Litigation Against Political Organisation? The politics of Dalit mobilisation in Western Tamil Nadu
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This article examines contemporary Dalit assertion in India through an ethnographic case study of a legal tool being mobilized by Tamil Nadu's lowest-ranking Arunthathiyars in their struggle against caste-based offences. The Arunthathiyars of western Tamil Nadu are increasingly taking recourse to the 1989 Prevention of Atrocities Act (PoA Act) in an attempt to bring members of higher castes to justice. The article explores how Arunthathiyars are employing the law and how their litigation is reshaping the politics of caste in this region. The authors document how a process of litigation by Arunthathiyars is countered by a politicization of caste by the dominant Gounders of the region, who recently entered electoral politics with a new caste-based party. Even though the litigation route further antagonizes caste relations, it is argued that the PoA Act has provided Dalits with an invaluable tool to seek justice, democratize public space, and challenge the power of the dominant caste in the region. Dalit social movements, it is concluded, are more likely to be successful if they are backed by a legal weapon and accompanied by Dalits’ growing economic independence.
CitationCarswell, G. and DeNeve, G. (2015) Litigation against political organization? The politics of Dalit mobilization in Tamil Nadu, India. Development and Change, 46 (5), pp. 1106-1132.
- Urban/Rural