Bharat Bandh And the Dalit Struggle Against Dehumanization

“Socioreligious disabilities have dehumanized the Untouchables.” — Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar

How Dalits are still, today, waging a centuries-old struggle against a system which denies them the basic dignity of identification as human beings on an equal level with all other people. How Dalits are facing down a systematic attempt at dehumanization. How Dalits are standing up today to demand recognition of their human dignity.

Pieter Friedrich


ON April 9, 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazi Regime in Germany.

Bonhoeffer was a Christian pastor who spent years organizing a secret resistance against the Nazis, and was eventually arrested after the resistance movement in which he was involved attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for a year and a half. He used that time productively. His writings were later published as a book called Letters and Papers From Prison.

Putting pen to paper in his prison cell, Bonhoeffer calls his imprisonment “an experience of incomparable value. He writes, “We have for once learnt to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcaste, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled —  in short, from the perspective of those who suffer.”[i]

As we look around us at the unfolding current events which will soon become the “great events of world history,” we must ask ourselves: can we hear the perspective of the suffering?

A month ago, in Sacramento, California, an unarmed black man was gunned down while standing in his grandmother’s backyard. The dead man was Stephon Clark. Police thought he might be vandalizing cars. A neighbor called 911 after he saw a man breaking the windows of his truck. Police showed up. They didn’t know if Stephon was the vandal or not. But they shot him, several times, in the back.

Police said Stephon had a gun. He did not have a gun. The officers who shot him knew they had done wrong. “Hey, mute,” said officers on scene, so they turned off the audio feed on their body cameras.[ii] Now the neighbor who called the police says, “It makes me never want to call 911 again. They shot an innocent person.”[iii]

Stephon’s killing has provoked ongoing protests in Sacramento. People are saying he was shot because he was black. People are saying the police harass, brutalize, and kill black people.

On April 3rd, I attended a Sacramento City Council meeting where people spoke out in protest against the shooting of Stephon. Alexander Clark, a black man, took the podium. With fury in his voice, Clark laments,

“The stories still don’t change. Everything remains the same. This is only the reoccurrence of what we have been through. The same thing that our ancestors have died and fought for on this soil.”

Expressing his experience of dehumanization, Clark continues, shouting, “In no way, shape, or form should I ever be deprived of my right as a person of color. I am not three percent human being. I am one hundred percent human!”[iv]

Explaining why the suffering of African-Americans persists generations after emancipation from slavery in 1863, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. states,

“The situation of other immigrant groups a hundred years ago and the situation of the Negro today cannot be usefully compared. Negroes were brought here in chains…. Other immigrant groups came to America with language and economic handicaps, but not with the stigma of color. Above all, no other ethnic group has been a slave on American soil.”

Even today, many people of African descent still believe they must fight the same struggle fought by their ancestors — a struggle against slavery and segregation and dehumanization. Even today, many feel they are denied full citizenship rights, treated as subhuman, and subjugated. Even today, right here in California, people of African descent feel it is necessary for them to step forward and say something so simple as “I am human.”

The perspective of one black man from New York, quoted in The Guardian newspaper in 2016, provides one modern example. Describing his perspective. William Jones says, “It’s like we are seen as animals. Treated like animals. It’s not easy.”[v]

Dehumanization of blacks was the basis of slavery, and it continues to be used as the basis for discrimination. “The ongoing discrimination African-Americans experience today is often rationalized or justified in the minds of whites by deeply rooted stereotypes of black men and women,” writes sociologist Dr. Abby Ferber, “Historically, African-Americans were defined as animals, as property to be owned by White men.”[vi]

If we listen to the modern perspective of the outcaste, the powerless, and the oppressed, we hear global echoes of this same narrative from people struggling to secure their human dignity.

From 1948 to 1991, South Africa suffered under apartheid, one of the most extreme forms of institutionalized segregation the world witnessed in the 20th century.

The narrative constructed by South African blacks, as they relate their experiences of dehumanization during apartheid, closely mirrors that of African-Americans. That is, they repeatedly report being treated “like animals.”

Nomakhwezi Gcina, the daughter of anti-apartheid activist Ivy Gcina, describes her family’s suffering. “We’d be sleeping at night and the police would come kicking the doors down, wanting to know where my brother was and beating us up. They would burn our house down, arrest my mother and we would be left without a mother…. We were treated like animals.”[vii] Another activist, Mbambase Martha Maluleke, states, “What hurts me most is I know that as black people we are animals to policemen. Policemen, irrespective of color, black or white, treat us as objects — like we are not human beings.”[viii]

Examples of similar treatment abound. Another example is the case of activist Siphiwe Mthimkulu. He faced “constant police harassment” and so, “to protect his family from harassment, he was continually on the run and, when he did return home, he lived in a dog kennel.”[ix] Describing his experience after he was arrested, activist Kokane Isaac Ditshego says, “They put me in a cage, in a dog cage. As you know, the police cars have these dog kennels at the back where they put two dogs. They had one dog in the other kennel and they put the two of us, me and my cousin, in.”[x] Samson Zolani Xakeka, who survived a police massacre, reports, “White policemen and also black policemen were swearing all over us, saying, ‘Die, you kaffirs; die, you dogs.’”[xi] In yet another example, Edward Viyu Charles was “constantly harassed” and eventually killed by police. According to his cousin, “When he was being buried, he was buried by the police. I believe they just buried him like a dog or a puppy.”[xii]

Apartheid has fallen. Today, however, some South African activists still feel that society has not undergone the necessary transformation, that recognition of the universality of human dignity has not been fully achieved, and that black people today still face dehumanization. In 2016, for example, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, the spokesperson for the South African political party, said, “This country has a very painful past, which still seems to be our present, in which black people continue to be treated like animals.”[xiii]

The treatment of African people as animals has its roots in the invasion, occupation, and subjugation of Africa by white colonial governments. However, some African intellectuals now suggest that the dehumanization of black people was aided and abetted by allies of the white colonists. They point, for instance, to Gandhi, the Indian politician who begin his public career as an attorney in South Africa.

Speaking from the University of Ghana, Dr. Obadele Kambon explains, “[Gandhi is] known especially amongst the black people of South Africa… as the father of apartheid.” Describing how Gandhi treated black Africans during his 21-year stint in South Africa, Dr. Kambon says, “He referred to them as ‘savage,’ ‘half-heathen,’ “one degree from an animal,’ ‘kaffir,’ which is a very derogatory term.”[xiv]

To briefly dwell on Gandhi, we see from his writings how he characterized black Africans in dehumanizing terms. He protests, “A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa.”[xv] Contrary to that belief, writes Gandhi, “Indians… are undoubtedly infinitely superior to the Kaffirs.”[xvi] He endorses the racial policy of colonialism, declaring, “We believe also that the white race in South Africa should be the predominating race.”[xvii] Writing after his experience in prison, he says, “Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized.… They are troublesome, very dirty, and live almost like animals.”[xviii]

In 1914, Gandhi returned to India from South Africa. Just as he upheld an apartheid-style system in Africa, he upheld the caste system in India, including perpetuating the subjugation of Dalit people as outcastes — or so-called “Untouchables.” According to Dalit author Sujatha Gidla,  “Gandhi has never been a person for eradication of caste system.” Gidla says, “It’s a general idea that Gandhi was a champion of Untouchables. That is a really false idea. He was not only anti-Untouchable…. He was also an anti-black racist.” She adds, “During his stint in South Africa, he looked down on black people in Africa.”[xix]

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the champion of the African-American civil rights struggle, was born in 1929. His counterpart in India — the champion of the civil rights struggle for Untouchables — was Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar. Known fondly by his followers as “Babasaheb” (Father-Lord), Ambedkar spent the 1910s and 1920s educating an international audience about caste. By the time Dr. King was born, Ambedkar had begun agitating and organizing within India.

“I met Mr. Gandhi in the capacity of an opponent,” says Ambedkar.[xx] While Gandhi looked down on people of African descent, Ambedkar was convinced the African and Untouchable communities needed to develop a sense of solidarity. In a letter to renowned African-American civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois, Ambedkar suggests they were both “working in the cause of securing liberty to the oppressed people.” As he explains, “There is so much similarity between the position of the Untouchables in India and of the position of the Negroes in America that the study of the latter is not only natural but necessary.”[xxi]

That was Ambedkar’s position in the 1940s. Today, Sujatha Gidla echoes Ambedkar. She says, “Any Untouchable who has some knowledge of the outside world, some consciousness of their oppression, they do identify with black people in America…. I identify with black people. I see the same oppression against black people here.”[xxii]

Du Bois drew similar conclusions, drawing such direct parallels between racism in the United States and the caste system in India that he explicitly termed the former a “caste system.” As Du Bois writes, “If India has her castes, American Negroes have in their own internal color lines the plain shadow of a caste system.”[xxiii] He identifies the struggle of African-Americans as one against an oppressor guilty of “enforcing a caste system in such a way as to humiliate Negroes and kill their self-respect.”[xxiv] He insists, “We are segregated; we are a caste.”[xxv] Summarizing the situation of African-Americans in 1933, he writes, “They are the subjects of a caste system in the Republic of the United States of America and their life problem is primarily this problem of caste.”[xxvi] Turning his gaze from North America to Asia, he explains, “The situation in India is another case of racial conflict. The mass of people there are in the bondage of poverty, disfranchisement, and social caste.”[xxvii]

Contrasting slavery in the United States with the social caste system in India, Ambedkar suggests that the latter creates deeper cycles of disenfranchisement and poverty. “Of the two orders, untouchability is beyond doubt the worse,” asserts Ambedkar. “It is beyond controversy that slavery is hundred times better than untouchability.”[xxviii]

He argues that slavery — although a despicable form of oppression — requires the slaveowner to shoulder the responsibility of supporting the slave by providing food and housing. In contrast, he writes, “Untouchability is cruelty as compared to slavery because it throws upon the Untouchable the responsibility for maintaining himself without opening to him fully all the ways of earning a living.”[xxix] Furthermore, he notes that treating black people as slaves was not considered a social obligation. That is, black people could be set free. As Ambekdar writes,

“The law of slavery permitted emancipation. In untouchability, there is no escape. Once an Untouchable, always an Untouchable…. Untouchability is an indirect and the worst form of slavery. A deprivation of a man’s freedom by an open and direct way is a preferable form of enslavement. It makes the slave conscious of his enslavement and to become conscious of slavery is the first and most important step in the battle for freedom. But if a man is deprived of his liberty indirectly he has no consciousness of his enslavement. Untouchability is an indirect form of slavery.”[xxx]

How does slavery impact the psyche of the enslaved? “It is difficult to let others see the full psychological meaning of caste segregation,” notes Du Bois. “These entombed souls are hindered in their natural movement, expression, and development.”[xxxi] Denied recognition of their humanity, the enslaved often perceive the lots of animals as better than their own — and are sometimes even ensnarled in a pattern of thinking wherein they wonder if it would have been better if they were not actually born as human beings.

Despite the difficulty of allowing the outside world to see the full psychological meaning of what it means to be dehumanized, we cannot fully comprehend the end result of systems of oppression like racial segregation in the United States, apartheid in South Africa, and especially of caste in India unless we understand how the enslaved experience their treatment. We must understand, from the perspective of those treated as outcaste, how they experience dehumanization. In the case of India, we must listen to the Dalits who have provided a narrative of what it is truly like for a human being to experience being treated as “Untouchable.”

Narendra Jadhav, a Dalit politician, describes the experiences of his family in a memoir entitled Untouchables. Narendra’s father’s name was Damu. Describing one incident in Damu’s life in the early 1900s, he sets the scene.

Walking through a village with his father on a hot, sunny day, Damu grows thirsty. He sees a vat of water sitting underneath a tree. As Damu approaches the vat, an upper-caste man comes by.

Narendra writes, from Damu’s perspective, “The man… went near the water and picked up an iron tumbler lying near it. A dog was resting under the shade of the tree. The man kicked the dog aside and dipped the tumbler in the water. I looked at him expectantly, but he drank it himself.” After the man quenches his thirst, Damu stretches out his hand to take the tumbler. The man responds by screaming at him, “Son of a bitch. How dare you try to touch this? You think you can take this from my hand?”

Damu is forbidden to touch the water or the tumbler himself. Instead, the man reluctantly dips the tumbler into the vat and pours water directly into Damu’s hands. Then, as Damu walks away with his father, he looks backs. In Damu’s words, “When I looked back, the dog was lapping up the water from the same vat! That was the first time I wondered if it was better to be born a dog than a Mahar.”[xxxii]

The Mahars — considered an Untouchable community — have been organizing resistance movements against caste since the 1800s. Jyotirao Phule was one of the earliest champions of their movement for human dignity. Ambedkar continued and expanded that movement.

Since time immemorial, those treated as Untouchables have been forbidden from doing many things which other people who are fully accepted into society are allowed to do. One of the greatest taboos, however, has always been for Untouchables to enter Hindu temples.

One of Dr. Ambedkar’s earliest agitations against caste involved a movement to demand the right of temple entry for all people. In 1930, he launched the Kalaram Temple entry movement. During the Satyagraha — that is, civil rights movement — Ambedkar frames the issue in terms of a demand for recognition of the humanity of Dalits, stating,

“Whether the Hindu mind is willing to accept us as human beings, this is the question to be tested through this Satyagraha. The high caste Hindus looked down upon us and treated us even worse than cats and dogs. We wish to know whether those very Hindus would give us the status of man or not.”[xxxiii]

In 1931, in conversation with Gandhi, Ambedkar told him he felt like an alien in the land of his birth. “You say I have got a homeland, but still I repeat that I am without it,” says Ambedkar. “How can I call this land my own homeland and this religion my own wherein we are treated worse than cats and dogs, wherein we cannot get water to drink?”[xxxiv]

In 1933, Ambedkar contrasts the treatment of Untouchables by upper-castes with the treatment of Indians by Europeans. Speaking of the colonial British occupiers, he writes, “Not very long ago there used to be boards on club doors and other social resorts maintained by Europeans in India, which said ‘Dogs and Indians’ not allowed.” In terms of achieving social equality, he suggests that animals, within Indian society, actually had more rights than Untouchables. Thus, he writes, “The temples of Hindus carry similar boards today. The only difference is that the boards on the Hindu temples practically say: ‘All Hindus and all animals including dogs are admitted, only Untouchables not admitted.’”[xxxv]

Since Ambedkar, other Dalit leaders have continued to express their experience of being dehumanized by repeatedly characterizing it as one of being treated like animals by their fellow human beings.

In 1935, Mulk Raj Anand published his first novel, Untouchable. The book describes a day in the life of Bakha, a latrine cleaner, and his experience being treated as Untouchable.

In one scene in the novel, Bakha is walking down a street, care-free and head in the clouds. He accidentally bumps into an upper-caste man in the street. The man recoils, furious, shouting, “Now I will have to go and take a bath to purify myself.” Screaming at Bakha, the “touched man” yells, “Keep to the side of the road, you low-caste vermin…. You swine, you dog…. Dirty dog! Son of a bitch! The offspring of a pig!” As a crowd gathers to witness the scene, the man complains, “The dirty dog bumped right into me!”

What was Bakha’s real crime? One of the onlookers comments, “These swine are getting more and more uppish.” His language is reminiscent of the term “uppity” which has historically been employed to describe an African-American who assumes equality with someone who is supposedly higher up on the social hierarchy. Detailing the specific nature of his complaint, the the “touched man” says that Bakha “was walking along without the slightest effort to announce his approach. “He walked like a Lat Sahib…. As if he owned the whole street!”[xxxvi]

In 1949, as representatives from around the Indian subcontinent gathered at the Constituent Assembly to formulate a constitution for the newly independent nation, Dalit leader, V. I. Muniswamy Pillay, notes, “At one time dogs and swine might enter the sacred precincts of temples but the shadow of an untouchable was considered a great abomination.” Another Dalit leader, Hemachandra Khandekar, stepped forward to proclaim, “Seven crores [that is, 70 million] of the people of this country have been treated or are being treated like dogs and cats by their caste Hindu brethren.”[xxxvii]

In independent India, the struggle for human dignity continues while the narrated experiences of dehumanization provided by Dalits remain the same.

In 1992, in the book Poisoned Bread, Dalit activist Arjun Dangle summarizes the experience of the outcastes, writing, “Treated like animals, they lived apart from the village, and had to accept leftovers from the higher caste people in return for their endless toil.”[xxxviii]

In 2002, Dalit politician Udit Raj argued, “Hinduism theoretically justifies discrimination. Dalits are treated worse than animals, dogs, snakes…. What’s the point in remaining with a religion where an animal is more important than a human being?”[xxxix]

In 2014, renowned Dalit activist Milind Eknath Awad described a similar experience, saying, “Stones have value, animals have value, but humans don’t. Even cats and dogs are treated better than Dalits in our society. Humans are not treated like humans, rest all are gods.”[xl]

In 2015, Fr. Ajaya Kumar Singh, a Catholic priest from a Dalit background, compared the treatment of low-caste Christians to Hitler’s treatment of Jews, saying, “They’re treated worse than dogs.”[xli]

In February 2016, a group called Akhil Bharatiya Dalit Muslim Mahasangha (ABDMM) held a protest in New Delhi. Led by Suresh Kanojea, a Dalit politician, the ABDMM brought pet dogs on leashes to their protest to illustrate their point. Suresh stated, “The value of a Dalit and a Muslim life has come to such a low that dogs seem to be in a better position than these two communities.”[xlii] In August 2016, Udit Raj again spoke out, declaring, “I am ashamed to see Dalits being treated worse than animals by people who belong to their own religion.”[xliii]

In 2017, an editorial for the online journal Velivada (a Telugu term meaning “Dalit Ghetto) suggested that, in fact, Dalits are not actually even Hindus. Rather, they are lumped into that category solely for political or communal purposes. The article states,

“Dalits are only Hindu for election or Hindu-Muslim conflict. Rest of the time, Hindus treat Dalits worse than animals and kill Dalits…. Leave Hinduism, a religion where Dalits don’t have any place and are killed every day…. There is no need to stay in a religion where Dalits are not given equal treatment….

“We demand equal rights only. We don’t want your share, we don’t want what belongs to you, we want our rights…. We want equal rights. If not given, we will snatch those. Wait and watch.”[xliv]

India boasts of itself as the world’s largest democracy, and yet the ongoing narrative of Dalits is that they are treated as subhuman. The citizens of the democracy are not all on an equal footing. Politically, all citizens are equal; socially, a few are considered superior while most are treated as inferior. As Ambedkar asks, “How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life?” He warns,

“If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy.”[xlv]

Weary, fed up, and sick and tired of being treated as less than human by the dehumanizing system which imposes inequality upon them, those who suffer are beginning to push back.

In January 2016, University of Hyderabad student Rohith Vemula committed suicide. He was working with the Ambedkar Students Association when the university suspended him for participating in a peaceful protest. Crushed, he hung himself. In his suicide note, he denounced the dehumanizing system, writing,

“The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust.”[xlvi]

Rohith’s suicide prompted a wave of international protests. “There are hundreds of Rohiths in India,” warned demonstrators at a protest in San Francisco. “There has been a longtime struggle of keeping Dalits away from the halls of higher learning. Rohith realized he did not belong to a certain segment of society and fought bravely for equality. The boy is gone. But the system should be changed to make sure there is impartiality in the way all students are treated.”[xlvii]

In February 2016, students at Jawaharlal Nehru University staged a rally. Student Union President Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested for sedition — charged under a colonial-era law. His arrest provoked weeks of international rallies which highlighted the oppression of minorities. After his release, Kumar gave a speech on the JNU campus demanding “Freedom from hunger, poverty, and the caste system.”[xlviii]

In July 2016, four Dalits were accused of killing cows. They were seized, stripped, tied to a car, beaten with sticks and iron pipes — on video — and marched for miles to the city of Una, Gujarat. The video of their dehumanization went viral and provoked months of protests by thousands of Dalits in Gujarat.

The Una flogging galvanized the Dalit community, inspiring them to greater rigor in the struggle for human dignity. It played a significant role in Gujarat state elections in December 2017. Jignesh Mevani, who had emerged as a leader of the protests, was elected as a Member of Gujarat’s Legislative Assembly.

Calling for national change, Mevani slammed the ruling party — the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. “I want the BJP to lose as they follow ideologies of Mussolini and Hitler,” he says.[xlix] Pointing to Ambedkar’s legacy, he talks about “the Babasaheb who wanted to end Brahmanvad and Manuvad” — a reference to the supremacy of Brahmans (the highest caste) and of Manu (the mythical author of Manusmriti, or “The Laws of Manu,” which enumerates caste laws).[l]

In January 2018, Dalits gathered in Maharashtra to commemorate the battle of Bhima Koregaon — a victory of outcaste Mahars over high-caste Brahmans. The rally degenerated into violence when Hindu nationalists attacked the Dalit gathering.

What was so objectionable about the gathering? Rahul Sonpimple offers some insight. Rahul, the son of a Delhi rickshaw puller, is a member of BAPSA — the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association. Rahul explains, “Acknowledging and remembering this battle… actually runs counter to the normative aspect of the caste system, which does not allow space to a Dalit to act as a militant.”[li]

In other words, the upper-castes feared that Dalits were acquiring a sense of pride, dignity, and self-respect. They feared that Dalits were beginning to assert their humanity. So the upper-castes felt compelled to beat the Dalits down.

Yet the Dalit communities of India refuse to be beaten down. They are hungering for a final end to their centuries upon centuries of oppression. They are standing up and speaking out, which is the only path to freedom. As Rahul explains, “Oppression will not end unless the oppressed sections rise and raise their voices.”[lii]

In April — this month — the struggle against oppression expanded as communities all across northern India called a Bharat Bandh. In Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar, and Jharkhand, hundreds of thousands of Dalits rose up in synchronized protest. And they did it on their own — without a political party.

One of the organizers of the Bharat Bandh is Ashok Bharti, who is the founder and former chairman of the National Confederation of Dalit and Adivasi Organizations. “A new crop of grounded, firebrand leaders have just taken over the Dalit community,” says Bharti. Furthermore, he declares, “No political party in this country, BJP or Congress or BSP, has the slightest clue about the sort of resentment brewing among Dalits in the country right now.”[liii]

These firebrand Dalit leaders are setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of the oppressed men and women of India. They face many challenges, but every spark they strike stands to spread like wildfire. The flickering flames of liberty may yet become a raging conflagration which melts the chains of the oppressed.

The civil rights movement is surging forward. Dalits are chanting, “We are 100% human.” They are doing more, however. They are not just declaring their humanity, but stepping forward and seizing their humanity. The battle to secure their human dignity has grown red hot

In conclusion, we must celebrate Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar, who was born on April 14, 1891, by carrying forward the caravan to which he laid his shoulders. The caravan of freedom from caste. Ambedkar insisted that no reform or adjustment or adaptation or amendment or refinement would ever alter the reality that the caste system is, at its very core and by design, a system of dehumanization. Thus, he demanded the annihilation of the caste system.

We must also remember Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed on April 9, 1945. Bonhoeffer, like Ambedkar, was not satisfied with simply reforming the status quo. He demanded revolutionary change, writing that, in the case of social injustice, our responsibility “is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself.”[liv]

Finally, we look for inspiration and hope for a bright future from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated on April 4, 1968. To paraphrase some of his most famous words, “I have a dream that one day even the country of India, a nation sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”[lv]



[i] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. “Letter & Papers From Prison.” 1953. New York: Simon & Shuster. 1997. Prologue.

[ii] St. John, Paige. “’Hey, mute’: After they shot Stephon Clark, officers cut their audio. And that adds to the outcry.” The Los Angeles Times. March 31, 2018.

[iii] Chavez, Nashelly. “’It makes me never want to call 911 again,’ neighbor says after Stephon Clark shooting.” The Sacramento Bee. April 9, 2018.

[iv] Singh of Judah (Facebook). “’I Am 100% Human’ — Air Force Veteran on #StephonClark Shooting.” April 5.

[v] Hackman, Rose. “’It’s like we’re seen as animals’: black men on their vulnerability and resilience.” The Guardian. July 12, 2016.

[vi] Ferber, Abby. (2007). The Construction of Black Masculinity: White Supremacy Now and Then. Journal of Sport & Social Issues – J SPORT SOC ISSUES. 31. 11-24.

[vii] Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report.” Volume Four. 267.

[viii] Jolly, Rosemary. Cultured Violence: Narrative, Social Suffering, and Engendering Human Rights in Contemporary South Africa. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. 2010.

[ix] Reconciliation Commission. Volume Four. 262.

[x] Ibid. Volume Three. 620.

[xi] Ibid. 726.

[xii] Ibid. Volume Five. 152.

[xiii] TimesLIVE. “‘Black people continue to be treated like animals’ – EFF’s Ndlozi on #CoffinAssault.” November 16, 2016.

[xiv] Friedrich, Pieter. “Father of Apartheid: How Gandhi Dehumanized Black Africans.” April 13, 2018.

[xv] Gandhi, Mohandas. The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. 100 Volumes. Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. 1958-1994. Volume 1. 193.

[xvi] Ibid. Vol. 2. 270.

[xvii] Ibid. Vol. 3. 255-256.

[xviii] Ibid. Vol. 8. 199.

[xix] Gidla, Sujatha. “#ZeeJLF2018 | Across Genres.” February 2, 2018.

[xx] Organization for Minorities of India. “Gandhi’s Racist Views Inspire Hindu Nationalists.” October 5, 2017.

[xxi] Visweswaran, Kamala. Un/common Cultures: Racism and the Rearticulation of Cultural Difference. Durham: Duke University Press. 2010. 154.

[xxii] Gidla, Sujatha. “One To One – Sujatha Gidla.” October 2, 2017.

[xxiii] Du Bois, W. E. B. “W.E.B. Du Bois on Asia: Crossing the World Color Line.” Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. 2005. 8.

[xxiv] Zuckerman, Phil (ed). The Social Theory of W.E.B. Du Bois. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press. 2004. 179.

[xxv] Ibid. 204.

[xxvi] Ibid. 200.

[xxvii] Ibid. 99.

[xxviii] Ambedkar, B. R. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches. Vol. 17, Part 1. 2003. New Delhi: Dr. Ambedkar Foundation. 2014. 15-16.

[xxix] Ibid. 18.

[xxx] Ibid. 15.

[xxxi] Zuckerman. Theory. 44.

[xxxii] Jadhav, Narendra. Untouchables: My Family’s Triumphant Escape from India’s Caste System. 1993. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2007. 64-65.

[xxxiii] Ambedkar. Writings. 182.

[xxxiv] Ibid. 53.

[xxxv] Ibid. 198.

[xxxvi] Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable.

[xxxvii] Paswan, Sanjay and Pramanshi Jaideva (eds). Encyclopaedia of Dalits in India: Social Justice. Volume 7. Delhi: Kalpaz Publications. 113-114.

[xxxviii] Landage, Ramesh Achyutrao. A Cultural Study of Dalit Autobiographies in India. Department of Sanskrit and Indological Studies, Shri. Balmukand Lohia Center, Sadashiv Peth, Pune. October 2013. 53.

[xxxix] Kumar, Davinder. “Dalits Are Treated Worse Than Animals, Dogs, Snakes.” Outlook. November 18, 2002.

[xl] Chanda, Aishik. “Maharashtra Dalits Backed BJP Due To Frustration: Eknath Awad.” October 26, 2014.

[xli] Pennington, Kimberly. “Christians in India 7 years after Kandhamal riots persecuted under ‘double’ caste system.” Christian Examiner. August 3, 2015.

[xlii] “‘Dogs better placed than Dalits and Muslims’.” The Hindu. March 19, 2016.

[xliii] Pradhan, Bharathi. “‘I am ashamed of these cow vigilantes… to see Dalits being treated worse than animals’.” The Telegraph. August 7, 2016.

[xliv] “Terrorist Thakurs Killed Dalits in Saharanpur.” May 23, 2017.

[xlv] Speech by B. R. Ambedkar on November 24, 1949. Constituent Assembly Debates. New Delhi: Lok Sabha Secretariat. Vol. 9. 1989. 979.

[xlvi] Abraham, Joshil and Judith Misrahi-Barak (eds). Dalit Literatures in India. 2016. New Delhi: Routledge. 2018.

[xlvii] Sohrabji, Sunita. “Activists Protesting Death of Dalit Student Say Minorities Ill-treated in India.” India West. January 25, 2016.

[xlviii] “Full Speech: Kanhaiya Kumar, Out On Bail, Speaks Of ‘Azadi’ On JNU Campus.” NDTV. March 4, 2016.

[xlix] “We will safeguard Constitution, says Jignesh Mevani while slamming BJP.” The New Indian Express. December 31, 2017.

[l] “Watch: Jignesh Mevani’s speech did not disrespect Ambedkar. In fact, it did the opposite.” January 6, 2018.

[li] Sonpimple, Rahul. “By celebrating Koregaon battle, Dalits are saying we aren’t a polite, manageable community.” December 31, 2017.

[lii] Kumar, Abhay. “JNU elections: Dalit rickshaw puller’s son challenges ‘a bunch of Brahmin boys’.” September 6, 2016.

[liii] Munshi, Suhas. “Man Behind April 2 Bharat Bandh’ Has Deadline for PM Modi and Ultimatum for Mayawati.” News18 India. April 14, 2018.

[liv] Metaxas, Eric. Bonhoeffer: Pator, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. 2010.

[lv] King, Martin Luther. “I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr; August 28, 1963.” The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford University.


Pieter Friedrich is a Californian researcher, author, and speaker on the interconnections between historical and current affairs as they relate to world religions, human liberties, economic action, and imperialism. A version of this article was delivered as a speech on April 15, 2018 at Stanford University in honor of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s birthday.




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