Tuesday, May 17th, 2022 06:31:17

Caste-ridden UP Opp. unites on caste census

By Kulsum Mustafa FROM LUCKNOW
Updated: September 14, 2021 4:14 pm

Religion and caste are the predominant forces that have ruled India, especially the Hindi heartland for centuries. Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state wherein reside the country’s over 241 million people are bound tightly by these twin chains.

According to 2011 census the state has a Hindu population percentage of 79.7, Muslims 19.3, Sikhs 0.3, Christians 0.2, Jains 0.1, Buddhists 0.1 and 0.3 who have not stated their religion.

Uttar Pradesh has 7.02 crore OBC comprising 200 odd castes. Yadavs is the single largest OBC caste. Dalits constitute 21.1% , Muslims are divided into 68 castes and sub-castes, 35 of them are OBCs.  The Forward castes constitute around 18-20% of the state population. Out of this Brahmins make up about 12%, Thakurs 8%.

Demand  for a caste census was being backed by 100 influential castes who have been the biggest beneficiaries of the 27 percent OBC quota. The contention is that 27 percent is archaic data, provided in surveys done in the British rule in 1931. Fresh data it is being argued will help government make specific policies for the backward castes.

The labyrinth of caste is dense. Whenever one attempts to initiate a conversation on the state’s political fabric, up pops the question of caste equations. Government formation and its survival in the state depends largely on striking the right balance and blend of different castes into a composite ruling coalition.

Uttar Pradesh goes to the polls in just a few months’ time which will be followed by the 2024 general elections in the country. That is why there is a high demand for the caste census. A united Opposition is jointly demanding that this be done at the earliest. But the BJP stands rigid and is not addressing the issue at this very crucial time. They are even ignoring the fact that in 2018, Union Minister Rajnath Singh had promised an OBC caste census in 2021.

After the unanimous passing of the OBC Bill on 11th August in the Lok Sabha, the 127th Constitutional Amendment, BJP’s message of  ‘this far no further’ stand has been made clear. The Bill restores the right of states to identify and provide reservation benefits to other backward castes (OBC), this will benefit 671 castes in the country. But the  now the government is clearly not to conduct a caste-wise enumeration of the population, except in the case of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Leading caste census demand in the state  is the former chief minister and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav. He is  backed by arch-rival Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Joining their voice is BJP’s coalition allies Apna Dal and Nishad Party.

Alleging the fact that the government is not conceding to their demand smells of foul intention Mr. Yadav has demanded the release of the relevant data of the 2011 Census which the government has not put in the public domain. The former finance minister, late Arun Jaitley had promised that the government would release the data, but it has not been done. The government has given the reason for not doing so because it claims that there were many errors in the compilation.

According to Amaresh Misra, President Rashtravadi Kisan Kranti Dal (RKKD), caste census is “an important and overdue  socio-political-economic distribution  exercise” that will impact the political demography.  For once all the Opposition is speaking in one voice.

For the Opposition, this data will be the Brahmaastra through which they will fire at the BJP. The Saffron Party however stands stoically against this census exercise. It is not for exposing the Achilles heel that Narendra Modi at the Centre and Yogi Adityanath will bow down.  Yogi has done almost everything to garner Hindu vote bank and that includes his cabinet which has the right sprinkling of all castes. It is not likely that either Modi or Yogi will give into the demand of the Opposition because it sure will play havoc with their work on uniting Hindus under a sngle umbrella without any division on caste.


By Kulsum Mustafa FROM LUCKNOW

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