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Political Theology: Text and Practice in a Dalit Panther Community

Janet A. Contursi
The Journal of Asian Studies
Vol. 52, No. 2 (May, 1993), pp. 320-339
DOI: 10.2307/2059650
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2059650
Page Count: 20
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Political Theology: Text and Practice in a Dalit Panther Community
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Abstract

Janet A. Contursi's subject is the intersection of theology, politics, and class. Her study concerns an organization of Hindu ex-Untouchables based in Bombay who have converted to Buddhism and formed a political party advocating a democratic socialist state. Known originally as the Dalit Panthers, this movement began in 1972 and borrowed the view of the American Black Panther Party that the downtrodden may use violence to resist their oppressors. Its ideology combines the Buddhism of the early Untouchable leader B. R. Ambedkar with the Marxism derived from Naxalite activists. Contursi focuses on a splinter group, led by lower-class individuals, that operates in the Bhimnagar slum of Bombay. She sees these leaders as embodying the radical spirit both of Ambedkar and the original Dalit Panthers. She argues that the class basis of this Dalit community provides true potential to subvert the existing social order. Thus, she concludes that the combination of radical reform Buddhism, Marxism, and lower-class leadership makes a particularly effective means to resist oppression.

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