Successes and Failures

Successes of the Dalit Panthers:

Although the Dalit Panther movement quickly disbanded after it started, it is still a solid organization that had many successes, especially during establishment. The rise of the Dalit Panther movement started in 1972 in Maharashtra. The most important factor responsible for the rise of the Dalit Panther movement was the repression and terror the oppressed Scheduled Castes continued to receive while living in rural areas. Dalit youth demonstrated resilience in that the lowest castes were not going to accept indignities without protest (Paswan and Jaideva, 2002). They organized protests in objection towards caste Hindus who have done them injustice and object their degraded status. Recognising that the protective discrimination policy does not benefit them, they built this organisation on the premise of protecting each other, whether male or female. Their biggest success is the strong sense of community and connection they have towards each other. Reflecting Ambedkar’s concern for gender equality, they have also paid attention to women issues and consistently protected their female counterparts. When Dalit women experienced incidents of abuse, rape or kidnapping by police or outsiders, Dalit men have intervened to help women in their times of need. “Shabirs”, also referred to as study circles, are also held to empower women in which they learn to confront bureaucratic authority (Contursi, 1993). Even after the original Dalit Panther organisation split in 1974, it continued under different leadership, exemplifying the power of its influence. More recently in 1988, nearly 10,000 people took part in a protest from different regions of Maharashtra (Paswan and Jaideva, 2002).

Failures of the Dalit Panthers: 

Despite the successes of the Dalit Panther movement, the organisation became unstable with split opinions and lacked organisational resources to bring together more oppressed and caste Hindus. Raja Dhale, the elected President, and Namdeo Dhasal, the elected Defence Minister, failed to provide proper leadership and execute their ideas towards a better future. Their manifesto emphasised the significance of issues pertinent to all Dalits which brought them closer together. However, no serious attempts were made to comprehend and then tackle the problems, especially in the cases of Dalits living in villages (Paswan and Jaideva, 2002). To sustain the movement, this organisation needed more order in executing their aims and supporting their slogans. No serious efforts were made towards Dhale and Dhasal’s joint actions, therefore, this movement was not able to launch at a national level. But most importantly, this organisation needed leaders who agreed on crucial standpoints. The rift between Dhale and Dhasal is the main reason why the Dalit Panther movement split in 1974. They were split between Buddhism/Ambedkar and Marxism perspectives on how to run the organisation (Paswan and Jaideva, 2002). Due to these differences, there was not proper leadership and this movement failed to move in the right direction.
Paswan, S. and Jaideva, P. 2002. Encyclopaedia of Dalits in India Movements. India: Kalpaz Publications.
Contursi, J. A. 1993. Political Theology: Text and Practice in a Dalit Panther Community. The Journal of Asian Studies. 52(2), pp.320-330.