This revisionist history of caste politics in twentieth-century Bengal argues that the decline of this form of political mobilization in the region was as much the result of coercion as of consent. It traces this process through the political career of Jogendranath Mandal, the leader of the Dalit movement in eastern India and a prominent figure in the history of India and Pakistan, over the transition of Partition and Independence. Utilising Mandal's private papers, this study reveals both the strength and achievements of his movement for Dalit recognition, as well as the major challenges and constraints he encountered. Departing from analyses that have stressed the role of integration, Dwaipayan Sen demonstrates how a wide range of coercions shaped the eventual defeat of Dalit politics in Bengal. The region's acclaimed 'castelessness' was born of the historical refusal of Mandal's struggle to pose the caste question.
Dwaipayan Sen is Assistant Professor of South Asian History at Amherst College, Massachusetts.
List of figures; Acknowledgments; Introduction: rethinking castelessness in mid-20th-century Bengal; 1. Jogendranath Mandal, the politics of caste, and provincial autonomy, 1932-37; 2. Representation, education and agrarian reform: Jogendranath Mandal and the demands of Dalit politics, 1937-43; 3. A separate political existence: the making of the Bengal Scheduled Castes Federation, 1943-45; 4. 'No matter how, Jogendranath had to be defeated': the Scheduled Castes Federation and the partition of Bengal, 1945-47; 5. Betrayed expectations: East Pakistan and West Bengal, 1947-50; 6. 'A Caste Hindu State': Jogendranath Mandal and the forced removal of Dalit refugees, 1950-64; 7. The decline of the caste question: the defeat of Dalit politics in Bengal, 1952-68; Conclusion: '... the most casteist society in India'; Bibliography; Index.