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|Founded||29 May 1972 |
|Founder||Namdeo Dhasal and J V Pawar|
Dalit Panthers is a reformist anti-caste organization, founded by Namdeo Dhasal and J V Pawar on 29 May 1972 in Mumbai. Later on many dalit activists joined this organization, but Namdeo Dhasal, Raja Dhale, J V Pawar and Arun Kamble were the original leaders of Dalit Panther, which saw its heyday in the 1970s and through the 80s.
Dalit Panthers is inspired by Black Panther Party, a revolutionary movement amongst African-Americans, which emerged in the United States and functioned from 1966-1982. The initiative to form the Dalit Panther Movement was taken up by Namdeo Dhasal at Mumbai.The name of the organization was borrowed from the 'Black Panther' Movement of the USA. They called themselves "Panthers" because they were supposed to fight for their rights like panthers, and not get suppressed by the strength and might of their oppressors.
The US Black Panther Party always acknowledged and supported the Dalit Panther Party through the US Black Panther Newspaper which circulated weekly throughout the world from 1967-1980.
Its organization was modeled after the Black Panther. The members were young men belonging to Neo-Buddhists and Scheduled Castes. Most of the leaders were literary figures whose age ranged between 20 to 30 and academic qualifications ranged from Non-matric to M.A. The controversy over the article "Kala Swatantrya Din" (Black Independence Day) by Dhale which was published in "Sadhana" (Special issue of the 15 August 1972) created a great sensation and publicised the Dalit Panthers through Maharashtra. The Panther's full support to Dhale during this controversy brought Dhale into the movement and made him a prominent leader. With the publicity of this issue through the media, Panther branches sprang up spontaneously in many parts of Maharashtra.
The Dalit Panther emerged to fill the vacuum created in Dalit politics of Maharashtra with the Republican Party of India founded by Ambedkar splitting into many factions. The Dalit Panthers led to a renaissance in Marathi literature and arts. They advocated and practised radical politics outside the framework of both parliamentary and Marxist-Leninist politics, fusing Ambedkar, Phule and Marx. Crucially, the Dalit Panthers helped popularise the term 'Dalit' to refer to untouchable communities. Their influence was strongly felt in Karnataka and many other states. This manifesto issued in 1973 combines the Ambedkarite spirit with a broader Marxist framework and heralds the rise of autonomous Dalit perspective in post-Independence India.
The Dalit Panther movement was a radical departure from earlier Dalit movements. Its initial thrust on militancy through the use of rustic arms and threats, gave the movement a revolutionary coloration.
- Dalit Panther Movement in Maharashtra: A Sociological Appraisal, by Lata Murugkar. South Asia Books. 1991. ISBN 0-86132-246-0.
- Liberating the Caged Dalit Panther. by M. Sebastian. Emerald Publishers, 1994