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Panthers in Parliament: Dalits, Caste, and Political Power in South India
Published by OUP India
In this ethnographic account of Dalit politics in Tamil Nadu, the author discusses how caste considerations inform and underpin politics in the state. With its micro-empirical focus on the journey of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (Liberation Panthers Party) in Tamil Nadu, the book also explores diverse dimensions of mobilization and ways in which contentious politics alters political regimes.
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.
Hugo Gorringe is Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Reviewer: Caleb Simmons
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