| Internationalising Caste
Do we want "caste annihilation or � caste equalization�?
Dr. Ambedkar may have said: � Caste has killed public spirit. Caste has destroyed the sense of public charity. Caste has made public opinion impossible… Virtue has become caste-ridden and morality has become caste-bound.--B.R. Ambedkar, in Annihilation of Caste, 1936
However, the book itself has more to do with annihilation of Brahminical religion (Hinduism) than "Annihilation of caste" itself. In fact, the title happens to have been chosen by an organization called, Jaati todo, samaaj jodo,� which had organized a seminar under the title of "annihilation of caste." The book itself is nothing but the lecture that Ambedkar had written for presentation at the said seminar. It was mostly a critique of Hindu religion.
My personal feeling is that what we really need is "equalization of caste rather than "annihilation of caste." This is because if the lower castes were not identified with their caste identity, it will be difficult for them to partake their due share of power at the expense of extra power tha t the upper castes have accumulated during the time when upper castes have been overtly as well as covertly preferred caste for assignment of all kinds of power. If the lower castes do not have the caste ID, how can they claim any share of power? In the absence of group ID, all will be treated simply as individuals and in the race of individuals the upper castes would be assured of being way ahead. Any time its (caste's) disclosure happens to be to the advantage of the upper castes, they can disclose it, otherwise, officially there will be no caste/class ID.
We must understand that annihilation of a concept is not an easy thing to do, as it exists primarily in the mind. We cannot get into one's mind and verify whether a concept is dead or not. What we can ensure is equalizing groups based on the concept. Even though originally the concept might have been invented for the sake of exploitation of some people under a given identity, we not only can, but need to, take help of the same IDs to ensure empowerment of various caste groups equitably. Once that (equalizing) is done, the ID itself may gradually wither away. Even if it does not wither away, at least it would not be being used for the purpose of exploitation.
Caste ID is like union ID. Without unions, it is easy to exploit individuals, particularly if there are abundant of people of a particular skill or no skill and they have no work. On the other hand, when they are in groups, it20is more difficult for them to exploit them. They will be able to go on strike and support each other during hard times. As I have already said, it may have been invented for the sake of exploitation, it can now be profitably used towards better purposes, including equalization of grpups.
One can say that it (caste) can and is being used towards bad purposes too, like enabling higher castes in helping each other at the expense of those the lower castes. However, as long as we have democracy moderating the power of groups, the disadvantaged groups will have their democratic power giving them needed added boost towards equalization.
What about the case when middle class people are in majority and they are discriminating against the lower class/caste? Even in that case caste categorization can be used to help them because the middle class should know that it is the existence of the lower paid lowest class/caste that pulls down their own wage structures too. If the lowest wage is pushed or pulled higher up, the wage structure of the middle class/caste too will go up.
Thus no matter how we look at the issue of "caste," what we really need is "equalization of caste" rather than "annihilation of caste."
Dr. Satinath Choudhary
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