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Dalit Leadership, Collective Pride and Struggle for Social Change Among Educated Dalits: Contesting the Legitimacy of Social Class Mobility Approach


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Dalit leaders have played a significant role in the lives of lower caste people. They have created a meaningful political identity for Dalits (oppressed) and inspired them in the collective movement for social change. This article critically explores three major theoretically interlinked and contested components, which are Dalit leadership, collective pride and social class mobility, and discusses the emergent categories. Participants in the present work are highly educated Dalits who take inspiration and pride from Ambedkar's leadership and believe in the role of collective movement for social change.
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Dalit Leadership, Collective Pride
and Struggle for Social Change
Among Educated Dalits: Contesting
the Legitimacy of Social Class
Mobility Approach
Chetan Sinha1
Dalit leaders have played a significant role in the lives of lower caste people. They have created a
meaningful political identity for Dalits (oppressed) and inspired them in the collective movement
for social change. This article critically explores three major theoretically interlinked and contested
components, which are Dalit leadership, collective pride and social class mobility, and discusses the
emergent categories. Participants in the present work are highly educated Dalits who take inspiration
and pride from Ambedkar’s leadership and believe in the role of collective movement for social change.
Dalit leadership, collective pride, social class mobility, social change, India
The Indian social system is caste based, having a valid correlation with the socioeconomic or labour
market (e.g., Vaid, 2014). Due to its limited causal explanation, the definition of caste is mostly connected
to the inheritance of occupation, leaving little room for crossing the boundary of involuntary identity.
The contemporary debates on castes in India have been pictured from two aspects of identity assertions,
first, castes as colonially framed categories and second, castes as subjectivity endorsed in the pheno-
menology and historical contexts of humiliations. The colonial framework from the anthropologists
(e.g., Dirks, 2002) critically showed the earlier connection of caste with race-like appropriations, for
example, anthropometric measurement of the people of different castes and tribes for the oriental
understanding of the Indian society. The humiliation framework rendered on the felt prejudices and
discriminations prevailing heavily in the mind from ages, which got voice to be put on the table with the
help of leaders of the humiliated and voiceless. The latter aspects of caste fundamentally and explicitly
Contemporary Voice of Dalit
© 2020 SAGE Publications
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DOI: 10.1177/2455328X19898411
1 Jindal Global Law School, O. P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India.
Corresponding author:
Chetan Sinha, Jindal Global Law School, O. P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat Narela Road, Near Jagdishpur Village, Sonipat,
Haryana 131001, India.
2 Contemporary Voice of Dalit
placed its debate on the history of untouchability and creation of Dalit identity. This shows that the
counterarguments and debates happened in the history of caste in India as a matter of reflexive discourses.
Though caste hierarchy was explicitly interwoven in the Hindu religious texts, the everyday under-
standing and meaning making cannot be sidelined. This layering and its component comprising various
castes and tribes were made explicit by the colonial rules as legitimate. The recent upsurge of Bhima
Koregaon incident (Pol, 2018) in Maharashtra showed the construction of reality between upper caste
Marathas and Dalits who fought and defeated the former in 1818. The commemoration of Dalits who
died fighting upper caste Peshwa in the Bhima Koregaon village happened near the victory pillar which
is a symbol of Dalit pride (Shantha, 2018).
The portrayal of castes as monolithic category was always challenged in different forms and capacities,
and there was an uprising of movements and local leaders to carry the challenge forward (Hardtmann,
2009). Gupta (2000, 2004) thrust on the use of the other social categories to be added to caste like
religion and class. However, social class and religion are some of the social categories which can be
transformed, changed or voluntarily controlled as per the sociopolitical contexts available. Caste was
observed to have deep-seated emotional and political effect on the lives of people more rigidly displayed
through the varied forms of institutional practices. Dirks (2002) noted that census during the colonial
time was heavily influenced by the anthropologists’ ‘measurement’ and ‘body as caste’ framework in
which caste was assumed to be the source of all ‘order and the fundamental basis of the social’ (p. 71).
In one way, this census-based objective categorization gave meaning and direction to the identity politics
of Dalit, both critical and acceptable, leading to the emergence and identification of leaders and their
group-based pride. In a second way, it created a cliché between nationalists’ agenda of freedom struggle
from the colonial rules and the struggle for emancipation from untouchability and caste-based oppression.
The categorization of Indian social system into castes, as Dirks (2002) believed, nourished the colonial
assumption that all efforts to the freedom struggle, to unite as one nationalistic category, were not possi-
ble due to frictions and caste difference and may not give a positive result. The colonial notions about
the nationalism was not always observed in the canonical way of British Raj impositions, but it was also
observed as a tool of modernity and new wave of an idea more favourable towards the anti-untouchability
and other anti-caste-based subjugation struggles. This paradox of in-groups and out-groups within the
space of freedom struggles, both of representations and self-rule, may provide a critique as caste is just
not a category creation for the sustenance of the British rule but also leads to the emergence of critical
space for the Dalits.
Shah (2017) also noted that the notion of caste as an involuntary category, as depicted in census
reports (1871–1931), is questionable. He pointed that caste as a rigid and closed group is an ideal per-
ception; instead, it has a loose boundary, especially, at its lower end (see Shah, 2017, p. 62). This picture
is either positive for the future societal structure or negative. This picture may be positive as it is creating
an optimal environment where education and number of other moderators such as economic gain,
awareness, empathy, superordinate goal, social support, re-categorization and positive human relation
may improve the permeability of caste and sub-caste boundaries leading to a healthy social contact. The
picture may be negative as it shows its all-encompassing nature, that is, flexibility and loose ends,
leading to new norms which ‘perpetuates itself’ (Shah, 2017, p. 62).
The caste system has many academic and commonsensical versions construed in the broader cultural
realm in the current times. In an academic version, the caste system is connected to varna (caste)
practised through various social institutions such as marriage. According to sociologists, it is an ascribed
form of stratification characterized by endogamy, heredity, the hierarchy of occupations and ritualistic
mindset (see Beteille, 2002; Vaid, 2014) with little radical transformation. It was observed that some of
Sinha 3
the educated castes did try to cross the caste-based internalized mindset; however, it was more or less a
rare move. The people from the lower caste background were driven by the social and psychological
contracts arranged historically such as the Watan system in Maharashtra, and it was impossible for them
to cross the occupational barrier. The lower caste people who were not part of the four varna (or jati)
system collectively identified themselves as Dalits with the influential role of their leader Dr B. R.
Ambedkar. Historically, they were deprived of all the basic requirements to cross the barrier of caste and
attaining a respectable position in the society. However, with the effort of Ambedkar’s mobilization and
aspirations among the diverse and underrepresented population, some Dalits and people from other
marginalized group attained the social class mobility; however, their caste always lingered on their
shoulder, which got somewhat hidden consciously in the urban context (see Kapur, Babu, & Prasad,
2014). Though there was provision under which few Dalits got themselves educated, but that happened
in the political context of Maharashtra contrary to the situation in larger part of India. The reductionist
and highly individualistic psychological explanations were around the lack of basic cognitive skills
without reconciling the social context of deprivation, discrimination, power dynamics and oppressions.
Therefore, once born in a particular caste, one has to sustain in its cultural truism throughout and after
life, for example, in memories. The commonsensical version of the caste seems to be a mirage (see Shah,
2017), especially among most of the middle-class and upper caste organizations. The students’ organi-
zations which do not speak for the reservation and affirmative action for the lower caste people, like
‘youth for equality’ and ‘Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP)’, fall into this mirage of a casteless
society. This is more a political move where the whole cultural variation of different castes and sub-
castes is taken for granted. The paradox of this denial of caste and Dalit reality is observed in the rigidity
of the rituals displayed in the practice of various social institutions such as marriage where caste boundary
is difficult to cross (see Shah, 2017). It is defended that this barrier has been permeated through the
education and other social class mobility factors; this caste-based marriage alliance is rampantly observed
under the patriarchal loop.
The argument of the present article is based on the premise that the caste system and social class
mobility are reportedly connected (Thorat & Newman, 2012), that is, in majority of cases it is seen that
lower caste people are lower in their social status and their social class mobility passes through channels
different from the upper caste. The argument emphasizes that the rigid connection between being lower
caste and lower social class led to social psychological repercussions, such as humiliation. However, this
intensity can be diluted through the realization of self-worth in the form of collective pride and dignity
based on the aspiration and inspiration derived from the leader who helped Dalits in developing a sense
of organized force.
This article deals with three major interlinked components such as Dalit leadership, collective pride
and social class mobility from the social identity and cultural ecological approach. These three interlinked
components will focus broadly on the Indian caste system, Dalit history of oppression and emergence of
leader and social movements for social change. The major research questions that are explored from the
Dalit perspective are as follows:
1. In what way Dalit leadership mobilizes collective pride among Dalit students’ identity and helps
them break the barrier of rigid caste boundary?
2. What kind of collective action takes place due to the leadership intervention such as modelling
with the Dalit leaders?
3. In what way collective pride led to collective action which further helps in creating social change?
4 Contemporary Voice of Dalit
Participants and Procedure
Permission was sought from eight Dalit scholars from India who identify with Dr B. R. Ambedkar as
their leader and whom they think showed them the path of emancipation and social change. Out of them,
six agreed to participate in the study (see Table 1). A set of 14 interconnected open-ended questions was
sent to these Dalit scholars through email, and their written response was collected. The questions
concerning the identification with Dalit leaders, collective pride and concerns regarding social class
mobility were included to stimulate Dalit scholars to describe their experiences.
These Dalit scholars were selected because of their observable success in the society. All six were
highly educated, out of which five have completed their PhD, and one participant is doing PhD, and all
are engaged in respectable jobs as per the available objective criteria of socioeconomic status (SES).
The sampling method adopted was snowball. The present job and education of these Dalit scholars
denote their choice to take higher education. All of these Dalit scholars respect the leadership of Dr B.
R. Ambedkar, who was a great visionary leader in India, and he was the person who drafted the
constitution of India. It is evident from various reports that Dalit and non-Dalit both take pride in one’s
constitution. However, this is special for the Dalit group as Ambedkar was a statesman, a scholar and an
active political leader who created the new goals of social change. This study chose educated Dalits as
respondents due to present political scenario, loss of power of current Dalit leaders like Mayawati in
Uttar Pradesh and reported cases of discrimination of poor Dalit people across the country. Some of the
incidents like the Rohith Vemula’s suicide and other Dalit students led this research in progress to
critically understand the meaning of Dalit leadership, collective pride and social class mobility.
Data Analysis
Qualitative inductive content analysis was used. The obtained written documents from Dalit scholars were
analysed (i.e., identified, coded and categorized) (see Elo & Kyngas, 2007). All the responses were
collected together depending upon the nature of questions asked and read number of times. The response
to the questions was analysed by categorizing them into the interconnected domains (such as the
identification with Dalit leaders, collective pride and concerns regarding social class mobility). Impressions
about the responses were analysed as a whole and not limited to the specific questions. After the
identification of the statements based on the domains, coding was performed to formulate the categories.
The categories were arranged as subcategory, generic category and main category. Through the continuous
revisiting of the formulated categories, the inductive approach was adopted to discuss them.
Results: Themes and Subthemes
Every societal act has caste-based contingencies. After many years of Ambedkarite movement and open
assertions among highly educated Dalits (oppressed group), still, the degradation based on caste system
persists. Many acts of public violence, atrocities and other forms of discriminations on Dalits undermine
Sinha 5
Table 1. The Participants’ Critical Response on Dalit Leadership, Collective Pride and Social Class Mobility
Education Sex
Importance of Dalit
Feeling of Collective
Meaning of Social Class
Y PhD M No hope in the present
leaders, but leader can play
an important role in
collective participation
Dignity, respect for
Dalit movement, both
individual effort and
collective effort
Social change
S1 PhD in
M Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram
inspired and gave the hope
for future education
Role models and
Social and economic
upliftment and education
G PhD M Leaders free from
enslavement can liberate the
consciousness, Ambedkar
and Kanshi Ram were
important leaders
Individual struggle and
brining meaning to
one’s identity
Education and research
P PhD M No leader in the current
time, but see role model in
Ambedkar who dissented
Hope, persona of
leaders such as
Social change
S2 PhD M Inspired from Phule,
Ambedkar and subaltern
Horizontal comradeship
among all subaltern
Against Sanskritization;
strive for social change
S3 PhD M No hope in the present
leadership, but feels
Ambedkar is a continuous
source of aspiration
Proud of one’s social
identity and political
ideology of Ambedkar
Source: Authors own.
their present status. Some argue that under the broader umbrella of Dalit, the intrinsic caste differentiations
are overlooked. This article is not about the complex caste differences but about overpowering the
psychological burden of being involuntarily subjugated to the cultural truism, for example, the burden of
being lower caste as per one’s experiences and the societal structure.
The meaning of caste is construed both critically and in an acceptable manner. Since caste has a
cultural association in terms of practices and the use of various artefacts as per the value attached to it,
its meaning is socially constructed in varieties of context. For example, the notions of caste as a consti-
tutional category seem to be reconstructed as a fixed entity, extracting out its essence of being fluid,
leading to new forms of stereotypes confirming back to their lower status. However, with the mobilization
of the cause of the Scheduled Caste (SC) category as not fixed but a malleable force, Dalit leaders such
as Ambedkar, operationalized the meaning of being SC as both a constitutional and political category.
The perception about the caste as a closed group with no mobility was contested but within the limited
boundary such as numerical, physical, economic and political strength (see Dumont, 1970). The follow-
ing categories emerged out of the responses pertaining to major research questions. The summary of the
obtained categories is mentioned in Table 2.
6 Contemporary Voice of Dalit
Dalit Leadership
Liberate and Aspire
The transformations in the perception of being restricted by the caste boundaries may have diluted the
intensity of the caste boundary with effective Dalit leadership. However, few responses from the
participants showed their apathy towards the current leaders but indicated their respect towards Ambedkar
and Kanshi Ram as their role model, who aspired them to cross the social psychological boundaries of
enslavement towards the positive social and political identity:
G: We have end number of leaders now but with no leadership qualities. Leader should make you feel liberated;
leader should hit your consciousness which is enslaved for ages. Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram has done that. Now-
a-days it is all about electoral leadership. Therefore, I don’t have hopes from dummy leaders.
S3: Leader in the sense current political leader I do not see any hope and I neither take any inspiration from them.
However, if you want to say about political ideologue than yes Ambedkar continues to aspire me in my life.
Dalit leadership at the national level after Ambedkar, in terms of identity management and crafting a
sense of us (Haslam, Reicher, & Platow, 2011), was observed to be in the social influence of leaders like
Mayawati. However, the question is: Are these contemporary Dalit leaders influential and craft a sense
of we-ness among the Dalits? Or has the Dalit identity been on the verge of fluidity where Dalit leaders
may not be a caste member belonging to caste-based closed groups? For example, is it about the Dalit
leaders who politically represent them? Then, why did Mayawati lose the election and why was the trust
shifted? One newspaper reported a person saying: Young Dalits want jobs, laptops and a better life. She
has so far promised dignity to her voters but she will have to add development too.
Educated Dalits also seem to be believe in their individual efforts and have respect for their
individuality, showing their achievement due to their personal efficacy. Some of the participants
expressed about the independence and confidence at the time of leadership crisis:
Table 2. Main Areas, Categories and Subcategories Regarding the Dalit Leadership, Collective Pride and Social
Class Mobility Perception
A. Dalit leadership
Liberate and aspire
Create hope and energize for collective participation
Create anti-prejudice environment
Charismatic and entrepreneur of identity
Visionary and socially committed
B. Collective pride: the role of leader
Identification with Dalit movement for social change
Identification with the authentic leaders
Group membership matters
Self-consciousness as collective consciousness
C. Questioning social class mobility: the struggle for social change
Radical social revolution
Social change and socioeconomic empowerment
Source: Authors own.
Sinha 7
Y: There were times when I did not have any role model and it made me feel more independent and condent.
Role models are restrictive and posit a narrow view of reality.
G: I don’t have a role model but I have dreams. Dream of not becoming like somebody but doing something
where my passion lies.
Creating Hope and Energize for Collective Participation
The overpowering impact of caste-based humiliations in the historical context has led to the emergence
of a collective and empathic understanding of being disadvantaged at the group level, forming identifi-
cation with one’s leader and resorting to the collective self-esteem as a group and collective action to
come out of that. One of the participants denied his personal identification with any Dalit leader; however,
he believed in the importance of leadership in the collective participation:
Y: No I do not identify with a Dalit leader but I do believe that strong leadership can make one feel hopeful about
the future and can have energizing effects on collective participation.
Though the struggle is not about just at the individual level, it is group mobility also, with the conscious
effort to take part in the collective action at all the domains which discriminated the Dalits’ historically.
Some of the arguments fall into the relationship between class and caste and argue for semantic equivalence.
The token for the caste as class was opined in a number of outlets comprising supporting the arguments for
the reservation for SC and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Since OBCs were based on the caste-based
categorization by Mandal Commission in 1990, contrary to the OBCs categorized on the basis of class by
Kelkar Commission, 1953 (see Srinivas, 1996; Shah, 2017), there were many incidents which discriminate
Dalits despite their expression of group-based pride. Among them, Uttar Pradesh, India, is the state of
highest Dalit atrocities with a high level of government insensitivity. The crimes are so blatant and subtle
that it has become a part of Dalits’ daily life. Educational inequality, untouchability, snatching the modesty
of Dalit women, beating, etc., were frequent incidents observed among the high caste-dominant regions
(Sooryamoorthy, 2008). However, it was not clear how frequent the events happened in an urban area
where discrimination is not so open in acts but has a wider impact in disguise, that is, in the form of
representation in schools, university, government jobs and institutions of social significance. According to
Kaviraj (1997), ‘a shared history of discrimination, exploitation, and valid claims has emerged, underpinning
a modern constructed Dalit identity for low caste communities’ (p. 9). This shared history and its collective
memory are not simply a psychological hyperbole, but it is a social activity of remembrance (e.g., Billig,
1997). The presence of a community leader who could show the value and power of these qualities may
help in the blurring of the caste boundary of the community. As one of the participants wrote:
S1: Community leadership has a great role to be a role model for their community men. I think without leadership
imagination no one can imagine his or her progress.
Creating Anti-prejudice Environment
Creation of Dalit identity managed to supersede their caste-based discrimination but only among educat-
ed groups and not among the general public. It was also observed that Dalits who are educationally
qualified are not immune to the caste-based discrimination and are regularly targeted for their educational
8 Contemporary Voice of Dalit
and occupational achievements (see Pathania, 2016). The derogatory remarks and implicit blaming among
higher caste regarding those Dalits have made the situation more humiliating and discriminatory. This
nature of prejudice finds its roots in the caste-based hierarchical structure. A century back Karl Marx
opined that Indian caste system would overpower the new generations of the industrialized class which
will dissolve the hereditary divisions of labour, upon which the Indian caste system is based, posing
certain impediments to Indian progress (see Rudolph & Rudolph, 1967). But those assertions are correct
to some extent, as observed in different parts of India (e.g., Maharashtra and UP) due to the active role of
leaders such as Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram and Mayawati. Though, the notions about Dalits, as a new
assertive political and class identity, the everyday observation shows that humiliation, insults Prejudice
and discrimination are part of the everyday life of Dalits. One of the participants expressed his opinion
about the role of leaders in the eradication of anti-Dalit prejudices as follows:
S1: Leadership has a great role in terms of tackling the anti-Dalit prejudices. A leader like Ambedkar and other
contemporary Dalit leaders in a different eld of life have set a positive impact. Thus Dalit leadership has a
positive to ght with anti-Dalit prejudices.
However, one of the participants highlighted the legitimization of caste prejudice by most of the current
Dalit leaders:
S3: I guess most of the current Dalit leaders apart from few rather establish the existing caste prejudice about
Dalits in the society. I believe it is produce in more way in terms of their speeches, their behaviour and their
political orientation.
Mass mobilization and assertion through their new identity and group-based pride are still not able to
replace the historically deep-seated feeling of humiliations and prejudice. Dalits, reportedly accused of
getting benefits of education and occupation based on the policy of affirmative action (reservation), thus,
continue to live in greater psychological grievance and apathy. Leadership in the caste association is no
longer in the hands of those qualified by heredity, the senior or abler members of the lineage, which
traditionally supplied jati (caste) leadership. The caste association observed as a para community which
was no longer an ascriptive association in the sense in which caste was taken as a jati. It has taken on
features of the voluntary association. Membership in caste associations is not purely ascriptive. Birth in
the caste is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for membership. One must also join through some
conscious act involving various degrees of identification ranging from providing financial support to an
association’s educational, welfare or commercial activities, to attending caste association meetings, to
voting for candidates supported by caste association leaders (Rudolph & Rudolph, 1967, p. 33).
Charismatic and Entrepreneur of Identity
The Ambedkar’s leadership in showing the path towards self-standing and posing a challenge to
Brahmanism has mixed effects in the lower strata; however, the middle class produced factions (see
Beteille, 2007). Guru (2009) raised issues about the history of oppression which was humiliating in its
form and structure. However, the collective memory of humiliation, together with the collective action
to preserve and raise one’s collective self-esteem, is conjectured as the form of collective pride. Sullivan
(2007) pointed towards the role of leader whose persona and efforts to show direction led to the feeling
of collective pride. There are some research works, for example, Tracy, Shariff, and Cheng (2010) which
Sinha 9
showed that pride plays an adaptive role in attainment, maintenance and communication of social status.
However, how this is applicable to the historically oppressed group who are continuously humiliated is
a matter of debate. From the social identity perspective (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), we can infer that
leadership (see Haslam et al., 2011; see also Hogg, 2001) and the collective effort for social, political and
economic rights can transcend the humiliation into collective pride. One of the participants expressed the
significance of Ambedkar as a Dalit leader who mobilized the devalued identity of lower caste into new
direction with faith, pride and assertions. The position of Ambedkar as a leader applied not only to the
lower caste but also to the other caste emancipation who inspires for future progress and social change,
is noted here:
P: BR Ambedkar. It is not just because he was the most charismatic leader of Dalits. It is primarily because he
worked against the tide to put forward an alternative politics and a perspective, which he staunchly strived for
all his life. He was not a traditionalist who accepted the arguments made by predecessors. For example, while
Ambedkar considered JotibaPhuleas his Guru, and called him, “the Greatest Shudra of Modern India”, he never
accepted Phule’s interpretation of politics and history. He was courageous enough to assert his own view and yet
became one most respected leaders.
Thus, it may further help in building social mobility and egalitarian society (Drury & Reicher, 2000,
2005; see also Jogdand & Sinha, 2015). The most efficient way to escape from this caste-based humili-
ation was dominantly seen as seeking shelter under the helping hands of more socially and economically
valued groups. However, this was also seen as a collective struggle which seems to have transcended the
oppressed identity into a collective pride, a type of conscious emotion which goes beyond the phenom-
enon of self-esteem and impels people towards achievement and emancipation.
Visionary and Socially Committed
Dalits who were lower status groups have earned their political identity through the collective struggle
and help of authentic leadership. The role of leader is important in the sense that it energizes and brings
meaning and respect to the group members. It was noticed that Ambedkar and his followers contested
their ascriptive identity given to them by the dominant system and created more meaningful and
respectful identity which nurtured their humiliated identity to more independence. This effort to cross the
boundary of caste boundaries also happened through the educational achievement and identification with
the education. This one feature of social class mobility and social change is noticed in the responses of
participants about their preference for leader:
G: A person who understand the history, society as well as the individual’s freedom of expression. A person who
can motivate people in their language. And who can offer a vision of liberal casteless society.
P: One who is open to counter views. One who is socially committed, intellectually equipped and morally
courageous to take on critical matters.
The above responses showed two prominent qualities of leader which the Dalit respondents asserted.
First, one who understands the history and culture of people and second, who can be visionary, intellectual,
morally courageous, honest and committed to the group in an authentic way to remove the caste hierarchy
from mind. However, the paradox here is the embedded caste hierarchy in the mindset and approach
which to some extent give its member a sense of belongingness. This paradox was handled in the
following quote by two of the participants:
10 Contemporary Voice of Dalit
S3: I believe one who can be empathetic to other person’s life and be kind and honest in his work. And above all
be courageous to take up the position that challenges the existing structure of hierarchy and domination.
Y: I don’t think the ‘kind’ will decide who is going to be my leader. Leaders will emerge from a process of
leadership which includes being there for people, developing moral stamina and reective capacity as a person.
The struggle is against the imposed Brahmanical mythology (see Deliege, 2009) over the lower castes,
which has created the sharp divides and have to be debunked through active education and by developing
a sense of criticality among the teachers and students. As Tajfel and Turner (1979) held that pride is an
integral component of social identification, the present study will attempt to explore the relationship
between a collective pride of belonging to a collective group, who with the help of leader make a collec-
tive effort (action), to cross their oppressed boundaries through educational achievement and developing
an educational identity.
Collective Pride: The Role of Leader
It is observed that majority of Dalits are struggling with both psychological threats and humiliations
(Jogdand, 2015) together with poverty and lack of formal education (Mosse, 2010; Rao, 2010). However,
some research works showed that pride linked to one’s community, culture (Zelliot, 2001) and emergence
of authentic leaders created hope for the collective movement and social change (see Jadhav, 2013).
These collective movements comprised all classes and depicted the group-based effort for the social
reforms. One of the methods is to understand the educational spaces where neoliberal politics and upper
caste value systems are prominent, leading to the lack of equal representations of Dalit students’ voice.
It is imperative that the task of universities and other educational system is to highlight the achievement
of Dalits which can be inspirational, both at the levels of perception of the society and Dalits themselves.
Deriving pride in the achievement of the Dalit group member was many times used metaphorically as
faith, hope, dignity, identity well-being and fulfilment. These metaphors show the future positive
prospects of emancipations. This picture of one’s existence as a group member who was deprived of
basic rights in the history depicts the necessary preconditions for the social mobility.
Identification with Dalit Movements for Social Change
The notions of pride derived from group membership for future social mobility embedded in various
tokens such as educational achievement, forming a political identity, acknowledging the past achievements
and culture can be some of the important features of social class mobility, such as, cultural mobility,
social mobility and how they are different from Sanskritization (Srinivas, 1966). Sanskritization is a
process of cultural mobility among the lower caste people when they take on the beliefs, rituals and
practices of higher caste groups for economic and status advancement (Srinivas, 1966, 1996; cf. Vaid,
2014). Sanskritization and modernity cannot be aligned together, as we see that modernity gave the
power to reject the oppressive upper caste culture and let them believe in the meaning of their existence,
with the choice to engage in some and reject another form of their cultural practices. Some of the
demeaning cultural practices of untouchables were more a result of upper caste oppressive force for
scavenging labour rather than the choice. This leads to the dehumanization and infra-humanization in the
Sinha 11
history and presents with no self-respect and pride. This was rejected as part of the culture by the leading
Dalits. One of the participants rejected the notion of social class mobility of Dalits from the lens of
S2: That’s is a process of Sanskritisation to uplift Dalits identity to high-level within the structure. So my answer
is no.
However, other practices such as singing, bravery, folk music, literature and inventions were retained
and felt pride for that. The suppression of the memories of pride due to the oppression and untouchability
lead to the utter exclusion at all the levels in the Indian society. The importance of political identity and
constitutional categorization of Dalits was the part of a social movement of identity assertion and revival
of the respect and the struggle for the equality in the society. For example, the leadership of Ambedkar
gave people from Mahar caste the choice not to eat carrion and doing other demeaning jobs and provided
aspiration to be educated and assertive. One participant expressed his disdain with his social group but
identified very much with the Dalit social movements fighting for the rights and dignity:
Y: I do not identify with my social group (i.e. caste). But I do identify with the Dalit movement for emancipation
and dignity. I do not think Dalit leadership (post-Ambedkar) provided any hope against the collective humiliation.
On the contrary, Dalit leadership (or failure thereof) might have contributed to the sense of humiliation.
However, he was very much identified with the Dalit movement for the dignity and pride of Dalits. It was
also noticed that post-Ambedkar era elevated the humiliation at the collective level. Ambedkar leadership
created a sense of dignity among the marginalized social group. Though at the larger scale Dalits’ choice
to be on the verge of social class mobility was difficult, it shows somewhere the constant rise in their
consciousness across the country offering the strong resistance to social dominance.
Identification with the Authentic Leaders
The negotiation of meaning of one’s existence is based on both the leaders and the power of aspiration
and the engagement in the collective movement to assert their rights at the national and international
forums. Are dignity and collective pride enough to come out of poverty? Here is the pathway to tackle
the humiliation by deriving inspiration from the leader who is representative of one’s identity. This is
described by one Dalit participant here:
S1: Dr Ambedkar became our hero. I used to read his autobiography and whenever I nd myself in trouble, Dr
Ambedkar’s life gave me instant energy for dreaming for a better life and do betterment of the downtrodden
people. Dalit leader Kanshi Ram was my inspiration also. I met him thrice personally with help of my father who
was a party cadre. Still, I think, community leadership has a great role for the people to anticipate them to aspire
to do better and betterment for the society.
Research shows that aspiration and inspiration through the modelling play a very important role in
collective self-efficacy, leading to the future achievement (see Chen & Bliese, 2002). The role of collective
pride in the revival of interest in one’s respectful existence is important for Dalits. Representing Dalits
from the humiliation vantage point may be a good consciousness programme, but for emancipation, it is
imperative to have the collective movement and motivation which are supposed to be derived from the
collective pride. Collective pride is not a stagnant psychological group internalization but seems to be a
12 Contemporary Voice of Dalit
part of the discursive phenomenon where identity is built and rebuilt on the basis of everyday discourses
and professional interactions such as seminars, conferences, protest, forum and online blogs. The collective
pride among Dalits is an important emotional phenomenon, and it has its roots in both the contemporary
and historical domains. Though Dalit is a political identity where people identify with this political
consciousness, it is also important to note that under the umbrella of Dalit identity, there are many social
categorizations. These social categorizations are linked to one’s cultural affiliation to the social category
and belongingness. For example, there are many castes (>2,000) which come under the constitutional
category of scheduled castes having varieties of cultural and social experiences. However, the common
thread that binds all these castes is the humiliation and discrimination by upper caste value systems.
The very expression and feeling of insults and discriminations are widely shared among the lower
caste people, but it is also imperative to know that these feelings transgress into the positive emotions
when they are dealt collectively in the form of achievement and achieving the political, social, and
constitutional rights. This metaphysics of collectivity has both ontological and epistemic relevance when
it comes to the social change having tangible and observable output. The discriminated castes in all the
domains such as cultural, educational, social and political, had a distinct cultural connection from which
they have the reason to be proud, for example, Saint Ravidas and Chokhamela whom Dalits called as
saints and other social reformers from other castes, and Nuts, who have the skill to entertain the audience
through different kartabs. Since the Indian society is simply not standing on the structure of caste as a
universal factor, though it is an important base of which the other contingent factors can be explained
better, the construction of mini identities on the basis of cultural practices in the everyday social
interaction is to be taken seriously. The marginalization of one’s existences and cultural practices,
especially of the lower caste and Dalits, has locked the ability to be aware of one’s right to be on the
equal footing with all others. In the folklore and narratives, the incidents are often witnessed when
people of the marginalized social group highlight the action of bravery, eruditeness, saintliness and
leadership of the group members who held the group status high and made them proud. However, these
discourses, folklores and narratives did not get any acknowledgement and meaningful place in the
literature and historical notes. The longingness and urge to be a respectful member of the society can
be attached directly to the revivalism of pride and association with the individual and group struggle of
the members to cross the barrier of educational, social and occupational stereotypes. One educated Dalit
participant who identifies with the Ambedkar’s personality and achievement, which generate hope to
assert and emphasize their identities in education and other domains, states:
P: I think it is not through emotion such as pride I identify myself with my social group. But on the other hand,
Ambedkar’s persona, his achievement and his politics, has always excited me to think critically about myself,
my life, my line of thinking, and my possible contribution to society.
One participant expressed his belief in education where he is positive about education. However, he
identifies with his Dalit group rather than any current leadership showing his independence and freedom:
S3: I am in general proud of my social identity. I think the current political Dalit leadership have not inuenced
me much about my goal and my achievements in life.
The other participant affirmed the role of leader who motivated him to carry on his education. He showed
how Dalits are excelling in every domain through the effective leadership and modelling their leader
whom they think authentic and relevant.
Sinha 13
S1: Yes of course. Now the Dalit leadership emerge in every eld. My interesting eld is in education so very
much inuenced by Prof. Sukhdeo Thorat who was the chairperson of the UGC and Prof. Mungekar was a
member of Planning Commission. I don’t have any idea about Dalit administrators, so I am less inspired by the
Dalit IAS.
It was noticed that the degradation of people from the lower caste background (e.g., Mahars in
Maharashtra, Chamars in Uttar Pradesh) played an ancillary role in lifting the pride of other social
groups. Zelliot (2001) reported about the leadership of B. R. Ambedkar belonging to the Mahar comm-
unity and how the education and success of the leader of Mahars created a social movement of socio-
cultural and economic upliftment. Though the role of upper caste at the majority level is not appreciated
in the upliftment of the Dalits, yet some poets and literary activists help in the encouragement of Mahars
(see Zelliot, 2001).
Some of the news reported that B. R. Ambedkar is an icon for Dalit pride. This is observed in the
number of movements by the Dalits such as installing of statue at the public place for the awareness and
knowledge about the history of Dalit struggle and their leader, taking education and excelling in it,
singing, pride march, excelling in the competitive exams, sports, romantic relationship (marrying from
upper caste), etc. Recent events of the breaking of the statue of B. R. Ambedkar, which symbolizes Dalit
leadership, respect and pride of struggle, shows the unacceptance of Dalits by the society in various
‘The Ambedkar statues in villages and towns across India symbolize Dalit existence, self-respect and
the hope for a better future. The desecration of his statue means an attack on Dalits’ self-respect and as a
threat to their future’, says D. Shyam Babu, fellow, Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies
(Ghosh, 2006).
Group Membership Matters
Authentic Pride matters for the welfare of the group and their liberation through collective struggle and
action, may seems to operate at the individual level but creates aspiration among the group members in
a meaningful way. The question that can be asked here is that in other groups also achievement is a
matter of pride, and why is this exploration limited to the Dalits only? It is important to highlight the
achievements and pride of Dalit members in various domains through the channels they adopted. These
channels are not same as that are for the higher caste groups. These channels are moderated by the
number of factors connected to caste-based discrimination at all the levels such as education, occupation
and income. But even if the SES increased among very few, their status is considered low. The need is to
have a heightened self-esteem based on the group affiliation and having an authentic leader and role
model who worked for the Dalits, both at the conceptual and empirical levels. When asked about the
importance of their social group affiliation, some of the participants expressed their opinion as follows:
Y: Group membership matters because it shapes so many things in life. Being from a historically oppressed group
puts me at disadvantage what most people routinely take for granted (good education, health, social respect).
However, membership in a historically oppressed group gives me a perception and insight into social suffering
and struggle for emancipation and dignity that is going on in different parts of this world.
S1: In India, caste is a prime reality. No one can change his birth master status. Caste and class both are in a
continuum in India. So sometimes we feel that caste is annihilating but politics and marriage are still inuenced
by the caste factors.
14 Contemporary Voice of Dalit
G: I think it is a wonderful experience which upper caste are not able to get. This experience of being discriminated
motivates me to dream for an equal and just society.
Pride in the Indian society is assumed to be derived on the basis of wealth, accumulation of resources,
lands, etc. We see Dalits are deprived mostly of these artefacts, then how they can have a pride? It was
noticed that when it comes to the protest on the Dalit issues, the protesters are mostly from the Dalit
background. Why are people from other groups either critical or indifferent to the protester’s issues? This
article understands the role of pride among the Dalits when it comes to the group-based movements. At
the individual level, a Dalit may be a shattered and humiliated person carrying the possibilities of
stigmatization of being Dalit, belonging to a group which is fighting for its rights, needing a reservation
with good intention and not with the blame of eroding the job of the upper caste. Actually, it is important
for everyone at the global level to understand the plight of Dalits and solve at all the levels of empowerment
as identified by Teltumbde (2011), that is, (a) individual empowerment, (b) socio-economic empowerment,
(c) sociopolitical empowerment and (d) sociocultural empowerment.
Self-consciousness as Collective Consciousness
Folklore of Pride among the self-conscious group (Zelliot, 2001): This feeling may not be present at the
time when there were no politically conscious leaders to show them the path of emancipation. The social
movements and other activities at the collective level, (helped by Phule, Ambedkar, Gandhi and other
progressive scholars) in the passage of time brought in their self-consciousness, the meaning of collectivity
and group conscience for the social change. The Dalits who are ex-untouchables remember that they were
not part of the varna system and were humiliated. They feel proud, however, of their culture which they
think is no way inferior to others. Untouchables were demeaned as cultureless and were outlasted from the
society living at the outskirts, with no access to proper health and job. They were in most of the cases
doing menial jobs which did not give them any respect in the society. However, the inclination towards
their own indigenous culture gives them the hope and empowerment to rebuild their future.
Caste-based humiliations and stigmatizations are uncountable. The analogy of Freud may not work
here, as the bad memories are not repressed in the consciousness but are actively and consciously
sustained into one’s mind and their coming generations. However, caste bias at all the levels (individual,
health, cultural, social, etc.) is very much faced by the Dalits. Though educated Dalits are conscious at
the level of activism, most of the uneducated Dalit people are rampantly facing the caste bias throughout.
It is not that those who are educated are not discriminated at the economic and the social levels. The issue
is of consciousness and perception of being biased and inhumanly treated both in the present and in the
history and the designation of a new norm of social change, leading to novel methods such as literature
and science, sports, movies, debates and discussions. So, it is about the act which shows that Dalits need
to play an active role in the society for the social change. The inclusion of Dalits in the society is
important to cross the stigmatization of being polluted. This is an infra-humanization when they are
called as untouchables, not accepted in the everyday life and their presence is considered as polluted. The
collective struggle and active participation of the Dalits make the context of discrimination diluted
through collective pride, leading to social mobility. The meaning of social mobility will be made clear
by expanding its horizon in the social change discourse rather than limiting it to mobility only.
Tokens of being proud collectively: (a) Ambedkar was just not their leader but he had the leadership
to bring social change at the global level. He was well educated and had contributed immensely for the
nation by recognizing and communicating assertively the value of diverse and marginalized. He actively
Sinha 15
drafted the constitution of India, did Mahad Satyagraha for the social emancipation of Dalits (parallel to
other activism which was also going on under the leadership of Gandhi). One of the participants high-
lighted his interest in higher education for the social respect and increasing the status in the society, but
these were not the primary factors behind his choice for higher education. It was noticed that choice of
education was more driven by brining social change through relevantly contributing to the society:
P: My interest in education has always motivated me to take up higher education. Obviously, social respect/
prestige and economic benets were main factors while choosing the profession but they didn’t solely direct the
choice. Simultaneously, I wanted to be in a profession which could provide me space to relevantly contribute to
the society. Academia is such platform which provides that space.
P: I was never humiliated on the grounds of my identity. My family enjoyed considerable social status in my
town due to my father’s involvement in public life and literary activities. On the other hand, I do experience the
bias against me on several occasions due to my identity. Dalit leadership has always created a hope in my mind,
which instilled in me a condence through which I could assert myself in education and other domains.
Questioning Social Class Mobility: The struggle for Social Change
Radical Social Revolution
The leadership which can provide a fresh perspective to revive Dalit collective identity is found missing
in the present political movement. As leadership is a group phenomenon, the recognition of leader
depends upon the followers. In this process, followers find a meaningful representation of their need,
aspirations and belongingness. The power of the leader is in the eye of beholder where the followers feel
empowered both in terms of their future hope and social mobility. However, Dalits’ assertion of their
identity and demand for reservation were attributed as a political action for economic mobility for
attaining high status. This notions about their effort and collective struggle were rejected by Dalit
scholars. Dalits rejected social class mobility and demand revolutionary change at the structural level.
Y: Many people make this mistake of understanding Dalit struggle as efforts of social mobility but Dalit identity
aims for a radical social revolution not social mobility in a given status hierarchy. To imagine Dalit identity in
terms of status and hierarchy is the very thing Dalit identity ghts against. Dalit identity purports an imagination
of the world which is free of exploitation and suffering.
P: This is precisely the problem many researchers face when they try to understand Dalit identity in the larger
framework. It is true that many middle class Dalits think about Dalit identity in terms of social mobility. But I
don’t it is possible at all to make Dalit identity a high status identity. It is an oxymoron and not in consonance with
reality. On the other hand, the ideological basis of Dalit politics was to counter the hierarchical and exploitative
notions of Caste society. Ideally speaking, Dalit identity/ politics is about assertion of the marginalized against
notions of inequality, exploitation, prejudice and oppression. Making that Dalit identity into a high status group
would marginalize that very assertion which is unique to their identity.
Though the mobility in terms of the socioeconomic level was observed in some groups of Dalit, at the
larger scale, the condition is impoverished and dehumanizing. The meaning of social class mobility is
16 Contemporary Voice of Dalit
observed in a reductive way, where, it is limited to income, occupation and education. Social class mobility
was taken in a negative light because it does not offer change at the cultural, social and psy-
chological level. It is one kind of economic upliftment which is also possible through individual efforts. But
the value attached to this kind of mobility is negative as Dalits are frequently blamed that their economic
growth is due to affirmative actions and not because of their personal efforts. It is perceived as an act of
kindness from the higher status group. Compared to the higher status group, Dalits, as a lower status group,
identify with their politicized collective identity (Simon & Klandermans, 2001). Their effort for social class
mobility follows different channels and may be equivalent to other status groups, especially, among the
middle-class Dalits. The difference underlies the motive for the social change goals at the collective level.
The collective struggle is not just for economic upliftment but also towards the change in the social values
towards their group (see Sweetman, Leach, Spears, Pratto, & Saab, 2013). The case of Dalit history in India
showed the deprivation of Dalit minority group from power, wealth and Status because of the feudal
character of the society (see Kumar & Chintamani, 2009). They were outcast from the social system, and
any effort to cross the boundary of their devalued social position was dealt with oppression. The menace of
untouchability and poverty due to lack of any ownership of both social possessions and their social positions
becomes dehumanizing. The efforts to reform at the structural level and decentralization of the social
values which created the divide and dehumanization have to be tackled at the level of perception.
Social Change and Socioeconomic Empowerment
The social values attached to the identity have a threatening effect on the people from the lower status
community. The demeaning of the identity of the lower status on the part of a higher status group in India
led to a lack of representations at the level of recognition. This demeaning of one’s cultural and social
identity has been connected to the barriers leading to the difficulties in crossing the boundaries. So,
social class mobility is not limited to the escalation or de-escalation of social mobility because of
attainment of economic or social benefits, as it is perceived in the notions of the upper-status group. It is
also connected to other important factors such as social recognition and creating a new social identity
with hope and pride in one’s meaningful existence with respect in the eye of society. One of the
participants expressed his pride in the Dalit identity as a status symbol as follows:
S3: I think Dalit identity itself is a sign of high status group that dees the logic of religion and discrimination.
However, in terms of economic privileges, I think yes Dalits still look for a more promising future in terms of
education, active participation in politics and been aware of its own social and political surroundings.
The collective participation of Dalit group in India is for the consciousness of one’s place in the social
system and adopting authentic methods to bring social change. The movement is not about the social
class in the commonly understood sense but about the dignity of being in the equivalent position as other
groups in the social system. This movement of restructuring the caste hierarchy which is attached to the
historical occupations is in one sense social class hierarchy also. The perceptions of society about Dalits
on the basis of their caste affiliation create an opaque worldview about their standing in the society. The
social standing of Dalit group members is perceived to be concrete and unchanging; however, the modern
education and reservation policy helped them to cross their class barrier. This process of status
mobilization as one part of social change is described by one of the Dalit participants as:
S1: When I was in primary school, I used to participate , where from I got inspiration from the struggle of Dr
Ambedkar. My father was a trade union leader in Bata India Ltd. He motivated us to participate in the school
Sinha 17
programme and other extracurricular activities. Since childhood, I was inspired to be a doctor. I used to visit
hospitals with the mother. So I thought I would be a doctor. But when I passed the 10th examination with
good marks and got admission in 10 plus 2 in Science in a reputed college. When I got admission in 10+2,
I started with economic deprivation. I was in science stream but I did not have money to take tuition. Even I
was struggling with our own livelihood survival. So I decided to do some job. I got the rst job as a peon in the
ofce of distributor of adult lms in Patna. After 6th month I left that ofce and worked as courier boy in courier
delivery ofce. Since then I struggled throughout my career. When I got admission in M.Phil course in JNU New
Delhi and found a scholarship. Then I hoped my dream might be true. JNU has shaped my career; JNU professors
provided a lot of moral and nancial support during hardship in JNU. Even our batch mates were very generous
towards me. If I did not get admission in JNU, I could not imagine my present status which I am today.
It is also noticed that middle-class Dalits find it difficult to remove the memories of humiliations both in
the past and present, which strengthened the community feeling and collective mobilization (see Jodhka
& Sirari, 2012). Dalits who identified with their leader felt a sense of self-worth, which may be one
dimension of hope and pride, though not completely. Some of other views showed that Dalit identity has
given meaning to their identity and empowerment (see Jodhka & Sirari, 2012).
Deriving from the Ogbu’s (1981) cultural-ecological theory of oppositional cultural, educated Dalits
in India feel humiliated when their collective struggle is reduced into social class mobility. There were
instances when the Dalit group members’ assimilation into the upper caste was not taken in the positive
light but rejected as acting upper caste. This acting upper caste fits well with the criticism of Sanskritization
by the Dalit scholars. The individual movement of Dalit group members into the dominant social system
of upper caste is possible in the condition when the members have the opportunity, through the education,
to cross the perceived impermeable boundary of caste. One of the participants expressed his empowerment
through the education, which is considered as one of the important tools for emancipation.
G: Education has no limit. As a human being we have limits and we set out limits which are basically very time
and space specic. When I was in my home town in Haryana, I was running my own small shop and my goal
was to establish two more shops in other cities. But family was hoping that I will crack civil service examination.
They sent me to Delhi for the competitive coaching. My teacher who taught me Sociology used to talk about JNU
all the time as could not get in JNU even after preparing very hard. I somehow cleared the entrance exam and
joined JNU he was so proud of me. After joining JNU, I realised that Higher Education in much more important
in our society and I left the idea of civil services and opted for research. In other words, each individual set his
own limits. All these competitions are rat race and race ends after achieving a post. But education is limitless, it
is beyond borders. In short, I feel like what I aspired was very limited, but now this aspiration is expanding and
I don’t want to stop.
It is however, sometimes questioned by Dalit group members, as the individual members seem to exit the
low-status group boundary and tries to fit among the upper-status out-groups. However, these are one of
the few rare cases that may be observed in the urban culture of India, where the humiliated identity of
Dalit member becomes diffused among the people busy in their job and family. It is the expectation from
the upwardly mobile Dalits to pay back to the community (see Jodhka & Sirari, 2012). This concept
of paying back to the community was started by one of the Dalit leaders, Kanshi Ram, creating a
consciousness among the Dalit community members as a collectivity. The collectivity among the Dalit
group members showed the meaningfulness of their identity. This seems to be possible due to the active
engagement of leaders representing the identity of the followers and directing them to the living standard
filled with pride. It was observed that Dalits identify with their leaders like Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram
as role models who started a creative Dalit movement and consciousness, leading to the hope for social
change. Also, apart from these educated Dalits, most of the Dalit group members live in poverty and
18 Contemporary Voice of Dalit
open humiliation due to their historical occupations like manual scavenging. This shows the paradox of
how the expectations of dominant group members of the society from the Dalit group members create an
impermeable boundary of being low status and on the other hand hold severe prejudices against the
socioeconomic upliftment of Dalits through the affirmative action which is a constitutional right. It is
also important to understand that social class mobility in the case of Dalits should be seen in the context
of emancipation and social change rather than simply and reductively assuming it as economic struggle,
contrary to the idea and struggle of the leaders like Dr B. R. Ambedkar.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author declared no potential conicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship and/or publication of
this article.
The author received no nancial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.
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... Caste is yet another enduring social identity (Kroeber, 1950) potentially influencing power dynamics (Link & Phelan, 2001) at social, economic, cultural and political upfronts (Jaspal, 2011;Kumar, 2017;Vaid, 2014). Literature explicates evidences for age-old caste-based hierarchical organization and segregation resulting in exhibition of stigmatization against the specific castes (Channa, 2005;Ram, 2013;Sinha, 2020), majorly, Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes (Parekh, 2005, p. 293;Tripathy et al., 2016). ...
... However, minority groups argue about an incongruence between the formally laid down Policies, Directive Principles, and Affirmative Actions by the Government of India and actual situationally contexted experiences of the marginalized. They are of the position that though they have undoubtedly got education and employment after reservation, but are still devoided of equal social status and hence, reportedly experience social and political disempowerment at various times and places (Bhanot & Verma, 2020;Festino, 2015;Sabharwal & Sonalkar, 2015;Shah et al., 2006;Singh et al., 2009;Sinha, 2020;Sooryamoorthy, 2006;Thorat et al., 2016). ...
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Empowerment of the stigmatized and the marginalized has ever been the biggest concern of Indian society. However, essentially no universal measure exists to tap it. The aim was to develop a measure of socio-political empowerment to understand its meaning and structure amongst the Indian caste margins. Based on the elicited themes from a qualitative pilot study, 22 items were generated. The responses on these items from 260 Indian historically caste marginalized respondents were subjected to Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) to study the basic psychometric properties. It resulted in 17 items across three factors: discrimination and equality, freedom to make choices in decision making and controllability over resources. Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) was conducted on 150 respondents to assess the three-factor composition of the construct of Socio-political empowerment. The final 11-items socio-political empowerment scale confirmed that the three factor model fits the data well with an internal consistency reliability of 0.73. Education and income (monthly and/or family) were negatively correlated with discrimination and equality dimension and positively correlated with the other two. Urban respondents reported significantly higher socio-political empowerment. Higher perceived levels of socio-political empowerment were found to be significant indicator of an enhanced sense of self-esteem, thereby establishing the concurrent criterion validity of the scale.
... Being a socially constructed phenomenon (Dovidio et al., 2003;Kurzban & Leary, 2001), the effects of stigmatization are highly mediated by the particular social contexts in which it manifests itself (Crocker et al., 1998). In Indian society, the stigmatized castes are subjected to certain types of stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination (Channa, 2005;Ram, 2013;Sinha, 2020). The discrimination could take many forms like exclusion, marginalisation, atrocities, abuse, and inaccessibility to certain rights otherwise enjoyed by the rest of the society including lack of education, political power, housing facilities, and health services (Devi, 2003;Shah et al., 2006;Singh, Rai, & Yadav, 2009). ...
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The authors present the lived experiences of the stigmatized castes in the context of the opportunities made available by the government of India for their Socio-Political Empowerment. The study aimed to gain an understanding about the respondents’ unique experiences of caste-based stigmatization at their workplace, their overall experience of empowerment at work and the other spheres of their lives, and to capture their perceived importance of, and the success of reservation policy as well as several other initiatives taken by the Government of India for empowering the marginalized castes. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 male Schedule Caste/Schedule Tribe respondents working at respectable positions in the government organizations situated in the National Capital Region of Delhi. The phenomenological approach (Langdridge, 2007) was used to unearth the essence of the participant’s experiences of stigma driven treatments. The overall perceptions and experiences of the respondents included experiencing direct and indirect forms of caste-related discrimination at workplace; experiencing economic, social and psychological empowerment but not at the workplace; favouring the policy of reservation for Schedule Caste/Schedule Tribe in government jobs; and believing in the improper implementation of policies in India. The research findings indicate the incomplete success of the governmental policies for the holistic empowerment of the Indian marginalized castes.
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In this article we contribute to the decolonial and global turn in sociology by highlighting the sociological contributions of 19th century scholar activist Savitribai Phule and the women activists of Satya Shodhak Samaj. In particular, we show how based on the lived experiences of those most marginalized by colonial capitalism, pre-colonial caste stratification,¹ and Brahminic patriarchy they theorized an intersectional analysis of colonial Indian society we call intersectional coloniality, that was missing from most sociological writing of the time and even today. Beyond conceptualizing intersectional coloniality, through the praxis of personal reflections and writing (foreshadowing the current focus in sociological research and teaching on personal narratives) they also fostered a critique of it to enable social transformation. Thus, their work is sociological and relevant to broadening the history of sociology and the discourse of global sociology today. Moreover, their work today inspires social justice activism by Dalit and non-Dalit movements today in India and the U.S.
This chapter focuses on the process of identity development in adolescents. This assumes significance in the context of adolescence being a transition stage from childhood to adulthood. This transitional process is influenced by the socio-cultural context that needs to be taken into account to fully understand the adolescents and their issues. The chapter highlights the role of sociocultural contexts in adolescent development and in the process of shaping the sense of identity in adolescents. The influence of various macro contexts and micro contexts on the behaviour, personality, and experiences of adolescents is discussed.
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The university space, the most endangered zone in Indian democracy in the present, is witnessing the ideological churnings, contradictions, and emergent possibilities of affinity among radical voices contesting culturally hegemonic practices. Student activism in general and anti-caste activism in particular offer a complex interplay of caste, gender, culture, and politics in the university space, traditionally defined as neutral. Envisioning a democratic, socially just, and genuinely secular nation, historically marginalized students challenge and critique hegemonic narratives. This article argues that anti-caste activism on campuses invokes the democratic space of universities, where ideological meanings are constructed and deconstructed to unveil the suppression of historically marginalized voices in contemporary network society. The dominant culture and politics are actually rooted in the iron laws of ancient hierarchies intrinsically opposed to the self-historicizing and well-informed democratic aspirations of student activism.
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Recently, heated debates concerning food politics have erupted at some of the most prestigious institutes of higher education in India. Students demand inclusion of beef and other meat in their hostel food menu, claiming hostel canteens represent only 'mainstream' Hindu culture. To boycott this culture and instil consciousness of their cosmopolitan life-world, they organise campus 'Beef Festivals' and publicly idolise so-called 'demons' of Hindu mythology. Using a Gramscian framework, this article explores the activism of marginalised students as counter-hegemonic and critically examines the ideological standpoints involved. As university spaces become significant sites to reinvent caste identities, we see that in their counter-hegemonic struggles, marginalised students employ the same tools and symbols of meat and myth as their opponents. It is argued that this strategy ultimately risks contradicting the goal of their activism and may block broader visions of an equal and just society.
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The intractable group conflicts, mass killings and genocides around the world attest to the role of humiliation as a negative force causing violence and destruction. Based on the analysis of the speeches of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the most important leader of Dalit (ex-untouchables) in India, we suggest that leaders possess the capacity for creative use of humiliation. The creative use of humiliation is made possible by the innovation in constructing social identities involved in humiliation. Creative leadership can be an important catalyst that can transform humiliation into a positive force for social change.
The goal of creating a caste-less society in India, written into the Constitution, has become a mirage. And the mirage is moving further away.
This thesis examined the nature, experience and consequences of humiliation among Dalits (ex-Untouchables) in India (and also among UK students for comparative purposes). Social psychological research looks at humiliation as automatic, extreme and intense emotion which often leads to extreme and irrational behaviors (Lindner, 2002; Otten & Jonas, 2014; Elison & Harter, 2007). The research in this thesis contested this view and underlined the need to look at humiliation as 1) inherently relational or dynamic in nature, 2) a distinguishably group level phenomenon and 3) a mobilised phenomenon. Study 1 analysed the experiences of humiliation among Dalits and conceptualised humiliation as a complex social encounter in which one party attempts to diminish identity of another party. Study 1 also identified important dimensions of humiliating encounters that were examined in subsequent studies. Studies 2 - 3 manipulated perspective (victim or witness) and target of devaluation (personal identity or social identity) in a humiliating encounter and showed that the nature of humiliation and how it is experienced depends upon the way in which identities are defined in a humiliating encounter. Both UK students (Study 2) and Dalit participants (Study 3) confirmed the collective experience of humiliation i.e. one can feel humiliated simply by witnessing humiliation of another group member. Studies 4 - 7 manipulated victim’s response (resistance vs. compliance) during a humiliating encounter. These studies showed that humiliation is an encounter within power relations and victims of humiliation possess choice and agency to change the outcome of humiliating encounters. Study 8 analysed the humiliation rhetoric in the speeches of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the most important of Dalits leaders, and showed that the way in which humiliating encounter is resolved depends upon the mobilisation processes which can even change the nature of identities and, therefore, the nature of experience of the encounter.
According to John Adair, the most important word in the leader's vocabulary is "we" and the least important word is "I". But if this is true, it raises one important question: why do psychological analyses of leadership always focus on the leader as an individual - as the great "I"? One answer is that theorists and practitioners have never properly understood the psychology of "we-ness". This book fills this gap by presenting a new psychology of leadership that is the result of two decades of research inspired by social identity and self-categorization theories. The book argues that to succeed, leaders need to create, champion, and embed a group identity in order to cultivate an understanding of 'us' of which they themselves are representative. It also shows how, by doing this, they can make a material difference to the groups, organizations, and societies that they lead. Written in an accessible and engaging style, the book examines a range of central theoretical and practical issues, including the nature of group identity, the basis of authority and legitimacy, the dynamics of justice and fairness, the determinants of followership and charisma, and the practice and politics of leadership. The book will appeal to academics, practitioners and students in social and organizational psychology, sociology, political science and anyone interested in leadership, influence and power.