Asian studies in Lithuania

Dalit Student Movement in India: from Identity Politics to Counter Culture Movement

Author: Kristina Garalytė
Institute: Vytautas Magnus University
Tutor: Prof. dr. Vytis Čiubrinskas
Author: Kristina Garalytė
Assertion date: 2016-10-28

This dissertation investigates the burgeoning yet largely underexplored phenomenon of the Dalit, so-called ex-untouchable, student movement in India and its ideological and participatory complexity. The study is based on two stages of anthropological ethnographic fieldwork at the New Delhi and Hyderabad universities that witnessed intensified Dalit student mobilization in recent years. Following the ideas of the “framing” theory (Snow et al., 1986; Snow & Benford, 1988; Snow & Benford, 1992; Benford & Snow, 2000) the author have been tracing the ways the Dalit student mobilization is underwritten by “framing” and “frame alignment” processes – how the movement ideologically frames the worldview of its participants; on what resource base the Dalit student movement builds its ideological worldview and repertoire of contention; how the Dalit student movement relates to the broader socio-political context of university campuses and Indian politics; and finally, how different student groups and individuals relate to the Dalit student movement. Primarily, this dissertation revealed the complexity of the Dalit student movement: its ideological fluidity, context-bound repertoire of contention and diverse participant base. It has shown how the Dalit student movement, drawing on the students’ subjective experiences and engaging with the dominant Hindu Right and communist political cultures, transforms from the identity politics-based student activism into the broader anti-establishment counter culture movement, from the movement of the ex-untouchables to the movement of diverse social groups dissatisfied with Hindu Right politics, Hindu religion and hierarchical caste society.

Initiators of the project: Japan foundation VDU