Sub-Castes within the SC/ST


Dr. K. Jamanadas

(First published in Dalit Voice in March 2000)

dr. k. jamanadasThis has reference to the article on rivalry of subcastes Madigas and Malas among the SCs, and a frank debate welcomed by our editor (Dalit Voice, vol.15, no.21).  Our editor has welcomed the rivalry among the subcastes in these words: "There is nothing to be ashamed of or worried about the inter-Dalit bickering. Rather this should be welcomed." This attitude is quite in keeping with his old known notion that if you could strengthen each jati and make them strong enough to demand their rightful share according to their population from the 'evil' jati people (to use the phraseology of Annamalai), then the system of jatis will crash. Unfortunately I beg to defer with him. Some time back Bojja Tharakam from Hyderabad had argued that it is against Ambedkarite principles to think of strengthening any jatis. I fully agree and endorse his view. Dr. Ambedkar had specifically advocated that the process of abolition of castes must not start with abolition of subcastes. He averred that if the process stops at that level, we will end up by strengthening the caste system. What applies to subcastes equally applies to castes within the SC/ST group. Annihilation of castes was what Dr. Ambedkar wanted. It could only be achieved through social amalgamation by inter caste marriages, and to promote that the sanction behind the sastras must end. This was what was intended.

Your contention is that, when castes, individually, become strong enough, will fight with BSO and get their rightful number of positions, and thereby reduce the power of BSO. Unfortunately this does not happen in practice. When Ambedkar said educate, agitate and organize, he meant agitate against BSO oppressors. We took it to mean struggle amongst ourselves. We fight amongst ourselves for every thing and we beg for favors from others. We have become subservient dummy stooges of others, popularly termed 'chamchas'. Though we do not have enough strength to get elected in Parliament, we rush to the feet of men in power, and that too individually and separately,ignoring the so called unity, and beg for a berth in ministry for self and get kicked out. All our self respect vanishes that time. This is the state of affairs. How do you expect that such a people will be able to fight with the oppressors for the rights of masses, they can only beg for self prosperity. First we have to increase our strength, then and then alone we can bargain. Power is something that cannot be obtained by begging, begging only begets petty alms.

Why some castes among the SC/ST could not progress? This is the question one must answer with some clear vision and self intro-spection. It must be agreed that, in spite of equal opportunity given by the reservations which started at the same time for all SC/STs, the progress made by different castes among the SC/ST is not uniform. There are many reasons, which must be understood before we devise ways and means to bridge the gap of disparity among the SC/ST castes. The main point is that, Dr. Ambedkar had given a call to denounce old ways of earning a subsistence and embark on mass scale education. Some people followed his ways were Ambedkarites, and some followed Gandhi's ways and were called 'harijans'. They did not change. Those people who abandoned their ancestral callings and gave up the dirty means of livelihood, which they were ordained to follow by the Brahmnical social order for centuries, progressed faster and those who stuck to their old professions lingered behind.

Why there is dissatisfaction? The main reason is that there is supposed to be a restriction imposed by Supreme Court to limit reservations to 50 percent. Under what circumstances Supreme Court has given this ruling and what are legal ways to counter it, must be debated by the legal luminaries from among the bahujans and people should take steps, legal or legislative, to amend the constitution, if needed, to ensure that every caste must get their rightful share in running of government, i.e. in legislature and executive, including judiciary, as Kanshiram says "jisaki jitani sankhyaa bhaari, usaki utani bhaagidaari". I consider this is the only method, by which dissatisfaction among the various castes can be reduced. When there is enough for everybody, nobody should grumble. There is now grumbling because share of 50 percent people is appropriated by 15 percent.

Reservations must not be on economical grounds

Shri T.P. Kamalanathan has given, in the same issue of DV, the instances of people against caste based reservations. Everybody knows that manuvadis are behind this. Unfortunate part of this is that, even the OBC people, who are co-sufferers, are brain washed to support this argument. They are made to believe that the OBCs can't get jobs because of SC/ST reservations. They should be explained that 1. Even after half a century, SC/ST strength is not complete as per their quota, and SC/ST are not responsible for grabbing OBC's share. 2. OBC's share is grabbed by those from 15 percent, who rightfully deserve only 15 percent and are now holding about 70 percent. 3. We find even today it is not very difficult for higher caste people to obtain a certificate of being SC/ST by corrupt means. When they can obtain false caste certificates, how much easy it will be to obtain a false income certificate of low income for these people, and how much corruption will be there to prevent SC/ST poor people from obtaining their rightful share. The question of enlightenment of OBCs is rather crucial. They have been brain washed by upper castes for centuries to be against Dalits. Their ignorance is phenomenal and their prejudice is outstanding. In spite of countrywide movement by BSP for Mandal Commission, there are many among OBCs who believe that it is something which is meant for upliftment of Dalits alone and not of OBCs. If we succeed in convincing the OBCs that caste based reservations are good for them, most of bahujan's problems will end and a strong bahujan samaj will emerge.

What is our aim? Our editor is fighting for Dalit Muslim BC unity for a long time. This is same thing what Kanshiram calls bahujan samaj taking this word from old Buddhist literature. It is simple formula of 85 percent versus 15 percent. But what is the meaning of unity. When different groups live in physical proximity, and have desire in them to come closer and unite, the ultimate step is social unity where whole society becomes one and there is full harmony and rapport with matrimonial relationships between groups which were differing to each other and may even be antagonistic. This is the ideal state and should be the ultimate aim. That is annihilation of castes, as Dr. Ambedkar envisaged. But it takes centuries to achieve and has to pass through various stages. Religious harmony is an earlier stage, and that also takes tremendous will power to unite and strong urge for it and is also a lengthy process. The first stage is, of course, political unity, which must be achieved before there is any kind of dialogue possible within the groups. When we talk of unity, we only mean political unity at this early stage of understanding. If we can develop among all these groups goodwill and friendship even on only political lines, it will be a great achievement. At the movement these groups are warring groups, there is not even a dialogue, let alone sense of common belonging.

On 14th October 1956, Dr. Ambedkar converted half a million Dalits to Buddhism. Next day there was a meeting of selected workers only in Hotel Shyam in Nagpur where Babasahib was staying, and I was fortunate to be present there as one of the three student workers. That was Babasahib's first speech in Hindi, I heard. He expressed his anguish for infighting among the workers and expressed his desire to launch a party which will have people from all castes. He asked the workers to develop readiness to work in association with others.

Also on his last day, he wrote some letters to leaders like Lohia and P. K. Atre etc. But we find that, the party of his vision, (RPI) could not go beyond its scope of one single caste. Even whatever people from other castes were in the party, they gradually left and now it has an image of one caste party. Hopes and aspirations expressed by our saviour are shattered to make a united party. Only hope now seems to be Kanshiram, who has not only paved the way of political unity among the various groups but also started a campaign of jati todo samaj jodo and tried to assimilate people of different castes, an aim which was very dear to our beloved saviour Dr. Ambedkar .

What is to be done? One must accept that when schedules of castes and tribes were made to be incorporated in the constitution, there was a tremendous hurry. Many were left out and many were superfluous. This was known to the founding fathers of constitu- tion, so an arrangement was made to review the schedule periodi- cally. This should be taken in spirit of adjustment and not of antagonism. But at the same time we should prevent categorization within SC/ST. I endorse the view of D. Venkateswarlu that this will weaken the masses and perhaps that is what the BSO wants. We must not play in their hands.

We get only those reservations which are pleasing to BSO For decades RPI was demanding abolition of political reservations of SC/STs. But they are forced on us. Whereas nobody demanded reser- vations for women, but they are granted in a hurry and when some people wished to link caste based questions with it, the bill is shifted to select committee. We, thus get what is good for them, without any consideration for what we want.

For last fifteen years or so Kanshiram has brought forward the theory of 15 percent versus 85 percent. You yourself have supported this theory many times. Now if you advocate different castes among these 85 percent to get consolidated separately instead of together, then how are we going to struggle against the 15 percent. After all, at this stage of our development we are not asking for social unity, we are not asking for religious unity, we are asking only for political unity.

I, therefore, agree with D. Venkateswarlu when he says, "Many a times Kanshiram said that he was preparing his people to grant reservations to others and not to demand reservations to themselves as it is not a permanent phenomenon. So at this crucial juncture when the Dalit Bahujans are preparing unitedly to cap- ture the reins of power, it is quite unwise, irresponsible and unjustified on the part of Madigas (or for that matter any caste) to create divisions among Dalits (or rather, bahujans) and ruin their unity in the name of demanding categorization."