Senior journalist and anti-caste activist Dilip Mandal, speaking at the event, questioned why the government was afraid to release the Census.

Kanimozhi speaking at an event at a podium, looking to her left and with finger pointed wearing a green saree
news Caste Sunday, February 06, 2022 - 12:10

DMK Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi on Saturday, February 5, said that she will demand the Union government reveal the Socio Economic and Caste Census report. “DMK has consistently raised this issue in the Parliament. I promise that we will bring this discussion to the attention of the Parliament” the MP said at ‘Counting Caste: Breaking the Caste Census Deadlock’, a virtual conference organised by South Asia Alternative Forum, Oxford South Asian Society with the support of the department of Oxford School of Global and Area Studies. The DMK MP said that people cannot wait for another decade to know caste compositions. 

Speaking at the conference, the MP stressed the need for a Caste Census and noted that without statistics, no real difference can be made in the society. She faulted the Narendra Modi-led government for not releasing the caste census claiming it is inaccurate, alleging that the government was never keen to make the report public. She said policies for the welfare of marginalised communities could have been based on the report. “It was always about what suits them. Maybe the statistics which they saw were not a happy one,” the MP remarked. 

The BJP-led Union government had released the preliminary results of the 2011 Socio-Economic and Caste Census in 2015. However, in September last year, the Union government in its affidavit to the Supreme Court said that it would neither release the 2011 figures nor repeat the exercise of enumerating castes in the future. 

In its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the government said that the 2011 Caste Census was fraught with grave “inaccuracies” and “unusable” for any official purpose on account of it. It also said that they were against collecting any information on castes, other than Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), in the 2021 Census, which has been delayed.

The SECC was to be conducted every 10 years. And without a Census for 2021, it will be  another decade without up-to-date figures of caste composition in India. 

Rubbishing the arguments that disclosing Caste Census will rekindle hatred based on caste, Kanimozhi said, “We cannot hide from the fact that in India caste plays a major role. Caste, religion and gender play a role... In India nothing happens without caste. In elections, sadly the fact is that we cannot even decide on the contesting candidates without taking into account what caste a majority of people living there belong to.” The MP said that no political party can give out a list of office bearers without considering which caste they belong to and their representation. 

Stressing that caste is the undeniable truth, the MP said caste determines who gets to marry and who gets to rent a house. “People in rural areas don’t even want to share the same ration shop or burial ground with some communities.” 

“If this is the real truth we can’t pretend that the Caste Census is going to rekindle divisions.” 

Pointing out that there is a bias against reservations, the MP said that in 440 central universities, 4,482 posts meant for the reserved category were vacant. “So people prefer vacant posts to giving opportunities to somebody who comes through reservation.” She said that despite reservations, there is underrepresentation of oppressed communities. 

Senior journalist and anti-caste activist Dilip Mandal, speaking at the event, questioned why the government was afraid to release the Census. Stating that conducting the Census was not unique to India, he questioned who would be offended if the Census was released. “Are they the so-called upper castes occupying positions of power in government, judiciary, and media? Or are the leaders of BJP and Congress? Why would they be afraid of such an exercise?” he asked.  

Taking a dig at the Modi government, he said, “The Narendra Modi government has released the livestock Census. So we know the numbers of cows, pigs, yaks and even horses, but this is not the case with citizens.”  

Without statistics, giving grants to certain communities is hugely problematic, Mandal said. “For  example, the Union government gives grants to states for Other Backward Classes development. Without knowing the number  or economic status of the OBCs in each state, the government is going to provide the funds based on their total population. This is blatantly wrong.”  

He said that similarly under the Economic Weaker Section (EWS) quota, upper castes are availing 10% quota though their population might be around 3%. For the first time since 1,881 we are not having a decadal Census, Mandal pointed out. 

Trans Rights activist Grace Banu, who participated in the discussion, demanded horizontal reservation for trans people from the oppressed community – separate reservation for the community in the existing categories. She said that besides facing oppression based on their gender identity they face discrimination within their own community based on their caste. She also urged the government to sensitise the enumerators as they are mostly transphobic, according to Grace.