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9th July (1972) in Dalit History – Dalit Panthers was formed


9th July (1972) in Dalit History –  Dalit Panthers was formed

At the meeting organised on 9th July 1972 by Dalit youths at Siddharth Vihar, Bombay, the Dalit Panther formally came into existence.

Read also – The Dalit Panthers

9th july

Read also – 15th January in Dalit History – Death anniversary of Namdeo Dhasal, a founder of the Dalit Panthers

9th July Encyclopaedia of Dalits in India Movements

 

Source – Encyclopaedia of Dalits in India: Movements

Read also – Siddharth Vihar is gone. And with it, an important piece of Dalit history

The dominant Maratha caste, in Maharasthra had tightened its grip on important economic centers in rural agriculture – such as land development, banks, marketing federation, sugar factories – in the name of the co-operative movement. The movement was backed by the State.

This changed economic picture brought further misery to the dalits in the villages. The rich farmers and the bureaucracy controlled by them initiated a series of atrocities on the dalits. Untouchable, landless dalit labour fell prey to these atrocities. So did the worker in the dalit moevemnt, who raised his voice against them.

In cities and towns, the numbers of unemployed youth were increasing in droves aw a result of the capitalist system./ With the spread of education in the rural areas, there began to develop a class of educated dalit youth, who had hitherto been kept away from the local economic and political system. Their association with workers of the leftist movements in rural areas gave them the ability to understand the entire system.

In Bombay, Baburao Bagul and is young Dalit writer friends Daya Pawar, Arjun Dangle, Namdeo Dhasal, J.V. Pawar, Umakant Randhir, Ramdas Sorte and Prahlad Chendwankar met and had discussions for hours. The young generation was influenced by Baburao Bagul who had personally participated in the movement of dalit laboureres and who expressed himself clearly and logically.

The inaction of all factions of the Republican Party against the social injustice was conspicuous. Except for support by one or two from the party, the other leftist parties were indifferent.

Dalit writers began to realize more and ore that there was no point in merely writing provocative poetry against the injustice They had become familiar with the Black movement and literature in the U.S.A. and were greatly attracted to it.

The result was that youths Namdeo Dhasal, Arjun Dangle and J.V. Pawar took the initative and established the Dalit Panterhs in Bombay (presently Mumbai). The Dalit Panter movement was formed under the leadership of Raja Dhale as president, Namdev Dhasal as defense minister and J V Pawar as its general secretary. The Panthers observed Independence Day that year, which incidentally was the silver jubilee of Independence, as Black day and black-flag demonstrations were held at various places in Bombay. To protect their fellow dalits from violence and atrocities, they were prepared, if necessary to adopt violent strategies. Thus they chose to directly confront the oppressors.

The Dalit Panthers, embellishing the concept of dalits emancipation in their manifesto emphasized that a complete revolution was needed. ‘We do not want a little place in the brahmin alley. We want the rule of the whole land, we are not looking at persons but at systems and change of heart, liberal education etc, will not end out state of exploitation. When we gather a revolutionary mass, rouse the people out of the struggle, the giant mass will become tidal wave’ The Dalit Panthers recognized the contribution of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

The dalits of Maharashtra got acquainted with the Panthers and the discontent of several years began to explode.

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The Dalit Panthers


The Dalit Panthers was a social organization founded by Namdeo Dhasal, Raja Dhale, and Arun Kamble in April 1972 in Mumbai. Formed in the state of Maharashtra in the 1970s, they ideologically aligned themselves to the Black Panther movement in the United States.

Dalit Panthers

Dalit Panthers

During the same period, Dalit literature, painting, and theater challenged the very premise and nature of established art forms and their depiction of society and religion. Many of these new Dalit artists formed the first generation of the Dalit Panther movement that sought to wage an organized struggle against the varna system. Dalit Panthers visited “atrocity” sites, organized marches and rallies in villages, and raised slogans of direct militant action against their upper-caste aggressors.

Check Also – 15th January in Dalit History – Death anniversary of Namdeo Dhasal

The Dalit Panthers’ Manifesto defines Dalits as “all those who are exploited politically, economically and in the name of religion.” They classified “American imperialism” in the same category as “Hindu feudalism”; with both being examples of caste hierarchy. They also asserted that while Hindu feudalism may have spawned caste inequality, its extension by the modern Indian state had created an oppression “a hundred times more ruthless.”

Read AlsoSiddharth Vihar is gone – Place where Dalit Panthers was founded. 

Their firm stance and rallying message across Maharastra made their members frequent targets of state surveillance and brutality. Their legacy lives on in states across India, including in Tamil Nadu’s VCK Dalit Panthers Political party. Read their manifesto from here.

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Siddharth Vihar is gone. And with it, an important piece of Dalit history


Siddharth Vihar, the boys’ hostel in Mumbai that was once the site of important political and cultural activity within the Dalit community, has been demolished. Here’s why the demolition means so much more.

Siddharth Vihar

Siddharth Vihar

February 9, 2015. The 90-odd residents of Wadala’s Siddharth Vihar boys’ hostel – mostly poor Dalit and “lower” caste students from rural Maharashtra – were busy preparing for the upcoming examination season. Around 10am, their studies were interrupted by a group of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials and beat policemen, who asked them to assemble outside the building. Once the students had been herded downstairs, the officials locked the hostel gates. Within ten minutes, the demolition started. The doors and internal walls were the first to go, to ensure that the four-story structure could not be re-occupied. In one stroke, the students were rendered shelterless. With nowhere to go, many are still camped out in the hostel compound.

In another part of the city, the Maharashtra state government is finalizing plans to buy a 2,050sq ft, three-story bungalow in London for Rs 30 crore. This is the house Dalit icon Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar stayed in while studying at the London School of Economics in 1921-1922. The government, with one eye firmly fixed on the Dalit vote in the upcoming local body elections, wants to convert the bungalow into an Ambedkar memorial. On February 18, the cash-strapped government announces that it will dip into the funds allocated to the Mahatma Phule Magasvargiya Vikas Mahamandal – a state-owned corporation whose objective is to help people from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities by offering training and financial assistance so they can be self-employed – to pay Rs 3 crore to a UK-based solicitor to close the deal.

The contrasting responses to these two cases reflect the larger tragedy of contemporary Dalit politics in Maharashtra, where tokenism and symbolism have taken the place of concrete efforts towards the upliftment of the Dalit masses. The state government, which is spending Rs 30 crore on an Ambedkar memorial in another country, did not even notice when an important part of Ambedkar’s legacy was lost forever. Over its 51-year history, Siddharth Vihar occupied a unique role in the struggle for Dalit emancipation in Maharashtra. It was an incubator for Dalit radicals and intellectuals, producing some of the biggest names in Dalit politics, literature, music and theater. And yet there were no public statements on its demise, no long paeans in newspaper columns.

Ninety-odd students were left in the lurch by the demolition. Photo courtesy Dalit Camera.Ninety-odd students were left in the lurch by the demolition. Photo courtesy Dalit Camera.

The silence of Dalit leaders on the hostel’s demolition is especially striking. Take, for example,Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) leader Prakash Ambedkar, who is BR Ambedkar’s grandson. He is a vocal supporter of the London memorial. But we haven’t heard a peep from him about Siddharth Vihar, even though he’s involved in a power struggle within the People’s Education Society (PES), the organization that managed the hostel. Nor has there been any statement from his rival Ramdas Athawale of the Republican Party of India (Athawale), who built his political career while at the hostel, and was still living in one of Siddharth Vihar’s dingy rooms when he became a cabinet minister in Sharad Pawar’s 1990 government.

But not everyone is silent. Revolutionary balladeer Sambhaji Bhagat, who stayed at the hostel from 1979-1994, called the day of the demolition a terrible day for the Ambedkarite movement. “This was Babasaheb [Ambedkar]’s dream,” he says, anger palpable even over the phone. “And it was that dream that was torn down.”

In many ways, Siddharth Vihar’s story is linked to that of the Ambedkarite movement. This story begins in 1945, when Ambedkar established PES in order to provide access to education for fellow members of the Dalit community – who had been denied access to education for millennia – as well as people from other underprivileged sections of society. To this end, PES set up schools and colleges all over the country, including Mumbai. Aware of the challenges rural Dalit students faced in coming to a big city, Ambedkar set the plans for Siddharth Vihar in motion. In the meantime, his own residence Rajgriha functioned as a hostel for “lower” caste students.

In 1964, eight years after Ambedkar passed away, Siddharth Vihar’s construction was finally finished. “[Ambedkar] had ensured that the hostel had all the facilities students would need – in every room there were tables, lamps, etc,” says Bhagat. “It was better than most of the government hostels in Mumbai at the time.”

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