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Opinion

Caste: From Annihilation to Consolidation

Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao

Duggaraju Srinivasa RaoOct 26, 2021, 12:15 PM IST

Caste: From Annihilation to Consolidation

With the policies adopted 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.


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 is because of the economic reforms, growth of the private sector has almost been outcast, and merit has come to the fore.

Unlike in the public sector, where caste-based employee associations exist, the private sector has no caste conscious working conditions. The young boys and girls are easily mingling and getting married outside their castes. Regional, with no barriers, are being broken in the performance recognised organisations. It is a welcome change leading to the modernisation of Indian society. Instead of recognising 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 goals set at the dawn of independence.

Independent India started with great hope and high expectations. It set the initial goals of establishing equality before the law, alleviating poverty, achieving gender parity, developing scientific temper, and then adding socialism and secularism. The annihilation of caste and the establishment of casteless society were an important part of the social agenda. However, as India starts celebrating the platinum jubilee of independence, the failure to achieve 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 goals. But no party has ever attempted to eradicate the deeply rooted caste biases. Most parties used the caste for their growth and achievement of power. The leaders never hid the caste identities. They are more vocal in the cause of the dominant caste whose interests they represent. 

Although no single caste is numerically strong to win the majority seats and grab power, the talk of caste is still there in the political discourse. The media made all pre-poll assessments based on the castes. To satiate their power hunger, the caste leaders encouraged 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. They received positions and monetary grants from the Indira regime to maintain their silence. The same group of thinkers and academicians are now vociferous in demanding the caste count, especially that of OBCs. Their vested interests won't go unnoticed. Based on the arguments built by these intellectuals and seeing the advantage the caste factor gives to their growth, the politicians are calling for a 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 become the votaries of the consolidation of the caste.

Equality in society is a desirable and ultimate human dream, but no society eliminates inequality. Religious, colour, ethnic discriminations are prevalent across the nation, and caste is the additional factor for Indian society. Each country is trying to erase discriminatory issues by sticking to 'talent recognition' as the prime factor. America is the best example of accommodating talented immigrants in their system without caring for the immigrants' colour, creed, or nationality. 

On the other hand, we, the Indians, who boast of an ancient civilisation, are still counting the people in the jobs and other positions in terms of caste. But for the merit of recognising policies of the USA, the likes of Indra 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 the post of a demonstrator at a college in Punjab, as our governments were more for social justice and not for merit. Had they remained in India, all those worthy 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 policies adopted 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 of the migration of young minds searching for opportunities in other countries and becoming part of the growth of their adopted nations. During his presidential election campaign, Joe Biden publicly acknowledged the contribution of Indian migrants to the US economy. The loosing of talent made India retain the eternal 'developing nation' label for our country.

This current demand for caste census is not for the country's good 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 a proper count of caste people is ridiculous. Welfare programs can easily be designed to help the needy without a 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, the Congress party turned silent on creating a new religion. Once the UP elections are over and caste census demand fails to get the desired political demands, the voices of caste consolidation will hopefully turn 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, which will be an undesirable trend.

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