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HOW THE WEAK GAINED A VOICE

Dalit Assertion and the Unfinished Democratic Revolution By Sudha Pai, Sage, Rs 490

Few countries in the world have a homogeneous population and this lack leads to myriad problems. One such problem is casteism and in India it is the cause of a lot of social tension. The backward sections in India for a long time did not have the political representation which is so necessary for their social uplift. However, in recent decades a new consciousness has evolved and the backward classes have developed new strategies to bring about a change in their status.

This book is part of a series that explores the ďprocesses of cultural repression and the ways in which they are overcomeĒ. Uttar Pradesh and its Bahujan Samaj Party, which has brought assertiveness among millions who are neither scheduled caste nor scheduled tribe, form a substantial part of the discussion.

Undoubtedly, the five chapters of Sudha Paiís valuable and painstaking work lead the reader to the inception of Dalit assertiveness through the emergence of the BSP as a political party, its ideology and strategy and a case study at the grassroots level. All of these promote a clearer understanding of UP politics. Of course, because of its very nature, the book will be of interest to students of political science and sociologists rather than to the lay reader.

It goes without saying that the BSPís transition to a force to reckon with is one of the most significant developments in UP politics since the Eighties. The process has had a tremendous impact on society as well. The BSP, unlike many other caste-based parties has proved that it is no flash in the pan and that it is here to stay. The fact that the BSP has formed the government twice in UP is indication of this.

But has the BSP been successful in bringing about the social transformation it set out to accomplish in the first place' Or has it degenerated into a political party that aims merely at capturing and retaining power through opportunistic moves' Pai tries to answer both questions sympathetically and critically. In the light of the current political scene, her assumptions seem prophetic.

The book has a number of tables that give varied data like the socio-economic background of the BSP members of the legislative assembly. There are also tables on caste compositions and results of panchayat elections.

This book will add to the research on Dalits and give a different perspective to those interested in the Dalit movement in UP. Solid research is supplemented by amusing sections like Kanshi Ramís comments on other backward leaders.

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