Welcome back. The Editorial Collective apologizes for the inordinate delay in bringing out this issue as most of the team was away on vacation. Added to this was the difficult nature of this issue of Insight. Over the last few months, we have found that it is extremely difficult to get people, both dalit and nondalit to write about their castes. We found time and again contributors approaching the issue in the third person, distancing themselves from what they experienced.
We had a sense of this when we began Insight. In fact this is one of the main reasons why we began Insight: To get people, both dalits and nondalits to introspect upon their experiences of caste.Despite the difficulties we have been fortunate to get a wide range of people writing about their caste and how it functions in their lives. These narratives are far from complete documentations. But they are a beginning, a drop in the ocean. And some of them are brilliantly insightful allowing us to question both how we think about caste and the way forward for the dalit movement.
The even more exciting part of putting this issue together was learning about Ayyankali. His personality, his courage, his far-sightedness and his determination still makes our hair stand on end as we write of it. It is his birth anniversary on August 28 and the Ambedkar Study Circle is very excited about the possibilities this opportunity presents to popularize the life and thought of Ayyankali. Although Insight itself is not an advocate of violent change, knowledge of such a hero steadies our hand and straightens our backs.
Over the last few months, Insight has been in spirited debates with many young scholars. One of the important issues that was raised was that of the way forward for the movement. It has been suggested in one of the articles that the Annihilation of Caste should be the driving slogan of the movement. While not disagreeing with this claim at a macro-level, Insight believes that such a claim is utopian at the micro-level. Looking at successful dalits movements across the country, be it the jatavas in UP, the mahars in Maharashtra, or the dewars in Orissa, we have found that mobilization among dalits in most parts of the county is occurring on caste lines. This may be a dangerous trend but as is elaborated in Sudhir Kumar Behera’s article, that after having mobilized on caste lines to protect their livelihood and traditions and sense of self, the dewars are now seeking alliances with other dalit movements across the country.Starting out with an annihilation of caste agenda also leads to a lack of plurality within the movement. Already established movements on caste lines feel undermined by Unitarian movements usually lead by the most populous dalit caste in a region.
We must emphasize here that all attempts made to consolidate schedule castes and tribes with women, minorities, industrial labour and agricultural labour are commendable and worthy of unstinting support. We would also like to say however, that this should not come at the risk of undermining any dalit movement in the country. The way forward is full of hurdles and obstacles and it is dangerous if we use quotations from anyone, even Babasaheb Dr Ambedkar, to sideline dalit grassroots movements. The Buddha himself has said, as Santhosh Raut emphasizes in Navayana: “Find your own path”. This is the truth.
We will do well to recognize it. Shared experience of dalits is so unique and powerful that we should not be afraid that strengthening of identities will affect long-term unity both within our selves and with other oppressed sections of society.We have also begun the process of registering the Ambedkar Study Circle as a charitable organization in order to register Insight formally. Any suggestions in this regard are welcome.With apologies again for the delay in publication, we hope you find this issue as interesting as it was to put together.
Dikus were the non-tribal money lenders, petty shopkeepers, forest contractors and brahmins who were party to the colonial exploitation of the forests. It was against this category of the people that Birsa Munda led his struggle. We at INSIGHT have felt for a long while that all the categorizations surrounding caste has privileged the caste hindus. Whether calling them brahmins (born of the head of brahma), or caste hindu, or dwija (twice born) we found that we were unable to accuse them publicly (etymologically to categorize means to accuse publicly) of their exploitative history.It is with this word diku that it all falls into place. The word is expressive of the caste hindus parasitic nature, practices of usury and scant regard for nature. We have been using the word diku to denote caste-hindus except when we are talking about specific divisions within them, since our January issue.