Frightened of the tremendous impact of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s state caste census on the impending Lok Sabha polls, the saffron ecosystem has come up with a plan to launch a sub-caste census well before the general election starts. This arrangement, according to a think-tank of the RSS, will snatch the initiative from Nitish and would also help win over a large section of the OBC and EBC communities who were feeling neglected.
Like the upper castes, among others, have a robust stake in state power machinery, the comparatively well off among the other castes too are found to have much political sway. Every caste has at least a dozen sub castes. For example, Rajputs have Ujjainia, Sisodias, Kachwahas, Rathores, Jadejas, Hadas, Bhatis, Shekhawats and Dogra.
Yadavs are known as the Ahirs in the North and West India, Ghosh or the “Goalas” and “Sadgopa” or Gauda in Bengal and Orissa, Dhangar in Maharashtra, Yadav and Kurubas in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, and Dayan and Konar in Tamil Nadu. There are four main sub-castes of Ahirs in Bihar: Kishnaut, Majhraut, Kannaujia or Kanyakubja and Ganerias.
Similarly the Dalits and SCs have a number of sub castes, including Bhuiya, Chamar, Ravidassia, Mochi, Dusadh, Paswan, Halalkhor, Valmiki, Hela/Mehtar, Musahar, Nat.
Among the upper castes, Bhumihars have the largest number of poor. These are Tyagis of Western UP, Zamindar Bengali Brahmins, Niyogi Brahmins of Andhra Pradesh, Nambudiri Brahmin and Ezhavathy Brahmins of Kerala, Chitpavans of Maharashtra, Anavil Desais of Gujarat and Mohyals of Punjab.
In the sub caste hierarchy, the caste which heads the table is the prime beneficiary and enjoys a social recognition based on its economic strength. These are the castes in the OBC, EBC and Dalit sections which have benefitted most from the reservation. India occupies a special place in providing the preferential treatment to the disadvantaged classes for the longest period. The distribution of reservation benefits are very wide as the OBCs, EBC and SC castes are not a homogeneous group and split into various sub castes. Obviously, the benefits of reservation have failed to reach all the members of the caste, especially those at the bottom. This in turn has given rise to ‘creamy layers’ within these castes.
In most of the cases, the sub castes owe their elevation to the creamy layer based on the strength of their occupation and the land they possess. Those who do not own any land are invariably poor. Among Bhumihars and Yadavs, a large section of their population do not own land. The worst has been the case of Ganderia of Yadavs. In most of the cases, they earn their livelihood by manual labour. The Yadavs of Madhepura and Purnea are much above other Yadavs because they own huge tracts of land and have money. Till some years back, they used to dictate the politics of Bihar.
Earlier, the RSS leaders had opposed the caste census move as, according to their perception, it would smash the basic structure of the castes based on the principles of Manu, and also prove to be a major stumbling block to accomplish its mission of turning India into a Hindu Rashtra. Now with Nitish playing spoiler to their Hindu consolidation formula, they are making fresh efforts to salvage the situation and retrieve ground as much as they can.
Under their new plan, they are striving to keep the creamy layer of the castes with them on the plea of their being Hindus. Incidentally, the affluent sections of these castes have been with the BJP and have been the fanatic supporters of RSS’s politics of Hindutva. RSS is haunted by the fear of losing this section, once Nitish starts actually implementing his inclusive programmes. Obviously, even before Nitish launches the progamme, RSS intends to implement its design to break the bigger structure of the caste conglomerate.
Sources point out that RSS leaders cite the Supreme Court bench led by retired Justice Arun Mishra had supported classification of the SCs into ‘more backward’ and ‘backward’, and expressed that preference be given to the more backward castes for reservation in appointments. It is argued that for effective inclusive growth and empowerment of the poor OBCs, EBCs and Dalits, it was necessary that following the pattern of caste census, the actual strength and economic condition of the rest of the caste members should be studied.
It is also argued that the sub-classification into “backward” and “more backward” arises because Article 16(4) of the Constitution recognises a category “backward class of citizens” and, therefore, ideally, sub-classification, if any, should be done for that only. Homogeneity of the SCs is based on the perception of domination and ill-treatment by the so-called upper castes, leading to their dismal socio-economic status.
In a tacit manner Modi has been playing this sub-caste card for long. While reconstituting his council of ministers, he had told the media that the ministry had “record 27 OBCs as ministers”, from Yadavs, Gurjars, Jats, Thakurs, Lodhs, and so on. The 12 Scheduled Caste ministers included a Chamar-Ramdassia, a Khatik, a Pasi, a Kori, a Madiga, a Mahar, a Arundathiyar, a Meghwal, a Rajbonshi, a Matua-Namashudra, a Dhangar and a Dusadh. Though RSS like Modi has been emphasising on OBC, EBC and Dalits all being integral parts of Hindu community, it is Modi who has been playing the OBC, EBC card for electoral gains.
In fact, the leaders close to Modi had been splitting the OBC, EBC and Dalit communities as separate political groups. Not only in UP, but also in Bihar, it was keeping Yadavs away. Even a section of RSS leaders would try to convince non-Yadav and Dalits of these two states that most gains from Mandal-based affirmative action had been cornered by Yadavs. This was the obvious reason for formation of political outfits to articulate the feelings and needs of the people belonging to these subcastes. This witnessed the formation of Om Prakash Rajbhar Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, Sanjay Nishad’s NISHAD party, Mukesh Sahni’s Vikassheel Insaan Party, or Anupriya Patel’s Apna Dal.
Though few decades back Nitish Kumar had created a Mahadalit class in Bihar, ironically he could not turn that into a vehicle for ameliorating the socio-economic condition of the mahadalits. Nevertheless, one thing is quite clear that the recent trend of real politick would hasten up the process of decline of the savarna (upper caste) politics. Nitish undoubtedly has broken the political hegemony of the upper castes. The emergence of BJP as the ruling party has witnessed the resurrection of the savarna politics, which had witnessed a decline with former Prime Minister VP Singh implementing 27 percent reservation for OBC communities. However, during saffron’s ten year rule, the upper caste dominance has increased considerably. (IPA Service)