Nitish shouldn’t fan the embers of caste politics
To avert the crisis emanating from his political and governmental inadequacies, Nitish Kumar once again escalated his demand for a caste census.
New Delhi: Don’t Nitish Kumar, Rahul Gandhi, Tejashwi Yadav, Lalu Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav, Mulayam Yadav invoke the name and ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar? They do it constantly. But then why are the embers of caste politics – through demands for a caste census – being fanned in Bihar at a time when Uttar Pradesh is pursuing its development agenda? Bihar has been the center of Buddhist and Jain pilgrimage for centuries. The basis of Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism is the abolition of the caste system. Likewise, there is no provision for caste in Christianity. There is no mention of castes in the original Vedic texts. In the current era, the sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a strong supporter of Hindu religion and Hindutva (current and ancient as well), proposes the principle of calling the whole society (including the minority) only Hindu and Indian instead by caste designations.
Leaders like Nitish, Lalu, Mulayam who fuss around the ideals of Jayaprakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia raise the issue of caste empowerment to divide the votes of candidates to come and stay in power. After independence, Vice President Singh’s role in fanning the caste fire will be remembered as having unfolded the most horrific and shameful chapter in Indian history. In Bihar, Nitish Kumar and JDU are not in sufficient numbers but got the post of chief minister with the support of the biggest party Bharatiya Janata. To avert the crisis emanating from his political and governmental inadequacies, Nitish Kumar once again escalated his demand for a caste census. This demand has also been raised in some other states in the past. The Congress/UPA government led by Manmohan Sonia attempted to have the 2011 census conducted on a caste basis to satisfy the allies. But the Manmohan government used to work in a lukewarm manner. Therefore, later the government said that there were many errors in the census report and it was not published at all.
The dispute reached the Supreme Court last year. The central government, while presenting its position to the Supreme Court, made it clear that a caste-based census was difficult. 4,147 castes were mentioned in the census carried out by the British government about 110 years ago, i.e. in 1931.
In the 2011 census after independence, the number of castes was much higher. The reason is that the same caste is known by different names in different regions. Not only that, it is spoken and written differently. Based on caste-sub-caste, there are parties, leaders, election candidates, manifestos and broken promises. In caste conventions, rulers are respected based on their turbans, dupattas, swords, etc. support him too much. Now, the Bihar government will hold formal meetings on the matter and it is possible that the resolution will be adopted and sent to the central government and the president.
There is also an interesting aspect to this political wager. The central government has JDU ministers. When the central government takes a decision, these ministers are also associated with this decision. Similarly, the BJP is part of the Bihar government and Nitish’s decision includes its ministers. Then, the contradictory positions of the two parties are highlighted on the census of castes. This proves that it’s all about politics. The game of deceiving the public will put obstacles in the way of Bihar’s progress. As for BJP and RSS, they cannot change their declared principle of Hindutva. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spent most of his life with the Sangh. Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat has clearly said that continuous efforts should be made to eliminate the caste system. Not just the Sangh/BJP, earlier the Congress was also at odds with regional caste parties on the reservation issue. Therefore, instead of listing caste in the census, details of citizen and family incomes should be kept. This will provide enough data to improve socio-economic conditions. For example, among the backward classes, the benefits of reservation are available even to some influential castes, while people from other castes are left behind. Rajiv Gandhi, after becoming Prime Minister, made a scathing remark against the reserve to me in an interview (March 2, 1985) and said: “All reserve policy should be reconsidered. This arrangement was made to solve social problems, but it became politicized. Now our society has changed a lot and progress has been made. The time has now come to reconsider this policy. We need to keep the reservation system for the truly downtrodden and poor, but if this is extended deserving people won’t be able to go anywhere. We are going to raise fools and it will harm the whole country. It was published prominently, but there was no protest. Today, perhaps no party leader would publicly say such a thing.
Later, Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet colleague VP Singh rebelled against the Congress and with the issue of the Mandal Commission and the reserve, he took advantage of the power politics for two years, but then his government is gone. Now in Bihar, Rahul Gandhi’s allies marching to take Tejashwi Yadav’s side have started backing caste registration and reservation. By trying to divert attention from such unnecessary issues, will some political parties gain wider public support and electoral benefits?
The author is Editorial Director of ITV Network India News and Dainik Aaj Samaj.