India , Indian Society and Social Revolution in India
History recorded many revolutions. Mostly the word revolution was associated with military actions and regime changes that usually involving bloodbaths. However, many revolutions were there like industrial revolution and green revolution that has changed the course of mankind’s living, without bloodshed. Even human evolution was not a linear one. Whenever the linearity changes, revolutionary changes happen and the evolution continues. One point common to evolution and revolution is that both may be for good or bad. However, course corrections are only due to revolutions. Whenever circumstances could no longer withstand the requirements, course corrections happen. It is told that nothing is permanent and change is the only constant thing. However, the more things change, the more they remain same.
Post Independent India and the Revolutionary Saga
India, post independence has seen many phases of evolution and revolution in political, social and economic fields. If Nehru’s time was mostly evolution oriented, Indira’s rule was full of revolutions, be it the nationalization of banks or imposing emergency or domestic terrorism. Then came VP Singh’s regime with mandalisation of politics and consolidation of pro-Hindu psychology. [I don’t want to use the word Hindutva as both Hindu and Hindutva are foreign words, as far as India is concerned]
Then came Narasimha Rao to initiate the first revolution in economic policies. This has resulted into establishing the biggest outsourcing industry in the world. In between came green revolution and milk revolution that helped India to sustain on its own. Apart from these, India was notorious for the indigenous caste system. It is not that only India has discriminated against a class of its own people. Every country or nation has its own classification of people to discriminate some. However, the caste system in India was much more robust and stood the test of time. Despite many thinkers preaching for a classless society, casteism could not be abolished from its present form. Rather, it has evolved into a smooth and multi-variant system.
Gandhi, Ambedkar,Harijans and The Social Revolution
Gandhi coined a term Harijan, but could not abolish untouchability. Ambedkar renounced Hinduism, but things have not changed. OK! Things have changed for a few. But still, a large section of society remains excluded. All Gandhi could achieve was attributing a new name to the untouchables. Probably in hindsight, Ambedkar should not have renounced Hinduism. He could have tried to change the system more effectively from within, had he remained in the Hindu fold. By becoming Buddhist, he lost a chance. What use of being a Buddhist, if they are excluded from the society.
Now, another term Dalit is being used, but things have not changed fully. However, more damage was done by the policies of Congress Governments that treated the lower echelons of the society as a vote bank. In many states this created resentment in other backward castes that became politically active. Apart from this, symbolic representation from the community was used by all political parties to gather votes. However, there was one positive thing that happened in this process. OBCs have evolved to be mainstream politicians. From south to north, in almost all states, OBCs have become formidable political forces and in some states like Andhra, UP, Bihar, they were ruled for the last two decades.
It is not that casteism has died. It is not that casteism is still practiced the same way it was, a century ago. It has evolved to a hypocritical shape, in line with the general society that was equally hypocrite. The only change that I could notice was a change in terminology. I was watching a TV debate where participants were using words like “social class” or “community” instead of using the more direct word – caste. [This is the same way mainstream newspapers carry out cinema news – actresses doing BOLD scenes rather than VULGAR scenes]
The Present Scenario-India’s Turning a Blind Eye to Social Problems
But, the question is how long India can remain hypocrite, turning a blind eye to the social problem. Moreover, casteism has evolved into a multidimensional problem that nobody was ready to accept. For one, within the lower echelons of the society, there is discrimination among the castes. In some states, many groups fight for the “more backward” tag that gives more reservations. This syndrome is not only limited to the castes in the lower rung of the society. Many other castes fight to get include in the backward category. Why? Why people are fighting to get tagged as – backward? Is there anything more depraved than this? Who is responsible for this attitude?
It is not that only people from backward castes vie for reservations or feel they are backward. I once met a boy at a railway station. He completed his diploma in engineering and has no job. In the early nineties, there were not many jobs, as the situation was not as it is today. When I suggested him to get a job even at a lower salary, he replied, “Sir, my bad luck is I am a Brahmin. I don’t get a job anywhere because of reservations”. I answered back, “If you feel you cannot get a job due to reservations, you are not a Brahmin. The Brahmin thinks that he can live on his own and is capable of living on his own”. He had no answer. But, this incident has left a mark on me.
In the southern states, reservations existed for longer periods and people have come to accept this as a part of the system. It is not that upper castes in states with reservations have become extinct. They struggled back to success and some of them failed. The failure or success depended on personal efforts rather than the support or the lack of it from the system. But, have Brahmins in north progressed the same way their southern brothers have progressed? For that matter, as a whole, south India has progressed more than north India. And, to put it mildly, it is because of less feudalism in practice. It has nothing to do with caste. Caste is one tool to practice feudalism. It is the inherent abhorrence to give away power that one has. Yes, south India still has casteism in practice, but this has not come in the way of progress. But, is the progress comprehensive? If a section of society has not progressed, what’s the point of overall progress? Any progress shall be inclusive and comprehensive. If not, the progress cannot stand the test of time and collapses with slightest disturbances.
One thing our Governments could ensure was making people to crave for free things, whether it is jobs or things. Instead of eliminating discrimination, it appears a consolidation of various sections of society has occurred in India, post independence.This is the problem. Is there a solution? That is food for the next part.
By Rama Krishna Prasad Kodundarapulli