No accounting for caste

The consensus of political parties and of senior Congress leaders like Veerappa Moily and Pranab Mukherjee on including caste in the upcoming census, is the worst kind of caving into political pressure by other parties who see this as an opportunity to demand higher quotas for their constituencies.

That this should be happening just when the importance of caste in our lives may actually be decreasing and we may be looking at each other beyond the over-determining primordial identities of caste, region, religion and even gender, is rather depressing.

There is little doubt that the more caste-based our policies and politics become, the more they heighten our consciousness of caste. Whether it is on khap panchayats or caste-based reservations, the logic of political gain and expediency seems to be pushing us into reverse gear as far as the project of modernity is concerned.

Yes, no doubt, caste continues to be a reality of Indian life. Most of us still carry caste names as our last names and many of us still surreptitiously check if the last name indicates a Brahmin, a middle caste or a Dalit. We remain adamant about making sure our progeny marry within our caste and punish couples who dare to fall in love across caste lines. And most importantly, our politics is completely caste driven.

So much so that without any sense of shame, Moily, generally a sensible politician, reveals that caste identity is indicated in the left hand column in the list of party candidates for election an open secret. A young politician like Rahul Gandhi is also known to be fascinated by caste arithmetic, perfecting the art with modern technology and databases.

Prior to the last census also, there was a raging debate over whether we should include caste in the census.

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