The Dalit community of India

Material Information

The Dalit community of India how well have constitutional guarantees of equality worked?
Eslary, William Stephen
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
80 leaves : ; 28 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Master's ( Master of Arts)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of Political Science, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Political Science
Committee Chair:
Everett, Jana
Committee Co-Chair:
Thomas, Stephen
Committee Members:
Cummings, Michael


Subjects / Keywords:
Dalits -- Civil rights -- India ( lcsh )
Caste -- India ( lcsh )
Caste ( fast )
Dalits -- Civil rights ( fast )
India ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 76-80).
Political science
General Note:
Department of Political Science
Statement of Responsibility:
by William Stephen Eslary.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
47826328 ( OCLC )
LD1190.L64 2001m .E74 ( lcc )


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THE DALIT COMMUNITY OF INDIA HOW WELL HAVE CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEES OF EQUALITY WORKED? by William Stephen Eslary B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 1996 A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Political Science 2001


This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by William Stephen Eslary has been approved by jaE\Ierett Stephen Thomas Michael Cummings Date


Eslary, William Stephen (M.A., Political Science) The Dalit Community of India How well have constitutional guarantees of equality worked? Thesis directed by Professor Jana Everett ABSTRACT This thesis is a consideration of the situation of the Dalit community of India and whether Indian constitutional guarantees of freedom, equality and due process before the law are being upheld in the case ofthe Dalit community. For over 100 years the Dalit community, also referred to as the Untouchables, Scheduled Castes and backward classes, has been fighting for its basic rights as the poorest of the poor in Hindu-majority India. This thesis examines the hierarchical caste system in India and how it has historically impeded the upward mobility of its lowest segments. It also evaluates the Indian Reservation policy of affirmative action for its Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Dalits) established under the Indian Constitution of 1950 and examined by India's First and Second Backward Classes Commissions of 1953 and 1978. How effective have the preferences provided by law in the areas of government iii


employment, legislative assembly seats and admissions to academic institutions been in improving the socio-economic conditions and political power of the Dalits? The thesis explores the contemporary Dalit social movement. It further illustrates the legacy of the movement in attempting to improve the social, political and economic lives of the Dalits of India, who comprise over 16% of India's one billion population. The thesis makes a comparison of Indian government reservation policies and Dalit social movement aspirations for political, social and economic equality regarding seats in the legislative assemblies, representation in academic institution admissions, and representation in civil service employment. It also looks at their economic status and their social/cultural status focusing on atrocities committed against Dalits and the denial of their civil rights. This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication. JallaEverett iv


DEDICATION I dedicate this thesis to my beloved family, my wife, Lori, and my daughter, Gina, for their unfaltering understanding and support while I was pursuing this research. Without their patience and love, this effort would never have been possible.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT I wish to express my sincere appreciation to my advisor, Professor Jana Everett, for her professionalism, patience, and understanding with me during the writing of this thesis. She has been a true inspiration during this thesis writing. Her academic excellence and disciplined research methods along with her first-hand lmowledge of India's people and politics were instrumental in helping me to successfully comprehend and write about the people and politics of India. For this, I am eternally grateful. I also wish to express my profound appreciation to Captain P .P. Singh and family (P.P., Usha, Palak, and Prashant) of New Delhi, India, who shared their home and their lives with my wife Lori and me. They gave us a glimpse of a very special place in the world called India during our visit with them in New Delhi during the beginning stages of my thesis research and development. They will always be a loving part of our extended family. It is very important for me to express my appreciation and profound gratitude to the countless number of Indian students whom I have met and conferred with over the past two years. They have all, unknowingly, had such a positive and enduring impact on my academic and personal life. Finally, I wish to thank Dr. Sahar Abdel Khalek Abbass, Department of English, Faculty of Arts, Helwan University, Cairo, Egypt, for her academic guidance and encouragement in the writing of this thesis while she was a visiting scholar preparing her Ph.D. dissertation. Lori and I enjoyed many precious moments with Sahar and her family, her husband, Mohamad, and their son, Sherif.


CONTENTS Tables ..................................................................................... x CHAPTER 1. CASTE SYSTEM AND EARLY RESERVATION POLICY IN INDIA ........................................... 1 Introduction and Historical Overview .................. 1 The Caste System and National Unity ................ .4 The Twentieth Century and Nationalism .............. 7 Early Reservation Policy Development in India ..... 7 2. INDIAN RESERVATION POLICY DEVELOPMENT ............................................ 12 Reservation Policy Development in Independent India ........................................................ 12 Educational Reservations ................................ 15 Job Reservations .......................................... 15 The Other Backward Classes (OBCs) .................. 18 First Backward Classes Commission (Kalekar Commission-1953) ....................................... 19 vii


Second Backward Classes Commission (Mandai Commission-1978) and the Aftermath ................. 22 Scope of Reservations: State Level.. .................. 24 3. THE CONTEMPORARY DALIT SOCIAL MOVEMENT .................................................. 27 Introduction and Historical Background .............. 27 The Dalit Panther Social Movement .................. 35 The Dalit Social Movement in Retrospect. ........... 39 4. CONTEMPORARY ECONOMIC, POLITICAL AND SOCIAL.STATIJS OF THE DALITS .................... .42 Implementation of Reservation Policies ............. .42 Representation of SC and ST seats in the Legislative Assemblies ................................. 44 Representation of SCs and STs in Academic Institution Admissions ................................. .45 Representation of SCs and STs in Civil Service Employment ............................................. 46 Economic Status ......................................... 49 Social/Cultural Status and Atrocities Against Dalits ...................................................... 51 viii


5. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS .... 59 Introduction ........................................... 59 Reservation Policy Accomplishments and Limitations ................... : ....................... 59 Aspirations in Comparison to the Policy Outcomes, in Retrospect. ........................... 61 Conclusion and Recommendations ................ 69 APPENDIX A. FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS UNDER THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION OF 1950 .............................. 71 B. SPECIAL PROVISIONS RELATING TO CERTAIN CLASSES (INDIAN CONSTITUTION) ............... 74 REFERENCES ...................... ............................................ 76 ix


TABLES TABLE 4.1 Scheduled Caste Employment in the Central Government, 19781979 .............................................................................. 48 4.2 Scheduled Caste Senior Officers (Class 1), Employment in the Central Government, 1978-1979; Selected Departments ............................ 49 5.1 Socio-Economic Profile of Scheduled Castes, 1986-1987 ................ 63 5.2 Percentage of Scheduled Castes in Central Government, 1 January 1987 .............................................................................. 64 5.3 Expenditure by Center, States and Union Territories on Social Services as Percentage ofGDP, 1985-1986 to 1996-1997 .......................... 66 X


CHAPTER ONE CASTE SYSTEM AND EARLY RESERVATION POLICY IN INDIA Introduction and Historical Overview This thesis will consider the impact of the contemporary caste system of India on the social, political, economic and educational outlook for the Dalit segment of Indian society. Dalits, also lmown as Untouchables, Harijans, and Scheduled Castes, have been and continue to be some of the poorest of the poor within India. India has a long history of social movement activity, starting with the Nationalist movement and culminating in independence from colonial rule on August 15, 1947. Some ofthe more recent movements have been the women's, farmer's, fishworker's and the Dalit social movements. This thesis will focus on the Dalit social movement, although all the movements have had a common theme of social justice and equality and have greatly affected each other in realizing political change at both state and central government levels. In order to address social-justice and equality issues within the marginalized backward classes of India, one must grasp the significance of the Indian social structure. One of the defining features of Indian society as an ancient civilization is the caste system, a religious-based hierarchy with social, economic and political ramifications. In contrast, one of the controversial ways the Indian Constitution 1


promotes equality is by establishing a reservation system, providing in effect affirmative action for Scheduled Caste (Dalits) and Scheduled Tribes (recognized indigenous peoples of India) in politics, education and government jobs. This thesis will address some of the ways that these two opposing principles of hierarchy and equality have worked in contemporary politics. It is important to understand what have been the policies of the government in reference to social justice and equality and the strategies of the Dalit social movement in improving the political, social, and economic position of this marginalized group, in part through the reservatiQn system and, in part through other on-going social, political, economic and psychological means. What obstacles and opposition have they faced? In what ways do the government policies and the Dalit social-movement strategies complement each other, and in what ways do they conflict? What have been their accomplishments and failures? Finally, this thesis will address the prospects for the future of the backward classes of India. The central questions examined by this thesis are specifically, how do Indian governmental policies toward the marginalized in Indian society actually affect the people they are meant to help? What are the shortcomings? How do the Dalits' social-movement aspirations compare with the specific governmental policies enacted? 2


Using a historical-comparative analysis, this thesis compares Indian governmental policies and specific Dalit social-movement aspirations. The historical-comparative methodology allows for careful comparison within Indian history of the Nationalist movement, the caste system, and contemporary social movements. Chapter one will include a historical overview of the caste system in India. It will also address the early reservation policy development after Independence and the approach then taken to caste inequality. Chapter two, Indian Reservation Policy Development, will include governmental policies, the guarantees under the Indian Constitution for the backward classes and the Indian reservation system and policy development since Independence. This chapter will also include the two major commissions authorized by the central government, culminating in the Kalekar Commission Report of 1953 and the Mandai Commission Report of 1978.The scope of reservations at the state level will also be explained. The Indian reservation system and its policy of "affirmative action" or "positive discrimination" for the backward classes in public employment and school admissions have been a constitutional guarantee since 1950 and have been enhanced at both state and federal levels ever since. This thesis will attempt to explore this constitutional policy from the backward-class perspective looking within the framework of a modem, democratic, secular, and multi-cultural India. 3


Chapter four will compare governmental reservation policies and Dalit social movement aspirations in reference to Dalit economic, political, and social empowerment, as well as victimization. It will further address the ironies of constitutional guarantees for Dalits and governmental policy and indicators of social progress achieved in India as the country attempts to fulfill the constitutional vision of equality for all citizens. Chapter five will present a comparison of these policy outcomes versus the Dalit social-movement aspirations. A conclusion and recommendations will highlight prospects for the future and recommendations for enhancement of group empowerment for the Dalit community. The Caste System and National Unity Cohn (1971:56) points out that the effort to establish a single past, a single tradition, and a single cultural identity with one nation and one people has generally proved unsuccessful in India. The use of Hindu heroes and symbolism exacerbated hostilities between Hindus and Muslims in the pre-Independence era and played a part in the 1947 partition of India, into India and Pakistan. One of the major reasons for this outcome has been the phenomenon of the caste system in India, unique among the world's societies. Cohn (1971) maintains that the institution taken as the hallmark of Indian society is caste. There is no generally accepted single definition of the caste system, but 4


there is widespread agreement on its attributes. The caste system consists of a number of groups, (jati or sub-castes), recruited by birth; mei_Ilbership in the group determines behaviors, hereditary occupations, expectations, and evaluations of individuals and determines their access to the valued statuses and activities in society. Marriage is within the group. Underlying the caste system are values associated with ideas of purity and pollution. The caste system consists of four ranks, or varnas (colors): Brahman (priests), Kshatriya (warriors), Vaishya (traders) and the vast majority, Shudra (peasants or artisans); all sub-castes, except the Untouchables (Dalits), are supposed to fit into one of these four large categories. The Dalits fall below the Shudra, in the hierarchical system. There is a hierarchy in the system, leading to the ranking of groups based on the purity or pollution of the jati's traditional occupations. Since the period of the First World War, up until today, sanskritization, the process by which lower castes emulate the customs, values, and the life style of higher castes has been a strategy used by members of or an entire caste to raise their social status. Sanslaitization is an a:ffinnation of the caste system. Cohn (1971 : 136), emphasizes that those groups who try to raise their status through sanslaitization are maintaining the caste system by accepting its values. Sanskritization efforts by Dalits have not usually been successful as the pollution associated with their traditional occupations, such as leatherworking, and the disposal of human waste, stigmatized 5


them. In the late 1930s, and increasingly in the forties and early fifties, Dalit efforts to raise their status shifted from the cultural to the economic and political arena. With the increasing activity that led to Independence in 194 7, the urban-based Nationalist movement increasingly moved into the countryside and drew small-toWn. and village-based persons into the movement both as followers and leaders. This movement for equality reached its peak with the assassination of Gandhi in 1948, who, among other things, advocated fairer treatment of the Untouchables (Dalits).This social and economic agenda indicates the likely direction of changes within the caste system and the strategies increasingly followed by lower castes to achieve a fairer share of the valued statuses and goods oflndian society. All Indian governments since Independence have rejected the caste system, yet it prevails in contemporary India. Untouchability is outlawed in the Indian Constitution, Article 17 and in the Protection of Civil Rights Act, the 1976 successor to the Untouchability Offenses Act of 1955, which gives special legal backing and enforcement to this prohibition, yet it also prevails. There are limits to the governmental enforcement mechanism in the daily life of Dalits, especially in the rural areas of India. 6


The Twentieth Century and Nationalism The Indian Nationalist movement led by Nehru, Gandhi and many others was critical in preparing India for setting her new direction on August 15, 1947. However after achieving her independence this movement subsided due to pressing priorities of nation-building and was replaced with the strong efforts to create a living constitution and to unify the country. The beginning years were very difficult, and India faced the difficult task of nation-building, and unification unsurpassed in the history of most civilizations up to this date. India's constitution would be written with this in mind by the Nationalist founders, but nation-building involves contradictions, which India faced from the very beginning with such diverse populations and religions as well as a fragmented and volatile political system at both the central and state levels (Austin:1966). Early Reservation Policy Development in India It is important to review briefly the pre and post Independence developments in India, for the understanding of contemporary governmental reservation policies for Scheduled Castes (Dalits) and Scheduled Tribes (recognized indigenous peoples of India) and the controversy over extending this "affirmative action" to the "Other Backward Classes" (OBC's), not originally covered under the Indian Constitution. Reservation policy in India emerged as a by-product of British colonial rule, after the British gave representation to minorities who asked for separate electorates. This 7


policy allowed the British Raj to bargain with social groups separately and created a disincentive for diverse interests, such as the Muslims and the Hindus, to band together in challenging colonial rule. The Indian National Congress, the forerunner to the post-Independence Congress party, was steadfastly opposed to separate electorates from its inception and maintained this position through partition of India in August 1947. However, the Indian National Congress was not able to keep minorities from bargaining with the British if they could not get their first preferences in negotiation with the Congress. In this climate, reservations, or affirmative action preferences in government employment, educational admissions and legislative assembly seats, were a compromise that the Congress reached with Untouchables, as they were called then, to fend off separate electorates. As Parikh (1997) further shows, the Congress's acceptance of the principles and practice of reserved seats in the Poona Pact of 1932 occurred because the party leadership felt that it needed to keep Untouchables within the political coalition if Congress was to be persuasive in its argument that it was the sole party that represented all Indians. Nevertheless, Parikh further explains that since Untouchables could obtain separate electorates by demanding them from the British, the Congress had to provide them with a reason to settle for reserved seats. Gandhi's popularity and his apparent willingness to sacrifice his life in this effort helped the Congress to achieve 8


its goal of keeping the Untouchables unified under the Congress. However, in gaining the Untouchable community as allies, Congress was forced to legitimate reserved seats as a national policy. The Poona Pact's outcome resonated during the Constituent Assembly debates, where reserved seats for Untouchables were the only form of preferential representation to survive the colonial period. Congress leaders were willing to retain them in order to insure that Untouchables stayed loyal to the Congress. Gandhi's assassination in January of 1948 removed the Congress leader most identified with the abolition of Untouchable oppression. Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, an Untouchable himself, who had spent his whole life on a mission to emancipate Untouchables from the Hindu social system of caste then became the most important political leader of the Untouchables. The Indian Supreme Court challenges to the reservation policy foreshadowed conflicts that were to arise beginning in the 1970s, when the policy was extended to the "Other Backward Classes" (OBCs). The Congress's dominance of the political landscape beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, especially through the parliamentary structure that made it difficult for other governmental actors to oppose it, allowed reservation policies to expand and become entrenched as policy options. 9


The Supreme Court, as the official guardian of the Indian Constitution, was given the explicit power of judicial review of parliamentary legislation, but Parikh, (1997:166-168) cautions: While this power appears to give it the capacity to challenge Parliament if it considers a law unconstitutional, the likelihood of this challenge being successful is dependent on Parliament's capacity to amend-the Constitution. Since the amendment procedure is relatively simple, especially if the governing party has a solid majority, the court is more constrained in its capacity to sustain its preferences over those of Parliament than its enumerated powers would suggest. The fact that Parliament had considerable undivided power does not mean that there were no conflicts, and that interest groups could not be represented. The locus of the struggle for power had not disappeared, but it had moved. As the dominant force in a one-party democracy, Congress was ID:ade up of diverse social groups and conflicts which were negotiated and managed within the party organization. By the time policies were introduced in Parliament, they had largely been worked out. The reasons that the Congress was able to dominate Indian politics for decades were twofold: the strength of its organization and the stature of its leaders, particularly Gandhi and Nehru. After Nehru died in 1964, followed shortly by his successor, there was no consensus over who should lead the Congress. The power struggles that followed had ramifications for the way power was distributed across institutions, and 10


reservation policies were transformed into a major tool to increase the power of individuals and parties by appealing to political blocs (Parikh: 1997). Dr. B.R. Ambedkar died in 1956leaving a lifelong legacy of support and a foundation for the continuing improvement in the life of the "Dalit" community. His contributions and philosophy on human rights and social justice have affected the direction ofDalit social uplift movements ever since. As one of the framers of the new Indian Constitution, he was instrumental in getting the reservation system firmly entrenched as a right. In summary, this chapter has reviewed the thesis direction and by highlighting the Indian Nationalist movement's legacy, the caste system and national unity, _the Twentieth Century and nationalism, early reservation policy development in India and the legacy of Dr. Ambedkar in formulating a Dalit social movement which continues unabated today. Chapter two discusses the reservation policy development in Independent India, the issue of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), the First and Second Backward Class commissions and finally the scope of reservations at the state level. 11


CHAPTER TWO INDIAN RESERVATION POLICY DEVELOPMENT With the adoption of the Constitution by the members of the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949, India became the largest democracy in the world. By this act of strength and will, Assembly members began what was perhaps the greatest political venture since that originated in Philadelphia in 1787. A huge land with the second largest population in the world, socially and economically marginalized, culturally diverse, and, for the first time in 150 years responsible for its own future, India was to attempt to achieve administrative and political unity and an economic and social revolution, desired by all groups, under a democratic constitution. This chapter will address Indian Reservation policy development in Independent India, educational reservation policy, job reservations, the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), the First and Second Backward Class commissions conducted by the central government and the scope of reservations at the state level. Reservation Policy Development in Independent India The new constitutional and legal environment emphasized equal participation by every adult citizen of the state. With one stroke of the pen, the constitutional founding fathers sought to end centuries-old discrimination by granting universal adult franchise. To offset the accumulated oppression of centuries of deprivation, special constitutional measures were enacted for the members of the Scheduled 12


Castes and Scheduled Tribes who had traditionally been the victims of social and economic oppression. The Constitution reflected the idealism and moral commitment of the founding fathers: in framing the Constitution they sought to establish a democratic secular state based on equal rights for all in the eyes of the law. Article 15 of this document prohibited discrimination on grounds of religion, race, sex or place of birth while Article 17 abolished"Untouchability" and Articles 330 and 332 ensured the reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People (Lok Sabha) and the legislative assemblies of the states. Responding to the needs of the hour, the Constituent Assembly members opted for the policy of reservations or affirmative action towards the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It was with the explicit purpose of improving the economic and social conditions of the depressed classes, who were scattered all over the country, that the British colonial government decided to list them in a schedule in 1930, in order to have an accurate estimate of their numbers and to provide special benefits to them through legislative and executive action. There were no absolute definitions to demarcate the criteria or characteristics that marked off a particular group or caste as belonging to the "Scheduled Castes" (SC); hence, the census report of 1931 gave a nine-point test in order to distinguish the Scheduled Castes from others. Rupa (1992:24) elaborates: From the point of view of the state, the important test is the right to use public conveniences-Roads, wells and schools and if this is taken as the primary test, religious disabilities and the social difficulties indirectly 13


involved by them may be regarded as contributory only. Some importance must be attached to them obviously if the general public regards the persons of certain groups so distasteful, that concerted action is resorted to in order to keep them away. Certain persons of those groups do suffer under a serious disability. The list of castes was first issued in the schedule appended to the Government of India Act of 1935 and was later incorporated in the Constitution oflndia (S.C. and S.T.) order, 1950. Article 340, of the Constitution oflndia states emphatically: "The state shall promote, with special care, the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation". This has been the premise for the country to establish and maintain a system of social protection and affirmative action for the backward classes for over 50 years. Ironically, this focus has also been at the root of social cleavage between the classes as will be seen throughout this thesis. The Constitution provided for reservations in the areas of education, government employment and representative seats in the lower houses of both the central and state governments. 14


Educational Reservations Under Articles 15(4) and 29, it is mandatory for educational institutions and universities to reserve 20 per cent of seats for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) candidates, for whom qualifying marks are considerably relaxed. Despite the relaxation, the quotas remain underutilized and many institutions try to avoid reserving seats at all. Rupa (1992) points out that educationally, the S.C. and S.T. children face the problems of financial hardship, hostile social environment, and an uncongenial atmosphere for studies at home and inadequate guidance for academics. Despite these constraints, many now occupy positions of power in the bureaucracy and elsewhere because of the policy of reservations, which enables them to compete. Job Reservations Under Articles 16(4), 320(4) and 333, 15 percent and 7 percent, respectively, are reserved for SC and STat all levels of the government and public sector. Qualifications for both recruitment and promotion are relaxed. Between 1959 and 1979 the increase in the percentage of SC and ST candidates in ClassI, professional occupations had risen from 1.18 percent to 4.75 percent (Rupa, 1992:27). At the lower level, however, they occupy many positions but have little presence in professional positions in the private sector, which has no reservation system. 15


With the rapid rise oflndia's population from the time oflndependence to the present, the pressure on the scarce economic, educational, and job opportunities has been heavy. Competition has become fierce in the educational and professional institutions, and the growth of employment opportunities has not kept pace with the growth of the population. Moreover, a new generation has grown up fed on a secular, liberal education, and to them, the existence of increasing caste-based reservations in every sphere seems to be a contradiction to the concept of equality and individual merit. Caste prejudices may be a reality especially in rural areas, but the systematic increase in the percentage of reservation in different states presents a shrinking world of opportunities and avenues for non-SC's and ST's. Rupa (1992: 30-31) further points out, In addition, the benefits of reservation are frequently going to those among the SC's and S.T.'s who have already become the elite oftheir community. There is no bar to the children of reserved category bureaucrats and politicians to continue to secure privileges under the quota system". At the same time, it would be inaccurate to attribute the decline in efficiency in the government and the lowering of educational standards to the reservation policy. Initially, only a certain percentage was reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who were still outnumbered by general candidates. Rupa (1992:30-31) notes, "It is the increasing of reservation quotas to the Other Backward Classes (OBCsJ for political expediency which is causing resentment and frustration among those who have to sacrifice their chances for members of other sections of society who are not 16


necessarily either the most deprived or discriminated against or deserving candidates in the race for the few seats and jobs available in open competition". India's system of official discrimination in favor of the most backward sections of her population is unique in the world. While the Constitution was categorical in reservations for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, it was ambiguous about the other category of disadvantaged peoples, the OBCs. This was due to the ambiguity at that time in identifying the beneficiaries, specifying the types of benefits that would accrue to them, and implementing this policy of preferential treatment. Several commissions and committees, appointed by the state and central governments, have therefore gone into the question of reservations under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution. Various state governments appointed over fifteen commissions and committees, while the central government appointed the Kalekar Commission in 1953 and the extremely controversial Mandai Commission in 1978 for determining the quantum of reservation as well as for identifying those who were eligible for such protection. The recommendations fall roughly into two categories: those that adopted caste as the basis of reservation (both the Kalekar and the Mandai Commissions) and those that adopted economic criteria (the state committees adopted by the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the states of West Bengal, Kamataka and Gujarat). 17


The Other Backward Classes (OBCs) While Articles 330, 332, 334, 335,338, 339, 340, 341 and 342 of the Constitution were clear in extending reservations to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, there was more ambiguity with those who constituted the socially and educationally backward classes. The phrase "backward classes" has provoked political controversy, a great deal of conflict, and social tensions as well as endless constitutional litigation. The Other Backward Classes (OBCs) are those who are as deprived as the Scheduled Castes but without the stigma of untouchability. They mainly consist of Shudra castes, which occupy a low position in the caste hierarchy and have remained educationally backward. Their lack of education means that they are poorly represented in government or white-collar jobs, yet they may occupy a pivotal role in the economic and political life ofthe village. Frequently they are small landowners, and whenever they are in large numbers, they may exercise considerable dominance over a village, a group of villages or even a district. Dominant castes of this kind have developed a vested interest in remaining backward and continuing to receive the entitlements of this classification. It enables them to enjoy a number of benefits in education and employment. What is more, they sometimes have enough political power to exert pressure on the state government to have their names included or retained in the list of backward classes. 18


First Backward Classes Commission (Kalekar Commission-1953) The Kalelkar Commission was set up on January 29, 1953 under Article 340 of the Constitution. The report, submitted on March 30, 1955. Rupa (1992:40-41), restates the terms of reference of the commission as laid down in the notification announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 29 January 1953: (a) Determine the criteria to be adopted in considering any section of the people in the territory of India (in addition to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes specified by notifications issued under Article 341 and 342 of the Constitution) should be treated as socially and educationally backward classes; and in accordance with such criteria, prepare a list of such classes setting down also their approximate numbers and their territorial distribution. (b) Investigate the conditions of all such socially and educationally backward classes and the difficulties under which they labor; and make recommenda tions (1) as to the steps that should be taken by the union or any state to re move such difficulties or to improve their condition; (2) as to the grants that should be made for the purpose by the union or any state and the conditions subject to which, such grants should be made. The commission issued a questionnaire of 182 items to ascertain the views of state governments and the public and undertook extensive tours throughout the country for acquiring on-the-spot and in-depth analysis of the problem. The commission formulated criteria for determining socio-economic backwardness on the following lines: 1. Low social position in the traditional Hindu caste hierarchy. 2. General lack of educational advancement in the major section of a caste or community. 19


3. Inadequate or no representation in government services. 4. Inadequate participation in trade, commerce and industry. A list of2399 backward castes for the whole country was prepared with 837 being classified as the most backward. While the commission reported on wide ranging improvements that could be made, ranging from extensive land reform, rural housing, water supply and dairy fanning the important recommendations were: (a) A caste-wise enumeration during the 1961 Census. (b) Relating social backwardness of class to its low position in the caste hierarchy. (c) Treating women as a backward class. (d) Reserving 70 percent seats for qualified students of the backward classes in all technical and professional institutions. (e) Reservation of vacancies in government services and local bodies in the following percentages of preference proportions: CLASS-I 25% (Higher Administrative) CLASS-II 33 112% (Lower Administrative) CLASS-III and CLASS IV 40% (Clerical and Menial, respectively) The commission failed to present a unanimous report with 5 of its 11 member recording notes of dissent against the linking of caste with backwardness. 20


In compliance with Article 340(3) of the Constitution, the commission's report as well as the government's memorandum, was tabled in Parliament on September 3, 1956. Although the report was not discussed by the House, the government felt that in view of the large numbers that the commission regarded as backward, and the context of Scheduled Castes and Tribes already identified, the really needy would be swamped by the sheer magnitude of numbers involved and hence would not get adequate assistance or attention. Moreover, Rupa (1992) explains that the government was keen to ascertain some criteria other than caste which could be of key practical application in determining the backward classes. Ultimately on August 14, 1961, the government addressed a letter to the state governments saying that no central government list for an all-India backward classes or reservations for them could be made and that the state governments could draw their own list of backward class people and the criteria for determining them to be backward ( Rupa 1992). In the meanwhile, and very importantly, the central government decided that it would be better to acknowledge that while it endorsed the consideration of economic and caste-based tests rather than to go by caste-based criterion alone, it would not endorse economic criteria for the central government. In the end there seemed to be a link between "class" and "caste" which has continued to be a controversial assumption that every subsequent backward class commission at the state level has had to question. 21


Second Backward Classes Commission (Mandai Commission-1978) and the Aftermath After tabling the Kalekar Commission report, the central government did not again consider reservation innovations for over two decades. A new commission was appointed in 1978 along the lines of the Kalekar Commission to study again the OBC reservation question. The new commission was appointed almost immediately upon the Janata coalition's accession to power. It was chaired by a retired civil servant named B.P. Mandai and featured distinguished scholars as its members. The terms of reference of the Mandai Commission were much like those given Kalelkar: to determine criteria for defining socially and educationally backward groups, to recommend policies for their improvement, and to consider whether to reserve positions within the government and higher education for them to increase their representation and ultimate advancement. By the time the Mandai Commission delivered its recommendations in 1980, the Janata government had been dissolved and Indira Gandhi and her CongressI party were once more in power. Mandai had faced many of the same problems as its predecessor and made similar recommendations. Unlike the Kalekar Commission's range of reservation percentages, however, the Mandai recommendation was limited to a flat 27 per cent for government positions and higher education alike. The Mandai report was shelved without action for ten years, until 1990 due to less interest in secular appearing polices by Indira Gandhi's party. There were no 22


initial indications that Prime Minister V.P. Singh's 1990 decision to implement the Mandai Commission recommendations would hasten a major crisis for the government and for all the country. The reactions across northern India were unprecedented in their scope and intensity. The initial violence, which began in Bihar, was somewhat to be expected given Bihar's history of violent response to previous attempts to extend reservation policies. But the conflict spread from Orissa ii;t the east to western Uttar Pradesh and into New Delhi; and in addition to riots and destruction of property which had occurred in similar circumstances before, it also took uncommon forms, including mass student strikes and acts of self-immolation by college students. These protests for over two months severely undermined the strength and credibility of the government and contributed to its fall later in the year. In the face of sustained protests and strikes by students within New Delhi, Prime Minister V .P. Singh withdrew the plan of implementation of OBC reservations in "higher education" and limited them to central government employment. This concession was not enough to end the unrest; however, and the conflict took a horrifying new aspect as teenagers and college students began to burn themselves alive and cited the Mandai policy as their motivations. The Supreme Court handed down its decision on Mandai in late 1992, and Prime Minister V .P. Singh was in large part vindicated. The court held that the 23


government's plan was constitutionally valid, and that caste could be taken into consideration as one of a number of factors when targeting groups for reservations. Scope of Reservations: State Level The central government has not at anytime provided any reservations in government employment for OBCs. However, the situation at state-level has involved reservations for both SC and ST as well as OBCs. At the state level, Galantar (1984:87), explains further that as of 1984, reservations range from 5% to 25% of posts for SC and 3% to 80% for ST. In a few places, the two groups share a common reservation. The combined reservation in higher posts for both groups ranges from a low of 10% in Kerala to a high of 40% in Orissa". All the states except Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir had reservations in effect by 1951. In several states these reservations were part of wider schemes for promoting entry of backward classes into government service. Over the years, the reservations for SC and ST have remained largely unchanged, although they have increased a few percentage points in Madras, West Bengal, and Punjab, and almost doubled in Uttar Pradesh, from 10 to 18%. In several states where these groups had been treated together with OBCs, reservations for them were separated out at the insistence of the central government (Galantar (1984:87). Galantar (1984:87) states that "In 1978, at least thirteen states reserved posts for backward classes other than the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. 24


Reservations for OBCs were found throughout southern India, in Maharashtra and Gujarat, and across the north from Bihar to Kashmir. The proportion of reservations for these groups was heaviest in the south ". In summary, reservation policies since the breakup ofNehru's Congress party have become both vitally important and politically volatile for many Indian parties. They are vitally important because they are among the most powerful signals available to make emerging electoral blocs realize that parties are interested in them. But their power leads to their political volatility, because the policies spring from the enduring inequalities generated by the caste system. Like other policies that focus on individuals' and groups' characteristics, reservations create strong resentments in the groups they ignore (Parikh, 1997). Given this structure of incentives and the preferences of OBCs for reservations, reservation policies are difficult to give up, and the political decisions that parties have made in the 1990s reflect this reality. No party has disavowed reservations completely, and even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was least dependent on OBC votes in the 1990 debate, has begun to support reservations, as it expands its electoral base to include targeted groups. The Supreme Court's decision has provided a protective layer of legitimacy for all political parties, and no doubt it has dampened the enthusiasm of opponents to pursue strategies of protest and violence. As even high castes have discovered, the electoral benefits of backing reservations are simply too great to ignore. 25


The next chapter will address the history and present state of the contemporary Dalit social movement and the condition of the people it represents in this movement for social justice and equality in reference to governmental policy implementation of constitutional guarantees. 26


CHAPTER THREE THE CONTEMPORARY DALIT SOCIAL MOVEMENT Introduction and Historical Background The term "dalit" is derived from the Sanskrit root dal, which means burst, split, broken or tom asunder, downtrodden, scattered, crushed, destroyed. But although the term has ancient roots, its contemporary usage to specify a section of the people of India who have suffered oppression throughout history under the prevailing religious and social norms goes back only a few decades. Massey (1997:1-2), explains that the seeds of this understanding ofDalits lie in the writings oftwo great Indian personalities: 19th Century reformer Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, and 20th Century intellectual B.D. Ambedkar, as well as in late 19th century and early 20th century organizational initiatives among Dalits. Mahatma Phule used the terminology shudra-atishudra for Dalits. Shud.ras are "touchable" backward castes and atishudras are "untouchable" backward castes. In order to enslave the Shudras and Atishudras, Mahatma Phule said, the Brahmin or priestly caste conspired to divide them into these two Ambedkar wrote in detail about Shudras and Untouchables in two well-known works, Who were the Shudras? (1947) and The Untouchables (1948). In his writings, he used the English term "Untouchable" for "Dalit". 27


During the British period after 1858, when Great Britain transferred political authority in India from the East India Company to the Crown, a number of small movements came into being which showed concern for the Dalits under British rule. The efforts of most of these movements tended towards reform rather than a total change. However, some of the personalities who were involved directly in the struggle for change or reform did leave an impact on subsequent Dalit movements down to the present day. These included Jyotiba Phule, B.R. Ambed.kar, and Gandhi. The first two worked for total transformation of the social system. Gandhi's work was limited to certain reforms within Hindu society. The Adi-Dravida Mahajan Sabha, whose members were the Dalit Pariah community, came into existence in 1890. It demanded agrarian rights for Dalits in the state of Tamil Nadu and a lowering of the standards for access to subordinate services. The government accepted these demands in 1894. In 1918, according to Massey (1997:36), they demanded that their contemptuous name "Pariah" should be replaced by the name Adi-Dravida, meaning the original inhabitants ofDravida Land. One of their main leaders was R.C. Rajah. The Adi-Andhra Mahajan Sabha was begun in 1917 under the leadership of Guduru Ramachandra Rao. It addressed the Dalits in the state of Andhra Pradesh as Adi Andhra (the original inhabitants of Andhra), and demanded educational rights in 28


public schools, representation on city and village councils and boards, and the provision of drinking water. A similar Dalit organization, led by K. Kelappan and C. Krishnan, was begun in the state of Kerala, in 1927. It was called the Adi Keralotharana, and its agenda included the education of the Dalits and their right to walk on public roads. In 1930, the Adi-Kamataka Sangh came into existence in the state ofKamataka. It worked along the same lines as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Among the well-known Dalit associations in North India was the Adi-Dharam, founded by Mango Ram in Punjab in 1926. This group believed that the Dalit communities known as Chamar, Churha, Sansis, Bhangrer and Bhils were the origiilal inhabitants of India. They taught that there was no discrimination at the time of the creation of human beings, but that all were equal. Another well-known Dalit organization, which was founded in the state of Uttar Pradesh, was the Adi-Hindu movement, begun by Swami Achhutanadji in 1921. Adi-Hindu, which rejected the teachings ofBrahmanical Hinduism, believed in one God and the equality of all human beings and taught that the religion of saints is the true religion of India. This organization also asserted that the so-called Untouchables-the Dalits-were the original inhabitants of India (Massey, 1997). The work of these reform movements, including those involving Christian missionaries, induced the British govenunent to act. The Act of 1919 recognized for 29


the first time the existence of"depressed classes". In 1931, a special committee was set up to draw a list of the castes and classes to be included under these depressed classes, and a Round Table Conference convened in London. In 1932 British Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald issued the Communal Award, which replaced the expression "depressed classes" with "Scheduled Caste" which became the name for "Untouchables" and was included in the 1936 Government of India Scheduled Castes Order (Massey 1997:19-21). Massey (1997:37) describes many other organizations that came into existence in other Indian states, among them the All-Bengal Namasudra Association founded in 1912 and Chamar Daiva Sabha (The Church of God ofChamars-Pulayas), an organization based in Kerala, which opposed the treatment given to Dalit Christians by the so-called upper-caste Syrian church. It was active until 1950. Dr. Ambedkar believed in the total liberation of the Dalits. To achieve this goal he prescribed a formula which included self-organization, education and protest. One of his main methods of work was the formation of political parties. His first attempt was the Independent Labour Party, formed in 1936 and the second was the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation in 1942. His main goal in these efforts was to bring about a change in the existing order. 30


Ambedkar advocated Dalit unity in order to achieve political rights. At the meeting inaugurating the all-India Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF) in 1942, he stated: I am definitely of the opinion that in this country, political rights must be shared between the Hindus, the Muslims and the Depressed Classes. The Depressed Classes must by law have a proper share in the government ofthe country along with the Hindus and Muslims. The future Constitution can only work if it rests on these three pillars. To achieve this you must all come together under one flag and have only one organization. If we so far have not achieved the position in the Constitution which is due to us, it is because we have not united. If you all unite and work under one organization, I have no doubt that you will reach the position you are entitled to.(Cited in Massey 1997:38). Dr. Ambedkar had demanded separate electorates for the Scheduled Castes. Gandhi vigorously opposed this provision of the Communal Award, fearing that they would be separated from Hindu society as a whole. Upon Gandhi's threat to fast unto death, Ambedkar decided to compromise. According to this agreement, in place of a "separate electorate", a "joint electorate" for the Scheduled Castes with the caste Hindu majority was accepted. While a chance for effective liberation and freedom was thus lost by the Dalits, Ambedkar did get some compensation in the form of a large number of legislative seats for Dalits. The real momentum of the Dalit struggle developed in the post-Independence period, and, the main champion at the outset was Ambedkar. In the first cabinet oflndependent India, headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, Ambedkar was appointed Minister of Law. He was also elected chairman of 31


the drafting committee of the Constituent Assembly on 29 August 194 7. He was largely responsible for drafting the Constitution, which was adopted on 26 November 1949 and implemented on 26 January 1950. It was noted earlier that this Constitution (See also Appendices A and B) offered the Dalits after nearly 1 00 years of organized struggle, a wide range of social, educational, civil, religious, economic and political rights. However, as will become clear, since the implementation of these rights was left in the hands of government elites, who were mainly from the upper castes, these gains have been accomplished mostly on paper. For this reason, the story of the struggle of the Dalits has continued in the post-Independence period in the form of political parties, protests and the struggle for unity and solidarity. The recent use of the term "Dalit" has been developed in the manifesto of the Dalit Panther movement in the Indian State of Maharashtra, published in Bombay in 1973. According to Omvedt (1993 :4 7), the manifesto identifies Dalits as "members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes, neo-Buddhists, the working people, the landless and poor peasants, women and all those who are being exploited politically, economically and in the name of religion". Therefore the Dalit people are those who, on the basis of caste distinctions, have been considered "outcasts" because the social system did not include them in the 32


caste structure of Indian society. Based on this status they have been made to bear extreme disadvantages and oppression for centuries. Massey (1997:2) makes the broader concerns of the movement quite clear referring to the Dalit Panther Movement's manifesto: We must pay attention to the objective process of social development and make an historical analysis of the power that imprisons the Dalit and which has succeeded in making him tie his own hands. The Hindu feudal rule can be a hundred times more ruthless today in oppressing the Dalits than it was in the Muslim period or the British period, because the Hindu feudal rule has in its hands all the arteries of production, bureaucracy, judiciary, army and police forces, in the shape of feudals, landlords, capitalists and religious leaders who stand behind and enable these instruments to thrive. Hence the problem of Untouchability of the Dalits is no more of mere mental slavery. Untouchability is the most violent form of exploitation on the face of the earth, which survives the ever-changing forms of the power structure. Today it is necessary to seek its origin, its root causes. If we understand them, we can definitely strike at the heart of this exploitation. Truly speaking, the problem of the Dalits, or Scheduled Castes and Tribes, has become a broad problem; the Dalit is no longer merely an Untouchable outside the village walls and the scripture. He is not only an Untouchable, and a Dalit, but he is also a worker, a landless labourer, and a proletarian. Hemmady (1998:11-12), citing the People's National Alliance's (NAPM) conference of 18 March 1996 during their national tour of India, clearly elaborates the unified and continuing resolve of Dalits and their allies, over twenty years later, to improve the Dalit condition in Indian society: 33


We uphold human dignity and equality in all aspects, but in order to mitigate the present illljust conditions and because of a historical necessity for justice we support positive discrimination. In full support of the empowerment of Dalits, we stand in solidarity with their struggle towards full human dignity, human rights, and justice. We oppose casteism in its entirety and strive towards its total elimination and the full and equal participation of Dalits in all aspects of social, economic, political, and cultural life which would make the reservation (system) measures superfluous. We work for the enforcement of laws against illltouchability, and atrocities against Dalits through adequate mechanisms of imple mentation. We denoilllce the victimization ofDalits through forced bonded and child labor. We support the policy of reservation for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and socially and educationally backward classes belonging to all religions. We further assert that the Mandai Commission recom mendations be implemented in toto ... We affirm freedom of religion provided it does not come in the way of oppressed sections. We oppose the discrimination ofDalits which denies their full participation in the religious and financial manage ment of the religious organizations of the faiths to which they have converted. We support intercaste and interreligious marriages and demand the extension of reservation to such couples and their children to achieve social integration. The situation of the Dalits in India today has its roots almost 3,500 years ago, when these first peoples were invaded and defeated by the first colonizers, the Aryans. Each of the four layers of colonization, by the Aryans, the Muslims, the British and the dominant powers in Independent India has added to and deepened the problem of Dalits. 34


One of the ways Dalits have protested their status in Hinduism has been through conversion to other religions. The paramount case was Dr. Ambedkar's own conversion in Nagpur, India to Buddhism on 14 October,1956 along with at least 100,000 followers. When he died on 6 December 1956, according to Ahir (1990:185) over 500,000 joined the funeral procession and at the cremation ground over 1,000,000 Dalits converted to Buddhism with the administration of the Three Refuges and Five Precepts on the spot by Bhadant Anand Kausalyayan, a Punjabi Buddhist monk. The Dalit Panther Social Movement Another section of the 1973 Dalit Panther manifesto, captures the essence of their antipathy for the caste system: We do not want a little place in the Brahman Alley. We want the rule of the whole country. Change of heart, liberal education will not end our state of exploitation. When we gather a revolutionary mass, rouse the people, out of the struggle of this giant mass will come the tidal wave of revolution .... We will build the organization of the workers, Dalits, landless, poor peasants throughout all city factories, in all villages. We will hit back against all injustice perpetrated on Dalits. We will well and destroy the caste and varna system that thrives on people's misery, which exploits the people, and liberate the Dalits. The present legal system and state have turned all our dreams into dust. To eradicate the injustice against Dalits, they themselves must become rulers. This is the people's democracy. Sympathizers and members of the Dalit Panthers, be ready for the final struggle ofDalits (quoted in Omvedt (1993:47). 35


Frustrated by political factionalism in the 1970s, some young Dalits began to focus on written expressions of protest. Like many black writers in the U.S. at the time, they began by depicting the horrible conditions in which Dalits lived and worked and the atrocities committed against them in the villages. A militant movement patterned after the Black Panthers in the U.S. was begun in Bombay, the capitalist center of India, and Pune, a center of Maharashtra culture. Dalit poems, stories and novels began to elicit recognition in the Marathi press. Visiting villages where upper-caste people had committed atrocities against Dalits, the Dalit Panthers also launched a campaign to agitate for an election boycott. These activities led to the recognition of the Dalit Panthers as a new force in Indian politics (Massey 1997:40-41). Sharon Kumar Limbale's poem "White Paper" Massey (1997:44) clearly reflects the self-realization of a people struggling to be recognized as equal citizens as it was guaranteed in the Indian Constitution by the founding fathers: I do not ask for the sun and moon from your sky, your farm, your land, your high houses or your mansions. I do not ask for gods or rituals, castes or sects, or even for your mother, sister, daughters. I ask for my rights as a man ... My rights: contagious caste riots festering city by city, village by village, man by man. 36


For that's what my rights areSealed off, outcaste, road-blocked, exiled. I want my rights, give me my rights. Will you deny this incendiary state of things? Uproot the scriptures like railway tracks, burn like a city bus your lawless laws ... My friends, my rights are rising like the sun. Will you deny this sunrise? Omvedt (1993:57-58) further explains the influence that the Dalit Panthers had on the anti-caste movement in general, forging a political agenda for the future issues to come. She points out that the Panther explosion of the early 1970s made important contributions to Indian socialist politics and theory. The biggest achievement was to enlarge the framework of discussion for revolutionary movements. Olmvedt (1993:57) states: "Henceforth, in some way or another, "class and caste," "economic and social" issues would have to be discussed, not simply by left parties but by all movements". In this poem found in Omvedt (1993:ix-x) the Dalit anti-caste sentiment of the 1970s is clearly depicted and relays a cleavage among the classes that continues today: 37


COMRADEWritten by Prabhakar Gangurde,l978 Don't expect revolution from those living corpses, comrade. First you become their beacon. The revolution that will flash like lightning and not be extinguished in any storm is still far away. Don't be in a hurry for revolution. You are still very small. Your ability to resist the atrocities, boycotts and rapes that goes on every moment has become nil, comrade. Tomorrow's sun is yet to rise; sleep undisturbed until then. Take the fantasy out of your daydreams. What will happen from simply waving the red flag over the many colors of reality? In showing the way to violent revolution take care of your own existence, comrade. I'm worried about you, notlmowing what will happen tomorrow. The sun will set. Where are you going with your existence in the dark, comrade? Don't be so impatient, there are some boundaries to sacrifice. 38


From a thousand sacrifices what will be accomplished? This is the story of each generation. Why give to one generation only the sacrifice of all gene rations? Comrade don't be so anxious, don't worry about me. Now I have awakened, I am moving in blazing sunlight, come ... You won't come with me you won't embrace me. I have tiger claws scattered all over my body. They won't pierce you. If they pierce you it is certainly not for your sacrifice comrade. The Dalit Social Movement in Retrospect Omvedt (1993 :295) points out that the Dalit movement faced the 1990s in a state of confusion with political leaders discredited, as well as a new wave of atrocities against the Dalit community by the upper-caste Hindus and the OBCs. Yet the other side of"atrocities'', highly emphasized by Omvedt, "was the ever-widening circle of Dalit and low caste militancy and claims for equal honor as human beings, as well as 39


the readiness of youth of all castes to step outside the boundaries of an outmoded social system, at personal levels as well as political". Increasing grass-roots activities among Dalit groups, as well as the growing rediscovering of Dr. Ambedkar's political strategies and economic thinking, encouraging the limitation of state intervention and ownership in the framework of political democracy, provided flexibility for Dalit activists in dealing with the complexities of world capitalism (Omvedt 1993). Ironically, another religious conversion by Dalits took place on I 9 February I 98 I, according to Oldenburg (1991:119) when 220 Hindu Dalit families, (1,100 Scheduled Caste members) in the village ofMeenakashipuram in Tamil Nadu embraced Islam, basically, to protest the on-going exploitation ofDalits by caste Hindus and the atrocities committed by the police. There are many more examples of protests and civil disorder. Anti-Dalit riots broke out in 1978 after a decision by the government ofMaharashtra to rename Marathwada University for Dr. Ambedkar. When the state government passed a resolution to this effect, the upper caste opposition took this as a symbol of the emergence of Dalit power. Hundreds of Dalits had their homes burned, and many Mahar Dalits lost their lives (Massey1997). Chapter 4 will examine and critique the contemporary economic, political and social status of Dalits and the progress of the Indian government's reservation preference policy in advancing social justice and equality in three major areas: (1) 40


Representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC and sn in the seats of the legislative assemblies; (2) SC and ST representation in the academic institution admission process, and (3) SC and ST representation in government employment. The chapter concludes with Dalit economic status, Dalit social and cultural status and recent atrocities committed against the Dalit community. 41


CHAPTER FOUR CONTEMPORARY ECONOMIC, POLITICAL AND SOCIAL SOCIAL STATUS OF THE DALITS Implementation of Reservation Indian Reservation policy development since 1997 confirms the importance of the relationship between parties' electoral interests, public opinion, and policy changes. In India, the national riots touched off in 1990 by Prime Minister Singh's decision to implement the Mandai report and the BJP' s reaction to these events led observers to theorize that reservation policies might not withstand many more years. However, the sheer numbers of citizens targeted by the policies and the importance they assign to reservations has not made that possible. As the BJP party has become more confident of maintaining power at the national level, it has muted its previous vocal opposition to reservations. Reservations are not its primary strategies toward the lower castes, but are rather relief work and a form of Hindu nationalism that attempts to embrace all castes equally. However, according to Parikh (1997:207), the party leaders are becoming increasingly aware that reservation policies are symbolically very meaningful to their prospective voters, and that they can't afford to ignore these preferences. In current Indian politics, reservations are accepted even by their opponents as a policy choice that is here to stay. Parikh (1997:207) summarizes the current state of reservations: 42


As more and more OBCs are able to take advantage of the opportunities offered, divisions will increase within the target groups. Or, as resources become even more contested, the deprivations felt by the middle and upper castes will grow more intense and jeopardize the present equilibrium. But unless parties can develop an even more salient or targeted groups abandon their attachment, reservations will remain a part of the Indian political landscape Transferring India into an egalitarian society and strengthening its unity and integrity will remain a myth as long as the widening gap between the rich and poor, the high castes and the low castes, and the religious and ethnic majorities and the minorities towards each other is not reduced significantly. Such change in the people's attitudes can't be brought about overnight. Centuries-old caste and religious practices have become ingrained. Change is a long-term process, and it is imperative that this change take place. Whatever may be the criticism against the recommendations of the Mandai Commission, no one can question its objective of uplifting those sections which are really backward, in terms of their educational and economic achievements. The next section reviews the realities of reservation implementation at center and state level. 43


Representation of SC and ST Seats in the Legislative Assemblies According to Galantar ( 1984 :44-46), the most prominent of all preferential policies is the reservation of seats in elective legislative bodies. The Indian Constitution specifically provides reserved seats in proportion to their numbers for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) and the Vidhan Sabhas (Lower Houses of the State Legislatures). In addition, in compliance with the Constitution, no seats are reserved in the Upper Houses either at central or state level. There are also no reservations in legislatures for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Unlike the authorization of special treatment and the provision for reserved posts in government services (discussed in this chapter), the reserved seats in legislatures were subject to a constitutional time limit. It was originally provided that such reservations should expire ten years after the commencement of the Constitution, but reservations continue up until today. SC and ST candidates have, however, been unsuccessful in winning elections to non-reserved seats. Galantar (1984:49) further comments: Of course, Scheduled Caste and Tribe candidates may stand for non reserved seats. However, they have been notably unsuccessful in winning elections to them. In the first six Lok Sabhas, only a handful of candidates from SC or ST filled unreserved seats. Five were elected in 1971 and three in 1977. In the lower houses ofthe state legislatures, the record is no more heartening, even though the smaller constituencies mean that local concentrations of population and resources 44


should offer more opportunities for political success. For example, in 1970-1971, there were only three SC and two ST representatives sitting in the 2,853 non-reserved seats in the Vidhan Sabhas. Representation of SCs and STs in Academic Institution Admissions Oldenburg (1991 :112-113) stresses that it is generally accepted that education has been the area of the greatest success in the uplift of the Dalit community. This success is due to both government benefits and the late Dr. Ambedkar's constant stress on education. Educational benefits for Scheduled Castes extend to scholarships including national overseas scholarships, book funds, hostel accommodations, and coaching facilities, depending upon the arrangements of the various seats. Massey (1997:27) reports that the literacy rate of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in 1985, according to the Ministry of Education, was 18.82 percent, compared to 41.22 percent for others. The inclusion of Scheduled Tribes, however, lowers this figure from that for Scheduled Castes alone. The 1981 census figures gives us a rural literacy figure for Scheduled Castes of 18.48 percent and an urban figure of 36.6 percent. (84% of Scheduled Caste are rural; 16% are urban). In the states ofKerala, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal, and Himachal Pradesh Scheduled Castes are more literate than the average and the highest SC literacy rate, 40.21 percent is found in Kerala, which has the highest literacy rate in general, as well. For a detailed explanation of the State ofKerala's progress see Galantar 45


(1984:617), Index area titled "Kerala, Backward Classes Reservation Commission, 1971." The progress becomes more dramatic when viewed against the literacy rate reflected in the 1931 census with 1.9 percent for Scheduled Castes as against 9.6 percent for Indians in general (Massey, 1997:27). The 28th Report of the Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, for the period 1981-1987, showed that while the literacy rates for the Indian population as a whole had risen from 24 percent in 1961 to 29.4 percent in 1971 and 36.2 percent in 1981, the corresponding figures for the Dalit community were 10.2 percent (1961), 14.7 percent (1971) and 21.4 percent (1981) (Massey 1997:27). In sununary, although it remains unclear just how much of the increase in education for the backward classes reflects "special" treatment over and above what is provided for the whole population, it is clear that reservations can be credited with securing the inclusion of these groups as beneficiaries of the education explosion seen in India. Nevertheless, the educational gap between Dalits and other Indians remains. Representation of SCs and STs in Civil Service Employment Galantar (1984:86-87), points out that the central government has provided reservations in government employment for Scheduled Castes since 1943, and for Scheduled Tribes since 1950. Since 1947, of posts recruited directly on an All-India 46


basis by open competition, 12 .5 percent were reserved for SC and 5 percent for ST. The reservation percentages were raised, respectively, to 15 percent and 7.5 percent in 1970. Oldenburg (1991:110-111) further explains that government service is traditionally divided into four grades: Class I, for the small top echelon down to Class IV for the lowest ranks, with sweepers usually in a separate category (See Table 4.1). Reserved positions are filled and overfilled in Classes III and IV, and Dalits fill, by far, the majority of sweeper positions. Categories I and II are another matter. The positions actually held by Dalits are far below the level of reservation. Selected statistics from the Report of the Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Tribes for Central Government Services, 1978-1979, presented in tables 4.1 and 4.2, indicate something of the complexity and the unevenness of this system. More recent statistics can be found in Chapter 5, Conclusion and Recommendations, for a comparison. Oldenburg (1991) points out that what is striking in these figures is the low percentages of Scheduled Castes in highly technical fields. These additional statistics are the percentages of Dalits who are officers in the Indian Administrative Service (9.69%), the Indian Police Service (9.22%), and the Indian Foreign Service (12.32%). Representation in public-sector industry and the nationalized banks is unimpressive: 2.90 percent of93,984 Class I employees and 5.11 percent of97,756 Class II employees, as stated in Oldenburg (1991:110-111). 47


Oldenburg (1991) further clarifies that while none of these figures reach the maximum of allowed reservations, and there is much discontent among the Scheduled Castes about their place in national administration and industry, the statistics do indicate progress, but fall short of the goal of the Dalit social movement for a higher competitive representation in Classes I through III, specifically. TABLE4.1 SCHEDULED CASTE EMPLOYMENT IN THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT, 1978-1979 TOTAL S.C. %S.C. CLASS I 64,434 2,204 4.8 (IDGHER AD:MINISTRA TIVE) CLASS II 56,287 4,150 7.4 (LOWER AD:MINISTRA TIVE) CLASS Til 1,718,576 215,762 12.6 (CLERICAL) CLASS IV 1,271,254 245,596 19.3 (MENIAL) Source: Report of the commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, 1978-79, (26th Report), New Delhi, 1980. 48


TABLE4.2 SCHEDULED CASTE SENIOR OFFICERS (CLASS I) EMPLOYMENT IN THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT, 1978-79; SELECTED DEPARTMENTS TOTAL S.C. %S.C. DEFENSE 5,585 195 3.5 ATOMIC ENERGY 4,823 28 0.6 FOOD 189 19 11.2 LEGALAFF AIRS 149 16 0.8 Source: Report of the commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, 1978-1979, (261h Report), New Delhi, 1980. Economic Status That many of the social and economic disabilities of the Dalits are because of their continuing existence as the poorest of the poor is quite obvious. Available data also points to this. According to the Report of the Commission for SCs and STs, 1982-1983, Table 8, Radhakrishnan (1991:1917), in 1982 Dalits owned only about 8 percent of the total land owned in rural areas in the country as a whole although their households accounted for about 20 percent of the total rural households. The low access to land, the principal resource and the main source of power, dominance, oppression and exploitation in rural India, has several implications. First, there is a higher percentage of landless households, among the Dalits as compared to 49


the rest of the population. This is true particularly in the states of Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh. Secondly, Dalit households own smaller areas of land than landowning households among other groups. In the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, between 72 percent and 92 percent of the land owning households among the Dalits were in the marginal ownership category (Radhakrishnan 1991: 1917). Thirdly, the greater incidence of poverty among the Dalits and their dependence on caste Hindus for their livelihood is well documented. The 1980-85 Planning Commissioner's Working Group on SCs and STs reported that Dalits have few assets, "are generally unable to avail themselves of the new employment opportunities generated through various economic development programs, and are in fact caught up in a vicious circle in which they are dependent upon their exploiters for their sustenance and are largely denied opportunities to develop the capabilities of attaining an independent livelihood" (quoted in Radhakrishnan 1991: 1917). In the absence of access to land, as either owners or protected tenants, the Dalits are forced to eke out a living mostly by working on the land of others as agricultural laborers, by attaching themselves to landlords or cultivators and as bonded laborers, and by pursuing their traditional ''unclean" and socially "low" occupations of sweeping, scavenging leather work and mat weaving. 50


Reservations in education and jobs have made some, but not very much, difference to the agrarian position ofDalits. Earnings from non-agricultural occupations have enabled a few Dalits to acquire some land, and shift from agricultural laborers to poor peasants, with some land ownership. As pointed out earlier, reservations alone can't eliminate the caste system. For the upper sections of the backward castes, reservations may be a sufficient goal. But it is in the interests of the Dalits and other low castes that the anti-caste, Dalit social movement, be one to defend and extend reservations, as well as to push for thorough land reform, which continues to be lacking. Hasan (1998:153) argues: Reservations can't eradicate unemployment, poverty and economic exploitation, but they can drastically reduce the upper caste control of state institutions. The steadfast opposition of upper castes to reservations can't be explained without recognizing these aspects of political power at all levels. Control over the bureaucracy ensures access to the levels of power for the middle classes. Social/Cultural Status and Atrocities Against Dalits The Untouchability (Offenses) Act of 1955 was intended to wipe out untouchability and the social disabilities arising out of it, by making its practice in any form punishable under law. But the total number of cases registered with the police from 1955 to 1970 was 6, 778 for the country as a whole, with only 1779 or 26 percent of them ending in conviction (Radhakrishnan1991 :1914). 51


The act proved to be too weak to meet the constitutional requirements previously stated. In November 1976, it was amended and amplified as the Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) Act, with the intention of completely eliminating untouchability within five years of its implementation. But as of today this act has not fared any better. Data on PCR cases indicate the persistence of untouchability in virtually all states. The only state reported to be relatively free from untouchability and from related atrocities against Dalits is West Bengal, according to the Commission for SCs and STs, Eighth Report, 1985-1986,Table l(Radhakrishnan 1991). Of the yearly average ofPCR cases from 1977 to 1985, only about 62 percent of those registered with the police were filed before the courts; only about 31 percent of those before the courts were disposed of; and only about 20 percent of these ended up in conviction. So not even I 0 percent ended up in conviction (Statistics quoted from the Commission for SCs and STs, Eighth Report, 1985-1986, Table 2 in Radhakrishnan (1991: 1914 ). While the large number of cases pending with the courts is a reflection of the very slow judiciary system in India, the larger number of castes ending up in acquittals is for other reasons. As the report of 1985-1986 indicates, these include the weak socio-economic condition of the victims and their witnesses, defective investigation by police, ineffective or indifferent handling of cases by the 52


prosecution staff, victims yielding to pressures or intimidation, and the long drawn out trials which alone can discourage any victim from pursuing the case effectively. A survey conducted in 1982 by the India Harijan Sevak Sangh, a Dalit non governmental organization (NGO), brought out the widespread practice of untouchability in the rural areas in terms of denial of access to Dalits of (1) wells, (2) temples, (3) hotels and restaurants, (4) barber shops, and (5) laundries, etc. This survey was conducted in 1,155 villages in 12 states (Radhakrishnan 1991:1915). That this practice still persists is evident in the subsequent reports of the Commission for SCs and STs. The reports further illustrate that untouchability in the areas of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh was still prevalent in the late 1980s. The 28th Report of the Commissioner for SCs and STs, for the period of 19811987, suggests that some positive changes appear to have taken place in the practice of untouchability in urban areas, but that change has been very slow in coming to rural areas. Drawing on the report, Massey ( 1997 :26}, states that "the denial of access to a common facility like drinking water is a normal feature. Separate settlements for Dalits continue to be a rule in the village. But also in urban slum areas, Dalits will be found in the worst sectors". The report also discussed the difficulties faced by Dalits who seek to benefit from any of the constitutional or legal provisions intended to help them. Massey (1997:26) 53


reflects the report's findings, which further illustrate the lack of administration of constitutional guarantees for Dalits: The assertion of rights by members of the Scheduled Castes, particularly their refusal to accept humiliation, as a part of their being is being retaliated against in many areas by other communities through the assertion of their rights inherent in the ownership of land and primacy in economic institutions, which could be challenged formally under the law. Sometimes these formal postures can be grotesque and inhuman, for example when the right to live even of easement are denied to those who claim not an inch of land as their own in the village. Closely related to the persistence of untouchability is the perpetration of atrocities against Dalits. Reports about various kinds of disabilities, insults, and other atrocities suffered by Dalit communities appear almost daily in the Indian press. The 1987 report, summarized in (Massey 1997:27) classified the previous six-year period according to cases of grievous hurt, rape, arson, and other offenses totaling about 15,000 reported cases a year. Massey (1997:27), further states, "It suggested that there were three main reasons for such atrocities: (1) unresolved disputes related to allotment of government land or distribution of surplus land to landless Dalits; (2) tension and bitterness created by non-payment or underpayment of minimum wages prescribed by state governments; and (3) resentment against the Dalits' manifestation of awareness of their own rights". As atrocities against Dalits are closely related to untouchability, their perpetration can partly be explained by the persistence of untouchability and by the increasing 54


resentment of the Dalits against the social indignities from the practice of untouchability in different forms. Some examples not previously mentioned are: (1) restriction on movement in certain localities; (2) prohibition on wearing sandals; (3) riding horses, and (4) leading marriage processions through certain caste Hindu localities. The reports also reveal that many of the atrocities committed have been by some of the affiuent sections of the middle class peasantry, the so-called Other Backward Classes (OBCs) who have been the major beneficiaries of agrarian reforms and other rural development programs and of the related changes in the economic and political structures in the villages. It is important to note that, according to the Seventh Report ofthe Commission for SCs and STs, 1984-1985 "the incidence of atrocities is relatively lower in states where literacy rates and economic development of the Dalits are relatively higher" (Radhakrishnan 1991: 1915). The Prevention of Atrocities Act, enacted in 1989, provides a means to address many of the problems Dalits face in India. The act is designed to prevent abuses and to punish those responsible, to establish special courts for the trial of such offenses, and to provide for victim relief and rehabilitation. A look at the offenses made punishable by the act provides a glimpse into the retaliatory or customarily degrading treatment Dalits may receive. The offenses, including forcing Dalits to drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance; dumping excreta, waste matter, 55


carcasses or any other obnoxious substances on their premises; forcibly removing their clothes and parading them naked or with painted face or body; interfering with their rights to land;. compelling a member of the Dalit community into forms of forced or bonded labor; corrupting or fouling the water of any spring, reservoir, or any other source ordinarily used by Dalits; denying right of passage to a place of public resort; and using a position of dominance to exploit a Dalit woman sexually (Human Rights Watch, India Report, 1999). The potential of the law to bring about social change has been hampered by police corruption and caste bias, with the result being that many allegations are not entered into the police books. Even when cases are registered, the absence of special courts to try them can delay prosecutions for up to three to four years. Some state governments dominated by higher castes have even attempted to repeal the legislation altogether, according to Human Rights Watch (1999). In summary, more than one-sixth of the Indian population, some 160 million people, live a precarious existence, shunned by much of society because of their rank as Dalits, literally meaning "broken" people, at the bottom of India's caste system. Dalits are discriminated against, denied access to land, forced to work in degrading conditions, and routinely abused at the hands of the police and of the higher-caste groups that enjoy the state's protection. In what has been called India's "hidden Apartheid", entire villages in many Indian states remain completely segregated by 56


caste. National legislation and constitutional protection serve only to mask the social realities of discrimination and violence faced by the Dalit community. Despite the fact that untouchability was abolished under India's Constitution in 1950, the practice of untouchability, the imposition of social disabilities on persons by reason of their birth in certain castes, remains very much a part of rural India. They may not use the same wells, visit the same temples, drink from the same cups in tea stalls, or lay claim to land that is legally theirs. Dalit children are frequently made to sit in the back of classrooms, and communities as a whole are made to perform degrading rituals in the name of caste. Most Dalits continue to live in extreme poverty, without land or opportunities for better employment or education with the exception of a minority who have benefited from India's policy of quotas in education and government (Human Rights Watch (1999). Chapter 4 attempted to make a comparison of India's governmental reservation policies with specific Dalit social-movement aspirations in the areas of (I) seats in the legislative assemblies, (2) representation in academic institution admissions, (3) civil service employment, (4) improvements in economic status, and (5) improvements in eradicating untouchability and atrocities suffered by the Dalit community. The results of this comparison are bleak and disheartening at best; however, there has been some progress. Chapter 5, Conclusion and Recommendations, will focus on (1) policy accomplishments and limitations, (2) 57


Dalit aspirations in comparison to the policy outcomes, in retrospect and (3) conclusions and recommendations. 58


CHAPTER FIVE CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS Introduction In this final chapter, we will revisit the implications of caste and India's reservation policy and the social, political and economic hardships that continue to prevail in spite of the Indian constitutional guarantees for social justice and due process before the law regardless of caste, class, or religion. A final assessment of the comparison of India's governmental policies and the Dalit social movement aspirations will follow with concluding remarks and recommendations for the future. Reservation Policy Accomplishments and Limitations The Indian Reservation policy is a part of a much larger policy designed to benefit the weaker sections of the society. As previously explained, reservations have evolved over a long period and have been administered by both the central as well as the state governments. The present sets of policies derive their legal status and legitimacy from the Indian Constitution of 1950. Reservations along with other measures discussed in this thesis should be viewed as instruments of a larger social policy addressing the long-term goal of extending effective citizenship rights to the vast sections of the population who have been 59


historically deprived and marginalized, namely the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The policy of preferential treatment must continue until the basic aspirations of improving _the numbers of backward citizens who are brought up into professions, white-collar jobs, and government services is significantly achieved. With the percentages of preferences not being filled in the areas of government employment, educational admissions and legislative assembly seats, it is clear that much needs to be done to utilize the services that have been provided for the is important to acknowledge that the issue of the OBCs needs in the society also need to be addressed in more detail and that the upper caste's side of this struggle also needs a voice. It is clear, however, that more emphasis needs to be placed on economic criteria as opposed to caste-based criteria when detennining eligibility for benefits in better ascertaining beneficiary qualifications. For example, in the year 2001 Indian families are still paying bribes to get their otherwise fully qualified children into good universities and fake certificates of caste certification are still being used to obtain benefits fraudulently. The policy on the eligibility of descendents of beneficiaries needs to be reviewed as well, in terms of economic criteria and needs based schemes with curtailment of benefits to those not deemed eligible based on these needs-based schemes as opposed to caste-based criteria. It should be noted that this recommendation takes into account the impact in the short term on the other 60


members of the Indian society and recognizes their important issues of disagreement with the current Indian Reservation policy. The complexity of this issue is striking. As difficult as this policy may seem, it is believed that in the short term this will be the best course for India's future for all its people in a society that is beginning to place less emphasis on caste and more on meritocracy, individual achievement, social justice and equality. There are no easy answers for resolving the plight of the Dalits in India, but the direction India must take lies in the social consciousness of its people. This can't occur without a unified societal platform for improving the plight oflndia's Dalits and very importantly, for equally addressing the concerns ofthe upper castes as well. Dr. Ambedkar once said, "Rights are protected not by law but by the social and moral conscience of society. If social conscience is much that it is prepared to recognize the rights which law chooses to enact, rights will be safe and secure and that if rights are opposed by the community, no law, no parliament, no judiciary can guarantee them in the real sense of the word" (Cited in Radhakrishnan 1991:1920). Aspirations in Comparison to the Policy Outcomes, in Retrospect Michael (1999:168-169) brings to light the main questions on the plight of the Dalit community. How can they be brought into the main arena, where they can play their role as citizens endowed with basic human rights? How can they be empowered 61


to successfully win the battle of becoming equal citizens with guarantees of a stable residence, family life, and full participation in India's social and cultural institutions? These are basic and critical questions on the resolution of which rests the success of the efforts at social emancipation of the marginalized sections of Indian society. According to Michael (1999), these groups need more, not less support and protection from the state. They need more stringent application of protective legislation, more and more help, and guidance from the labor unions and their leadership. Above all, there is a need for more and better politicization of this class of the underprivileged to fight against the onslaught of liberalization as it currently cuts into their needs for survival and growth. This means the coming together of individuals and groups (SCs and STs) to take a more comprehensive view of their immediate future. Michael (1999:169) elaborates: "Issues of development and social justice are not merely matters of state sponsored schemes or programs. They essentially constitute a site of struggle of relations of equal power. These political issues need political answers". The following table will attest to the need for governmental innovations, policy change, and a positive paradigm shift. Table 5.1, makes this clear in realizing the failure of governmental policy, in satisfying Dalit social movement needs and aspirations Michael (1999:134). Table 5.1 shows the socioeconomic profile of the SCs for the year 1986-1987. After three and a half decades of planned economic development and all the rhetoric about the "socialistic 62


pattern of society," the rate of literacy of these communities was barely 22 percent and that of urbanization 16 percent; nearly 50 percent of them were agricultural laborers; out of every 100 bonded laborers in the country, 66 come from the SCs; their share in industry employment was 4 percent. As a consequence of all this, the extent of poverty among the SCs was as high as 50 percent, compared with 30 percent for the population as a whole (Michael: 1999: 134). Table 5.1 SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROFILE OF SCHEDULED CASTES, 1986-87. INDICATOR Population (1981) Urbanization Literacy Agricultural laborers Cultivators Average status of cultivators Industrial employment Percentage of population below the poverty line Percentage of bonded laborers who are SCs Source: Government of India (1990a). STATUS 104,480,000 16.00% 21.38% 48.22% 28.17% Marginal 4.00% 50.00%. 66.00% In Table 5.2, Michael (1999:136) reflects the percentage of Scheduled Castes in central government for 1 January 1987, and reflects negligible gains in representation over the statistics reflected in Table 4.1 for 1978-1979 63


TABLE5.2 PERCENTAGE OF SCHEDULED CASTES IN CENTRAL GOVERNMENT, 1 JANUARY 1987 CLASS/GRADE TOTAL sc PERCENTAGES A (I) 57, 654 4,746 8.23% (HIGHER ADMINISTRATIVE) B (II) 75,419 7,847 10.40% (LOWER ADMINISTRATIVE) C (III) 2,130,453 307,980 14.46% (CLERICAL) D (IV) 1,167,759 234,614 20.09% (MENIAL) Total (Excluding Sweepers) 3,431,285 555,187 16.18% Source: Government oflndia (1987-1988) Michael (1999:136) illustrates that the Class I posts for SCs are extremely underutilized; Class II reserved posts are relatively better filled in central government service; Class III posts are filled in proportion to their percentage of the population; However, most importantly, in the case of Class IV jobs, the SCs were over represented. They held 20.09 percent of the posts in the central government. Seventy-64


seven percent of the sweepers come from the SCs alone. These figures have improved negligibly over the figures shown in Table 4.1, for the year 1978-1979. Indian governmental policies, including reservations, have, as optimistically stated by Michael (1999: 142): undoubtedly helped the SC/ST communities to overcome their centuries-old socio-economic, political, educational and cultu ral subjugation. It is these policies that have enabled them to partially break the shackles of bonded labor and that have been instrumental in creating in these communities a small middle class consisting of officials, lawyers, engineers, and doctors, whose enhanced status has not only increased the pace of social mobility but has given some sort of mental stability and confidence to the communities as a whole. As a result, they have started to contribute to art and literature and thus seek cultural advancement. It is quite clear, however, that, on the whole, Indian reservation policies are not keeping pace with the Dalit social-movement aspirations emphasized in this thesis, specifically, the total implementation of the Mandai Commission recommendations at central and state government levels, as well as needed improvements in equality, social justice and social services. In fact there is a decreasing emphasis shown in Table 5.3, expenditure by center, states and union territories on social services as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) between the period 1985-1986 and 1996-1997. India, according to Michael (1999:142) is set to withdraw even more from its welfare obligations by reducing its expenditure on social sectors. This shift will continue to be 65


justified on the grounds of containment of fiscal deficit, a strict condition imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank(Michael1999). TABLE5.3 EXPENDITURE BY CENTER, STATES, AND UNION TERRITORIES ON SOCIAL SERVICES AS PERCENTAGE OF GDP, 1985-1986 TO 1996-1997 YEAR %EXPENDITURE OF GDP 1985-1986 1986-1987 1987-1988 1988-1989 1989-1990 1990-1991 1991-1992 1992-1993 1993-1994 1994-1995 1995-1996 1996-1997 Sources: Government of India (1996-1997, Tables 2.7-2.10) Notes: (a) Revised estimates (b) Budget estimates Other forms show actual expenditure. 14.7% 15.1% 16.3% 16.8% 16.5% 16.5% 15.9% 15.5% 15.9% 17.2% (a) 19.4% (a) 14.6% (b) Table 5.3 shows that the expenditure on social services in India increased from 14.7 percent ofGDP in 1985-1986 to 16.5 percent in 1991-1992. However, during 1992-1993 to 1993-1994 (The first three years of economic reforms), it ranged from 66


15.5 to 15.9 percent ofGDP. The estimates of expenditure for 1994-1995 and 19951996 are 17.2 and 19.4 percent respectively, and the budget estimates for 1996-1997 themselves had fallen to 14.6 percent ofGDP, (Michael1999:142). Thus, overall, in the post-reform period, the expenditure on social services, as a proportion ofGDP, has either remained stagnant, or, worse, declined. In other words, taking into account the scope and severity of the prevailing vulnerability in Indian society, the expenditure on social services is far from adequate. Further, when adjusted for inflation, it may prove to be even more inadequate(Michael1999:141142). Oppression and domination are characteristics of the state of Dalits in India under the system of caste. This condition is precipitated, in part, by the relationship of the Dalits to the majority Hindu population and other sectors of the society competing for scarce resources. We have seen that sanskritization, or the emulating of the culture, dress,and norms of higher caste members by Dalits has been mostly unsuccessful. The tensions between Dalits and the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) is also quite acute at times, especially in the rural areas, leading to riots and communal violence. The consequences of this tension is that the oppressed begin to behave like the oppressor. The following illustrates the seriousness of the state of communal violence in India documented by Human Rights Watch (1999), Section III, The Context of Caste Violence: 67


As documented throughout this report, the perpetuation of human rights abuses against India's Dalit population is intimately connected to police abuse. Local police officials routinely refuse to register cases against Hindus or enforce relevant legislation that protects Dalits. Prejudiced by their own caste and gender biases, or under the thumb of influential landlords and upper-caste politicians, police not only allow caste Hindus to act with impunity but in many cases operate as agents of powerful upper-caste groups to detain Dalits who organize against discrimination and violence, and to punish Dalit villagers because of their suspected support for militant groups. While there have been marked improvements in the state of the Dalit community and their ability to uplift themselves with education, jobs, and political representation, governmental processes to help empower the Dalit community, including the Indian reservation policies, have severe limitations in nation-wide implementation and governmental oversight. Thus, in comparison, governmental policy outcomes have not met the aspirations of the Dalit community in terms of education, jobs, political representation, social equality, and justice as emphasized in the Indian Constitution, the Dalit Manifesto of 1973, and subsequent Dalit political forums. 68


Conclusion and Recommendations The Dalits oflndia are perhaps the world's foremost example of a community that has been forcibly deprived of its identity by means of various kinds of oppression resulting in a measurable loss of their human rights, religion, culture, economy, language, and educational opportunities. The first step towards their liberation is for them to regain the identity they have lost as a community. The ultimate goal of the Dalit struggle is to achieve their humanity, which truly is for them the meaning of liberation. However, contemporary Dalits live under hundreds of identities, which makes it almost impossible for them to do anything together, even to carry on a common struggle. Today, they are different in such aspects as religion, lifestyle, language and ideology. Because of the struggle through which they continue, it is encouraging to see how the Dalits have come to a stage whereby they can identify a unifying factor that has helped them to name their common identity. This factor is their common, on-going cumulative suffering and oppression, which has socially degraded them, politically disenfranchised them, and economically enslaved them. To this history of oppression they have applied the name "Dalit". Massey (1997:79-80), states that "A process for Dalit liberation must consist of at least the following: (1) Dalit awareness of their current state, (2) Dalit consciousness of being part of a casteless community based on the principles of 69


equality, (3) Dalit awareness of caste-based oppression, and (4), a path leading to the liberation stage, whereby the experience of oppression becomes obvious. The newly acquired awareness of the sources of disempowennent is followed by involvement in social and political action to eradicate the injustices". The Dalits are also aware that the caste system and its participants continue to use various means such as conquest, divide and rule, manipulation, and destruction of Dalit culture to control them. These four means of oppression are being countered by the introduction of networking for cooperation and creating unity among the different Dalit communities and constructing a common ideology that can help Dalits to organize themselves for the common struggle and to empower them to achieve the goal of Dalit liberation. Although the Indian reservation system is imperfect, it will prevail as a significant means among many necessary for the Indian government to attempt to meet the needs and aspirations of the Dalit community for dignity, equality, and social justice in the 21st Century. 70


APPENDIX A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS UNDER THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION OF 1950 General ARTICLE 12. Definition 13. Laws of inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights. Right to Equality ARTICLE 14. Equality before the law. 15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. 16. Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. 17. Abolition of Untouchability. 18. Abolition of titles. Right to Freedom ARTICLE 19. Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc. 20. Protection in respect of conviction for offenses. 71


21. Protection of life and personal liberty. 22. Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases. Right against Exploitation ARTICLE 23. Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour. 24. Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc. Right to Freedom of Religion ARTICLE 25. Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. 26. Freedom to manage religious affairs. 27. Freedom as to payment of taxes for promoting of any particular religion. 28. Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain education institutions. 72


Cultural and Educational Rights ARTICLE 29. Protection of interests of minorities. 30. Rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions. 30. Repealed. Right to Constitutional Remedies ARTICLE 32. Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by this Part. 32A. Repealed. 33. Power of Parliament to modify the rights conferred by this Part in their application to Forces, etc. 34. Restriction on rights conferred by this Part while martial law is in force in any area 35. Legislation to give effect to the provisions of this Part. 73


ARTICLE APPENDIX B SPECIAL PROVISIONS RELATING TO CERTAIN CLASSES (INDIAN CONSTITUTION) 330. Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People. 331. Representation of the Anglo-Indian community in the House of the People. 332. Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the states. 333. Representation of the Anglo-Indian community in the Legislative Assemblies of the states. 334. Reservation of seats and special representation to cease after fifty years. 335. Claims of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to services and posts. 336. Special provision for Anglo-Indian community in certain services. 337. Special provision with respect to educational grants for the benefit of Anglo Indian community. 338. National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. 339. Control of the Union over the Administration of Scheduled Areas and the welfare of Scheduled Tribes. 340. Appointment of a Commission to investigate the conditions of backward classes. 74


341. Scheduled Castes. 342. Scheduled Tribes. 75


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