Storm in a teacup: Why two powerful communities are opposing Siddaramaiah's caste census
Storm in a teacup: Why two powerful communities are opposing Siddaramaiah's caste census

Storm in a teacup: Why two powerful communities are opposing Siddaramaiah's caste census

Is this reaction from Vokkaligas and Lingayats to a test dose?

Taking their opposition to the Karnataka government’s caste census a notch higher, associations of two of the most politically powerful communities in the state have now announced a joint forum to protest against the perceived threat.

Earlier this week, the leaders of the Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities met in Bengaluru along with a number of writers, MLAs, ministers, former IAS and KAS officers and leaders of sub-castes. They passed a joint resolution saying that the caste survey results should not be declared officially as they had “malicious political intent”.

Other​s, say that the two groups have come together to protect their interests, fearing that they will lose their clout if indeed, the caste survey’s numbers are correct.

Convener of Dalit Sangharsha Samiti (Ambedkarvada) Mavalli Shankar said that what is happening now is only a reaction to a test dose.

“They just fear that they would lose politically if they are proven to be much lesser in number. Vested interests are preventing the survey of the deprived sections,” he said.

Vokkaligas and Lingayat leaders however, claim that the census was done in an “unscientific” manner and that survey was “malafide”. During the meeting on Monday, they claimed that the numbers of the two communities were much higher than projected by the survey.

“According the leaked data it is learnt that there are 49 lakh Vokkaligas and 59 lakh Lingayats. However, as per four previous surveys by the government, there are 1.5 crore Vokkaligas and 1.09 crore Lingayats in Karnataka. Even the (Socio-Economic survey) census showed that we are more in number,” said N Thippanna, former MLC and president of the Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha.

There has however, been no caste enumeration survey which also ties in socio-economic data of various communities. Even the Socio-Economic Caste Survey of 2011 conducted by the central government did not enumerate castes. The decadal Census too has only collected data for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as a category, but has no data of any individual caste group.

The previous BJP government had amended the law to give OBC status to certain sub-castes of Lingayats, a move that came in for wide criticism as many argued that reservations were meant to address the duality of social and economic exclusion wrought by caste and not facilitate upward mobility for groups that were already socially dominant.

Many intellectuals and academics in the state and across the country have maintained that assessments of the benefits of reservations or the lack of it were necessary given changed realities and social equations.

Thippanna however, maintains that the survey was a deliberate attempt to show that Vokkaligas and Lingayats was present in lower numbers. “This is not the first time it has happened before too and it is also a deliberate attempt to weaken the Hindu community itself and that government will have to bear the brunt if it ends up releasing this false report,” he said.

He also alleged that the government had left out 60 Veerashaiva / Lingayat sub-castes. According to the leaked results 90 Lingayat / Veerashaiva sub-castes have been enumerated.

Shankar however, says that more marginalized groups have been left out of the ambit of economic opportunities and social representation that reservations provide: “Currently only the people belonging to Class IV of the Schedule Caste community get any benefit from reservation. There are so many others who have continuously been suppressed,” he said. “The true face of power-hungry communities will be revealed when the census is released,”he added.

The alliance between the Vokkaligas and the Lingayats is almost like a counter to the AHINDA (Dalits, OBCs and Minorities) formation that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had built in his constituency. What is interesting about the current development is a slight shift in the stance of the two groups. While in the past both groups had argued that a caste survey would “divide Hindu society”.

This alliance is likely to have wider ramifications for the politics of the state, its social equations and also the fortunes of various political parties in Karnataka which have operated on what was certain knowledge so far: that the Lingayats were numerically the biggest community in the state followed by Vokkaligas.

Among the resolutions that the two groups have jointly passed is one on organizing a convention with the participation of the seers of Lingayat and Vokkaliga Mutts, elected representatives and other prominent people. This in itself is an indication that a political churning is afoot in the state. Its contours will be clearer in future.

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