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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

India’s Dream for Inclusive Growth

“Vasudeva Kodambakkam”      (The world is one family)

“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. 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”.                                           (First Backward class Commission’s Report, Chairman Kaka Kalelkar)

One of the primary objective of present Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to work sincerely to make India an inclusive society, where people of all sections of Indian society get full opportunities to grow and prosper according to their capacity and without any bias.

Equal opportunities to all – An inclusive society does not mean  uniform growth of all, but to create a society, which provides and enables all its members,  equality of opportunity. It means a society that over-rides differences of race, gender, class, generation, and geography, and facilitates inclusion of all sections of society under one umbrella. Inclusive growth demands to control social interaction in such a way, that basic needs and aspirations of all the people are handled for the nation as a whole, not only of one or few specific sections of the society.

India as a developing nation – India is a developing country, aiming at “Inclusive growth” of the whole of nation.  India’s dream for “Inclusive growth” of the nation as a whole still remains a distant dream even now after 74 years of its Independence. India has been ranked 130 in the year 2018 by UNDP’s index on development.

India is a large country. It accounts for 2.4% of the world surface area of 135.79 million sq. km. and sustain about 6.7% of the world population. There is a large number of religious and ethnic groups having  diversity in faith, way of living, customs and traditions.

Diversities in India are based on ethnic, regional, occupational, religious, caste, linguistic and cultural factors. A great diversity can be seen in each one’s faith, way of living, customs and traditions. There are many linguistic identities as well. India has more than 350 languages, more than 1600 dialects, nearly 650 different tribes. One can see a different dialect and food habit every few kilo metres. There is irksome diversity between the worlds of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, a continuous struggle between those having plenty and masses below poverty line living in the world of scarcity.

Diversity makes divide easy – There have been periods of discord because of these diversities. They have generated regional and sectional imbalances, which have been a source of great social and psychological tensions. Fruits of  development cannot be shared equally among different  sections of society, living in different regions.

A tough job to keep India united – Working for inclusive growth of all and still maintain proper balance and harmony between different sections of society with so many diversities/identities is a delicate and a difficult task.  Way back on December 9, 1946, Mr. V.N. Narayan had said, “At best of times, India is ungovernable country of diversities, conflicts and problems”.[i]

Unity in diversity – Despite everything,  India has been able to maintain unity in diversity. A large number of  diverse identities have lived together for centuries and presented a mosaic culture. Indian culture binds all the diverse groups in India together under one umbrella from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Bengal to Gujrat.

Diversity makes divide easy –However sometimes, there have been periods of discord as well. Diversities in India are based on ethnic, regional, occupational, religious, caste, linguistic and cultural factors. A great diversity can be seen in each one’s faith, way of living, customs and traditions. There are many linguistic identities as well. India has more than 350 languages, more than 1600 dialects, nearly 650 different tribes. One can see a different dialect and food habit every few kilometres. There is irksome diversity between the worlds of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, a continuous struggle between those having plenty and masses below poverty line living in the world of scarcity.

These diversities have generated regional and sectional imbalances, which have been a source of great social and psychological tensions. Fruits of  development cannot be shared equally among different  sections of society, living in different regions.

Unbalanced population growth – Unbalanced population growth section-wise or region-wise creates a gulf between different sections of society. It gives rise to many sectional forces (caste, communal, occupational and  regional) and pressures groups. Rising expectations, political ambitions and economic interests have aroused the militancy among the discontented sections of society all over the nation, which has divided the Indians into innumerable unbridgeable groups.

Each group pursues its own sectional interests. Some of them are quite vocal and aggressive/militant in attitude. They demand their rights, but ignore their duties. Casteism, corruption, criminalization etc. are some of the direct consequences.

Unbalanced growth gives rise to new equations in power echelons. The wider the gulf, larger the problem for the Government. The welfare and developmental schemes for such a large population puts an extra burden on government. To maintain proper balance and harmony between different sections of society with so many diversities/identities is a delicate and a difficult task.

Reasons for unbalanced growth – Following are the reasons:
  • Population explosion – At present, India is the second most populous nation in the world. China being on the top. Superstitions, illiteracy, lack of awareness, desire of male child and high mortality rate among children have led to unchecked population growth. Agrarian community and poor people refuse to regard children as burden. For them they were an asset and insurance for old age. Unchecked population explosion has aggravated many problems such as poverty, low per capita income, food availability, pressure on land, burden on education, medical care, housing, unemployment, underemployment, rapid depletion of natural resources, etc. It has neutralized all the efforts made, so far, for all-round economic and social development of the whole of nation. Population explosion and its unbalanced growth is one of the major causes of iniquitous growth and rise of regional and sectional imbalances. It puts a severe strain on the already over loaded system. Population growth in absolute numbers has aggravated many problems such as poverty, low per capita income, food availability, pressure on land, burden on education, medical care, housing, unemployment, underemployment, rapid depletion of natural resources, etc.
  • Limited resources – Inclusive growth of all sections of society depends,  to a large extent, on demand and supply factor. When demand is more and supply is limited, because of the lack of resources, how one can dream of ‘inclusive growth’, equity or equal development of all the sections of the society?
  • Poverty in India – Massive poverty and under-development of different sections has been a basic feature of Indian economy since long.  As early as Dec.10, 1919, Gandhiji wrote in Young India,  “The immediate problem before us is not how to run the government of the country, but how to feed and clothe ourselves.”  In 1964, Late Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, while taking charge as PM, in 1964, has said, “Of all the problems facing us, none is more distressing than that of the dire poverty, in which tens of millions of our countrymen continue to live.” Though poverty has decreased in percentage terms, it has increased enormously in absolute terms. India has not counted its poor since 2011. But the  United Nations estimated the number of poor in the country to be 364 million in 2019, or 28 per cent of the population.(07-Apr-2021, Mass poverty is back in India by Richard Mahapatra,
  • Materialistic attitude – Materialistic attitude of people has made a virtue of narrow loyalties of caste and religion.  The result is rise in sub-cultures like favouritism, lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism, regionalism, bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments, spreading in-discipline in the society. The work culture has been degenerated.
  • Richer becoming richer and poor poorer – There is virtually no control over political corruption. A few persons and Political Parties, while in office, are becoming richer, and common-man poorer. Such a trend poses a danger to the integrity and stability of the whole society as well as unity of the nation.
  • Fractured mandate –  Voters have become smarter and more aware with the spread of education.. It has created an atmosphere of fractured mandate, because gradually it is becoming more difficult for politicians to  purchase their votes by making false promises and offering freebies. In turn, fractured mandate has led to political instability.
  • Anti-incumbency cult – Fractured mandate has led to the trend of anti-incumbency cult both in North and south. In order to grab political power, before elections, leaders of different political parties make alliances with minor parties just enlarge their vote-banks and win elections. And Since mid-1980’s, at the centre and from 1960’s onwards at provincial level after elections horse-trading starts. Political defections have become frequent. MLAs and MPs are approached to join rival parties to help them to form governments. People see it as political corruption.
  • Entry of ‘caste’ into politics – Entry of ‘caste’ into politics has given rise to casteism. At present, caste is the single most important factor in Indian politics. Reservation policy and electoral politics, based on caste, has given boost to casteism. Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to solve the burning national issues. It has made the efforts done made so far ineffective. ‘Caste-politics’ needs to be arrested at its earliest.
  • Irresponsible Media ignite regional differences –  Quite often, the picture on some critical issues are presented by national and international media is based on half-truths. Misinformation or half information given to the public by national and international media on critical issues polarise the public opinion. To a great extent, recently media has escalated regional divide further.
  • Regional disparities – All these factors are responsible for delaying the process of uniform growth of all the regions. There is a wide gap between region to region/province to province. In matter of growth and prosperity, There is a wide gap between the prosperous and backward states. There are pockets of poverty amidst plenty within each region,  province/state. Dry and hilly areas as well as those with tribal populations are still far below the national average.

All these factors poses danger to unity, integrity and stability of the Indian society and the nation. as a whole. It is becoming more and more difficult to reconcile sectional or regional interests with national interests, Most glaring example of disparity can be seen recently between Northern states and Southern states.

Disparities in North and South and their unbalanced growth , Southern states have progressed and prospered more after Independence, especially due to economic reforms of post-liberalization era. Progress in misgoverned Northern states, especially in BIMARU states  (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand), has been very slow.

A group of some intellectuals,  politicians, political parties and national and international media make these disparities more glaring by passing on comments like –     

  • Superior genes of people in south have led them to prosperity. They are more intelligent, aware, and enterprising and forward looking than North Indians.
  • “The crucial factor behind the prosperity of South  is” … “the collapse of caste system over last half century.” A new business class rises in ashes of South India’s caste system, whereas North still gives importance to caste-consciousness and caste-feelings. Caste is still a crucial factor in social, political and economic arena.  (Lydia Polgreen, “The New York Times” Dt. 11th Sept, 2010).
  • In South, the breakdown of caste hierarchy has broken the traditional links between caste and profession and released enormous entrepreneurial energies” (Ashutosh Varshney, a Professor at Brown University). In North, it has led to unemployment.
  • Lower castes in South are more prosperous and well-educated than North. New business class rises in ashes of South India’s caste system. (Lydia Polgreen, “The New York Times” dated 11th September, 2010.
  • South is more concerned about economic development.
  • South considers education as a route to prosperity. Whereas in North, the chief aim of political parties is to grab political power by enflaming the caste and communal feelings and enjoy the spoils.
  • South is more concerned about economic development than North.

One must not pass-on comments on national issues without rationally analyzing the whole scenario. Such irresponsible comments are based on half-truths or misinformation. They widen the North-South divide and give rise to new tensions, social, economic and political. They create confusion, misunderstandings and a feeling of alienation in the masses of Southern and Northern provinces. Realities are much deeper than what is seen on the surface. They intentionally or unintentionally forget to inform the people, that –

Caste “is no longer a barrier” Almost all-over India, Caste is no longer a barrier. Caste system is now more liberal and less restrictive in social arena. It allows its members a greater degree of freedom in all walks of life throughout India, whether it is South or North, East or West.Traditional caste barriers are breaking – Traditional caste barriers and evil practices developed into the system started breaking slowly but steadily after the Independence It does not affect much the social or economic life of people. With the efforts of reformers of nineteenth and twentieth centuries and constitution-framers, spread of education, process of modernization, industrialization and growth of awareness among people.

Unbalanced population growth – Unbalanced growth of different sections of society has resulted in the increase of caste and communal conflicts.

Lower castes more tenacious about caste-identity – ‘Caste’ has become single most important factor in Indian electoral politics The politics of vote-banks and advantages of reservation policy have made lower castes more tenacious on the subject of their caste than the higher/upper castes.

Caste-Hindus more  consciousness about their Caste – It is not wholly correct to say that in North, caste feelings are strong amongst upper castes or they are more caste-conscious than the lower castes. On the contrary, lower castes  (SC/ST/OBC) cling to their caste identity more, because of the preferential treatment and advantages, Reservation Policy gives to them. The reality of modern India is at present is that lower castes  have become more vocal and assertive. Even politicians in power fear to annoy them and concede to all their demands openly or discreetly.

More Freedom in the choice of occupation – Connections between caste and profession have been broken long ago with the industrialization and released enormous entrepreneurial energies and opportunities not only in south, but everywhere in India.

Entry of Caste into politics giving new lease of life to caste – With the entry of caste in politics, caste found a new lease of life and led to the growth of caste-ism. There is a difference between ‘caste-system’ and ‘caste-ism’.

Centralization of control systems –Centralization of control systems in the hands of a few Individuals, families and groups having money and muscle power has escalated caste-tension. Under the garb of caste, or escalating caste tensions, many politicians try to create their vote-bank and grab political power, to control destiny of millions. Some of them even seek support of the criminals and in return provide them protection.

Some political parties both from North and South desired inclusion of caste in India’s census for 2011. The demand for caste-based census had been raised systematically by political parties from all parts of country including Dravidian Munnetra Kazhakam [DMK] and Pattali Makkal Katchi [PMK].

Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to create an inclusive society. It makes all the efforts of government ineffective. ‘Caste-politics’ needs to be arrested at its earliest.

Education  in South and North – To say that people in south are more aware than north about the advantages of education is a myth. As far as education is concerned, all over India whether east or west, south or north, people have always given importance to education and training. They know the value of education and knowledge and its role in leading to prosperity and to accomplish dignity and self-reliance.

Many travellers, among whom most famous are Magasthenes (a Greek ambassador arrived at Patliputra in 302 BC), Fa-hien, Hiuen Tsang and I-Tsang threw much light on education system of ancient India. Holy places like ‘Taxila’, ‘Ayodhya’, ‘Banaras’, ‘Amaravati’, ‘Mathura’, ’Nasik’ in Maharashtra or ‘Kanchi’ in South, ‘Valabhi’ in Gujarat, ‘Vikramshila’ in Bihar and capitals of kingdoms like ‘Patilputra’, ‘Valabhi’, ‘Ujjayani’ and ‘Padmavati’ were famous centres of education. In South India centres of learning were known as ‘Ghatikas’. Many centres of learning were the monastic colleges mostly founded by ‘Budhists’.

One of the earliest observations about the importance, Hindus gave to education and training, was made by Megasthenese, (an ancient Greek historian, diplomat and Indian ethnographer and explorer in the Hellenistic period.  350 BCE) wrote about the method of teaching and writing of India. He commented, whatever was left he still found it in practice. “No people, perhaps, on earth have adhered as much to their ancient usage and customs as the Indians”. While teaching people three r’s, indigenous education also familiarized the people with the nation’s epics, religion, literature and other religious books which were available in their own language. (An Austrian European traveller Fra Paolino Da Bartolomeo, who spent fourteen years in India (1776-1789), recalls)

Universities in ancient India – Few of most important universities of ancient India were ‘Taxila’ (being the first university of world established in Seventh century B.C.) Taxila University as a center of knowledge continued under the Maurya Empire and Greek rule (Indo-Greeks) in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE. The destruction of Toramana in the 5th century CE seem to have put an end to the activities of the University.

’Vikramshila’ University and ‘Nalanda’ University (built in 4 A.D). Huan Tsang in his records mentioned the university of ‘Taxila’ to be at par with ‘Nalanda’ and ‘Vikramshila’ Universities. In the North, Nalanda University continued its glorious existence for a thousand years till it was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji, who invaded Bihar in 1197 AD.

Education during Medieval Period – Many European travellers and administrators bear testimony about the importance, India gave to education and training. But it did not suit the British rulers and missionaries.

Brigadier-General Alexander Walker, who served in India between 1780 and 1810, had said that “no people probably appreciate more justly the importance of instruction than the Hindus”. According to him, “they sacrifice all the feelings of wealth, family pride and caste that their children may have the advantage of good education”. He also found that this love of learning was no exclusive characteristic of the Brahmins but “this desire is strongly impressed on the minds of all the Hindus.” But these observations did not suit the British rulers, administrators and missionaries.

Even data of Adam’s Report (1835) did not suit the rulers. It says that It was during the British rule, that illiteracy increased and indigenous education was decayed. Before the introduction of modern education system, there was widespread private coaching besides the system of public education.

According to Sir Thomas Munro, Governor of Madras Presidency, the number of pupils taught privately at home was considered to be “above five times greater than that taught in the schools”. Adam’s Report also reveals a different story and destroys completely the popular notion that education in India was monopolized by the Brahmins. The idea was purposely floated by the rulers and missionaries, which was picked up by colonized intelligentsia later on.

Education during British rule – Education, being an important Institution, had attracted the vigilant attention of British rulers, after they consolidated their power. The Raj conducted many Surveys in the Bombay Presidency (1820-1830), Madras Presidency (1823-1826) and later on in Bengal and Punjab before introducing its own Modern education in 1834.

Advantageous position of South –   While talking about the prosperity of South, many self-proclaimed intellectuals avoid to tell that as compared to Northern states, Southern states have always been in a better position historically, geographically, economically and administratively. South has enjoyed certain advantages as compared to North, like:

Advantage of Geographical position –South has always remained in an advantageous position because of its geographical position.  Its geographical position spared South from many violent disturbances and gave an undisturbed peaceful atmosphere to plan and progress. From seventh century onwards, after the downfall of Hindu Raj, Northern-Western parts of India had continuously remained  under the pressure of repeated attacks, invasions and continued onslaughts from across the north-west frontier. These parts of India had continuously seen bloodshed and destruction of its places of worship and learning.

Turks, Afghans and Mughals continuously invaded India, Ghajini and others (998-1030 AD), the establishment of Slave Dynasty (1206-1290), Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320), Tughluk Dynasty (1320-1412 AD) Sayyed Dynasty (1414-51) Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526) and Mughal Empire (1526 to 1757). Earlier, they drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands. But later on, they conquered and made India their homeland.

Perpetrators of violence could never cross Vindhya’s ranges and reach up-to the South. That is how, South was spared, remained untouched/ protected and enjoyed a peaceful atmosphere throughout to prosper. It got enough time and tension free atmosphere to plan, concentrate on developmental activities, and manage more stable governments and better infrastructure, education-system, health-care services and economic prosperity.

Even after Independence in 1947, the people from North faced the blood-shed during the partition of the country, faced communal tensions from time to time, confronted three wars (1962, 1965 and 1971) on its land, tolerated disturbances due to the swelling streams of refugees from Tibet, Bangladesh and other places and suffered due to periodical famines and floods. At present also, people of North are suffering due the violent activities of terrorists, which has slowed down developmental its activities.

Spared of economic loot, communal tensions etc. before Independence – Again south was spared of economic loot, communal tensions and the ministrations of Cornwallis. Right from the outset, Southern states had more equitable land tenure system. During national movement for Independence, South did not suffer much. Mostly, it remained either or more in favour of continuance of the Imperial rule in India.

Advantage of English as medium of instruction/education – Madras Presidency was one of the first British settlements in India. Modern education with English medium started much earlier in South, during the second-half of nineteenth century giving it leverage over North.

In 1844, through a Declaration knowledge of English was made compulsory for Government employment.. In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended on Government jobs entirely.

Missionaries opened many English medium schools in Madras. Missionary schools  attracted poor people by giving them free English-medium education, jobs in government and to improve their social status. Their primary aim was to convert them in Christianity.

There were some government schools as well, where the means of school education were vernacular languages. British government gave funds to indigenous schools in need of help and dictated its own terms. Slowly more and more schools got government’s aid there. Higher education was granted in English only.

In 1855, Education departments were created in the provinces of Madras, Bombay and Bengal. In 1857 Universities were established in Madras, Bombay and Calcutta. All these developments gave leverage to all people in South India. English became just like their mother tongue for educated people in Madras long ago, whether belonging to Brahmin community or non-Brahmin communities.

In the North, in the name of the principles of “secularism” and ‘religious neutrality’, British Government introduced Urdu as the medium of instruction over a large territory of North India. Urdu which was foreign to the masses did not help them in getting formal education for a long time. Urdu medium has “practically excluded from primary instruction” the whole Hindu priestly class, the artisans and the agricultural classes in the North, according to the testimony of the Brahmo Samaj. It was meant only to prepare the educated people for ‘Munshi’s’ jobs. It pushed north a step behind South in competing with them in opportunities of advancement, which demanded knowledge of English.

Caste demography of South and North – The caste demography of the South is quite different from the North. North India exhibits with far more clarity, the dynamics of caste-system. All four groups are socially active and occupy an important position in society.

Benefit of modern opportunities was availed by diverse groups, like Kayasthas, Banias, elite section of Muslims etc. and educated Bengalis occupied many jobs and other opportunities in Northern India. Brahmins constitute a heterogeneous pack, ranging from dominant elite to middle class peasantry and poor living below poverty line. Influence of Hindu ideology has been mingled with elements of everyday life.

South Indian Brahmins are stricter and more rigid in observance of rituals than their counterparts in the North. Also South Indian untouchables are more debased than their counterparts in North. In South and West, Shudras are divided into two groups, touchable and Untouchables. Untouchables form “Pancham Varna”, and are not the part of Varna order. In North, Shudras and untouchables have never been considered outside by Hindu’s Varna system. They are very much the integral part of Hindu social order. The cultural impact of Brahminical superiority and rituals has been accepted by lower castes in North without much protest.

Political formations in North cannot afford to ignore upper castes in the North, which form over 20% of the population. It was almost after a century, that backward castes and Dalits in the North have raised their voice not against only Brahmins, but against whole of upper castes. The success in south in the recent past has encouraged backward and Dalit groups in North to follow the South. Liberalizations of economy in India (1990) and trend of globalization have resulted in brain drain and has pushed the youth of upper castes to Western countries.

South is also well-known for its “Authoritarian leadership, big corruption and endless freebies for the masses.” (Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar, TOI, 11 Dec. 2016, p24).

Up till the end of 20thcentury, lower castes in the North were poor, divided and less aware of their political rights, but economically less dependent on caste Hindus. In South, Non Brahmins are more conscious of their legitimate rights.

South Better prepared to take advantage of Globalization – It would be an exaggeration to say that South is more concerned about economic development. When India’s economy liberalized in the 1990s, South was “better prepared to take advantage of globalization” (Samual Paul, public Affairs centre) or it has established closer connections with the global economy. It is also a fact that In fact, one of major reasons behind prosperity of South during the last few decades, has been a steep increase in remittances from gulf migrants and non-resident Indians living in other parts of the world.

Liberalizations of economy in India (1990), reverse discriminatory Reservation policy (49.5% quota fixing for  SCs, STs and OBCs) and trend of globalization gave opportunity to a large number of talented youth from North to migrate to Advanced Western countries.

The above mentioned comments based on half-truths have developed an anathema in some people against Hindi language, Northern value systems, festivals and way of living.

  • Anathema against North – Some South Indian political leaders and people feel that North  overshadows them in political arena. North remains in prominence in the politics of the nation. They feel neglected for not getting enough attention of the in Government at Centre.
  • Anathema to Aryan-Sanskrit – The reaction to this fear is anathema to Aryan-Sanskrit, their culture, their language, and their social structure based on Varna (caste) system. Though Varna came comparatively late in South, the succeeding centuries saw the gradual hardening of caste-rules.

The aggressive attitude of non-Brahmins had succeeded in driving out many Tamil Brahmin families, basically non-militants by nature, to other parts of the country during the whole of twentieth century.

Resentment against Brahmins/upper castes Hindus –  Resentment among ‘Non-Brahmins’ against Brahmins started in South, because only 3% Brahmins occupied most of places in educational institutions and the modern callings. The resentment of 97% non-Brahmin caste gave rise to Non Brahman Movement/Dravidian movement.  Initially it was started by those non- Brahman castes that had acquired access to education, wealth and influence. The movement was directed against the authority of the Brahmins during the second- half of the nineteenth century.

Dravidian movement and its ideology – Dravidian ideology and Dravidian movement has offered an a Alternative model of hegemony. The Dravidian movement in British India started with the formation of the Justice Party. Dravidian movement was  based on three ideologies:

  • Dismantling of Brahmin hegemony –
  • Revitalization of the Dravidian Languages (that include Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil) and
  • Social reform by abolition of existing caste systems, religious practices and recasting women’s equal position in society.

Dravidian ideology claims that the Brahmins were originally Aryan migrants from the north.  They imposed their language, Sanskrit, religion and heritage on the people of South.

It regards non-Brahmins as descendants of original natives of India, who believed in egalitarian pattern of society. Aryans conquered them and through caste system, Brahmins established their superiority over them. Therefore, they regarded Brahmins as their worst enemies. The opportunities and recognition came to Dravidians with formation of Justice Party and start of Non-Brahmins movement.

Anti-Brahmins politics travelled from South to Western part of India – Anti-Brahmin currents moved first to western part of India and afterward almost a century later to the North. In Maharashtra, Phule and Ambedkar challenged the influence of Brahmins and Marathas. They united numerous endogamous jatis into region wise alliances, increased in size and emerged as powerful pressure groups in different regions.

Roots of disparities in North and South The roots of North-South divide do not lie not in distant past. Socio-political and economic turmoil in North and South happened only about 200-300 years back. That was the time when just to perpetuate their rule in India, British rulers had started the policy of ‘divide and rule’.

Initially, from 1858 to 1905, after consolidating its power, British Government tried its best to prevent all Indians to have a common feeling. Existent diversities of Indian society gave it an opportunity to play one against another, Princes against Princes, Princes against people; Hindu against Muslims; caste against castes; and provinces against provinces.

Ideological attack on social structure of India by British – During the domination of aliens rule for centuries, many deformities had been developed into the social practices in India. It gave an opportunity  to British rulers, missionaries, philosophers and writers, jointly to launch an ideological attack on Indian social structure and its value system. They held Indian social structure responsible for feudalistic attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions. It is based on Varna/caste system, practices of which are “discriminatory,” “iniquitous,” “exploitative,” “oppressive” “barbarous,” “uncivilized” and “highly stratified”. British held Indian social structure They held caste-system and its social practices responsible for large-scale of illiteracy, communal problems, escalating violence, crimes and corruption, disparities of power, wealth and culture.

Ideological attack on Indian social structure developed a doubt about efficacy of its social values and systems, in the minds of educated Indians, and intellectuals. Along with it, British propagated theories of racial superiority and thereby, justified the domination of white races over dark races of the globe.

The instrument British Imperial rule used to divide Indian people – While laying down the foundations of democratic institutions in India, British rulers enflamed the caste-ist and communal feelings through –

  1. ‘Quota system based on castes and community’
  2. Electoral Politics’. and
  3. Census operations’ at the dawn of twentieth century

British rulers did the divide in 3 stages:

  1. First they appeased the Hindus,
  2. Then was the turn of Muslims,
  3. Lastly, they devoted their attention to backward castes.
  • Appeasement of Hindus – Initially, the British, who annexed authority from the Muslim rulers, looked favourably towards Hindu community. For the British, It was too costly and not even possible, to import enough Englishmen to man the large and increasing number of in administration.  They were compelled to think about educating Indians in such a way, that they, “… get Anglicized in terms of both cultural and intellectual attainments.

In 1835, Lord Macaulay introduced modern education with the intention, To form a class, who may be interpreters between us and millions of whom, we govern, a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect.[i] In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended on Government jobs entirely.  This led to a keen competition between different sections of Indian society. The British took advantage of this situation and created rift in the Indian society.

Appalling poverty of Indians after the decline in the financial status of their patrons, Princes and Zamindars, compelled them to opt for modern education, and make use of new type of employment opportunities. They devoted their scarce resources and energies to get Western Education, which was very costly. Modern education provided them opportunities to earn their living respectfully. Their long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them to secure an important place in the modern society.

Amongst all sections of Hindu society, Brahmins, being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge moved ahead of other communities. Preponderance of Brahmins at all levels of freedom movement, activities of National Congress and reformist alarmed the rulers. Innumerable C.I.D. Reports of that period confirmed the active role played by Brahmins in National movement. Growing influence of Brahmins in other areas, too, including their hold over the Hindu Community made the British to believe that Brahmin Community was a threat to imperial rule.

  • Appeasement of Muslims – British authorities considered it necessary to stop the dominance of Brahmins or few groups by raising a strong force against them. For keeping a balance of power, they prepared and encouraged other sections of society.

They turned their attention to Muslims, who had a grudge over the loss of their dominant position in the past. They developed a fear of being dominated by majority Hindu Community, if at any point of time India became Independent. Muslims found themselves handicapped in competing with Hindus, in modern callings and opportunities.

In a very shrewd and planned manner, British drifted Muslims from Hindus. During 1850s, Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College was established at Aligarh. Its English principles like Archibald, Theodore Beck or Morrison played an important role in keeping Muslims away from mainstream and inculcating in them a feeling of separation.

The seeds of communalism were sown during Lord Lytton’s Vice-royalty (1876-80). Sir W.H. Gregory, while appreciating the Resolution of Government of India on Muslim education wrote to Dufferin in Feb. 1886, I am confident, that it will bear good fruits, indeed, it seems to have done so already by the complete abstention of the Mohammedan from Brahmins and Baboo agitation.  It will be a great matter to sweeten our relations with this portion of the Indian population, the bravest and at one time, the most dangerous. [ii]

A deputation of Muslims led by His Highness Sir Agha Khan demanded on Oct. 1, 1896 separate electorate. On Dec. 30, 1906 a separate party, Muslim League, was launched to pursue and safeguard Muslim interests. Their demands were accepted through Minto-Morley Reforms known as Government of India Act of 1909.  This Act devised a novel method to distribute and balance the power.  It introduced separate electorates on the basis of religion. Lord Minto came to be known as Father of Communal Electorate in India. The Act came as the first effective dose of communalization of Indian politics.

  • Appeasement of Non-Brahmin communities – After gaining the loyalty of Muslims, British rulers felt the need to divide Hindu population and secure their confidence also. On September 2, 1897, George Francis Hamilton, the then Secretary of State for India, wrote to Viceroy Curzon, “I think the real danger to our rule in India, not now but say 50 years hence, is the gradual adoption and extension of Western ideas of agitation and organization. If we could break the educated Hindu into two sections, holding widely different views, we should by such division, strengthen our position against the subtle and continuous attack, which the spread of education must make upon our system of Government”.[iii]

Educated and prosperous non-Brahmins castes like Chettyars, Reddys or Nairs in South India resented the domination of 3% Brahmins in educational institutions and the modern callings. They found themselves unable to compete in modern callings with  Brahmins on equal terms. The movement against the authority of the Brahmins started during the second- half of the nineteenth century.

Initially, British rulers opened special schools for backward people also. They were provided free education in missionary English medium schools. Along with it, other benefits were bestowed like special scholarships, loans, hostel facilities, concessions in school fees and quota in government jobs. In 1885, the education department proposed to reserve 50% of free scholarships for backwards and Muslims, as scholarships purely on merit grounds would perpetuate Brahmin’s monopoly. Both Non-Brahmins and Muslims  welcomed all the Preferential treatment  given to them by the colonial rulers. They were grateful to British rulers for all the opportunities and other privileges, they bestowed upon them. They wished for the continuance of British rule in India.

The spread of education led them to organize their own fellows and to form associations. British Government allowed them to set up organizations on caste and community basis and to pursue their sectarian interests. It resulted in emergence of many pressure groups, a new divisive force in the political arena. These pressure groups based themselves on cultural, casteist and other variations existent in the country.

Communal division between Brahmins and non-Brahmins began in the presidency during the. late-19th and early-20th century, mainly due to caste prejudices and disproportionate Brahminical representation in government. 

Anti-Brahminism became organized and got recognition after the formation of the Justice Party in late 1916 in Tamil Nadu on 20 November 1916 in Victoria Memorial Hall in Madras. Initially Justice party was composed of non-Brahmins persons like C. Natesa Mudaliar along with T. M. Nair and P. Theagaraya Chetty, who were typically feudal castes, land-owning agricultural castes and merchant castes. It was committed to enhancing the opportunities for non-Brahmins. They held a series of non-Brahmin conferences and meetings in the presidency. Anti -Brahmin movement started with the formation of Justice Party. It gained momentum under the leadership of Periyar E V Ramaswamy in Tamil Nadu. It turned people against Aryan Brahminical order easily.

Backward castes and untouchables emerged as a powerful political force by early 20th century especially after the introducing  the elective principle to membership in the imperial and local legislative councils in India by Indian Councils Act of 1909, also called MorleyMinto Reforms, enacted by the British Parliament. The granting of an electorate for Muslims…. Brought the idea of communal electorates…. to the forefront in the minds of all communities, which feared their submersion in the Government run by the dominant caste of Hindu community.[iv]In 1919, he Government of India Act accorded special representation by granting a few nominated seats, in the Legislative Assembly for depressed classes.

So far, untouchable activities were combined with the non-Brahmin movement. By 1928, untouchables separated themselves from the intermediate caste. They established their independent identity at national level, with the Communal Award of 1932. Reservations for untouchables were so far combined with backward castes and was confined to Provincial and local levels. Communal representation ignited the aspirations of other groups as well.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morley 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 (1932 by Simon Commission) it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community.  Division on the basis of religion, occupation and service were made.  The British introduced every possible cross-division.[v]

All over India, numerous caste organizations emerged into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels. They demanded with insistence, government’s intervention for giving preferential treatment to non-Brahmins and other weaker sections of Indian society in electoral politics and government jobs.

Almost after a century, some castes including untouchables raised their voice violently in North. They were not against Brahmins only, but against the whole of upper castes. The success in south in the past has encouraged backward and other backward castes in the North to follow the example of South. Acceptance of Mandal Commission Report in 90’s have led to Brain-drain. Mandal Commission Report, has made caste a single most important factor in Indian politics. Quota system and electoral politics has given boost to caste-ism.

Brain-drain – Acceptance of Mandal Commission’s recommendations has blocked 49.5% of employment opportunities for meritorious students. Liberalizations of economy in India (1990) and trend of globalization has given opportunity to a large number of hard-working talented youth from upper castes to migrate to advanced Western countries.

Ultimately, it is the nation, which has to suffer due to less tax revenue from losing income tax, decline in competitiveness. It loses potential entrepreneurs. Brain-drain can lead to a shortage of key skilled workers. Lower growth reduces confidence in the economy of the nation. Brilliant people aspire to leave rather than stay.

Brain drain has caused India to lose the ability to progress. Talented people are born, raised, and educated in their country, and when it comes time to work and give back what they were provided, they leave and seek employment elsewhere.

Winding up

Recently, North has lagged behind the South in matter of education, population control and Prosperity. There was a time, when North was a great cradle of statecraft, knowledge and culture. There is no reason why it should not move forward. It is still blessed with natural resources and hard-working people in abundance.

South has enjoyed certain advantages as compared to North such as

  • Its geographical position spared, which has saved South from many violent  disturbances and given to it an undisturbed peaceful atmosphere to plan and progress.
  • Modern education with English medium started much earlier in South, during the second-half of nineteenth century giving it leverage over North. Knowledge of English for government jobs had made missionary schools very popular both amongst Brahmins and non-Brahmins during second half of the 19th century.
  • Missionaries along with British government both paid more attention to non-brahmin castes during the second half of the nineteenth century. Missionaries did so with an aim to convert them into Christianity and government to raise a force against Brahmins.
  • Spread of education amongst masses inspired them to contain their population growth.
  • It is not the upper castes but the backward castes which need not be so tenacious on the subject of their caste. They have become so vocal and assertive, that even politicians in power fear to annoy them and concede to all their demands openly or discreetly.
  • The colonial rulers succeeded in creating two unbridgeable compartments of Brahmins and Non-Brahmins in the South. Spread of education amongst Non-Brahmins/ lower and intermediate castes encouraged them to raise their voice against Caste-Hindus and get enough space in power echelons. Ultimately with the backing of the government they succeeded to secure 49.5% quotas for themselves after Independence.

What is needs to be done to create an inclusive society ?

  • Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to create an inclusive society. It makes all the efforts of government ineffective. ‘Caste-politics’ needs to be arrested at its earliest.
  • Concentrate on building up its infra structure.
  • Pay more attention to ‘educate all’.
  • Population explosion needs to be controlled in the North on priority basis. It has put severe strain on already over loaded system.
  • South India needs to overcome its anathema against Hindi language, North Indian people, their festivals and its culture. There has always been and still is resentment in the heart of south Indian people and politicians against North for its always remaining in prominence in national politics.
  • It is not the upper castes but the backward castes which need not be so tenacious on the subject of their caste.
  • All the Indians – whether living in South or North – must give-up caste-politics at its earliest and learn the lessons of self-reliance.
  • People must learn to prosper without the crutches of ‘Quota-system’.

[i]  Vipin Chandra,  Modern Indian, p 121.

[ii]   Tara Chand, ibid. p 515.

[iii] Tara Chand, ibid. p 516.

[iv] Zelhot Eleanor, Dr. Ambedkar and the Mahar Movement, p 141.

[v]  Prasad Rajendra, India Divided, p 136, and Mehta and Patwardhan,

    The Communal Triangle, p 72.


June 23, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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