My Life The journey of a Dalit Sociologist

       Recent incidence in IIT Kharagpur of the verbal assault mounted by the professor on the marginalised students with proclamation of impunity from penal Action of State directs us to innumerable paradoxes in 21st Century India.It also implies that not all is well in the country who seeks to achieve the goal of Superpower in International Arena but still lacks the basic ethos of Sound Democratic modus-operandi.The premier institute which was a Event to mark a departure from colonial past for transcending into a new future has utterly failed in that mission to do so.As Nation doesn’t take giant strides due to some elite achievers or due to some a restricted class of citizenry but via a holistic, encompassive and accommodative approach  towards its beings with the denominator of Liberty,Equality and Fraternity.This very contemporary Societal Morality is pregnant with the ghost of ‘Caste’ which is peculiar for its trait of ascending scale of reverence and descending scale of Contempt.’Caste’ as Ambedkar says is a State of Mind.It penetrates deep into subconscious and lies undeterred even though time,space,place changes in tangible realm.It has its own guarded systemic approach which though dogmatic in its outer avatar has its own principled stand that it’s seeks to maintain irrespective of any changes in political- economy.Its genesis lies in the scriptural sanctity which still enjoys the immense support of the masses.


जाती पूछो साधू की, पूछ लीजिये ज्ञान

मोल करो तलवार का, पड़ा रहने दो म्यान


The above doha of Saint kabir though expressed in Bhakti period of India still seems relevant in case of contemporary India too. India though undergoing metamorphosis into a Constitutional Republic since 1950 it’s social fabric till today remains plagued with many fissures that keep the Geographical Entity to transcend the geographic imagination to a Nation in truest terms.Here the Society is delved deep into the graded unequal systems of Gender,Religion,Caste,Religion and Class antagonisms. These very social anxieties and axioms constitute its Societal Morality.So even though with a Nation like avatar it looks a Nation- State but the prefix still remains lost owing to its Dogmatic Societal moulds that maintain their ‘Basic Structure ‘ as stated by Eric Stokes.They have been brought into light in the classic work ‘My Life – The Journey of. Dalit Sociologist ‘ by Govardhan Wankhede. The book under consideration is the stark reminder of the glaring gap that still remains to be covered in today’s times.It surprisingly begins with the period immediately after post independence and thus offers a unique rereading of History of India from the perspective of the Marginalised.Other way around when other academics try to map out the post-independence modus-vivendi in terms of statistics and politics the work offers us an altogether different saga of lack of ‘Substantive Justice’.

Sociologist Govardhan Wankhede begins the book with a dedication to all those striving for Social Emancipation in the Country which is plagued by Quixotries and those whose saga of struggle for SelfAssertion to reclaim Human Dignity,a Natural Right have been denied to them since ages.The book is lucidly written as  being an excellent work of ethnography,a trained Academician who has avoided Vapid Theorisation in order to mirror the Societal Paradoxes in India Since independence as lucidly as possible.In the preliminary first three introductory factors author makes it clear that the following pages shall not be an attempt of coaxing or cajoling but a stark exposition of Hard Truth by putting forth the experiential canvas of the Nation-State whose accomplishment still remains for many owing to the prevalence of Citizens and Subject rift between the populace of the geographical entity.He offers a perspective that hovers all around the text of being rooted in organic Political Economy of the time,Space and Place.He mentions of the reason of putting down the words being a portrayal of a person trying to make sense sense of the social contract overcoming the various antagonisms that are natural for a cognitive being owing to his tragedy of being born in a low caste household.

In Chapter 4, the author opens up the contours of the Society of India and its peculiar inherent Graded Inequalities which mark the geography of Villages of India.His portrayal is a slap on the faces of readers who still fiddle with the romantic ideas of Village where Peace is the norm.But a very Event of misadventures are the normal which are in contravention to the Constitutional Ethos and Pathos.What is of interest is the detailing of the due process of the law of Caste which takes shape in the form of System of Balutedar where the birth (and Caste ) determines what a person should do in her/his life ,taking away the agency of self-determination from the sentient being.This is atrocious as the rigid,dogmatic norms are being imposed on the person inspite of being living in  Country governed by ‘Rule of Law ‘.It dwells into the particular aesthetics that the broken people have evolved to atleast have respite from the divine oppression their lives are subjected to.But he also doesn’t pardon the Male of the Dalits owing to the borrowed idea of ‘Infestation of Imitation’ to use Ambedkar’s analogy which lies as the base of multiple Patriarchies that Dalit women have to suffer.It offers a unique sociological take on the gendered treatment of Caste and usurpation of the Ritualistic ideals of the Majority Hindu Populace which have ultimately lead to the additional burden on women in tangible and intangible terms.He highlits the Cusines which were integral to their living but as earlier said also frought with the Intangibility of Caste that was the denominator in day to day Survival.Important in this chapter is the glimpse into the lives of Mahar Society who stood at the junction of being influenced by Christian Missionaries who offered doles for conversion,Casteist Society which offered nothing but Humiliation and the principles of Dr.Ambedkar giving an altogether new birth to them for living a life with Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for which Dignity and Self Respect was the Fulcrum.One Important event that author offers here is the role of Samata Sainik Dal,which was instrumental in bringing the tenets of B.R Ambedkar into practise and helping to do away the slavery of minds that had gagged the Dalits.Their work has been instrumental in trying to imbibe the Ambedkarin ethos,pathos and logos within the everyday Consciousness of Dalits which has been very rarely documented earlier.

The Author while talking of his life also makes indirect pointers to the State which had co-opted the Caste ethics by regularisation of the works of Mahars and later Bhangis into the structural Modus- vivendi hence unleashing a new form of State-Violence in the garb of Social- Security to the downtrodden.The author depicts the Journey of his Education as not being akin normal routine but one infested with Hunger, Poverty,Superstition and lack of access to basic necessities which led to the dropping out of his other friends from this process of emancipation of minds.Even the Educational Institutions weren’t the houses of Egalitarianism but the very Caste Ghettos which maintained the fine ritualistic logos that was the marker of typical Society of India..The journey of Education mentions in detail the role played by the Institutions founded by Dr.Ambedkar especially Milind College (which has given bureaucrats and academicians to the country) which was akin a sort of oasis for Marginalised Students owing to its Quality and Scholarship which made it possible for innumerable students to acquire Education.This intense events are also spread with some relief which are common for a child who always gets fascinated with the stories that it gets to learn during Education.Along with the incidences of discrimination the Author still nurtures some anecdotes that let him heave a sigh of relief amid normal occurrences of Deprivation as the characteristic in the life  of a Dalit undertaking Education.

In Chapter 5,the Author describes how he acquired Higher Education.The process as earlier was still marred by Inequalities.Though Delhi offered him a sort of Liberation from the ghetto of Village caste seemed to follow him here too along with its inherent structural inequalities akin lack of English Education or the Moore’s that come with it. Nevertheless it gave him a sort of Solace by helping him too fasten the process of breaking shackles of embedded inequalities.Ambedkar mentions of Fraternity being the sine qua non for ‘being’ a Nation which though piecemeal was evident in form of his faculty and some friends but alas when the ghost of caste was unveiled it created a catastrophe in his day to day living by turning the very tide of Fraternal Bonding to Antagonism though in a slight Brahmanical Fashion by questioning his very existence and the favourite being the issue of Reservations and non existence of Caste, which are the favourite topics to bog down dalit students who themselves are so deep within are helpless let alone put forth the theoritical frameworks or explanations in the context of academic discourses in the initial stages of Education.Also Important is to note his experiences with varied political Ideologies in JNU of which he was disillusioned as the very students couldn’t understand the mechanisms of Caste along with its genesis and the discussions very theoritical without much links with tangible ground realities.He also notes that the very discussants failed owing to their own privileged Social and Cultural Capital which was hard for them to get rid off ,thus the discussions on Theories in variance with the lived realities.The Authors University Education also helped him to break the Brahmanical Norms of Categorised and Compamentalised Femininity by his steps to access the Performative Arts which he couldn’t perceive earlier.This definately had helped him to assert his right as against the Patriarchal Tide of the Society.

Interestingly in Chapter 6 ,the Author describes his journey in TISS,MUMBAI where he was employed.His experiences are very important as he destroys the very sanctified notions attached to the very Institution( though it has contributed immensely in form of various Activists).He points to the flawed implementation of Reservations within the very utopian idealistic Institution as the Societal Morality too gets reflected in them.Also the instances of discrimination,guessing the Caste of the Scholar or Faculty via her/his topic of dissertation throws light on a nuanced caste ideals within the educated elites.One of the most important episodes of he being denied an active participation in the annual function but at last minute asked only to entertain ‘Dalit Writer’ Daya Pawar points to the ‘Dalitisation’ of the Author by confining and comparmentlising him to only events concerned with Dalits,thus divorcing him from being a part of Institution, which is noting but denial of Equality and Opportunity.Many such Instances are mentioned which disturb the heart and mind.It raises Important questions as to the fatal accident of Birth carries so much weightage that, a person has to bear the stigma attached to it with everyday Humilation.It also raises the question of Mortality of Constitutional Morality or its incompleteness even in this 21st Century.But the author doesn’t concede defeat in face of everyday calamity.Instead he tries to act under the guiding light of Ambedkar by striving hard for emancipation which is instrumental by his own politics of aiming Excellence in Academics,for which he had travelled the world and also his work as SC/ST Liason Officer which even today is benefitting many students of deprived backgrounds to constantly strive for Emancipation via Education against all odds.

The final Chapter shows the farsightedness of the Author who till now had documented the Social History of the Country via his Ethnographic Account and now deliberates on what lies ahead by pointing to the Contemporary issues of Globalisation,Privatisation,Reservations in context of Marginalised.He analyses them as a Scholar as well as layperson to put before us the pressing concerns and fissures that could eventually make or break the Nation.

While Concluding it could be said that the work has Shadow of Ambedkar in every Chapter which makes it an interesting read,while highlighting the importance of Dr.Ambedkar in the lives of Marginalised.The work is enlightening in today’s times and must be read by all to get a different perspective or understanding of Society and its modus-operandi.More importantly it disturbs us by questioning the very belief systems that still dominate the majoritarian populace of the Country.The book is a clarion call for us to understand the importance of Constitutional Morality and bringing it in practice as normal or else the path that currently is in use is a road to doom which B.R Ambedkar had warned in 1949 itself !

Nikhil Sanjay-Rekha Adsule is currently pursuing Ph.D at Department of Humanities, IIT-DELHI.He is also a  Dr.Ambedkar International Centre Fellow ,Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment



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