In Search of a Utopian Society: Situating ‘Dalit’ Conversions in Contemporary India

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L. David Lal


Religious conversions, particularly those originating from marginalized communities, have been a subject of scholarly investigation in colonial and post-colonial India. Dalit conversions, in particular, have been examined not only as an attempt in exercising freedom of conscience but also as an act encompassing various dimensions. The existing body of literature on Dalit conversions has recognized them as instances of social protest, group assertion, a direct challenge to caste-based dominance, the pursuit of egalitarianism, and the quest for self-respect. Although discussions surrounding Dalit conversions to different religions have intensified in post-independence India, conversions to Islam and Christianity have received notable attention. It is widely acknowledged that Dalit conversions stand in opposition to the principles of caste system, religious hegemony, and homogenization. This article by examining the instances of Dalit conversions that have taken place in independent India, delves into three significant aspects: first, comprehending the acquired religious identity of Dalits; second, exploring the aspirations of Dalit converts; and third, examining the construction of a utopia within the context of the adopted religion. Additionally, the article argues that Dalit conversions should not be regarded as an endpoint but rather as a transformative journey into an envisioned utopia.

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Lal, L. D. (2023). In Search of a Utopian Society: Situating ‘Dalit’ Conversions in Contemporary India. CASTE A Global Journal on Social Exclusion, 4(2), 288–305.
Research Articles