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Rahul Gandhi’s Yatra Must Talk About Social Justice But Also Spiritual Justice for Shudras, Dalits

The BJP will never talk about priesthood for anyone but Brahmins.
Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty

The Congress party’s former president Rahul Gandhi is starting his second yatra (march), called ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra’, from Manipur to Maharashtra on January 14 . The first yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir was simply called Bharat Jodo Yatra. Its meaning and intent were very clear. There are different religions in India. But after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) came to power, the minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, were dismembered from the Indian civil society and state structures. A deep sense of de-secularising India was all over.

The BJP and RSS were not ashamed of telling the nation and the world that the idea of secularism is un-Hindutva, thereby un-Indian. It managed elections by mobilising the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) along with Dwijas by telling them ‘let us rule ourselves by keeping the Muslims and Christians out of power structures in all spheres’.

The OBCs were convinced with this idea because they thought that during the Congress rule, the Dwijas and Muslim elite managed the power structures by neglecting the Shudras/OBCs. In reality also, from Nehru to Manmohan Singh, the same pattern of power management continued. The Muslim elite, particularly Sunni Muslims who were with the Congress, were completely kept out of power. Only few Shia Muslim elite were accommodated here and there.   

However, the Bharat Jodo Yatra was to reunite minorities in the Indian civil society. To a large extent, that yatra served its purpose.

Also read: How Varna and Jati Were Consolidated by Two Distinct Processes

Now the BJP-RSS, while allowing some Shudra/OBCs and Dalits to be in formal power structures, are managing the real power with a high dose of monopoly capital accumulation in the hands of Dwija capitalist-business forces. They are slowly driving the state to de-nationalise all major financial institutions. They plan to completely erase the idea of social justice through this.

The Mandal movement achieved outside the ruling ideas of the RSS-BJP and Congress in the 1990s to deploy the institutional idea of social justice with socially justifiable distribution of national resources, seats in the educational institutions and jobs in ruling structures. The RSS-BJP have a plan to systematically dismantle that social justice process. The Congress, for a long time, did not bother about the idea of social justice as they too did not want to recognise caste as a category of development. By showing the Congress-Muslim relationship, the RSS-BJP have drawn the Shudra/OBC into their fold and come to power.  

Transferring budget money to monopoly houses

However, the RSS-BJP are following the American model of post-capitalist development by constructing massive highways, railways, airports, seaports by transferring massive amounts of budget economy to contract capital to Dwija builders like Adanis, Ambanis and others by not allowing matching welfare schemes to reach the agrarian and artisanal forces with a theory that it is revdi (freebee). More significantly, their direction is to de-reserve all jobs that are now going into the hands of the Shudra/OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis through the route of privatisation and globalisation.

Towards these significant systemic directions, the RSS-BJP have already dropped the words secularism and socialism from the preamble of the constitution without even amending it. If the concept of secularism was addressing social justice on the religious front, the concept of socialism was allowing India to expand the mass welfare schemes, part of which was reservation in education and jobs. The idea of social justice is closely related to the idea of socialism in India. But the Congress intellectuals always interpreted the idea of socialism only in the communist sense. Such an understanding did help the process of de-casteization of welfare and administration.  

Also read: Who Is Afraid of Rahul Gandhi?

The notion of social justice has much deeper implications to dismantling the varna system, which RSS-BJP are expected to preserve. Its commitment to Hindu Rashtra or Rama Rajya includes protection to varna or sanatana dharma.

Now the Congress has to redefine its old understanding  of secularism and socialism to suit the Indian mode of social justice and challenge the RSS-BJP. Only then the Shudra/OBCs will shift towards them to safeguard their interests. They have to get deeper   welfare schemes and protection to the constitutional guarantees of reservation to Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes(STs) and OBCs.

Rahul Gandhi realised this and gave a national call for enumeration of the Caste Census, which is a key to protect social justice and deepen it. The Congress has to take the idea of social justice to every nook and corner of tribal society in the North East in this yatra. In the plains, starting from Bengal to Maharashtra it has to address caste society to remove inequalities. Their position has to be different from the position of “social engineering” of the BJP-RSS. Social engineering is not social justice. It is a mechanism to numb the consciousness of the Shudras and Dalits and convince them that the caste system is not bad.  

The Congress must repeatedly tell rural masses as part of the yatra that the Congress will stand for the reservation system and stand against de-nationalisation of major government assets and it will stand for spiritual justice. Silence about spiritual injustice in the name of secularism does not appeal to the Shudras and Dalits. They too want the right to priesthood in Ram temple being inaugurated on January 22. So far, the Congress has no position on such spiritual justice questions. 

Also read: Has the Bharat Jodo Yatra Achieved What It Set Out to Do?

The BJP government, while doing the temple construction and inauguration as state work, has not made it clear that every caste-Hindu is equal and any person irrespective of caste could become a priest there. They did not say before the deity there is no Brahmin, no Chamar; a human is human.       

Anti-caste ideology encompasses spiritual justice to the historically oppressed Shudras and Dalits at least now, in the modern times in the system of political democracy.  

If the Kashmir question of BJP-RSS ideology is a concern of the Muslim world, the Manipur massacre became a concern of the Western Christians. The yatra is going to start from that wounded civil society of Manipur. It has to make a statement that the Congress will work to heal such deeply struck wounds and preserve their Right to Religion which has certainly to do with the idea of spiritual justice in India. The idea of spiritual justice is universal, it is not just national.  All parties and organisations – BJP, Congress, RSS – have to respect the idea of universal spiritual justice.  

The BJP-RSS do not care for spiritual justice within the caste civil society, which they define as Hindu. The question of their caring for spiritual justice for Christians and Muslims societies does not arise because they consider those religions as foreign and anti-national. No Dwija intellectual or political party leader understood the importance of spiritual justice in India. Caste system did not allow them to think about it. But it is time for the Congress to address the issue in a comprehensive way.

The Congress has to re-invoke the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel to save India from the present situation from the point of social justice and spiritual justice to all castes and religions. 

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author. His latest books are the Clash of Cultures—Productive Masses Vs Hindutva Mullah Conflicting Ethics and The Shudra—Vision For a New Path.    


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