Across India, April is celebrated as Dalit History Month. You might have seen the hashtag #DalitHistoryMonth make the rounds on social media, but do you know how it came into being?
In 2015, Vee Karunakaran, Christina Thomas Dhanaraj, Asha Kowtal, Sanghapali Aruna, Manisha Devi and Thenmozhi Soundararajan –– a six-member team brought to life the initiative of Dalit History Month. Designed after the movement of the Black History Month, the team aimed to dedicate the month of April to the stories of those whose voices were never heard – whose victories were shushed by the writers of history, the upper caste. What started as a social media movement has now evolved into a nation-wide project that many organizations as well as individuals are contributing to.
April 14th marks Ambedkar Jayanti –– the birth anniversary of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. It only made sense to celebrate this month with a movement that aims at cementing the Dalit identity in Indian History. If you visit the Dalit History Month website, you’ll be greeted with a timeline of events –– right from the early origins of the word ‘caste’ in the 1500s all the way to the World’s first global conference on Dalit rights held in Washington University in 2015. Scroll your way through stories of forgotten Dalit leaders, community rebellions and the place that Dalits have found in Indian politics throughout history.
To further this effort, many organizations have contributed to this project. Project Mukti, a Dalit Bahujan Adivasi women, gender non-conforming and trans led start-up has been making a number of mini-grants to Dalit History Month since 2018. To honour this month, food festivals, screenings, performances and conferences take place around the world.
Over four years, the Dalit History Month has grown into a movement that emphasizes the importance of being able to tell your own story and that of your forefathers –– being able to reconstruct the Dalit narrative.
The best part about the movement? It is a conversation that is open to participation. Using the hashtag #DalitHistoryMonth on social media, anyone can contribute to the conversation and take it further. This month reminds us to not only celebrate Dalit History, but also to recognize how it has contributed in shaping India into what it is today. The struggle for Dalit rights was just as important as the country’s struggle for freedom, but the victory of the former never made it to the pages of our history textbooks. Every step that we take to educate ourselves about the Dalit history goes a long way in making sure that we live in country that is truly free and accepting of all its citizens. Start now.
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