Dear comrade and friends,
IT IS a very important moment when so many progressive, democratic and revolutionary forces and individuals from different parts of the country have assembled here to once again take up and carry forward the historic task of building an anti-caste movement. I welcome all of you on this occasion and feel proud to inaugurate such a great event. As all of us are aware, in spite of many glorious efforts from the period of the great renaissance movements for the annihilation of the caste system which is a distinctive inhuman feature of the Indian society, or more precisely the South Asian society, it still continues in all areas of this region in newer forms, enslaving the whole people, especially the dalits, adivasis and other oppressed sections, economically, socially, culturally and politically, preparing the ground favourable for intensifying the neo-colonial plunder by the imperialist forces and their lackeys through neo-liberal policies.
It is in such a situation representatives of the four organizations, Anti-case Organization of Delhi, NDPI, Mul pravah AINUS and CPI(ML) met, formed the Preparatory Committee and succeeded to contact a number of forces at all India level and organize this seminar, to be followed by a Convention to launch the Anti-Caste Movement. Still we have so far succeeded only to bring together a small section of the forces who are waging the struggle for the annihilation of the caste system in different places. Let us hope that this bold initiative shall pave the way for bringing more of such forces together in coming days.
A glance through the history of South Asian region shows that from the time the imperialist invasions in this region began finally imposing British colonial domination, the colonialists utilized the Brahmanical order to strengthen the caste-religious divide among the people and to maintain their hegemony, in various forms. But it did not go unchallenged. On the one hand, right from the beginning the colonial domination was challenged by people’s revolts, starting from numerous adivasi revolts. On the other hand, the renaissance movements started emerging in various forms and intensity according to concrete conditions in different areas. Spreading anti-caste, secular - social justice values along with the spirit of transforming the society with a democratic vision, these movements overturned the soil and prepared the ground for the sprouting and growth of the national liberation movements. Though quite a few of them later retarded to religious fundamentalist or reformist positions, the role they played in preparing the soil for social transformation should not be underestimated. Without recognizing their contributions and drawing lessons from these mighty mass upsurges it is not possible to carry forward the struggle for a casteless and secular society forward today.
Inspired by the anti-imperialist revolts and on the soil prepared by the renaissance movement, though the national liberation movements came up, their leaderships were by and large taken over by the emerging comprador bureaucratic capitalist class who were upholding the Brahmanical order and imperialist values. They were satisfied with a dominion status under the British crown, or a membership in the British Commonwealth. They were for pursuing the very same ‘divide and rule’ policy of the colonialists using the caste, religious, linguistic and other divisions among the people. They consciously undermined the renaissance values and joined hands with the colonialists to divide colonial India on communal lines, perpetuating almost a permanent divide among the people. They used the caste divide in more heinous forms, perpetuating the caste-hierarchy. After 1947 transfer of power, they continued these policies to strengthen their ‘vote bank’ politics to perpetuate the domination of the comprador ruling system. After the imposition of imperialist globalization to intensify neo-colonization through neo-liberal policies, the caste divide and class domination combined with it are intensified in ever newer forms creating the present situation of caste based atrocities, deprivation and alienation.
The emergence of the working class movements from the last decades of 19th century and the beginning of the communist movement in 1920s had raised hopes of democratic revolution through anti-imperialist, anti-feudal movements. But the communist leadership failed to make a concrete analysis of the situation, the comprador character of the capitalist, bureaucratic classes leading the Congress and Muslim League parties and to establish the leadership of the working class over the national liberation movement. It failed to recognize the radical nature of the ‘caste annihilation and land nationalization’ call of Dr. Ambedkar and to make a joint front with him, irrespective of his class positions. Or, for decades the communist leadership failed to make a concrete analysis of the caste system and could not put forward a revolutionary approach towards launching a movement for the annihilation of the caste system, starting with a program for launching struggles against caste based oppression. It was considered another super structural category which will disappear with the capture of power by the communists. They were refusing to recognize the capitalist transformation taking place in the former socialist countries, including what happened in China even after the Cultural Revolution. So they could not recognize that the caste question is not something restricted to the super structure alone, but influencing the economic base also. They failed to grasp the class content of the caste question. So they could not combat the caste based parties which emerged in a major way from the 1980s.
On the other hand, these caste- based parties, including those who came to power in the states and those who shared power at the centre, diluted even the basic Ambedkarite positions and social justice values. Very soon they compromised with Brahmanical values and became corrupt. Like the social democratic CPI(M)- CPI leaderships, they also soon embraced the neo-liberal policies which were actually pauperizing and downgrading the dalits, adivasis and other oppressed sections/ classes. They refused to act even when ‘reservation’ like democratic rights got diluted with its denial in the increasing private sector. As even the existing land sealing laws were thrown out, corporate- MNCs entry in to farming sector and land concentration in the hands of these intensified, land distribution to dalits and other landless peasants based on ‘land to the tiller’ slogan became a mere writing on water. Commercialization of education, housing, healthcare etc deprived them even whatever meagre facilities available to them so far. The women from the oppressed sections are increasingly coming under sexual attacks and becoming victims of criminal attacks. In spite of reservation in local bodies, at many places as in TN elected dalits are not allowed to perform their role. Caste –based oppression and atrocities of caste system have only increased manifold in neo-liberal India.
At this juncture, in order to perpetuate the caste system, racism etc, the imperialist think tanks are propagating ‘identity politics’ like theories, and based on them are promoting the NGOs in a big way. When the imperialist lackeys imposed the globalization policies, they became their promoters in many cases. The religious fundamentalist forces are also promoting the Manusmrithi like Brahmanical dictates to perpetuate patriarchy and caste divisions. The political parties ranging from Congress-BJP to regional parties to caste based parties to the social democrats are promoting the caste divisions by relying on caste-based vote banks.
As a result, even six decades after the transfer of power, in spite of all tall talks about India becoming a superpower and the so-called ‘India shines’ propaganda by the corporate media, along with other social and economic inequalities, the caste system continues as a distinctive inhuman feature, as CPI (ML) Party program points out. In order to struggle against it, continuous campaigns and democratic movements with the orientation of abolition of the caste system fully have to be relentlessly waged. Struggles to stop all forms of caste based oppression, discrimination, untouchability and khap panchayat like reactionary institutions should be waged. Struggles should be waged to continue reservation like democratic rights till all social inequalities are removed. For distribution of land to dalits and other landless peasants based on the land to the tiller slogan struggles should be intensified. When even existing educational, healthcare, housing facilities are taken away under privatization-commercialization, relentless struggles to reverse these policies have to be waged. When vegetarianism is promoted and cow slaughter and beef eating are made crimes under Brahmanical order by the state, struggles have to be intensified for the right to eat according to ones liking and means
My appeal to all participants is: let us learn from the past struggles including their shortcomings from the time of the renaissance struggles, let us build up a powerful countrywide anti-caste movement with the orientation of annihilation of the caste system in its entirety, as the social reformers and the social revolutionaries have called for and struggled for in the past. I hope the discussion on the nearly twenty papers being presented in the three sessions today and tomorrow shall help to evolve an orientation for this great movement we are going to launch. At the same time let us make sure that this is not going to be a onetime effort. A protracted movement for the abolition of the inhuman caste system is the need of the hour. It calls for more and more theoretical studies to enhance our understanding about it including the ways and means to develop struggles for its abolition. Along with it while we build the movement from all India level, let us start building it at state level and grass root level involving the masses in their millions.
Comrades and friends, let us make a great beginning once again with the pledge that we shall not rest till this demon of the caste system is abolished. With these words I inaugurate this anti-caste seminar to be followed by the anti-caste convention.
Revolutionary salute to all of you.