Since the rise of Mandal consciousness in the 1990s, OBCs and Dalits have formed governments in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Now, a quarter of a century later, it is time to assess the achievements and failures of Mandal consciousness. In politics, it broke the centuries-old Savarna domination. For the first time, a large number of members of castes on the margins of society entered the elected bodies – the assemblies and Parliament. What the communists and Savarna-led parties could not do in the country, the people of UP and Bihar did. They brought Dalits and OBCs to power.
The Mandal leadership of Bihar stopped the BJP’s Ram Rath in the 1990s and, by awakening Dalit consciousness, gave a strong footing to secularism. It broke the monopoly of dominant caste groups in politics and the deprived and oppressed classes, for the first time, got space. A big chunk of Bihar’s people got a life of dignity. But is this enough? Can we say that this leadership, which has been dominating the scene for the past 25 years, has delivered?
Twenty-five years of a community or caste in power is no small deal. If one of the hallmarks of the leadership is its intention to get things done, even a much smaller duration is enough to take big decisions. An example is Karpoori Thakur of Bihar. Notwithstanding the odds stacked against him, he took a series of courageous decisions. The V.P. Singh government did not last long but it managed to implement the Mandal Commission report. But in Bihar, the 25-year-long Mandal rule has not been able to make effective interventions in economic, educational and other fields to bring about an improvement in the living standard of the Bahujans. No concrete initiatives were taken for initiating land reforms and nothing worthwhile was done in terms of development be it in education, health, agriculture or irrigation. Thus, the progress on the political front did not reflect in the other sectors.
No serious effort was made to bridge the gulf between the haves and have-nots in fields other than politics during the 25 years of Mandal Raj. In the initial years, it might have militated against political untouchability and domination but later, it was caught in the morass of many kinds of narrowness. It came to power with the mandate to free Indian politics from the stranglehold of casteism but soon, perhaps unwittingly, became the flag-bearer of the Manuvadi caste system. It became afflicted with the ills of the Congress and the BJP. To sum up, the conditions created by the Mandal rule have not been at all conducive to the creation of an egalitarian society. This article does not propose to focus on these aspects. Let us straightaway go to what the results of the survey say.
Media of caste or caste of media
Of the around 297 journalists working in seven Hindi dailies of Patna, 237 are Savarnas, 41 OBCs, 7, EBCs and one is a Dalit. Thus, 80 per cent of them are Savarnas, OBCs are 13 per cent, EBCs are 3 per cent and the caste of 4 per cent is not known. Brahmins form the biggest chunk. There are 105 (35 per cent) Brahmin journalists. If Kayasthas, Rajputs and Bhumihars are taken into account, the Savarna constituent will be 80 per cent. Rajputs are the second-biggest caste group, numbering 46 and constituting 16 per cent of the total. There are 45 (15 per cent) Kayasthas. Among the Savarnas, the number of Bhumihars is the least – 32 (11 per cent). The number of Savarna Muslims is 9, just 3 per cent of the total. There is only one backward Muslim journalist. Clearly, casteism has struck deeper roots among the Muslims.
Dainik Jagran is at the top as far as Savarna domination is concerned, with 90 per cent of its journalists hailing from this class. Only 6 per cent and 2 per cent are OBCs and EBCs respectively. Dainik Bhaskar is at the second position with 87 per cent Savarna journalists, Aaj is third (79 per cent), Hindustan is fourth (77 per cent), Prabhat Khabar is fifth (77 per cent) and Rashtriya Sahara is sixth (69 per cent). It is surprising that these newspapers talk of the 21st century, of modern thoughts and the idea of India but they themselves are steeped in casteism. Can we expect them to be fair? The Savarna domination of the media ensures that reality is suppressed and/or distorted and that coverage has a casteist and gender bias. The people of Bihar have seen many such instances. The people cannot forget how, after the murder of Brahmeshwar Mukhiya, who had committed hundreds of murders, the anti-social elements of a particular caste ran amok and the media shamelessly eulogized them. The Savarna media even had the temerity of comparing the murderer of hundreds with Mahatma Gandhi! On issues of reservation and social justice too, the attitude of the Savarna media has been reflecting its casteist hostilities. It has a casteist mindset, born of the Hindutva tradition. Perpetuating casteist domination and class inequality is the main agenda of this tradition.
Caste-wise figures of journalists working in newspapers published from Patna
|Newspaper||Number of Journalists||Upper Castes/ Other Upper Castes||Backward||Extremely Backward||Scheduled Castes||Scheduled Tribes||Unknown|
|E. other upper castes (Muslim, Jain, etc)||9||3|
|7. Caste unknown||11||4|
|Total (From 1 to 7)||297||100|
Note: Statistics pertaining to minorities and women were collected separately and have been separately quoted at relevant places. However, as a matter of principle, these figures have been added to the caste-wise figures
What is the reason that barring Rajendra Raman, who works for Rashtriya Sahara, there isn’t any other Dalit journalist? Jagran is known for its anti-Dalit stance but what about Bhaskar and Prabhat Khabar? What does one make of this? Why does this situation not perturb the theoreticians of social reform? What is even more strange is that we do not even ask why we have not been represented in the newspapers. We have confined ourselves to demanding reservations in the political setup. The numerical strength of Dalits has become a challenge for every political party. But the private sector has not had to face up to this challenge because we never made a concerted attempt to that end. We surrendered the fourth column of democracy to the Savarnas.
As for OBCs, in comparison with other newspapers published from Patna, their representation is higher (28 per cent) in Prabhat Khabar. The OBCs have the lowest representation in Dainik Jagran, where they form just 8 per cent of the journalists. Dainik Jagran has always been considered the newspaper of Brahmins. The number of women journalists is the highest in Dainik Hindustan – five. There are 3 women journalists in Prabhat Khabar, of which two are Brahmins and one is a Rajput. There are three women in Dainik Jagran – two Kayashthas and one Bania. Rashtriya Sahara has four women journalists in its rolls, of which one is an EBC and three are Savarnas, including a Kayastha, a Rajput and a Bhumihar. It is important to note that the presence of women in newsrooms is very thin and an overwhelming majority of them are Savarnas.
Of these seven popular newspapers with large circulations, four (Prabhat Khabar, Aaj, Dainik Jagran and Inext) have Brahmin and three (Rashtriya Sahara, Hindustan and Dainik Bhaskar) have Rajput editors. It is surprising that none of these newspapers could find a Bahujan editor, despite the huge population of this caste group. As we move upwards in the hierarchy within the newspaper organizations, Savarna domination increases. How important the caste of the editor is in a newspaper setup can be gauged from the situation in Prabhat Khabar. When the editor was a Rajput, most of the journalists were from the same caste and after a Brahmin took over, the number of Brahmin journalists shot up. It is these dominant casteist groups that have created a negative image of Bahujan leaders – whether Mulayam Singh, Lalu Yadav or Mayawati. It was for no reason that the first 15 years of Mandal Raj in Bihar was branded as Jungle Raj and as the rule of a thoroughly inefficient government. The casteist mindset was behind this branding. The same reflects in their treatment of issues concerning OBCs, Dalits and women. If the caste groups on the margins had a sizeable presence in decision-making positions in newspapers, casteist and gender biases would not have guided the newspapers.
Even a cursory study of the caste affiliations of the bureau chiefs of leading news agencies, publications and TV news channels in Patna would reveal a complete monopoly of the Savarnas. Over 90 per cent of the journalists working for media outfits such as UNI, PTI, BBC, NDTV, India TV, Star News, Indian Express, The Hindu, The Week and Lokmat Samachar are from the Savarna caste groups.
Savarna journalists head the features sections of Prabhat Khabar, Dainik Bhaskar, Hindustan and Dainik Jagran. Prabhat Khabar has commissioned only three (Savarna) columnists to write weekly columns on its Feature Live page. Are these three gentlemen the only authorities on the literature, culture, art and archaeology of Bihar? Do the writers and artistes from the caste groups on the margins completely lack the capacity to write on these topics? You will find such casteist bias in all newspapers of Bihar.
Both the houses of Bihar legislature have press advisory committees. But here too, the Savarnas dominate – they form 95 per cent of the members. The press advisory committee of Bihar Legislative Council has 29 nominated and 7 invited members, making it a total of 36. Of them, 30 are Savarnas, one is an OBC, three EBC and one, a Dalit. The situation is the same in the press advisory committee of Bihar Legislative Assembly. How and why is there this domination right under the nose of Mandal Raj? Is ensuring adequate representation of these classes in politics the be-all and end-all of Mandal Raj?
Temple of Justice and its presiding deities
The judiciary is a major power centre. Almost every judicial pronouncement affects the common man. The sanctioned strength of judges in the Patna High Court is 47, but at present it has only 28 judges. The rest of the positions have been lying vacant for years and neither the central nor the state government is bothered. The people of Bihar are paying the price of this indifference with thousands of cases pending for years. Among the judges, 21 are Savarnas, five are OBCs and two are EBCs (75 per cent, 18 per cent are OBCs and 7 per cent, respectively). Only three judges are from the minority communities – two Muslims and one Jain. This caste composition of the higher judiciary shows why one by one almost all the accused in the various massacres of Bihar were acquitted. Whether on the question of reservation or other issues related to the OBC-Dalits, these presiding deities of the temple of justice have been handing down biased verdicts.
Caste-wise figures of judges working in Patna High Court
Note: There are three judges from minority communities, among which two are Muslims and one is a Jain
There is another wing of the judiciary, the appointments to which are directly under the control of the state government. At the time of the survey, there were 13 additional advocate generals, 12 government advocates, 31 standing counsels and 31 government pleaders in Patna High Court. The total number of these judicial officers was 87, of which 66 were Savarnas, 12 were OBCs, 5 were EBCs and only 4 were Dalits. This was the situation when the OBCs, EBCs, Dalits and women played the most important role in bringing the current rulers to power. There were 34 (39 per cent) Bhumihars among them at a time when this community had the lowest-ever representation in the Bihar Assembly. There were 15 (17 per cent) Kayasthas, 7 (8 per cent) Brahmins and 5 (6 per cent) Rajputs. Overall, 76 per cent of these government appointees were Savarnas, 14 per cent were OBCs, 6 per cent were EBCs and only 4 per cent were Dalits. The number of these judicial officers from the minority communities was just seven.
Caste-wise figures of judicial officers working in Patna High Court
|Additional Advocate General||13||9||4||0||0||0|
Note: Of the total 87 judicial officers, 7 are Muslims.
Caste-wise figures of upper-caste judicial officers
|E. Other upper castes
(Muslim, Jain etc)
These figures showed that the government had not made new appointments to these posts for the last many years. This situation continued unchanged from the last regime of Nitish Kumar. If the Dalit-OBC representation in politics does not reflect in the judiciary, doesn’t it show the lack of will power on the part of the powers that be? When caste equations are taken into account in the constitution of the council of ministers, government committees and commissions, why is it not done in other crucial sectors? Here, it is important to note that the term of these judicial officers was three years each but they had been in their positions for more than six years. This indifference on the part of the Bihar government is costing the legal practitioners of the OBC and Dalit communities dear. There are thousands of competent and talented lawyers of these communities but the Mandalvadi leaders don’t care. To add insult to injury, it is being said that the lawyers of these communities are not competent to be appointed to these positions. Just for argument’s sake, if the interests of his family were at stake, would Lalu Yadav have allowed Savarna domination among judicial officers? This is government’s carelessness – pure and simple – and reflects its attitude towards the OBC-Dalit communities.
As the Subaltern was going to press, the government rejigged its team of judicial officers and now the percentage of Savarnas in it has fallen from 76 per cent to 25-30 per cent. The Bhumihar caste is the worst hit, with the number of its members falling from 34 to seven or eight. This is a welcome development and Subaltern sees it as a victory of its campaign. But what makes for a painful reading is that not a single Dalit figures in the list of new appointees.
A majority of the people of Bihar have been victims of the casteist bias of the judiciary and the caste composition of the judicial officers of the government is an example of it. All of us have been witness to the horrific massacres in Bihar and how the Patna High Court let off Savarnas accused in these crimes. People cannot forget how Narasimha Rao got bail and Suraj Mandal, jail; how Jagannath Mishra was bailed while Lalu Prasad was sent to prison. What can be the logic behind granting bail to the upper-caste accused and jail to the lower-caste ones in the same case?
Campuses in the grip of casteist domination
Caste-wise figures of principals of colleges affiliated to Patna & Magadh Universities
|1. Upper Caste||10||56|
|E. Other Upper Castes
(Muslim, Jain, etc)
|7. Caste unknown||0||0|
|Total (1 to 7)||18||0|
The character of universities shows what shape the establishment will take in the future. It is surprising that despite years of Dalit and OBC reservations, the character of these institutions remains unchanged. The administration wing of the Patna University has 11 officers, of which nine are Savarnas, one is an OBC and one is a Dalit. That Savarnas constitute 82 per cent of that unit of the university, which is responsible for enforcing rules and regulations, explains the negligible Dalit and Tribal presence in the institution. EBCs fare no better. While these communities form a sizeable chunk of the taught, their presence among the teachers is dismal. There are two training colleges under Patna University – Patna Women’s Training College and Patna Training College. The former has only one professor and the latter, just two. Posts are lying vacant in these colleges for the past several years but the government is unconcerned. This is the state of the institutions that train teachers. The government, probably, does not have time to ponder, “When there are no teachers, who will teach the next generation?” The situation in Patna Law College and Commerce College is no different. There are only six professors in the Law College and only five in the Commerce College. The story is more or less the same in other colleges of Patna University. There are 26 teachers in Patna Women’s College, 33 in Magadh Women’s College, 43 in BN College, 31 in Patna College and 54 in Science College. The lack of teachers in educational institutions bares the real motives of the government. Who are the students who are suffering due to the shortage of teachers? Eighty per cent of them are Dalits and OBCs and the government seems to be looking the other way. The principals of five of the ten colleges affiliated to the Patna University are Savarnas, three are OBCs, one is SC and one is ST (Christian). Of the 30 heads of departments in the University, 23 are Savarnas, three are OBCs, two are EBCs and two are SCs.
Caste-wise figures of teachers in Patna University
|1. Upper Caste||139||56%|
|E. Other upper Caste
(Muslim, Jain, etc)
|7. Caste unknown||2||1%|
|Total (1 to 7)||250||100%|
There are a total of 250 professors in 10 colleges affiliated to the Patna University. Of them 139 (56 per cent) are Savarnas, 57 (23 per cent) are OBCs, 30 (12 per cent) are EBCs, 12 (5 per cent) are SCs and 10 (4 per cent) are STs. The caste of two professors is not known.
Patna College is at the top in terms of Savarna domination. Here the number of Savarna teachers is 10 (65 per cent). The Science College comes next with 34 (64 per cent) Savarna teachers. In Patna Women’s College and Patna Training College, Savarnas form 50 per cent of the faculty. The corresponding figure for Magadh Mahila College is 49 per cent; for Arts College, 46 per cent; for College, 40 per cent; and for Law College, 33 per cent. There is only one teacher in Patna Women’s Training College who is a Dalit (Pasi caste). The share of the upper castes in BN College, which was once considered the bastion of the Savarnas, has declined. The representation of OBCs in the faculty of the college is 21 per cent while 33 per cent of the teachers are EBCs and 7 per cent are SCs. There is no Dalit teacher in Patna Science College, Patna Law College and Patna Training College. The situation in Patna Women’s College, in this respect, is different from all others. Here, after the Savarnas, the SCs (27 per cent) form the second biggest chunk of teachers. In this college, OBCs are 15 per cent and EBCs and SCs are four per cent each. Since the management of this college is in the hands of Christians, all castes find representation in this institution. Those who accuse Christians of proselytizing should study the social diversity of this college. Is a similar social diversity visible in RSS-run institutions?
Caste-wise figures of teachers in Magadh University
|1. Upper Caste||303||69|
|E. Other Upper Castes
(Muslim, Jain, etc)
|7. Caste unknown||0||0|
|Total (1 to 7)||442||100|
In the survey of Patna city, we covered 8 colleges of Magadh University, including AN College, College of Commerce, JD Women’s College, Arvind Mahila College, Ganga Devi Mahila College, Ramkrishna Dwarika College, Oriental College, Patna City and Guru Gobind Singh College, Patna City. Among the principals of these colleges, five are Savarna and three are OBC. Among the Savarnas, one is a Bhumihar, two are Rajputs and two are non-Hindu Muslim/Sikh Savarnas.
The percentage of Savarna teachers in colleges under Magadh University is higher than in the colleges affiliated to Patna University. Dalit teachers are 2 per cent in only two colleges – Arvind Mahila and Ganga Devi. In the rest, there is not a single Dalit teacher. Oriental College, Patna city, with 98 per cent of its teachers coming from Savarna Muslim castes, tops in terms of Savarna domination. Casteism is much more pernicious in the Muslim community than among the Hindus. Ganga Devi College is second in this respect with 88 per cent of its teachers being Savarnas. AN College and JD Women’s College, with Savarnas forming 81 per cent each of the faculty, are in third position. The percentages of Savarna teachers in Guru Gobind College, Arvind Mahila College and College of Commerce are 67, 66 and 55, respectively. Ramkrishna Dwarika College tops in terms OBC representation. There are 39 OBC teachers in the college, who constitute 75 per cent of the faculty. Specific caste groups have been established some colleges in Bihar and teachers from those caste groups outnumber others in such colleges. Ramkrishna Dwarika College is an example of such a college. There are 41 OBC teachers (38 per cent) in the College of Commerce out of a total of 108, the highest number of teachers in the colleges surveyed. Arvind Mahila College, Guru Gobind Singh College, JD Women’s College, AN College and Ganga Devi College have 27 per cent, 23 per cent, 17 per cent, 8 per cent and 8 per cent OBC teachers, respectively. The situation in the remaining three universities was disappointing, to say the least. In one of them, there were only four employees – something that can happen only in Bihar. All the employees of the Nalanda Open University are Savarnas. The Aryabhatt Gyan University is no better. Of the 10 teachers in the university, five are Savarnas, four are OBCs and one is an EBC. The vice-chancellor of this university is a Vaishya, the pro-vice-chancellor is a Savarna Muslim, the registrar and the deputy registrar are Rajputs and the controller of examinations is a Yadav. In the Chanakya Law University, of the 25 teachers, 20 are Savarnas (80 per cent) while 3 (12 per cent) are OBCs and one is a Christian (four per cent). The VC of the university is a Brahmin, the registrar is a Yadav and the controller of examinations and both deputy controller of examinations are Kayasthas.
So, this is the situation with respect to representation of Dalits, Tribals and OBCs in universities. One could not have imagined that the representation would be so skewed even in Mandal Raj. The Savarna castes have been always depriving the castes on the margins of education. Among the mythologized figures, Eklavya and Shambuk became victims of this brahmanical stratagem and in modern India, millions of Dalits, oppressed, OBCs and women. In the 21st century, we saw the same brahmanical stratagem in operation in Hyderabad Central University, where a nexus of Savarna teachers, students and administration harassed Rohit Vemula to such an extent that he was forced to take his own life. A repeat of that incident in Arts and Crafts College, Patna was prevented by the intervention of activists after a Dalit student Nitish attempted suicide twice. Such things will keep on happening till the biggest chunk of India’s population does not get its due share in institutions of higher learning. How long will the Bahujan government, which has been given mandate to bring about this change, keep on shirking its political and social responsibilities? The caravan of Bahujans is marching towards these institutions and it will not make much difference whether, or up to which point, the state marches with it.
Reality of other centres of knowledge and finance
The Subaltern team tried to find out the condition of Dalit-OBCs in NGOs, hotels, hospitals, publication houses and coaching institutes, among builders, etc in the private sector and reached the conclusion that there was as much imbalance in these institutions and professions as in the others. We collected data pertaining to 17 NGOs working in Patna and discovered that 15 belonged to upper castes and two to OBCs. A Dalit headed none of the NGOs. Kayasthas headed five NGOs; Rajputs, Bhumihars and Brahmins, three each; and Savarna Muslim, one. Among the OBCs, Kurmis and Vaishyas headed one NGO each. Thus, the representation of Savarnas in this sector was 82 per cent and of OBCs, 12 per cent. We selected 10 international donor agencies and found that Savarnas led 9 and OBCs led the remaining 1. This shows that the newly emerging social sector, which claims to be different, is also dominated by Savarnas.
Caste-wise figures pertaining to some private enterprises (%)
Upper Caste/ Other Upper Caste
Note: These percentages have been calculated on the basis of random sampling. For this, 10-20 leading enterprises of seven sectors were selected. The parameters of professional agencies were used to select leading enterprises.
There was a time in Bihar when ownership of agricultural land was the parameter for measuring the prosperity of a caste, but now farming is no longer economically viable. Savarnas are leaving their farms and moving towards and investing their capital in education, health and other sectors because they know that in the coming days, only these sectors will bring in income for them. With growing urbanization, realty has become a highly profitable business and the Savarnas have entered it in a big way. We prepared a list of top 10 builders of Patna. We found that five of them were Rajputs, one was a Savarna Muslim, one was a Bhumihar and three were Kurmis. Thus, 70 per cent of the builders are Savarnas and 30 per cent are OBCs.Note: These percentages have been calculated on the basis of random sampling. For this, 10-20 leading enterprises of seven sectors were selected. The parameters of professional agencies were used to select leading enterprises.
Hotels are another profit-making enterprise in the private sector. We surveyed 15 top hotels of the city. The owners of 73 per cent of hotels were Savarnas and the others belonged to OBCs. Here also, Dalits had zero representation. Bhumihars owned four hotels, Rajputs and Savarna Punjabis owned two each, Kayastha one, Brahmin one and Yadavs and Kurmis two each.
Among the 10 top coaching institutes in the city, Savarnas own 8 and OBCs and EBCs one each. In the health sector, among the 10 top hospitals surveyed, 9 had Savarna owners and an OBC owned the remaining one. It is thus clear that even after 25 years of Mandal Raj and after several decades of reservations for Dalits, a handful of castes control all financial and educational nerve centres of the city and a big chunk of the population is still on the margins.
In the interregnum, innumerable obituaries of Mandal movement were written and it was repeatedly announced that the agenda of social justice has been fulfilled and that Bahujans are on the rise and the elites are on the decline in all sectors of society. Our study rubbishes this belief. What we can say with complete confidence is that the Savarnas are in as much control of sources of knowledge and money as they were earlier. The cataclysmic changes in the political sector have not affected them at all.
The survey shows that some Bahujans are entering these centres of money and power. They are propelled by the stimulus provided by the Mandal movement. Since this survey was based on quantitative figures, it could not capture that stimulus. The Subaltern team is hopeful that these conclusions will give a positive direction to the Bahujan energy and they will launch a campaign for capturing the sources of knowledge and money with a renewed vigour.
The authors carried out this survey with the help of the Subaltern magazine (Patna) team