Dr. Radhika Kumar (JNU, New Delhi)

Gender, Caste and Political Representation: The Case of Dalit Women panchayat Members in the State of Haryana

01 January 2018 – 30 April 2018

Gender as a political category has both spatial and theoretical coordinates. Further, like other categories of marginalisation, the category of gender is also political. Hence there is also a politics of gender. Straddling the intersections of gender, civil society and the state, this research proposal looks at the case of Dalit (scheduled caste) women at the sub-national level, namely in the state of Haryana. Gender as a social identity when wedded to caste or ethnic identity generates its own peculiar currency or deprivation in civil society and the state. For instance women belonging to the lowest rung in the caste hierarchy, such as Dalit women, face double deprivation and subjugation on account of both the identity of gender and on account of belonging to the lowest caste category in society.
Given this context, this research looks at how state designated policies of affirmative action as well as recent changes in the Haryana State Panchayati Act (2015) have led to increasing political agency of women and particularly of Dalit women representatives such that their numbers have not only surpassed those of Dalit men at the village and district level but also that of backward caste women representatives.
The research questions that this proposal seeks to probe are, firstly, why has there been a sudden spurt in percentage of Dalit women representatives when compared to Dalit men and women from backward castes? Secondly, what are the implications of their increasing numbers in local level state representative bodies? More specifically how have their increased numbers impacted presence, participation, development agenda setting and decision making at the local level for women and specifically Dalit women? Thirdly, scaling up the experience of Dalit women to the sub-national level, what are the possible implications of increased presence of Dalit women in the public sphere given that the state of Haryana has the second lowest sex ratio in the country namely 879 women per 1000 men as well as high incidence of caste based violence against Dalits and in particular Dalit women? More specifically what are the trends with regard to violence against dalit women ?


Radhika Kumar is Assistant Professor at the Dept.  of Political Science, Motilal Nehru College, University of Delhi and has been teaching for the past 16 years. She completed her BA in Political Science from Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi, and her MA, MPhil and PhD from the Centre for Political Studies (CPS), at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her PhD research was based on a comparative sub-national study of Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh in the post liberalisation period. Radhika is interested in political economy and how it relates to electoral politics and political communication. She has contributed papers to various edited books and journals and she is also engaged with and is keen on to further develop her work on the state of Haryana with robust inputs from the field. These include issues of land acquisition and urbanisation, caste and the political economy of reform.

2017, ‘Padayatras and the Changing Nature of Political Communication in India’, Studies in Indian Politics(1), 32-41.
2017,  ‘Exploring the Twin Tracks of Economic and Governance Reforms in the two States of Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh’, The Indian Journal of Public Administration63 (1), 124-135.

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