Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The Dalit 'question'

DALIT KUDIGALIN MARUKKAPPATTA VARALARU — Tamizhaga Dalit Varalaru Arimugam: J. Mohan; Dhamma Publications, 42nd First Cross, Second Main Road, Tagore Nagar, Lawspet, Pondicherry-605008. Rs. 70.

THIS IS an important and significant book on the dilemma of Dalits. The author makes trenchant observations. With great perspicuity, he explores all aspects of the problems faced by the Dalits and raises every possible question that could be asked on this subject, in India today. He examines tersely the interpretation of the Dalits' situation given by Marxists and feminists. He painstakingly urges that Tamil society must guard itself against etymological corruptions, not affecting the moral fibre of the society.

The central focus of this well-researched book is that the concept of untouchability emerged in India after 500 A.D. Asoka's two inscriptions do not refer to untouchability and untouchables. Only if the true history of the Dalits be brought forth objectively can they gain all the rights guaranteed in the Indian Constitution. The author aims at highlighting the social struggle of the Dalits for their participation in the democratic process to get their due share in the political process and power.

The author has almost succeeded in bringing to light significant aspects of Dalits' history. Dalit historiography will resurrect and win over human history. The author convincingly elucidates that for the regeneration of the Dalits, Buddha Dhamma had contributed much.

Those who promote Dalit politics must not fall prey to the elimination of Ambedkarism. Dalits are not Hindus. Can Dalits come out of Hinduism? For this ticklish question, the author does not give any convincing answer. Perhaps, exclusive research is indispensable. What is the method for the Dalits to embrace Buddha and His Dhamma? Organisationally, this vital factor is not yet fully attempted.

This timely book will pave the way for further research on and for Dalits' liberation. Grammatical mistakes could have been avoided in an otherwise flowery Tamil language in the book.

THOMAS EDMUNDS

Source: The Hindu, April 20, 2004

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