I am a Shudra by birth and a son of shepherd mother and father. My parents and ancestors were meat and milk producers. Their contribution to the nation was through building a food resource and wool based industry and market. They were not Muslims but their occupation was exactly like that of the Kashmiri Muslims—sheep and goat rearing and wool production– who are facing persecution for being Muslims. My parents faced discrimination for being shepherds as along as they were alive. The political Hindutva has not changed that discrimination and added a new major problem by targeting all Muslims of the nation through CAA-NRC. In the name of Hindu majority the Shudra muscle power is being used against a non-enemy. The BJP/RSS have not reformed any historically existing caste based discrimination rather added to that by adding nationalism to meat and milk economy. To already existing unstable life of the productive masses the RSS/BJP have added anti-Muslim instability.
I was a communist and an atheist in my student and in my early activism days. But now I am a Phule-Ambedkarite and transformed into being a theist. I believe in one God—that too an abstract God who created the universe as it is today. Though, I performed shepherding in my childhood I evolved into university professor and transformed into a writer and activist both in English and Telugu languages. My writing in English does not fit into their one language and one nation theory. My English has come from outside like Sanskrit, with a difference of time frame, and I do not believe in one language. I no longer accept that English is a foreign language. I dream in it, think in it, speak and write in it.
The Hindutva at a larger level is separating meat from milk politically now. Earlier brahminism separated merely spiritually. Only spiritual separation used to keep boundaries within the spiritual domain but it did not extend that boundaries to political and social domains. For Hinduva meat is anti-national and milk is nationalist. The body of the animal that gives both is divided into nationalist part, and anti-nationalist part.
Though we are shepherds we are part of the larger Shudra productive communities. They till the national land; they graze the national cattle; they make the national pots; they fish for national food; they seed the land, cut the crop and make the nation what it is. Hindutva wants to treat all of them as anti-national as they eat meat, fish, chicken and many of them beef too. Indian Muslims also do all those tasks that Shudras do.
Tomorrow the same Shudras will have to build ‘sky high’ Ram Temple as Jain Amit Shah wants. But their children cannot become priests in that temple, cannot recite Sanskrit mantras even though they know that language well and believe in that God most . The BJP/RSS which want to build the Ram Temple has not promised them the priesthood rights, not promised any spiritual and social reform but want them to do everything that targets Muslims.
They asked the Shudras to be the national majority to scare Muslims who became what they are by wearing slightly different clothes that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi described, only few centuries back. They might have become Muslim, may be because of the same caste discrimination or may be because of continental wave of Islam with one book, one God and one masque. I do not know. But I can see the Shudraness in them. I can see that in their food, blood and work culture .
Most of the regional political parties today are headed by Shudra leaders. They all came into existence by going away from Congress because of their centralized control during Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi hegemonic times. All the regional parties share secular political ideas with Congress and communists. If all the regional parties headed by different regional forces either by joining Congress or by forming a federal secular coalition they can easily over throw the Hindutva forces to save the nation from this discriminatory and destructive politics and social anarchy.
Since Rajiv Gandhi humiliated Anjaiah the then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N.T Rama Rao a Shudra (Kamma) leader formed the Telugu Desham Party and came to power in Andhra Pradesh in 1983. Sonia Gandhi did not allow Jaganmohan Reddy to become Chief Minister after his father’s death. He formed YS Congress party and came to power in Andhra Pradesh. Many Shudra leaders did not like the Congress becoming family centred, though it is a secular party. Sharat Pawar aspired for Prime Ministership and since he did not get that he formed the Nationalist Congress Party. They all share its secular values totally.
But the Congress which is facing the criticism of family control must understand the social base of the regional parties and be willing to share power even by offering them Prime Minister. Its advisers must understand the Shudra aspiration in the 21 century. Caste is a national reality. The Shudra social bloc is the biggest bloc in the country. Sardar Patel, the tallest Shudra nationalist leader, not being allowed to become the Prime Minister by the Congress, is being used by the Hindutva and mobilizing Shudras into its fold.
The RSS/BJP played a trick of Modi being OBC but Amit Shah is slowly undoing that. He is taking over the ruins by slowly sidelining Narendra Modi who still carries the OBC stamp.
The national OBCs are slowly realizing that they not only did not get anything substantial during the BJP/RSS rule but are used as canon fodder. Their local economies are collapsing and their day to day life, which improved during the ten years rule of UPA coalition, slowly getting eroded. No coalition Government, including that of Vjapayee, took mis-adventurous steps like the ones being taken now. Those steps are not just that of Modi- Amit Shah, but they are philosophical foot prints of the RSS/BJP ideology and belief.
The Congress ideologues do not realize what is in store for the poor and lower castes, leave alone Muslims. They cannot afford to keep a party that brought freedom where it is today. A nation of 1.3 billion people, among whom many are very poor and uneducated even today. The BJP/RSS want them to take back to ancient levels with a belief in tradition and parampara. Look at their thinkers from Hegdewar to Subramanya Swamy. They wrote and are writing theories with ancient varnadharma mindset. They cannot produce aGandhi Nehru from their fold or they cannot produce a Rammanohar Lohia from their fold.
The freedom movement produced modern rational thinkers from different social caste-community backgrounds from Gandhi, Nehru to Ambedkar. Now that era has gone.
Thinkers, who advise political parties are looking for immediate power. The present Congress seems to be no different. It must, for the sake of the country, look for a Shudra Prime Minister from outside its fold who has deep secular credential. This should not wait till 2024.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author of many books, the latest being From Shepherd Boy to an Intellectual—My Memoirs