Political Mobilisation of the Lower Castes in India: The Role of the Scheduled Castes


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A word on words to begin with. India’s so called lower castes are not lower and lesser as human beings, but treated lower by India’s Hindu Social Order. We will use the lower caste as a political, social, and economic category. According Hindu Caste system, the SCs, STs, and the OBCs can be aggregated as the lower castes. The political mobilisation is a must for these classes to get their social, political, and economic rights.

They are not represented proportionally in social, economic, and political spheres. India is a representative democracy and hence all the classes should be proportionately represented in all the spheres. If they are not, then the state should strive to create a commonwealth of all the communities through various schemes, policies, and mechanism. But the state is not neutral, the state is run by the political parties. The political parties are the voluntary organisations which try to secure the interest of the people they might represent. Therefore, the political parties must be linked with the people and their interests and their needs.

The political parties are formed by the people coming together with certain interest and try to get control of the state to work for their constituencies.

In India, being a political democracy, the political parties are the only route to the state and its machinery. Many political parties are formed since the process of representations began in India. The competitive politics began since 1935 when the Government of India decided to give representation to the Indians. The Indian National Congress began with a demand for representation of Indians in the civil services in 1885.

It was the organised forum which later took advantage of the election process and party politics. But, it was not the only political party in India. Even the British India, political parties that represented the interests of the farmers, the political parties that represented the interests of the Muslims (Muslim League), and the political parties that represented the interests of the Scheduled castes (All India Scheduled Castes Federation, AISCF). India also saw political initiatives emerging from the Indian National Congress as well, including some of the members of it formed the saffron-tinged political entities.

The various parties represented the interests of their stakeholders. The Muslim League went to become a stronger force for the Muslims leading up to the partition of India in 1947. India also saw the rise of the regional parties and in the recent decades, India saw the rise of political parties with a particular caste forming the core of it. The core around which the parties are built remains the main constituency. For example, the BJP was formed by the RSS, which is formed by the Brahmins, and hence they represent the interest of the Brahmins.

However, India’s lower caste never saw a pan-India political party of the consolidated lower castes that included SCs, STs, and OBCs. The BSP attempted to that starting with the core consolidation of India’s Dalits and then extending it to MBCs, OBCs, and then to everyone. The project has a partial success, and it was not a total success. In the heydays of the BSP, it saw people from various lower caste joining it en masse.

Political party means involvement of people on regular basis, maybe day to day basis. For that, the political party does not need to be in power. The contact with the people is the essence of the political party. If the party loses the regular interaction with the people, it is bound to die. This involvement of the people can take any form. It can take the form of thinking together, sharing and creating opinions, writing and submitting reports, responding to the state’s policies if they are not in the interest of the constituency that the party represents.

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People are the essence of the political parties and political mobilisation. It is true for all the political parties. Now that the Scheduled Castes are ready for the mobilisation, the party structure should take advantage of the situation and establish contacts with them. The party of the lower castes will try to establish contacts with all the movements of the lower castes. In the recent years, India saw mass movements by the Scheduled castes all over India. India is witnessing the movement of the farmers (who are lower castes). India witnessed the movements by the Shudra/OBC castes in many states. The Muslims are agitating in India. However, there is no initiative from the parties led by the lower castes.

The regional parties led by the OBCs cannot have an All India presence because they rally around particular castes. In the absence of the national party that can take advantage of these movements, the movements fizzle out without gaining anything worthwhile. There is a vacuum, a big political vacuum where the like-minded organisations, both Non-Governmental Organisations and people’s movements can step in. Judging by what is happening around in the world, the people’s opinions can be changed with the speed that was unimaginable in the past.

As the communication is becoming faster, the spread of ideas are becoming even faster. The evidence are in front of us. The recent elections in the UK were dramatic and the way Labour came back to a strong position is amazing. More interesting is the rise of Macron, the French President, and his party which is just 14 months old. The opinions can be changed as the media to communicate have multiplied and also become fast. Going back to the “Engineering of Consent”, the paper that stipulates how the consent can be engineered, it needs some fresh reading and the rise of social media must be factored in to make sense of it.

The SCs in India have always been vocal against the discrimination based on the caste. They fought the battle for the OBCs to gain the reservation for them. They have fought tooth and nail against every oppression and they have shown the way to the other Indians to the viable solutions which are peaceful and democratic. They are emerging as India’s intellectual class and the rise is Himalayan. Though there is a lot to be done, the possibilities for their mobilisation on national level has increased manifold due to very many reasons, one of the reasons is the growing interaction between them throughout India which may enable them to perhaps transcend the regional caste identities and forge a national, perhaps universal community, that can fight for discrimination in any and every form.

The tone is set by Babasaheb Ambedkar, who chose “Human being (Manus)” as the symbol of his first political party. When the humanity (Manuski) is in danger, the best stay forward will be to back to basics of Ambedkarism and bringing human beings and their liberty, equality, and fraternity right at the centre of such political mobilisation. This mobilisation is the only way for India to realise its manifest destiny that it will lead the world to peace and democracy through its own practice and commitment to peace and democracy. In the caste-based society, the destiny is impossible to achieve and in reality, it is an antithesis of founding principles of People’s Republic, that is, Bharat!

Author – Mangesh Dahiwale, Human Rights Activist

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