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Who is afraid of caste census?

Bihar caste survey

October 2, 2023, is a historic day in the context of social justice. After traversing the hotbeds of legal battles and political deceits, the Bihar government has collected and released social and economic data by including the details of caste and religion. It is the first time since independence that a state has conducted a caste census and published the data. From the time the British started the census in India in 1891 till 1931, the element of caste was part of the data. Then it disappeared. One of the main recommendations of the Kaka Kalelkar Commission appointed by the Centre after independence was to include caste in the 1961 census. However, the proposal was defeated at the face of strong objections. Social observers equate the Nitish Kumar-Tejashwi Yadav coalition's caste census measures with the will of Bihar Chief Minister Karpuri Thakur, who implemented OBC reservations despite strong opposition based on the Mungeri Lal Commission report of 1977-78. This was nothing surprising. Even though the pro-Sangh Parivar representatives tried to stop the caste census through court litigations, they courageously took advantage of the Patna High Court's order in favor of the census in August 2022 and the Supreme Court's refusal to stay it.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi calls for caste-based representation in Govt, citing Bihar caste census

In 2011, when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister, the socio-economic caste census was completed in the country. However, the Centre decided not to release the caste-wise figures, bowing to the threat of increasing caste conflicts. On that day, the information of all the citizens of the country was collected into 24 lakh blocks with about 125 families. It is the crucial data therein that was destined to be frozen which was later used as the foundation of 'social engineering' that overthrew the power systems of the country. Although the report to enumerate the multi-faceted causes of poverty and to ensure proactive interventions by the governments failed, ten years later, at least one state has achieved that goal. Indeed, this data released by the Bihar government not only presents a detailed picture of caste demographics but is also going to spark new debates on representation, social justice, and political strategies in Bihar and India as a whole.

Also read: Patna High Court upholds Bihar caste survey against legal challenges

The caste-based details provide a new insight into Bihar's social structure. They also shed light on the reasons behind the exclusion of backward people from power. Look, this is a country that has enacted 10% economic reservation for upper castes who form 15.52% of the populations, and 27% for OBCs who form 63%. Out of 90 secretaries in the central government, only three are from the OBC category. It is imperative to know caste statistics to expose and legitimately fight such contradictions. The efforts by the Bihar government confirm that it is necessary to fulfill the constitutional objective of ensuring the participation and representation of backward communities.

Also read: SC judge recuses from hearing Bihar cast-based census

In a data-driven economy, a caste census will not only reveal accurate numbers of Dalits and OBCs, but will also help pinpoint education levels, living standards, and occupation (private, government, gazetted, non-gazetted, etc.). They will also provide governments with innovative ways of formulating development policies. Knowing the economic, social, and educational status of any caste will make it easier to plan for their upliftment. But the BJP and the Prime Minister are portraying it as an attempt to divide the country's Hindus and break India. The war cries against the caste census are exposing who is afraid of it and to what extent. One need only look at the way the caste census news was presented in the mainstream and parallel media to understand the depth of elite communities' fear of the caste census. The outcries and campaigns of those who fear it prove how essential a caste census is for power sharing and social justice in a country where caste exists even in the language, food, names, and attire of people of the same land.

Also read: Akhilesh Yadav backs caste census, says it is necessary for inclusive growth

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TAGS:Tejashwi YadavNitish Kumar CMBihar caste surveyKaka Kalekar Commission1961 census
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