Panthers in Parliament: Dalits, Caste, and Political Power in South India

ISBN : 9780199468157

Hugo Gorringe
424 Pages
138 x 216 mm
Pub date
Mar 2017
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In the late 1990s, a group representing Dalits in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu called the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchior Liberation Panthers Partyshook the established social and political structures. For over a decade they boycotted elections, questioning the legitimacy of institutions that failed to implement constitutional provisions and allowed casteism to persist. The Panthers conducted mass awareness campaigns for Dalit liberation, instilling a sense of empowerment in a hitherto marginalized population. Eventually, labelled as extremists and alienated by the State, the Panthers were pushed into electoral politics. How the Panthers mobilized themselves and managed to effect changes in Tamil Nadus politics is the main premise of this ethnographic account. Looking into the processes of transition therein, the author discusses how caste considerations inform and underpin politics in the state and whether the Panthers will erode or adapt to hegemonic caste power. With its micro-empirical focus on identity politics in Tamil Nadu, the book also explores diverse dimensions of mobilization and ways in which contentious politics alters political regimes.


Foreword by Surinder S. Jodhka
Introduction: An Elegy for a Lost Movement?
Part I: From Movement to Party
1: Institutionalizing Caste Politics in Tamil Nadu
2: Twenty-First Century Casteism? Discrimination, Hierarchy, and Politics in Contemporary Tamil Nadu
3: From Protest to Politics: The Institutionalization of the Panthers
Part II: The Process of Institutionalization
4: Doing Tamil Politics: Informal Institutionalization
5: Symbolism over Substance? Symbols, Space, and Power
Part III: Co-option and Compromise: Taming the Panthers?
6: The Paradox of Parali Puthur: Leadership in Question
7: The 'Sewer of Politics': Corruption, Co-optation, and Compromise
Part IV: Beyond Institutional Politics
8: Subnational Nationalism: Reinventing Tamilness from Below?
9: The Power of the Panthers: The Outcomes of Dalit Politics
About the Author

About the author: 

Hugo Gorringe is Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

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