(continued from part II…)
Movements in the Present Period
Dalit Panther Revolt
The economic and political policies of the reactionary ruling classes have led to agitations among the Dalits and other sections of the lower castes from the 1970s. Although the leadership of the Dalit movement was co-opted and splintered in the 1960s, the plight of the masses of the lower castes, including the Dalits, worsened. The practice of untouchablity continued unabated in the rural areas, caste forms of extra economic exploitation like Vet Begari, Vetti, etc., persisted in many parts of the country. Caste discrimination and prejudices in urban areas also became sharp. This situation, coupled with the Brahminical Hindu culture’s domination and lack of opportunities among the Dalit youth led to the revolts. Under the influence of the world wide upsurge among the students, the youth and the Blacks in the 1960s and the Naxalbari movement, Dalit youth in Maharashta revolted under the banner of the Dalit Panthers. The movement began in the city of Bombay in 1973. It was initially a cultural movement, of poems and articles printed in the small magazines brought out in that period. Dalit students and youth from the slums, hostels and chawls condemned the Manusmriti, announced that the 15th of August was false independence and called for a boycott of elections. The movement did not last long, but it spread rapidly to other urban centres like Pune, Nagpur, and even to cities in Madhya Pradesh and other places like Karnataka, Gujarat, Chandigarh, Bhopal and Agra, where units of the Dalit Panthers were formed.
The Panthers revolted against caste oppression and also the RPI Dalit leaders who they felt had betrayed the Ambedkarite anti-caste/anti-untouchability movement. Their campaign to villages where caste oppression was reported indicates this. They also attacked the ideological bastion of the caste system by burning the Manusmriti. They also attacked the corrupt parliamentary system by calling for a boycott of the by-elections to the Lok Sabha in Worli at Bombay, and managed to get almost 85 percent of the SCs in the area to boycott the elections. This was the first time that the Dalit movement took an explicitly anti-state stand. They were able to mobilize thousands of people for their morchas and faced acute state repression. During one their morchas, the Shiv Sena attacked with a volley of stones and when the Dalits resisted the police fired on the morcha in defence of the Shiv Sainiks. In this police firing a young poet, Bhaskar Jadhav, was killed. Later, the Shiv Sena, acting as the storm-troopers of the upper-caste dominated state machinery, systematically attacked the Dalit Panthers. The Panthers militantly resisted these Shiv Sena attacks, which instigated riots in Dalit slums and chawls. The physical battles at Worli, between the Shiv Sainiks and the police on one side and the Dalits on the other, lasted for over three months. Hundreds of Panthers were thrown into jails. The Panthers confronted state repression, but having been a spontaneous revolt led by the petty-bourgeoisie, and lacking a unified strategy and tactics, they started disintegrating by 1975. The Dalit Panther movement was a part of the democratic revolutionary class struggle in the region. It was as a result of this movement that the scheduled castes of the country began rejecting the derogatory word Harijan (with its Hindu connotations) and instead adopted the word ‘Dalit.’
The leadership of the movement was won over by the Congress government by giving cultural awards and other enticements and gradually most of them fell prey to lumpenness, political bankruptcy and opportunism. In spite of this, the mass of the Dalit youth and students in various parts of the state have repeatedly become active and their militancy has burst forth on issues like the renaming of the Marathwada University, against the banning of Ambedkar’s book Riddles in Hinduism, the agitation against the killing of 11 Dalits in police firing at Mumbai (Ramabai Nagar) and other local issues.
The Dalit Panther movement shook up Maharashtrian society and forced it to acknowledge the existence of caste discrimination and prejudice. It struck a major blow at the upper caste monopoly and superiority and to the politics of co-option. The cultural establishment was particularly affected; they were forced to give recognition to the literature of the oppressed masses, and Dalit literature expressing the agony of Dalits in this casteist system saw a new expression. Also, it was only after this outburst that reservations for Dalits began to be filled. Till then, besides a handful and in the post of sweepers, the reservations were only on paper. This movement also had an impact on Dalits in other parts of the country.
A similar movement emerged among the urban Dalits in Karnataka. The Dalit Sangharash Samiti began as a resistance against upper caste attacks in urban areas and soon spread to the rural areas to fight caste based atrocities. It led to a popular opposition against casteism in Karnataka too. This movement revealed the hidden truth of untouchability and the persistence of caste oppression and also resulted in the development of Dalit literature. But soon it too became sectarian and evolved as a pressure lobby that was used by the various ruling class parties.
Elite Dalit Politics
Due to this outburst of revolt the ruling classes have consciously sponsored an elite among the Dalits who have, consciously appealed to Dalit solidarity and a sectarian approach, while denying any unity with other exploited sections and parties representing them. They were maintained as powerbrokers whose main task was maintaining a class alliance with the ruling classes through the medium of the state. They have been playing the role of repeatedly building up the faith in the ruling class state among the Dalit masses. The Dalit leaders have promoted the ideology of Ambedkarism which suits the ruling classes. Instead of learning from the life and experiences of Ambedkar, and drawing lessons from his positive democratic aspects, they have highlighted and dogmatized all those aspects of Ambedkar’s thoughts that will legitimize the existing state. They are upholding the Constitution as sacrosanct, defending liberal political philosophy the politics of bargaining and lobbying. Hence they are taking a sectarian approach to the unity of the Dalits with other sections of the exploited masses, or talking only of caste unity between the Dalits and the OBCs, without considering the class contradictions that make this unity practically impossible to sustain. They are unwilling to address any of the basic questions of the Dalit and the OBC masses. Thus the elite political leadership among the Dalits, in league with ruling class parties, is trying to keep the Dalit masses under their organizational and ideological influence, repeatedly preventing their militancy from being integrated into a revolutionary struggle, and channelizing it into parliamentary politics. They are preventing the building up of united struggles which alone can wage a successful fight against all forms of caste oppression, particularly, the dastardly system of untouchability and the overthrow of the caste system from its roots.
Dalit Movement in the Present Period
The intensification of contradictions in the past decade, the caste atrocities, the impact of the anti-feudal struggles under revolutionary leadership in Telengana and Bihar, have led to a widespread awakening among the Dalits and other lower castes in various parts of the country, especially, in the northern states like UP, Haryana and MP which were relatively untouched by any social reform movement for the upliftment of the Dalits in the colonial period. This awakening was particularly among the petty-bourgeois sections of the Dalits. The BSP, the party formed on the base of Dalit bureaucrats and ruling class elements from amongst the Dalits, has become the main organization through which this democratic sentiment against caste discrimination, and for social and political power, is being expressed, and, hence, mass struggles under its leadership have also taken place locally, in the various states, in the face of repression from local vested interests and the police. But the BSP, with its anit-Brahmin rhetoric, its emphasis on caste alliance, the exclusion of class unity, the absence of a systematic socio-economic programme and its complete faith on electoral politics, which, in practice, has meant alliances with ruling class forces and parties, cannot satisfy the democratic aspirations and sentiments of the Dalits and other lower caste masses. Their alliance with the regional comprador and landlord based parties has meant that they have betrayed the interests of the poor and the landless peasants. With its support to the pro-imperialist economic politics, which has led to privitization, unemployment and increased imperialist exploitation of the agrarian economy, the BSP cannot but betray the interests of even the petty-bourgeois sections amongst the Dalits. It is acting as the major tool amongst the Dalits for keeping them enslaved to feudal and imperialist exploitation, and diverting them from the path of revolution.
However, the intensifying crisis in India is bound to lead the Dalit masses and petty-bourgeoisie to more and more struggles. The constitutionalism being fostered by the elite and corrupt leadership of the Dalits is dissipating their militancy into lumpenness on the one hand and political lobbying on the other. Thus, their interests cannot be satisfied.
Only by joining hands with the revolutionary struggle that is being waged against imperialism, its social prop feudalism and the comprador bourgeoisie, the three enemies of the Indian people, that are sustaining all the reactionary forces and all the reactionary social relations and ideology, can the caste system and Brahminical ideology be uprooted from the Indian soil. The parliamentary system has placed power in the hands of the feudal and comprador bourgeois classes, while it will seek to co-opt only a small section from the middle or lower castes. But for the masses of the oppressed castes and classes political power can be gained only through a revolutionary struggle to first overthrow the control of the handful of upper castes over the means of production. Without taking control of the means of production, the power of the oppressed cannot be built. Hence, while fighting against all forms of caste oppression and humiliation, it is this task that remains principal in our struggle to annihilate the caste systems.
VI. Caste, Class and stages In Indian History
In this section, we shall trace the interlinking between caste and class through history from the advent of class society. We have seen continuous changes in this, which we shall try and trace in this section.
Any overview of Indian History would show that, ‘All hitherto history of India has been the history of caste and class struggle.’ The processes due to which classes, Varnas and jatis came into being, and their roles in the different stages of Indian history, are now more clear. It is also now proved beyond doubt that Indian society has been a changing society, and has gone through different stages in history prior to its present stage of a semi-feudal and semi-colonial society.
Based on the definition given by Marx and Engels in the The German Ideology, that ‘The various stages of development in the division of labour are just so many different forms of ownerships, i.e. the existing stage in the division of labour determines also the relations of individuals to one another with reference to the material, instrument and product of labour,’ we can categorize the different stages in pre-British Indian society as (1) Tribal-Oligarchy, (2) Ancient communal and state ownership which proceeded, especially, from the union of several tribes by agreement and/or conquest, accompanied by the enslavement of the Shudra-helots, i.e., the ‘Arthasashtra Mode’ and (3) Feudal or estate property accompanied by the Jati-based system, i.e., feudalism of an Indian variety.
The Tribal period extends from the early Vedic period, wherein, the Aryan tribes came to the Punjab, at about 1500 BC. This continued to 500 BC, by when they had conquered, subjugated and assimilated the non-Aryan tribes and had overrun the Doab (Ganges plains). It was in this period that the decaying gentile society broke up due to the incessant intra-kin and inter-kin conflicts for cattle, land, water sources and, later, slaves, classes were born, and Varnas came into being. Settled agriculture developed due to the wooden and then the iron plough. Transplantation of rice was known. Iron use was widespread. The state was yet to come into being. Varnashrama Dharma, outlined in the Brahmin texts, brought order and was the ideology of the ruling Kshatriya/Rajanya and Brahmin classes who expropriated the surplus through the extraction of Bali (Tribute) or Dan (Gifts).
From 500 BC onwards, we see the emergence of the ‘Arthasashtra State’ which was based on the expropriation of surplus, in the main, from the Shudra who tilled the king’s sita lands and also the tributes from the peasantry. The Arthasashtra mode of production based on tributes and expropriation of surplus from the Shudra-helots declined after Ashoka and disappeared in the main after the Gupta period (4th century AD) in the north and the Chola period (9th century AD) in the south.
From the 4th century AD onwards, we see a new intermediary class coming into existence, which not only kept a part of the surplus but also administered fiefdoms. Also, during this period, money economy and trade declined, local barter increased, the guilds/srenis nearly disappeared, and the self sufficient village economy, with its Jajmani, Balutedari and Ayagar system, came into existence. The Jati system was born. Thus, the third stage of Indian History came to be — the Indian variant of feudalism — till the British came. The British continued the feudal and semi-feudal system with changes suited to their imperial designs.
The Changing Role of the Varnas
In each of the first three stages of Indian history, the role of the Varnas did not remain unchanged with regard to the ownership of the material and instruments of labour and the expropriation of the product of labour. The Varna Vyavastha too was not a constant which remained unaltered.
In the first stage we have traced the development of how, from the tribal chiefs or Rajanyas who were given bali, and also from the priestly class of Brahmins who were given dan, arose the tribal-oligarchy of the 7th century BC. It was this ruling alliance that kept control over the ordinary tribal-folk, Vis, and a small class of domestic slaves, the Shudras. The Vaishya was a tributary to another, to be oppressed at will, while the Shudra was ‘a servant of another, to be removed at will, slain at will.’ The Varnashrama Dharma was a code of conduct propounded by the ruling classes to keep the ruled in check and in order.
But, in the next mode of production, we see a change. The Brahmins, in this period, keeping aside the rules of the Varnashrama Dharma, which restricted them to priestly functions, had now transgressed into the territory of the Kshatriyas, acting as advisors to the rulers, and taking up tasks in the administrative set-up. Also, they had become gahapatis, i.e., landowners, and gahapati/settis, i.e., merchants — traditionally, the preserve of the Vaishya caste. In the Arthasashtra mode of production, wherein, due to the development of agriculture, the importance of cattle and farm animals increased — the sacrificial yagnas declined — the Brahmin priests had to search for fresh avenues.
The Vaishya Varna also saw a break up into different classes. The upper crust in the urban areas became merchants of trade and their guilds controlled towns. The Nagarsettis became the main backers of Buddhism and Jainism and contended for a share in the power set up, together with the wealthy gahapatis of the rural areas, who had numerous Shudra domestic slaves and farm labourers.
The Paura-janapada, the ruling classes of the Arthasashtra state, consisted of the Kshatriyas, the Brahmins and the upper crust of the Vaishya Varna. The Vaishya Varna witnessed the formation of another class within it. A class which was skilled in certain crafts (like making chariots) later became part of the Karmarkar Shudra. Also, the Shudras performed farm-labour as hired helots in the Arthasashtra state, which was not witnessed in the Vedic times.
Thus, we can conclude that while in the tribal period Varnas were itself classes and had certain roles, this changed in the Arthasashtra mode of production, in which Varnas of the Arthasashtra society were not congruent to classes.
In the next stage, from the Gupta period onwards, we once again see changes in the role of the Varnas with the emergence of the jatis and the self-sufficient village economy.
The Brahmins, missionaries who helped settle villages for the state, had become the priests, astrologers and keepers of accounts in the self-sufficient village. The Brahmin missionaries brought with them the knowledge of the Naksatras, the use of the iron plough, rice transplantation, etc. They contributed to the production process and became a part of the balutedari system. At another level, the court Brahmins of the numerous rising feudatories — characteristic of this period — granted and sanctified Kshatriyahood to a section of the erstwhile Shudras or foreign conquerors; in return, receiving, of course, large grants of tax-free land. Thus, the Brahmin Varna took up priestly functions once again and also consolidated their position as landlords.
The Vaishya, as a Varna, had nearly disappeared from the scenario and were restricted to big urban centres only. This was so because trading had declined and local barter had increased. The majority amongst them in the rural areas (i.e., the cultivators) became assimilated with the Shudras. The Shudra became synonymous with the class of peasantry. The Shudras were again divided into the Satvik Shudras, i.e., the cultivators and the non-Satvik shudras, the labourers. Also, an ati-Shudra caste of Untouchables were born. The Untouchables could not own land or wealth and were usually labourers.
The Kshatriyas became a bigger Varna in size with the numerous new foreign and local entrants to it.
It is in this stage that we see the jatis being born. Many jatis composed a Varna. Also, classes were composed of many jatis. The Kshatriya and Brahmin castes comprised the ruling class. The Varnashrama Dharma outlined the hierarchy and also who were the rulers and who could be exploited. Thus the jatis were fitted into the Varnashrama Dharma scheme by the ruling classes. Also, the new entrants were given befitting status by the theory of the newly invented varnasamskara theory.
Thus we see that though classes did not take exactly the form of the Varna after the tribal stage, i.e., during the Arthasashtra and the feudal stages, yet, the two higher Varnas comprised the ruling class of Indian feudalism during, and after, the Gupta period (4th century AD).
Muslim rule, from the 13th century AD onwards, did not bring about any fundamental changes, although certain things, like the Persian wheel or the Araghata, helped increase agricultural production. Also, the introduction of cement lime helped in storage of water, etc. Yet rural parts of the country stayed as they were in the matters of caste and class. Though Islam did not discriminate and did its own bit in loosening the bonds of caste, yet, the higher castes remained close to the seats of power from the local level to the centre. Muslim feudalism collaborated and colluded with Hindu feudalism. There were no fundamental changes in the realm of production relations, i.e., the base. Thus, though the composition of the ruling classes changed, the majority of the lower castes were the lower classes also.
The British Period and the Birth of New Classes
Before the British colonized India, during the Mughal rule, trade and urbanization had again gained ascendancy — a new mercantile class was born. This nascent national bourgeoisie was crushed by the colonial plunder in its infantile stage itself.
It was during the British period that the modern proletariat was born, as also the comprador bourgeoisie was born and brought up by the imperialists. Within the peasantry too, a slow and gradual differentiation was taking place. It was from this period onwards that caste and class coincided less and less.
For, from amongst the peasant and artisan castes of the Shudra status, came the factory worker. Also, the former ati-Shudra Untouchables, the Dalits, were recruited in large numbers in the army, railways, road construction and in unskilled jobs in the factories. The mines and the plantations also employed the Dalits and the Adivasis. All these together constituted the modern proletariat.
The merchants and moneylenders were from amongst the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Muslims, erstwhile Vaishyas, the trading communities and from the erstwhile Shudras also.
The comprador business houses came from amongst the Banias, i.e., trading caste and communities, like the Parsis, the Jains and from the Khattiya, i.e., the Kshatriya caste. A few were from the Brahmin and erstwhile Shudra castes. The bureaucracy was dominated by the Brahmins, the Kayasthas, the Anglo-Indians, the Parsis, the Muslim educated elite, etc.
The British also legally constituted classes notified as landlords (other than Vatandars or Inamdars), tenants and labourers. Although the Zamindars, the Khotedars and the Talukdars mostly came from the upper castes, the smaller landlords and rich peasants, notified as tenants, came from the erstwhile Shudra castes. The ati-Shudras, Adivasis, and the Nomadic Tribes constituted the bulk of the landless and agricultural labour force. Also, a large section of the impoverished Shudra peasants became labourers and landless.
Thus, within each caste, classes were created and the modern proletariat especially was a multi-caste class with the Savarnas and the Dalits both within its fold. The peasantry was composed of the Shudra and the ati-Shudra castes. The higher caste pre-dominance over the means of production continued. These were also well entrenched in the bureaucracy.
Since the British did not bring about a change in a through-going manner, since they merely superimposed their colonial rule, keeping the material base as intact as possible, changing and transforming only what was necessary and suitable for their purpose, India became a semi-feudal society under colonial rule.
Post-1947: Caste and Class
Post 1947, India saw even more changes, especially, in rural India. Semi-feudal and semi-colonial India saw the rise of new caste-class configurations, due to the growth of some capitalist relations and blows delivered by the people’s movements. In the rural areas, especially, the pre-dominance of the Brahmin and the Kshatriya castes has been reduced and their place has been taken up by the upper section of the erstwhile Shudra castes. The ruling elite in the countryside now composes not only of the Brahmin, Rajput, Vellala, Bhumihar castes, etc., but also of the Patidars, Patels, Marathas, Kunbis, Jats, Yadavas, Kurmis, Vokkaligas, Lingayats, Kamma, Reddys, etc.
The bulk of the middle peasants come from the erstwhile Shudra caste while the small, landless and poor peasants comprise the Shudra and ati-Shudra castes, Nomadic Tribes, Adivasis and religious minorities.
Thus, today, a close correspondence between class and caste does not exist. Today, it is not possible to establish multi-class unity along the lines of the non-Brahmin movements, against the feudal elite, as was possible earlier.
Today, unity along caste lines can only lead to class collaboration and making the toiling masses of the oppressed castes into tails of the exploiting sections of their own castes. Unity along class lines can provide the basis for the comprehensive struggle against the caste system, i.e., real unity forged by taking up the caste question as the question of the entire oppressed classes.
VII. Caste and Agrarian Revolution
During the colonial rule, we see, in the agrarian sector, broadly two trends within the movements of the peasantry. The one led by the All India Kisan Sabha and the other by the Non-Brahmin organizations.
The Non-Brahmin Movements
The leadership of most of the Non-Brahmin movements during the British period failed to understand the nexus between British rule and feudalism.
They failed to realize that feudalism was the social prop of British Imperialism and that the British were in alliance with decadent feudalism, propping it up, and also utilizing the putrid caste system, modifying it to their advantage.
Another important failing was that they did not correctly put forward how to break the control of the ruling classes on the forces of production and how to establish the real control of toilers over them and, thus, how the political power of the toiling masses is to be established. Therefore, while hitting out at upper caste domination in the bureaucracy, and caste and feudal authority, thus assaulting feudalism and making dents in it and the caste system, no revolutionary transformation could be effected.
The Non-Brahmin movements took up struggles against money-lending and other caste/feudal related non-economic forms of oppression, against the hereditary nature of posts, the domination of upper castes in the educational and cultural sphere, etc. They also took up issues like taxation, rent, access to water, etc. Nearly every Non-Brahmin movement had a strong nationality content.
Although, these movements, could build a united front by rallying the erstwhile Shudra and ati-Shudra castes, i.e., the Bahujan Samaj, the leadership of these movements were by-and-large the rich and middle peasantry — who gained substantially in the social and economical sphere. The lower-level landlords came from the upper sections of the erstwhile Shudra castes, e.g., the Marathas/Kunbhis. Utilizing these movements they gained ascendancy even in the political sphere and became co-opted into the ruling-class political structure at the Taluka, District and Provincial levels.
It was the radical trends within these movements which joined the communist fold in many provinces. But the communist leadership failed to lead these mass-movements by drawing correct lessons from them. For example, a class analysis of the non-Brahmin movement was not done. The limitation of caste based mobilization was not really understood. Most important, the significance of the anti-feudal struggle was not recognized, as also, the caste question, as an important question for the success of the New Democratic Revolution, was not understood at all.
The Dalilt Movements
The Dalit movements separated themselves from the Non-Brahmin movements, (at times even ideologically), and took up militant mass struggles against feudal and caste bondage. Struggles for entry into temples and the use of common water tanks became widespread. In the realm of production relations, the struggles centered on the refusal to perform traditional caste duties, performing forced labour for the landlords and government officials. Another arena of struggle, representing the aspirations of growing Dalit petty-bourgeoisie, was related to the access to education and employment.
The Dalit movement, like the Non-Brahmin movements, failed in understanding the link between British Imperialism and feudalism. They did not grasp the fact that the key to demolish the caste system lay in demolishing the semi-feudal, semi-colonial relations of production. The linking up of the struggle to control the means of production, and the seizure of power as a strategy to demolish feudalism, was not understood. In fact, the Dalits were encouraged to leave the village arena and take up challenges in other avenues. The Dalit movements tried to build up a united front with the working class in the urban areas but there were few attempts in the rural areas, where caste oppression was strong. There was an objective reason for this — it was difficult for the Dalit movement to propose a unity with the non-Dalits, who had strong biases against them and practiced untouchability. Another reason due to which class unity could not be achieved was the sectarian outlook of the Dalit leadership, also seen in the urban areas later.
The All India Kisan Sabha Led Movements
The kisan movements, too, had taken up caste related issues varyingly in different provinces. In some areas they turned a blind eye to the issue, for instance, in Maharashtra, where, even after winning over the radical sections of the Non-Brahmin movement, it did not draw upon its lessons. In some areas it did take up the issue to a limited extent, but in the name of not damaging the united front of different classes of peasants, still pandered to the upper-caste biases of the kisan leadership.
The kisan movements took up the issues of Zamindari abolishment, forced and hereditary labour, money-lending and various other non-economic, caste related forms of oppression, increase in wages, etc. They were also much linked to the national aspirations of each region.
The kisan movements, too, did actually build up the Bahujan unity in the rural areas, but they did not take up the caste question as a question to be solved, neither at the practical level nor at the theoretical and political plane (i.e., understanding its relative importance for the accomplishment of the New Democratic Revolution and drawing up a special programme for it).
Since the CPI leadership turned revisionist, it betrayed the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist struggles, although the rank-and-file often led heroic struggles. The middle and rich peasantry, from the upper castes and a section of the middle castes, who were at the forefront of these movements, gained the most. Zamindari abolishment, for the revisionists in most areas, meant land distribution — it did not mean the seizure of power and the ownership of production in the hands of landless and poor peasants.
It was only during the Telengana movement and consciously from Naxalbari onwards that the connection between the land-to-the tillers slogan and the ownership of the means of production and seizure of political power was outlined. Only by displacing the landlords from power and the ownership of the chief means of production, i.e., land, and implementing the land to the tiller slogan, and placing power in the hands of the peasantry, led by the landless and poor peasantry and agricultural labourers, can feudalism be demolished and caste-linked feudal authority smashed.
Today, the genuine liberation of the oppressed castes lies in advancing the Agrarian Revolution along with the demands of land-to-the tiller and power to the people committees. This is to be achieved by uniting the most oppressed with the poorer sections of all other castes, and building up the new power structures with the landless and poor peasants in the leadership; thereby overthrowing the trio of feudalism, imperialism and comprador bureaucratic bourgeoisie, which serves as the basis for the continuation of caste oppression.
An oppressed caste-class unity, forged by means of facing repression together, the gaining of self-respect and self-confidence among the oppressed castes, through the armed might of the people and the growth of people’s authority, during the course of the armed agrarian revolution, are pointers to the methods, with which to solve the caste questions, in the course of the struggle.
The mobilization of the oppressed castes into revolutionary class struggles in rural Telengana, rural Bihar-Jharkhand, formerly a region of the most savage feudal forms of caste-class oppression, based on the demands of land-to-the-tiller and for the establishment of people’s authority in place of caste-linked feudal authority, along with the other general demands of the peasantry, shows the path of solving the problem of caste.
With agrarian revolution as the central task it is also necessary to fight any and every form of caste oppression and discrimination, and, particularly, its most horrendous form in untouchability. Smashing the hierarchy of caste is a necessary aspect of the democratic reorganization of Indian society; and removing the upper-caste biases is a necessary requisite for strengthening class unity of the oppressed (coming from all the castes).
VIII. Towards some tasks for caste annihilation
The programme of the party of the proletariat against caste system, has as its perspective that the anti-caste struggle must aim to overthrow feudalism, imperialism, and the comprador bureaucrat capitalism, the classes which are upholding the caste system in India today. Hence,
1. The proletariat must direct the class struggle against the caste system as an integral part of the struggle to accomplish the New Democratic Revolution.
2. For this, mobilize all the exploited classes in the struggle against caste oppression, exploitation and discrimination.
3. Smash caste-linked feudal authority in the villages and place political power in the hands of the oppressed classes, led by the landless and poor peasants.
4. Struggle to implement land-to–the-tiller, keeping the interests of landless peasantry and poor peasantry at the forefront.
5. Wage an ideological struggle against Brahminical casteist ideology and all other forms of casteist thinking. Expose the casteist ideology in the scriptures like the Manusmriti, the Gita, and the Vedas, etc.
6. While upholding the right of the individual to pursue his or her faith, conduct a relentless ideological struggle against all forms of caste rituals and practices, like thread ceremony (moonj), etc.
7. Fight against propagation of vegetarianism, based on its link with ‘purity,’ and other forms of superstition regarding ‘pollution.’ Oppose Gohatya Bandi.
8. Fight social stigma against certain occupations and customs of lower castes, like beef eating or pork eating.
9. Fight against symbols of caste identity and degradation, and the language and culture having a caste slang.
10. Defend and actively support the struggle of the Dalit masses for self respect. Defend the right of the Dalits to enter temples and to convert.
11. Struggle for the civic and social rights of the Dalits and other lower castes, and oppose discrimination, e.g., use of common wells, hotels, toilets, and hostels, etc.
12. Struggle for equal participation of lower castes in social functions. Try to establish social intercourse between the people belonging to various castes participating in the class struggle. Encourage inter-dining among different castes.
13. Oppose housing schemes based on caste segregation.
14. Defend and encourage inter-caste marriages. Demand incentives for all inter-caste marriages. Children of inter-caste marriages should get facilities as accorded to either parent.
15. End use of caste names in official records.
16. Encourage trade unions to take initiative in the implementation of reservation policy. Fight for reservations in private sector. (Public limited companies).
17. Fight bureaucratic delays and corruption in loans and subsidies for Scheduled Castes and OBCs.
18. Demand special schemes to upgrade technology and the skills of lower castes and artisan groups.
19 Demand increase in scholarship amount and improved facilities in hostels for SCs and STs.
20. Expose the reactionary nature of caste associations, especially, upper caste associations.
21. Fight against and expose the casteist leadership within the oppressed castes, who prevent the class unity of the toiling masses. There is a false consciousness among the poor people belonging to the upper castes that they are socially equal with the rich people of their castes. We have to expose this myth and make them understand that their real comrades-in-arms are the oppressed people of other castes. We should never put caste before class.
22. Fight and expose the opportunistic and reformist trends within the leadership of the oppressed castes. Fight bourgeois democratic illusions among oppressed castes.
23. Struggle against caste prejudices and caste beliefs within the ranks of the proletariat and other sections of the toiling masses, and build up a struggling unity among the exploited classes.
24. The communists should be one among the oppressed people of all castes and be with them in words and deeds. At the same time we should expose the pseudo communists who are rank casteists in practice.
25. Educate and struggle against casteist beliefs of activists of mass organizations.
26. Form special platforms of democratic sections to fight caste discrimination and pogroms against lower castes.
27. Form anti-riot squads in defence of lower castes in areas of caste tensions.
28. Propagate materialist scientific ideology, promote atheism.
29. Struggle to create a democratic culture, based on equality of all irrespective of caste and gender.
IX. Caste after New Democratic Revolution
The CPI held the position that caste oppression shall automatically disappear after a revolution. Caste was only seen in the superstructure and it was interpreted that once the base changes, the problem of the superstructure would not be of much hindrance.
In fact, it is not only that after the seizure of power that castes shall remain in the realm of the superstructure, even before, we shall have to recognize it as a reality and struggle against it. Wherever it exists, even if remnants of the caste system continue, it has to be fought against.
The other fact is that the problems of superstructure cannot be postponed till after the seizure of power. Even during the revolution, while destroying it at its roots in the base itself, we shall have to struggle against caste-discrimination and prejudices, wherever they occur.
After the seizure of power by the four class united front, based on the worker-peasant alliance, led by the proletariat, caste based exploitation, that is, caste system in the realm of production relations, shall be abolished. (Even before the countrywide seizure of power, if power is seized in an area then the above shall hold true). Caste institution-held big private property or temple held big private property shall be seized.
Caste discrimination shall be fought against. Untouchability shall not only be abolished, but punishment shall be meted out to anyone practicing it.
All caste-based inequalities shall be done away with. Reservations shall continue and incentives shall be given to lower castes to develop the required skills.
Not only in the rural areas, but also in the urban sector, lower castes shall be given the training and skills to enhance their knowledge. In the rural sector, caste based occupations shall be abolished and alternate employment given by teaching new methods and techniques. Localized agro-based industries shall be promoted, handicraft industries shall be gradually mechanized.
Agriculture shall be developed and industrialized and industry shall be based on agriculture.
Reservation and preferences shall be continued in the educational sphere for the oppressed castes, particularly the Dalits.
Encouragement, protection and incentives shall be given to inter-caste, inter-community marriages.
At the ideological and cultural plane, the fight against Brahminical practices, Pujapath, superstition, rituals, religious and caste prejudices, contempt for labour, and any and every symbol of hierarchical superiority, etc., shall continue, while upholding one’s right to practice one’s faith.
The gap between mental and manual labour, urban and rural divide, sexual and caste discrimination shall be continuously fought against.
Learning from Mao’s China, wherein the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution had taken place, we shall have to emulate and learn lessons continuously to create the new person, the socialist person. In the Indian context it means, specifically, eradicating all caste sentiments and ingrained thoughts of superiority through a continuous process of cultural revolutions.