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The Dalitbahujan should know that only a cultural movement can bring about lasting change

Leaders like Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav successfully united the OBCs. That mobilization brought the OBCs to power in the two states. However, the OBCs here became only politically conscious. For want of a parallel cultural movement, this consciousness did not last long, says Shrawan Deore

Of late, politicians in some states are aggressively batting for a caste census. In other states, voices demanding the exercise are becoming increasingly audible. Caste census was the matter of heated debates in Parliament from 2011 to 2013. Although Parliament no longer seems to have any interest in the issue, the demand for a caste census is being vociferously raised in Bihar – this despite the fact that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power in Bihar and at the Centre both, has been consistently opposed to the idea. 

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s sudden love for caste census is driven by political considerations. He is trying to counter the BJP in his state. Even earlier, he had used the issue only as an election gimmick. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP would never support caste census as they feel it would be politically suicidal for them. Nitish Kumar probably believes that the RSS-BJP will not allow a caste census even if it means pulling down his government. But Nitish’s hands were forced when Tejashwi Yadav called for a struggle from “Bihar to Delhi” in support of the demand. Now, Nitish is trying to appease Tejashwi as well. In Bihar, even the BJP is backing the demand. 

In the past, there have been several instances of aggressive proponents of social justice bringing the brahmanical BJP-RSS to their knees. But it is rare for OBC leaders to unitedly and aggressively raise an issue.

The demand for a caste census is gaining ground in Maharashtra courtesy of Sharad Pawar. It is entirely possible that Pawar is just indulging in political one-upmanship. Had it not been so, like in Bihar, he could also have convened an all-party meeting in Maharashtra. If that had been done, the BJP would have been forced to attend the meeting and support a caste census. To obviate such a possibility, the BJP has let the Central Bureau of Investigation loose on Pawar. The central agency has arrested Avinash Bhonsle. It is said that if you hold someone’s nose, his mouth opens. But here, the nose is being pressed to keep the mouth shut. 

Why are the OBC leaders of Maharashtra and other states not as passionate on OBC issues as those from Bihar and Tamil Nadu? Whether the question is of political reservations for the OBCs or caste census, they are raised only for winning political brownie points. There is no real attempt at finding a solution. Why so? You get nothing for free in politics. Winning elections is important in democracies and you need vote banks to win elections. How important any vote bank is depends on the number of voters involved and the level of consciousness among them. In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, OBCs became conscious in the wake of the implementation of the Mandal Commission report. Leaders like Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav successfully united the OBCs. That mobilization brought the OBCs to power in the two states. However, the OBCs only became politically conscious in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. For want of a parallel cultural movement, this consciousness did not last long. Only political consciousness cannot help end caste-based discrimination. This hegemonic order seeks to perpetuate the dominance of Brahmins, and the BJP used it to the hilt during the Ram Temple movement. 

Lalu and Mulayam were preoccupied with turning their parties into family fiefdoms. As Yadavs outnumbered other castes, the number of those from the community winning elections kept on increasing. The opposition launched a smear campaign alleging that two parties were parties of Yadavs. This led to a polarization between the majority and minority OBC castes, which benefited the BJP. This was similar to the polarization between Jatav and non-Jatav Dalits that had led to the downfall of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). 

We will have to admit that it was their cultural movement that made Brahmanism invincible. That is why, despite numerous cases of injustice with and atrocities against the Dalits and the OBCs, the BJP is in power in both Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The OBC-dominated Uttar Pradesh and Bihar played a key role in bringing the BJP to power in Delhi. Brahmins, who form just 3.5 per cent of the population, outsmarted the majority of the people and secured power easily. 

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad and Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav

In the ancient times, when there was no democracy, they established their cultural dominance through rituals like yagnas. The Varna system helped them win and retain power. Buddha had to launch a virtual war against the yagna-centric violent brahmanical culture. Buddha emerged victorious and the Brahmins were deprived of power for over 1,000 years. Then they struck back. The counter-revolution, which began with the assassination of the last Mauryan emperor Brihadratha by his general Pushyamitra Shung, culminated in the total destruction of centres of Buddha consciousness like viharas and vidyapeeths. What followed was the victory march of the Brahmins. 

The Brahmins launched a cultural war through the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas, and fashioned a new caste system and consolidated their hold on power. 

Today, the cultural war is being fought around these epics and mythological tales. Parshuram, who beheaded his mother and purged the earth of Kshatriyas 21 times, is the progenitor of the brahmanical culture; Ram, who killed Shambuk, a Shudra, is its idol; Krishna, who insulted Karna by addressing him as Sut putra (the son of a charioteer), is their saviour; Vamana, who condemned Baliraja to the netherworld, is god’s incarnation to them. They portrayed their gods, their idols and their incarnations as victors and Bahujan warriors like Baliraja, Shambuk, Karna, Ravana and others as the vanquished. This led to the Bahujans developing a defeatist mentality. 

That is the reason that, despite numerical superiority, the Bahujans are under the thumb of the Brahmins and lack the urge to fight brahmanical injustice and atrocities. If the majority of the people of the country want to lead their lives with dignity, they will have to fight a cultural war against the Brahmins. Jotirao Phule and Ambedkar have already initiated the war. 

Just recall how the OBC-Bahujan people of Tamil Nadu successfully fought a “non-brahmanical cultural war” with the result that brahmanical forces like the RSS, the BJP and the Congress are nowhere to be seen in that state and the Bahujans are leading a dignified life. 

Bahujans must realize that this is the only way they can hope for freedom from the thraldom of the Brahmin class. 

(Translation: Amrish Herdenia; copy-editing: Anil)

Forward Press also publishes books on Bahujan issues. Forward Press Books sheds light on the widespread problems as well as the finer aspects of Bahujan (Dalit, OBC, Adivasi, Nomadic, Pasmanda) society, culture, literature and politics. Contact us for a list of FP Books’ titles and to order. Mobile: +917827427311, Email: info@forwardmagazine.in)

The titles from Forward Press Books are also available on Kindle and these e-books cost less than their print versions. Browse and buy:

The Case for Bahujan Literature

Mahishasur: A people’s hero

Dalit Panthers: An Authoritative History

Mahishasur: Mithak wa Paramparayen

The Common Man Speaks Out

Jati ke Prashn Par Kabir

Forward Thinking: Editorials, Essays, Etc (2009-16)

About The Author

Shrawan Deore

Shrawan Deore became associated with the progressive movement in 1978 while he was still in college. He joined the movement for the implementation of the Mandal Commission’s recommendations in 1982. He has been elected the vice-president of the Maharashtra OBC Association. In 1999, Deore set up the OBC Seva Sangh for the OBC Employees and Officers and became its general-secretary. He is often the main speaker and chief guest at events organized in different parts of Maharashtra to raise awareness among the OBCs.

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