Inventing a Bahujan Grammar: In Memory of Abhay Xaxa

Vishal Jamkar

I am not your data, nor am I your vote bank,
I am not your project, or any exotic museum project,
I am not the soul waiting to be harvested,
Nor am I the lab where your theories are tested.

I refuse, reject, resist your labels,
your judgments, documents, definitions,
your models, leaders and patrons,
because they deny me my existence, my vision, my space.

So I draw my own picture, and invent my own grammar,
I make my own tools to fight my own battle,
For me, my people, my world, and my Adivasi self![1] 

                                                                —Abhay Xaxa

A name can be a burden for some people. But A-bhay (One who is without (A) fear (bhay)) Xaxa lived up to his name, even in the short span of forty-three years. Born in an Oraon tribe in Jashpur district of Chhattisgarh state, India, Abhay Xaxa died unexpectedly of a heart attack on 14th March 2020. Abhay Xaxa was a multi-faceted person. He was an activist and sociologist theorizing from the Adivasi life-world and a radical and poignant poet challenging the public conscience. In 2015, Abhay was instrumental in organizing a ‘poop protest’ against the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013 by publicly defecating on copies of the bill. Responding to why he and other Adivasis had resorted to this method of protest, Xaxa responded,

“If our poop protest is uncivil, tell me what is civil in this country?
…Blatantly cheating the Adivasis from the constitutional promises is civil?”

From 2016 onwards, Xaxa actively lobbied for a fair allocation of resources to Adivasis and Dalits in the annual national budget alongside the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. He launched a campaign against the Tribal Sub Plan, conceptualized as a system to empower tribal communities soon after independence but was manipulated to divert resources away from tribal communities. Although I was a keen observer of Xaxa’s activism during my stay in Bastar,[2] Chhattisgarh from 2012 to 2018, one of my deepest regrets is that I never met him in-person.

Xaxa’s untimely death is mourned by people beyond Adivasi communities. He was able to connect Adivasi struggles with anti-caste struggles by the caste-oppressed communities across the country. I am not your data, quoted above, is one of the most powerful offerings in the arsenal of anti-caste literature which will keep inspiring generations of caste-oppressed Bahujan[3] scholars and activists. Drawing upon his own experiences as an Adivasi student in India’s deeply hierarchical educational system, he also spoke about the violence that Adivasi, Muslim, and Dalit students like Rohith Vemula and Payal Tadvi – both of whom commited suicide – had to face in the University spaces in India. As many Adivasi and Dalit activists and intellectuals shared in their heartfelt eulogies, Abhay Xaxa’s untimely demise is a huge and irreparable loss not just for the Adivasi communities for whom he was agitating but also the larger Bahujan community across India.

As a fellow Bahujan who hesitates to open up about their caste location, fumbles to frame a sentence in english, carries loads of inferiority inherited from the ‘mainstream meritorious system’; who does not see their ancestors’ stories in history books, songs, and films; who does not find people who look like them and talk like them outside of their ghettos, Abhay Xaxa’s life is an inspiration. To me and other Bahujan folks, Xaxa epitomizes how to carry your vernacular world with pride and also produce organic scholarship from it. He showed us how to produce scholarship that is informed and enlivened through transformative social justice and the longstanding struggles against oppression that are our legacies. I want to pay tribute to his memory and life by engaging with his scholarship, weaving it with my own thoughts and agitations, and in that process grieve his loss. This remembering is part of the responsibility I feel to not just uphold and disseminate but flaunt and assert the scholarship and activism of our ancestors – Ambedkar, Munda, (Fatima) Sheikh, Periyar, Phule, and many others whose names and work have not made it to written history – whom Xaxa has now joined.

Why, I am your data

Xaxa labels as epistemic violence the violence which permeates every aspect of Bahujan life in India and that belittles and overlooks real-life experiences and knowledge production of the Bahujans.[4] Xaxa wrote,

“Epistemic violence is what happens when dominant groups control the processes of production, circulation and distribution of knowledge and use them against certain sections of the society as tools to gain control over social and economic resources. Epistemic violence thus results in a denial of legitimacy, dignity or self respect to the groups it is targeted at.”[5]

I am not your data is a sharp critique of the epistemic violence inflicted on Bahujan folks in India everyday. While data supposedly refers to statistics and demographic information that has been systematically collected, the dominant interpretation of data that Xaxa is talking about pertains only to particular sections of Indian society who are enumerated to be ‘below’ the arbitrarily defined thresholds and benchmarks of socio-economic ‘progress.’ In the Indian context, irrespective of what is being measured – household income/expenditure, levels of education, health and nutrition  –  Adivasis and Dalits often fall ‘below’ the thresholds.

It is not a surprise that since the development interventions are designed by those who are ‘above,’ they assume that development means becoming like them! Such data is the accounting of what and how much Adivasis and Dalits are lagging behind in comparison with those who are ‘above.’ The people from whom data is extracted are defined only in terms of lacks, needs, and deficits. Data rarely explores what they already have, what they are capable of, or what they would like to have. It does not even acknowledge it, which is why it cannot capture their political vision. Put simply, it is like seeing how much the glass is empty rather than how full it is. Their lacks and needs then become a responsibility of saviors who are ‘above’ the thresholds. They assert authority to decide what is best for those who are ‘below’ meanwhile ridiculing them for not being at par or for needing support in the form of state benefits and allocations.

Some may read I am not your data and interpret it as a call to disregard or discredit anything that is presented as data, given Xaxa’s vehement critique of its process of generation. However, if that were Xaxa’s message, he would not have engaged in a critical analysis of the Indian national budget every year. Xaxa was aware that notwithstanding the positivist limitations of data, especially where marginalized groups are concerned, it offers a certain interpretation of reality. He realized that if marginalized groups do not gain expertise in collecting and analyzing data, they will forever be at the mercy of others to feed them; they will forever be reduced to data. This call to understand and even master the processes that inflict epistemic violence is not new among Bahujan scholars and activists. Dr. Ambedkar was deeply invested in interpretive and positivist methods even as he critiqued them. Through I am not your data, Xaxa is sending a reminder that concepts like data, poverty and merit have become frameworks to gaze at the powerless through the prism of the powerful. He is also announcing that these tools of epistemic violence are at the end of their semantic journey. In that sense, it is a call to invent new vocabulary and to return the gaze.

In grieving and honoring Xaxa, I immerse myself in his interpretation of data to think about three themes that I have agonized over for a long time: the ways in which the idea of ‘merit’ is used to discredit the Bahujan community; the manner in which Adivasis are treated as ‘encroachers’ in their own villages and forests; and the dominant data-based interpretation of poverty.

The Data on ‘Merit’

Abhay Xaxa was an accomplished scholar and researcher. He received his PhD from India’s premier institute: Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). He was the first Adivasi scholar from India to receive a Ford Fellowship to study at the University of Sussex, UK. Yet, like most Bahujan scholars and intellectuals, he is not well-known outside the Bahujan community despite his long record of scholarship, activism, grassroot political organizing, and prolific writing. Despite the depth and incisiveness of Xaxa’s writing and the breadth of his activism, scholars like Xaxa struggle to find jobs in Indian academia[6] (for that matter in any mainstream institution) because their work challenges the foundational ideologies of these institutions. In his critique, Xaxa calls spaces of higher education “the new battlegrounds for inequality.”[7] Instead of grappling with this critique, which is substantiated by facts and numbers, institutions cite Adivasi and Dalit scholars’ lack of ‘merit’ for their exclusion.

Merit has been a rallying cry of the dominant castes to discredit and stall the entry of people like Xaxa into educational institutions and white-collar professions, more so after the implementation of the Mandal Commission in 1990. How ‘merit’ is understood in India is why intellectuals and thinkers such as Xaxa remain marginalized. Merit refers to the supposed deservedness to gain admission to an educational institution or a well-paying job. Merit is measured in various ways such as in the percentage of marks required for admission to an academic program, a threshold level of intelligent quotient, a cut-off criterion for a job opening or promotion at an existing job. Thus merit operates as a line segregating those who are supposedly meritorious and those who are not. Merit, as it operates in Indian discourse today, is an outcome of the epistemology formulated by the privileged section in academia and public life who have had easy access to institutions of knowledge-making. When they proudly claim they got admission to a university or secured a job ‘on merit’ it does not account for generations of caste and class privilege that have given them access to the best schools, tutors, libraries and much more.

The dominant groups’ claims of merit are a dig at the system of reservation – Affirmative Action in the Indian context – a policy by which applicants from the ‘reserved’ category are allowed to have a different threshold for admissions or jobs. By dominant standards, this threshold is generally ‘lower’ to account for barriers to access to education and other resources.[8] Some positions in institutions of higher education and government are reserved for people from certain tribes and castes that are listed in the constitution. The system of reservation – designed for representation – was instituted to offset generations of caste oppression, exclusion from education, formal jobs, and public life that much of the country’s population has endured. Yet, those who seek admission or entry through this provision are mocked for taking away a share of the pie from the ‘meritorious’ section.

The idea of merit is as much about the mockery of those who supposedly do not have it as it is about the celebration of those who do. The logic of reservations, which emerged from an acknowledgement of historical and ongoing injustices committed against the marginalized groups, is erased in this understanding of merit as a binary – you have it or you do not. However, the life-worlds, experiences, and circumstances of the privileged groups are often remarkably different from Bahujan ones. To determine what constitutes merit for this majority based on the lived realities of a small privileged minority is what Xaxa points out as a form of epistemic violence. I am not your data can thus be read as a critique of the system of Merit that robs Adivasis and Dalits of their history and blames them as undeserving beneficiaries of a system that causes them emotional trauma, insurmountable shame, and even death.

The Data on Encroachment 

The Adivasis, beautifully damaged people!
On the treasures of iron, gold and diamond they sit,
Poor and powerless, holding the curse of nature.
The curse of loving their land, water, forest,
where they prefer to die as mad love
beautifully damaged people! [9]

                                                 —Abhay Xaxa

One of the core commitments of Xaxa’s activism and writing was to challenge the idea that Adivasis are encroachers.[10] In India, as in many other parts of the world, indigenous communities have been evicted and displaced from the lands they have lived in for centuries both in the name of resource extraction and forest protection. The dominant understanding in mainstream Indian society, most prominently in the forest bureaucracy of the Indian state, is that Adivasis are encroachers in the forest. In his writings, Xaxa draws attention to the forgotten histories of Adivasi leaders such as Budhu Bhagat, Tilkha Majhi, and Birsa Munda who fought against the British who were exploiting forests for commercial purposes during the colonial period. However, the ‘brown imperialists,’ as Xaxa calls the Indian dominant caste social scientists and intellectuals, rarely mention these rebellions by Adivasi leaders in mainstream versions of national history.

The erasure of Adivasi histories, the lack of acknowledgement of the role they have played in protecting the country’s rich forests, alongside the current labeling of Adivasis as ‘encroachers’ and ‘illegal occupants’ is epistemic violence. I come from a family of bamboo-weavers, called Burud in the Konkan region of the state of Maharashtra, India. The livelihood of my community is dependent on bamboo harvested from the forest. In the stories of my community, passed down through generations, bamboo is equivalent to god. I have seen my relatives treating bamboo as such, with great tenderness, and harvesting it sustainably. The landless Burud community who reveres bamboo, whose livelihood is dependent upon the bamboo harvested from the forest, and therefore, on its continued existence and biodiversity, how can they be deemed as encroachers?

Xaxa counters this kind of epistemic violence against Adivasis through the critical framework of “brahminical environmentalism,”[11] which draws upon anti-caste philosophy. According to Xaxa, brahmanical ideology differentiates the world through the concept of purity and pollution organized into a hierarchy where those who are pure (brahmins and other dominant castes) have special powers and privileges and those who are polluted (Dalits, Adivasis, other oppressed castes, and religious minorities) are excluded from having any power or resources. Brahmanical environmentalism sees forests as ‘pure and pristine’ and therefore it has to be protected from pollution by preventing the entry of the ‘polluted.’ This framework has facilitated the displacement of Adivasis communities from their traditional forest homelands in the name of creating national parks to preserve a ‘pure forest.’

This ideology also places stakeholders/beneficiaries into a hierarchy in which, unsurprisingly, Adivasis who have historically been the protectors of the forest have no place. Xaxa points out the irony of brahminical environmentalism in which the State and corporation-led conversion of forestland for non-forest purposes such as mining and infrastructural projects such as dams, hydroelectric projects, and highways, are labeled as development. However, Adivasis protecting Mahua trees from illegal loggers are seen as encroachers and even criminalized! In producing this counter-narrative by weaving together untold Adivasi history with anti-caste philosophy, Xaxa invents his own grammar. Rather than abide by the reigning frameworks where being ‘meritorious’ means following the narrative of ‘Adivasis as encroachers,’ Xaxa flips the lens and labels the same phenomenon as brahmanical environmentalism.

The Data on Poverty

I refuse, reject, resist your labels,
because they deny me my existence, my vision, my space,
your words, maps, figures, indicators,
they all create illusions and put you on a pedestal,
from where you look down upon me. [12]

                                                         —Abhay Xaxa

In mainstream development discourse, poverty is presented as a purely economic metric that is determined on the basis of numbers and statistics. The metric of poverty  divides the vast population of India into those who are poor and those who are not. This data is represented by numbers that are devoid of emotions, history, and agency of those who are termed as poor. The complex social locations of Dalits, Adivasis, and landless agriculturalists, their histories and differences are often homogenized under the term ‘poor,’ especially in the context of poverty alleviation programs. The problem of poverty is pinned on those who are below the ‘poverty line’[13] who are labeled as lazy, ignorant, gullible, naive, and lacking entrepreneurial ability. I am not your data and Xaxa’s other writings and talks present an astute class critique and tie it to the violence that the discourse of poverty, as it operates in India, inflicts on the ‘struggling classes’ in the country.

Poverty data focuses on what poor people lack rather than turning the gaze towards the exploitation, resource extraction, and over-consumption by those who are above the poverty line. Institutions are set up to study the poor and come up with strategies for poverty alleviation; however, there are hardly any (perhaps not even one) institutions or projects that study rich people as data and examine the problems they create which, in fact, perpetuate poverty despite anti-poverty programs. The rich are applauded for their benevolence when they donate seemingly large sums for poverty alleviation even though these funds often constitute only a tiny portion of their wealth that is accumulated through generations of caste privilege, and the acquisition and exploitation of indigenous lands and resources. The opinions of those who are poor are seldom solicited when plans are made for poverty alleviation. Even worse, they are treated as if they do not have an opinion. The poor have never been asked what their definition of poverty is; whether they consider themselves to be poor at all or why they are poor?; or, how would they alleviate their poverty, if they chose?

Xaxa’s writing critiques the mainstream poverty discourse through the concept of Adivasiyat[14] drawn from Birsa Munda’s philosophy on ‘the right to autonomy.’ The Birsaite movement started by Birsa Munda in the 19th century in the Bengal province of British India, campaigned for the right to autonomy of land, territory, and self for Adivasis. Under the colonial zamindari (land tenancy) system, Adivasis were charged taxes for cultivating paddy. Birsa Munda asked Adivasis to stop cultivating paddy so that they would not enrich the foreigners such as colonialists, Christian missionaries, landlords, and other exploiters as dikus[15] (enemies of Adivasis). He encouraged Adivasis to move from settled agriculture back to traditional shifting cultivation, and to re-establish their relationship with the forest and natural resources.

Drawing on this Birsaite philosophy, Xaxa challenges the mainstream understanding of poverty in India through a new understanding of class that is based on the use of resources by different groups in society. Xaxa proposes three classes: an over-consuming class, a sustainable class, and a struggling class. The over-consuming class, as the name suggests, is a small section of the society which consumes beyond its need. This class has money and other resources in excess of what they need.[16] The over-consuming class extracts labor and resources from the struggling classes who do not have enough land, enough food on their plates, or enough money to survive. Between the over-consuming and struggling classes, there is a sustainable class that owns and consumes only as much as they need and produces the food to fulfill their needs.[17] Xaxa places Adivasis in this class. Xaxa links this concept of ‘sustainable class’ to Birsa Munda’s call to Adivasis to stop cultivating paddy for the consumption of others and paying taxes, which in its essence was an anti-capitalist call to stop cultivating for profit.

Xaxa’s concept of Adivasis as a sustainable class that produces just what they need without exploiting the natural resources upon which they depend for their livelihood and survival is remarkably different from the contemporary analysis of poverty. This concept of sustainable class helps us to rethink the nature and purpose of ‘data’ as it operates in relation to poverty in India. What if data could show us not just only what Adivasis and other Bahujans lack but also what makes them unique – their sustainable and ecological relationship to nature?

Through his taxonomy of classes, Xaxa provides ‘data’ about Adivasis’ sustainability, ecological relationship to nature, responsible harvesting of natural resources, and ability to find their livelihoods without depending on capitalist systems. Further, Xaxa holds the over-consuming classes responsible for the condition of the struggling class, arguing that it is their greed and exploitation that makes the struggling classes struggle for basic survival. His critique forces us to consider how the struggling classes in India are trapped in perpetual poverty despite decades of poverty alleviation programs. In so doing, Xaxa calls to redefine the definition of poverty. Unless the definition of poverty incorporates the political agency inherent in the people to its soulless numerical understanding, the action agenda will continue to be myopic like livelihood interventions for poverty alleviation programs.[18]

Xaxa compels us to see beyond the seemingly benevolent donations from the over-consuming classes and understand their continued complicity in creation and perpetuation of cycles of poverty. I am not your data is a call for seeing people through a new kind of lens that focuses on what they ‘have’ rather than what they ‘lack’; it is a refusal of the categorizations of the state and its systems which erase the knowledges and histories of Adivasis and Dalits, reducing them to bodies that have to be rescued and inducted into the progress of the nation.

Beyond Data: Xaxa’s Legacy

The hundreds of tributes to Xaxa that followed his sudden death by scholars, activists, and writers who have been touched by his work gives us an understanding of the deep impact of his short life. Abhay Xaxa drew his scholarship from his lived experiences, and the struggles and movements for the survival of Adivasi and Dalit Bahujan communities that he was embedded in. Reading, referencing, quoting, and following Xaxa’s work means challenging the status-quo and committing to unlearning and relearning the world through concepts such as Adivasiyat. For those from dominant castes and over-consuming classes, who are deemed meritorious by institutions and not poor by data collectors, this work means taking a hard look at their complicity, the origin of their wealth and privileges, and to actively work to undo this inheritance.

A true tribute to Dr. Abhay Xaxa from the Bahujan community would be to put his scholarship in dialogue with such mainstream concepts as merit, encroachment and poverty, and to strip them naked and redefine them. Let us see how long they can stop us if we use our own tools to fight our battles.

Acknowledgements: I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Nithya Rajan and the copy editors of AGITATE! for their partnership and editorial support during the writing of this essay. I am also thankful to Prof. Richa Nagar and Prof. Ajay Skaria for their feedback and suggestions.


[1] These lines are excerpted from Xaxa’s poem I am not your data which was published in Round Table India and Adivasi Resurgence as well as in AGITATE! Vol. 2. Xaxa’s activism is elaborated here: and

[2] Bastar is a region as well as an administrative division in the southern Chhattisgarh state of India. It is mostly populated by the Gond, Halba, Dhurwa, Maria, Muria Adivasi communities. Administratively, the Bastar division  is divided into seven districts: Bastar, Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Sukma, Kondagaon and Kanker. Notorious for the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency, it is a pristine and beautiful place where some of the age-old practices of Adivasi communities are still practiced. Bastar is also uniquely known for the longest (75 days) Dussehra festival celebrating the procession of goddess Danteshwari.

[3] In the Indian context, caste-oppressed communities are collectively called Bahujan. It emerges from anti-caste movements that include Dalit, Adivasis, Other Backward Class, and other religious minorities. The term means ‘the majority of people’ and serves as a reminder that in India those without caste privilege form the numerical majority.

[4] In their book Land, Words, and Resilient Culture: The Ontological Basis of Tribal Identity, published by Tribal Intellectual Collective India (TICI) bodhi s.r. & raile r. ziipao (2019), authors locate epistemology as a category which is most fundamental in unpacking and understanding tribal realities. They argue: “This assertion of tribes on the criticality of epistemology to their social reality is often articulated by them in many spaces and in multiple ways, but rarely heard by non-tribes. For example, in the politico-cultural domain, tribes often argue, especially in relation to the state, that what their numerous historical movements have sought and still seek from the powers is not emotional, psychological, political or even historiographical integration, but epistemological integration. Epistemology to tribes is fundamental to their being” (pg. 12).

[5] Xaxa, Abhay. An introduction to ‘epistemic violence.’ (Source:

[6] As per one illustrative estimate, of the 656 teaching staff at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, one of the most premier and oldest institutes in India, only one belongs to the Scheduled Tribes (ST) community (0.15 % against a provision of 7.5%), 10 are from the Scheduled Castes (SC) category (1.5% against 15%) and 27 from Other Backward Class (OBC) category (4.1% against 27%). Only 88 of them are women (13.4%). (Source: This disparity in hiring has a direct effect on student enrollment and retention. For example, in IIT Kharagpur, no Adivasi (Scheduled Tribe) PhD scholar has been enrolled in 17 departments over three academic years. (Source:

[7] Source:

[8] ‘General quota’ or ‘Open category’ are the terms used in the Indian context for applicants from dominant castes and Other Backward Classes who are above a certain level of income (administratively called the ‘creamy layer’). Besides this general quota there is a ‘reserved quota’ which includes those who are from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Other Backward Class (below the ‘creamy layer’), and in certain institutions, women. Since 2019, there has been an additional 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) who may not be from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Other Backward Classes but from economically weaker sections.

[9]  Source:

[10] From the talk “Implications of Forest Rights Act and Recent Supreme Court Judgment: Beyond Settler Time” delivered on February 28, 2019 at the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Student’s Association (BAPSA) at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Accessed from on June 16, 2021.

[11] Gail Omvedt has put forward a similar argument in an article (1997) “Why Dalits Dislike Environmentalists” from Dalit’s points of view. Mukul Sharma in his book Caste and Nature: Dalits and Indian Environmental Politics (2018) is critical of Indian environmental movements for being caste-blind. Even though there have been well-meaning environmental movements in India opposing western environmentalism and supporting people-centered environmentalism, these critiques do not often have explicit anti-caste politics embedded in them.

[12] These lines are excerpted from Xaxa’s poem I am not your data which was published in Round Table India and Adivasi Resurgence as well as in AGITATE! Vol. 2.

[13] In India the poverty line has been estimated for almost 120 years now. For more information,  see “Poverty Measurement in India: A status update” by Gaur and Rao (2020) published by the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India. The last official poverty line estimates by the Indian government were done by the Tendulkar Committee report in the year 2011-12. It takes into account expenditure on food, education, and health. The poverty cut-off has been set at an income of INR 32 a day for urban areas and INR 26 a day for rural areas. The number of poor in the country was pegged at 269.8 million or 21.9% of the population. After this estimate, no official poverty estimates have been released in India.

The latest addition to global poverty measurement is the Multidimensional Poverty Indicator (MPI) launched in 2010 jointly by the United Nations Development Program and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI). Along with the headcount ratio, MPI also considers the intensity of poverty across education, health and standard of living. As per the Global MPI 2020 Report, 27.9% of the Indian population is identified as multidimensional poor.

[14] Abhay Xaxa on Birsa Jayanti 2018 at JNU. Retrieved from

[15] Bara, Joseph. (2020). Setting the Record Straight on Birsa Munda and His Political Legacy. Vol. 55, Issue No. 30.

[16] As per World Inequality Report 2022, in India 10% of the population holds 57% of the national income and the richest 1% holds a 22% share. Conversely, the poorest 50% of the population only own 13% of total income. Economic Historian Nitin Bharti in his paper uses the India Human Development Survey 2011 to look at the income inequality across caste lines. As per the paper, SC, ST, and OBC households earn 21%, 34%, and 8% lower than the national average of INR 113, 222 (~USD 2400 in 2011). Whereas brahmins earn 48% above the national average and non-brahmin forward castes, 45% above the national average.

[17] The Gond Adivasis of Bastar illustrate what Xaxa means by sustainable class. Gond Adivasis were organized in 28 clans by their founder, Lingo Pen. Each clan worships a unique tree or plant and/or animal or bird. That particular clan does not consume that animal or does not harvest that tree or plant. The logic of such an organization is to establish a symbiotic relationship with nature and harvest it sustainably. This intellectual heritage has been passed on orally by traditional rituals such as Ghotul and by demonstrating manual skills to the youngsters in the field. For more details, see Kerketta, J. 2020. “अपनी ज़मीन तलाशती नई जड़ें.” Translated To “New Roots Searching For Their Earth” By R. Nagar. AGITATE! 2: Http://Agitatejournal.Org/Articleअपनी ज़मीन तलाशती नई जड़ें. and Jamkar, V. And R. Nagar. 2020. “जसिन्ता को पढ़ने पर / After Reading Jacinta.” AGITATE! 2: http://Agitatejournal.Org/Article/जसिन्ता-को-पढ़ने-पर/.

[18] I am quoting two examples amongst many others. First, Eknath Awad, respected anti-caste activist and founder of the nonprofit, Rural Development Center. He brought together anti-caste and livelihood perspectives in their work with Dalit communities in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra. The organization worked simultaneously to oppose vicious caste atrocities on Dalits and formed women-led agricultural cooperatives and microfinance institutions to ensure livelihood for Dalits. Second, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (CMM), a labor union of mineworkers of Dalli Rajahara Mines in the Balod district of Chhattisgarh state. It was led by the charismatic trade unionist Shankar Guha Niyogi who coined the slogan “Sangharsh aur Nirmaan” (Struggle and Creation) as an approach to their work. CMM not only worked on fair wages but also political agency for workers. Workers built  their own hospital, Shaheed Hospital, from their wages; started schools for their children; formed their political outfit; and contested elections. These organizational approaches do not consider Dalits as poor, helpless, at the mercy of the government, or corporate. These institutions ensure their economic well-being and acknowledge their political agency. Their organizational principles are essentially to enhance and harvest people’s political agency so that they can live meaningful and dignified lives while simultaneously engaging in shaping an equitable society.

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