Vaishnav Chandals of Legislative Politics

What has happened in Tamil Nadu is nothing new in Indian legislative politics. During the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the tone of the father-son duo of the Samajwadi party had turned distinctly anti-Dalit. The SP has openly voiced its opposition to reservation for tribals and Dalits in promotions in the government sector. The party has also been holding ‘Brahmin conventions’

P. Haridas, a reader of ‘The Hindu’ writes from Chennai that PMK leader S. Ramadoss has been a strong votary of the unity of Dalits and Vanniyar’s ever since his party came into being. Vanniyar is one of the Backward castes. However, of late. Ramadoss seems to have lost much of his political clout and he is pretty upset with the Dalits. The suicide by K. Nagaraj, a Vanniyar, in the village of Nathan, Dharmapuri district gave Ramadoss an opportunity to vent his spleen against the Dalits. Nagaraj’s daughter had married a Dalit and he felt that the marriage had not only dented the honour of his family but had also heaped humiliation on his caste. In the wake of Nagaraj’s suicide, Dalit houses in Nathan village were set ablaze. Their vehicles were also consigned to fire. Hindi newspapers did not give much importance to the issue but the English newspapers have given extensive coverage to this socio-political phenomenon. S. Ramadoss has launched a bitter diatribe against the Dalits and has even demanded a ban on inter-caste marriages. This is an extension of the commonly-held view of Backward intellectuals that inter-caste marriages cannot break the caste system.

What has happened in Tamil Nadu is nothing new in Indian legislative politics. During the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the tone of the father-son duo of the Samajwadi party had turned distinctly anti-Dalit. The SP has openly voiced its opposition to reservation for tribals and Dalits in promotions in the government sector. The party has also been holding ‘Brahmin conventions’.

It is probably for the first time in the history of Indian politics that parties advocating the cause of social justice have left Hindutvavadi parties far behind in the aggressiveness of their anti-Dalit stance. When reservation was introduced in services under the Government of India, the Dalit castes took on the anti-reservationists. Post-Mandal a Backward-Dalit political leadership emerged. The Backwards cornered the lion’s share of power. Subsequently, two distinct tendencies became very palpable.

First, the Dalit leadership that emerged in parliamentary institutions saw the leadership of the Backwards as akin to social fascism. It was during Karpoori Thakur’s reign that the Belchi massacre took place in Bihar. It was seen as a violent assault on Dalits by a Backward caste. But at that time, there was also a great anger against the incident among the Backward castes. In Parliament, Ram Avdesh Singh gave voice to this anger. Some analysts saw in the attack and its opposition the internal contradictions between dominant Backward castes. These contradictions again came to the fore in the battle for domination between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav. Till 1990, Congress was known for sowing seeds of division between Backwards and Dalits in parliamentary politics.

On the other hand, attempts have been made to unite Backwards, Dalits, Tribals and Muslims, who, together, constitute 90 per cent of the voters. The ideological battle against Brahmanism entered the arena of parliamentary politics in this form. After 1990, when Backwards, Dalits and to some extent minorities came together, the tribals were left out but in this unity, many saw a possibility of the advancement of ideological battle against Brahmanism. However, there was no co-ordination between the ideological battle against Brahmanism and parliamentary politics. Brahmanism wriggled its way into parliamentary politics. The Sangh Parivar, the votary of Brahmanism, opposed the recommendations of the Mandal commission and its parliamentary wing, the BJP took out the Ram Rathyatra.

In those days, the castes which suffered the most under Brahmanism were placed at the forefront of the communal attacks. The slogan of ‘social engineering’ followed and it became the flag-bearer of Brahmanism. The Babri Masjid was razed to the ground under the leadership of Kalyan Singh, who was called a Backward. The character of communal violence has changed. The violence is being perpetrated by Backwards, Dalits or Tribals. The ‘social engineering’ of Brahmanical forces has succeeded in the sense that the Backwards, Dalits and Tribals have become their foot soldiers. Brahmanism is also known for producing ‘Vaishnav Chandals’ (Members of a low caste who were given nominal ‘diksha’). There are many Brahmanical parties. The Backward, Dalit and Tribal leadership of other parties want power of Brahmanism rather than the end of Brahmanism. The ideology of Ramadoss, Mulayam and Nitish is the ideology that led to the creation of ‘Vaishnav Chandals’.

Published in the January 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine


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