Struggle against caste oppression should be made part and parcel of all democratic struggles. It is very necessary to overcome division among the Indian people, caste division being main among them, and to forge their unity. As Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had succinctly put it, caste is not only division of labour but division among labourers. Here’s a report on the 125th birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar.
Caste division and oppression is a reality of our society. While it is defended and perpetuated in Hindu religion with its preaching of unequal status by birth, the caste system had its impact even on those religious groups which do not subscribe to such preaching. It is a reality encompassing Indian society. It is not just a set of prejudices, it does not pertain only to superstructure of our society, and it also pertains to the very base. It has been and is a useful tool for the ruling classes to extract surplus and appropriate the labour of the toiling people. Hence its longevity in successive ruling dispensations through the ages. Brahmanism has provided the ideological basis for division of Hindu society into castes and oppression of a large majority of the people. Manusmriti has been a charter of crude caste exploitation and oppression.
Caste question presents in a myriad of ways from attacks on Dalit lives, houses and property, sexual exploitation and rapes of Dalit girls and women, their oppression at work place, segregation practiced with respect to them to denial of reservation or inadequate filling of such posts, in getting accommodation to deliberately failing such students, their insults at public places etc. Marriages of Dalit youth to upper caste girls continue to evoke violent responses in villages and even cities. Judicial prejudice as evidenced by acquittal of Tsundur culprits and culprits of massacres of Dalits by upper caste landlords in Bihar is also part of caste question.
Dalits are mostly landless in rural areas, which is primarily responsible for their lower social status. Besides they are relegated to menial jobs. However, all sections of Dalits face discrimination and oppression in the prevailing caste system. Dalits face double oppression – due to the prevailing caste system as well as due to class exploitation as most them belong to toiling sections. In fact their lower social status is not only a cause of their depressed condition but also of the labouring masses generally. A very small section of them own their own means of production and are dependent on other sections for getting means of subsistence. This dependence through which their labour power is plundered is the basic aspect of the caste oppression. Even those from among Dalits who are able to get education and jobs face discrimination and suppression in educational institutions and work places.
The root cause of the caste division and oppression lies in the evolution of class society in India and revolutionary reorganisation of the economic and social structure including elimination of hereditary occupations is necessary to totally do away with caste oppression. It is clear that only revolution can accomplish this mostly quickly and least painfully. New Democratic Revolution, with distribution of the most widespread means of production i.e. land, will remove one of the main basis of the dependency at the root of caste oppression and clear the ground for the abolition of caste from society.
The struggle against caste oppression is being fought in different spheres. The struggle of landless poor for agricultural land, struggle of oppressed castes for house sites, struggle of labouring masses for employment and better wages and working conditions, struggle against caste atrocities directed against Dalit men and women in rural areas, struggle for elimination of caste discrimination and oppression from educational institutions, struggle for proper implementation of reservation and extension of reservation to private sector, even defiant inter-caste marriages all have emerged in this period. Though ruling class parties talk against caste division and caste oppression, they in reality maintain, defend and perpetuate it.
Strengthening of Hindutva forces and their ascent to power has sharpened attacks on Dalits and other oppressed castes. Hindutva is an aggressive communal ideology and is basically Hindu upper caste chauvinism. It is attacking struggles against caste oppression. It is attacking the democratic right to question this oppression. Hindutva forces which are in service of imperialist exploitation of the country and the rule of big capitalists and big landlords, are the fascist answer of the ruling classes to the rising struggles of the people including against caste oppression.
While Dalit masses continue to struggle for their basic rights and against caste oppression, there is a welcome rise of struggles of Dalit students not only against their own lower status and oppression but questioning the very policies of the ruling classes, their subservience to imperialism including new economic policies, their suppression of struggles of the people including those of minority nationalities. They are also raising their voice against communal attacks against minorities and the issues underlying them. It is a welcome rise of struggles which is questioning the Hindutva forces. The RSS-BJP government is suppressing them.
In this situation, revolutionary forces should intensify their struggle against caste division and caste oppression and attack this oppression in whatever form it assumes and wherever it surfaces. In fact, struggle against caste oppression should be made part and parcel of all democratic struggles and should be brought prominently on the agenda of all democratic organisations. This struggle is very necessary to overcome division among the Indian people, caste division being main among them, and to forge their unity. As B.R. Ambedkar had succinctly put it, caste is not only division of labour but division among labourers.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was a pioneer in the struggle against caste division and oppression. Born into a Dalit caste he had himself faced such oppression and this helped him to identify and to address the concrete issues of denial of basic human rights to Dalits. More importantly, he struggled against it and inspired a large number of people to join this struggle. He waged struggles for equal rights for Dalits and oppressed castes and educated them to discard even land grant in return for scavenging work. He gave a clarion call for eliminating caste system from society. He advocated inter-caste marriages as an important means to this end. He carried forward the task initiated by many social reformers including Jyotiba Phule and Periyar. He conducted this struggle countering obstacles and conspiracies from the dominant stream of political life of his time. His contribution to the struggle against the most important scourge of Indian society, principally majority Hindu community, has been immense. He fought for equal right of inheritance for women in Hindu society and also struggled for other democratic causes of toiling people.
To carry forward the struggle against caste oppression and for elimination of caste, Central Committee of CPI (ML)-New Democracy organised meetings on Thursday (April 14) on the occasion of 125th Birth Anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. We should intensify this struggle and also actively join other forces fighting caste oppression. This is essential for intensifying revolutionary movement in the country in which elimination of caste is one of the most important components and this is of utmost importance to unite the toiling masses of the country for the revolutionary transformation of Indian society.
On this occasion, CPI(ML)-New Democracy rededicates itself to the progamme of elimination of caste division and oppression as well as to focus on the questions, which are immediate questions on this issue. We shall join forces with all democratic individuals and organisations fighting against caste oppression in this endeavour.
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