Web of Caste Politics
It is said that nothing is permanent in politics, but for the last few years, upheavals in Indian politics have become almost permanent. The latest upheaval is about the caste census. The din by almost all political parties, pressing for a caste-based census, points towards ideological insolvency and setting up an agenda for social suffering. Against this backdrop, it is worthwhile mentioning that every census conducted in India after Independence has enumerated the population of the SCs and STs besides publishing details about religions, languages and socio-economic status of citizens. However, the government has not gathered details about the OBCs, who continue to be clubbed with the general category in the census. While OBCs have not been classified as such in the census exercise, these groups have been receiving benefits under several welfare initiatives and reservations in government jobs. The last OBC census was conducted under British rule, way back in 1931, when their share of population was found to be 52 per cent. Bowing to pressure, the Congress-led UPA-II conducted a separate socio-economic and caste census in 2011, but refrained from publishing it amid claims of data being riddled with inaccuracies. In this perspective, it cannot be gainsaid that the democratic process reaching down deeper and deeper into the body politic to bring newer castes into the upper socio-economic and political echelons is a stupendous achievement of Indian democracy, which would certainly be threatened by caste census, for, it would further create a divide and restrict the access of particular castes in several ways.
Be that as it may, it is apt to say that equality was included in the fundamental right in Article 14 of the Constitution of India. It is true that reservation was given on the basis of caste till a few years after Independence. By the way, B.R. Ambedkar himself was against its implementation till eternity. Like Ram Manohar Lohia, Ambedkar also believed that this system would bring equality in the society and then there would be no need to give special status to anyone. But the exact opposite happened. Since castes have become the new weapon of politics, this is the reason why the demand for caste census is rising. Those demanding caste census are trying to get more support of those castes on whose foundation and support their politics rests. But the reverse has to happen that as soon as the caste census is done, the castes that are stronger in terms of numbers will ask for a bigger share for themselves. Hence, now the time has come that the people sitting in the responsible positions of this country should understand that if we, as a country, have to progress, then it can happen only on the basis of ability and unity. If the country is to be taken forward, then the benefits of policies should go to its rightful people, the last person standing in the queue, irrespective of castes. But in a country where policies are made on the basis of castes, in a country where tickets are distributed on the basis of castes, in a country where the posts of ministers are given on the basis of castes, the demand for census is made on the basis of castes shouldn’t be surprising. So, now the question is: Will India of the 21st century be built on the basis of caste discrimination?
By Deepak Kumar Rath