“Jatiant Ladha Parishad”: struggle conference for the annhiliation of caste. This was the theme of a successful melawa held in Kolhapur, at the historic Rajarshi Shahu Bhavan, on January 18.
Our aim is the annihilation of caste. We fight against caste atrocities, for preservation of reservations, for social justice, but going beyond this we want the complete annihilation of caste and the establishment of a sustainable society based on liberty, equality and fraternity. This is not impossible. Some people think it is; they think that caste is so entrenched, so stabilized that it will last for millennia and cannot be annihilated. But it has to be remembered that caste is NOT five thousand years old; during the thousand years of Buddhist hegemony the caste system was not in existence, though tracts like the Manusmriti promoting the caste system had been written. Caste came into existence; it can be destroyed.
There are several aspects to this struggle. One is the issue of inter-caste marriage.
Today marriage is within the caste, arranged by parents and imposed on young people. Today,, in the 12st century, boys and girls want to break this bondage and choose their own partners, go for whom they like and are attracted to. But the result too often is atrocities, beatings, murders and brutality. Such efforts at intercaste relationships and inter-caste marriage have to be supported, promoted, protected. This requires all our effort.
Today there are caste-wise living quarters especially in villages. There is Brahman galli, Maratha galli, Mali galli, Kumbhar galli, Chambharwada, Maharwada, the Muslim area etc. People don’t simply live “in a village”; they live in a special area within that village. Even in cases of displacement, in rehabilitated villages new caste-wise living quarters are constructed. This must be changes. Houses should be mixed, of equal size and facilities, people free to live where they want.
Today there are problems of land shortage and landlessness. A large percentage of dalits and OBCs are landless, many more are land-poor with only tiny fragments of land. We say that every family should have access to one hectare of land with assured irrigation facilities!
Today even capitalist industrialization has its own caste hierarchy. What is needed are new, renewable energy-based sustainable agro-industries within which everyone can get employment. Too often people talk about “modernizing” and “updating” the traditional work of the different artisan castes. This model is obsolete! Being limited to a specific caste occupation has to be rejected. All occupations should be open to all.
Religion is a problem. It is a specialty of the caste system that it has a religious sanction, a religious justification. Brahmanic religion, so-called Hinduism, is founded on inequality and justifies caste. For this reason rejection of Hinduism is necessary. As Babasaheb said in “Annihilation of Caste,” his important essay of 1936, the entire so-called sacred scriptures must be rejected. This was done by the great social revolutionaries. Phule established a Sarvajanik Satya Dharm. Babasaheb chose Buddhism. Periyar became an athe
ist. All of these are possibilities. Conversion to an equalitarian religion – Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism—would be helpful. It would not solve all problems; as we know there are problems of caste among Christians, among Muslims, among Buddhists, among Sikhs. But it would be a big step forward.
The fight for annihilating caste is a long-drawn one and requires a great unity. Today there are conflicts and struggles among Dalits, between Dalits and OBCs, everywhere. These have to be overcome and a great unity built as all come together to annihilate caste.
These are all aspects of the fight for the annihilation of caste, and were part of the deliberations of the conference, with ended with resolutions and the singing of “Now let us enflame the fields, now let us raise up a great fight!”