What is it about?

This paper is an attempt to investigate the discursive bases of the categorical and identity-based choices available to the Dalits under the Ashrafia hegemony, and the resultant denial of Dalitness prevalent among Dalits and Sindhi civil society in Pakistan. Informed by the Ambedkarian (subaltern) perspective, I analyse the conversational interviews conducted with Dalit activists (mostly Scheduled Castes), and with their Ashrafia class counterparts. Interrogating the superior status of Sayed caste(s), I contend that the denial of casteism, the opposition to the use of ‘Dalit’ identity marker and negation of the Dalitness had as much to do with the belief in Ashrafia values as it had with the normative sanction of the Savarna values. Both the Savarna and the Ashrafia values seemed to seek legitimacy from the dominant ethnocentric forms of the politicized Sufism. Political Sufism merges the Savarna and Ashrafia norms by means of the syncretic narrative based on interfaith harmony and the civilisational rhetoric. Ashrafisation (also Savarnisation) and the reverence towards Sayeds were the key self-perpetuating hegemonic processes underlying the attempts by the Dalits and the civil society activists to dissipate cognitive dissonance underlying the existing Dalitness and Ashrafia hegemony. I, therefore, conclude that the practices and the narratives prevalent in Sindhi civil society undermined the Dalit agency to come up with their own counter-hegemonic and emancipatory narrative(s).

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Why is it important?

Caste Politics in Pakistan


Ambedkarian Perspective

Dr Ghulam Hussain
Quaid-i-Azam University

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This page is a summary of: ‘Dalits are in India, not in Pakistan’: Exploring the Discursive Bases of the Denial of Dalitness under the Ashrafia Hegemony, Journal of Asian and African Studies, August 2019, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/0021909619863455.
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