This article explores the contradictory history of lower castes converting out of Hinduism yet not out of lowliness or casteism in early twentieth-century Panjab. It begins by contextualizing what B. R. Ambedkar's undelivered 1936 Lahore speech on annihilating caste might have meant to an audience of largely landless agricultural laborers. Next it examines the changing constellation of caste names and occupational designations for these groups amid the emergence of the Ad Dharm movement and its struggle to impart equality, dignity, and community to Panjabi Dalits. To situate this new sense of identity in the context of actual labor practices, the article then analyzes the fraught relationship between landholding cultivators and landless laborers working side-by-side while continuing to be separate and unequal. That a large proportion of lower castes could adopt religions other than Hinduism or even start their own and yet remain excluded and exploited reveals the limits of a politics centered on conversion, as well as a different horizon for emancipation.

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