Have the Dalitbahujan lost out yet again in the war of building political narratives and sustaining them and keeping issues that matter to them in public discourse? The masses who want a proportional representation in the highest echelons of the government, who want a proportional presence in the universities from where intellectuals emerge – will they continue to be deprived of a perfectly legitimate demand? Centuries of deprivation of the masses looks set to continue, as they are let down by their own leaders kowtowing to brahmanism. Social injustice looks set to continue.
The demand for a caste-based census that had hit a shrill note is no longer audible. A caste survey that was held in Bihar, because the central government wouldn’t conduct a caste-based census, has come to a standstill. It’s been challenged in the court. No prizes for guessing the social background of the petitioners or the ideology they profess! But without putting a spoke in the wheel of social justice, how will Brahmanism thrive, how will a minority of historically privileged castes continue to deprive the masses of a dignified life and live off their industry, creativity and resilience?
Meanwhile the injustices of this historically privileged minority and their political leaders can cause only minor dents in the political narrative. An upper-caste sports federation chief does not need to go to jail for sexually assaulting female athletes who hail mostly from the backward castes and leaving them traumatized, and the furore can be allowed to die a slow death; a brahmin representative of a brahmin MLA can urinate on a helpless tribal and the public not know about it for an entire year until the person who had a video of the incident gathers courage to post it online.
The upper-caste sports federation chief is thick-skinned enough to claim that if all the accusations against him are proven true he will take his own life. Ayodhya’s Brahmin pandits come out in his support and vouch for his innocence. An OBC chief minister comes to the defence of the ideology that he and the urinating brahmin representative share. He does it by rushing the victim to the state capital, hosting him in his residence, washing the victim’s feet and indulging in brahmanical symbolism – all of which is captured on video and shared on social media.
Amid all this, a week after presiding over a celebration of late prime minister V.P. Singh’s role in the implementation of the Mandal Commission’s report and releasing a revised Hindi edition of ‘Hindutva Mukt Bharat ki Or’, a well-known OBC leader of Maharashtra has switched sides to a brahmanical coalition.
To sustain the fight for social justice and go the long haul, all that the oppressed masses – the OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis – need to do is to come together. But that seems to be the most difficult part. The varna unity of the upper castes ensures that they are of one mind and have the one goal – of holding on to political power, resources and financial clout. But the hallmark of the Shudra varna is its disunity masterminded by the upper varnas. The Shudras continue to see themselves as Yadavs, Malis, Kushwahas, Kurmis and so on. A century and a half ago, the great Jotirao Phule called for an Shudratishudra unity, but the politician from Phule’s own Mali caste who to his credit did take initiatives to preserve the great man’s legacy, has now crossed over to the brahmanical coalition, casting aside the Shudratishudra unity and empowerment that Phule gave his life for.
Will Phule’s dream ever come true? Those who should have been the bearers of his legacy have let him down. They have let him down as another brahmanical intervention in all probability to target the practices of a particular religious community, the conveniently timed Uniform Civil Code, picks up pace. In case the memory of the imagined enemy, so far propped up by the Ram Mandir, is fading, it has to be revived. The foot soldiers have to be mobilized to fight the imaginary enemy. Their anger needs to be ratcheted up enough to transcend the Shudratishudra caste divides, enough to vote for the ideology that has kept them divided, uneducated, unrepresented, impoverished – not to vote for a caste-based census, that could pave the way for their unity, education, representation, prosperity.
Meanwhile, those leaders who fight this ideology can also keep fighting among themselves, and the demand for a caste-based census can disappear into thin air. In any case, the census, which was to be held in 2021, is now not to be held until after the make-or-break 2024 General Elections.