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

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Azadi Kooch: Towards a New Grammar of the Dalit Struggle

Non-Dalits in India would have considered July 2017 to be a month of glory for Dalits in general. A Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-zealot and Dalit by caste, Ram Nath Kovind became the 14th President of India. As such, it should have been a non-event, given that the President of the Indian republic is just a ceremonial figurehead. The Constitution-makers enshrined the President’s stature such that the slightest whisper of disapproval against the incumbent government from him/her would create a wave of reaction across the nation. Like many other fantastic ideas in the Constitution, this too has remained a chimera. Over the years, the office of the President has been turned into a parking lot for political spent force or a house of puppets in service of the ruling party to live a royal life in the palatial Rashtrapati Bhavan, a standing irony of the Indian republic.

This non-event, however, completely eclipsed a significant event that took place in Modi’s backyard, north Gujarat. It also marked a significant paradox in this country of paradoxes. Dalits had taken a seven-day march demanding azadi (freedom) from the state, ironically headed by a Dalit! The march was organised by the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch in observance of the first anniversary of the Una atrocity. Several non-Dalit activists from across the country also participated. It culminated in the physical possession of land that had been promised to Dalits decades ago, but never given. The march symbolically combined the battle for asmita (dignity) and astitva (existence) to be fought with the weapon of solidarity of the oppressed masses. This, if any, was truly a reason to celebrate July 2017.

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Updated On : 4th Aug, 2017

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