ABSTRACT

A glance at the few works on the caste question in Bengal indicates that caste in colonial Bengal was an intensely debated issue that gave rise to different and competing articulations. 1 These works (Bandyopadhyay 1990; 2011; Sen 2012; 2014) point to the significant role caste played not merely in the everyday life and politics of Bengali society, but increasingly, in the domain of institutionalised politics and through attempts to bring about reforms in society and introduce radical change in modes of governance. In this chapter, I attempt a study of the implications of Dalit 2

political assertions and the bhadralok 3 responses they evoked: one in the form of building Hindu sangathan (organised society) through caste reforms, the communalisation of identities and ‘networking’ among caste Hindus to prevent independent forms of Dalit mobility and mobilisations; another, the subsuming of caste into the larger question of class. Both are, I argue, variants of bhadralok politics.