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‘Annihilation of Caste’ agenda takes political centre stage again

The cultural prowess of the BJP can be countered only by a political party which draws strength from a cultural revolution. Today, there is only one such party in the country. And that is the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Under the leadership of M.K. Stalin, the party has entered the national political arena at the right time, writes Shrawan Deore

The brahmanical camp has been hatching umpteen conspiracies and employing diverse tactics to ensure that annihilation of caste doesn’t become a part of the national agenda. The British ruled the country till 1947 and as such, it was easy for Phule, Shahu, Periyar, Ambedkar and others to make annihilation of caste a national issue. It was due to the pressure mounted by Jotirao Phule’s Satyashodhak movement that the British government was forced to conduct a caste census from the year 1872 onwards. This was the first attempt at pushing the question of caste centre stage in modern history. 

Then, in 1902, Shahuji Maharaj caused deep consternation among the Brahmins of the entire country by promulgating a law reserving 50 per cent positions in services under his state for the non-Brahmins. Next, in 1932, Ambedkar challenged Gandhi, the leader of the Brahmins, face-to-face at the Round Table Conference. 

However, post Independence, the complete Brahmin domination of the government and the administration and the policies implemented by them, pushed the agenda of annihilation of caste to the margins. With that end in view, caste census was stopped, Hindu Code Bill was aborted and Ambedkar was ousted from national politics in a humiliating manner. Within a decade of India becoming a republic, using the Supreme Court as a tool, an attempt was made to take away the right to reservations granted to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by the Constitution from these communities. However, an aggressive OBC movement, led by Ramasamy Periyar, forced the government to make the first amendment to the Constitution. At the time, the issue of caste-based discrimination was at the top of the nation’s political agenda. But soon the focus of the movement shifted to the opposition to the imposition of the Hindi language. As a result, it became confined to the Madras Province and could not gain all-India traction. 

Then Nehru tried to push the issue of caste out of the national agenda by entrusting the responsibility of implementing the recommendations of the Kalelkar Commission to the state governments. The Brahmins, apparently, believed they would be able to sideline the issue of annihilation of caste by reducing it to a state-level matter. But that only made it more prominent. The OBCs began emerging as an independent political force in states dominated by the community. Karpoori Thakur in Bihar, Ramnaresh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh and Annadurai in Tamil Nadu managed to build a political culture with annihilation of caste as its motto. This state-level politics consolidated into a national-level political force in the form of the Janata Party. Next, the Mandal Commission was constituted.    

About ten years later, the Janata Dal emerged from the reconstituted Third Front. What it did was something the Brahmin lobby had never anticipated. Due to the growing clout of the OBCs in politics, the then Union government led by Prime Minister V.P. Singh was compelled to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission. That paved the way for the socially and educationally backward classes securing 27 per cent reservation in government jobs.

With the implementation of the Mandal Commission report, the issue of annihilation of caste catalyzed a radical transformation of national politics. This was a period of deep discomfiture for the Brahmins. They were in hot water. However, they soon gathered their wits and emerged victors by hatching one conspiracy after another and by making four deft strategic moves. The most important one among them was usurpation of the distinct religious and cultural identity of the OBCs. And this they did by promoting divisive Hindu-Muslim and Mandir-Masjid politics. 

As part of their second stratagem, they propped up leaders of different OBC castes in all the political parties with the objective of blunting the sociopolitical prowess of OBCs as a single unit. They succeeded in their endeavours. Third, they instigated the smaller OBC castes against the numerically bigger castes like Yadavs, Kunbis, Kurmis and Malis which had a history of battling Brahmin hegemony. In this way, they sowed the seeds of division among the OBC castes. 

The setting up of the G. Rohini Commission was a part of this stratagem. It was clear that the smaller OBC castes would gain nothing from the commission but that division among the OBCs would surely benefit the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Renke Commission played the same role vis-à-vis the nomadic and the denotified castes. The commission, appointed in 2006 during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule, submitted its report in 2008. Some of its recommendations were really good. But the BJP government, by appointing the Idate Commission, rendered even those redundant.

Thus the Renke and the Dada Idate Commissions did not bring any direct benefits to the OBCs but the Congress and the BJP did succeed making the nomadic and denotified communities breaking ranks with the OBCs. The fourth stratagem of the Brahmin camp was to draw the Dalit leaders to the RSS-BJP camp by throwing crumbs at them. 

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin

The Brahmins succeeded because they had diligently studied the thinking of Ambedkar, which called for a union of the Dalits, the OBCs and the Adivasis, to annihilate caste. 

All the four stratagems employed by the Brahmins under the banner of the RSS-BJP were a big success all over the country, barring Tamil Nadu, where no trick played by the Brahmins has succeeded for the past 50-55 years.  

Now, another attempt is underway in the country to forge an alliance to take on the RSS-BJP. But what is significant is that the proposed alliance, hopefully, will be qualitatively different from similar alliances in the past. 

The Congress wants to assume the leadership of this alliance with issues like “Save the Constitution” and “Save Democracy”. The RSS-BJP is hardly perturbed by this development. A Gujarat court sentencing Rahul Gandhi to two years in jail and the subsequent termination of his Lok Sabha membership are aimed at projecting him as the Enemy-in-chief of the BJP. Efforts are being made to ensure that Rahul becomes the de facto leader of the proposed alliance. 

But the point is that the battle against the RSS-BJP cannot be won merely by invoking Rafael and Adani. We should understand that the Brahmins had to resort to religio-social politics in the name of Ram to neutralize the impact of the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations. They were also forced to try to polarize the nation on the issue of Mandir-Masjid and use Rohini, Renke and Idate Commissions to divide the OBCs.   

Also, we should not forget that only anti-Congressism did not lend strength to the BJP. It gained strength by implementing its agenda, by sticking to its ideology. The BJP’s anti-democracy and anti-Constitution stance is only a façade. Basically, it is driven by a brahmanical mindset and wants to somehow dump the agenda of annihilation of caste.  

Against this backdrop, we cannot hope to defeat the BJP merely by raising worn-out slogans like “Save Democracy” and “Save Constitution”. The BJP draws its strength from cultural counter-revolution. And a cultural revolution is the only way to counter it. The cultural prowess of the BJP can be countered only by a political party which draws its strength from a cultural revolution. Today, there is only one such party in the country. And that is the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). Under the leadership of M.K. Stalin, the party has entered the national political arena at the right time.

We need to remember that the DMK was fathered by the anti-Brahmanism movement. Periyar was a leading light of the Congress in South India. At one time, he was very close to Gandhi. He had won recognition and popularity through the Vaikom Temple Satyagraha. But due to the anti-representation policies of Gandhi and the Congress, he quit the party and built an independent Self-Respect Movement. And it was this movement that gave birth to the DMK. The party initiated a cultural revolution by not only launching agitations on social issues like reservations and temple entry but also by arousing the people from their slumber by making them aware of the pernicious content of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The DMK built a powerful cultural-social movement when the BJP was yet to be born. 

The DMK was founded on 17 September 1949 and within just 19 years it captured power in Tamil Nadu. This OBC-led revolution was not only political but was also a non-Brahmin uprising against the brahmanical culture. That was why the brahmanical elements could never capture power in the state for almost 55 years. 

The DMK extended reservations to all non-Brahmin communities, stretching it to 69 per cent. It was due to its movement that reservation for non-Brahmins in Tamil Nadu was added to the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, thus granting it immunity from judicial interventions. The achievements of the DMK government include ensuring that the representation of Brahmins does not go beyond 3 per cent and refusing to implement EWS reservations. It threw out Brahmin priests from temples and recruited Dalits, Adivasi and OBCs to replace them. 

But Kanshi Ram-Mayawati and Lalu-Mulayam could not do any such thing in north India despite coming to power multiple times. Had they initiated a non-Brahmin revolution along the lines of the DMK in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the counter-revolution by the Brahmins in 2014 would never have succeeded. We could not, of course, have expected the Lohiate Socialist leaders to take such steps, as Lohia himself was a devotee of Krishna and Rama. But Kanshi Ram-Mayawati, who described themselves as Ambedkarites, could have done it. But they could not gather the requisite courage and surrendered before the brahmanical forces.  

Today, there are many regional parties in India, including the Trinamool Congress of Mamata Bannerjee, Aam Aadmi Party of Arvind Kejriwal, Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar, Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (Odisha), Shiv Sena of Uddhav Thackeray, Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (both in J&K), and Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress and Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (Andhra Pradesh).  

The Congress and all other parties, including the different Communist parties, may readily unite in the name of opposing the BJP but they will maintain a silence on the issue of annihilation of caste.

Today, the OBCs are leading the agitation in support of caste census. That has led to the issue of annihilation of caste becoming part of the national political agenda. There is little doubt that the DMK leader Stalin has played a key role in this regard. On 8 April 2023, he organized a conference on the theme of social justice in Delhi. On the agenda were caste census and issues related to the federal structure of the country. Representatives of all major anti-BJP parties attended the meeting. This ignites the hope that an all-India anti-BJP alliance will take shape under the leadership of Stalin, that the BJP can be defeated in the 2024 polls and that a Phule-Shahu-Periyar-Ambedkarite government can come into being under the leadership of Stalin.  

 (Translated from the original Hindi by Amrish Herdenia) 

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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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