When Siddharth Sahu was in college, he started taking an interest in the Dalits, a community he belonged to. As a student of history, he was keen on understanding not just the community’s origins, but also its interlinking with the Buddhists. This was about a decade ago. While seeking answers, Sahu realised two truths —there was no exhaustive study on Dalits despite the community forming a vital component in the country’s demography and that a majority of the writings and research about this community was done by the elite upper castes. Numerous Dalit leaders did write about the community, but Sahu realised that their perceptions varied.
“It is so difficult to get a true sense of Dalit history. The writings of the upper caste cannot be called accurate as their narratives are different,” Sahu tells Outlook. “My curiosity was fired and I got into the thick of it trying to understand who I am, who my ancestors were, and a lot more. The caste hierarchy, even among Dalits, is so complex, a lifetime may not be enough to understand the community,” he says.