14886 - PERSPECTIVE The Politics of Not Counting Caste...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
PERSPECTIVE Weekly EPW June 19, 2010 vol xlv no 25 39 Satish Deshpande ( [email protected] ac.in ) is with the department of sociology at Delhi University; Mary E John ( [email protected] ac.in ) is with the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi. The Politics of Not Counting Caste Satish Deshpande, Mary E John In the debate on whether or not to count caste in the 2011 Census, there has been too little reflection on the implicit assumptions and analogies about both the census and caste that underpin the positions that have been taken. This article attempts to identify the major models that have been tacitly at work. Questioning the view that the status quo is benign or neutral, it argues that not counting caste has defeated the desire to transcend caste, and suggests that “caste blindness” be rejected in favour of a fresh beginning. A n obvious and striking feature of the debate on the proposed “caste census” is that it concerns counter- factuals – “what if” scenarios rather than actual facts. It is thus inevitable that both opponents and proponents argue by analogy and assertion, extrapolating from other times and contexts to make their case. Far from inevitable, however, is the careless extravagance of much of the argument. The treacherous terrain of counterfactuals demands that we be cautious about the weight we place on our speculative asser- tions. It also requires us to be sensitive to the inherent asymmetry of such debates. Given that the Census does not count caste today and that the debate is about whether it should, the burden of proof is unequally distributed. Those who want a change in the status quo have to shoulder a heavier load than those who are content with the way things are. This is just the way that arguments about counterfactu- als are structured, and it would be bad faith for pro-changers (like us) to claim underdog status. However, an important but often invisi- ble aspect of this structural asymmetry is that the status quo escapes strict scrutiny. Without such scrutiny, both sides tend to calibrate their arguments as though the status quo represented a neutral state, a sort of zero-point, against which the pos- sible negatives and positives are meas- ured. But this need not be true – the status quo does not default to neutral just be- cause we are debating counterfactuals. If the present already has a strongly nega- tive or positive value, the impact of the future needs to be assessed differently. In short, we must re-calibrate our present, and to do that we need to also ask ques- tions like: What kinds of damage has India suffered because a caste census has not been held since Independence? What is the politics of not counting caste? While the main objective of this essay is
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 07/31/2010 for the course FIN 201 taught by Professor Hcverma during the Summer '10 term at IIT Kanpur.

Page1 / 4

14886 - PERSPECTIVE The Politics of Not Counting Caste...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online