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

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Dalitness and the Idea of Brahmin

Engaging with Suraj Yengde’s book Caste Matters, an attempt has been made to negotiate with the notion of “Dalitness” and the idea of Brahmin, by problematising the relation between the discrete jatis and the political categories. Yengde’s thesis of “Brahmins against Brahminism” is analysed through the idea of Brahmin, which is intrinsically related to the practice of untouchability.

Suraj Yengde (2019) in his book Caste Matters attempts to conceptualise the lived experience of the Dalits. He brings the narrative of Dalit politics to the present and also interrogates the various possible positions that the Dalits adopt towards their present problems. Based on how the Dalits respond, varying from either adaptation to opposition of Brahminism, he classifies them as empirical Dalits, conservative Dalits, reactive Dalits, salaried hypocrites, third-generation Dalits, harmful Dalits, and radical Dalits. Not only are these shades fuzzy in nature, but, as Yengde notes as well, these can also be found in any category of people and need not be limited to the Dalits alone.

Let us consider the two types—conservatives and radicals. I do not see the conservatives negatively or the radicals positively. Each one depends on the other; in particular, the concept of the radical depends on the concept of the conservative. What has been achieved by the radicals at a particular historical juncture has to be “conserved” in society. Hence, I feel that the author is sometimes too harsh on Dalits, and with their normal life. But, we need to ask what it is that the conservative Dalits really “conserve” or attempt to “conserve?”1 Do the Dalit jatis have really anything to “conserve?” Non-Dalits have something to “conserve.” What do the Dalits have? If they have nothing to “conserve,” can the term conservatives be applied to them? Similarly, what does the word “radical” mean when applied to Brahmins or non-Brahmins? How can we conceptualise a radical Brahmin? These questions cannot be easily answered, and they pose a greater challenge to our existing understanding of caste.

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Updated On : 13th Jan, 2020
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