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Title: Untouchable citizens : an analysis of the Liberation Panthers and democratisation in Tamil Nadu
Author: Gorringe, Hugo
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2002
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In 1950 the constitution of independent India rendered the practice of untouchability a criminal offence. Special programmes of affirmative action were also instituted on behalf of the Untouchables, now known as Scheduled Castes, to offset centuries of deprivation. Theoretically the introduction of the universal franchise created a nation of equal citizens, and the reservation of parliamentary seats for the SCs guaranteed that they would be represented. The de jure abolition of untouchability has not, however, resulted in its de facto eradication (Desai 1978: 111). Structural and social inequalities have conspired to ensure the continuing subordination of the majority of the Scheduled Castes. Disillusionment with the inadequacies of the institutions of interest mediation has, since the 1970s, been channelled into extra-institutional mobilisation and protest for change. Drawing upon the example of civil rights activists in the United States, many of the SCs have rejected the appellations by which they are commonly known and have called themselves Dalits. Dalit is a Marathi word meaning ‘downtrodden’ and it has been adopted to symbolise the rejection of the caste system and the values that sustain it. Most authors have focused on the experience of Dalit movements in the north of India. This thesis charts the rise, and attempts an analysis of the Liberation Panther (LPs) movement in the southern state of Tamilnadu. The particular history of political development in the state, a form of Dravidian nationalism, resulted in the polity that was ideologically committed to the eradication of caste. Only in recent decades have autonomous Dalit organisations have been able to challenge the Dravidian hegemony. Using the insights of social movement theory this thesis charts the conditions of Dalit mobilisation in Tamil Nadu, its modes of protest and organisation and its impact in the state. Whilst much has been written about participatory ‘new social movements’, this thesis highlights the problematic of leadership and the dilemmas of caste-based mobilisation. Social movements, it is argued, are shaped by the culture from which they emerge - both in terms of their social and spatial practices. Most Dalits are poor, and continue to reside in segregated housing areas, but this thesis argues that they are increasingly assertive in their demand for equal rights and social respect. Of particular significance is the entry of the LPs into electoral politics in 1999. Dalit movements and parties may be flawed, but in challenging the status quo and opening up the political process to hitherto excluded groups of people, they are contributing toward the democratisation of Indian democracy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available