Mahar - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Many features of Mahar caste Organization that existed before the reform period have disappeared. There seems to have been a caste "guru" (a spiritual counselor not averse to speaking with Untouchables) in some areas, but there is little description of this practice. Local leadership seems to be determined now by merit, wealth, and political skill. There never was a caste center nor an overarching caste organization.

Political Organization. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar began his first political party, the Labour party, in 1935, and since that time, most Mahars and neo-Buddhists have considered themselves members of his successive parties: the Scheduled Castes Federation from 1942 and the Republican party from 1956. Since the parties have been unable to attract higher-caste members, they remain unimportant politically at the national and state levels. Ambedkar's followers are, however, very politically aware, and they do figure in local politics where they have the numbers and the leadership. An organization calling itself the "Dalit Panthers," after the Black Panthers of the United States, arose in the early 1970s, led by educated Mahars or Buddhists. After initial successes, the Dalit Panthers split into various groups, but militant local groups operate effectively even today in various slum localities. An issue such as the banning of one of Ambedkar's books in 1988 brought half a million Scheduled Castes into the streets of Bombay in one of that city's most effective political protests.

Social Control. There is no mechanism for control, other than the example or the chiding of local leaders.

Conflict. Competition and rivalry within the group are keen. Ambedkar was able to unify the Mahar through his Exceptional qualifications, planning, and recognition by outside forces as well as by his charisma; no other leader has become acceptable to all. The Panther groups and the political parties are all factionalized. The Buddhist conversion movement has brought about efforts to unify on the basis of religious morality as well as a general disapproval of political infighting.

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