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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 44 New Delhi October 20, 2018

Lohia and Two Segregations of Caste and Sex

Friday 19 October 2018

by Vivek Kumar Srivastava

The following article has been written and is being published on the fiftyfirst death anniversary of the Dr Rammohar Lohia (March 23, 1910-October 12, 1967)

Gandhi and Ambedkar are usually respected as major thinkers in modern times who attempted to reform the caste system in India in their own ways, but Rammanohar Lohia was also a great contributor to the theory of annihilation of caste. He analysed the Indian caste system from a socialistic framework and linked it to other dominating ideas as women’s empowerment where he emerges as a leader of Indian feminism.

Dr Lohia was the first thinker who looked at caste discrimination and disempowered women as ‘two segregations’ which had lowered the spirit of happiness; and both were closely related to poverty as ‘poverty and these two segre-gations thrive on each other’s worms’. Therefore his views are more realistic where caste and status of women have been linked with the economic status. Caste discrimination is there-fore not only a social discrimination but also nurtured by low economic status of the discriminated people. No society can be stable without alleviation of poverty but poverty alleviation cannot bring the desired fruits and ‘all war on poverty is a sham, unless it is, at the same time, a conscious and sustained war on these two segregations.’

Lohia took a socio-economic framework to understand these evils and offerd a pragmatic policy solution to the problem of the two segregations; unfortunately policy-makers did not pay attention to this practical solution for the vast section of society. For Lohia the fight against the evils of caste and women’s exclusion on wider scale can succeed only with the support of members of these communities in a unified manner. Lower caste women were more at loss; the caste discrimination and status of women were interlinked. He was clear that lower caste people and women should come together. He writes a personal experience that ‘I was part of a coffee-house group of talkers one day, when someone suggested that it was such coffee-talk that bred the French Revolution. I boiled with rage. There was not one Sudra among us. There was not one woman among us. A dull, effete and insipid lot we were, cattle ever cudding yesterday’s feed.’

This is true even today, the role of Dalits is being buried by several ways, the present NDA Government attempted even to wipe out the identity of Dalits by stating that in place of Dalit, the word Scheduled Caste will be used. Lohia was aware about such dangers. His rage is still valid in the contemporary order where the Dalit identity is being attacked with multiple weapons. Hence solidarity and awareness is must in the present order.

India can grow only when vulnerable people become integral part of the mainstream structures of the nation. Lohia offered solution for the development of the country by focusing on this section of society. ‘Until the effort to animate the souls of Sudras and Harijans and women is pursued with relentless zeal, there is no hope of nurturing a new life in the country. The ‘Dvija’ tradition must combine with the vitality of the ‘Sudra.’ The task is by no means easy but there is no other way out.’ Lohia does not discount the role of upper castes in fighting the caste discriminations but he believes that there is a difference between upper and lower caste leadership in this fight. This difference is the difference of duty and right. ’It is true that the Dvijas take up this battle against caste as a matter of duty while the Sudras consider it a fight for their rights. This is an ignorant attitude, for this is a battle of rights for the Dvijas too and, after all, there is not in the long run, much to distinguish rights from duties.’ Lohia therefore wants that fight against the caste system should be the unified effort of both the castes. This is his novel contribution to the annihilation of the caste system.

He is convinced that ‘the day Dvijas come to realise this, they shall view the abolition of caste with a different outlook. It is as much your task as mine to bring them to this standpoint. When Dvijas and Sudras line up together with the common objective of smashing the international caste system, all-round progress is bound to result.’ Lohia’s thinking on this issue kills hatred between upper and lower castes and also unifies the caste system as a single unit where nothing is stratified but every relation-ship is equalised. His theory of feminism is linked to this idea. He wanted to bring women into the mainstream of society, particularly Dalit women who had little opportunity to participate at the institutional or the functional level. So, he advocated inter-caste marriages. He emphasised ‘We must now contribute to the simple mentality of a common caste of mankind.’

There is another question of leadership in Dalit Samaj, which has attracted attention of several intellectuals. After Ambedkar a true leadership is lacking. Lohia was aware about it. He therefore presented his own view on the issue in which education was subordinated to other real world qualities. He said: ‘When I speak of leaders arising out of Sudras, I do not mean that they should necessarily be educated. The real criterion is that they should have courage, honesty and a grasp of fundamentals. Such men should be picked up from wherever they are found.’ His emphasis on honesty is much needed in the present context. He meant by Fundamentals—the capacity of a Dalit leader to really assess the problems of the community. It is a sad story that no leader from any political party, except Ambedkar, in the real sense could grasp the problems of the people. The result is already visible—a large section of discriminated castes is still deprived of the basic opportunities and a life full of dignity.

Rammanohar Lohia looked a these issues through the lens of spiritualism where every-thing is absolute truth. Human dignity is a virtue which makes society equal and pleasuresome. Lohia says that ‘the issue of what is virtue and what is sin can no longer be shirked. I believe that spirituality is absolute but morality is relative, and each age and even individual must discover a specific morality (and) there is no greater virtue today than to smash these abominable segregations of caste and sex.’

Lohia is man of all ages. He will survive with his ideas and these ideas are certain to modify the decaying culture of the society in the years to come. The only need is to make the people aware about these.

(All quoted lines have been taken from Caste System by Dr Rammanohar Lohia, Navhind Prakashan, Hyderabad, 1964)

Dr Vivek Kumar Srivastava is the Vice-Chairman, CSSP, Kanpur.

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