By: M.R. Lalu
The Mandal – Kamandal binary that permeated through the political aspirations of various parties had seriously affected the social dynamics of states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Political somersaults on this binary have deeply polarised the populace especially the Hindu community all over the country with parties stitching alliances with caste consolidations to fulfil their dreams. Narratives strengthening this binary were dismantled by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath christening the state polls as an ‘80% versus 20%’ contest. His call was for a fight between 80% Hindus and 20% Muslims. By doing this, his party was once again accentuating on the BJP’s ideal manoeuvre the Hindutva, the plank that it has excavated from the deeper anxiety of the majority in India. Casteism, the menace that India has been a victim of for centuries on a larger scale, at least, since the advent of the British, continued to grow in our society with evil minded political parties supplying water and manure. All parties remained pusillanimous without being evocative on the derailing impact of regimentation in a country that was supposed to be groomed and governed by a common constitution and its principles. The votaries of the Mandal disposition always believed that they were subjected to exploitations by the feudal upper castes and to consolidate their votes was the only solution to topple the upper caste hegemony. Mandal is a vocabulary that got popularised in India to represent certain communities since 1980’s. The Mandal Commission was established to classify the educationally and socially backward people.
Reviving the Hindutva sentiments among the majority, the BJP has successfully dismantled the Mandal consolidations and the beginning of an era under Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh was a blitzkrieg on strong caste regiments. It could overthrow regimes of caste based parties and their propitiations and is successful in its second term. Caste dynamics still continue to draw alarming equations in Indian politics and in many states it remains potential to elevate and overthrow parties. The upper caste-lower caste division and the paranoia its chasm has been creating for a long period held the majority in India captive and the ugly politics its beneficiary. The BJP’s focus was to break this ecosystem by elevating its Kamandal politics which literally translates into its Hindutva agenda. Every time when it emerged victorious, the party succeeded in applying a combination of casteism along with its larger version of Hindutva regimentation, in which it registered its principal opposition as the minorities, especially the Muslims.
Has the caste system been a part of Hinduism? While understanding the menace from its historic perspective, evidence emerging from the scriptures declare that it hasn’t been part of Hinduism. Evidence from the Vedas and other sacred texts in this regard substantiate that the society was never regimented based on a discriminatory hierarchy. However, they accentuated the need of articulating a skill based society with different crafts and professions being allotted to people according to their instinctive capabilities. This was to sensitise and systematise the society by creating economic well being, a reality for all. The scriptures call this regimentation Varna and according to it, the whole society was divided into four categories. While the Brahmins got busy in teaching and learning, the Kshatriyas took the responsibility of social security. The Vaishyas controlled trade and money transactions and activated the economy; the Sudras blessed the society with agricultural produce. The society as a whole, according to the sacred texts, was a divine entity in which everybody passionately selected his task and contributed for its wellbeing. To take examples from the Hindu texts, the Purusha Sukta gives a varied account of Varna. It categorically clarifies this: ‘if the whole society is considered as a body, its mouth is Brahmins and its hands Kshatriyas and thighs the Vaishyas and the feet Sudras.’ To make it more profoundly understandable, the Vedic sage says that every unit of Varna in the social stratum plays its role for the complete sustenance and survival of the society. Sans mouth, the body is incomplete. So is the case with hands and thighs and feet. Neither part of the body is discriminated against nor undermined. All of them hold equal importance in a social ambiance. With regard to the Varna system, the Manusmriti also communicates the same idea.
Social discrimination amounting to untouchability was never part of Hinduism. The aspirational politics that emerged in Indian society in a later period had systematically cut open this demon and seriously damaged its social fabric. The biggest fight against the untouchability menace in recent history came from a Hindu – Mahatma Gandhi. Injustice of this type had always existed in every society. Famous American writer Will Durant candidly asks: “Does the attitude of a British lord to a navvy differ, except in words; or a white man to a negro, or a European to an Asiatic, or a Park Avenue Banker to an East Side huckster?” The pariahdom was the creation of the British Raj that the political class carried forward to the post-independent social scenario. Casteism once again became a subject of India’s socio-cultural discourse as the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat stoked controversy saying Hindus were one and united and caste differences were man-made and artificial. Bhagwat has outrightly hammered the blame of casteism on the Brahmins and his statement angered the Shankaracharya of Puri as well as many others. He may be right but all the Chiefs of the Sangh were Brahmins except Prof. Rajendra Singh (Rajju Bhayya) who was a Rajput.
The BJP understood the threat of this Mandal regimentation in the name of caste visibly protruding and L.K.Advani’s rath yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya was instrumental in reviving the political Hindutva strengthening its limbs. It thought that a religious yatra with its conspicuous intentions would bring the flustered Hindu communities to one political gambling point. Bhagwat did not forget to civilize the populace on the condescending caste impediment as unnecessary; he asserted a spiritualised version of his doctrine saying neither the creator nor nature is discriminatory. Politicians have made too much of a song about casteism in India and brought Hinduism to a critical juncture for electoral gains. A caste-ridden orthodoxy and its superstitious interventions are a reality but its atrocious sentiments and unworthy discriminations must go. The political nomenclature of castes in upper and lower strata, further pounding them to units and subunits might have helped to eradicate the social backwardness to some extent. However social equality will be inaccessible until the fragmented units of a society unite for a superior cause. Before the upcoming state elections and general election, the Mandal versus Kamandal rhetoric would once again gain momentum. The political intention behind the upheaval on Tulasidas’s Ram Charit Manas was an indication. To keep the society divided was the strategy of the British. Its present Indian context is electoral ambitions. However, casteism in its all forms is dangerous and must go lock, stock and barrel.
(The author is a Freelance Journalist/Author of “India @ 75- A Contemporary Approach”)
India’s Caste Conundrum
By: M.R. Lalu