What happens when untouchables decide they are not Hindus and refuse to subscribe to the concepts undergirding caste? They form their own religion. The Ad Dharm movement of Punjab, founded in the 1920s by Mangoo Ram, stakes claim as a religion separate from and superior to both Hinduism and Sikhism. In this pioneering work, Mark Juergensmeyer chronicles the history of the Ad Dharm movement based on extensive field research, sociological surveys and interviews that weave the life stories of dalit leaders into the history of the movement. He also the explore Ad Dharm’s links with organisations supported by the dalits: Arya Samaj, Valmiki Sabha, Ambedkar and Dalit Panther movements, Christianity, Marxism, the Congress party, Radhasoami Satsang, and the lifestyle of modern secularism.
The Ad Dharm movement continues to influence the cultural and political life of dalit activists almost a hundred years later. In 2003, protestors against the treatment of dalits of village Talhan were identified as ‘Ad Dharmis’. In 2009, a leader of the Ravidas ashram in village Ballan was killed by an irate ‘upper caste’ Punjabi when he was visiting a Ravidas Temple in Vienna. Tensions surfaced between dalit and non-dalit Punjabis in the region and around the world. Juergensmeyer’s historical study has relevance to the continuing political struggle of dalits both regionally and globally.
Mark Juergensmeyer is director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies and professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
‘Juergensmeyer takes one bold step forward from conventional social history, and he deserves our unqualified praise for that.’—T.K. Oommen, Contributions to Indian Sociology