ENGAGING WITH DISCOURSE ONCASTE, CLASS AND POLITICS IN INDIA
Ashok K. Pankaj
This article maps the changing profile of pre-Mandaland post-Mandal debates on caste, class and politics in India, show-ing that the centrality of caste as an agent of politics and its dom-inant role in public-political life has remained a reality throughout. What is contested now is the extent to which recognition of casteas an instrument of socio-political change (following the MandalCommission) and caste-centric socio-political movements of the1980s and 1990s (the Dalit and Backward Class movements) hasreinforced caste-centric public-political life by giving it a modernvalue and a secular purpose.The article argues that the contemporary elaborate discourseson caste, class, and politics in India should seek to develop new paradigms for the discussion of caste and should interrogate morevigorously the democratic and secular roles of caste in relation toclass and politics.
backward class movements
caste, class, Dalits, Mandal Commission, modernisation, politics, secularism, tradition
Even though the contemporary discourse on caste, class and politics in India has beenliberated from the straitjacket debate of modernisation vs. traditionalisation anddichotomous vs. dynamic relations, the centrality of caste as an agent of politics andits dominant role in Indian socio-political life have neither been removed nor firmly challenged. Rather, recognition of caste as an instrument of socio-political change by the Mandal Commission and caste-centric socio-political movements of the 1980sand 1990s, such as Dalit and Backward Class movements, have not only enlivenednew debates in India, but have reinforced a caste-centric public-political life, givingit a modern value and a secular purpose. While during the pre-Mandal phase of the 1960s and 1970s, the discourse oncaste, class and politics in India was dominated by theories of political modernisation,SOUTH ASIA RESEARCH
www.sagepublications.comDOI: 10.1177/026272800702700305Vol. 27(3): 333–353Copyright © 2007SAGE PublicationsLos Angeles,London,New Delhi,Singapore