by Kushal Choudhary

Ustad Bismillah Khan at a concert in 1964, Photo by Robert Garfias, via Wikimedia Commons

Ustad Bismillah Khan was a world-famous shehnai player whose musical legacy continues to shine into the hearts of the people of the subcontinent. His incredible career of more than eight decades earned him the highest of civilian honours such as the Padma Vibhushan in 1961 and the Bharat Ratna in 2001

By Lydia Jayakumar

Front Page, Mooknayak 31 January 1920, Photo from Wikimedia Commons

First published on 31st January 1920, over 101 years ago, Mooknayak was a newspaper founded by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Mooknayak, which literally translates to ‘leader of the voiceless’ was written in Marathi and published fortnightly from a working class neighbourhood called Parel in Bombay.

Chhatrapati Shahuji, the Maharaja of the erstwhile princely state of Kolhapur, financially assisted in the setting up of the newspaper, with an initial funding of Rs 2,500.

In many ways, Mooknayak was the direct opposition to the Brahmanical caste ideology prevalent in the press of the time. The 1920s were a transformative time…

By Kushal Choudhary

Swami Achuttanand, Founder of the Adi-Hindu Movement

Moving into the 20th century, industrialisation in the United Provinces, now the regions of northern India, was the massive force that called for large scale migration of subalterns into cities looking for work in factories, better healthcare and education.

In these new spaces of employment and occupation, the Dalit communities like the chamar, bhangi and dom people tried to find new opportunities relative to what was offered to them in the villages. What they found, unfortunately, was that there too, caste ensured that they were limited to the menial lowly work of domestic servants, sweeping, leather work…

by Daisy K

“Storming the Administrative Headquarters”, Art by Sashy Memury, 2021

On 8 November 2006, a group of women marched into the Maharashtra State Administrative Headquarters to demand the state, media and general public pay attention to the brutal murder and assault on a Dalit family at Khairlanji. These women were members of the Samata Sainik Dal.

Equality or “Samata” has always been a core ideal of the Ambedkarite movement. It was during the 1920s when the anti-caste movement was gaining momentum across India, that Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar felt the particular need to establish an organisation of volunteers to safeguard human rights amongst the Depressed Classes. As a result…

by Anita Das

“Today in #DalitHistory, we highlight a community of Dalit Jews called the Bene-Ephraim, in the Guntur District of Andhra Pradesh in India.

The Bene Ephraim assert that they were descended from one of the one of the ten Jewish tribes driven into exile after the collapse of the Jewish kingdom in 586 B.C.E. Members of this tribe are said to have migrated through Persia to becoming teachers in the Ashokan capital of Magadha, which they remember to be the etymological root of their Caste name, “Madiga”. War with migrating Aryan communities is then said to have pushed…

by Megha Malakar

“Tribute to Godna Artists”, Godna-inspired art by @silkvarpatti, 2021

Mainstream art and culture have been dominated and dictated by “upper”-caste and “upper”-class communities. Not only do they have a popular support base for their art but also have a huge play in the market where their paintings are sold, making the already rich communities even richer. For example, Madhubani and Mithila artforms are popular Indian mainstream artforms that are the face of Indian culture and pride.

However, there exists alternate art forms by marginalised communities that seldom come to limelight. In this article one such art form, called Godna painting, is explored.

Godna paintings are created…

by Anita Das

“Namashudra Strike”, Art by Sashy Memury, 2021

Today in #DalitHistory, we honor the Namasudras of present day Bangladesh, who played a significant role in organizing and wielding the power of a unified Dalit action to improve their conditions.

For much of history, Namasudras maintained their own tribal identity in both of Hindu and Muslim majority regions. Like many other tribes, their communitywas also affected by Brahminisation which placed them outside the Caste system and vulnerable to othering and oppression. …

By Mathur Sathya

John, Ezhumalai, and the Panchami Land Struggle, Art by Sidra.A, 2021

The people when organized have power. And this is true for Dalit movements. Today in Dalit History we explore one such movement — the Panchami Land Movement of Tamil Nadu, a Dalit people’s reclamation struggle for land that had been promised to them by the state.

One needs to go back a hundred years to understand what was owed to the community, that gave a ray of hope, only to be snatched away abruptly. In 1892, J.H.A. Tremenheere, the British District Collector of Chengalpattu , submitted his extensive report on living conditions of Paraiyars (a caste under…

~560–480 B.C.E

by Anita Das

“Matangi”, Art by @chandrakari, 2021

Today in Dalit history, we revisit the story of a bhikkuni, or a Buddhist nun, from the “untouchable” Matang caste. She was variously written in Buddhist sciptures as Prakirti, Chandalika, or just Matangi.

Matangi’s brush with Buddhism began on a day when she was drawing water from a well. Ananda, one of the Buddha’s closest disciples, was was walking by her neighborhood, when he saw Matangi with water pots. Thirsty, he asked her for water. Matangi was nervous and fearful at this request. …


By Haatemalo Collective

Chamar, one of the Dalit communities living in the Saptari district in Nepal faces untouchability, landlessness, and social exclusion. Mainly due to their labor work of skinning the carcasses, the “upper”-caste community represented by Jha, Mishra, Tiwari, Thakur, and Rajput destroyed any possibility for Chamars to aspire and imagine their rights to life and dignity. The caste system-aided to normalize such impositions and restrictions, rendering Chamars to labor in dehumanizing conditions. This normalization was pervasive to the extent that Chamars were charged higher interest rates for their loans affecting their sense of economy. The “upper”-caste profited…

Dalit History Month

Redefining the History of the Subcontinent through a Dalit lens. Participatory Community History Project

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