Accepted Paper:

Dalit rights &the development agenda: the promise, progress and pitfalls of NGO networking and international advocacy.  


David Mosse (SOAS)
Luisa Steur (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

We examine how Dalit movements in India have recently taken a turn towards a 'development' agenda and how simultaneously development organisations (NGOs, international donors and United Nations bodies) now address the question of caste discrimination within their poverty reduction policy frameworks.

Paper long abstract:

This paper traces the turn towards a Dalit rights framework among development NGOs in south India and internationally. It traces the intersection of caste conflicts, Dalit movements and an emergent Dalit politics with the expansion of NGOs and their networks in the 1990s. First, taking the case of Oxfam-linked organisations it examines the mutual influence of donors and Dalit NGOs, and the emergence of a state-wide 'network of networks,' the Human Rights Forum for Dalit Human Rights (HRFDL). The paper outlines the imperative and implication of a Dalit rights approach to rural development, the implications for practical action and the necessity and effects of NGO networking. It shows how such networks are shaped by their local political context, how they have powerful discursive, communicative and social effects, but also how funding streams and networks become inter-twined in complex and problematic ways. The analysis concerns what networks do, and how they both expand and attenuate. It brings to light a variety of perspectives from Dalit NGO actors themselves to suggest the richness and complexity involved in the forging of a Dalit development agenda. Secondly, adopting a similar approach, the paper turns the national and international campaigns for Dalit human rights a decade on from the Durban conference of 2001 which began to place caste discrimination on the UN agenda, and involve yet more far-reaching network forms.

Panel P08
Dalit communities in India and diaspora: agency and activism, research and representation