as formed caste relations in rural Punjab fundamentally.elsewhere. The down play of Brahmins in Punjab by Over the last twenty years or so, large proportions ofthe Jat Sikhs might have diminished the purity pollu- Dalits in Punjab have traditionaly dissociated them-tion practice to the benefit of Dalits . selves from their occupations and have also been try- Sikhism has created an image of itself as a ing to distance themselves from everyday engagementreligion without caste. Sikh reformers in the late 19th with the agrarian economy. Picking up of dead cattlecentury used its anti-caste message to establish has become a completely commercialized enterprise.Sikhisms distinctiveness from Hinduism . However, There has been some degree of commercialization ofin practice, the persons from depressed classes on other Dalit or Jajmani occupations. Barbers, carpen-adoption of Sikhism were treated as Mazhabi Sikhs, ters, blacksmiths, all have shops. Along with commer-and not treated at par with other Sikhs . The religious cialization, a process of dissociation of caste and oc-identity of Dalits in Punjab makes it difficult to treat cupation is also underway. Caste has not been a domi-Dalits as a homogeneous category especially in terms nant idiom of Punjab politics; however, the BSP wishesof their electoral choices. Sikhism does not recognize to identify with the Dalits cause. The Bahujan Samajcaste. Nevertheless, communal and marriage restric- Party (BSP), embodying the interests of the Dalits.62 RESEARCH AN ALYSI S AND EVALU ATION
  4. 4. International Indexed & Referred Research Journal, April, 2012. ISSN- 0975-3486, RNI-RAJBIL 2009/30097;VoL.III *ISSUE-31The BSPs core support comes from Dalits. Its vote Hindus, certain Sikh castes should also be included inshare among them is one of the highest recorded for the list of Scheduled Castes for the provision of specialany large group in any state. It therefore needs to work benefits and reservations.with them on the ground at the village level. In the They were obviously worried that if the res-absence of such involvement with their day- to- day ervation benefits were not extended to Sikhs, the lowproblems, many Dalits fail to see them as a promising castes among them may declare their religion as Hin-alternative to the Congress and Akali Dal . duism. However, many Dalit castes have become in-Conclusion volved in other religious movements and sects in the Since the ideological bases of untouchabiltiy space between Hindu and Sikh orthodoxies, such aswere markedly worked, the culture anhistory of op- the sant Nirankari, the Radha Swami and the Ad-pression of Dalits in Punjab was related more to the dharmi movements and today Ravidasis. The Dalitsstructure of the economic and the ruling intercuts of search for different cultural space to overcome humili-the landowning agricultural caste and the political ation is reflected in their large scale movement to-elite. Social relation in the village community and wards deras and sects such as Radhasoami, Sachaperhaps more importantly the political economy of Sauda, Dera Wedbhag Singh and Piara Singhagriculture that would have been closely structured Bhaniarawala. They are turning to dargahs of Muslimaround caste were tied to the land owning cultivators Pirs. But on the whole, the ground realities of life didwithin the framework of Jajmani system. Caste is nearly not change radically for the SCs in Punjab. It is dis-dead in contemporary Punjab, as an ideology, it sur- tressing to note that Punjab cannot claim to be free ifvives and thrives as a source of identity. However Sikh the problems of social inequality, untouchability, casteleadership in Punjab has always recognized the fact of violence and discrimination even today despite thecaste, the Sikh leadership, in fact, had to lobby a great laudable status of development and prosperity it hasdeal with the national leadership that along with the achieved.R E F E R E N C E1. Zelliot, Eleanor. From Untouchable to Dalit: Essays on Ambedkar Move- Shift in the Party Support Base in the 1985 Punjab Assembly Elections". In Paulment. p. 267, 1992. Manohar Publishers & Distributors, Delhi. 2. Guru, Gopal. Wallace and Surinder Chopra (ed.), Political Dynamic and Crisis in Punjab. p."Understanding the Category "Dalit". In Gopal Guru (ed.), Atrophy in Dalit 382, 1985. Guru Nanak Dev University Amritsar. Mark, Juergensmeyer. Reli-Politics p. 67, 2005. Vikas Adhyayan Kendra, Mumbai. 3. Bharati, S.R. "Dalit, gious Rebels Punjab : The Social Vision of Untouchables. p. 45, 1988. AjanteA Term Asserting Unity". pp. 4339-40, 2002. Economic and Political Weekly, Publications, Delhi. Ram, Ronki. "Untouchability, Dalit Consciousness, and theXXXVII, No. 42, 19 October. 4. Joshi, Barbara. Untouchable! Voice of the Dalit Ad-Dharm movement in Punjab". p. 341, 2004. Contributions to Indian Sociol-Liberation Movement. pp. 79-80, 1986. Selectbook Service, New Delhi. 5. The ogy, Vol. 38, No. 3, September-December. Juergensemeyer, Mark. "Cultures ofterm Chandala was of Hindu textual origin, exterior caste had been introduced by Deprivation: Three Case Studies in Punjab." In Harish K. Puri (ed.), Dalits inthe British officials, and the term Harijan was coined by Narsinh Mehta and M.K Regional Context. p. 57, 2004. Rawat Publications, New Delhi. Lobo, Lancy.Gandhi. However, the term Dalit was coined by activists of Scheduled Caste "Visions, Illusions and Dielemmas of Dalit Christians in India." In Ghanshyambackground and has gained wide acceptance. 6. Ghurya, G.S. Caste and Race Shah (ed.), Dalit Identity and Politics. p. 244, 2001. Sage Publications, Newin India. P.89, 1979. Popular Prakashan, Bombay. The term "bahujan" was floated Delhi. Mark Juergensmeyer in his work on Ad-Dharm movement metions thatby Kanshi Ram and also Prakash Ambedkar and Makharam Pawar from " when he (Sant Hiran Das) established his Ravi Das Sabha, in 1907, in villageMaharashtra. 7. Pai, Sudha. Dalit Assertion and the Unfinished Democratic Hakim...... several other deras including that of Sant Pipal Das, were founded soonRevolution, the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh. p. 223, 2002. 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