Daliti Panthers in India
DALIT: THE BLACK UNTOUCHABLES OF INDIA
Possibly the most substantial percentage of Asia's Blacks can be identified
among India's 160 million "Untouchables" or "Dalits." Frequently they are
called "Outcastes." Indian nationalist leader and devout Hindu Mohandas K.
Gandhi called them "Harijans," meaning "children of god." The official name
given them in India's constitution (1951) is "Scheduled Castes." "Dalit,"
meaning "crushed and broken," is a name that has come into prominence only
within the last four decades. "Dalit" reflects a radically different response
The Dalit are demonstrating a rapidly expanding awareness of their African
ancestry and their relationship to the struggle of Black people throughout the
world. They seem particularly enamored of African-Americans. African-
Americans, in general, seem almost idolized by the Dalit, and the Black
Panther Party, in particular, is virtually revered. In April 1972, for
example, the Dalit Panther Party was formed in Bombay, India. This
organization takes its pride and inspiration directly from the Black Panther
Party of the United States. This is a highly important development due to the
fact that the Untouchables have historically been so systematically terrorized
that many of them, even today, live in a perpetual state of extreme fear of
their upper caste oppressors. This is especially evident in the villages.
The formation of the Dalit Panthers and the corresponding philosophy that
accompanies it signals a fundamental change in the annals of resistance, and
Dalit Panther organizations have subsequently spread to other parts of India.
In August 1972, the Dalit Panthers announced that the 25th anniversary of
Indian independence would be celebrated as a day of mourning. In 1981, in
Bangalore, India Dravidian journalist V.T. Rajshekar published the first issue
of Dalit Voice--the major English journal of the Black Untouchables. In a
1987 publication entitled the African Presence in Early Asia, Rajshekar stated
"The African-Americans also must know that their liberation struggle cannot be
complete as long as their own blood-brothers and sisters living in far off
Asia are suffering. It is true that African-Americans are also suffering, but
our people here today are where African-Americans were two hundred years ago.
African-American leaders can give our struggle tremendous support by bringing
forth knowledge of the existence of such a huge chunk of Asian Blacks to the
notice of both the American Black masses and the Black masses who dwell within
the African continent itself."