“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating” Kofi Annan
The only way – “You have to work-out your own problems, work hard everyday; you have to hold on to the real thing; believe me, there’s no other way!” Gertrude T Buckingham
Journey of Shudras Begin – Existence of Shudras (at present referred as untouchables/Dalits) was recognized, as early as, Pre Mauryan Period (6th century BC to 3rd century BC). Though given a lower status, they were always an integral part of Hindu society. Since then, they have traveled a long distance and has passed through various stages, at present known as Dalits. The whole of 20th century, especially the first and last two decades have been especially important for political empowerment of Shudras (Untouchables). Different terms have been used for Shudrs at different points of time. Each one assumed importance, as Dalit movement has passed through various stages –
‘Shudras’, ‘Outcastes’ and ‘Panchamas’
Till the beginning of 20th Century, the lowest strata of Hindu Community were known as Shudras, Panchamas or outcastes.
Who were Shudras in ancient times? – Socially, Shudras were supposed to do all sorts of menial work and serving the upper castes of the three Varnas. Individuals or groups belonging to –
- Conquered groups or individuals in a war;
- Groups engaged in menial or unhygienic occupations;
- Groups clinging to the practices, which were not considered respectable;
- Persons born illegitimately or
- Groups engaged in anti-social activities were treated as Shudras and were given lowest status in the society.
- Breaking the caste rules meant loss of caste, meaning complete ostracism or having no place in the mainstream of society.
- Permanent loss of caste or out-caste- were considered to be the greatest catastrophe for an individual, short of death penalty. By the beginning of Christian era, the out-castes themselves developed caste hierarchy and had their own out-castes.
In Western and Southern parts of India, they were kept outside the four Varnas. In the Northern and Eastern parts of India, they were very much belonged to fourth Varna “Shudra”, which was divided into two parts pure or non-excluded and excluded or untouchables.
Why Lower Ranking for Shudras? – In ancient India, Shudras performed basic/essential social services. They also worked in economic as well as in agricultural sectors under the guidance of caste Hindus. Still they were placed at lower level. Why?
- Segregation of lower castes in Hindu Society was not based on economic status nor on their incapability to do any intellectual work.
- In ancient India all the social groups were placed more or less as a series of vertical parallels.
- It was on cultural grounds – unclean habits, in-disciplined life style, speaking foul and abusive language etc.
- All of the people living in a local area, whether high or low, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence.
- They cared and supported each other in fulfilling different kind of their needs.
Concept of forwards or backwards non-existent in ancient India – Higher rank in the society or respect to a person or group was never given on the basis of material success or control of power. There was hardly any room for any section of society to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time.
Masses reconciled, if not contended – Many studies have shown that Hindu system always kept masses reconciled, if not contended in the past. Hindu Dharma taught the people that instead of holding others responsible, for all their sufferings, exploitation and miseries it was their own “Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) which were to be blamed.
Respect for Shudras with knowledge or character – Society never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. In many parts of the country, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society. Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers.
Troubles started not only for Shudras but everyone after continuous invasions – All troubles (of lower strata of society along with other sections of society) started after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values. Continuous invasions by Turks, Afghans and Mughals earlier drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries. Feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled. Therefore, blaming caste Hindus out-rightly could not be totally justified. It was not out of malice, but the circumstances under foreign rule, that had pushed Shudras away from the mainstream.
Continuous suffering without the help of government or society responsible – The low status and continuous sufferings for centuries had gradually stopped growth of their personality and made them completely dependent on others for their livelihood. Their total dependence on others and inferiority complex pushed them away far from the mainstream. Centuries old enslavement, ignorance, superstitions, suppression and ostracism shook their confidence completely are the factors responsible for their exclusion from the mainstream of Hindu society. They were pushed below poverty line and had to suffer due to their own poverty as well as insensitive and inhuman treatment by other sections of the society .
Position of Shudras in modern era – During the nineteenth Century, in official circles Shudras were addressed as ‘Depressed class’ or ‘Exterior class’. British government in India regarded these people as ‘Oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low’. British rulers as well as Missionaries launched an ideological attack on the social-structure of Hindus and tried to improve their social position – Missionaries by converting lower strata of society into Christianity. And British rulers passed many Legislative regulations and administrative orders declaring denial of access to untouchables to schools, well, roads and public places as illegal.
Separation between Backwards and untouchables – So far, untouchable activities were combined with the intermediate castes’ non- Brahmin movement. But in the beginning of 20th century, untouchables were inspired to enter into the political arena under the name of “depressed class” and get a reasonable share in political power separately.
Attempt of British rulers to exclude ‘untouchables’ from Hinduism – Through the census of 1911, British rulers attempted to exclude untouchables from Hindu population. Continuous decline of number of Hindus cautioned the national leaders. In order to retain their Hindu identity, Gandhiji and his followers called them, ‘Harijans’ meaning the “people belonging to god”. On one hand, Gandhiji tried to create compassion in the hearts of forward communities for Harijans and on the other he appealed to Harijans to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up freely with other sections of society. Dalit leaders did not like the word Harijan as it symbolized a meek and helpless person, at the mercy and benevolence of others, and not the proud and independent human being that they were.
Humanitarians and reformers to elevate the position of untouchables – During this period, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was also drawn towards the pathetic condition of untouchables. They took the path of Sankritization to elevate them. In order to prevent alienation of untouchables from Hindu community, they drew the attention of forward communities towards inhuman condition of lower strata of society and tried to create compassion in their hearts for downtrodden.
- They gave top most priority to the abolition of untouchability.
- They tried to clarify that Untouchability was neither an integral part of Hinduism nor an outcome of Varna/caste system, nor have any religious sanctity, but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism.
- They laid emphasis on education, moral regeneration and philanthropic uplift.
- They also appealed to untouchables to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up with other sections freely and become proud and independent human beings, that they were.
Political rise of Untouchables under the supervision of Dr Ambedkar – Till 1909, the lowest strata of Indian society was known as Depressed class/backward class. Emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided the leadership and stimulus to untouchable movement. He insisted to address untouchables just as untouchables. He regarded the terms ‘Depressed classes’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Harijans’ either confusing or degrading and contemptuous. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear, ‘It was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus’. He gave untouchable movement a national character and a distinct identity during late twenties and early thirties.
Criticism of Hindu hierarchical structure – Some prominent Dalit leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of Varna/caste system. They taught the lower castes to get united and make eradication of caste system their major plank as it engaged them to forced labor or unsavory jobs, imposed many restrictions on them and prevented them from joining the mainstream of the society. According to them, Hindus treated lower castes as lesser human beings, meek and helpless persons, who should always remain at the mercy and benevolence of upper castes. They tried to find the solution of their problems through political power, not through acceptance by Hindus.
Rise of political groups on caste-basis – By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, specially in the South and West, organized themselves into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels and emerged as a powerful political force. Together, they demanded special legal protection and share in politics and administration on the basis of caste.
Untouchables separated from Backward class – In 1928, Simon Commission established their separate identity at national level, independent of intermediate castes as untouchables. It readily accepted their demands through Communal Award of 1932. Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the “Unkindest cut of all”, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, “The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms….The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community… The British introduced every possible cross-division”.
Scheduled Castes – In accordance with the provisions of the Communal Award of 1932, instructions were issued, in July 1934, to schedule a list of the people entitled for preferential treatment in matter of special electoral representation and appointment in the Central Government jobs. This gave birth to the term Scheduled Caste in 1935. Scheduling was a legal activity having sanction of legal authorities. Therefore, no one had any objection to this term. The term continued after the independence as well, for the purpose of Reservation.
Untouchables in Independent India
After Second World War, the whole of the world was swept along with the concept of the ‘welfare-state’. Independent India, also became a Welfare Democratic nation pursuing justice -social, economic and political. The government considered it its humanitarian obligation to plan for uplift and empowerment of the submerged-sections of the society. After Independence, seeing the overwhelming-poverty of millions of people, especially belonging to the lower strata of the society and their near absence in echelons of power, Government of India took up some concrete measures.
The Constitution of India- The Constitution of India has directed the Government to promote social justice and educational, economic and other interests of the weaker sections with special care. It instructed the Government to remove the poverty and reduce inequalities of income and wealth and provide adequate representation to the downtrodden in power echelons through Affirmative Action Program/Reservation Policy. Public facilities, which were denied to untouchables so far, should be made accessible to them. The successive governments both at national as well as provincial levels initiated various Welfare Plans and Policies for employment generation and their social, economic and political growth from time to time.
Rise of the word ‘Dalit’ for untouchables – Dalit, a Maradhi word means ‘suppressed’. The term was chosen and used proudly by Ambedkar’s followers under the banner of various factions of Republican Party of India (Formed in 1956). The Mahars of Bombay (8%), Jatavs of UP (Half of the SC Population in UP) and Nadars and Thevars of Southern TN being numerically significant, played a decisive role in taking forward Dalit movement. Maharashtra Dalit movement has a longest and richest experience.
Dalit Panthers , a political party in Maharashtra – In 1972, a distinct political party, in the name of Dalit Panther was formed in Maharashtra. It organized the lower castes under the banner of ‘Dalit’ throughout India. One of the founders of Dalit Panther, Mr. Namdeo Dhasal widened the scope of Dalit by including SC, tribes, neo-Buddhists, landless labor and economically exploited people. Its orientation was primarily militant and rebellious. Dalit Sahitya Movement legitimized and reinforced the use of the term Dalit. Since then, this term is very popular amongst the untouchables.
Main aim, abolish of caste-system – Earlier, a few leaders of untouchables had at least some regard for the cultural tradition of India. They did not reject Vedic literature or the foundations of Hinduism, out-rightly. Dr. Ambedkar accepted that all parts of Manusmiriti were not condemnable. Gopal Baba Walangkar had said that Vedas did not support untouchability. Kisan Fagoi, another Mahar leader of pre-Ambedkar era had joined Prarthna Samaj. But present Dalit leaders are vehemently against cultural traditions of India, which according to them, are based on inequality and exploitation. it has given rise to a fear of upper caste or intermediate caste backlash.
Dalit’s March towards Bihar – In mid sixties, an aggressive Dalit movement started under the banner of Shoshit Samaj Dal in Central Bihar, which has, presently, become a major center of Naxalite movement. Dal was founded by Jagdeo Mahto, who began to mobilize the lower castes against economic repression and exploitation of women by upper caste feudal elements.
Dalit’s rise in UP – The new phase of Dalit assertion is most prominent in the most populous state of UP, where the upper caste domination has been challenged by BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kanshi Ram and Mayavati. They redefined Dalit politics especially in north India. Their approach to Dalit issues was more socio-political rather than economic. BSP has started pursuing power with militancy since 1990. Its supremo Mayawati succeeded four times in becoming Chief Minister of UP. Of late, BSP has made significant inroads in UP, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. BSP has borrowed all their phraseology from Dalit Panthers. Most of their utterances are arrogant, revengeful and opportunistic. Political and economic vested interests of its leaders has aroused militancy among discontented youths of different castes and communities all over the nation. They care only for rights and pay scant attention to their duties. There started a cutthroat competition for scarce positions of power and prestige.
Dalits vs. Non-_Dalits – Once again, the tendency of ‘divide and rule’, as was there during British domination, has emerged in national scenario. India has been divided sharply between the two – Dalits and Non Dalits (caste Hindus). The growing desire of Dalits to get control over political power has made them very sure of their friends and foes. Dalit leaders, even after so many years of Independence has identified Upper Castes as their enemy and intermediate castes sometimes as their friends and sometimes as their enemies. Kanshi Ram, a BSP leader initiated a formula of DS4, meaning Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangarsh Samiti, taking into its fold untouchables, STs, Muslims and OBCs.
Vested interest of Dalits creamy layer – Creamy layer amongst Dalits does not care much to bring poor Dalit masses into the mainstream. For some, presence and miseries of large number of dalits is a recipe for Dalit vote-bank, for others enjoying all the benefits of affirmative action programs initiated and implemented by the Government of India and other concessions given to them. Whatever might be the condition of Dalit masses, but the political power and arrogance of Dalit leaders and intellectuals are at rise. And here lies the crux of Dalit poltics.
Creamy Layer amongst Dalits – There emerged an elite section amongst Dalits, which protects its turf under the banner of Dalits at the cost of poorest of Dalits. The Supreme Court In famous Indira Sawney case in 1992 had observed that the benefits of Reservation policy had been cornered by influential and dominant sections of different Dalit caste groups covered under the scheme . In order to make it available to really needy persons, it directed the Government to identify creamy layer among the backward castes and exclude it from taking the benefits of Reservations. Because it was a measure of protective discrimination to help the socially disadvantaged. The inclusion and exclusion of a caste or a section of caste would have to be periodically reviewed, to take care of the changing circumstances. The court had directed the Government to specify “within four months”, the basis of exclusion – the basis of income or extent of holding or otherwise of creamy layer.
No Reservation on Promotion. The Supreme Court also held by a majority that total Reservation up to 50% could be made and there would be no Reservation in promotions for OBCs. Armed forces, some important civilian posts should be kept outside the purview of Reservation.
Implementation of Supreme Courts Direction – It was hoped after the court decision, that the benefit of Reservation would now reach to the needy persons. But witnessing the methods, in which the principle is applied, the concept of creamy layer appears to be an eyewash. In almost all the states, many dominant castes are included in the OBC list. Some states like Bihar have even declared that they did not have any “Creamy layer.” Tamil Nadu Government has declared 88% people as backwards. Given the corruption prevalent everywhere; it is not very difficult for the candidates having political, economic or muscle power to obtain false certificates from the officials, whom they can influence. I or class-II officer in the service of the Government or holds an equivalent post in a public sector undertaking or is employed under a private employer and draws salary, which is not less than that of a class II officer.
Dalit Vote Bank – Bahen Mayavati had one said that through election Dalits will takeover the posts of PM and CMs and the posts of DMs nd GMs through reservations. Political parties and its leaders are well-aware that the number of Dalit population is large and it can be a large vote-bank for them. Therefore, they try to appease Dalits creamy layer from time to time, in order to increase their own political strength. Dalit leaders are in no mood to play a second fiddle to other national political parties. Dalit leaders are aware of their growing influence and crucial role as a kink-maker in today’s highly competitive and unstable political atmosphere.
All the three major national political formations – Congress’s UPA BJP’s NDA and National Front, all the tree are wooing frantically Dalit leaders and competing with each other to have a pre or post poll alliance with them. Instead of demanding a share in power structure, equity or social justice, Dalits now want to reverse the power equation and to transform the society by capturing all political power. Their aim is to get hold over the posts of PM-CM (Political Power) through electoral politics and control over administrative authority – the bureaucracy – through Reservations/Affirmative Action Program.
Impact on paternalistic policies on Education- The following has been the effect of focusing on quantity rather than quality in the sphere of education: –
- Tremendous pressure has been exerted for expanding the educational facilities at the higher and professional level, reducing hopes for more funds for elementary education;
- Capitation fee colleges are getting a boost. Earlier, most of them were found in the South, but in post-Mandal period, the trend of Capitation fee colleges started in the North as well;
- There has been pressure for opening up gates fully for private sector in the field of education, so that at least students get admission, even if the rate of payment is inflated.
- Brain drain, which already has been a problem, got intensified further after the Mandal. Earlier when anti-Brahmin movement and Reservations started in the South, many Brahmin families migrated from Madras Presidency and settled in other parts of the country or abroad. Now with Reservation spreading in North as well, they are exploring the greener pastures abroad. The sad part is that the reverse discrimination has forced the cream of the nation to go out of country and serve others. Many organizations have come up during Post-Mandal era to help the bright students and professionals to get nice jobs in foreign lands.
- Students agitation and unrest is continuously increasing with the growing number of educated unemployed,
- Whether amongst youth or grown ups, the casteist, religious and ideological intolerance has generated communal violence and caste animosities everywhere in the country.
Inter and Intra-Caste rivalries – Every caste is a conglomeration of sub-castes and sub-sub-castes. For political actions, they come together, bearing the same caste tag. But they do not forget their separate identities. The political classification of society into caste Hindus, backwards, SCs, STs and minorities for Reservations and other preferential measures has increased the in-fights between these categories and created social disorder, making the task of governance difficult. The unity of backward castes under the label of “Dalits” is an illusion created by vested interests. Neither the term “Schedule caste”, nor “OBC” nor “Dalit” makes them a homogenous class. In the opinion of MSS Pandian, an academic with Madras Institute of Development Studies, the current inter caste rivalries are part of a series of periodic revolt, whose prime object is self assertion.[i]
Anger against upper caste in rise – The circumstances has resulted in the rise of anger against the “Elitist upper caste” people. After Mandal, this anger has engulfed the whole nation. Anyone doubting the efficacy of Reservation Policy is labeled today as a part of “Manuwadi Brahminical system,” which for ages has used religious scriptures, injunctions, propaganda and plain force to impose on masses many deprivations. The politics of revenge makes people irrational, and the authorities to go for reverse discrimination. At present, the forward castes doubt that they are being treated as second rate citizens in their own country, because they are scattered and other categories are united, well organised, and have the advantage of their numerical strength. In such an atmosphere, it is easy for the political authorities to withdraw opportunities from them and bestow it on the “Backward classes”; not necessarily the real disadvantaged sections.
The animosity of has tended withdrawal attitude amongst forward castes – After Mandal, the talented youth started withdrawing themselves from active politics or joining bureaucracy. Liberalization and globalization has opened up a new vista for them. They either join private sector or multi-national companies or go abroad in search of job. Information technology or software industry is full of such people. The private sector takes good care of them. It again breeds inter-caste jealousy.
Conflict between OBCs and Dalits – The Backwards and Dalits do not have much in common among them, except for their hatred for the caste Hindus, especially Brahmins. Intermediate castes always wanted to be aligned with power. Earlier in the social sphere, when upper castes were strong, they were their right hand persons. Forward castes, have always been non-militant and passive by nature. Therefore, they could not exert force on the lower strata. On behalf of them, the intermediate castes exerted the force on the lower castes. At present, when the wind is blowing in favour of Dalits, OBCs have joined hands with Dalits, to displace the forward castes and to grab the political power.
Growing confrontation – Dalits have always been in conflict with OBCs at social level, in politics, they have no option, but to support them to achieve their mission to change the power equation. Too much assertiveness of Dalit and backward leaders has already created growing confrontation between the lowest and different intermediate castes in various parts of the country – Dalits Vs Marathas in Maharashtra, Dalits Vs Yadavs in UP and Bihar or Dalits Vs Thevars in Tamil Nadu. A huge social churning is going on the margins of the society.
The fight initially started between rural poor (marginal and marginalized) – Poor OBCs with a bit of land and some degree of political protection infuriated poorer Dalits, who neither had land, nor education, nor political power. In urban areas the fight is again for property and jobs. The main fight is for land, jobs, education and other opportunities to ensure security and progress. This fight is moving from the margins to center stage of Indian politics. Therefore, there is not much in common between a BC landless agricultural laborer and OBC landowner. Very often, the rudeness of OBC towards BC is the main cause of social tension in rural India. Caste-Hindus, even Brahmins have been more considerate to an untouchable than intermediate caste such as rich Jat, Maratha, Reddy, or Patel etc. In the post-Mandal era, the intermediate castes have become very strong economically and politically. They own big farmland and employ landless tillers for farming. Their numerical strength gave them the political power also. The economic and political strength made OBCs to exploit the downtrodden.
Along with OBC, the post Mandal era has witnessed Dalit assertion and a massive shift in power in favour of Dalits as well. With the caste equation hardening, the Dalit groups got united. They have come together and are fighting for their rights. Earlier they allowed OBCs to exploit them, now they resent it. Todays’ Dalits are aggressive and militant enough to take the OBCs head on. OBCs are getting it back with the rise of Dalit reprisal attacks, which often results in heavy loss of life and property on both the sides. Dalit militancy is increasing with the rise of new militant outfits like BSP, Devendrakula Vellalar Federation, Thyagi Immanual Paravai, Dalit Panthers of India etc. The striking feature of New Dalit militancy is their utter disregard for the present set up and their attempt to capture political power. Dalit leaders are pursuing Dalit empowerment with vengeance.
Intra-Caste rivalries – Not only are there inter caste rivalries, but intra-caste rivalries exist as well. Every caste has both, rich and poor people. The rich amongst them not only oppress the caste lower to it, but also the poor people of its own caste. It is not that forward castes, SCs, STs and OBCs are rivals of each other. Many emerging castes within each political group are fighting against each other for power, such as amongst intermediate castes – Jats, Yadavs, Koeries are fighting with each other for power. Also, the attempt of each political party to woo the same Dalit, OBC or minority group has given rise to intra-caste rivalries. In order to be one up each party tries to please different castes within each group by taking up different sectional issues. Each powerful caste now acts independently during elections and seeks political alliance before and after election with other caste groups. Post-election alliances, in an attempt to secure a majority, have led to the rise of inter-caste and intra-caste rivalries. (Sunday, pp. 12-13, and 8-14, June, 1997).
Dalits influence at International platform – Dalits are not satisfied even after having growing influence in ballot-box politics and attaining enough places in the government jobs. Since 2001, these activists have been pushing the cause internationally arguing that Indian Dalits are like blacks in US till 1950. They faced problems in workplace, at school and in temples.
In 2005, some Dalit leaders belonging to All India Confederation have sought intervention USA, UN and the British and EU Parliaments on the issues of ‘untouchability’. UN recognizes religion, race, language and gender as main causes of inequality in the world. Dalt activists want caste to be included too in this category. They desire to have Global alliance, global involvement and intervention of the international community to put pressure on the government of India to address the problem Dalit marginalization. They feel that globalization and privatization has made it difficult for Dalits, tribals and OBC’s to compete on equal footing or find enough space in the job market within the country or abroad. At the behest of the Republican Congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, the US Congress had held a hearing on 6.10. 05 on the subject. A resolution on the issue – “ India’s unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 million victims of the caste system” was prepared by the house committee on International Relations and US Human Rights to be tabled in the US Congress. “Despite the Indian government’s extensive affirmative action policies, which aim to open government service and education to Dalits and tribes, most have been left behind by India’s increasing prosperity…. Much much more remains to be done.” The resolution says, “It is in the interest of US to address the problem of the treatment of groups outside the caste system… in the republic of India in order to better meet our mutual economic and security goals….”
So far, intensive lobbying by Dalit groups including followers of Ravidass sect succeeded in getting passed the Equity Bill on March 24, 2010 in the house of Lords. It empowered the government to include ‘caste’ within the definition of ‘race’. In 2001, India was able in keeping caste out of the resolution adopted at 2001 Durban Conference.
Along with it, staunch supporters of Human Rights, some Scandinavian countries, Church organizations around the world and Lutheran World Federation have shown interest and expressed their solidarity with Dalits. Recently the comment of UN Commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay asking India that “time has come to eradicate the shameful concept of caste” and proposals of UN Human Rights Council’s or US based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to recognize caste as a form of discrimination ‘based on descent and birth’ appear not to be based on rational understanding of caste system. Their opinion about untouchability is greatly influenced by the lobbying of powerful/influential Dalit leaders and Dalit intelligentsia.
No one knows where the Dalit assertion will lead the nation to? It is not the paternalistic policies, (which have failed to yield so far the desired results) that are required for the uplift and empowerment of submerged sections of society, but there is need to educate, make them aware of their rights and duties, provide enough employment opportunities and basic civic facilities like health etc. at the grass root level for the sustainable growth of backward communities.
National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other.” Kaka Kalelkar
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt
“You can fool some of the people all the time’ and all of the people some of the time. But you can-not fool all of the people all of the time.” Abraham Lincoln
Introduction – India accounted for the largest number of people living below international poverty line in 2013, with 30 per cent of its population under the $1.90-a- day poverty measure, the World Bank said.
Their pathetic condition (including untouchable people (presently known as Dalits), is a matter of great matter of concern. In 2012, the government of India had officially announced 21.9% of its population is below poverty limit, including those belonging to lower castes, .
Poverty: 2011-2012 Percentage of people by Caste – Findings below are based on a survey conducted during 2011-12 -.
Poverty in India based on caste
|Caste||Percentage of Poverty||No. of People|
|Caste||Percentage||No. of People|
Total population of India 1,276,267,631 according to the survey’
Who are Dalits? – Officially known as Scheduled castes, and in politics people called as Dalits/Untouchables have been described as “The oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low”. Millions of Dalit community have been the victims of discrimination, violence, exploitation, untouchability, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, other hate crimes and consequential disabilities for a very long time. They are treated as lesser human beings.
Uplift of submerged sections of society, a humanitarian obligation – Uplift of submerged sections of society is a humanitarian obligation of every citizen. All the people together should think compassionately for their poor brethren, who are still far away from the main stream. Majority of them belong to Dalit community and are still weak and are below poverty line. Government and sensitive people should plan for their uplift. Instead of politicizing the Dalit issue, the creamy layer of Dalit community too should take up the responsibility to help their poor brethren to join the main-stream of the society, and work for their true development in a peaceful manner.
Poverty in India is a historical reality. From late 19th century through early 20th century, under British colonial rule, poverty in India intensified, peaking in 1920s. (T. Roy, London School of Economics, Globalization, Factor Prices and Poverty in Colonial India, Australian Economic History Review, Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 73-94 (March 2007) and Maddison, A. (1970), The historical origins of Indian poverty, PSL Quarterly Review, 23(92), pp. 31-81) Famines and diseases killed millions each time. ( Murton, Brian (2000), “VI.4: Famine”, The Cambridge World History of Food 2, Cambridge, New York, pp. 1411–27 and A Sen (1983), Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, Oxford University Press.) After India gained its independence in 1947, mass deaths from famines were prevented, but poverty increased, peaking post-independence in 1960s. Rapid economic growth since 1991, has led to sharp reductions in extreme poverty in India. (Bhagwati & Panagariya (2013), Why Growth Matters: How Economic Growth in India Reduced Poverty and the Lessons for Other Developing Countries, Public Affairs. And Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, The Elephant That Became a Tiger: 20 Years of Economic Reform in India Cato Institute (20 July 2011). However, those above poverty line live a fragile economic life. (Joh n Burn-Murdoch and Steve Bernard, The Fragile Middle: millios face poverty as emerging economies slow, The Financial Times (13 April 2014).Lack of basic essentials of life such as safe drinking water, sanitation, housing, health infrastructure as well as malnutrition impact the lives of hundreds of millions.
Identity Of a human being – Every human beings in a society is accorded a social identity – individually or community-wise. Pr. Herbert Kelman of Harvard University says “To accord a person identity is to perceive him as an individual, independent and distinguishable from others, capable of making choices and entitled to live his own life on the basis of his own goals and values.” And “To accord a person a community is to perceive him – along with one’s self – as part of an interconnected network of individuals who care for each other, who recognize each-others individuality and who respect each other’s individual rights.”
Blame game – Instead of uplift the sub-merged section if society, political leaders and their parties with an eye on upcoming assembly elections, are wooing Dalit voters for electoral gains. They are busy in glamourizing Ambedkarism in a big way. Memorials of Ambedkar are being constructed out of funds meant for the uplift of Dalits and backward castes and deprive poor people of food education and shelter. Leader of BSP Bahen- Mayawati had become UP’s Chief Minister for times, but could not improve the lot of poor people belonging to Scheduled castes population
Dalit activists and leaders blame caste system, holding it responsible for keeping 750 million untouchables – dalits, tribals and other backward classes – poor, “subjugated, discriminated against and humiliated.” They say that fruits of all the opportunities opened up so far in modern economic, social, political spheres and technological advancement, developed for human survival and convenience are being tasted only be the upper castes. Through their inflammatory speeches on discrimination and caste system, they have divided the society and put into danger the integrity of the nation as a whole. In the hearts of the oppressed castes, they have filled anger and hatred.” They demand their emancipation by ending all kind of discrimination. At present the nation needs that masses should to be educated and trained enough not to be swayed away by the irresponsible comments of persons with vested interests.
Anti-social elements – Recently, PM Narendra Modi blamed a few anti-social elements, who are the perpetrators violence against Dalits. Such anti-social elements, in the night, indulge in anti-social activities which no civilized society will approve of and proclaim themselves as ‘cow protectors’ by day. They make weaker sections of society the targets of violence and give speeches on ‘no beef eating’ or ‘cow-protection’ etc. They take law into their own hands – they themselves frame the laws, execute them and punish those, who do not toe their footsteps. Nobody has any right to take law into one’s own hands and ill-treat others. It is inhuman to take away basic dignity of any individual especially belonging to submerged section of society.
Violence needs to be condemned – Violence in any form against anyone should be condemned in the strongest terms. Administration should ensure the stringent punishment for individuals or groups who are involved in criminal activities. Dalits issue should not be politicized by political parties. Government should not allow the divisive elements to be successful. On social issues “The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals.” (AynRand)
Speedy and deterrent punishment for perpetrators of violence – Delay in punishment emboldens the spirits of anti-social elements. The government There are enough laws to take care of the welfare of the people – like two major laws at the national level – Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 – dealing with discrimination against specific groups. One of the reason of increasing rate of crimes and violence against Dalits, minorities or women (like murder, rape, hurt and so on) in the recent past is that the government could not crack down on criminals judiciously on time.
Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa are among the states with the highest number of such offences. It is only when a Dalit suffer, many leaders and media wake up and shout. Otherwise even on heinous crimes, even on spreading violence and atrocities on women, due to constantly deteriorating situation of law and order, political parties and national leaders close their eyes and ears and remain silent.
Negative mindset of a few creates troubles – To pinpoint or treat other sections of society as their enemy is the brain-child of people having negative-thoughts. Politicizing social issues whether related to Dalits or women or Muslim; giving inflammatory speeches; and criticizing the administration basing it on a few very shameful incidents, misdeeds, behavior or thinking is not fair. It polarizes the society into watertight compartments. Such ccriticisms are the brain-child of anti-social elements having negative mindset. The mindset of such people needs to be changed, which is a social issue. When a social issue is polarized, the problem gets aggravated. Its continuance end up dividing society and the nation.
Politicization of Dalit issue. Is it vote-bank politics? – About 20% of Dalit population in India plays a decisive role in polls throughout the nation. With state assembly elections in Punjab and UP round the corner, all political parties including BJP are wooing Dalits vigouressly, in a bid to strengthen their position in elections and create a strong vote-bank for themselves. In Punjab, their population is about 32%. Out of 21 districts, 13 have Dalit population higher than the state-wise average (such as Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar -42.5%, Mukhtar Sahib-42.3%, Firozepur-42% so on and so forth)), 34 of its 117 assembly seats are reserved for SC candidates. In UP, Dalit population is 21%. In 34 out of 70 districts Dalit population is higher than their state-wise average like in Sonbhadra -42%, Kaushambi-36%, Sitapur-32% Unnao and Hardoi-31%.. There is a cut-throat competition amongst BJP, BSP and Samajwadi party.. Just before elections, either of Lok Sabha, or of state assemblies or Panchayats, political parties spent most of their time, energy and money in flaring up the sentiments of Dalits and appeasing them.
Dalit writers and literature – To a great extent Dalit writers and literature are responsible not for creating awareness of their rights and duties or opportunities available to them, but for enflaming the sentiments of poor SC people. Most of the works of aggressive Dalit writers in the form of booklets, cassettes and CDs are circulated in thousands at village fairs and Kasba Bazaar. The buyers are mostly Dalit leaders and their workers at village and small towns. For others the Dalit literature of activist authors remain unknown. Literature and songs have always been integral to BSP’s cultural politics. … they “created a rebel consciousness among Bahujans against Brahminism.” Claiming that, they are just writing “against social inequality and brahminism. We created the social condition and political awareness that bahujan politics needed. We helped the movement stand on its feet.” … Now some Dalit writers allege that under Mayawati, the party has deviated from the principles of its founder Kansi Ram. Dalit writer Bharti says that Bahujan politics was about raising social consciousness. “Her politics is about power, not social change.”(Quoted from These unsung Dalit writers fuelled BSP’s culture Politics by Avijit Ghosh, TOI, Nov. 1, 2016, p. 20)
The identity based political consciousness had started amongst Dalits leaders way-back in the beginning of twentieth century, when the electoral politics had begun. At that time Census Commissioner Risley had suggested the British Government in India to exclude untouchables (comprising of about 24% of the Hindu Population and 16% of the total population at that time) from Hindu fold for forthcoming 1911 Census. The proposal had divided non-Brahmin Community into two Backwards and untouchables. Also, it had immediately increased the importance of untouchables in political circle, in social circle, and in their own eyes too. It had also made numbers important in taking political decisions.
Some developments in recent past – Dalits have formed a strong assertive political block. The new phase of untouchables/Dalit assertion during last two-three decades under the leadership of many leaders like Paswan, Manjhi, in Bihar or Kansiram and Mayawati. In UP, the most populous state, BSP under the leadership of Mr. Kansiram and Bahen Mayawati had taken the destiny of Dalits during eighties in its own hands. She has been The Chief Minister of UP four times – earlier in 1994-95, BSP formed the government first in alliance with SP and later on with BJP. Again, in 1997, it came to power in alliance with BJP. From 2007 to 7th March 2012, on its own strength, BSP had ruled U.P. In the recent past, other political parties are trying to follow their footsteps in order to woo Dalit population.
Many political parties and groups (like SFI, or ASA) have become quite vocal and aggressive. Instead of finding out the solution of the problems in peaceful manner, and raising their voice for exemplary and speedy action against the perpetrators of crimes irrespective of caste and creed, national and regional parties have stretched/politicized the Dalit issue beyond limits. They have given a casteist colour to Dalit issue. It is easier to them to divide the society into Dalits and non-Dalits and try to garner more votes.
Dalit anger spilled on the roads – Stung by electoral setbacks, some national leaders, political parties as well as Dalit activists have castigated the upper castes for their anti- Dalit attitude. They blame dominant upper caste for being unable to tolerate upward mobility of Dalits and accept the changed social order. Dalit activists say that now jobs and small businesses are a growing trend among SCs. Cars and good houses of Dalits in their neighborhood are visible. Dalits now refuse to work in landlord’s fields. It is enough a provocation for dominant peasants and other groups, mostly castes belonging to OBCs, who are unable to take the resistance from Dalits and use force and violence to frighten/suppress/humiliate Dalits. It is leading to brutality against Dalits. They blame that upper castes want to withdraw from the Dalits the facility of reservation under one pretext or the other. Such allegations seems to be politically motivated.
Politicization of sad event of suicide of a student– The sad event of Rohit Vemula’s, a student of Hyderabad University, had been politicized and was projected as exploitation of Dalits by upper caste. Instead of improving the system to disburse the scholarships/fellowships on time, so that poor students do not face economic difficulties, the mindset of Caste-Hindus was blamed. The presentation of violent attack on Dalits for skinning dead cows at Una in the name of ‘Gau Rakshak’ has been done in such a way that it tended to Dalit anger spilled on the roads. The crimes against Dalits are politicized to such an extent that it echoes even in parliament with great furor by top national leaders. The present day Dalit politics has led to re-grouping of various political parties for gaining political power in 2017 national elections.
An individual has multiple identities – Only a single identity should not be imposed on any individual or group. Every Indian has multiple identity like ‘geographical identity’, ‘national identity’, ‘provincial identity’, ‘local identity’, ‘social identity’, ‘political identity’, ‘economic identity’ ‘religious identity’, ‘occupational identity’ and so on and so forth. Dalit politics has placed political identity of a particular group on the top. Rest have lost their sheen.
Historical Background of Dalit Politics
About permanent stigma of backward identity – The upper caste is not responsible so much about caste-divide in India, as British government during its imperial rule in India. They purposely launched an ideological attack on Hinduism and social structure of Indian society. They blamed caste system for being “discriminatory,” “iniquitous,” “exploitative,” “oppressive” “barbarous,” “uncivilized” and “highly stratified” system, responsible for evil many social practices, feudalistic attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions sustained by a unique set of rituals, and whimsical concept of purity and pollution. They held Hindu society and its caste system for all the agonies of untouchables.
Philosophy behind Hinduism and its caste system? – In one of its, judgements, Supreme Court has described ‘Hinduism as a ‘way of life’. It is its basic mosaic culture that binds all Indians together. One of its basic tenets is ‘tolerance’. Instead of holding others responsible, Hinduism held “Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) responsible for all evils, exploitation and miseries of people.
Some of its basic principles are –
- Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion. It concedes validity to all religions and communities and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false. That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world and more than 4000 social groups popularly known as ‘caste’ are present and flourishing in India without much hindrance.
- Hinduism has adopted the path of assimilation and does not believe in conversion or imposing its beliefs, practices and customs on others. It has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its own established culture off the roots. It follows the path of ‘Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression’. ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, the whole world is one family Indians is the hallmark of Hindu culture. It gives emphasis to self-restraint and self-discipline.
- Ranking of different social groups – There was no hard and fast rule for ranking various castes. In ancient India, ranking of numerous social groups (castes) was not done by putting them within a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but more or less as a series of vertical parallels.
- Basis for segmental ranking of different caste groups was done according to relevance and contribution of their occupations to society. The factors like usefulness of a profession to society as a whole, conduct and way of living of different groups of people determined their social, economic or political status in society, vis-a vis others.
- All local groups, whether high or low, living in an area were inter-dependent, bound together by economic and social ties. They cared and supported each other in day-to-day life.
- There was hardly any room for any section of society to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another.
- Considerations of knowledge, self-discipline, hygiene, cleanliness, morality, knowledge and spiritual standards were given importance in their ranking. Higher a caste, purer it was considered, and greater were the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals.
- Maximum importance was given to knowledge. That is why Brahmins, the pursuers of knowledge, were accorded the highest place in the society. But they were put under maximum restrictions – lead a simple life, devote all their time to the spiritual and intellectual pursuits and denied accumulation of wealth.
- Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time.
- Ranking was not done on the basis of material success or control of power. Sir John Shore (Sir John Shore, the Governor General of India during the period 1793-1798) had observed that Hindus regarded Britishers at par with the lowest natives despite their being so powerful and the ruling community. Similarly Brahmins associated with unclean jobs like, Mahabrahmins performing last rites, have also been treated, more or less like Shudras and have been put at the bottom of the social structure. There were instances when non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.
Position of Shudras in ancient India – Existence of Shudras (at present referred as untouchables/Dalits) was recognized, as early as, Pre Mauryan Period (6th century BC to 3rd century BC). Though given a lower status, they were always an integral part of Hindu society. They performed essential social and economic tasks as well as in agricultural sector.
Who were Shudras? – Initially people clinging to the practices, which were not considered respectable, Conquered groups, individuals or persons born illegitimately or the groups clinging to anti-social activities were treated as ‘Shudras’. They were mostly engaged in menial work and were given lowest status in the society.
During those days, breaking the caste rules meant loss of caste, meaning complete ostracism or having no place in the society. Permanent loss of caste – out-caste- was considered to be the greatest catastrophe for an individual, short of death penalty.
By the beginning of Christian era, the out-castes themselves developed caste hierarchy and had their own out-castes. Socially, they were put amongst the lower strata of Hindu community doing all sorts of menial work and serving the upper castes of the three Varnas.
Shudras as role-models in ancient India – Many studies have shown that Hinduism never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. In many parts of the country, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society.
Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers like Lord Rama, a king, ate half-eaten berries of Shabri – an untouchable. Lord Krishna’s foster parents Nand and Yashoda, who in today’s classification would be called OBC, get more respect than his real Kshatriya parents from Hindu society. Vashishtha, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame and Balmiki, the original author of Ramayana, both untouchable according to present standards, were not ashamed of his origin and are highly respected persons all over India. In middle ages, Sant Ravidas, Namdev, Tukaram, Malika, Sunderdas and several other saints, belonging to lower ranks, earned the same respect as any higher caste saint. There had been instances of people of lower ranks becoming kings.
Reconciled, if not contended – Hinduism or its practices can-not be blamed totally for Shudra’s isolation, deprivation, exploitation, low social status, inhuman treatment by caste Hindus, or forcing them to do menial, unsavory and unclean jobs. Before British-rule in India, the system kept the masses irrespective of their caste-identity, reconciled, if not contended.. The social values and systems kept all the sections of society united under one umbrella despite of their diversity and gave the society stability and continuity.
Troubles for ‘Shudras’ started during medieval period – The position of Shudras continuously deteriorated after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values. Continuous invasions by Turks, Afghans and Mughals who earlier drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries. To save its distinct identity under foreign rule, Hindus turned inwards and observed all the rituals rigidly and blindly. Many social practices developed during this period like pitiable condition of women and Shudra. In addition to it, feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of Mughal rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.
Position of Untouchables, when British came to India – By the time British established their rule in India, the condition of Shudras was pitiable. There were restrictions on their entry to temples. They were forced to do menial work at meagre payments or work without remuneration. They were low in social and ritual standing. They were victims of discrimination, untouchability, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and consequential disabilities. They were far away from the main-stream of the nation. Their representation in the power structure of the nation was negligible.
Stigmatizing particular groups officially of their low social status – Earlier even British rulers avoided itself from stigmatizing any group, by official acknowledgement, of their low social status and considered it unfair. Indian Statutory Commission 1930 said it clearly in its Report that “Owing to the social disabilities, to which members of the depressed classes are exposed, it would be in the highest degree undesirable that any official authorization might appear to extend such qualification. The fluidity of social distinctions and the efforts of the classes lowest in the scale, aided by social reformers, to improve their status make it more desirable, that government should abstain from doing anything, which would tend to give rigidity to these distinctions.” (Indian Statutory Commission, 1930, VI, p. 341)
But later on political awareness and demands of non-Brahmin castes compelled British rulers to do give backward status to lower castes. Arbitrary acts of a few persons also gave opportunity to non-Brahmins and British rulers to pin-point Brahmins as exploiters of other sections of society.
Portrayal of Brahmins oppressors of backwards – The circumstances compelled the rulers to portray Brahmins as oppressors. Having learning background, they were ahead of others in opting for Modern education and making their place in modern callings. When British introduced modern education in 1834, it was the impoverished group of Brahmin and caste Hindus in search of livelihood which looked upon modern education as means to earn their living respectfully. The gradual displacement from their source of income, after the decline in financial status of their patrons – Princes and Zamindars, the appalling poverty of Brahmins compelled them to switch over their attention towards modern education.
Poor Brahmins with learning background opted for modern education – Brahmins devoted their scarce resources and energies to get costly Western Education. Sir Alfred Croft, Director of Public Instruction in Bengal wrote to Rev. J. Johnston in 1881, “We know well that any considerable increase in the fees paid by college students would compel many to withdraw. It seems not to be fully understood… how poor the middle classes that flock to our colleges really are. Half the students live from hand to mouth…. And yet though, far behind in point of wealth, they correspond to, and are in fact the only representative of our professional classes at home, and the pressure on them for the means of subsistence is so great, that they must either be educated or go to wall.”
Their poverty gets confirmed by a study done to examine the annual income of the guarantors of 1271 Brahmin Students enrolled at Ferguson College, Pune from 1885 to 1895. According to it, 76% of the Chitpavan Brahmins guarantors belonged to the low or medium income groups. Similarly of the 277 Deshastha Brahmin guarantors, 70% came from low or medium groups.
Brahmins quick to move ahead of others – Brahmins, being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge, were quick to move ahead of other communities. Their long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them to take a lead in all newer areas of advancement and secure an important places in the government and other modern occupations.
Preponderance of Brahmins everywhere – In 1900, Sir William Lee, an important official in the Government of Bombay and Government of India, noted Brahmins dominance in the Civil Service, during 1869 to 1899. The British authorities also noticed the preponderance of Brahmins in other areas, too, including National movement and their growing influence and hold over the Hindu Community. Preponderance of Brahmins at all levels of freedom movement, overwhelming support of Brahmin lawyers to Congress Party and Mrs. Anne Besant’s Home Rule alarmed the rulers. It made the British to believe that Brahmin Community was a threat to imperial rule.
Alarmed the British rulers – They considered it necessary to counter the hold of Brahmins by raising a strong force against them. Innumerable C.I.D. Reports of that period confirmed the active role played by Brahmins in National movement.
Views of some eminent persons on Brahmins influence –
- In 1879, the Collector of Tanjore wrote to James Courd, a Member of the Famine Commission, “There was no class except Brahmins, which was so hostile to English (rule).” In the words of an observer, “If any community could claim the British out of the country, it was the Brahmin community 70% of those, who were felled by British bullets, were Brahmins.”
- Sir Richard Temple, the governor of Bombay said that ever since 1818, when British finally defeated the Peshwa in the third Anglo Maratha war, Brahmins were, “Inspired with a national sentiment and with an ambition bounded only with the Bonds of India itself.”
- Rowlett Report (1880) also confirmed that the British regarded Brahmins as the main force behind all terrorist movements and agitation leading to violence in almost all the provinces.
- Many British administrators including Temple advised the Government to stop the dominance of one or few groups in administration and incited other social groups or backward castes, in order to keep the balance of power. In 1881 the Government decided to secure a reasonable combination of various races and castes in order to counter Brahmins hold in education and administration.
Lower castes had fallen into the trap – Much more than the arbitrariness of Brahmins, it was because of the superstitions, illiteracy and ignorance that lower castes had fallen into the trap, especially in rural areas and believed in portrayal of Brahmins as oppressors and tyrants as told to them by the missionaries, the British rulers in India and up-coming political leaders of lower castes. They completely ignored the other side of the coin.
British apathy towards indigenous skills – In nineteenth century during British rule, modernization an industrialization process has made many traditional occupations obsolete or less paying or were regarded more hazardous and more time consuming. White collared jobs gained importance. Modernity taught people to escape from menial work and discredit manual work. More, a person withdrew from physical labor, more civilized, honored and qualified he was regarded by modern society.
Discrediting many traditional occupations – The British apathy towards indigenous skills, knowledge and occupations pushed millions of rural artisans, craftsman and small scale farmers belonging mainly to Shudra category (for whom work was essential for survival) backwards in a very subtle manner. It resulted in discrediting many traditional occupations and in destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industry. It scattered efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc.
Masses compelled to do menial jobs – A few of them joined modern occupations. Majority belonging to different groups could neither enter modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations considering menial work derogatory and lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. Masses had no option, but to either join band of agricultural laborers, industrial workers, and marginal labor and increase number of poor and unemployed. Outcome of such a change has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture.
March of Dalits towards Empowerment
Dalit’s movement for empowerment started way back during second half of the nineteenth century with reformatory efforts to uplift backward groups of Indian society, especially ‘Dalits’. It was initiated by non-Brahmins of South India. Some economically strong but educationally backward non-Brahmins groups resisted the hold of Brahmins on land, wealth, jobs in government and education.
Reformative attempts – Earlier the movement for uplift of non-Brahmins had economic and social thrusts. It demanded education and land for backwards and freedom from caste rigidities. Later on, by the end of the 19th century, it turned into a political movement, seeking state intervention and initiating the idea of paying special attention to Dalits/untouchables by the government.
Non-Brahmin leaders, supported by other backward communities – Muslims, Indian Christians, untouchables and tribals, desired to secure a place for themselves in modern callings, to obtain legal rights and position of power through govt.’s intervention. They succeeded in fixing up quotas for them in the state Government jobs. During 1874 and 1885, Mysore state reserved 20% of middle and lower level jobs in the police department for Brahmins and 80% for Muslims, Non-Brahmins Hindus and Indian Christians. From Government jobs, it spread to educational field too, in order to prepare non-Brahmins for Government jobs.
Separation of Untouchables from Backwards – Around 1909, for the first time, the lowest strata of non-Brahmin Community or the service class, earlier known as Shudras, was conceptualized politically under the name of untouchables, when the Census Commissioner suggested to exclude untouchables (comprising of about 24% of the Hindu Population and 16% of the total population at that time) from Hindu fold for forthcoming 1911 Census. The proposal had divided non-Brahmin Community into two Backwards and untouchables. Also, it had immediately increased the importance of untouchables in political circle, in social circle, and in their own eyes too. It had also made numbers important in taking political decisions.
Concern of national leaders – The suggestion to exclude untouchables from Hindu population was not acceptable to prominent National Hindu leaders at any cost, for whom continuous decline of the number of Hindu population had already been a matter of concern. Granting special electorate to Muslims had already weakened the National movement of Independence. They were concerned that such a proposal was made intentionally to divide Indians.
Untouchable’s/Dalit’s movement has traveled a long distance since then. The whole of the 20th century, especially the first and last two decades, have been very important for political empowerment of Untouchables/Dalits. Different terms like outcastes, Panchamas, untouchables, depressed class, scheduled castes and Dalits have been used for Dalits at different points of time. Each one assumed importance, as Dalit movement has passed through various stages, which assumed importance at different points of time.
- Outcastes or Panchamas – Before 20th Century, the category lower than Shudra or the bottom groups of Indian Society was known as Panchamas or outcastes. In Western and Southern parts of India, they were kept outside the four Varnas. In the Northern and Eastern parts of India, the fourth Varna “Shudra” itself was divided into two parts pure or non-excluded and excluded or untouchables.[i]Their low status gradually made them to suffer inhuman treatment by other sections of the society. Centuries old enslavement, ignorance, suppression and ostracism shook their confidence completely. They were unable to develop capabilities and skills to attain independent livelihood. They were dependent on caste Hindus for their subsistence. Earlier, the groups clinging to anti-social activities or persons born illegitimately were treated as untouchables. By the beginning of Christian era, out-castes developed a caste hierarchy of their own, each group considering the other group to be lower than it.[ii] They were isolated and disadvantaged by their untouchability. This group was engaged in different menial jobs.
- Depressed Class– During the 19th Century, in official circles lower castes were addressed as ‘Depressed class’ or ‘Exterior class’. British regarded these people as ‘Oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low’.[iii] During the 19th century, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was drawn towards the pathetic condition of untouchables. Indian social reformers took the path of Sankritisation and missionaries of conversion to elevate this section of society. However, the depressed class desired a share in political power. Therefore, the political activities of untouchables started in close contact with non-Brahmin movement of ‘Backward classes’. Soon they felt that intermediate castes cared more for themselves than untouchables. It made untouchables unhappy. This led to the isolation of untouchables from intermediate castes by 1928.
- Untouchables – By 1909, the lowest castes got a distinct identity under the banner of untouchability. Dr. Ambedkar, the first undisputed leader of Dalits, regarded the terms ‘Depressed classes’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Harijans’ either confusing or degrading and contemptuous.[iv] He insisted to address untouchables just as untouchables. Otherwise Census Operations might include other groups in this category.[v]Ambedkar and other leaders of untouchables believed that only untouchables were educationally, economically and socially backward. Therefore, untouchables should come under DC category.[vi] They should not be confused with the ‘Backward Classes’, who were only educationally Backward, but held higher status on the socio-economic and religious scale. Dr. Ambedkar gave the untouchable movement a national character. He placed their problems at all India level during Simon Commission proceedings.
- Untouchables – By 1909, the lowest strata of Indian society came to be known as untouchabes. Emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided the leadership and stimulus to untouchable movement. He insisted to address untouchables just as untouchables. He regarded the terms ‘Depressed classes’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Harijans’ either confusing or degrading and contemptuous. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear, ‘It was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus’. He gave untouchable movement a national character and a distinct identity during late twenties and early thirties.
Other prominent Dalit leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of Varna/caste system. They taught the lower castes to get united and make eradication of caste system their major plank as it engaged them to forced labor or unsavory jobs, imposed many restrictions on them and prevented them from joining the mainstream of the society. According to them, Hindus treated lower castes as lesser human beings, meek and helpless persons, who should always remain at the mercy and benevolence of upper castes. They tried to find the solution of their problems through political power, not through acceptance by Hindus.
By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, specially in the South and West, organized themselves into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels and emerged as a powerful political force. Together, they demanded special legal protection and share in politics and administration on the basis of caste.
In 1928, Simon Commission established their separate identity at national level, independent of intermediate castes as untouchables. It readily accepted their demands through Communal Award of 1932. Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the “Unkindest cut of all”, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, “The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms….The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community… The British introduced every possible cross-division”
Harijans – During this period, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was also drawn towards the pathetic condition of untouchables. They gave top most priority to the abolition of untouchability and tried to clarify that Untouchability was neither an integral part of Hinduism nor an outcome of Varna/caste system, nor have any religious sanctity, but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism. They laid emphasis on education, moral regeneration and philanthropic uplift. They took the path of Sankritization to elevate them. In order to prevent alienation of untouchables from Hindu community, they drew the attention of forward communities towards inhuman condition of lower strata of society and tried to create compassion in their hearts for downtrodden. In 1911 Census, the move of the Census Commissioner, British India, not to give Hindu identity to untouchable population and exclude them from the list of Hindus had cautioned national leaders and reformers. They also got worried because of continuously declining number of Hindus. Gandhiji along with other national leaders and reformers considered untouchability a blot on Hinduism. They called untouchables ‘Harijans’ meaning the “people belonging to god”. They tried to create compassion in the hearts of forward communities for untouchablesHe appealed to Harijans to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up with other sections freely and become proud and independent human beings, that they were. Dalit leaders did not like the word Harijan as it symbolized a meek and helpless person, at the mercy and benevolence of others, and not the proud and independent human being that they were.
- Scheduled Castes – In accordance with the provisions of the Communal Award of 1932, instructions were issued, in July 1934, to schedule a list of the people entitled for preferential treatment in matter of special electoral representation and appointment in the Central Government jobs. This gave birth to the term Scheduled Caste in 1935. Scheduling was a legal activity having sanction of legal authorities. Therefore, no one had any objection to this term. The term continued after the independence as well, for the purpose of Reservation.
- Dalits – In 1972, a distinct political party, in the name of Dalit Panther was formed in Maharashtra. It organized the lower castes under the banner of ‘Dalit’ throughout India. After Independence, the Constitution framers guided the State authorities to provide extra facilities for the uplift of backward class, so that they could join the mainstream of society. Dalit Sahitya Movement legitimized and reinforced the use of the term Dalit. Since then, this term is very popular amongst the untouchables. In 1972, one of the founders of Dalit Panther, Mr. Namdeo Dhasal widened the scope of Dalit by including SC, tribes, neo-Buddhists, landless labor and economically exploited people. Its orientation is primarily militant and rebellious.
Through various Plans and Policies, Central and State Governments aimed and worked for- –
- Economic growth of Scheduled castes.
- Employment generation
- Providing social justice through-
- Removal of poverty.
- Reduction in inequalities of income and wealth.
- Reservation for their adequate representation.
Five Year Plans initiated by Independent India –For the uplift of down-trodden, various Five Year Plans took the following measures under Five year planning scheme –
- First Five Year Plan (1951 to 1956) gave highest priority to agriculture.
- Second Five Year Plan (1956 to 1961) aimed in reduction of inequalities in income and wealth and a more even distribution of economic power.
- Third Five Year Plan (1961 to 1966) aimed to create substantial employment opportunities and achieving greater equality of opportunities and reducing economic disparities.
- Fourth Plan (1969 to 1974), aimed at progressive achievement of self-reliance, growth with justice, balanced regional development and providing a minimum nutritional level to the people. A minimum need program was started during this plan period. It talked of improvement in the condition of common men and weaker sections and raised the slogan “Garibi Hatao”.
- Fifth Plan (1975 to 1979), was planned against the backdrop of severe inflationary pressures. It laid stress on skillful and speedy implementation of programs started in the 4th plan. It suggested organization of small cultivators and landless farmers. Its objectives were removal of poverty and attainment of self-sufficiency, attaining 5.5% annual growth in GDP, employment generation, National program for minimum needs, elementary education, drinking water, medical care in rural areas, nutrition, home sites for landless labor, rural roads, rural electrification, and slum improvement.
- Sixth Plan (1980 – 85) aimed at removal of poverty, unemployment, improving the quality of the poorest through minimum needs program, population control. The strategy of rapid growth with redistribution was adopted.
- Seventh Plan (1985-90) – It observed that 36 million people had crossed the poverty line between 1977-78 and 1983-84. During the Seventh Plan period, the Government continued the strategy of 6th Plan with an additional emphasis on urban poor. It laid stress on objectives of growth, modernization, self-reliance and social justice. Its focus was on food work and productivity.
- Eighth Plan (1992-97)– Generation of adequate employment opportunities, containment of population growth, universalization of elementary education, provision of drinking water and primary health care facilities. It laid emphasis on people’s participation in areas like health, family planning, literacy, development of land etc.
- Ninth Plan (1997–2002) – The Ninth Five-Year Plan came after 50 years of Indian Independence. The Ninth Five-Year Plan tried primarily to use the latent and unexplored economic potential of the country to promote economic and social growth. It offered strong support to the social spheres of the country in an effort to achieve the complete elimination of poverty. The main objectives of 9th plan were –
- Correct historical inequalities and increase the economic growth in the country.
- Population control
- Generating employment by giving priority to agriculture and rural development
- Reduction of poverty
- Ensuring proper availability of food and water for the poor
- Availability of primary health care facilities and other basic necessities
- Primary education to all children in the country
- Empowering the socially disadvantaged classes like Scheduled castes, Scheduled tribes and other backward classes
- Developing self-reliance in terms of agriculture
- Acceleration in the growth rate of the economy with the help of stable prices.
10th Five Year Plan (2002–2007) – The main objectives of the Tenth Five-Year Plan were:
- Attain 8% GDP growth per year
- Reduction of poverty rate by 5% by 2007
- Providing gainful and high-quality employment at least to the addition to the labor force
- Reduction in gender gaps in literacy and wage rates by at least 50% by 2007
- 20-point program was introduced
- Target growth: 8.1% – growth achieved: 7.7%
- The tenth plan was expected to follow a regional approach rather than sectoral approach to bring down regional inequalities
- Expenditure of ₹43,825 crore (US$6.5 billion) for tenth five years.
11th Plan (2007–2012) – Main objectives being –
- Rapid and inclusive growth.(Poverty reduction)
- Emphasis on social sector and delivery of service therein.
- Empowerment through education and skill development.
- Reduction of gender inequality.
- Environmental sustainability.
- To increase the growth rate in agriculture, industry and services to 4%, 10% and 9% respectively.
- Reduce Total Fertility Rate to 2.1
- Provide clean drinking water for all by 2009.
- Increase agriculture growth to 4%.
·12th Plan (2012–2017) – The government intends to reduce poverty by 10% during the 12th Five-Year Plan. Mr. Ahluwalia said, “We aim to reduce poverty estimates by 9% annually on a sustainable basis during the Plan period. Earlier, addressing a conference of State Planning Boards and Planning departments, he said the rate of decline in poverty doubled during the 11th Plan. The commission had said, while using the Tendulkar poverty line, the rate of reduction in the five years (between 2004–05 and 2009–10) was about 1.5%points each year, which was twice that when compared to the period between, 1993–95 to 2004–05.
Some of the important social security and welfare steps taken by various government after Independence – Some of the steps taken by the governments so far for the welfare of SCT have been: –
- Legislation for the protection of interests of SCT.
- National Commission for SCT to monitor their progress.
- Welfare Departments to formulate policies.
- Voluntary agencies to do field work.
- Special Economic Assistance.
- Coaching and Allied schemes for their further education.
- Girls and boys hostel schemes for SCT.
- Book-Bank Schemes and Scholarships.
- Liberation and rehabilitation of scavengers.
- Tribal Research Institute.
- Reservation in Service and other areas.
- National Backward classes Finance and Development Corporation, etc.
Dalit masses still struggling for their survival – Despite all the political empowerment, special attention and preferential treatment, Government and Dalit leaders and intellectuals have failed even 69 years after the independence to change their lot of the masses of Dalit community, to improve socio-economic condition, to give them proper education, enough employment opportunities and a vision of a prosperous society. They are still struggling for their survival and are the victims of discrimination, untouchability, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and consequential disabilities.
Still living below poverty line – Majority of them still lives in precarious condition because of low wages, bondage, non-payment of fair share of agricultural produce to the SC share-cropper, forced harvesting of crops, forced eviction from their land and house sites, dispute over non-payment of minimum wages prescribed by authorities and land disputes. Caste rivalries are increasing every day.
Deteriorating law and order situation – Over and above, their sufferings have multiplied due to increasing number of crimes and incidents of violence. The deterioration of law and order position all over India is continuously increasing their miseries. What have Dalit intellectuals and leaders have done so far for their unfortunate brethren.
Creamy layer among Dalits – It is only the followers of powerful Dalit leaders, who have prospered. The creamy layer now commands muscle, money as well as political power. They are in no mood to play a second fiddle to any other section of society or group and wish to make their own place in Indian society and national politics.
What is solution? – The solution of the problem of empowering the whole Dalit community neither lies in letting down the upper castes, who are not interested in direct confrontation, either with intermediate castes or with Dalits, nor in pursuing Reservation Policy. Liberalization and Globalization has opened up many new opportunities in job-market for all. What is required for their prosperity is learning, acquiring required knowledge, hard-work, intelligence, confidence and will power and courage to face the challenges and move forward.
Why schemes for dalit’s development could not yield desired results – various welfare plans and schemes could not deliver the desired results because: –
- Political parties are busy in wooing the voters through short-term measures rather than working for their sustainable development.
- Pervasive corruption, nepotism, favoritism and undue pressure of social interests.
- Collapse of trust mechanism and accountability due to: –
- Erosion of the power of Parliament by executive.
- Bureaucratic failure to detect irregularities and corruption.
- Reports of Commission not being taken seriously by the Government.
- Institution of Lok Pal does not exist.
- Politicians and bureaucrats manage protection of law.
- Arrogance of power exists everywhere in government offices.
- Concentration of power in few hands.
The following two problems have specifically plagued the development schemes: –
- Identification of targeted groups being influenced by economic and political vested interest.
- Misappropriation of funds by intermediaries. Only a fraction of sanctioned money actually reaches the targeted groups.
- The entire problem is rooted in extreme centralization of schemes, leading to poor understanding of local needs and priorities.
- Many States lack rural institutions, which could function democratically and ensure that only needy and targeted persons get benefited from special schemes envisaged for them.
- The welfare measures and schemes benefit mostly the cream of SCT. Educated SCT know that access to important positions in the government has been provided to them by Reservation.
- Creamy layer have developed a vested interest in preserving the Reservation as long as possible. Also the caste based Reservation has led the Dalits to insist to preserve their separate political entity. They understand that their unity and organized effort would help them to counter the traditional hold of other sections over socio-economic systems. Aggressive attitude of Dalits During 80’s in UP – In UP, the upper caste domination was first challenged by intermediate castes and then by BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kanshi Ram. Kanshi Ram’s approach to Dalit issues was more socio-political rather than economic. He pressed for a due share in political power. He represents the aspirations of needy educated Dalits, who feel frustrated due to inability of the authorities to fulfill their dreams and provide enough opportunities for their uplift. Dalits in no mood to play a second fiddle – In 1977, for the first time, a section of Dalits left the congress to join new alliance known as Janata Party. Janta Party was soon broken up, because of personality clashes and the changing ground realities, with intermediate castes replacing the upper castes as owners of land in rural areas. Dissatisfied with both these conditions, Dalit leaders of 1980s and 90s attempted to establish their independent identity. They were in no mood to play a second fiddle.
- Political alliances of Dalits– Up to the emergency in 1975, the majority of Dalit groups, all over the country, were subordinate part of the greater alliance with the parties dominated by upper castes, whether it is Congress of 1950s and 1960s dominated by forward castes or the Janata of 1977 or Lok Dal of 1989 having numerically dominant OBCs.
- In Bihar during mid-sixties – In mid-sixties, an aggressive Dalit movement started under Shoshit Samaj Dal in Central Bihar, which has, presently, become a major center of Naxalite movement. The Dal was founded by Jagdeo Mahto, who began to mobilize the lower castes against economic repression and exploitation of women by upper caste feudal elements. He gave fiery speeches against upper caste domination and to end Brahminical order. Like Ambedkar, the Dal made an attack on Manu Smiriti, Vedas and other religious scriptures of Hindus.
- Advancement of Dalit movement after Independence – Ambedkar’s followers under the banner of various factions of Republican Party of India (Formed in 1956) led the Dalit movement forward. The Mahars of Bombay (8%), Jatavs of UP (Half of the SC Population in UP) and Nadars and Thevars of Southern TN being numerically significant, played a decisive role in taking forward Dalit movement. Maharashtra Dalit movement has a longest and richest experience. It has also a long intellectual tradition in the form of Dalit literature of 1970s onward.
Once again, identified Brahmins and Caste Hindus as enemy – The growing political consciousness of Dalits made them very sure of their friends and foes. Dalit leaders, once again, after so many years, identified Brahmins and Caste Hindus as their enemy and intermediate castes as their friends. Kanshi Ram initiated a formula of DS4, meaning Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangarsh Samiti, taking into its fold untouchables, STs, Muslims and OBCs. The only common factor among these constituents was their animosity and rivalry with forward Hindu castes. Otherwise, untouchables have never had cordial relation with others, especially the OBCs. Neither OBCs treat SCs as their equal, nor can they abandon exploitation of SCs.
Intermediate castes (OBCs) replaced the Brahmin domination – Intermediate castes (OBCs), which have been over-conscious of their caste superiority and domination in agricultural, political and economic areas, replaced the Brahmin domination in various provinces. There has been continuing conflict among the intermediate castes and Dalits. In the past and even at present, some of the worst atrocities have been committed on Dalits by the numerically and politically dominant OBCs. However, their alliance with Dalits increases their political strength and strengthen their position in electoral politics. To counter upper caste’s political and economic domination, Dalits and intermediate castes do not hesitate to join hands now and then with each other. OBCs know that Dalit parties now control a large vote bank. It also seeks Dalit support to protect their benefit of Reservation. The beneficiaries of Reservation Policy give full support to BSP. BSP started pursuing power with militancy since 1990.
Dalit’s attitude towards Indian systems – Earlier, the leaders of untouchables had some regard for the cultural tradition of India. They did not out rightly reject Vedic literature or the foundations of Hinduism out rightly. Dr. Ambedkar accepted that all parts of Manusmiriti were not condemnable. Gopal Baba Walangkar had said that Vedas did not support untouchability. Kisan Fagoi, another Mahar leader of pre-Ambedkar era had joined Prarthna Samaj.
Desire to reverse the power-equation – Present day Dalit leaders are vehemently against cultural traditions of India, which according to them, are based on inequality and exploitation. Now instead of demanding a share in power structure, equity or social justice, Dalit political groups want to reverse the power equation and to transform the society by capturing political power. Their aim is to get hold over the posts of PM-CM (Political Power) through electoral politics and control over administrative authority – the bureaucracy – through Reservations.
Dalit parties role as ‘king-maker’ – Dalit leaders know well of their role as king-maker in today’s highly competitive and unstable political atmosphere and their growing influence and crucial position. At present, Dalit support can make the fortunes of the three major national political formation – Congress, BJP and National Front. All the three are competing to have a pre or post poll alliance with Dalit leaders.
BSP borrowed all their phraseology from Dalit Panthers – Of late, BSP has made significant inroads in UP, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. BSP has borrowed all their phraseology from Dalit Panthers. Most of their utterances are arrogant, revengeful and opportunistic. The new phase of Dalit assertion is most prominent in the most populous state of UP. The Dalit leaders took the destiny of UP in their hand in 1994-95, first in alliance with SP and later on with BJP. Again, in 1997, it came to power in alliance with BJP. During its rule in UP, Dalit intolerance toward Brahmin officers was quite evident from the way, the Government did the transfers, postings and promotions of the officers and the way Harijan Act, passed by Rajiv Gandhi’s Government, known as Protection against atrocities on SC and ST Act.1989, was used. At present, in the State caste rivalries are at its peak. There is always a fear of upper caste or intermediate caste backlash.
Ambedkarization of politics – While in power, in 1997, the BSP Government could not bring any significant change in the socio-economic condition of the Scheduled Castes. It utilized its resources in Ambedkarization of the State. Instead of giving the downtrodden education and the vision of a new society, the leaders sharpened Caste consciousness of people. Majority of scheduled caste population still lives in precarious condition due to landlessness, low wages, bondage, non-payment of fair share of agricultural produce to the SC share-cropper, forced harvesting of crops, forced eviction from their land and house sites, dispute over non-payment of minimum wages prescribed by authorities, and land disputes. Over and above, the sufferings of lower castes have multiplied due to continuously deteriorating condition of law and order throughout the country. The criminals have emerged in a large number. They are above the law of the land and have an upper hand in the day to day life of people living within their respective areas.
Dislodging upper castes socially, still a difficult task – Despite all their efforts either separately or in alliance with other political groups, the leaders of the Backward classes have not been able to dislodge upper castes. When the youth of the forward castes found the political atmosphere stifled for themselves, they moved on to other areas and professions. Very few of them wish to join Government services, because of the quota system. They prefer to engage themselves in private sector, business, trade and commerce etc. Liberalization and Globalization has opened up new opportunities for them to prosper. Their learning tradition, hard work intelligence, confidence and will-power keeps them prospering. They usually do not come in direct confrontation, either with intermediate castes or Dalits.
Caste-Hindus never looked back – Caste-Hindus never looked back and always tried to survive with dignity and without any confrontation.
- In the past, when Brahmins were deprived of their traditional occupation due to the difficult financial position of their patrons dethroned by British, they took initiative to go for modern education. In due course of time, they monopolized the Government jobs and modern occupations.
- Again, anti-Brahmin movement of South, leading to quota in educational institutions and Government jobs, compelled Brahmins to retreat and to migrate to other parts of the country, where movement for Reservation and anti-Brahmin wave were not so strong.
- Finding a place on the basis of merit in government services difficult, students of general category focused their attention on joining private sector or they moved to foreign lands. There, they feel that their worth is recognized and they are well paid for their work.
- At present, youth of forward castes do not expect any fair deal in matter of education and employment from state authorities. Therefore, they are withdrawn.
- No one knows where the Dalit assertion will lead the nation to? -Dalits are not satisfied even after having growing influence in ballot-box politics and attaining powerful positions in the government through reservations. On 7.3.96, at a conference in Madurai, the Devandra Kula Vellala Sangham, an organization of Dalits formerly known as Pallars, demanded a separate state for themselves. It stressed that only a separate state could ensure security and progress of Dalits. [vii]
A critical phase of history – Modern India is passing through a critical phase of history. The actions of present generation in right direction can lead the nation towards a better future. It is a humanitarian obligation of all to think about weak and plan for their uplift. The whole history of twentieth century is full of the concerns and efforts of the nations to uplift the underclass Theories like Communism, Socialism, Marxism etc. were propounded to benefit marginalized sections of society.
All citizens should join hands and work for the sustainable development of the nation. They must realize that they are one human family with a shared vision and common destiny. All Indians must give preference to their national identity over their class, caste, community, gender, linguistic or regional identities and must align together their efforts to restore the vitality, strength and dignity of our nation.
Huge social churning – A huge social churning is going on the margins of the society. The fight started from the margins for land, employment/jobs, education and other opportunities to ensure security, progress and social status moved to center stage of politics and aimed to provide them a wider base in the power structure of a nation.
Fall in moral values after Independence – Materialism, consumerism, ruthless competition for positions of power, money and VVIP status to get access over all the luxuries of life at tax-payers cost have brought some unpleasant changes in the mind-set of people recent past and are increasing every day in the character, role and inter-relationship of the six main constituent of the national elites – political executive, legislators, businessmen, organized workers, surplus farmers and bureaucrats. They want to fulfill all their ambitions, even if they have to ‘beg, borrow or steal’. Such an attitude ignites the desire or craving for ‘more’, gives rise to greed, venom, anger and passion. Most of the times it makes it difficult to maintain good relations with others .
Suggestions given by the Chairman of First backward class Commission Kaka Kalelkar – After Independence, comments of the Chairman of First backward class Commission Kaka Kalelkar had said in his note of dissent of First Backward castes Report –
- “It would be well, if representatives of the backward classes remembered that whatever good they find in the Constitution and the liberal policy of the Government, is the result of the awakened conscience of the upper classes themselves.
- Whatever Government is doing by way of atonement is readily accepted and acclaimed by the nation as a whole.
- The upper classes have contributed their share in formulating the policies of the Government Removal of untouchability, establishment of equality and social justice, special consideration for backward classes, all these elements found place in the Constitution without a single voice of dissent from the upper classes.”
- “If the backward communities have neglected education it is because they had no use for it. Now that they have discovered their mistakes, it is for them to make the necessary efforts for making the leeway…As far as the assistance in the matter of education for the backward classes,
- “I am convinced that introduction of basic education in all the states with help the backward communities to cultivate self-confidence. They will also have a better chance of succeeding in life and have the advantage of mixing with other people.
- “Communalism and casteism are bound to destroy the unity of the nation and narrow down the aspiration of our people.
- All communal and denominational organizations and groupings of lesser and narrower units have to be watched carefully, so that they do not jeopardize the national solidarity and do not weaken the efforts of the nation to serve the various elements in the body politic with equity.
- Mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust are the touchstone, on which all communal and denominational activities will be tested and anything that undermines it, will be expected and brought to book.”
- “Nothing should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and solidarity of the nation.
In conclusion, the words of Kaka Kalelkar can again be repeated that “National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other”.
[i] Basham Ibid. P 144.
[ii] Basham, Ibid., p 146.
[iii] Wilson K.1982 – They twice alienated culture of Dalit Christians.
[iv] Supplementary Memorandum submitted on 4th Nov., 1931 to the minority sub committee of second Round Table Conference
[v] Note to Indian Franchise (Lothian) committee of the Second Round Table Conference May 1932.
[vi] Rajah MC, the Oppressed Hindus PP4-5 1925
[vii] P.K.Balachandran, Cast in Strange Mould, Hindustan Times, Dated March 12, 1996, P12.
- Wisdom/Enlightenment and empowerment
- Rights and duties
- Role of Bureaucracy in good governance
- India – Unity in Diversity
- Fusion of many cultures in India
- Theory of biological Evolution
- Dalit Assertion, A Journey from ‘Shudras’to Outcastes, to’Panchamas’ and to ‘Dalits’
- Untouchables (“Dalits” of modern India) in Ancient India
- Happiness in life
- Census operations
- Good Governance
- Basic tenets of Hindu philosophy/Hinduism
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