The existence of social cleavages in Indian society, such as caste, class, gender, and so on, can be seen throughout history. Such cleavages have altered the whole social fabric of Indian society, with the exploited, whether Dalits, adivasis, or women, being relentlessly pushed to the periphery by the old Brahmanical oppressive framework.
Dalits are people who have been exploited economically, socially, and politically for centuries. They resided outside the village, relying on lesser levels of employment and living as ‘untouchables,’ unable to exist in a human community. The prejudice practised by Hindu society’s age-old caste hierarchical system is to blame for this exploitation. Since ages, this hierarchy has been the source of oppression of Dalits in every area of society. They have been condemned to a life of poverty and shame as a result of it.
The Dalits, who have been ruthlessly oppressed by the higher castes, fall outside of the Varnasrama doctrine and were referred to as outcasts in India before to independence. Although India gained freedom, the Dalits were denied the right to a dignified and equitable existence. This concept of equality is what inspired the Dalit Movement in India, which began as a response to centuries of atrocities perpetrated against them.
Dalit Movement MEG 13 Writings From The Margins
The Dalit movement is a counter-offensive against the upper castes’ socio-cultural predominance. It is a people’s movement that seeks justice via speeches, literary works, plays, songs, cultural organisations, and any other means available. As a result, it may be described as a movement headed by Dalits to achieve equality with all other castes in Hindu society. The Dalit Movement’s primary goal was to create a society in India that was based on social equality. The constitutional identity, on the other hand, falls short of portraying the real picture.
Dalits are the last of the castes according to the ‘Varnasrama Theory.’
According to several academics, this is the conventional meaning of the word Dalit. Dalits are individuals who fall under the category of “Scheduled Castes” as defined by the Indian Constitution. However, with a few tweaks, the word Dalit may refer to anybody who is not a member of the upper class. Only one caste exists, and it refers to a person who is exploited economically, socially, politically, and in all other aspects of life by the country’s traditions. By tradition, we mean the centuries-old Brahmanical Indian tradition that has dominated the nation.
A Dalit does not believe in God or religion as it is taught in Hindu scriptures and religious books, since it is these traditions that have enslaved them. A Dalit is a person who has experienced the sufferings and hardships of people in society’s lowest echelon. The Dalits, also known as Dasyu or Dasa, Atisudra etc. are the Indian society’s downtrodden classes. Dalit refers to a person who believes in, practises, and combats discrimination. A Dalit is someone who believes in Humanism, which is the ultimate human philosophy.
Dalit movement refers to the organisational or institutional efforts undertaken by Dalit leaders for the emancipation of the oppressed people. It is an anti-untouchability, anti-caste, anti-superstition movement. Its goal is to raise Dalits to a status of non-Dalits. It represents a rejection of the previous Hindu social system, which was founded on untouchability, socioeconomic inequality, casteism, illogical religious beliefs, and customary slavery.
And it stands for the Dalit’s social, economic, cultural, and political growth, as well as acceptance of a new social order founded on equality, liberty, and social justice, as well as scientific and logical religious or moral values. It is a movement to reclaim one’s dignity and human position in society. It is the consequence of Dalits’ awareness of their own identity as human beings, with the same physical and mental capabilities as other humans and the same right to enjoy all human rights without infringement, abridgement, or restrictions.
Among the downtrodden classes emerged intellectuals, one of them was Dr.Ambedkar, who fought for social recognition and human rights for them. The main organisations of these groups, the “India Depressed Association” and the “All India Depressed Classes Federation,” started a campaign to better their circumstances.
They sought to improve their precarious economic situation as well as promote education among them. They fought for the right to take water from public wells, to attend public schools, to drive on public highways, and to visit public temples. Dr. Ambedkar’s Mahad Satyagrah for the right to water was one of the most notable untouchables’ campaigns for equal social rights.
The Dalit movement’s tactics, beliefs, and approaches differed from leader to leader, location to place, and time to time. The concept of ‘Dalit awareness’ emerged in many shapes and hues. As a result, some Dalit leaders used the ‘Sanskritization’ process to rise up the caste system.
They embraced Brahman customs like as vegetarianism, applying sandalwood paste on the forehead, and wearing holy thread, among other things. As a result, Dalit leaders such as Swami Thykkad, Pandi Sunder Lai Sagar , Muldas Vaishya, Moon Vithoba Raoji Pande, and others attempted to embrace the upper castes’ established cultural norms and customs.
Dalits’ imitating upper caste mannerisms was a declaration of their claim to equality. The Adi-Hindu movement arose from the treatment of Dalits as outsiders to the fourfold Varna system, referring to them as “outcasts” or “Panchama.” As a result, some Dalit leaders claimed that Dalits were India’s first occupants and that they were not Hindus. The invasion of this nation by Aryans or Brahmins forcefully enforced untouchability on the indigenous people.
They thought that once Hinduism was abolished, untouchability would be abolished as well. That Dalits in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab started to refer to themselves as Adi-Andhras, Adi-Karnatakas, Adi-Dravidas, Adi-Hindus, and Adi-Dharmis. Dalits also converted in order to free themselves of their untouchability and improve their moral and material circumstances. In Kerala, a large number of Dalits were converted to Christianity. Some Dalits were converted to Sikhism, particularly in Punjab.