Wednesday, December 8, 2021
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Caste: From Annihilation to Consolidation

Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao

The demand for caste census is growing as all important UP elections are fast approaching. No doubt that this demand is more vocal in the political circles rather than caste congregations. This was because of the economic reforms and the growth of private sector has almost out caste and merit has come to the fore. Unlike in public sector where caste based employee associations existed, the private sector is without any such caste conscious working conditions. The young boys and girls easily mingling and getting married outside their castes. Regional, language barriers are being broken in the performance recognized organizations. It is the welcome change leading to the modernization of the Indian society. Instead of recognizing and encouraging this new trend the politicians and some intellectuals who see their growth in caste based society are demanding the caste census forgetting our own goals set at the dawn of independence.

 Independent India started with great hope and high expectations. It set the initial goals of establishing the equality before law, alleviation of poverty, achieving the gender parity, development of scientific temper and then subsequently added socialism and secularism. Annihilation of caste and establishment of casteless society was an important part of social agenda.  However, as India starts celebrating the platinum jubilee of the independence, the failure in achieving most of the set goals is staring at us.

As we turn back and review, we can see some political initiatives from the parties and governments to achieve some of the goals but as far as caste is concerned no party ever made any attempt to annihilate the deep rooted caste biases. On the other hand all most all parties used the caste to their growth and achievement of power. The leaders never hid the caste identities. Moreover, they are more vocal in the cause of the dominant caste whose interests they represent. Despite the fact that no single caste is numerically strong to win the majority seats and grab power, the talk of caste was still there in the political discourse. Media made all pre-poll assessments based on the castes. To satiate their power hunger the caste leaders were encouraging the other castes to group under their leadership and such groups are baited with power sharing formulae.   Indira Gandhi followed this cast formula of leadership to the dominant, moneyed, land owing forward caste and making the SC/ST and minority Muslims as vote banks for the Congress.

Surprisingly there was zero effort from the intellectuals, sociologists to counter that caste consolidation formulae of Indira Gandhi. On the other hand they received positions and monetary grants from Indira regime for maintaining their silence. It is the same group of thinkers and academicians who are now vociferous in demanding the caste count, especially that of OBCs. Their vested interests won’t go unnoticed. Basing on the arguments built by these intellectuals and seeing the advantage the caste factor gives to their growth the politicians are calling for caste census. Some state assemblies have even passed resolutions for such caste census. The tragedy of the Indian society is that those who championed the annihilation of the caste once have now turned to be the votaries of the consolidation of the caste.

Equality in the society is desirable and ultimate human dream, but there is no society in the world which eliminated inequality. Religious, color, ethnic discriminations are prevalent across the nations, caste is the additional factor for Indian society. Each country is trying to erase discriminatory issues by sticking to the ‘talent recognition’ as the prime factor. America is the best example in accommodating the talented immigrants in their system without caring for the colour, creed or the nationality of the immigrants. On the other hand, we the Indians, who boast of very old civilization, are still counting the people in the jobs and other positions in terms of caste. But for the merit recognizing policies of USA, the likes of Indira Nooyi, Padmasree Warrior, Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai would not have reached the stage of CEOs in big international companies. The Nobel laureate in Economics Abhijit Banerjee has said “he wouldn’t have won the recognition had he stayed in India”.   The same was the case of late Har Gobind Khurana, the Nobel laureate who was denied of the post of demonstrator in a college in Punjab as our governments were more for social justice and not for merit. Had they remained in India, all those meritorious young minds may have been rotting as victims in the caste conscious Indian system without opportunities to use their talent in the service of their motherland.  With the kind of policies adapted in independent India, neither the country achieved the desired social justice nor did it formulate policies to retain the talented to stay back in the country and work for the development of India.

This negative mindset of Indian society and the politics linked to caste is the root cause for the migration of young minds in search of opportunities in other countries and becoming part of the growth of their adopted nations. Jo Biden in his presidential election campaign publicly acknowledged the contribution of Indian migrants in US economy. The loosing of talent made India to retain   eternal ‘developing nation’ label for our country.

This current demand for caste census is obviously not for the good of the country but certainly for the caste leader’s growth and consolidation of the grip of some leaders. The argument that social welfare programs can’t be formulated without proper count of caste people is ridiculous. Welfare programs can easily designed to help the needy without caste tag.

The current demand for caste census can be compared to the effort of Congress in Karnataka where they recommended the creation of Lingayat as a new religion. That was aimed at splitting the Hindu society. Post 2018 electoral defeat despite its divisive agenda Congress party turned silent on that creation of new religion. Once the UP elections are over and caste census demand fail to get the desired political demands the voices of caste consolidation, hopefully, turns silent. If the caste leaders of UP taste ‘blood of success’ in 2022 elections in UP, the caste politics will go national level in 2024 and that will be the undesirable trend. 

(Author is retired professor and occasional contributor for dailies and magazines on politics and environmental issues. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at duggarajusrinivasarao@gmail.com)

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