From the Cheris to Chennai: Dalit politics in Tamil Nadu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In 1999 the largest Dalit movement in Tamil Nadu, the Liberation Panthers, ended their decade long boycott of elections and contested elections. In the 14 years since they have struggled to establish themselves as political players. During fieldwork in 2012, one of the main concerns of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK - Liberation Panther Party) was to become a ‘mainstream’ party. Thirumavalavan, the party leader, emphasised that the party tended to be marginalised and sidelined as a ‘Dalit’ party. He therefore outlined an ambitious attempt to change the constituency and make up of the party so that it was no longer perceived as a Dalit organisation. Institutionalisation, this reminds us, is not a simple step but an ongoing process. Entering elections has compelled the VCK to change in terms of structure, members, rules and tactics. Not all of these changes have been welcomed by cadres, nor have they necessarily benefited the party in obvious ways. Drawing on ethnographic work with party activists and affiliates this paper teases apart the complexities of institutionalisation for Dalit parties in South India.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrom the Margins to the Mainstream
EditorsHugo Gorringe, Roger Jeffery, Suryakant Waghmore
Place of PublicationNew Delhi
PublisherSAGE Publications Ltd
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9789351506232
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

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