Nearly 2 years after the floods in Northern Karnataka that devastated the lives of many thousands of people there, the newly constructed houses ‘asare’ for those who lost their houses has acquired a caste dimension to it. The prospects of houses being distributed randomely among people irrespective of their caste had terrified many upper caste households, who could not imagine living with lower caste households as neighbors. Instead many of the upper caste members got together and occupied houses even before it was even alloted to them. While among the lower caste members the houses were distributed at random, many among the lower caste household feel that this outrage by the upper caste households will only lead to their further ostracization in an already caste ridden society.
Even today in the so called ‘Booming India’ and ‘Shining India’ the divisions along caste lines is still a factor which shows very clearly in the house distribution in the Northern Karnataka flood affected areas. Having pledged to abide by the constitutional norms, the so called elected representatives and the state authorities have embraced casteism which makes a complete mockery of our so called democratic system. All the main parties in Karnataka whether it is the Congress, BJP, the Janata Dal (Secular) or others who represent the interests of the capitalism and landlordism are casteist one way or the other. Instead of working towards fighting caste oppresssion and upholding the rights of the lower castes/ classes, the ruling classes have ended up by strenghtening these divisions for their own gains.
Having ridden on a bandwagon of doing away with caste based oppression and divisions in an independent India, the extremely unequal nature of Indian society today is reflected back in the rotten caste based politics of the Indian ruling class. In order to maintain the rule of capital and landlordism, and instead of addressing the issues of poverty, unemployement, ill health, lack of housing, the Indian ruling class needs caste based divisions to divert the attention of the masses.
The process of urbanization in India, that have transformed towns into cities, cities into global metropolis, caste is still a factor here as well. In rural India, this is even more serious with Dailits especially segregated from other castes, which is not so visible in urban areas. In order not to upset the long held position of the Indian upper classes/ castes in lording over the lower classes/ castes, capitalism in India has reconciled itself to such divisions as long as it able reap its profits.
In urban India, the lower castes/ classes face a myraid number of problems. For example, in Bangalore, the extremely poor which mainly comprises of Dalits, Muslims and some sections of Christians are forced (in the absence of social housing) to live in slums without even the basic facilities. But the same time, those sections of the same Dalits, Muslims and Christians who are reasonably well to do also face problems with respect to renting or even buying houses in upper caste/ class neighborhoods where they face the ire of the dominant community. That is why we find so few lower castes households in upper class/ caste areas.
In the past, in order to lessen casteist divisions and provide housing to the poor working class people, the state did provide some sort of social housing at affordable rents, which despite their pitiable conditions, atleast provided a roof over their heads. But now vested interests in the ruling classes stopped this which in turn has only entrenched the existing casteism in society.
Stop the casteist distribution of Asare houses
A law criminalizing casteism in house distribution should be enacted
Every citizen irrespective of caste or religion to be provided with decent, affordable houses
Exploited sections like the Dalits must especially be protected and must be given priority in houses especially in urban areas
Those who uphold casteist values in social services must be punished
Each area to have anti- casteism committees comprising of workers from unions and youth to fight caste oppression
Down with Capitlalism and landlordism
Only a democratic socialist alternative will end caste-based oppression and communalism in society
Bangalore (Translated from Dudiyora Horaata July- Aug 2011 issue)