Political Theory of Anti-Casteism: An Epistemic Enquiry in Ambedkar’s Philosophy
Dr Komal Rajak, Post-doctoral Research Associate, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISER), Mohali, Punjab, India
The caste is an inimitable Hindu contribution to the body of political theory. Caste is a political system, and anti-casteism is a normative recommendation against it. Caste-system, the essence of Hindu philosophy, has mediated and determined the diverse political norms such as equality, fraternity, dignity, rights, justice, citizenship, power, property, law, etc. Therefore, these norms have failed to create an emancipatory agenda. Anti-casteism underscores an intellectual and social movement for equity against the backdrop of caste society and challenges the bigotry of mainstream liberal approaches in this regard. Its conceptual framework highlights the Brahmanical biases and graded inequality in diverse institutional mechanisms and uses political sociology to explicate the socio-political, economic, and legal structures and power distribution through the lens of caste. The anti-caste theory speculates around equality, fraternity, dignity, justice, rights, property, democracy, and the enforcement authority, against the Brahmanical privileges.
In political theory discourse, inequality is theorized in terms of class-based politics and racial biases, while Hindu socio-political order explains it as a by-product of caste structure. Ambedkar, the political theorist, theorized the concept of graded inequality to explain the mechanism of the caste system. For Ambedkar, the caste system can be protracted by restricting certain castes’ and women’s free access to the property and suspending their agency. The Hindu philosophy does not permit women and ex-untouchables [or Dalit] to own land and property. Land and property as a source of power and identity have considerable significance in human sustenance. The mechanisms of accessing, utilizing, and controlling the land, for men or women, are mediated by Brahmanically construed norms i.e., caste and gender. The male coparcenary-based caste-Hindu household owns the property, which seemed to be established for sustaining endogamous relations, hence institutionalizing caste-Hindu supremacy and women’s subordination. Such denial of and inaccessibility to property rights, for women and marginal castes, reveal the rampant systemic inequality, oppression, and subjugation.
This paper comes out as a contribution to political theory, as challenging any form of inequality and scrutinizing its origin is central to the praxis of equity, hence addressing the power dynamics of the state and its diverse institutes. Ambedkar’s perceptive scrutiny of caste power is significant in an anti-caste theoretical framework. Ambedkar articulated a theoretical-pragmatic reading of the relationship between caste and equity that spearheaded the characterization that anti-casteism is antagonistic not merely to postcolonial theory but other critical theories as well such as Marxism and subaltern theory, that structure much of academic discourses in India. This paper discusses the caste theory of property relations, which explains the persistence of gendered power and property relations in the Hindu system. It investigates the ontological and epistemological concerns of political theory.