Book Review: Chinnaiah Jangam, Dalits and the Making of Modern India, Sambaiah Gundimeda, Dalit Politics in Contemporary India and Hugo Gorringe, Panthers in Parliament Dalits, Caste and Political Power in South India

AuthorSudha Pai
Date01 December 2018
Published date01 December 2018
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Chinnaiah Jangam, Dalits and the Making of Modern India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 2017.
264 pages. `630.
Sambaiah Gundimeda, Dalit Politics in Contemporary India. New Delhi: Routledge. 2016. 294 pages. `1,595.
Hugo Gorringe, Panthers in Parliament Dalits, Caste and Political Power in South India. New Delhi:
Oxford University Press. 2017. 424 pages. `995.
In recent years we have witnessed a spate of academic writings on Dalit movements and politics.
The three books under review can be described as part of this research which has, over the last few
decades, transformed the face of social science literature in India, as ‘Dalit Studies’, without which it is
now widely accepted that Indian politics cannot be understood and interpreted, has moved from the
margins to become part of the mainstream. The three well-written and researched books under review
also reflect the two main genres of writings on Dalits: historical analysis of the long struggle by Dalit
movements against oppression and domination on the subcontinent and their role in nation-building, and
second, regional histories of Dalit movements and politics. The two complement each other as both are
required to understand their emancipation project within the Indian body politic.
Chinnaiah Jangam and Sambaiah Gundimeda’s volumes cover a wide historical sweep of Dalit
activism from the colonial to the post-Independence period. Both base their studies on the Telugu-
speaking areas of the Madras Presidency, but Gundimeda compares the region with the erstwhile United
Provinces and the post-colonial experiences of the two regions. In contrast, Hugo Gorringe analyses the
complex process whereby a radical Dalit movement becomes institutionalized into a political party and
its impact on politics on contemporary Tamil Nadu. This finds echoes in Gundimeda’s question of why
Dalits could capture power in Uttar Pradesh (UP) but not in Andhra Pradesh (AP). Two interesting but
controversial questions which resonate through the three volumes, to which we will return are (a) the
difference that many scholars point to between North and South India in terms of the timing of
Dalit movements and (b) the role of religion versus caste in colonial India.
A central argument in Jangam’s study is that literary and historical writings have privileged caste
Hindus as the main actors and contributors in anti-colonial struggles and formulation of nationalism;
hence his aim is to ‘flip the nationalist narrative’ (p. 1). Challenging a unitary construct of the nation,
which does not recognize its multiple contradictions, Dalits (he points out) participated fully in the
politics of nationalism and its construction as seen in their writings and activism in the Telugu public
sphere. That provided a Dalit perspective and understanding of the nation and made securing a commit-
ment to social equality, human dignity and egalitarian democracy a pre-condition for the independence
of the country. Pre-colonial, anti-caste cultural memories, according to Jangam, continued into the
Studies in Indian Politics
6(2) 310–319
© 2018 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2321023018797776

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT