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An inconvenient question two days after A. Raja and Kanimozhi are acquitted, and on the day Lalu Prasad Yadav is convicted and Jagannath Mishra is acquitted.

Is there a caste or communal link to corruption and crime? Or, are your chances of being involved (and getting caught) in corruption cases higher as you go down the caste ladder? Let’s examine the facts.

Here is a roll call: A. Raja, just acquitted after a six-year trial and 15 months in jail as an undertrial, is Dalit. His party colleague and now acquitted co-accused Kanimozhi is from a backward caste too. Madhu Koda (recently convicted in a coal case) and Shibu Soren (charged with bribery and murder and finally acquitted), both tribals; Mayawati, a Dalit; and Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav, OBCs, are all caught in corruption or disproportionate assets cases.

These cases ebb and rise depending on the politics of the day. Any time the big boys in power want their silence or compliance, a headline-making new move is made in the cases. It dies out just as predictably once the political purpose is served. The man serving the longest sentence (10 years) in a corruption case, former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, is a Jat, not a backward caste yet, but way lower than the Savarnas in the caste hierarchy.

Today, Lalu has been convicted in his second fodder scam case while another former Bihar chief minister, Jagannath Mishra, a Brahmin, has been acquitted in the same case.

Look back at the cash-for-votes scandal in Parliament in 2008. Faggan Singh Kulaste, Ashok Argal and Mahavir Singh Bhagora — all caught in the sting in which Rajdeep Sardesai’s then channel CNN-IBN, and Sudheendra Kulkarni (then close to Advani), were involved — are all SCs/STs. Among the BSP MPs in an even earlier cash-for-questions sting — 11 MPs were terminated from Parliament in 2005; six from BJP, three from BSP, one from Congress, one from RJD –Narendra Kushwaha and Rajaram Pal were OBCs, and Lal Chandra Kol a Dalit.

Of course, there are also some illustrious upper-caste representatives in the net: Sukh Ram, Jayalalithaa and Suresh Kalmadi. But there are far fewer of them. And they also have a better chance of escaping. Or their cases just drag on. Fact: despite cash having been found under his bed, trial and conviction, Sukh Ram never had to serve a jail sentence. He was a life-long Congressman. He has now, at 90, been embraced and rehabilitated in the BJP. He defected on election eve with son Anil, now a BJP MLA and likely to be a minister in Himachal Pradesh.

Do you expect A. Raja or his children having any such luck going ahead with the BJP?

Please note four facts before you start outraging over my indulging in pop-sociology and “casteist” view of corruption.

First, Sukh Ram and Raja were charged with corruption during their tenure as telecom ministers. Second, Sukh Ram was convicted while Raja has been acquitted. Third, one had cash found under his bed; in the case of the other the trial judge mockingly asks where is the money? And if there’s no money, where is the corruption? So, pronounced innocent.

Now the fourth fact, and the most important one: Sukh Ram is a Brahmin. May be he strayed just that one time, people like that aren’t usually corrupt. And Raja, a Dalit. Can you expect any better? They just can’t handle power and responsibility. Usual suspects.

Let’s explore an interesting case in the BJP. Two of its senior leaders were caught on camera accepting cash at different points of time. One, Dilip Singh Judeo, caught taking Rs 9 lakh in 2003 was of a high caste, and was happily rehabilitated, fielded in an election again, and returned to Parliament. He was, in fact, caught on camera speaking that immortal line a Bollywood script-writer will someday copy for his mafioso: “Paisa khuda toh nahin, lekin khuda ki kasam khuda se kam bhi nahin (cash isn’t’ God, but by God, it is no less than God). He was a junior minister in the Vajpayee government then and said this while killing a bottle of Black Label with the bribe-giver. All on camera.

The other, Bangaru Laxman was caught taking just Rs 1 lakh in the Tehelka sting (2001). Compared to Judeo who was a mere junior minister, Bangaru was the BJP’s national president. It’s just that he was a Dalit, the first—and until now the only—Dalit to rise that high in BJP. He was disowned, condemned, banished and isolated. He went to jail and died fighting the charges in that Tehelka sting case all by himself. Of course, he was the only politician to go to jail in the Tehelka sting.

It’s an unfortunate description but it must be used: the party treated him as an utter outcast even as it continued to defend Judeo. That is the caste differential of corruption.

You want to take this argument to the judiciary? It has been loosely insinuated by many prominent people, including by some notable members of Team Anna in the heydays of their anti-corruption movement, that a large number of our former chief justices have been corrupt. But who was the only one targeted by name? It was Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, a Dalit. Nothing has been found against him in more than a decade now. Just two weeks back the Supreme Court asked why all ongoing probes against him should now not be dropped.

Explore further. The only high court judge to go to jail for a professional misdemeanour — contempt of higher judiciary, Justice C.S. Karnan, is a Dalit. Three other worthies, with sexual harassment complaints against them, have got away without a blot. One has his signature on the supposedly landmark 2G judgment cancelling Raja’s 122 telecom licences. The cases have all been buried. In the case of one, a high court has gone so far as to issue a gag order on the media not to even talk about the allegations. Let me just say that two of these three rose to the Supreme Court, and one was in an all-powerful post-retirement position. Finally, let us just say that none is from a lower caste, and therefore a usual suspect.

Could it be that the upper crust tends to be “cleaner” as a rule, or is it that the system is loaded against those in the lower half of the social pyramid? The Sachar Committee report on the condition of Muslims also told us that our Muslims feature in disproportionately low numbers in most places, especially government jobs. The only place where their numbers are high in comparison to their population is jails. So, face the question once again: do Muslims tend to be more criminal than Hindus, or is the system loaded against them?

Taking the same point further, in one of their most popular stage shows, the dark political comedy group ‘Aisi Taisi Democracy’ reminds us that a majority of those hanged for murder in India are minorities or from lower castes. For a Brahmin to hang, they turn the knife, he has to assassinate no less than a Mahatma Gandhi.

Some important questions therefore arise. Is there an element of genetics to corruption and crime? Or is the system—from the police and judges, to the media and public opinion, loaded against the underprivileged or subaltern sections across the world? Check out the numbers of police shootings of African-Americans or their disproportionate numbers in jails. Just that what race is in some places, caste is in India. It gets complicated in our country with some minorities and tribes also consigned to the same bracket.

That prejudice lives on. It ensures Brahmin Sukh Ram is spared jail time even though convicted and A. Raja continues to be seen as a thief although acquitted. It also means a Judeo can be rehabilitated while Bangaru Laxman is left to rot and die alone. I am sorry if I ruin your Christmas weekend with such dark thoughts. There is no perfect time for a reality check.

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54 Comments Share Your Views


  1. Whether some body like it or not. India has centuries of history wherein there was descrimination on castes and the exploitation continued till today. Many argue that incomoetency in all levels of work places are due to reservations, can any one understand what is the percent of such people in work place? Whereas every where there is inefficiency and corruption and what not. Does that mean that people from general category are most efficient and not corrupt? If one agree why India is still trailing in its performances. It is time to introspect. Else people are accessed to modern education and days are to come one day to expose all of them.

    • अच्छा प्रयास. लगे रहिये केजरीवाल अगली बार आपको राज्य सभा भेज देंगे. आप ही के तरह विद्वान आपके सहपाठी एम.जे. अकबर भी कभी तीन तलाक पर राजीव गांधी से मिलकर फैसला पलटवा दिये थे. लेकिन अब वही अकबर आज मोदी के साथ मिलकर तीन तलाक पर क्या कर रहे हैं आपको बताने की जरूरत नहीं. शेष बौद्घिक जुगाली के लिये धन्यवाद.

  2. Shekhar Gupta,

    Shame on you! Just analyze the number of white collar criminals within your caste “Gupta” before pointing fingers at others. Have you heard about Rajat Gupta? The famed white collar criminal caught and punished appropriately in the U.S. criminal justice system.

    Such people are never caught and punished in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh,etc. Academia, Parliament, Bureaucracy and Corporate sector are swarming with them.

    You belong to this lot, just another “privilaged” caste white collar criminal Indian, hiding their crimes behind “paid for” Ivy League degrees and false logic of “merit”.

  3. And the conveniently forgotten case of another telecom minister – Pramod Mahajan where the owner of R-Com himself stated that he was bribed with the company’s shares

  4. Interesting title but lacks in thinking. I had hoped it would be thought-provoking but sadly it was just reiteration of a hypothesis which wasn’t actually a hypothesis. Only anecdotes, and no numbers; we all know anecdotes can be biased and give any argument a false texture. Just by correlating interesting parameters like crime, caste, corruption, acquittal and society acceptance, the author has miserably failed to think deeper. First the definition of corruption is not discussed, is it purely monetary? the author mention that just like in US, the african-americans are in high numbers in jail, in India, muslims are high in number in jails in respect to their population, a number or citation would have made sense here, are we supposed to believe the author just because he wrote it? There are so many things which have been left untouched like: poverty ratio, divorce rates, educational opportunities to educational success ratio, no. of wealthy people to total no. of people in their caste ratio, etc. See, crime & corruption may be related to sub caste or religion, but citing only two options as the cause in case the theory is true, is actually very very dumb (or highly intelligent if done due to a devious aim) and dangerous. Saying: “do Muslims/dalits/lower castes tend to be more criminal than Hindus/upper castes, or is the system loaded against them?” is like making the reader think only in these two directions. And obviously, we know that an obvious reaction is to blame the system, believe that the whole structure (although designed by a Dalit, who was an atheist) is made to favor the upper castes. I have wasted my energy and time to comment on this immature/rubbish article to counter the danger the author has intentionally or unintentionally created to drive people into baseless skepticism and paranoia.


  6. Mr Shekar Gupta I think you are also from higher class and morally corrupt by living on the division of people for his own selfish publicity to benefit the pseudo secular

    The analysis is only in the crooked head of Mr Gupta

  7. Corruption is isotropic and homogeneous. The percentage population of the so-called forward caste in India is about 25 and the rest comes from SC, ST or OBC. The number of parliamentarians is also expected to be in the same proportions. Hence the abundance of a particular section in the corruption is not unexpected. The only bias expected are in the educational background and experience in the corruption of those so-called backward class leaders. The research is a trash, unscientific and lacks basic dedication to writing serious articles.

    • As ashis believes the number of parliamentarians, the number of bureaucrats, the number of business tycoons,the number of media moghals etc are not in proportion to the sc/st/obc population of the country. It is negligible. Tiny part of these communities are present in the civil society. Though they are the majority. Democracy and ruling should be of these people. But reverse is the reality. Even Muslims have better representation as minorities. These communities clubbed as part of Hindus,are deprived since time immemorial.

  8. Caste,a unique entity to India, has vivisected Indian society and still continued. It certainly influences all sections. At this juncture Gupta formulating/propagating this thesis is no crime. For some caste is everything. Corruption too is a major problem it has to be addressed unbiased. But the problem is, media and the judiciary are dominated by a few castes.

  9. People are hiding themselves in pesudo nationalism and giving arguments of India is ready for next superpower but some people knows it very well that our political,judicial and social system is in grip of Orthodox brahaminical order. This brahaminical order is only 20% but doesn’t want to give 80% their due.

  10. Majority of people hide themselves in innocence, they’re not aware of caste system but if their turn comes they fully understand caste system, Sir your caste system calculation for justice is 100% right.

  11. Because of shameless journalists like you .,India continue to be divided among castes even in this modern IT Era !!of which India is IT superpower! On when Hand when Someone of Hindutva Fringe mobs create rucks on Hindu-Muslim Marriage !Hypothetical journalists like You claim India is Regressing to 15th Century mentality !on other hand You your self try to force feed naked casteism in Judicial process ,conviction etc..
    After reading this article I think Hindustva Mobs are better at least they talk about Uniting Hondus instead of dividing among castes .

  12. Very simple. Bribe taker is corrupt. What about the Bribe giver? Nip the evil in the bud. Eliminate the giver.
    (Chori karna pap nahi. Pakre jana pap hai !) The list of thieves is endless irrespective of caste or creed. Corruption is a secular subject falling in all the Three Lists – the Centre, State and Concurrent.
    Happy New Year to all. ( Tamshor ma Jyotir gamaya ).

    A High Powered Commission should be announced to deal with the subject as to who is more and who is less corrupt.

  13. Shekhar saab-It is so unfortunate to even see the crime from caste viewpoint. We the ordinary people don’t even know the caste of a Sukhram or Raja. Aren’t you playing in the hands of the people who have always divided the country in the name of religion and caste? Why look at Muslim ‘s participation in Govt jobs from their religion viewpoint? Shouldn’t it be seen as a result of poor literacy percentage among them? I feel sad when a seasoned journalist like you finds such divisive analogy.

  14. These leaders of different parties use the name of subaltern groups and marginalised sections like Dalits ,adivasis of Indian society for their own facilities and for winning the elections by taking over the personal property like votes of poors. We should understand that law is equal in the Indian society.There is no caste hierarchy dominance in the eyes of law .so leaders can neither make use of unheared voice of subalterns nor they can humourise wrong conversations.It is the right decision of law to sent them to jail to abolish unequality.

  15. These leaders of different parties use the name of subaltern groups and marginalised sections like Dalits ,adivasis of Indian society for their own facilities and for winning the elections by taking over the personal property like votes of poors. We should understand that law is equal in the Indian society.There is no caste hierarchy dominance in the eyes of law .so leaders can neither make use of unheared voice of subalterns nor they can humourise wrong conversations.It is the right decision of law to sent them to jail to abolish inequality.

  16. How long Media will continue to identify citizens of the country on casteism?
    Why all citizens are known as just Indian?
    Be focused on act, talent, intelligence, performance etc of individuals irrespective of their birth/religious beliefs.
    More than politicians, media is exploring such issues for the reasons best known to themselves.

  17. 90% of our judges are from upper caste so we can’t expect fair trial for obc and dalit leader. media and judiciary should have representative from all section of socity. We don’t have faith on present judiciary system.Can anybody believe that judiciary can pronounce a verdict without bias.

  18. I have seen it all today! U could have defended Ajmal Kasab too with these skills. This is a new low .
    Just a bashful misrepresentation of facts!

  19. 2019 election will be fought by Congress on caste lines, and this article shows a glimpse of that malicious template. They will attack and malign every credible institution in India that people trust, first it was the Election Commission, and now it’s the judiciary. Take the faith away from the pillars of the democracy, make people confused, and break India. Eminent journalist Mr. Shekhar Gupta just gave the blueprint to diminish the credibility of judiciary on caste lines.

  20. India is a corrupt country where most of the people are adopting corruption some way or other, may it be financial, social, cultural, sectoral, human values. How to get out of ?Are not any mechanism / authority / organization / People’s movement to curb it. Only to show finger to only the accused has no meaning rather to develop ethics in self.

  21. I find this article mischievous. Certainly powerful people from SC/ST/OBC community will use this article, and many others like it, to rant against their conviction. Calling Lalu Yadav a poor underprivileged OBC is a joke. So is Madhu Koda, an underprivileged tribal being victimised by cateist judiciary. We do not know why Sukhram did not spent time in jail. I wish he had rotted. May be he had access to great lawyers, both Lalu ji and Koda ji could also have availed better and bigger lawyers to avoid jail term. A case that dragged on for more than two decades is called caste based oppression! Yes indeed! Jayalalitha and her friend Sasikala had face trial in disproportionate asset case. Sasikala is in jail. I think Jayalalitha has also served jail term or served some other penalty. Yes in Indian system many people do not get justice. That may be systemic issue. Attributing casteist label to judiciary is unjust.

  22. The analysis in this article is very good. More facts that behind lower caste leaders who were became as scapegoats are needed. The suspect of lower caste or less income people in every case is an historical phenomenon that was in “Manu scripted culture”. It should be more exposed.

  23. Shekhar Gupta could enlarge the scope of his research and study convictions not just based on caste but also on whose linen and utensils the person has been washing lately. I presume it would give a better correlation.

  24. What a cheap thinking the print… Corruption can be done by any person it’s depends on there mentalities..why u are playing community card ? It seems that u are bjp supporter…..there no barrier for corruption of caste.. instead of thinking like this…u would have questioned to remove corruption and how to remove corruption…

  25. I started reading this article with a disbelief. I didn’t believe the title because in my world this was just another excuse made by people who wanted to blame others for their failures. But the more i read it, it made more sense. Even in my mind, I remember the corruption charges against Bangaru Laxman, justices Karnan and Balakrishnan, raja and kanimozhi whereas sukhram and judeo faded away. Even recently the arunachal cm who killed himself mentioned about corruption in Supreme Court, it was mentioned in judge loyas death news, it was again mentioned in the medical college scam and yet many times we ignore them and it never registers. It makes me very uncomfortable to think that we have the bias towards weaker castes and communities and minorities (like towards the blacks in US) and it is not good. I dont know how much true it holds in Lalu vs Mishra but it is definitely a possibility. Especially considering that the scam started during Mishras tenure. And that he is now in JDU and his son in BJP. Mishra too was convicted by another court but this time he slipped through the system. If the ruling dispensation wants to influence the courts, CBI can provide selective evidence and thus influence the outcome.
    Thanks for this eye opener. I am sure you will receive a lot of brick bats for this article but this is what I expect when i think of a journalist’s job. To educate, enlighten and gives us a new perspective on the matters that will shape our country. Thank you again.

  26. 99% of judges in judiciary system (From District courts to Hon. Supreme Court) belong to upper-caste and especially dominated by Brahmins.
    Social Justice and right to equality is not justified.
    Need reservation in that System also.

  27. He trading carefully suggesting something and then negating by counter balancing to add political correctness. There will never be a final word on caste equation. Should crime also have categories and quotas? Yours and ours?

  28. Just because the author wanted to show he is different he had, unfortunately, questioned and doubted the country’s judiciary system. The sheer fact that the people who are in the high level of political power and influential circle means that they had come up with lots of money power and prosperity. Now where is the question of bringing upper and lower caste here? Completely misplaced and misleading. If people like A. Raja was right why SC had to completely cancel the original allotment of 2G and how the government could go ahead and retender the 2G and earned whopping prices? Just because a CBI court had acquitted Raja and Kani Mozhi what about the fact that their actions were condemned by SC? Also we are talking about Kani Mozhi who is the daughter of a person who is a politician with alll the powers for the past 60 years or so and the author is painting a picture that she is power less and defenseless? And that too due to her caste? It is sad that the author chose to write such hollow and irresponsible article maligning the judiciary of this great country.

    • is unfortunate that Sh Shekhar Gupta trying to paint these corrupt as innocent. Analysing the creminality in caste and communal angle.

  29. These leaders like lalloo, bahanjee are using their backward caste identity for their personal benefits. These politicians earns crores of Rs.. How much of that income is spent for the upliftment of poor backward class people? They have fooled poor people in the name of caste in the last 30 years. Time has come to sent them to jail

  30. Dear Shekhar Gupta;
    The report of the Rajinder Sachar Committee, commissioned in 2005 by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ascertain the socio-economic status of Muslims, is the biggest red herring to be dragged across the contentious topic of socio-economic inequity and affirmative action in India; an outrageous fraud perpetuated by relentless repetition. Here I reproduce an abbreviated version of an article I wrote nearly 10 years ago.

  31. subrata roy sahara? YG Jagan is from dominant caste Reddy? Sasikala is from dominant caste Thevar?

    Lalu and Mulayam represent dominant caste of Yadavs from hindi heartland.

    None of them represent depressed sections, because that definition should not be applied to ‘dominant castes’

  32. Independent of the column nor influenced by any other such stories I myself always had such perceptions on my own. Possible explanation is while savarnas occupying high positions are mostly well off people and are circumspect.On the other hand when suddenly power and pelf comes to people of lower caste mostly who have seen abject poverty the temptations are more or perhaps they justify it on the grounds of having suffered due to their origin for no fault of theirs..Of course not that it is a rule but only probability.But I agree we must avoid making such generalizations and I do not intend hurting any class sentiments.

  33. Thought provoking surely. As always, Shekhar is refreshingly different. He provides an angle or view no one else has probably thought of before.

  34. Just have a look at lndian prisons. ST,SC,OBC, and minorities outnumber dominant castes as prisoners. Interestingly goons involved in organised crimes are generally upper caste people . They own a name as celebrity mafia dons ,supari killers and decoits. Any inference drawn on the basis of convicted criminals and prisoners head count on the basis of caste will give an opposite picture.

  35. This happens because judiciary and media is loaded with upper castes..they don’t have any sympathy for lower castes..a laloo will always be corrupt but an Amit shah will always be honesty personified…

  36. First of all the corruption shouldn’t be seen in terms of getting economical benefits through some unfairly means. Corruption, what I see is basically a psychological syndrome that has no caste, religion or position influence or barrier. If his argument is right that only the lower caste indulge in corruption, what about the people who run big media houses and indulge in stashing crores of rupees of fraudulent money? How about the bureaucracy? Bureaucracy is undoubtedly dominated by the rich and effluent of the upper caste. Can anybody deny corruption in the bureaucracy? In fact it’s them who channelize the whole process of corruption. They are not from low caste category! Can the author deny the media-bureaucracy-politicians nexus? Somehow or the other the author wants to be in news, hence he chosen this line. Finally how honest and genuine he is?

  37. No easy answers. Men like Lalu Prasad and women like Mayawati can afford the best lawyers, so it cannot be that their cases go by default. Or even that the judges are prejudiced against them. To the extent that there is caste prejudice in our society, we see Justice K G Balakrishnan as a Dalit – although there is no formal reservation in the judiciary – assume his caste nudged his career along, so pounce on him when he is found wanting. No one thought of Rajiv Gandhi as a Brahmin when the Bofors scandal erupted. Not meant at all as a put down, but it is probably true, in both the bureaucracy and politics, that people from less privileged backgrounds have a lot of catching up to do …

  38. Well articulated as always and thought provoking. However feel it could be a slippery slope to correlate caste with conviction in corruption cases. Unless there is an academic study that establishes systemic discrimination of ‘lower’ castes, one must be careful in drawing such a conclusion, based on anecdotal evidence. In bureaucracy, Arvind and Tinoo Joshi were convicted and recently HC Gupta. Uttam khobragade (father of Devyani) has escaped conviction. The argument can be flipped in this case!

    • I agree with Mayank, because there is an attempt to establish an armchair (but sensational & attractively outrageous) theory by just a handful of highly visible cases. Such lazy writing does more harm to the seriousness of the subject than service. What is the number of complaints, how many have been tried completely and how many convicted and what is the break-up. If this is not statistically established, if many other factors that may have played are not given due weight, then this will remain just a dark thought and an attempt at attention mongering.

    • Academic study on caste? Is it a possibilty in as long as the status quoist govts rule india, out of fear of exposure of a tiny percent gobbling majority of privileges?
      Stats on the basis of caste is a danger to them. Gupta took a few cases and ably argued.
      The supporters of the status quo cry foul as we see here and so no need to give any credit to this kind.
      Congratulate Sekhar Gupta for your courage to write this piece knowing very well the reaction of status quoists.
      Would like to see more of such exposures. Itc good for democracy.

  39. In a society where we refuse to stand witness to small crimes or even road accidents, it’s unimaginable to think of govt babus or big industrialist and hawala dealers to come forward and stand witness against the likes of Sonia, Manmohan Singh! So, even talk of lack of evidence is egregious.

  40. In case of Jeyalalitha also, the focus of the media is only on Sasikala and her family. Even when she was alive the same trend prevailed.

  41. Interesting, so do the subalterns have a “right” to corruption or at least an indulgence, to right millennia old wrongs. Ashish Nandi used the same argument a bit more bluntly at JLF. On the whole I would agree with the thesis.


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