Progress vs Regression: Interrogating the Erosion of the Morale of the Dalit Movement
Ronki Ram
ATROPHY IN DALIT POLITICS by Gopal Guru Vikas Adhyayan Kendra, 2008, 133 pp., 200
January 2008, volume 32, No XXXII

B.R. Ambedkar christened his first political party as ‘The Independent Labour Party’ (ILP). He seemed to be particular about the title (read category) by which the party was to be known. He did not want it to be an exclusive political party of the Scheduled Castes. In the Bombay Provincial Assembly election in 1937, at least four caste Hindus ran on the ILP ticket for general seats. However, power dynamics of numbers in electro politics might have compelled Baba Sahib to amend his original plan. To contest the 1946 provincial assembly elections, he founded a new political party: All-India Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF). Despite the fact of its being an exclusive party of the Scheduled Castes, it failed miserably in the polls. What Ambedkar had in his mind probably did not match with the political exigencies that hammered the SCF. In last months of his life, Ambedkar could be seen once again revising dalit categories to capture the real substance of the field reality in order to facilitate dalit emancipation.

This time, it seems that he wanted to bring back the abandoned broader categories for the dalit intervention. The formation of National Republican Party (RPI) – open to all – was one of the most important interventions. In fact, from ILP to RPI Dr. Ambedkar unfolds a large canvass for the construction of various dalit categories as well as their revisions.

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