Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society Organization Logo Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society


Researching Caste: The Unchartered World of Santram BA

10.11.2022 07:00 PM

Event Summary

Workshop with Charu Gupta (Professor of History, University of Delhi; 2022–23 Neubauer Collegium Visiting Fellow)

In this workshop, Charu Gupta discussed the writings of Santram BA (1887-1998), a veteran Hindi writer and radical anti-caste social reformer from Punjab. Member of the Arya Samaj, he founded the "Jat Pat Torak Mandal" (Organization to Break Caste) in 1922. Along with his anti-caste writings and his autobiography, he also wrote several articles and books on inter-caste marriages, sex, and birth control, including translations of Mary Stopes’s works into Hindi for the first time. In spite of the huge repertoire of his writings, he has been marginalized in academic scholarship, which has tended to focus on "star" caste radicals like Jotiba Phule, B.R. Ambedkar, and Periyar. While belonging to the Shudra caste, unlike these pioneering personalities, Santram perceived caste reform within the paradigm of Hinduism, while offering a trenchant critique of caste from within. Through the life of Santram BA, the workshop illuminated a social history of caste, its counter-narrative and archive, in north India. It attempted to show how sexuality for Santram was a cover story for various kinds of dissonances, as he laid claim to authority by questioning savarna morality, while carving a space to think about the body beyond the parameters imagined by the emerging middle class and upper caste world.

Sponsored by the Entanglements of the Indian Past project at the Neubauer Collegium.