Backsliding on caste

The Congress’s Brahmin mobilisation in Uttar Pradesh is a retrograde turn in its politics.

Written by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd | Published:October 10, 2016 12:14 am
sheila dikshit, congress candidate, congress politics, congress brahmin votes, congress brahmin politics, congress, congress brahmin, brahmin mobilisation, up politics, uttar pradesh politics, BJP, rahul gandhi, jitin prasada, Kanshi Ram-Mayawati, dalit, up elections 2017, up polls When demands came up for declaring its prime ministerial candidate during the 2014 elections, the Congress said that this was not its method of fighting elections. (Representational image)

The Congress has taken an extraordinary step by appointing a Brahmin chief ministerial candidate, Sheila Dikshit, for the Uttar Pradesh elections. The party appears to depend on Brahmins for its survival. Dikshit is the daughter-in-law of well known Congress politician, Uma Shankar Dikshit. Perhaps that connects her to the community.

When demands came up for declaring its prime ministerial candidate during the 2014 elections, the Congress said that this was not its method of fighting elections. In other state elections too it did not declare a CM candidate in advance. The party seems to have changed its position given the national environment created by regional parties and the BJP. Meanwhile Rahul Gandhi has concluded a 26-day Kisan Yatra across UP. While this gives the impression that Rahul is planning to mobilise all sections of the state, Sheila Dikshit’s candidature and the other steps taken by the party give the impression that it wants to mobilise the Brahmins as its core votebank.

It has been organising Brahmin sammelans under the leadership of Jitin Prasada and others. The Brahmins in that state constitute upto 13 per cent of the vote. If they come into the Congress fold, it is going to be a major electoral gain for the party. However, this move to align with a historically hegemonic caste, that still retains control in many spheres, will have serious implications for the nation. At a time when a social transformation is on track, the Congress has taken a retrograde step. This will be seen as Rahul’s initiative. Earlier, Mayawati mobilised Brahmins by changing the slogan of Gautam Buddha — bahujana hitaya, bahujana sukhaya — a slogan that was propagated by Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram, to sarvajana hitaya sarvajana sukhaya. Of course, she came to power in the 2007 elections with the support of the Brahmins. The problem is that the hita (welfare) of Dalits and the hita of Brahmins could not be put into the same basket.

Brahmins are the main writers and practitioners of Hindu scriptures and dharma and Dalits are its worst victims. They were treated as untouchables and outcastes in every sphere of life. The Buddha realised this fact 2,600 years ago.

Now, the Congress is doing much more harm than the BSP. It is not even socially uniting Dalits and Brahmins, but exclusively organising Brahmins, that too without having any social and spiritual reform agenda. Within the Congress, Brahmin leaders from UP like Janardan Dwivedi are anti-reservation. Dwivedi’s stand on reservation is similar to that of Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the RSS. In fact, Dwivedi’s statement just before the 2014 elections against reservations lost many votes for his party. The Congress should have refrained from rocking its own boat further by telling the country that it is a pro-Brahmin party at this stage of Indian democracy.

Even earlier, Rahul Gandhi had taken two contradictory steps within UP. One positive step, I felt, was his effort to mingle with Dalit families by eating and sleeping in their homes. This step had the promise of social reform. The second was a negative step: It was from UP that he declared himself a Brahmin, when the Brahmins of the state asked for more leadership positions. He said, on April 14, 2012, “I am a Brahmin and general secretary of the party”.

From his paternal grandfather’s side he cannot claim himself to be a Brahmin. Feroz Gandhi was a Parsi. Though Indira Gandhi had Brahmin parents, Sonia Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi can never claim to be Brahmins. Therefore, I thought he is in a better position to engage in transformative politics than any leader in the BJP. The present direction of his party indicates that he is organising his own caste — the greatest oppressor of the Dalit masses of India. Brahmin oppression should not be seen in terms of physical violence. It must be seen from the point of view of institutionalising a religion and a social system that cannot allow change.

This is not the same as Kanshi Ram-Mayawati or Mulayam Singh organising their own caste for political and social purposes. When the oppressed castes are organised there is a reformative aspect which has a transformative role. When the oppressive and hegemonic castes are organised, reform and transformation are negated. Rahul, as an educated person, knows this. The Congress, however, is organising Brahmins who even today are the most socially, educationally — and importantly, spiritually — top-most caste.

This is against all modes of social transformation. To organise them, Jitin Prasada has given an absurd argument: Brahmins have been without political power for 27 years, and hence they have every reason to organise on caste lines. If you look at the control of the Dwivedis, Trivedis, Chaturvedis, Dikshits, Bahugunas and so on in Delhi, in all parties and in temples, they are still the most powerful force in India. If this caste is directly mobilised, as the Congress is trying, it would run counter to the ethics of Ambedkarism.

All this must be seen against the backdrop of Rahul’s other steps to endear himself to Dalits in the recent past. In his Mhow speech at an Ambedkar seminar in 2015, he said he would work for “annihilating caste’’ in India based on the agenda of Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste. In his Ambedkar Jayanti speech at Nagpur last year, he said he would work to dismantle Manudharma. His hunger strike at Hyderabad University on January 30, 2016, demanding justice for Rohith Vemula, had electrified Dalits.

All over the country the Dalit-Bahujans have seen the Congress as a moderate reformist party. More than anybody Nehru had given that direction through his writings and convictions. Indira Gandhi’s garibi hatao, land reform, bank nationalisation and reservation efforts are seen as pro-Dalit. All that seems to be changing for the worse.

The writer is professor and director of Al Beruni Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad

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  1. A
    Amar Akbar
    Oct 9, 2016 at 10:10 pm
    In Christian church after church around the world, reports have come to light about children being molested by someone missionary padre priest bishop and nuns in the place where they should feel safest. The Roman Catholic Church is reeling from staggering financial judgments in lawsuits filed by molestation victims. Most of these cases have come into the spotlight many years after the secsxual molestations;br/gt;lt;br/gt;For decades, the Catholic Church quietly settled abuse cases out of court and shuffled peeadopile Chrisian priests to different parishes. Not until the early 1980s did the news media start digging into allegations that had surfaced in places such as New Orleans, Louisiana.1 In 1992, the Boston scandals began a nightmare of litigation for Roman Catholic diocese administrators in the United States. After more than a decade, the end of litigation is not yet in sight. This is just the start.
    1. R
      Oct 10, 2016 at 9:39 am
      I would have thought the Bible of all books would be about love and peace for the w world. I would never expected quotes from God or Jesus claiming only some ethnic groups were saved or that some were superior to others. But that is exactly what I;br/gt;lt;br/gt;First of all there is the constant claim that Jews are the “chosen people”. Now surely a history of the Jews should teach a strong lesson of the dangers of declaring one group of people superior to all others. It always ends in trouble. Just ask the Germans.
      1. J
        Oct 10, 2016 at 9:46 am
        Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts.” (1 Timothy 6:1-2)
        1. A
          Amar Akbar
          Oct 10, 2016 at 9:20 am
          One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Mahatma hi, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” I feel this quote more than adequately describes the disparity between Christ's teachings and many of his proclaimed followers. A term commonly thrown around the discourse of perceived atudes in regards to this Christian community is “holier than thou.” This atude can best be described as holding an opinion of one’s self that is expressed by erting their own opinions or actions are superior to another’s.
          1. B
            Oct 10, 2016 at 5:24 pm
            Brahmins are a bane for the world. They have already started introducing caste in the USA. They are the world's most cspable traitors. They will betray any country if their brahminism has to survive. Oh.. Another thing- they cannot survive without subjugating others, the others include all human beings irrespective of any country. On their migration from Western Iran, they had applied those qualities very well.
            1. A
              Oct 10, 2016 at 9:45 am
              In Bible, you are even allowed to beat your slave to death so long as it takes them longer than a day to die (I don’t know how that is any better). This is justified as the slave is a piece of;br/gt;lt;br/gt;“When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.” (Exodus 21:20-21)
              1. A
                Amar Akbar
                Oct 10, 2016 at 9:43 am
                The Bible says, You may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, ping them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.” (Leviticus 25:44-46)
                1. D
                  Oct 10, 2016 at 9:40 am
                  In Bible Deuteronomy chapter 7 the Christian God tells the Israelites that there are other ethnic groups living in the promised land. Does God tell them to live in peace and harmony with them, with everyone respecting each others’ differences? No he tells them “to smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them nor shew mercy unto them. Neither shalt thou make marriages with them.” (This isn’t the only time the Israelites exterminated others, see here) God commands the Israelites to exterminate another people, not for any crime but merely because they are a different ethnic group with a different religion. This exceeds even the Ku Klux Klan level of racism
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