Since the Supreme Court’s refusal to ban the caste census conducted in Bihar, politics has intensified with opposition parties on this issue. Opposition parties demand that caste census should be conducted in the entire country. The Supreme Court has postponed to January 2024 the hearing of petitions challenging the constitutionality of the caste-based survey conducted by the Bihar government.
Notably, the Court refused to pass any order of stay or status quo restraining the State from undertaking the caste survey. The bench orally said that we cannot stop the state government or any government from taking the decision. Let us know what has been the history of India regarding caste census.
Beginning in the year 1872
Census was started in the year 1872 during the British rule in India. Every time the British conducted a census of India till 1931, information related to caste was also recorded. After achieving independence, when India conducted its first census in the year 1951, only people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were classified in the name of caste. The situation changed in the 1980s when several regional political parties emerged whose politics were based on caste. These parties started a campaign to challenge the dominance of the so-called upper castes in politics as well as to provide reservation to the so-called lower castes in government educational institutions and jobs.
Mandal Commission formed
In the year 1979, the Government of India had constituted the Mandal Commission on the issue of giving reservation to socially and educationally backward castes. Mandal Commission recommended giving reservation to OBC category people, but this recommendation could be implemented only in 1990. After this, there were fierce protests by general category students across the country. Since the issue of caste census was linked to reservation, political parties started raising its demand from time to time.
Finally, in 2010, when a large number of MPs demanded a caste census, the then Congress government had to agree to it. Socio-economic caste census was conducted in 2011, but the caste-related data obtained in this process was never made public. Similarly, caste census was conducted in Karnataka in the year 2015, the data was never made public.
protests across the country
In July 2022, the central government told Parliament that there were no plans to release the caste data obtained in the Socio-Economic Caste Census conducted in 2011. Just a few months before this, in the year 2021, during the hearing of another case, in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Center had said that there were many shortcomings in the socio-economic and caste census conducted in the year 2011. The data obtained in this was full of errors and useless.
The Center said that in the first census conducted in India in 1931, the total number of castes in the country was 4,147. After the caste census conducted in 2011, the total number of castes in the country was more than 46 lakh. Professor Satish Deshpande of Delhi University says that caste census is bound to happen at the national level sooner or later, but the question is how long can it be stopped. States are conducting this caste census with various expectations.