Centre for Development Practice and Research, Patna

Lecture Series on Justice, Lecture 3


Venue: Seminar Hall, Patna Law College, Rani Ghat, Mahendru, Patna - 6

Title: The Liminal Space of Dalit Muslims

Speaker: Dr. Prashant Trivedi, Associate Professor, Giri Institute of Development Studies, Lucknow

Jointly Organised by:  Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Patna Centre and Patna Law College (Patna University)

Date: 20th December 2017

Time: 10 am to 11.30 pm

Venue: Seminar Hall, Patna Law College, Rani Ghat, Mahendru, Patna 800006



The question of justice for Dalit Muslims is a test case for proclaimed ideals of equality in India’s Constitution. If issues of Dalit Muslims were never addressed, either by the state or by the civil society, it is largely because this discourse is plagued by hypocrisy at multiple levels. Indian State which is mandated by the Constitution of India not to discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, etc, openly indulges in it by confining the Schedule of Castes only to followers of Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism, consequently barring entry for others.  The precarious condition of Dalit Muslims due to the actions of the state is further complicated by the position taken by conservative elite of their own religious community.

Tracing genesis of this injustice in ‘communal analysis of caste’ during colonial period, it is argued here that the same understanding continues to persist after independence too despite sociological evidence to the contrary. While touching upon the relationship between caste and religion articulated by judicial pronouncements, the argument presented draws strength from recent academic works that trace shifts in judicial perspectives on caste and religion but also notice continuation of certain basic premises.

This presentation also uses data collected from a large household survey to underline social location of Dalit Muslims in the state of Uttar Pradesh. While practice of untouchability and caste discrimination among Hindus is a widely documented phenomenon, its existence is rarely discussed with respect to Muslims in India. Empirical evidences leave no room for any confusion that practice of untouchability is not confined to Hindus alone. It spreads far and wide and perhaps no Indian religious community could escape it including the Muslims.