Religion and Dalit Liberation: An Examination of Perspectives

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Religion and Dalit Liberation: An Examination of Perspectives.

By John C. B. Webster, New Delhi. Manohar Publishers, 1999, Pp. 124. Paperback Rs 150.

John Webster is widely recognized as one of the leading exponents of Dalit history and theology. (Dalits are the so-called Untouchables within the Indian caste system.) He has taught history in India for several years and has firsthand knowledge of both the sociopolitical and the religiocultural movements within the Indian subcontinent.

While his first book traced the history of Dalit Christians, Webster explores the Dalit religion as such in this brief but dense book. He begins with "a fairly detailed case study of Dalit religion around the turn of the last century and a brief comparison with what contemporary observers noted about Dalit religion elsewhere in India at about that time" (p.15). This case study is followed by an insightful analysis of the view of religion of Dr. Ambedkar, a leading figure in the Dalit liberation movement. Webster explains with great care the social test to which Ambedkar put all religions of his day. The next chapter examines the way Dalit theologians have employed the thought of Ambedkar in the construction of their own theologies. …