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Dalit History Month

by Yalini Dream and Sajeevan Jeyakanthan

This piece was first published by The Blueprint. It is republished by Dalit History Month with permission.

Image via தேவThasan

Dominic Jeeva, famously known as Malikai Jeeva, was a well-loved anti-caste activist and canonical figure from the leftist strand tradition of Sri Lankan Tamil literature known as ‘mutpoku ilakkiyam’ (progressive literature). …


by Kushal Choudhary

Hima Das, 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere, Photo by Erik van Leeuwen, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

Hima Das is a sprint runner from Assam who currently holds the Indian national record in the 400 m sprint category. A 21-year old Dalit woman, she has competed in many international events and has been a consistent sprint runner winning several titles. Her national record was achieved in the 2018 Asian Games.

Hima was born on 9 January 2000 in a small village called Kandhulimari, near the town of Dhing in the state of Assam. Her parents, Jonita Das and Ronjit Das are rice farmers. Ronjit Das, her father, was the earliest of Hima’s coaches,and began…


By Anita Mahay

Front Cover, An Onward Journey, Photo by Anita Mahay

Throughout history, immigrants around the world came to the United States in search of democracy, freedom, justice, opportunity, and equality. These are the reasons that my grandfather, Kartar Chand, too came to America in search of these ideals.

Casteism

Back in India where he was from, the caste system has led to unimaginable division among the people, touching all corners of society, from the education system to job accessibility. It has essentially kept those of higher castes in control and deprived lower castes of opportunities for a better life, and also of basic respect as human beings.


By Divya Chandrasekaran

“Oppari”, Art by Aravind Raju, 2021

An Oppari is a mourning song or rhythmic lament sung by women at funeral gatherings. They are often songs sung by oppressed caste women who are surviving family members. But there is also a tradition, among oppressor caste households, of hiring oppari singers to sing at their homes when a death has taken place in their families. In both cases, an oppari is paired with parai, a traditional music instrument, known as a precursor to certain kinds of drums and other percussion instruments.

Given my unique experiences and up-close insight of my own family into this tradition…


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…

Dalit History Month

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

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