Part I – Historical Background
1. Caste in Historical Perspective
Part II – Social Movements
2. Ambedkar: Mobilising Social Movements
3. EVR: From Khadi to Self-Respect and Beyond
Part III – Political Struggles
4. Ambedkar’s Political Struggles
5. Periyar and the Unfurling Non-Brahmin Identity in the Tamil Land
Part IV – On Economics
6. Ambedkar: A Socialist with a Difference
7. Periyar, Samadharma and the Classical Marxists
Part V – Interface with Religion
8. Ambedkar and His Dhamma
9. Periyar: A No-God Solution
Part VI – Conclusion
10. From Ambedkar and EVR: Unfolding of the Dalit Non-Brahmin Movement
11. Dalits’ Search for Justice: From the National to the International
12. Understanding the Caste-Class Link: Need for a Comprehensive Approach
The struggle for social justice and human rights in India is inextricably linked to the question of caste and the continuing caste-based social structure.
Struggles against caste and the caste system have a long history. In modern times the contributions of B.R. Ambedkar and E.V. Ramasami (popularly known as Periyar) are particularly significant. Ambedkar, hailing from an untouchable caste background, was the pioneer in teaching the untouchables the art of using political weapons for the betterment of their conditions. Through his scholarly works and social and political struggles, Ambedkar challenged the Brahminical order of society and sought to uphold the basic human rights of the depressed classes. E.V. Ramasami’s contributions were no less significant. The imprints of his struggles are to be found in the social and political spheres of the Tamil region in southern India. His challenge to Brahminism was sought to be posited through an alternative, democratic culture. The book presents a unique comparative discourse on the ideas of Ambedkar and Periyar.
In recent times, the expansion of neoliberalism and right wing politics in India as well as globally have thrown up serious challenges for the dalits which they seek to meet through newer styles of protest, continuing to draw light from the teachings of Ambedkar and Periyar. The book explores this legacy in the context of contemporary conditions, noting the diverse trends in the post-Ambedkar and post-Periyar dalit struggles.