Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The Caste-based Census - Some random thaughts
I have read an article 'Mere tokenism won't do.....' written by Shri Surendra Kumar in the Economic Times (September 13, 2010 issue) on the ongoing debate on the issue of caste-based census. It is timely and thought provoking assertion. I am all the more happy that well-placed and well-informed people like Shri Surendra Kumar have started taking keen interest, and rightly so, in the matters of interest and concern not only to the dalits but also to the society at large. It is also gratifying to note that Shri Surendra Kumar belonged to the Indian Foreign Service of which I am also a humble member. I also recall reading yet another write up by him recently in which he wrote about the deep rooted caste consciousness in the power hierarchy of India. He revealed his sad experiences when, during the service, he was made to realise that he was a dalit not only by the ordinary but by the so called high caste big-wigs occupying positions of authority and power under the constitution which stipulates caste less and secular society.
Though I am not in favour of caste-based census ( I would elaborate it separately ) yet I fully agree with Shri Surendra Kumar that caste consciousness and prejudices cannot be wished away by mere 'tokenism' currently being professed by the opponents of the caste-based census. The ground realities are different and painful. We need to go a long way to establish a caste less society as visualised by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. One of the major arguments against the caste-based census is that it is divisive and would lead to politicisation of castes. It may be so. But the question remains that what has been done by the society particularly by the elite to rectify the situation. The answer is precious nothing.
Some of the suggestions made by Shri Surinder Kumar to eradicate caste are really good and would certainly make a dent in the steely frame of the caste system and the mental outlook of the upper strata of the society, if followed and implemented. The idea to lead from the front is good to meet challenge of caste stratification. The elite, particularly those in the public life, shall come forward and set an example by marrying out one of the daughters in the family to a dalit boy. It shall be followed by members of the IAS, IFS, IPS and other top services. The business houses, the media, the intelligentsia, who have the tendency to shout from the top, shall encourage their children to go for inter-caste marriages. I think the inter caste marriages would lead to assimilation and result in empowerment. The political bosses should check and counter ' an orchestrated and deliberate perception ' as noted by Shri Surendra Kumar, created by caste conscious authorities that most of the officers belonging to the lower castes entering through the affirmative action of the state i.e. reservation are generally inefficient and incompetent. These dalit officers are not given their due and ruled out from the important and crucial positions. It is most painful for the competent and intelligent dalit officers when they get ignored only because they belong to the lower segments of the caste ridden society.
All said, let me conclude that it is the time senior dalits like Shri Surendra Kumar who can stand and speak with knowledge and authority shall come forward and speak up their mind. The younger generation will find it encouraging. On the part of the dalit community and the society in general, it will be only appropriate that senior dalit officers are brought to the fold and recognised. It will send a positive message to their fellow brethren to emulate them to make a dignified space for themselves in the society. These affirmative actions should replace ' mere tokenism ' if we mean to establish a caste less social order - a lofty ideal of our polity and society. There is a message for us in the poetry of Allma Iqbal who said:
कर खुदी को बुलंद इतना की हर तकदीर से पहले;
खुदा बन्दे से खुद पूछे बता तेरी रजा क्या है !