The Politics of Caste

India is a land of rich culture and heritage with an exuberant ancient civilization. But beneath the veil is one exclusive feature of Indian Hindu culture, which was hidden away from the awful praise of our tradition and at the same time less conceived by foriegn societies.

A foreign historian who wonders and respects Indian culture may throw a surprise when he/she comes across the caste and class system in India which unfortunately is still prevalent.

We Indians studied in institutions, where everyone had little or no knowledge about the caste of their classmates. We are living in harmony with other caste people in colleges as well as workplaces. I have a circle of friends who belong to forward caste, Backward caste, Scheduled caste and also Muslims and Christians. And we are living peacefully in harmony like most of us. There is no such a thing called caste which divided friends in our society.

If this kind of social harmony exists for next few generations, there would be no class divisions in our society and we can live happily for ever.

But, in natural, every story has a wicked villan and in this one too “Power and Politics” has been creating taller hurdles for our hero whose name is “Social Development”.

Caste has played an important role in political arena across various states in India. Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Haryana saw the caste as a prominent factor in dictating the electoral fortunes. It is a valuable triumph card for our politicians in their gamble for power. They have been unknowingly creating a social divide among people with their obsession for upliftment of backward classes. Many promises were made by them in haste which went unfulfilled later finally making the innocent electorate feel deceived.

My motivation to write this piece came from various news reports which I was reading for two months where the term Dalit appeared quite often. It started with Dr.B. R. Ambedkar’s 125th birth celebrations in April across the country and continued with the de recognition of a student study circle in IIT Madras and it is still going on with a BJP minister who appeared to be trying to claim Kamaraj’s legacy in Virudunagar, Tamil Nadu on the occasion of the latter’s 113th birth anniversary.

In most of the cover stories I came across in print media, political parties have been at the receiving end by social scientists who blamed them for the still existing class divide in Indian society. Instead of reducing the caste divide among us which was strengthened during British Raj, they have been unknowingly promoting it for their personal greed which in turn is harming the social development of India.

Why does social development of a country never comes into picture during an election campaign and why does these politicians and media houses bother about the upliftment of Dalits. These people have been empowering Dalits since Independence and I wonder how long they would empower them.

I agree that still, there are few people in Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes whose social and economic conditions are at lower levels, but these false and unaccountable promises in the disguise of an agenda for social development has to be considered seriously by all of us.

Feature Image : Periyar E. V. Ramasamy and Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar by Feroz Khan, CC BY NC-SA-2.0

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