Sumant Kumar is teaching live on Unacademy Plus
Should we collect data on caste? Some would argue that the simple act of asking about caste creates a chasm within society Chasm: a profound difference between people, viewpoints, feelings, etc. O"the chasm between rich and poor" OPart of this resistance comes from reaction to the preoccupation of colonial administrators- turned-arm-chair anthropologists who saw caste as the defining feature of Indian society. Colonial Censuses, beginning with the first Census in 1871, included questions about caste and used these data to divide and conquer India by first privileging Brahmins as interpreters of Indian culture and then tarzgeting them.as the roots of caste based oppression and inequality. GS. Ghurye, the early 20th century pioneer of Indian sociology, reacted sharply by identifying this passion for classification as the source of anti-Brahmin movements. Veena Das, doyenne of modern Indian anthropology, also notes that the colonial Censuses via the process of recording caste generated a conception of community as a homogeneous and classifiable community and thereby influenced the processes of political representation. Consequently, post-Independence Censuses have shied away from including questions about caste.
The challenge for modern India lies in figuring out whether caste-based political mobilisation and strong sentiments for or against reservations would disappear just because we choose not to collect statistics about caste Patels, Gujjars, Jats and Marathas do not seem to care about the lack of Census data as they demand reservations. Nor has the caste cauldron of Karnataka elections calmed because we can only roughly estimate the size of the Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities. What is at stake? DOur political systems, civil society and courts continue to assume that broad caste- based social categories - Dalits, Adivasis, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and upper castes defined largely using data from 1931 Census and a few special purpose surveys continue to shape economic conditions in 21st century India OWithout accurate data at a granular level for each of these categories consisting of thousands of jatis (castes) and upjatis (subcastes), we have no way of knowing whether this is correct. Indian society has undergone a tremendous transformation since 1931.
OLand ownership that bolstered the power of upper castes has lost its hold. OLand fragmentation and decades of agricultural stagnation have turned many upper caste landowners into marginal farmers barely eking out a subsistence. While landlessness, once the bane of Dalit existence, has left the landless better poised to take advantage of rising rural wages, particularly construction wages OConsequently, while at a broad brushstroke the National Sample Survey (NSS) shows that mean consumption expenditure of forward castes is higher than that of Dalits, clusters of poverty persist among forward castes. According to NSS data, the bottom fourth of forward castes are poorer than the top half of Dalits. India Human Development Survey shows that 56% of Dalit children ages 8-11 cannot read but neither can 32% of forward caste and 47% of OBC children.
ombined with strong affirmation action undertaken by Economic growth of the past century, c successive governments of the independent nation, may have changed relative fortunes of various groups. Some jatis may have managed to pull themselves out poverty and marginalisation, while others may have sunk into it. Hence, it is time to collect data that reflects the current situation. Par collect kaiase kare bhai?? OCollection of caste data is not easy. OThe SECC asked interviewers to write down the name of the caste exactly as articulated by the respondent. By some reports, it has revealed as many as 46 lakh castes Sometimes the same caste is spelt in different ways, at other times some individuals report their jati and others upjati making it difficult to create mutually exclusive categories However, we have nearly three years before the Census of 2021 and are fortunate to have data from the SECC and technologies rooted in machine learning at our disposal OIt would be possible to set up an expert group that uses the SECC data in conjunction with other data sources such as matrimonial advertisements and State-specific Scheduled Castes/OBC lists to make a comprehensive list of castes and condense them into meaningful categories via machine learning tools
OThese categories could then be validated by domain experts from the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) institutions in various States to come up with a district specific list of castes that would cover more than 90% of individuals in any given district. Interviewers could use this precoded list to allow respondents to self-classify with a small residual group's responses being recorded verbatim and categorised later. This is very similar to the technique through which occupational and industrial classification systems are created. Genie's out already O Collection of data on castes is inherently risky. OPoliticians have long realised the advantages and disadvantages of capitalising on the sense of OA caste Census could easily roil the waters in ways that are hard to predict. O Demands are already rife for the release of these data. relative deprivation among various groups. However, once the SECC was conducted, the genie was out of the bottle Conceding that these data are flawed and looking for better ways of collecting data on caste may be a way of calming the waters before the 2019 election. It will take courage for a future government to collect data on caste and to use it to rationalise reservation policies. However, without better and more current data, our discourse on caste and affirmative action remains dominated by decisions made by the colonial administration.
[TheHindu Art2] A new vulnerability Post-2014, cow vigilante groups have emerged as the most prominent non-state actors in India in terms of their capacity to unleash violence. They strike at will even in regions not governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) O Given the shoddy nature of the allegations levelled by these groups, the obiective seems more to target Muslim traders and citizens than rescuing cows. The brutal attack on two Muslims last week in Hapur, Uttar Pradesh is the latest instance of this pernicious trend Hence, it would be more appropriate to call these groups as Muslim vigilante groups The cow protection movement has a long history that goes back to the colonial days Gandhiji wrote: "But, just as I respect the cow, so do l respect my fellow-men. A man is just as useful as a cow no matter whether he be a Mahomedan or a Hindu. Am I, then, to fight with or kill a Mahomedan in order to save a cow? In doing so, I would become an enemy of the Mahomedan as well as of the cow. Therefore, the only method l know of protecting the cow is that I should approach my Mahomedan brother and urge him for the sake of the country to join me in protecting her." (Hind Swaraj, chapter 10) O Had Gandhi been alive today, he would have protested the Dadri lynching with a fast unto death while Gandhiji urged for persuasive approach, the Hindu right believes in creating a climate of fear and intimidation For decades the Hindu right has campaigned for cow protection as a Hindu-Muslim issue, as if Muslims took to beef eating only to humiliate Hindus No definitive theory exists of how Muslims took to beef eating; but none approves the humiliation of Hindus as the reason for Muslims to resorting to beef eating As Dalits too eat beef, this is a Dalit issue as well As a cause, cow slaughter is limited to the upper castes
[TheHindu Art3] Change perceptions in J&K The suspension of operations in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has been called off by the government. The ceasefire will soon be forgotten and the new set of stories will be about the next phase of 'Operation All Out' OWhat will also be forgotten are the reasons that forced the government to announce the truce despite the success that the security forces had been achieving in counterterrorist operations. OAnyway, with the State government now having fallen, there will be a fresh look to find a way forward. Internal and external facets In seeking answers, we have to consider both the external and internal facets of the conflict. Pakistan plays a key role in keeping the conflict alive; its Army gives unstinted support to terror groups. In the absence of any incentive, and an almost complete breakdown of diplomacy between the two countries, some of us feel that the only option left to deter Pakistan is to keep up military pressure along the Line of ContoLcHowever,it appears that the government has taken the position that the 2003 ceasefire must be respected.
Unfortunately, the 2003 agreement was only verbal, so there is no "letter and spirit" to it This has kept it fragile. For the ceasefire to succeed, it must be based on some strong principles that promote confidence between the two armies. As long as infiltration continues, forward patrols are attacked by groups from across border, and soldiers killed, there can be no peace among troops facing off on the Loc It is essential that the two DGMOs meet and formalise an agreement in which Pakistan agrees to do more to seal off its border to prevent terrorists from entering India. It is obvious that Pakistan will be reluctant to do this, but it must be put on the spot or exposed for the whole world to see. There must also be greater interaction between the local commanders of the two armies for instance, flag meetings can be held along the border. o Often it is local dynamics that trigger firing, which then escalates and spreads to other areas o If confidence can be built between local officers, it will enhance peace o An example can be taken from Ladakh where regular border meetings with Chinese officers have been instrumental in keeping the border calm.
A multipronged approach Looking at the internal situation in J&K, it is obvious that a multipronged approach involving both kinetic and population-centric measures is required. OPerhaps the simplest in terms of understanding is the need to target the terrorists who have vitiated the atmosphere in the State, OThe security forces are confident and capable of dealing with this threat -250-300 terrorists in the State can carry out a few high-profile terror attacks but are simply OA little more complicated is the law and order situation in dealing with stone-pelting OThe injuries and deaths which inevitably follow these clashes lead to a repeated cycle OHowever, there is no option but to check this with a firm hand. If the writ of the state incapable of forcing any revolutionary change mobs of violence is seen as weak, the population will distance itself from the government.
Meanwhile, the government must look at meeting the aspirations of the larger population with a view towards long-term conflict resolution This is the most complex task, with many competing narratives being offered as solutions. when faced with this dilemma, it is sometimes helpful to go back to understanding why ethnic conflicts often defy solutions "Ethnic and national conflicts entail two major aspects-defined by scholars as a socio-political aspect and a socio-psychological aspect with the latter no less crucial than the former... The socio-psychological aspect pertains to a wide range of issues relating to the community, including a community's sense of identity and self-perceptions, its fears and sense of collective threats, perceived past, and portrayal of its role in the conflict... The socio-political aspect involves issues such as land, natural resources, economic and political dominance. Despite the complexity of the socio-political matters, in situations of intractable conflict it is the socio- psychological aspect, as well as history, that dominates the relationship between the involved adversaries and plays a central role in interpreting and fuelling persistent animosity" In (prolonged and violent) conflicts the involved societies evolve [a] culture of conflict of which the dominant parts are societal beliefs of collective memories and of ethos of conflict, as well as collective emotional orientation.. These narratives are selective, biased and distorted as their major function is to satisfy the societal needs rather than provide [an] objective account of reality
TheHindu Art4] Smoke and mirrors When the Cold War ended, the withering of its restraining influences spawned many ethnic and state-breaking conflicts. Also, the feeling of hubris generated in the U.S. by the demise of the Soviet Union amplified its interventionist proclivities. A combination of these factors led to so-called "humanitarian" interventions, especially in the Balkans and West Asia Some of these, as in Bosnia and Kosovo, did achieve humanitarian ends by preventing ethnic cleansing on a national scale. OOthers, as in Iraq, Libya and Syria, made bad situations infinitely worse. Nonetheless, such interventions helped create a new international norm whereby it was assumed that the "international community"-or more aptly the Western owers - had the right to intervene in countries where governments engaged in brutal suppression of their peoples The term Responsibility to Protect (R2P), derived from a 2001 report by a high- powered commission at the behest of the UN Secretary General, became the linchpin of the humanitarian intervention argument.
Demands for intervention in humanitarian crises, such as in Gaza, that do not suit the P-3 especially the U.S., face the threat of veto in the UNSC. This is why genuine humanitarian crises crying out for intervention remain unaddressed Most humanitarian interventions are in fact extensions of the Western powers' foreign policies rather than genuine attempts at protecting the security of affected populations. The related idea that the P-5 should not exercise their right to veto on issues of humanitarian intervention, while discussed in the R2P report, got no traction because the permanent members were not interested in their actions being restrained In the absence of such a provision, R2P merely legitimises the major powers' penchant to intervene for their own benefit. OConsequently, humanitarian intervention is often little more than a game of smoke and mirrors.