The internationalism of the Dalit Panthers Manifesto

2022 marks the completion of 50 years of the establishment of Dalit Panthers in 1972 in Mumbai, India. While this political organization split into factions two years later in 1974 and was officially dissolved in 1988, that perhaps provides a certain unity of perspective. Its political vision is its manifesto which was written and published in 1973.

When one considers a text like the Dalit Panthers Manifesto, the question of classification immediately arises. A text can potentially be classified into several categories depending on the lineage of the ideological currents it presents to the world. And the world of the Dalit Panthers was certainly one where its most organic and intimate intellectual and political inspiration—the social, moral, and political thought of B.R.Ambedkar—has productively confronted the revolutionary aspects of Marxism and other world-historical traditions such as Black. done and prospered. The power movement in a turbulent period of global youth rebellion in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

This article is an attempt to analyze and reflect on the international themes present in the Dalit Panthers Manifesto. Analyzing the internationalist themes of this text, this article does not attempt to reduce Ambedkar’s thought to a ‘local’ or ‘native’ philosophy, as it does from other more ‘cosmopolitan’ and ‘global’ traditions of thinking. is different from.

Arguably, such a reading suffers from a deep sense of methodological nationalism, from whose ideological horizons ultimately lead to its definitions of what constitutes ‘local’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ in the first place. I argue here that the Dalit Panthers Manifesto, as a text, is a highly innovative way to enhance the internationalism inherent in Ambedkar’s social and political thought.

Before analyzing the international themes of this manifesto, it is important to describe the topology of the historical layers that manifest themselves on the basis of this text. A landmark achievement of the larger social, literary and intellectual movement with the Dalit Panthers in the 1970s was the name ‘Harijan’ (according to MK Gandhi ‘children of God or’ people of God) to refer to the untouchables of the Hindu caste system. There was rejection.

The Dalit Panthers Manifesto, crucially, avoids the use of the name ‘untouchable’, even though it presents the problem of untouchability on the stage of world history: ‘Untouchability is the most violent form of exploitation on the surface of the earth, which is the power structure. of ever-changing form remains alive.’

There is a comparative as well as an incomparable argument in this particular formulation of the problem of untouchability as given in the Dalit Panthers Manifesto. And here is one of the important sub-lessons of internationalism or the particular form of internationalization present in this text.

Even though untouchability is a problem that afflicts a vast group of human beings in the Indian subcontinent, it cannot be reduced or dismissed as a problem of nation-states only.

The sheer magnitude of exploitation and suffering that is considered ‘intrinsic’ to the Indian subcontinent makes this ‘local’ practice a uniquely world-historic phenomenon, whose violence has existed in the world along with other world-historic forms of exploitation and suffering. appears in odd comparisons.

It is this world-historical view that formed the initial context for the emergence of the Dalit Panthers. Despite his recognized inspiration from the naming of the Black Panther Party in the United States, no social equality exists within this text regarding the problems of untouchability and slavery, or between race and ethnicity. What is clear, on the contrary, is a definite step towards presenting the problem of untouchability as the most acute problem of exploitation and suffering that appears on the temporal and spatial surface of world history.

In other words, the Dalit Panthers Manifesto makes no argument about the seriousness of the problem of untouchability on the basis of its perceived similarity with the problem of slavery. Such use leaves fundamentally open the immutable element of difference in historical comparison or sign of motivation, where untouchability is in a nominal and historically non-replaceable form that is less vulnerable to other forms of exploitation and suffering in the world Doesn’t happen.


 Thus, even though the Dalit Panthers Manifesto attempts to create a place for untouchability that should come under the consideration of revolutionary traditions of thought all over the world as exploitation, it does not fossilize the meaning and implications of untouchability. Sufficient care has been taken not to do so.

In modern South Asia itself. It emphasizes that the problem of untouchability should be understood beyond its mere scriptural and ritualistic connotations. A dominant understanding of untouchability sought to solve this problem piecemeal through religious reform (temple-entry), social uplift (affirmative action), or legislative/legal change (constitutional abolition).

Expressing deep skepticism of such viewpoints, the Dalit Panthers Manifesto indicated that this approach deliberately excludes modern state systems that have contributed to the rise of caste-Hindu dominance over Dalits in contemporary India through the traditional scriptures of Brahmanism. and is associated with the basis of ritual. Therefore, in a very bold formulation, the manifesto claims that ‘he is expanding the profile of untouchability with the help of army, prisons, legal system and bureaucracy.

Despite their ancient antecedents, the tools of untouchability (the primary instrument of untouchability being the Jati-Hindu texts) have become integrated with the new systems of repression found in colonial and post-colonial India. Since it is difficult to separate such oppressive integration, the problem of untouchability can no longer be politically separated from the problems of the existing oppressive state apparatus—even if one separates the issue of untouchability as a separate but one of the greatest in world history. considered violent.

   The Dalit Panthers Manifesto claims that untouchability as a social practice is weakening due to technological and institutional progress, far from making the misleading claim that the institutions of the modern state—along with the forces of feudalism and capitalism—in India are deeply involved in perpetuating caste-based supremacy.

The Dalit Panthers Manifesto also marks the ‘high-flowing philosophy’ of Brahmanical Hinduism as a twin appendage of these oppressive systems, which have simultaneously ‘deprived the Dalits of worldly pleasures’ and reduced them to the oppressed community. Is.

However, this critique of suffering was associated with an orientation that viewed the problem of caste from the point of view of a revolutionary practice rather than a reformist ethic. And it is because of the Dalit Panthers’ revolutionary view that their internationalism had different ideological roots—from communist internationalism to anti-imperialist resistance in Africa, Cambodia and Vietnam; The rise of ‘Black Power’ in the United States, and, perhaps most importantly, the rise of Ambedkarite politics in post-independence India.

The kind of awareness and relationship that Dalit Panthers displayed through their manifesto with these international events and movements shows a markedly different trajectory from other forms of internationalism that existed in India in the twentieth century. For example, Partha Chatterjee’s essay titled ‘Nationalism, Internationalism, and Cosmopolitanism: Some Observations from Modern Indian History (2016)’ gives a detailed discussion of important international and cosmopolitan currents from twentieth-century Indian history.

Chatterjee mainly discusses the international motivations existing in the political thinking and action of armed militant nationalists and communists from the early twentieth century, then moves to the internationalism of the Non-Aligned Movement in the Cold War period after India’s independence.

Chatterjee’s impeccable but insufficient account of the international inspirations and currents of the anti-caste movement led by Ambedkar as well as the politics of organizations such as the Dalit Panthers in the second half of the twentieth century survives.

Chatterjee’s essay is a good example of how the analysis of internationalism and cosmopolitanism in modern Indian history also suffers from an analytical blind spot regarding the problem of caste, leaving the main accounts of anti-caste thought and politics without analysis and analysis. is left unresolved. Caste is seen as having no bearing on the early processes of nationalism and internationalism in modern India.

 Furthermore, when questions of international affairs are raised, caste is assumed to have a certain ‘foreign’, and ironically, such an allegation operates by keeping caste firmly within the boundaries of ‘domestic’, here International matters even caste can be seen as influencing conduct.

For example, two recent cases of caste discrimination in the United States (US) demonstrate how the avoidance of the caste system extends beyond India’s national borders.

The first case pertains to a Cisco employee being discriminated against by his upper-caste colleagues in Silicon Valley, with a lawsuit pending in a California court.

 The second case was about human trafficking and exploitation of Dalit and other oppressed caste artisans and workers by a Hindu organization called Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) in New Jersey.

    Generally speaking, the artisans and workers who went to America to build Hindu temples were all Indian citizens or of Indian origin, and yet the Government of India, the Fundamental and Human Rights of Indians in America, especially the Ministry of External Affairs, denounced this brazen violation. But did not pay any attention.

    Curiously, the External Affairs Minister resolved to take an active interest in the Indian Parliament in the case of an Indian student who was allegedly subjected to racist bullying because of his religious identity at the University of Oxford.

The firmness with which caste is playing a discriminatory role for the upper castes and Dalits outside India’s borders and the similar care and carelessness with which the Government of India, particularly the Ministry of External Affairs has dealt with the problem, shows that caste How can it be no longer considered as an ‘internal’ or ‘domestic’ problem of the Indian nation-state. This is particularly so when India’s post-colonial intellectual and diplomatic elite actively ignore incidents of caste discrimination outside India’s borders.

Such a view of caste also reflects our understanding of historical and contemporary anti-caste philosophy, which has had a strongly internationalist outlook within its political imagination. In this context, the intellectual focus on the Dalit Panthers Manifesto provides an idea of ​​what an internationalism inspired by Ambedkar’s thought might look like – an internationalism that addresses the problems of American imperialism, black casteism, global capitalism, and various forms of oppressive state politically. is attentive.

 Tantra – not to forget the persistent violent problems of caste and untouchability which often defy the nominal boundaries of modern nation-states. It will also call for a re-examination of the ideological lineage of anti-caste political ideas in modern India, whose intellectual origins and important concerns are in colonial/post-colonial Indian history as well as the history of global/third term/international political thought. and are missing from the archives.

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