ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The 'Beyond' Perspective

The article by Gopal Guru entitled “The Idea of India: ‘Derivative, Desi and Beyond’” (EPW, 10 September 2011) is thought-provoking and is a major step towards formulating a perspective in dalit discourse. The frameworks of “derivative” (so far wrongly known as modern) and “desi” (better understood in the context of cultural nationalism) have been the main currents of social science discourse suppressing theorisation from the margins – the “beyond”. I understand the choice of the term “beyond” is not just to refer to the dalit and shudra perspective as something beyond the derivative and desi perspectives but also to connote the social space where this perspective gets rooted – beyond the village, in an excluded habitat. Most social scientists in India suffer from a dalit phobia. I have come across several professors of sociology who would often critique and make fun of the term dalit and its validity as a homogeneous entity. They would rather be happy to use harijan or backward castes, perhaps to incorporate dalits within the framework of Hindu caste system. Dalit consciousness would, of course, always try to do away with everything that is Hindu and related to the caste system. Babasaheb Ambedkar has demonstrated this while selecting federal symbols such as the national flag, emblem and even the cover design of the Constitution of India. The idea of not designating our country as Hindustan in the Constitution also reflects this consciousness. I feel that the assertion of a dalit perspective started officially by calling our country as “Bharat” in the Constitution and continued in calling our localities Ambedkar Nagar.

The author provides both a material and a philosophical basis to the dalit perspective which not only stands on par with the derivative and desi versions but in fact emerges much more distinct and reaches greater heights. There is a possibility of understanding the “beyond” perspective just as a reaction and a counter to the desi. It is true that the inadequacy of both the derivative and the desi versions to deal with reality from the perspective of dalits and theorisation by the top about the bottom have all necessitated the need for an alternative perspective. However, the “beyond” perspective should not be seen as a sectarian methodological approach. It is indeed a full-fledged approach encompassing issues of interest to all. The movement from “Bahishkrut Bharat” to “Prabuddha Bharat” amply demonstrates this ubiquitous nature of the “beyond” perspective.

Anil S Sutar

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