a question about 'dalit'

Madhav Deshpande mmdesh at UMICH.EDU
Fri Sep 7 15:44:45 UTC 2012

I have the collected works of Jotirao Phule and will look into that
publication.  But it is my general sense that the modern use of the word is
relatively recent.  During my childhood, the more common term was Harijan
"people of God" made popular by Mahatma Gandhi, and the usage of Dalit came
more from the leaders of the down-trodden communities themselves, perhaps
as a response to Gandhi's usage of Harijan.  In any case, I will look into
the published works of Phule.

Madhav Deshpande

On Fri, Sep 7, 2012 at 11:15 AM, Suresh Kolichala <
suresh.kolichala at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Fri, Sep 7, 2012 at 9:36 AM, Madhav Deshpande <mmdesh at umich.edu> wrote:
> > Dear Jonathan,
> >
> >      While the word dalita as a past participle of the verb dalati is
> widely
> > used in the classical literature, the use of this term to refer to
> > "down-trodden" or lower-caste people is entirely new, no more than 20 or
> 30
> > years old, but indeed very widespread today in India.
> >
> > Madhav Deshpande
> Does that mean another assertion of James Massey that the first person
> to use 'dalit' in the modern sense was Jotirao Phule of the 19th
> century is also incorrect?
> "The present usage of the term dalit goes back to the nineteenth
> century, when a Marathi social reformer and revolutionary Mahatma
> Jotirao Phule used it to describe the outcastes and untouchables as
> the oppressed and broken [...]" (Massey 1991:9, Roots, a concise
> history of Dalits)
> Regards,
> Suresh.
> --
> Atlanta, GA

Madhav M. Deshpande
Professor of Sanskrit and Linguistics
Department of Asian Languages and Cultures
202 South Thayer Street, Suite 6111
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1608, USA

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