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Diluted Dalit Rights and Justice in the Post-Mandal Era


· Maya Suzuki Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (Tokyo, Japan)


07/28 | 09:00-09:20 UTC+2/CEST


The long debates about Dalits and Dalit movements have centered on the ideas and ideologies of equality, dignity, justice, and rights, all mutually linked and each a set of irreplaceable values underlying universal fundamental rights. In the context of Dalit movements, the intense argument on rights and justice was sparked after the post-Mandal when reservation policy was gradually extended to lower caste communities (Other Backward Classes, OBCs) in an administrative term. It led to widespread anti-reservation protest by upper castes. What is worse, it led to nationwide caste-driven violence in the 1990s.

In contemporary Indian society, the notions of equality, dignity, justice, and rights are not merely symbolic. They understood as a substantial and realizable entitlement through collective action. It is noteworthy that a new manifestation of inequality and injustice among Dalits has been observed. For instance, public litigation activities have been observed increasingly among Dalits since the 1990s in the judicial sphere. This paper represents an attempt to highlight the awareness of justice, rights, and “Dalit-ness” from interviews with the Balmiki community (known as the sweeper caste and economically and politically vulnerable and socially long-marginalized groups, among the lowest castes in the caste hierarchy). The interview research conducted by the author will shed light on a particular way in which upwardly-mobile Dalits including activists/non-activists experience their Dalit-ness and how they regard tension between their caste identity and new status.