Caste and Religion failed our democracy

Posted on 04 Jan 2017 by Amit Sheokand     
Caste and Religion failed our democracy

In a landmark judgment a few days ago, Supreme Court rules that soliciting names in the name of caste and religion is unlawful and unconstitutional. Political parties can't solicit votes in the name of caste and religion yet a day after the judgment a party's chief calls for the unity of Muslims and Dalits against another party. The Supreme Court itself is full of contradictions because a months ago, in another judgement, it had ruled that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life which is utterly senseless because when people fill government forms and documents and mark Hinduism as their religion, there exists a column of religion with an option 'Hindu' and I haven't found any 'way of life' column as of yet. 

Also, is the judgment only limited to the political parties? What about the media channels like ABP News which were showing who would Dalits, Muslims, Yadav, Brahmins vote for in the upcoming UP elections just a day after Supreme Court's ruling? Doesn't this count as a violation of the judgment? The irresponsible media, in its lazy reporting often choose to see India like the politicians want them to see, on caste and communal lines, and in a bid to garner quick eyeballs and TRPs, our Media does what politicians have been doing for decades now, divide the citizens on the caste and the communal lines, in Hindus, Muslims, Yadavs, Dalits, Brahmins, Jats, Sikhs and it serves as a nice platter for the politicians to launch their divisive campaigns and that too gets enthusiastically covered by the Media. 

The reality of the day is that the elections are fought and won on these divisive lines and because it's a winning formula, it's applied again and again. Even those who talk of 'Vikas' and 'Badlaav' choose their candidates after considering the caste demographics of the constituency. People from all the castes and the religions usually prefer to vote for somebody who belongs to their caste or religion because they believe that in the hour of need, the person belonging to their caste might help them because they are from the same caste. I have witnessed countless elections and this hasn't changed. It works on many levels. In Haryana, people from my village don't vote for any party. They vote for a person. Earlier the person used to be in Congress so they used to sing praises for Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. Now, the person has shifted ranks and is in BJP, so the whole village looks like a Modi bastion; people defending everything Modi does, not because they love Modi but because the leader they serve is in Modi's rank now. It's quite simple.

A friend, a so-called educated friend, canceled his cab ride when he looked at the driver's name who was a Muslim. It was quite subtle. Obviously, he said that driver is taking too much time but I could see that he can't trust a Muslim driver with his cab ride. So, do I expect him to vote for a Muslim candidate? Of course not.

In Delhi, the place where I live belongs to a reserved category seat. So, the candidates are always SCs or STs. In last assembly election, one of my Uncles asked me to vote for the candidate of Congress. When I told him that I am going to vote for AAP because I liked some points in its Manifesto and it seems like a refreshing change, he simply rebuked me and questioned that why the hell would I vote for a 'Chamar' like Rakhi Birla. When I told him that the seat is reserved and his Chamar jibe is senseless and casteist in nature, he chose to go with the rich SC guy from Congress because he had helped him in the past. That's how he made his choices. Either vote for a Jat or somebody from whom you can generate favors in the future.

In the same Uncle's family, his son always tells me that Hindus would get destroyed solely because of other Hindus who can't unite to face a threat from the Muslims who are growing rapidly and would eliminate Hindus completely in the coming year. Until then, he seemed like a nice and a polite guy, favorite of everyone in the family, the Model son as we used to call him but I was quite surprised to see the amount of misinformation and hatred he has about Muslims. In the current scenario, irrespective of what political parties offer him as his candidate to choose from, do I expect him to lose hold of his extreme communal mindset to vote for a person based on his character and performance? NO.

I don't know who to blame for the current situation when caste and religion are on the minds of everyone everytime there's an election around. Be it politicians, media, or be it simple voters like us, these things matter and after 70 years of Independence, the situation has only worsened. The Muslim card, the Dalit card, the Hindu card, the Brahmin card, politicians have many cards in their pockets but not a single one to cater to the democratic ethos of the constitution, not a single one to take the country forward in a progressive sense, not the single one which asks voter to check out all the candidates properly before voting and not vote for a person simply because he/she hails from their caste or religion. In such an atmosphere, do I think that the Supreme Court judgment will change anything? NO.

What looks like an extremely progressive constitution filled with modern values of secularism and liberty gets dumped every time we have an election in India. The emphasis on the caste and the communal lines in every election keeps on failing our constitution by degrading and ignoring the ethos our forefather enshrined our constitution with 70 years ago. The emphasis is also driven by the fact that in reality, we are truly divided on such lines and in our daily lives, we seem to practice everything our constitution warned us to not. In living our lives like that, in choosing our partners to marry like that, in discriminating people on how they look, where they come from and what caste or religion they belong to, we fail our constitution on a daily basis and I'm being extremely cynical in saying that a single Supreme Court ruling simply touches the issue on a surface level and in the absence of actual election reforms and measures to ensure that such things get noticed and get punished, I'm not sure how long would it take to see an eye to eye with the world in adopting an actual modern and progressive mindset while choosing our representatives in the local and the central assemblies to represent us, to raise our issues which concern us and to be the actual change makers whenever they're needed. I have no hesitancy in saying that Caste and Religion, when mixed in politics are true demons or enemies of our constitutional framework and such practices keep on taking us backward. 



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