The book Caste Conflict and Social Justice: the discourse and design by Mihir Bholey a senior faculty of Liberal Arts at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad analyses caste conflict in the light of social justice. Indian politics since the post-Mandal era has been primarily obsessed with two agenda – social engineering and social justice. While the former refers to the process of creating new caste equations for obvious electoral gains, the latter contrary to the spirit of the Indian constitution has been made synonymous to reservation politics. No doubt, they have been the reasons of on-going caste conflicts all over which often bring the nation and governments at a standstill. The recent Jat-Gurjar and Meena agitations of Rajsathan are still fresh in our memories besides the numerous caste mayhems in Bihar till 2000. Caste in the post-independence India has been co-opted by politics both for sincere and vested interest. That helped castes organize as assertive political groups and eventually as tempting vote banks too which become so crucial during elections. The growing political consciousness among castes and caste groups has created numerous reasons for conflict.
The book seeks to find answers to many questions which keep vexing our mind – questions like what role people see caste playing in the present socio-economic context, do OBCs endorse the idea of economic status being the basis of reservation, what is the impact of political intervention into caste, which castes have benefited most from the so called social justice (read reservation) politics, can social justice be attained if caste conflict continues et al? The book makes a deep enquiry into these issues by not only analysing the major political discourse both academic and journalistic on various dimensions of caste conflict and social justice, but evaluates them too on the basis of data collected in Bihar through an intensive field research. The book thus presents the case study of Bihar and raises a fundamental question - can there be ‘social justice’ if ‘caste conflict’ of sorts continues? The answer is obviously negative.
Through a field survey conducted in Bihar among the three caste categories – Upper Castes, OBCs and SCs the author tries to probe the mind of people on various socio-politically contentious issues. And the findings were stunning. For example: even in the changing socio-economic context caste is seen not as a social institution but overwhelmingly as a vote bank by people across the three caste categories. Contrary to the largely held view a sizeable percentage of OBCs also considers that economic status may be the criteria for extending reservation rather than caste. People across the three caste categories accept that political intervention in caste has widened the gap rather than creating social harmony. Not only that, a sizeable percentage among the marginalized castes in Bihar also believes that the so called social justice in the state has actually empowered the dominant castes among the OBCs and SCs rather than all of them in the category. In a way, it has created a new set of ‘dominant upper castes’ among the so called oppressed and marginalized castes. The book by no means questions the relevance of social justice for the hierarchical and stratified Indian society. But it certainly questions the divisive politics of caste being played in the guise of social justice and the efficacy of reservation centric approach to social justice which overlooks the interest of ‘marginalized class’ due to its overt obsession with caste and its politics. It tries to discuss it not on the basis of bias or presumptions, but through an in-depth research conducted among the three caste categories Upper Castes, OBCs and SCs whose views and opinions are selectively represented by our political class. Concludingly, the book also analyses the results of the 2010 assembly elections in Bihar which though rejected the so called social justice politics going on in Bihar for decades apparently for development. But looking at the socio-political realignment of castes, the author concludes that the obituary of caste politics has yet not been written in Bihar and certainly not in the country too.
Caste Conflict and Social Justice: the discourse and design is a book based on social research and analysis of its data. The author Mihir Bholey chose to write a research based book on the subject mainly for two reasons. First, that having born in a family of committed socialist leaders (his grandfather Rameshwar Prasad Verma was a freedom fighter and father Arun Bholey is an eminent socialist leader and author, both closely associated with socialist stalwarts like Jay Prakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia)) who vowed for socialist ideals of “casteless and classless” society the author had experienced how the lofty socialist ideals were first hijacked and then subverted into crafty social engineering and finally into divisive caste politics. However, he wanted to discuss his experiences by reinforcing them with factual data rather than personal impressions and notions. Second, because he was also interested to find out whether the caste-centric social justice in the contemporary times has been able to change the social reality of India or it has just been a political myth created for power politics.
The book has been published and launched internationally by Lambert Publishing, Germany. It’s also available online through all the major online bookstores viz. Flipkart, Amazon, MoreBooks and the rest. In India it’s being made available by the publisher’s Indian distributors present in all the major cities.