'Makers of Modern Dalit History', a book that chronicles the lives and contributions of Dalit leaders and activists in modern India, recently had its UK launch at the
The book is co-authored by Dr Guru Prakash Paswan, an eminent Dalit scholar, historian and associate Professor of Law at Patna University, who gave insights at the launch event organised by the Friends of India Society International (FISI) UK. Nehru Centre Director and celebrated author Amish Tripathi and FISI UK President Madhuresh Mishra were among those who steered the discussions. It also offered an opportunity for a diaspora audience to interact with the author and learn more about the Dalit movement and the community's struggles. The discussion highlighted the need for continued efforts towards .
In his keynote address, Dr Paswan hailed author Amish Tripathi for his book on Raja Suheldev, a King from the Dalit community.
iGlobal reached out to Dr Paswan, the National Spokesperson of the BJP and an academic, to find out more about the book, its message within India's socio-political and beyond.
"This is my first time in the UK. And I'm pleasantly surprised at the level of curiosity among the diaspora here on Dalit history and issues. There were insightful discussions with a positive, constructive and solution-oriented approach to this entire cast problem, which has been the flavour of the day," Dr Paswan said, with reference to the book’s UK .
He highlighted historical figures such as Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Babu Jagjivan Ram, Gurram Jashuva, K.R. Narayanan and Rani Jhalkaribai, among many more and their enduring legacy in the struggle for a just and equitable society.
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"We remember these figures as the leaders of depressed classes. But there are so many other facets to their personalities. was a foreign policy visionary, and anthropologist, economist and so much more. Similarly, Babu Jagjivan Ram, played a very decisive role in the 1971 war as a defence minister," he added.
He also noted that this book not only adds to the Dalit discourse but also enhances present-day India's imagination and shapes its perception of the Dalit community.
"One of the major misconceptions – Dalit leaders not only worked for the upliftment of the Dalit community but also for the upliftment of the entire nation. There have been attempts to disintegrate entire Dalit narratives until now. Things have taken a positive turn, especially under , as we're celebrating 75 years of Indian independence. There is a focus on identifying and acknowledging the contributions of the unsung heroes, who made the supreme sacrifice for the nation, culture, and civilisation; especially those are from marginalised and disadvantaged sections," he added.
Interestingly, 'Makers of Modern Dalit History' stemmed from between two close friends, Dr Paswan and Mr Sudarshan Ramabadran.
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"We used to have vehement disagreements on issues like reservations, or historical injustices, formative actions. We also happened to jointly write a piece commemorating Baba Ambedkar's birth anniversary, focussing on the unknown aspects of his personality. And this article got a lot of praises from our friends and mentors, which eventually encouraged us to compile this book on the unsung heroes from the marginalised communities of India," Dr Paswan said.
A stickler for accuracy and perfectionism, the legal academician thinks research for the book was more strenuous than challenging. He recounted that it was an elaborate process to toothcomb family tree and the last of kin of the Dalit leaders.
"Our interactions with the family members of the Dalit leaders, to know how they were as human beings, were truly ," he said.
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The challenges faced by the Dalit community are many and still existent. But, the author points out that over the last eight years, India's consistent efforts in preventing atrocities and empowering the marginalised through various schemes, representations and ending financial untouchability have substantially improved the scenario and brought down and crime.
"With growing interest around cast issues, with growing interest about Dalit cause, the book will give you a on Dalit history, the future of Dalit discourse, and how the entire journey of the Dalit narrative has evolved in the last seven-eight years. It will give you a ringside view of both the past and the future," said Dr Paswan, calling on Indians living abroad to delve into the book.