Brahmanical Activism As Eco-Casteism: Reading The Life Narratives Of Bindeshwar Pathak, Sulabh International, And "Liberated" Dalits
Abstract

Abstract:

This essay centers on the life of Bindeshwar Pathak, a Brahmin by caste, narrated by himself and others. Pathak is the founder of the much-celebrated Sulabh International, a prominent environmental initiative working for the abolition of scavenging, which has largely been done by the Balmiki Dalit castes in India. Through Pathak's life writing and Sulabh's varied literature, along with interviews with Sulabh workers, scavengers, and Dalit activists who narrate their lives and the implications of Pathak and Sulabh for them, the essay argues that Pathak and his environmental movement often deploys caste and Dalits to reform and reinvent Brahmanical Hinduism with a human face. The retelling of various lives underlines that Pathak's attempts to "liberate" scavengers are often mediated through a caste-bound Hindu religious, community, cultural, and everyday practice. Pathak's anticaste plank is thus constantly blunted by a Hindu religious ecology that positions kindness against rights, charity against liberty, and reform from above against radical change, marking the limits of Pathak's life narrative vis-à-vis caste.