Learn of anti-caste icons and the tenets of anti-caste politics
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The bhakti radical Ravidas (c 1450–1520), calling himself a ‘tanner now set free’, was the first to envision an Indian utopia in his song “Begumpura”—a modern casteless, classless, tax-free city without sorrow. This was in contrast to the dystopia of the brahmanic Kaliyuga.
Rejecting Orientalist, nationalist and hindutva impulses to ‘reinvent’ India, Gail Omvedt threads together the worldviews of subaltern visionaries spanning five centuries—Chokhamela, Janabai, Kabir, Ravidas, Tukaram, the Kartabhajas, Phule, Iyothee Thass, Pandita Ramabai, Periyar, and Ambedkar. These are contrasted with Gandhi’s village utopia of Ram Rajya, Nehru’s hindutva-laced brahmanic socialism and Savarkar’s territorialist Hindu Rashtra. Reason and ecstasy—dnyan and bhakti—pave the road that leads to the promised land.
Commanding in its scope, revelatory and unsparing in argument, Republic of Caste amounts to a new map of post-Independence India. Anand Teltumbde identifies the watershed moments of its journey: from the adoption of a flawed Constitution to the Green Revolution, the OBC upsurge and rise of regional parties, up to the nexus of neoliberalism and hindutva in the present day. As a politics of symbolism exploits the fissile nature of caste to devitalise India’s poorest, Teltumbde’s damning analysis shows progressive politics a way out of the present impasse.
What is the history of those depicted as asuras in India? What happens when Adivasi, Dravidian, Buddhist and Dalit narratives, with their egalitarian spirituality, confront an invasive brahminism? What is the counter-narrative to the ritually reancted murders of Mahishasura, Ravana and Bali? Is the trouble over Sabarimala merely about an unrepentant patriarchy? Antigod’s Own Country reveals the histories that are contested in the South Indian state of Kerala. At the centre of the story that A.V. Sakthidharan charts is the asura king, Mahabali, whose subjugation—commemorated annually as Onam—became symbolic of the fate of the first peoples of the state in the face of Aryan domination. This book examines the multifarious origins of the myths of non-Aryan deities like Mutthappan, Suyodhana, various mother goddesses, all the way up to the cult of Ayyappan.
This anthology, for the first time, showcases the best of dalit writing from across India: B.R. Ambedkar to Devanoora Mahadeva, Chentharassery to M.M. Vinodini. The editors argue that dalit literature is not merely a literary practice or a trend but a social movement invested in the battle against injustice; it is the exercise of freedom. This literature encompasses diverse forms of intellectual and creative work by those who, as untouchables, are victims of economic, social and cultural inequality. Dalits bring points of view, interests, insights and directions that grow out of their experience and their aspirations. Over the past few decades dalit literature has transformed the understanding of untouchability, caste and the nature of Indian society and politics.
While the caste system has been formally abolished under the Indian Constitution, according to official statistics every eighteen minutes a crime is committed on a dalit. The gouging out of eyes, the hacking off of limbs and being burned alive or stoned to death are routine in the atrocities perpetrated against India’s 170 million dalits. What drives people to commit such inhuman crimes?
The Persistence of Caste uses the shocking case of Khairlanji, the brutal murder of four members of a dalit family in 2006, to explode the myth that caste no longer matters. Analysing context and crime, it seeks to locate this event in the political economy of the development process India has followed after Independence. Teltumbde demonstrates how caste has shown amazing resilience—surviving feudalism, capitalist industrialisation and a republican Constitution—to still be alive and well today, despite all denial, under neoliberal globalisation.
Who discovered the first detergent soap in India?
Who created scripts as they crafted pots?
Who selected and standardised most of the food items we eat today?
How did cotton come to be spun into cloth?
Who originated the science of making leather out of animal skin?
In this book, Kancha Ilaiah throws light on the science, art and skill of adivasis, cattle-rearers, leatherworkers, potters, farmers, weavers, dhobis and barbers. The book documents the contributions to the betterment of human life by castes and communities despised as ‘lowly’ and ‘backward’. This book—with stunning illustrations by Durgabai Vyam—is the first ever attempt to inculcate a sense of dignity of labour among India’s children.
'This book is an expression of the will to remember Khairlanji and turn it into a symbol, both of caste oppression and Dalit revolt against it in the 21st century'—Nicholas Jaoul, on The Persistence of Caste
‘A powerful book… Every god needs an antigod’—Anand Neelakantan, on Antigod's Own Country
‘…a hugely important book. Every Indian child should read it’—UNICEF, on Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land
‘Marks a watershed in the battle to uncover the hearts and minds of the oppressed and powerless’—Himal, on Seeking Begumpura
‘An excellent outcome of the editors’ commitment to feature a range of diverse and sometimes contradictory opinions is that this anthology squashes the idea of the token Dalit voice forever wailing in one-dimensional lament’— LiveMint, on The Exercise of Freedom
"A clear perspective flows through the book, it has a sense of purpose and politics'—The Indian Express, on Republic of Caste