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Perspectives of Caste Census: Why it is needed

By Premendra Priyadarshi1
Up to 1931, the Census of India included caste too. This practice was abandoned in 1941
because of protests by the nationalists, and also because it was considered worthless,
misleading and a waste of time and energy. Column for religion was continued till 2001
census. Thereafter it was felt to be divisive and abandoned from 2011 census. Yet recently,
there have been demands in political establishment for and against the caste census and the
Union Government seems to be succumbing to pressures. It is desirable that we examine the
perspectives of caste census.

Why caste abandoned from census in 1941

The most important reason for abandonment of caste census was the ‗worthlessness‘ of the
whole exercise because of inconsistency in caste names, which were not fixed and varied
between districts, and with time, high incidence of unreliability of individuals‘ statement
about caste etc.

The Census Commissioner of India for 1931, J.H. Hutton noted, ―Sorting for caste is really
worthless unless nomenclature is sufficiently fixed to render the resulting totals close and
reliable approximations. Had caste terminology the stability of religious returns, caste sorting
might be worthwhile. With the fluidity of current appellations it is certainly not… 227,000
Ambattans have become 10,000, Navithan, Nai, Nai Brahman, Navutiyan, Pariyari claim
about 140,000—all terms unrecorded or untabulated in 1921.‖ 1

Only explanation for this could be that most of the Ambattans of 1921 changed into some
other caste. Similarly, the number of Marathas in Central Provinces and Berar increased from
93,901 in 1911, to 206,144 in 1921.2 This more than 110% increase in number can be
explained by the mass mobilization of Kunbis (Kurmi-s) to Marathas during the period. It
was also found that Koli-s could rise to the status of Maratha Kunbi by taking to cultivation. 3
By our times, this conversion of Kunbis to Maratha caste has been complete.

Census reports makes it abundantly clear that most of the castes were undergoing change of
name, status and social alignments in between the censuses conducted from 1881 to 1931.
N.W.M. Yeatts, the Superintendent of Census Operations for Madras Province recommended
to do away with the caste data of 1931 census as it was full of ―extravagant and wearisome
claims‖ and there was a ―fluidity of caste‖ names. ―It is a mistake to be tied too much to the
past.‖ ―It is too easily assumed that once depressed, always depressed‖ he noted.4 Arguing
against inclusion of caste details, he wrote:

―A danger into which all censuses are apt to fall is that of looking too much exclusively
backwards… These times have gone and enumeration now should concentrate on the present
Dr Priyadarshi is a free lance author. This article was published in an abridged form as: Priyadarshi, P., “Why
caste was abandoned from census after 1931?”, in Eternal India, July 2010, 2(10):10-22. That article can be
accessed at
and the future. It is a mistake to be tied too much to the past; a tree has its roots in the ground
but does not produce its fruit there. The differential is what should be studied most; its rate of
change, direction and sign are of more importance in all social investigations and study than
present circumstances and still more so than the past.‖5

The nationalist leaders too opposed the caste census, feeling that by listing caste, the
Government was perpetuating and reinforcing an institution that was harmful. 6 Movement
against caste census was powerful in states of Bengal and Punjab.7 Although Hutton
contested this view stating that the thing which was so much variable with time and which
had no fixed nomenclature could not be perpetuated merely by an act of recording them. Yet
the allegations were probably true. 8 Untouchables had been kept as ‗exterior castes‘ out of
Hindu fold. The tribes were enumerated as non-Hindus-- up to 1921 as ‗animist‘ and in 1931
as ‗tribal religions‘.9 Yeatts deplored this practice as inappropriate in his census report for

Until census of 1901, castes of Muslims and Christians too were recorded. This was
abandoned in 1911, yet Hindu castes continued to be recorded. 10 The ‗Government of India
Act 1935‘ granted democratic participation to Indians in governance of India. Yet, regions
with predominantly tribal population were kept out of purview of the democratic bodies. This
only strengthened the apprehensions of the nationalists. 11 The caste reservation granted to
non-Brahmin castes in the southern states and Maharashtra had been successful in keeping
away non-Brahmins from Independence Movement in those states.12 These made the
nationalists feel that the British were determined to keep Indian nationality fragmented. 13

In spite of the British denial of any ulterior motive behind caste census, caste census fuelled
caste competition of the Hindus. Before 1901, a few caste mahasabhas had existed, 1901
census made them popular. By 1911, a large number of caste mahasabhas cropped up in
Madras Province and by 1921, they became an all-India phenomenon.14 The caste unions had
a single agenda--to get the higher status for their castes. They forced rigorous Sanskritization,
(wearing sacred-thread, adoption of Vedic rituals, vegetarianism, banning widow remarriage
etc.) to elevate the status of their respective castes. 15 This caste unionism later percolated all
walks of Indian life.

To claim higher status, most of the castes changed their names, often after mythical heroes.
The census superintendents of provinces were bombarded with petitions claiming change of
name of caste, or allocating a higher status to the caste.16 A large number of complaints and
defamation suits were filed against the officials for allegedly derogatory or inferior rating of a
caste in census report.17 Although, British officers tried to oblige the petitioners, this popular
activism and petitionism became unmanageable. In 1911 alone, about 110 kilograms of
petitions had been received in a single unit of Bihar, Bengal, Orissa and Sikkim. 18 Donald
Smith thinks this one of the main reasons for abandonment of caste census in 1941. 19

Fluidity of Caste and Social Mobility

There were nations in history which meticulously maintained caste and lineages and the
transgressors were punished. The ancient Jews maintained their book of lineages to prevent
pollution of blood and caste.20 Al-Biruni mentions prevalence of severe punishment for
wrong reporting or change of caste in Persia.21 Fortunately India did not have system of
permanent castes till recently. Changeability of caste has been one of the basic features of
Hindu society.
The British allowed people to enrol in caste and varna of their choice. People changed castes
in subsequent censuses, resulting in massive changes in figures. The census report of 1931
noted, ―There is apparently a tendency towards the consolidation of groups at present
separated by caste rules. The best instance of such a tendency to consolidate a number of
castes into one group is to be found in the grazier castes which aim at combining under the
term ‗Yadava‘ Ahirs, Goalas, Gopis, Idaiyans and perhaps some other castes of milkmen, a
movement already effective in 1921.‖ 22 1921 census noted that all the castes which engaged
in cattle-rearing or worked as milkmen had united under one umbrella term Ahir and had
started inter-dining and intermarriage. 23 Ahir Kshatriya Mahasabha exists since then.24 In
Orissa, Gaur claimed to be Yadu-vanshiya Kshatriya.25

The British officers recorded lower or menial origins of many of the Brahmanas. Ojha
Brahman is a successor of Dravidian Baiga. 26 Trigunait Brahmana, Pathak (Amtara), Pande
Parwars (Hardoi) and Sawalakhiya Brahmana (Gorakhpur and Basti), Mahabrahmana, Barua,
Joshi and Dakaut had originated from lower castes. The Mishra Brahmanas of Arjhi were
descendants of a Lunia who was conferred Brahmanhood by a Raja in the eighteenth
century.27Ahir, Kurmi and Bhat were once converted into Brahmanas on record.28 Often rich
persons aspiring to become higher caste paid fees to some Brahmana, and got their lineage
constructed descending from some ancient hero.29 Srinivas refers to similar instances from
United Provinces.30 Often, new caste names were adopted to deny their inferior past.

Census report of 1931 wrote, ―the desire of the artisan castes in many parts of India to be
returned by a common denomination such as Vishwakarma or Jangida, usually desiring to
add a descriptive noun implying that they belonged to one of the two highest varnas of
Hinduism, either Brahman or Rajput. Of the two, Brahman was usually desired at this census
though in some cases a caste which has applied in one province to be called Brahman asked
in another to be called Rajput and there are several instances at this census of castes claiming
to be Brahman who claimed to be Rajput ten years ago.‖ 31

―In every single instance, the claim was that the caste deserved to be enumerated as a higher
caste – Ahar as Yadava, as Yadava Kshatriya; Aheria as Hara Rajput; Ahir as Kshatiryas of
varied superscripts; Banjaras as Chauhan and Rathor Rajput; Harhai as Dhiman Brahman, as
Panchal Brahman, and Rathor Rajput; Barhai as Dhiman Brahman, as Panchal Brahman as
Vishwakarma Brahman, Bawaria as Brahman; Bhotia as Rajput; Chamar as Jatav Rajput;
Gadaria as Pali Rajput; Lodh as Lodhi Rajput; Taga as Tyagi Brahman ... one after the other,
sixty three castes, the list alone taking three full pages… The point here is that each of them
was aspiring to be and demanding to be elevated to a higher place in the social hierarchy.‖ 32

Hutton commented, ―The use of varna, however, is quite impossible since practically every
Hindu who claims to be a Hindu at all would claim to be either Brahmana or Kshatriya.
Experience at this census has shown very clearly the difficulty of getting a correct return of
caste and likewise the difficulty of interpreting it for census purposes. The superintendent of
Census Operations for Madras in this connection writes as follows:- ‗Individual fancy
apparently has some part in caste nomenclature. For example an extremely dark individual
pursuing the occupation of waterman on the Coorg boarder described his caste as Suryavams,
the family of the Sun‘.‖33 There was a massive claim of castes into Rajput and Brahmana,
which was illustrated in a table in the Census Report:34

Old Name Profession 1911 Claim 1921 Claims 1931 Claims

Kamar Blacksmith -- Kshatriya Brahman
Sonar Goldsmith Kshatriya, Kshatriya, Brahman,
Rajput Rajput Vaishya
Sutradar Carpenter Vaishya Vaishya Brahmana
Nai, Naua Barber -- Thakur Brahman
Napit Barber Khsatriya Baidya Brahman
Rawani (Kahar) Vaishya Kshatriya
Muchi Baidya Rishi
Chamar Gahlot Rajput
Chandal -- Nama-Shudra Nama-Shudra Nama-Shudra
(This name Brahmana Brahmana
was allowed to
them in 1911)
Khatri Trader -- Kshatriya Vaishya

Srinivas explained that upper and lower social status of caste depended on following of
certain customs and norms by the members of the castes. Undesirable practices (widow
remarriage, alcoholism, eating prohibited foods--chicken and egg etc) lowered the status of
caste.35 A caste status was elevated in two generations if it enforced rigorous social customs
like banning of widow remarriage etc—a process named Sanskritization. Sanskritization
elevated status in rural; in the cities Persianization had same role during the Muslim period,
and Anglicization during British period. This phenomenon is called social mobility.

Srinivas commented, ―It is necessary to stress here that innumerable small castes in a region
do not occupy clear and permanent positions in the system. Nebulousness as to position is of
the essence of the system in operation as distinct from the system in conception. The
varna-model has been the cause of misinterpretation of the realities of the caste system. A
point that has emerged from recent field-research is that the position of a caste in the
hierarchy may vary from village to village. It is not only that the hierarchy is nebulous here
and there, and the castes are mobile over a period of time, but the hierarchy is also to some
extent local. The varna-scheme offers a perfect contrast to this picture.‖ 36

Weakening of Caste System

Caste was based on the principle of ‗endogamy‘ (marriage within the group), which
weakened with time. In 1931, inter-caste marriage was not common, yet Hutton predicted:
―There is little evidence as yet as intermarriage is being practiced within these consolidating
groups, but it is a development the possibility of which may not be overlooked.‖ The census
report for Central Provinces recorded ―specific instances of marriages between members of
different sub-castes of Brahmanas, and between members of different sub-castes of Kalars,
whose union formerly have been condemned.‖ 37

Since 1970‘s inter-caste marriages and inter-dining increased. Chicken and alcohol
consumption ceased to be caste controlled taboo and became matters of personal choice. The
institutional function of caste to regulate such behaviour ceased to exist over time. An
exception is rural western India, where caste has regulatory force for individual even today.

Social function of caste ceased because of economic empowerment of individuals, and

population movements in an industrializing economy. Such a trend was encouraged by social
and political organizations like Brahmo-Samaj, Arya-Samaj, Congress, RSS and Hindu
Mahasabha, considering caste responsible for social divisions in India. Caste institution
would fade away was predicted by sociologists like Srininas.38

Yet a powerful political movement generated in late sixties, which converted caste from a
social entity into a legal, constitutional and political entity, converting caste into vote
mobilization instrument and a political entity.

The Constitutional and Political Casteism

It was Jawaharlal Nehru who sowed the first seed of OBC reservations in Independent India.
The original Constitution of India had no place for caste. Though special provisions for the
Scheduled Castes and Tribes had been made [Articles 16(4), 332, 335], keeping in view the
historical commitment made by Gandhi to Ambedkar on behalf of all Hindus (Poona Pact).39
Equality of all Indians was reflected in Preamble as ―Equality of status and opportunity‖.
Articles 14, 15, 16, 29(2) specifically barred the state from discriminating on grounds of
―religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.‖

Soon after promulgation of this constitution, a Brahmin student Miss Dorairajan was denied
admission to medical college on the basis of a quota formula that gave only two seats to
Brahmins out of fourteen. The quota was challenged under Article 29(2) of Indian
Constitution. Article 29(2) reads, ―No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational
institution maintained by the State … on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or
any of them.‖ The reservation was quashed down by the Madras High Court and
subsequently the Supreme Court, making it clear that no reservation for people other than the
Scheduled Castes and Tribes was possible under the new constitution.40

Jawaharlal Nehru, a proponent of supremacy of Parliament and executive over judiciary and
constitution, reacted promptly by bringing the First Constitution Amendment Act (1951),
sweepingly curtailing the fundamental right to equality, so that reservations for OBC could be
accommodated. This amendment added Article 15(4), which reads, ―Nothing in this article
(Art. 15) or in clause (2) of Article 29 shall prevent the state from making any special
provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens
or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.‖

This clause entitled the executive to make ―any special provision‖ for the OBCs. Mandal
Commission used this clause to define OBC as ―Socially and Educationally Backward
Classes‖, a definition that was accepted by the Supreme Court. The latter held that the words
―socially and educationally backward classes‖ in the Article 15(4) dictated that social and
educational backwardness could be the only components for identification of backwardness,
and both of which are essential. Educational backwardness alone or with economic
backwardness could not be a consideration for any relief from state, they ruled.41

By the First Amendment to the Constitution, Nehru introduced another instrument into
Constitution, designed to shield the decisions of the political class from any objection by the
judiciary. For this, Ninth Schedule and Article 31B were inserted. Article 31B reads, ― none
of the Acts and Regulations specified in the Ninth Schedule nor any of the provisions thereof
shall be deemed to be void, or ever to have become void, on ground that such Act, Regulation
or provision is inconsistent with, or takes away or abridges any of the rights conferred by any
provision of this part, and notwithstanding any judgement, decree or order of any court or
Tribunal to the contrary, each of the said Acts and Regulations shall, … continue in force.‖
A large number of reservation orders, which were struck down by the High Courts and the
Supreme Court on grounds that they exceeded the 50% limit set by the Supreme Court, have
been put into the Ninth Schedule by a vote in Parliament. Thus many southern states of India
are granting more than 50% reservation under the protection of the Ninth Schedule. Recently,
the very provision of Ninth Schedule has been struck down in a Supreme Court judgement.42

Soon after independence, worst form of caste politics became the name of the game for the
Congress party.43 Nehru did nothing to retard the escalating tensions among castes. On the
other hand caste considerations became paramount in deciding leadership issues at provincial,
regional and local levels. Fresh lists were made to accommodate powerful landholding vote-
banking castes in the southern states.

However by 1961 Nehru had a change of mind. He wrote to the Chief Ministers, ―I have
referred above to efficiency and to our getting out of our traditional ruts. This necessitates our
getting out of the old habit of reservations and particular privileges being given to this caste
or that group. … But if we go in for reservation on communal and caste lines, we swamp the
bright and able people and remain second-rate or third-rate. I am grieved to learn how far this
business of reservation has gone based on communal considerations. It has amazed me to
learn that even promotions are based sometimes on communal or caste considerations. This
way lays not only folly, but disaster. … How are we going to build the public sector or indeed
any sector with second rate people?‖44

The Identification of the OBC

Occupation: During the British period, degree of Sanskritization determined position of a

caste. Occupation had ceased to represent caste status. A poor weaver or cart puller could be
a Rajput,45 and a rich goldsmith or trader could be a backward, as long as they followed their
respective caste norms. Marten remarked ―But many castes have long abandoned their
occupation… while as an index of economic status traditional occupation is hardly any useful
criterion, where the beggar is king and the skilled craftsman may be an outcast‖. 46

The Census Superintendent for Rajputana Agency (1931) noted, ―A return of traditional or
general occupations only would be valueless, for traditions are rapidly changing and in these
days a Teli may well be a merchant and a Rajput a mill operative.‖ 47 Ironically in 1992 the
Supreme Court held (Mandal case) that caste and occupation are inseparable, and that it
would be rare to find a member of one caste pursuing occupation of any other caste.48

Sanskritization: As westernization became powerful, Sanskritization lost its importance in

Indian society.49 Widow remarriage and marriage of divorced women, consumption of
alcohol, egg and chicken, and many previous taboos became common in the upper castes,
which in the past had invited ostracism by caste. Everything which had caused inferior status
to lower castes, became normal for the upper castes by the end of twentieth century.

Kalelkar Commission:

The First Backward Classes Commission (Kalelkar Commission) appointed in 1953 was
asked to develop criteria for determination of backwardness, and to identify the backward
classes. The commission suggested four criteria for social and educational backwardness. (i)
Low social position in caste hierarchy; (ii) Lack of general educational advancement; (iii)
Inadequate or no representation in Government Service; (iv) Inadequate representation in the
field of trade commerce or industry. 50

The commission identified 2399 backward castes. Population estimation for each caste was
tried with the assistance of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India. No hard
data existed in 1931 census report for majority of the castes. The commission could make
population projections for larger 913 castes. The backward castes comprised some 34 percent
of India‘s population as per that estimate. 51

Mandal Commission:

In 1979, soon after its inception, the Mandal Commission devised a new set of parameters to
identify the OBCs in Central Government and PSU employment. The parameters were
designed in a way that nearly all of the backward caste employees in Central Services were
excluded, and got counted as forwards.

The survey asked: “The following test may therefore, be applied to determine socially and
educationally backward classes:-

a) In respect of employees belonging to the Hindu communities

i) an employee will be deemed to be socially backward if he does not belong
to any of the three twice borne (Dvija) ‗Varnas‖ i.e. he is neither a
Brahmin, nor a Kshatriya/nor a Vaishya; and
ii) he will be deemed to be educationally backward if neither his father nor his
grandfather had studied beyond the primary level.”52

The employee had to satisfy both the criteria to be classed as “socially and educationally” backward,
failing which he was considered forward even if actually he may have belonged to OBC by birth. Out
of 11,707 responders from the Central Group A services, only 303 (2.59%) could meet the criteria.
Later this figure was quoted to prove under-representation of the OBCs. All OBC employees whose
father or grandfather had got education beyond primary level were counted as forwards. All OBCs
largely claim to be Brahmana or Kshatriya or Vaishya (supra). OBCs like Teli, Rauniyar, Sahoo, Sunar,
Kallar, Surhi, Thathera, Vanniyar etc. are clearly Vaishyas. They all were counted as forwards.

Mandal Parameters:
But when it came to identifying backward classes in the population, Mandal used entirely
different parameters. Those scoring more than 50% were granted OBC status.53
Castes/classes which/where:

1. considered socially backward.

2. mainly depend on manual labour for livelihood.
3. percentage of married women below 17 is 25% above state average (rural); 10% above
(urban); and that of married men 10% and 5% above state average in rural and urban
4. participation of females in work at least 25% above state average. (This does not speak of
participation of women in ―menial work‖—author).
5. number of children in the age group 5-15 who never attended school at least 25% above
state average.
6. rate of student drop-out--age group of 5-15 years-- at least 25% above state average.
7. proportion of matriculates at least 25% below state average.
8. average value of family assets at least 25% below state average.
9. number of families living in kachcha houses at least 25 % above state average.
10. source of drinking water beyond half kilometer for more than 50% of households.
11. number of households having taken a consumption loan at least 25% above state average.
There were from major flaws. The Commission was planning to sample a tiny fragment of
whole population--450 villages out of 500,000 villages of India. In such samples, statistical
significance can be attributed to a data only if the data fall out of 95% population range. That
means more than 47.5% samples should have fallen below state mean to qualify for
backwardness, and not just 25%. This basics of statistics was violated. In fact all the results
were statistically ‗not significant‘. The Commission did not provide tabulated data, standard
deviation, standard error of the mean and thee P-value. Chi-Square, Student-t or any test of
significance for the data was not conducted. Scientifically the whole report was worthless.
Many of the criteria either reflected general underdevelopment of area or gender bias, which
soon became redundant in most parts of country (age of marriage of women, participation of
women in work, literacy, water-supply). Overtime, much development has occurred, and
most of the castes listed backward on these bases would be classed as forward if we apply the
same criteria today. Thus who is real OBC today, we do not know.
Mandal List contained obsolete and non existing castes:
Moreover an examination of Mandal document reveals that probably no survey had been
conducted at all, and all data were fictitious. The Mandal list of OBC contains large number
of Forward Castes, SCs and STs. It also contains caste-names which are not at all found in
that particular state. Castes/tribes exclusive of Tamil Nadu like Toda, Tiruvelluvar etc have
been listed as OBC in Orissa. Lushei (place 124, Mandal List, West Bengal) and Kuki (place
118, ibid.) tribes of Mizoram and Rohangia tribe (place 158, ibid.) of Burma have been listed
as OBC in West Bengal. Often this list includes as OBC such forward caste-names which had
been prevalent a hundred years ago, but have changed since. In UP and Haryana Taga (now
called Tyagi) has been listed as OBC. In Bihar, Bhuinhar has been listed as OBC (place
number 20 in Bihar Mandal List), which is actually the old name of Bhumihar.54
Mandal OBC List Rejected:
The flaws in Mandal List of OBCs were detected in 1990 by Union Government. The list
containing 3743 castes, was rejected, although other Mandal recommendation were accepted.
The state lists of backward castes prepared by the state governments were adopted for grant
of reservation in the Government Memorandum. 55 This reduced the number of Other
Backward Castes eligible for reservation to 1400.
This scheme got Supreme Court‘s approval too, which ruled that flaws in Mandal List are
meaningless because effectively, the Government has adopted the OBC lists prepared by the
State Governments and the Mandal List had not been brought into force.56 Thus the
applicable OBC list has unjustifiable inclusions and omissions because of different
parameters adopted by the state governments.
The Constitution clearly states that only those backward classes will be entitled to the benefit
of reservation in the government service who in the eyes of the state are not adequately
represented in the services of the state [Article 16(4)]. But in practice any caste listed as OBC
is granted reservation irrespective of their representation. Inclusion of undeserving into the
OBCs deprives those who are really backwards. Mandal included affluent land-owning
peasant castes Yadav, Kurmi and Koeri in the list of OBC for Bihar and UP. These castes
were in the state list too. But such an inclusion was an anomaly is obvious from statement in
the Mandal Document itself, which records: ―The abolition of all intermediaries has
definitely helped the hard working peasant castes like Kurmis, Koeries and Yadavas. These
small peasant proprietors work very hard on their lands and also drive their labourers hard,…
and any resistance by the agricultural labourers gives rise to mutual conflict and atrocities on
Harijans‖.57 The Report noted that the weaker section of society, the Scheduled Castes, the
Scheduled Tribes and the artisan castes are often intimidated by these intermediate castes. On
such occasions, ―the weaker landless minority artisan castes and the Scheduled Castes look to
the upper castes and not the intermediate castes for their protection.‖ 58
OBC Population Figures
The current caste census is being pressed by certain parties with a view to knowing the
precise population of the OBCs. Some claim OBCs are more than 52% of Indian population,
others say that they are 30% of Indian population. We need to know what the truth is.
Mandal Commision claimed that the numbers of OBCs was 52% of India‘s population. This
figure was neither derived by any survey nor by projection of the OBC population from the
1931 census. For the very fact that Mandal OBC List of 3743 castes was rejected and the
adopted list of OBC has only 1400 castes, the number of OBCs must be much less than what
Commission thought. The 52% figure has proved wrong later by larger surveys.
Mandal did not add up population of 3743 OBC castes of his list. He first identified the
‗forward Hindu‘ castes, which according to him were only six, and added up their population:
Brahmins (including Bhumihars) 5.52%, Rajputs 3.90%, Marathas 2.21%, Jats 1%, Vaishya-
Bania 1.88%, Kayasthas 1.07% and others 2%--totalling 17.58%.
To this figure Mandal added the populations of SCs, STs, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist
and Jain from 1971 census. This gave a figure of 56.30%. This was subtracted from 100,
giving 43.70% as the population of the Hindu OBCs. The Commission assumed that minority
religions‘ OBCs were 8.40%. Adding that to 43.70%, gave the total OBC population figure at
Mandal OBC-figure was wrong:
Mandal identified only six castes as forward for the purpose of calculating the population of
OBC. Many populous forward castes were deliberately left out. Each state has some forward
castes unique to it, e.g., Jammu and Kashmir: Dogra; Punjab: Khatri, Arora, Kapur, Mohiyal;
West UP/Haryana: Tyagi, Vishnoi; Gujarat: Patidar, Kshatriya; Karnataka: Lingayat, Bunt,
Kodawa, Raju; Kerala: Nayar, Tuluva, Syrian Christian, Ambalavasi; Tamil Nadu: Vellalar;
Andhra Pradesh: Reddy, Kamma, Kapu, Komati, Raju, Velama; Orissa: Karan, Khandayat,
Kshatriya; West Bengal: Baddi, Banik; Manipur: Meitei etc. Had these been added to 17.58%
population of six castes noted above, the Hindu Forward caste population would have gone
up to 32 to 35%, bringing down OBC population to 37% including 10 to 12% Muslim OBCs.
That makes Hindu OBCs 25 to 27% of population.
Mandal did not take into account the Hindu refugees who migrated to India in 1936 from
Burma and in 1946-1948 from Pakistan. On arrival, refugees claimed upper castes. The 1931
census had noted that the Hindus of Burma who constituted 6% of Burmese population,
stated provincial origins like Tamil, Bengali, Telugu in lieu of caste.60 They had to come to
India in 1936. In Baluchistan and North-West Frontier Province also no caste existed among
the Hindus.61 In Punjab of Pakistan, Hindus and Sikhs were largely from Khatri, Jat and
Bania castes. These refugees totalled four percent.
Moreover the caste census data had never been complete. The 1931 census, which was most
exhaustive of all censuses, was only partial and had left out most of the princely states. In
1931 census, only six percent of census caste data could be tabulated. Thus the caste
projections from 1931 census leave out information about more than 94% of population.62

It is glaringly clear that Mandal Commission projected a highly inflated population of the
OBCs. The National Sample Survey Organization of the Government of India conducted
large sample surveys. One conducted in 1999-2000 showed OBC population to be 36% of
India‘s population out of which 32% were Hindu. We are aware that 90% of the fourteen
percent Indian Muslim population is OBC. It is obvious that not many Muslims had been
included in this survey (only 4%). The latest NSS Survey of 2004-2005 revealed that the
OBCs including minority OBCs are 41% of Indian population. 63 Religion was not noted this
time. A greater inclusion of minorities gave OBC population 41%, out of which 32% or less
were Hindu OBCs, we can assume.

Other government organizations like the National Family Planning Organization and BPL
Organizations too have reported figures, which project Hindu OBC population somewhere
around 30%. Thus the Hindu OBCs are not more than 30% of India‘s population at any rate.
Moreover the OBC population is concentrated in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh,
Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, implying that rest of India has an extremely thin Hindu
OBCs population.

Need for Caste Census

The constitution envisaged reservation in services of the state for only those ―backward
classes of citizens… which are not adequately represented in the services of the state.‖ [Art.
16(4)] Therefore, it is imperative that the government should fix what can be considered
―inadequate‖ representation. Then they need to fix criteria for social and economic
backwardness. Then by caste surveys, those castes which are socially and educationally
backward should be identified. Then population of each caste vis-à-vis its representation in
the services of the state should then be matched. Social and/or educational backwardness
alone in the absence of ―inadequacy of representation‖ cannot be a basis for reservation. This
type of reservation is an open fraud on constitution.

If representation of individual caste is lower than ‗adequate‘, only then reservation can be
granted. Such an exercise is warranted to remove arbitrariness with which the current quota
scheme is infected. Such an exercise is needed especially to weed out spurious OBCs, who
are actually well-represented in the government services, from the list of beneficiaries, so that
full benefit of quota may reach the real backwards who actually have no representation or
very little representation in government services.

Since 1993, OBCs have been required to mention their caste in government job applications.
The actual representation of each caste in the services of state since 1993 is available with
UPSC and SSC. The really backward castes are still deprived because all the opportunities
offered by quota are siphoned off by a few higher OBC casts, who are in the OBC list just
because of political reasons.
Although caste census is provenly divisive for nation, there is no other way we can know the
‗adequacy of representation‘ of any caste in the services of the state, without knowledge of
which reservation is an arbitrary and unconstitutional discrimination. A vice may have to be
adopted to curb another.

Hutton, J.H., “New Ranks by Castes”, in Kannupillai, V. (Ed.), Caste: Observation of
I.C.S. officers and others since 1881, Siddharth Books, Delhi, 2007, p. 186.
Census of India 1931, p.464.
Elphinstone, M.S., “Changes in Caste (with reference to Bombay)”, in Kannupillai (Ed.), p.211.
Yeatts, N.W.M., “Depressed Castes, with reference to Madras”, in Kannupillai (Ed.), p.192.
Ibid., p.190.
Census of India 1931, pp.430-431.
Shourie, Arun, Falling Over Backwards, ASA Publications, Delhi, 2006, p.38.
Srinivas, M.N., “Some Expressions of Caste Mobility”, in Social Change in Modern India, Orient
Longmans, 1972 (Indian Ed.), p.105. First Published University of California Press, 1966.
Shourie, p.31.
Ibid., p.118.
Natarajan, S., A Century of Social Reforms in India, Asia Publishing House, 2nd Ed., 1962, p.119.
Mandal Commission Report, 1980, Akalank Punlications, Volume IV, Chapter I, p. 280. Also Lele,
Jayant, “Caste, Class and Dominance: Political Mobilization in Maharashtra”, in Frankel, F.R. and Rao,
M.S.A. (Eds.), Dominance and State Power in Modern India: decline of a social order, Oxford
University Press, Delhi, 1990, pp.150-151.
Hutton, J.H., “Primitive Tribes”, in L.S.S. O’Malley (Ed.), Modern India and the West, Oxford, 1941,
pp.443-444. Also see, Ghurye, G.S., The Aborigines, So-Called and their Future, Poona, 1943, pp.111-
Srinivas, M. N., “Some Expressions of Caste Mobility”, pp.101-103. Shourie, Arun, p.69-70.
Srinivas, Some Expressions of Caste Mobility, p.105.
Turner, A.C., Census of India 1931, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, Part I, Report, 1933,
Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Sikkim Census Report, 1911, p.440.
Smith, D.E., India as a Secular State, Princeton, 1963, p.304.
Book of Nehemiah, 7.64; Book of Ezra, 9.2; 10.1-44, Old Testament.
Sachau, Edward (Translator), Alberuni’s India, Indialog Publications Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2003,
pp.65-66. First published 1888, Paul, Trench, Trubner, London.
Census of India 1931, p.431.
Census of India Report for 1921, pp.231-232.
Srinivas, M.N., Social Change in Modern India, Orient Longmans Pvt. Ltd., 1972, p.91.
Bihar and Orissa Census Report, 1931, pp.267-268.
Crooke, W., “Origin of Caste”, in Kannupillai, (Ed.), p.202. (An extract from The Tribes and
Castes of Northwestern India, vol. I, 1896, pp.XV-XXVI).
Nesfield, John C., “Cultural Evolution of Indian society—Function as Foundation of Caste”, in
Kannupillai, V. (Ed.), op. cit., p. 139.
Stuart, H. A., “Caste and Dravidians”, in Kannupillai, V. (Ed.), op. cit., pp. 183-4.
Srinivas, M. N., “Some Expressions of Caste Mobility”, op. cit., pp. 101-2.
Census of India 1931, p. 431.
Ibid. pp. 528-32.
Hutton, p. 186.
Quoted in Srinivas, M. N., “Some Expressions of Caste Mobility”, op. cit.,. p. 103. Also quoted in
Shourie, Arun, op. cit., p. 40.
See “Sanskritization” and Westernization” in Srinivas, M.N., Social Change in Modern India, Orient
Longmans Pvt. Ltd., 1972 (Indian Ed.). Also see “A note on Sanskritization and Westernization”, in
Srinivas, M. N., Castes in Modern India and other essays, Media Promoters and Publishers Pvt. Ltd.,
Bombay, 1989, pp. 42-63. First published 1962.
Srinivas, M. N., Castes in Modern India and other essays, op. cit., p. 67.
Hutton, J.H., “New Ranks by Castes”, o. cit., p. 188.
Srinivas, M. N., “Castes: Can they exist in India of tomorrow?” in Castes in Modern India and Other
Essays, o. cit.
Mandal Report, op. cit., Volume IV, Chapter I, p. 275.
State of Madras vs Champakam Dorairajan, AIR 1951, S.C. 226.
para 87-90; Indira Sawhney vs Union of India, AIR 1993, SC.
Coelho vs. State of Tamil Nadu, 2007(2), SCC1: AIR SC 861.
Srinivas, M.N., Caste in Modern India, pp.34-36.
Jawaharlal Nehru, Letter to Chief Ministers, 27 June 1961. quoted Shourie, Arun, op. cit.
Ibbetson, D., “Occupational Theory of Caste”, in Kannupillai, (Ed.), p.37.
Marten, M.A., “Caste in India, Burma and Baluchistan”, in Kannupillai (Ed.), p.194.
Rajputana Agency, p. 123.
para 82, Indira Schawney Judgment.
Sriniwas, M.N. 1962, pp.53-54.
Mandal Report, page 6.
Srinivas, 1962, p.40.
Backward Classes Commission, Govt. of India, Letter No. 8/3/79 BCC, dated 25 April, 1979. Quoted
Mandal Report, Volume II, Appendix III.
Mandal Report, Vol 1, Chapter 11;Also, 1993 AIR SC para 16, p. 510.
Nesfield, John C., pp.161 and 165; Crooke, W. p.203.
Clause (iv), Office Memorandum, No. 36012/31/90-Estt (SCT), 13th August 1990, Ministry of
Personnel, PG&T, Government of India.
para 119-120; Indira Sawhney Judgment, p.581.
Mandal Report, Volume I, Chapter 8; para 8.33, p.39.
Mandal Report, Volume IV, Chapter I, Hypothesis 3, p.276.
Mandal Report, Vol1, Chapter 12, Para 12.22, p.57. Also AIR 1993 SC 477, para 20, p.513
Marten, M.A., “Caste in India, Burma and Baluchistan”, p.196. (Extract from Census of India, 1921,
Vol 1, Part 1, pp.223-225, 229, 231-233).
Ibid. p.197.
Census of India1931, p.521.
Employment and Unemployment Situation among Social Groups in India, NSS 61st Round, Report
No.516, NSSO, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, October
2006. p. i.