Dalit History Month: Celebrating the Legacy of Ambedkar and Dalit Contributions to Society

Dalit History Month
Dalit History Month

The month of April holds special significance for the Ambedkarites, predominantly Dalits, as it marks the birth anniversary of Baba Saheb Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar. April is also being celebrated as Dalit History Month to provide a thrust to the ideology.

This month-long celebration features a variety of events, including writing, reading, discussions, cultural events, and film screenings, aimed at promoting new avenues of Ambedkarite thinking. It serves as a platform for propagating the rich legacy of Dalit history and contributions to society.

The credit for organizing the first Dalit History Month Festival goes to Sanghapalli Aruna and Thenmozhi Soundararajan, although the phrase has been in use for a while now. This initiative has gained momentum in recent years, and its growing popularity is a positive sign that more people are becoming aware of Dalit history and the struggles faced by this community.

Inspiration from Black History Month

The inspiration behind the 30-day celebration of Dalit History Month can be traced to the celebration of Black History Month in the United States, which is observed in February each year. The month of February holds significant importance for African Americans, as it marks the birth anniversary of prominent figures such as Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and W.E.B. Du Bois, who fought against slavery and championed the civil rights movement.

The popularity of Black History Month has been a source of inspiration for Dalit activists, who sought to create a similar platform to celebrate and promote Dalit history and contributions to Indian society. Dalit History Month has gained traction in recent years, with more people participating in its events and spreading awareness about the rich legacy of Dalit history.

Growing recognition abroad

While the Dalit diaspora has played a significant role in popularizing the concept of Dalit History Month, Professor Sumeet Mhaskekar of the Jindal Institute of Government and Public Policy suggests that the framework for this initiative has been adopted from Black History Month. This month-long celebration aims to reach out to the non-Indian audience, particularly oppressed groups such as Black Americans, through icons of social justice such as Ambedkar, Phule, and Periyar.

Professor Mhaskar highlights the importance of using Dalit History Month to engage with people involved in struggles of race and ethnicity and lobby them on the issue of caste-based discrimination. He notes that the initiative has been successful in gaining traction and is gradually gaining recognition among non-Dalit audiences abroad, as seen in recent events in Seattle.

Therefore, while the Dalit diaspora played a vital role in initiating the concept of Dalit History Month, the framework and goals of the initiative aim to broaden the scope of awareness and advocacy beyond the Indian and Dalit communities. Due to the persistent efforts of the Dalit diaspora, the canadian province of British Columbia also recognised April as Dalit History Month.

Australia Joins the Celebration

Dalit History Month, which originated in the United States, has now spread to Australia, where a significant number of people of Indian origin reside. In Australia, organizations such as Ambedkar International Mission, PATCA, The Humanism Project, and South Asians for Inclusiveness have come together to celebrate the month-long event along with Ambedkar Jayanti in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.

According to Vikrant Kishore, an Australia-based filmmaker and academician, a grand celebration is also being organized by the Ambedkar International Mission, Australia in Adelaide, which will witness the participation of people from different parts of Australia.

The growing popularity of Dalit History Month outside India is a positive development, highlighting the global impact of social justice movements such as the one led by Dr. Ambedkar. The participation of Indian diaspora communities across the world in Dalit History Month celebrations speaks to the importance of acknowledging and celebrating the rich legacy of Dalit history and the ongoing struggle for equality and justice.

Dalit History Month
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