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Caste Census: Just or Unjust?

08 July, 2010

Bahujan Students' Front Statement on Caste Census


NEW DELHI: There is a fierce controversy raging on in the country today pertaining to the issue of inclusion of caste in the decennial census in India. The Census, to be fully carried out in the year 2011 is all set to become one of the biggest exercise of its kind in terms of counting the no. of human heads, their livelihood, lifestyle, educational & employment status etc.. This ongoing controversy mainly pertains to the inclusion of ‘caste’ as one of the parameters in the census for the first time since 1931. The majority of the people in the country are in favour of caste based census yet the ruling manuvadi class is fighting tooth & nail to get the column of ‘caste’ excluded from the ongoing census. Though the reason for their opposition is not difficult to understand, it is important to study & understand this issue in historic perspective, read in tandem with the present day circumstances and the ongoing debate on this issue. Even the main political parties in the country like the Congress, BJP, Communists (CPM, CPI and others) etc have taken an ambivalent stand and they are yet to come out with their clear cut stand on this issue.

The main argument being forwarded by the manuvadi class against the caste based census is that the inclusion of caste in the ongoing census would fragment the society on caste lines and (as they put it) rip apart the social fabric of the country. The question is-Why is the inclusion of caste in census is an important issue in the present day socio-political context? Why are some people trying to oppose tooth & nail the inclusion of caste? Whether the inclusion of caste will lead towards disintegration of the country- or alternatively, it will further strengthen the democratic moorings of the Indian society leading towards a more equitable & just society? All these questions require a deep analysis and debate because this issue will affect not just the present but also the future generations of the country, especially those hailing from the historically oppressed and exploited sections of the society.

As it is a well known fact population census is carried out in India every 10 years, in the first year of the decade (such as …..1981, 1991, 2001, 2011 & so on). This practice started during the British rule because the then British govt wanted to study the intricacies of Indian society. The British Scholars like Risley devoted their life for such studies. They carried out extensive research on the system of caste hierarchy prevalent in the Indian society since time immemorial. Besides, in-depth studies on their religious affiliations, occupations, rituals etc were are carried out in great details. For the first time in hundreds of years, the djinn of caste with its grotesque & gruesome face came out before the world. In the subsequent dicennial census, many other facets of caste psychology,caste behaviour, caste relationships, caste violence etc. also came out in open. In short, the ugly face of brahminical social order was for everyone to see. No surprise, it helped the social revolutionaries who had started their struggles against the brahminical social order in a big way also benefited a great deal with these researches and studies.

As far as the present controversy regarding the caste census is concerned, it mainly pertains to the enumeration of the backward castes in the country, which were counted as a distinct social group till 1931, a practice discontinued thereafter.
Those who are opposing the inclusion of caste in the census are forwarding the argument that if caste is included, it will lead to the ’disintegration of social fabric’ (what that exactly means is known only to them) of the country. This is no secret that for thousands of years, India has have to carry the scourge of caste on its shoulders. The victims of caste (mainly the SCs/STs & OBCs) have had to face innumerable problems like social exclusion, exploitation and oppression in the name of caste. All that was designed to benefit a handful of privileged castes who wanted to maintain their social hegemony and superior status at all costs. All these historically beneficent castes have suddenly become the strong opponent of caste. What is the reason behind this sudden opposition must be understood by the “victims of caste” who have been denied all opportunities to progress in life since the past two thousand years.

Mandal Agitation: It is pertinent to remember here that during the anti-Mandal Commission agitation in the early 90s, one of the main argument forwarded by the manuvadi class that since no accurate data is available regarding the exact nos. of OBCs, their socio-economic profile etc., it won’t be justified to implement this Report (that recommended 27% reservation for OBCs in Govt jobs, Education etc)without an exact count of the OBCs.They knew that by forcefully forwarding this argument, they can further delay the implementaion of Mandal Report by many more years (2001 or even later). Their main argument was that last OBC census took place in 1931 and Mandal Commission has based its studies heavily on this 1931 census data that has become obsolete and irrelevant now. Hence it would be not only illogical but also constitutionally untenable to implement this Report. Ironically, the same manuvadi class is now opposing tooth & nail the OBC count in the ongoing census 2011. Doesn’t that point towards a calculated conspiracy by them to deny the OBCs their due share in the political & economic space in the country? Do they fear that once the OBCs come to know about their real numerical strength vis a vis their dismal share in governance & economy in the country, they will demand their due share?

As soon as the issue of caste census came out in open a few weeks back, the whole manuvadi class is up against it. Although the majority SC/ST/OBC and Religious Minorities are largely in favour of this caste census, a large section of the Indian media is giving lopsided coverage to the other side of the story. Patently false and spurious arguments against caste census are being propagated to create an impression that there are dangers of civil unrest (without qualifying as to by whom- the ones in support or those opposing it) in the country if caste is included in the census. This is just a ploy to create a sense of fear in the minds of people so that they oppose caste census without understanding its long terms impact on the development of the OBC category people who constitute as good as 50% population in the country. Its ironical, rather hilarious to see as to how desperate the historically privileged manuvadi class of this country is behaving today when they see that the hidden layers their age old hegemonic and monopolistic empire are going to be unmasked through this caste census.

The entire Congress-UPA govt is still maintaining an ambivalent silence on this whole issue. Other main political parties like BJP, Communists are also sending confusing signals without specifying their clear cut stand on this issue. The reason for their this ambivalence in not difficult to decipher. Their leaders don’t want to be seen as anti OBCs (for the fear of losing OBC votes) even while secretly working towards implementation of their parochial social agendas.

It’s time for the majority SC/ST/OBC/Religious Minority sections of the society to come together and press for inclusion of caste in 2011 census. It must be remembered that census is not just a “number game” but has serious socio-political repurcusions for a significant section of the Indian society, especially the OBC sections. Hence it is of utmost importance for the Backward Communities to stand up-and be counted.
Jai Bheem! Jai Bharat!!

Issued by Bahujan Students’ Front New Delhi, July 7, 2010


Raghunath Prasad Saket

(National President)
Bahujan Students' Front
Contact: 09968591765