Dalits: Shaping the National Past for Existence.
The mainstream history treated Dalits as passive subjects, forming their present and future. Most professional history writings deliberately or accidentally have formed a massive move for the dehistoricization of Dalits. This move has been recognized by the community, as they turn from passive to active subjects due to the growing sense of identity among the suppressed communities. This sense also emerged speedily because of the ongoing process of democratization and its impact on knowledge formation. Indian electoral processes have uplifted the Dalit community by giving them space as, over the last few decades, it has produced some powerful Dalit and low caste community leaders.
This change had a major impact on the politics of historiography and hence, it has changed and deconstructed the dominant history. All this leads us to the bigger question of democratization of history as a discipline. Follow NewsGram on Quora Space to get answers to all your questions. Dipesh Chakrabarty, in his article titled ‘Globalisation, Democratisation, and the Evacuation of History’ mentions that history as a discipline was introduced to Indians as a central idea by Britishers. In the post-colonial era, this discipline was taken as evidence for further historical establishments/ writings. With changes in Indian democracy and politics where Dalits or other oppressed classes are major actors, this history or the distinction between a myth and a verifiable fact is becoming a little blur.
Indian electoral processes have uplifted the Dalit community by giving them space. Wikimedia Commons
Therefore, related factors taught in universities about oppressive classes are not the same now, because they have become active members of the Indian democracy. Hence, there is a major paradigm shift in the Dalits and other oppressed classes’ portrayal in history and how academic institutes propose it for them. Moreover, they are redefining the boundaries of history for themselves. This is evident from the fact of huge historical debates which are obvious in recent days. Thus, in order to further democratize history, the academic intellectuals must shape their view in accordance with these recent active members of Indian Democracy.
In the changing phase of Indian democracy, various Dalit leaders are active participants. This is in demand of equal power share in the state and society. This social and political activation is recreating the past of oppressed communities. The past will not only reflect their present but also will shape the future for a better social position. In the modern-day, this narrative is proliferated by literate members of the marginalized communities. Imagination, Nation, and Communities Communities started visualizing their nation only after the rise and growth of print media. Political scientist like Benedict Anderson rightly advocated that imagining of a nation is not possible without the collective simultaneity of the private act of reading. This was made possible by print capitalism.
Anderson stressed the importance of production and development of newspapers, books, and administrative bureaucracies which made it possible for millions of people to picture themselves as a part of the same nation. He believed that the astonishing redefinition of identities was a result of cultural transformations that evolved in the company with new technologies for distributing information in the early modern era. New technologies circulated new narratives in books and newspapers. All this “created the possibility of a new form of imagined community, which in its basic morphology set the stage for the modern nation”. Eventually, people started reading tales about their nation in schools, books, and newspapers. They could now imagine and recognize other public communities that vastly existed out of their local worlds. This imagination which was evoked by the print media had a close connection with the oral imagination of individuals. When a community imagines themselves through print, they remember things from their oral memory.
Many new elements are also added in the oral memory which people tend to create. Communities started visualizing their nation only after the rise and growth of print media. Wikimedia Commons Growth of literacy, print technology, and the act of writing made the process of imagining the nation by Dalits faster. Most of the time, they imagined their nation in context to historical biographies of freedom fighters and national heroes. In their view and perception, these heroes played a greater role in freeing and developing the nation than any other regular heroes of the nationalist movement. Small historical novels highlighting the role of some Dalit castes in the freedom movement were also written.
In their imagination of the nation, they unfold these tales of sacrifice and the role of Dalit communities in the freedom movement but sometimes they also express their disillusionment with the nation which has emerged newly. The narration of the role played by Dalits in the freedom movement in history provides them with a space in the nation making process. On the other hand, their disillusionment with the new nation indicates desires and aspirations which are yet to be fulfilled. While narrating their role in history in the freedom movement, their narrative happens to be a critical dialogue with the contemporary state.
This narrative is completely different from idealist, elite, emotional narrative type. Mainstream academic historians and nationalist leaders do not come up with space of their narrative from the past in their narration of history. This is the reason why they are attempting to invent their past by writing history based on their role in the process of nation-making. Dalits often declare their appropriate share in the democratic nation-state. The ideas of Nationalism are important factors in connecting people to the nation.
Nationalism is also one of the most powerful forces of contemporary modern society. It also influences many marginalized communities to link themselves with the nationalist narrative. A problem pops up in the process though. The struggle for acquiring share demands a certain homogeneous situation in which Dalits are obliged to claim their role in the nationalist struggle. According to Hans Kohn, nationalism is a “state of mind, an act of consciousness”. Therefore, Nationalism for Dalits became a spore for recognizing their parts and existence in the making of history and it gave then a sense of equity by removing the sense of alienation they had for ages.
Courtesy : News Gram