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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Urbanization, no liberating force for Dalits



Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: BR Ambedkar, constitution of India, SC, Phule etc
  • Mains GS Paper I: Modern Indian history from middle of eighteenth century until the present-significant events, personalities, issues etc



  • R. Ambedkar: Rejected village life and encouraged Dalits to move to the city.
    • Ambedkar said that an Indian village is “the working plant of the Hindu social order” and argued that it is the ideal place to understand caste.
  • Gandhi: Indian village as a self-reliant, equitable and a just non-violent order, and argued for the decentralization of power to the villages through Gram Swaraj




Dr. B R Ambedkar:

  • He was born on 14 April 1891 in Mhow, Central Province (now Madhya Pradesh).
  • He founded the Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha (1923).
  • Mahad Satyagraha: He led the Mahad Satyagraha in March 1927 to challenge the regressive customs of the Hindus.
  • Round table conferences: He participated in all three round-table conferences.


Major contributions:

  • Indian constitution: Main Architect of Indian Constitution
  • Constitutional morality: Effective coordination between conflicting interests of different people and administrative cooperation.
  • Social Reforms: devoted his life to remove untouchability.
  • ‘Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha (Outcastes Welfare Association)-1923
  • The temple entry movement was launched by Ambedkar in 1930 at Kalaram temple, Nasik.
  • Attended all the three Round Table Conferences (1930-32).
  • In 1936: founded the Independent Labour Party.
  • In 1990: Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, was bestowed with Bharat Ratna.


Few important works of Dr. Ambedkar:

  • Mook Nayak (weekly) 1920
  • Janta (weekly) 1930
  • The Annihilation of Caste 1936
  • The Untouchables 1948
  • Buddha Or Karl Marx 1956


Constituent Assembly(Ambedkar):

  • He opposed the idea that villages should be recognised as autonomous administrative units and felt relieved that the Assembly rejected the idea.
    • For the untouchables, there could not have been a bigger calamity.

Urbanization and Ambedkar’s belief:

●      He believed that the systems of caste oppression that thrive in Indian villages become weaker in cities.

●      Segregation of Dalits into ghettos, restrictions on economic activities, and denial of land ownership.

●      Jyotirao Phule had admired city life for being liberal and enabling him to earn a living.

●      At the core of the liberating power of cities, for Ambedkar and Phule, was the opportunity to become anonymous.

●      Cities, in principle, offer an opportunity to become a stranger among a sea of strangers and transition from a caste-based order to a class-based order.

○      One defined not by genealogy but by accumulation of resources or capital.


Language of ‘purity-pollution’:

●      Caste translates into a city’s spatiality through the language of ‘purity-pollution’.

●      Consumer survey in 2021 revealed that eating non-vegetarian food is the biggest deal-breaker in finding rental housing in India.

●      Segregation policies under the Peshwas in the Maratha kingdom: Gopal Guru says that the ghetto is not merely a space but also forms the constitution of the body of the ghetto dweller.

●      The language of purity-pollution that identifies the savarna space as ‘pure’ and one that can be polluted by the Dalit body, extends to the logic of the city.

○      The ghetto dweller carries the ghetto on their body when they step out into the city.

●      The space of the ghetto characterized by filth and dirt — becomes mutually reinforcing on the body of the Dalit  characterized by meat-eating and other“unacceptable” traits.


Examples of language of caste in present societies:

  • In March 2017, the Uttar Pradesh government issued regulations for meat shops that included:
    • A ban on selling meat near religious places
    • black paint or curtains in the facade of the shop to hide the sight of meat from pedestrians.
  • In 2021, several municipal corporations in Gujarat banned the sale of meat-based street food on the city’s main roads citing “religious sentiments”.


Way Forward

  • Raphael Susewind, Sheba Tejani and Christophe Jaffrelot have shown that Muslims and Dalits face the most crippling segregation in Indian cities.
  • Research in sacrifice zones regions marked for severe environmental pollution such as landfills — shows that such areas are overwhelmingly inhabited by Dalits and Muslims.
  • A recent report by the Housing and Land Rights Network(on forced evictions in India): It shows that Dalits and Muslims are the most impacted by slum demolition drives.
  • Indian cities have failed the aspirations and expectations that the Dalit liberation movement had placed in urbanization.
  • While transition to city life might have weakened some structures of caste oppression, they have morphed through language, state sanction and policy, and have evolved to allow caste to thrive in Indian cities.
  • The Indian city has fallen short of the potential and promise that Ambedkar saw in urbanization.
    • Dalits remain, to use Ambedkar’s words, “the children of India’s ghettos”.
  • Ambedkar looked upon the modern state as the key transformative force for the emancipation of Dalits and Adivasis.
    • However, in the neo-liberal realm, the state has been converted as the passive associate of big business
    • It readily deviates from its social responsibilities and welfarist values.
  • Ambedkar’s version of social justice would help us to redefine capitalism as a pluralist and cooperative mode of economic order
    • It guarantees the substantive participation of Dalits and Adivasis in the market economy and in the associated institutions of power and privileges.



Are tolerance, assimilation and pluralism the key elements in the making of an Indian form of secularism? Justify your answer.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)

Editorial Analysis – 15 April 2024