The democratic nation proved that the fears of lower castes were wrong. They enrolled into regional language education in a big way.
One bright morning in 1960, when I was about eight, a newly appointed single teacher came to my house. My mother had already cleaned our courtyard called ‘vaakili’ and was sprinkling the dung water all around the courtyard. I was about to assist my elder brother in untying the cattle and go along with them for grazing. The teacher asked my mother to send me and my elder brother, who was about 10, to school. What she told him shocks every one of us in retrospect: “Ayyaa — if we send our children to school to read and write devil Saraswathi will kill them. That devil wants only brahmins and baniyas to be in that business.”
For centuries the so called goddess of education was against the dalit learning, reading and writing in any language. She was the goddess of education of only the high castes — mainly of the brahmins and baniayas. But the lower castes, who were denied of education treated her as a devil that would kill their children if they go to school.
The notion that she kills us was so deep that my grandmother fought with my mother for she was terrified of our imminent death, after I and my brother — not my sisters in any case — were sent to school. She used to pray Pochamma — our village goddess — that she should protect us from Saraswathi. Within a few months after we were sent to school my grandmother died of a future shock that we would not survive at all.
The democratic nation proved that those fears of lower castes were wrong. They got into regional language education in a big way. The goddess of Sanskrit education was adopted by lower castes as their goddess of regional language education too. Several school teachers across the country — many of them were OBC teachers — installed Saraswathi photo even in government schools, ignoring the fact there could be a muslim or a christian or any other minority students in the schools.
It is a known fact that there were several hindu teachers who made humiliating remarks about muslims and christians that they do not have goddess of education like Saraswathi and hence inferior in educational values. Saraswathi Shishumandirs have cropped up all over the country. In the ’70s and ’80s the aggressive ownership of ‘matru bhasha’ (mother tongue) theory and adoption of Saraswathi as goddess of Indian education had acquired a nationalist overtone. So militant was that nationalism that any opposition to installing Saraswathi’s portrait in the schools and colleges would only invite fist blows.
The right wing student organisations started installing her portrait in the university departments. The regional language departments made Saraswathi an educational-cultural symbol. Unmindful of the secular constitution of the nation even the university teachers — mainly of regional language departments sporting a visible saffron tilak on the forehead, began to treat others who operate outside that cultural norm as inferior.
A walking goddess
With the increase of women teachers in schools, colleges and universities Saraswathi was made almost a walking goddess in the nation. Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Guru Nanak whose life though revolved around education to all humans never appeared on the nationalist map of education.
While the majority OBCs, some dalits and tribals began to worship Saraswathi in regional educational centres — of course on the real pooja day the priest talked to her only in Sankrit, in spite of the fact, that under her sharp and well decorated nose that language died to a point no return, except that soliloquous priest nobody understands the slokas, she has become goddess of all Indian languages.
While the historical backwards were enjoying their new status of proximity to mythical Saraswathi, the living Saraswathi in the company of her cousin Laxmi shifted her real operative base to the other world, called colonial English world. The backward class people of India, as of now, have no entry so far.
The recent decision of the Central government to introduce English teaching from class one in all government schools will enable all the lower castes of India are going to enter into a new phase of English education. Though this method of English teaching does not take the dalit-bahujan and minority community children to the level of convent educated upper castes, it makes a new beginning of dreaming for egalitarian education in future.
English education is the key for adopting the modernist approach suitable to the globalised India. The upper castes have handled the contradiction between English and their native culture quite carefully. But when it comes to teaching English to the lower castes they have been proposing a theory that English will destroy the ‘culture of the soil’. Having realised the importance of English the Central government has taken a right decision.
However, the next stage should be moving towards total abolition of the gap between the private English medium schools and the government schools in terms of both infrastructure and teaching methods. Even about the language both the public and private schools must be brought under two language formula of teaching 50 per cent syllabus in English and the other half of the syllabus in the regional language across the country.
While Dalits take to the streets to demand the pulling down of an anti-Ambedkar page on Facebook, a far more serious threat to the community is on the rise as the dominant political caste, the Marathas, has reiterated its demand for reservation.
Though the Marathas (including the economically weaker Kunbi sub-caste) comprise only about 30% of Maharashtra’s population, their representation in the state assembly averages about 43%. The community also has a stranglehold on local political institutions like the panchayats, panchayat samitis and zilla parishads, which is further consolidated by its control over credit and sugar cooperatives and educational institutions.
Why then is the Maratha Arakshan Sangharsha Samiti (Mass), an umbrella organisation of 15 Maratha bodies, demanding reservation for Marathas? A closer look reveals that though the community is seeking quotas in education and employment, its main aim is to gain political reservation in due course.
Maratha leaders have sought 25% reservation in schools, colleges and jobs in the first phase, and later intend to demand political reservation and promotions in government service on caste basis.
Though a section of the community, mainly the one which depends on agriculture for sustenance, has been economically backward for many years, and its condition is deteriorating, socially and in terms of political clout, the caste is has been ascendant. Before the implementation of the panchayati raj system, and even afterwards, Marathas have been the only rulers in villages. It might be true that power is in the hands of a few community elite, but it is also true that all the power centres in the state are controlled by the Marathas.
Not only gram panchayats, but the entire co-operative movement in the state, from cooperative sugar factories to weaving mills, is dominated by the Marathas.
The Maratha demand took root after the lower castes were granted reservation in politics. Some say the community could not digest that a person from a lower caste can wield the power which has been its sole prerogative for generations.
Given the size of the Maratha vote bank, no political party can afford to ignore its demand, but due to its overbearing nature, none can publicly support it either. The parties, however, did try to lend implicit support in the hope that it would bring them extra votes, but the move backfired by creating a real threat of polarisation of non-Maratha communities. The political parties are now thus a proxy in the issue, preferring instead to work behind the facade of organisations like the Maratha Mahasangh and others.
The Dalit leaders, though wary, are not openly objecting to the demand. Their key contention is that the reservation should be given from a separate quota without affecting the reservation offered to the other backward classes (OBCs).
Senior Dalit leader and Dalit litterateur Arjun Dangale agrees that a section of the Maratha community is poor and doesn’t have land to cultivate. “The demand may be sound, but the existing reservation of other castes should not be curtailed,” he says.
“Since the chairmanships of local self-government arms, from the gram panchayat to zilla parishad, are reserved for each caste on rotation basis, the Maratha community will be able to wrest power for longer periods if it is denoted an OBC. Political reservation may be their hidden agenda,” Dangale says.
Another Dalit activist, professor Avinash Mahatekar, said that if the Marathas want reservation, it should be on the basis of economic backwardness. “The reservation allotted to OBCs is based on the Census of 1930, and is only 27%. However, the Mandal Commission’s finding is that 52% of the state’s population belongs to OBCs. If we consider the commission’s findings, the reservation for OBCs is not sufficient,” Mahatekar said. “But we still support the reservation for Marathas as many among them are backward,” he added.
On their part, Maratha leaders refute they are ultimately angling for political reservation. “The Marathas have been economically backward for many years and there are just a handful of families, about 150 to 200, who have all the power,” said Purushottam Khedekar, chief of Maratha Seva Sangh.
“The situation has changed in the last few years and the Marathas are not the rulers anymore. In fact, the community is not even interested in that role and wants to educate itself and get better jobs instead,” Khedekar said. “We don’t want reservation in politics. But our demand for reservation in education and government jobs stands,” he reiterated.
However, Vinayak Mete, MLC of the Nationalist Congress Party and a prominent Maratha leader, said, “The Marathas are backward in education which resulted in them having no face in the administration. There is opposition from various sections, but we are not for curtailing anyone else’s reservation. We want to be treated as a separate community in the reservation category,” said Mete.
Ultimately, Maratha leaders concede they have let their community down. “Though most of the educational institutions are controlled by Marathas, the leaders haven’t bothered about the community,” Mete says, and adds, “They never tried to think for the upliftment of the community, and that is why we are pushing for reservation.”
Though there is little to refute that this admission lies at the heart of the problem, what makes the plot more sinister is that these very leaders are now exploiting the backwardness of their community to tighten their grip on power.
NEW DELHI: The prospect of Chiranjeevi embracing Congress has stirred party’s backward lobby which has been chaffing at the overwhelming Reddy dominance in recent years.
Ahead of the Praja Rajyam Party founder’s meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday, Congress was abuzz that Jaganmohan Reddy’s rebellion has forced the party to recalibrate its strategy of staking all on one social group.
It has stoked the ‘Reddy vs others’ debate in Congress with backward groups the most enthused. They feel readjustment of Reddy clout would inevitably drive up the OBC influence.
The actor’s appeal across caste groups in Coastal region and his grip over the Kapu caste gives him the muscle to emerge a satrap in AP Congress, many say at the cost of Reddys.
The OBC lobby sees it as a legup for itself. The optimism is unmistakable as Kapus across the party are identifying with Chiru as if it was a monolith. The fact is that Kapus in the Coastal are forward castes as against their brethern in Telangana.
In a Congress-PRP merger, the megastar’s symbolism would be of non-Reddy muscle in the party. Chiru’s undenied appeal, backed by a strong caste spread across the Coastal region and, in a broad sense outside, shores up his political significance.
The Congress attempt at balancing Reddys with others follows the rebellion by YSR’s son. Congress feels that after installing a Reddy as CM, it can afford to consolidate support outside. A similar bid earlier would have been a red rag to the Reddys.
It has even forced a rethink in the OBC-heavy Telangana lobby which viewed party’s warming up to Chiru as a vote against statehood. Apart from Venkataswamy who attacked Sonia Gandhi, the region gave a silent welcome to the party’s partnership with PRP.
The Chiru-Congress tango has provoked Jaganmohan. The Reddy rebel slammed Congress MP V Arun Kumar as a traitor for making public a post-Lok Sabha letter in which his father YSR asked Sonia Gandhi to make Chiru a minister at the Centre.
Kumar on Saturday retaliated telling Jaganmohan, “I never imagined there would develop a deep distrust between us just because you plan to float a new party leaving Congress and I continue in the same.”
Congress too dismissed suggestions that exploring ties with PRP betrayed nerves over Jagan. AICC spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said, “The state government stands strong and talking to allies is not a sign of weakness but a mark of maturity of government.”
In spite of the central government mentioning that the other backward castes (OBC) should be counted as a separate category in the Census, officials said that they have not received any directives. The second phase, which will take off on February 9, will have different categories for the third gender, while the commercial sex workers will be put in the category ‘others’ unlike the traditional practice of counting them as beggars.
The officials from the census operations have clarified that they have received no directions about the counting of the OBCs as independent category. However, Sameer Bhujbal, MP, who has been batting for the separate category of the OBC in the census, has claimed that the caste-wise census will be undertaken between July and September 2011. “I have been told by registrar general of the union home department that the proforma of the caste based census is being finalised and it will be undertaken in the later phase,” he said.
All the primary schools run by the BMC in Mumbai will remain shut during the second phase. “The primary teachers from the aided schools are also part of the drive. There would be no need to shut the schools if the teachers work for four additional hours. Right To Education Act or the Central Act nowhere demand for their exclusion,” said Ranjit Singh Deol, director of census operations, Maharashtra.
KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today defended his government’s job reservation policy for OBC Muslims and said it was now trying to solve the housing accommodation problem of the community.
“There is reservation of jobs for the people belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Communities. There was no reservation for the Muslims in government. There should be equal opportunities. We have provided 10 per cent reservation for Muslims,” Bhattacharjee said.
The state government had decided last year to institutionalise 17 per cent job quota for OBCs, including 10 per cent for Muslims, without naming them.
Reservation of jobs for the OBC Muslims is expected to be the centrepiece of the CPI(M)’s drive to win back the minorities who have deserted the Left, as shown from the result of several elections in the recent past.
NEW DELHI: A separate caste census exercise will begin in June, and be completed within four months, by September.
Announcing the timeframe during his Budget speech, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, said, “In response to the overwhelming demand for enumeration of castes other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Census 2011, it has been decided to canvass caste as a separate time-bound exercise.”
Funds in the Budget for census surveys and statistics, therefore, saw a substantial increase — from Rs 2,793.62 crore in 2010-11 to Rs 4,123.62 crore in the next fiscal year. It is meant for both the ongoing census as well as the separate caste census later. At present, the 15th Census exercise is being conducted. Enumerators across the country completed the headcount on Monday. Compilation of statistical data on different socio-economic parameters will be done over the next few months.
Bageshree S., The Hindu
Bangalore: The alleged “honour” killing of 20-year-old K.R. Deepika for daring to marry out of caste at Thamasandra village on February 27, yet again underlines the fact that, contrary to urban middle class notions, caste structures remain rigid and anyone attempting to break it has to pay a price.
A visit to Thamasandra and Karikalludoddi, the native village of Deepika (a Vokkaliga) and her husband R. Venkatesh (an Uppara), reveals no obvious indicators of violent caste conflict.
Nevertheless, the caste divide is sharp and palpable. Like in most villages, here too the Adi Karnataka (Dalit) Colony is on the outer periphery.
People of the Uppara community are “touchable” and live within the village. However, they are placed socially and economically lower in the ladder compared to the Vokkaligas, and are numerically weaker. Upparas are about 15 families out of the 180 in Karikalludoddi. Vokkaliga families number about 80, and the rest are Scheduled Castes and a Marathi-speaking OBC community.
Political representation from the region provides some indication of the caste equations. MLA from Ramanagaram is K. Raju and MP is H.D. Kumaraswamy, both Vokkaligas. Another powerful politician from Kanakapura in the same district, D.K. Shivakumar, also belongs to the same community. Indeed, whispers abound that Ms. Deepika’s family is close to “powerful people”.
The family of Deepika is not visibly wealthy. They own about 20 acres of land in all. “They own a house in Harohalli too,” said a villager.
An interesting factor is that the couple had enough exposure through education to a world beyond the strict caste hierarchy, but not the wherewithal to get out of its feudal grip entirely.
Mr. Venkatesh is a college dropout, while Deepika had completed her PUC in a college in Bangalore. They did not have the economic means to move entirely out of their social milieu.
Inter-caste marriages are rare in the village, but this is not the first instance. Mr. Venkatesh’s uncle K. Prakash said that there had been the case of an Uppara girl marrying a Vokkaliga about a year ago.
Though it was frowned upon, it did not create the same outrage because the girl was “marrying up”, he said, and his community was not strong enough to oppose. This adds a gender angle within the caste structure.