Hinduism and working class
By Kancha Ilaiah
Hinduism and working class The Centre of Indian Trade Unions is organising its national conference in Hyderabad from December 27 to December 31. It is in this context that some serious questions relating to the Indian working class need to be raised. As of now, the Indian working class is miserably oppressed by the caste/class exploitative system in India. Over and above this situation, privatisation is destroying the basis of State ownership and collective property channels. While one reason for the unusual move of privatisation is the process of globalisation, the other is the increasing Hinduisation of Indian economy.
The Indian Left and democratic movement never examined the religious basis of Indian economy. Of the four major religions of the world — Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism — only Hinduism believes in total private economy. Buddhism, Christianity and Islam believe in spiritual democracy at the social level and they allow communal ownership of property in several ways. Hinduism is the only religion that believes not only in private economy but also in spiritual fascism. The caste system privatised the relationship with God and the property around the temples became the private property of Brahmin priests who themselves became the caste and class.
If we look at the Chinese experience, the Buddhist centres played a progressive role throughout the period of revolutionary changes. The Buddhist viharas in China had a history of collective property ever since Buddhism expanded to southeastern States. The viharas used to run schools where children from all social backgrounds used to study. The viharas also ran hospitals that treated patients from all social classes. For the temple-based institutions, serving the poor was and is still considered as serving Buddha himself. The poor working class was part of Buddhist spirituality.
Christianity also believed that by serving the poor they were serving God. The very life of Jesus Christ served as an inspiration for them. The Christian institutions all over the world built collective property institutions that served the interests of poor and thereby the working class. The public institutions set up by the churches produced several educated working class leaders much before the State- established educational institutions.
The properties around Christian educational institutions always remained as socially useable collective properties over which the working class had a spiritual and social right. We can see this mode of ownership around the Christian institutions in India as well. Most of the Scheduled Caste IAS, IPS and top educated persons came from these institutions. And all of them belonged to poor working class families.
The Islamic institutions also value the notion of collective life and they too have set up several educational institutions. Since Islam does not link much the notion of serving the poor with serving God, it did not establish massive social collective schools and hospitals as Christians did. Wherever Islam is the dominant religion, it has done a lot of good for the working class, since they consider all equal before God.
Hinduism, as a religion, negated social collectivism. Temple, in this religion, is neither a place for the working class nor a place for spiritual satisfaction. Nor it is a place for social services like education and healthcare. The property that got mobilised around the Hindu temple was totally the private property of the Brahmins and did not serve any socially collective purpose. Privatisation of productive property around the temples in Hinduism goes back to the agrahara property system. This system did not allow the working class to have any space in that property structures.
The privatisation spree of the Hindutva government must be understood within the backdrop of the Hindu spiritual and political agenda of the right-wing forces. The right-wing Hindutva agenda started with P V Narasimha Rao itself. PV, as a traditional Hindu Brahmin, saw privatisation as a solution to the problems. The Nehruvian State sector established a State that had an extended sphere. This expanded State was being used by the Ambedkarites as a positive place for decasteisation through the means of reservation.
The theory and practice of reservation has become a representative instrument of the working class of India. The children of the working class, with one generational education, were entering into the State structure in order to use it in the interest of the working masses that got segregated into several castes. The State, through reservation, was uniting the people whom Hinduism as a religion had divided.
Those who want a Hindutva State that should work like an agent of the divisive Hindu religion, will not only weaken the caste system but also weaken the Hindu religion. It is here that privatisation, by pushing the disinvested property into the hands of the upper castes, is being seen as a guarantee for the Hindu mode of private property. The Indian working class lost the social basis of existence in this socio-economic background.
One of the main demands of the Indian working class should be reservation in the private sector. The United States of America, which does not have a public sector, tackled the Black backwardness by providing scope for protective discrimination of jobs in the private sector. The World Bank that is dominated by the American capital, knows that the American industries allow scope for reservation in the private sector.
The Left trade union movement should realise that one of the main reasons for hasty privatisation is the increased reservation in the post-Mandal period. The upper caste-upper middle classes which reached that status with the jobs in the State sector do not want the children of the working classes, who are from different castes, to get any economic status with the same instrument of job available in the State sector. If the trade union movement takes up the issue of reservation in the private sector, that will work as a deterrent for the process of privatisation.
The ruling class of India must realise that the working class is serious about the abolition of caste discrimination. The question of reservation in private and public sectors and also the question of reservation to women are those of proletarianisation of the State and administrative apparatus.
The notion of proletarianisation in the context of Europe is equivalent to Dalitisation in the Indian context. Marx used the word proletariat — a German word — with the same meaning in which the word Dalit (most suppressed, oppressed and exploited) is used in the Indian context. The Communist movement cannot be blind to the native linguistic and ideological concepts that express the self of the working class. The principles of Marxism are useful tools to understand the social laws of a society. But the German concepts that Marx used in his writings will not locate the social forces.
The Dalitbahujans of India by and large constitute the working class of India. The principle of reservation is one of the key liberative ideological apparatus that Ambedkar handed down to the Indian working class. He thought that over a period of time, the State sector would expand leading to gradual establishment of State socialism. In the State socialist institutional structure, the upper caste bourgeoisie will be undermined and the working class Dalitbahujans, by using the means of reservation, will come to power in an Indian mode of gradual socialism.
Now, the Indian Brahminic ruling class starting with the rule of the corrupt Kautilya — P V Narasimha Rao — worked out privatisation as a means to overcome that process. The Hindutva Kautilya called Vajpayee is taking the same to a logical end. If the working class in the fold of Communist parties does not realise this and ask for reservation in the private sector, there is no end to this process.
Unless it builds a strong movement around the issue of reservation in the private sector, the Dalitbahujan workers may remain in the fold of the Communist parties. An effective fight against globalisation is possible only by combining it with the fight for reservation in the private sector. Otherwise, the Dalitbahujan working class will have no scope for survival in this upper caste private economy.