This book inverts the dominant nationalist narrative and shines light on the silenced voices and unacknowledged contributions of Dalits towards the collective imagination of nation in India. By using colonial archives, Telugu Dalit writings and their political activities, this book presents a Dalit perspective on nationalism. It argues that similar to caste Hindus, Dalits were embedded both in the politics and in the imagination of nation. Through critical arguments and with an ethical imagination, Dalits altered the meaning of nation and brought the stigma of untouchability to the forefront of nationalist politics. They exposed the inhumanity of caste and the indignities enforced by Hindu Brahmanical ideology. Empowered by anti-caste historical legacies and the philosophy of enlightenment, Dalits argued for the abolition of untouchability, caste inequality and accompanied humiliations as a precondition for Independence. Unlike caste Hindus, Dalits imagined a nation on the basis of ethical and egalitarian principles of justice, liberty, equality and human dignity, which became the foundational principles of the Indian Constitution drafted by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. The ideas and arguments that emerged during the colonial period resonate in the contemporary debates in India as Dalits continue to challenge their marginalization and mistreatment as violations of the Constitution.
Chinnaiah Jangam, Assistant Professor, Carleton University
Chinnaiah Jangam teaches history at Carleton University, Canada. He is a historian specializing in modern South Asian social and intellectual history.