Mainstream Weekly

Home > 2024 > Review of Singh’s Caste, State and Society: Degrees of Democracy in North (...)

Mainstream, VOL 62 No 5 February 3, 2024

Review of Singh’s Caste, State and Society: Degrees of Democracy in North India | Radhakanta Barik

Saturday 3 February 2024, by Radhakanta Barik



by Radhakanta Barik

Caste, State and Society:

Degrees of Democracy in North India

by Jagpal Singh

Routledge India
2021 / 330 Pages
ISBN 9780367559748

It is an interesting work to explain the position of MBC (Most backward castes) in the context of social economic and political changes happened after Independence. This is a rare study with detailed analysis of capitalism and its impact on the various castes specifically MBC. In a detailed study of some villages of Western UP and some districts of Rajasthan he came to the conclusion that most of the labour working in cities and small towns are from MBC and Dalits. Less number from the upper castes like Rajputs and Brahmins join hands with small number from the backward and dominant castes like Jat and Gujjar etc. Proletariazation is a process in capitalism which can touch any caste and any class. This is the truth behind the formation of working class consisting of different castes.

Traditionally these castes of MBCs (barbers, Kumbars, Sainis, Gadarias (shepherds) and Dhinwars (water carriers)) did not have freedom before Independence. As they used to provide services to the upper castes and upper section of backward castes. With the abolition of Zamindari system and emergence of constitutional state these castes have lost their social obligation towards the high castes. They have come out of the jajamani system.

The abolition of Zamindari or Jagirdari system pushed the high castes holding such powerful post out of the system. Incidentally, Rajputs and Brahmins have lost power. Power has gone to the upper section of backward castes as they got occupancy rights over the land. Control over the land and access to modern education have improved their economic and social status . Sheer number of these castes helped them to dominate parliamentary politics. Other castes such as Dalits specifically Jatavs have acquired power. Although they do not have land but politics of the state of UP specifically emergence of BSP government helped them to acquire power. It reflects at the local level. If there is a dispute between Jat and Jatav the arbitration happens in bringing members of each caste and some more castes of the locality. This removes the power of the Rajputs and Brahmins at local level they do not get representation in the arbitration committee. This reflects in the recognition of Jat as the landed castes and Jatavs as the sheer number have been added values in social arbitration. Here MBC do not have any role to play except Sainis who dominate some localities.

The abolition of Jagirdari in Rajasthan,power has gone from the Rajputs to Jats. He has taken the case study of three districts of the state. Dalits are unable to play a decisive role in local conflicts. It is either the domination of Jats or they have to adapt to the modern legal means to settle the matter. Dalits of Rajasthan have not been as powerful as their counterparts of UP.

He unfolds the intellectuals of the various castes of Western UP and Rajasthan joined the Aryasamaj which worked as the Sanskritisation model . Many of the upper castes worked through Aryasamaj to assimilate the leaders of backward castes into Sanskritisation framework. But after Independence the leaders of backward castes questioned the symbols and language used by the Aryasamaj for spreading Brahminisation. The backwards class leaders questioned it and MBC leaders abandoned the boat and floated their own organization. They had to go for de-sanskritisation model to work out a social program for their castes.

Many upper castes formed the associations in name of Parsuram or Rana Pratap who actually were members of the BJP. The office bearers of Brahmin Mahasabha and Khatriya mahasabha “are office bearers of the BJP , RSS or its affliates.”p123 Chamar association played a very active role in creating an ideology of Ambedkar in fighting the upper castes. This led to conflicts between them in the districts of Western UP.

It is interesting to note here that castes are a part of social structure. Changes happen in social structure but it is very slow. The most discernible changes happen in social structure that castes got activated.They used space in constitutional democracy. That helped them to have their associations to get established. It created political space for the caste association to work as a political block. Furthermore, the implementation of the land reforms has pushed the intermediate castes to be active in politics as they directly benefited from the public policies. The upper sections of backward castes like Jats and Yadava turned beneficiaries of the land reforms policies. They got ownership over their lands. The Jamindars and Jagirdars of Rajasthan lost social power which resulted in giving the backwards social recognition. Powers of the upper castes got shifted to state. Then state turns into theatre of power struggle. These castes share power in the elected government. Most of these castes dominate a geographical region started working as a political block. The Congress Party articulated their aspirations during the national movement but after Independence in 1967 for the first time peasant castes like Jats under the leadership of Charan Singh rebelled against the Congress Party. He formed the BKD which turned into a political formation and became a part of the coalition government of UP. With the coming up Jats in power struggle, the formation of the political identities in politics of UP got recognized. The other numerical strong castes like Jatavs started mobilizing themselves first with the Congress then shifted to BSP. At the outset the BSP got the support of whole Dalits into a powerful political block. But with the coming of the BJP , the mobilizing the non Jatavs got possible by the Hindutva forces. Dalits got due representation in government formation of UP by the coming up of the BSP. This did not happen in Rajasthan as the Dalits did not support the BSP. They supported the Congress Party with the Jats. As Jagpal says in a sociological observation: “relationship between castes, castes and democracy and castes and state can be viewed in terms of politics of recognition and redistributive justice. “ p143

Political development turned into new way of mobilization of various castes and classes after the implementation of the Mandal commission. This turned into a political moment in the political history of UP. The upper castes created a block and had a compromise with those were not incorporated into the list of the Mandal commission like the Jats of UP. The backwards prepared a blueprint for working out an agenda of accommodation within the state through special quota for their castes. They became dissident force. The Congress squeezed between the BSP and the BJP in UP. Later it turned into SP vs BJP. Dalits moved away to BSP and upper castes to the BJP. Its social base got shrunk abruptly in UP. But it retained power in Rajasthan. He looks at the electoral mapping of the various parties and castes and caste groups in the statistical graphs and found the BJP started working with an engineering model to appeal the social groups which have not been integrated in the political process. They started giving representation to the MBCs into political mapping and non Dalit groups under the leadership of the upper castes. This is a deadly combination as the non Jatav Dalits who started getting involved in the riots in Jaipur in 1992. Under the Ram Mandir and getting them into a sub quota in the reservation list moved the MBC into political net of the BJP. As Jagpal says: “ the shift had been in favour of the feudal rights and Hindutva forces.” P192

The caste association with the help of their public intellectuals went for public action for getting recognized by the State and central government and local government. For instance the local government works in the lines of domination of certain caste groups not for public in general. But the state government looks at the political interest of group action. Central government looks at the dominant groups into their political design. The best example is the Jat who dominates three states like Haryana, UP and Rajasthan but the Mandal Commission ignored them. The leaders like Devi Lal and others told not to pursue the entry into backward classes. Later they changed their stand. They went for public action like protest and holding meeting and conferences for pressuring the and state and central government to give them permission. In competitive politics specifically between the Congress and BJP went for demanding the inclusion of Jats into the backward class list. It happened so in the end.

MBC organized public actions but got ignored as they could not compete with the Jats in the backward class list. They demanded a special category in the backward class list for which they remember as Karpoori Thakur formula for making another section for the MBC in the backward class list. Their pressures on the state government and central government have not made any result in the direction of sub category within the backward class list.

Civil society is emerging in Rajasthan whereas in UP it is not yet developed into organizing public actions. Public action against the Sati brought the law against the committing Sati despite the powerful Rajputs went against it. But in UP it does not work. Dalits opposed the installation Rana Pratap statues in their villages and the High castes people burnt their houses. A lot of support from the Civil society came in favour of them in UP as these actions violated the human rights of Dalits.

In his conclusion Jagpal feels disappointed of the role of citizen in Indian democracy as citizenship is getting mediated by caste, religion and community. Furthermore, the civil society is getting strengthened in UP whereas the caste groups active in politics. It is interesting to note here that caste politics gets support from the Hindutva politics. This is where his concept redistributive politics works as the Hindutva is not interested in redistributive politics and social justice. Their politics help in accumulation of resources in the hands of small number of industrialists. This has enlarged the economic inequality between rich one percentage and pauperization of seventy percentages of people.

This is a well-documented work where he finds the details and small pamphlets of the caste associations and interviews of these leaders. The well-researched work puts him into Sofa scholarship which incorporates a large number of well-known scholars in India those do good works and whole life sitting on the sofa and reflect on social situation. He has joined the elite group of scholars.

ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy|
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.