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Bihar most aware state on caste census — 56% want information released

We surveyed over 7,000 Indians from 10 states. The result? The fear of the BJP that caste census will upset some social groups is unfounded.

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There is one thing that seems to have magically united all regional political parties in India – the demand for the caste census information to be made public and include caste in Census 2021.

India conducts its census every ten years. Detailed caste information is collected during this exercise. It is no secret that caste is the single biggest identity of Indian society. Reservations, affirmative action programmes, government welfare programmes have all used cate identity as a factor to target specific sections of population. But the information of what percentage of population constitutes which caste has not been made public.

It is speculated that the caste census information can shatter some long-held myths about dominant castes, highlight the significant divide between the ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ castes in society, and lead to an uproar. Political parties cater to specific caste groups and electoral campaigns are conducted on caste lines. The two major national parties – the BJP and the Congress – are conspicuously silent on the demand for caste census information. It is perhaps because they consider themselves to be ‘bigger tent’ parties than identity focused regional parties, which can be a contentious claim. So, the net result is that regional parties are united in their demand for caste census while the two national parties are nervously ambivalent.

Is it true that releasing caste census information can upend India’s social order? Is it true that Dalits may not want the census to be made public for fear of Backward Castes outnumbering them, as is portrayed? Are ‘upper’ castes blocking the release of this information for fear of being exposed of their ‘tyranny of the minority’?

Prashnam decided to ask people what they think about making caste census information public. We surveyed 7,039 people across 10 states from the north to the south – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Haryana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. The specific question asked was:

Should the Union govt release caste census & all other caste information in public?

1.         Yes, the Union govt should release all caste information of India publicly.

2.         No, the Union govt should not release caste information publicly.

3.         I don’t know what this issue is about

4.         I know about this issue, but I don’t have any opinion.

Majority of Indians want caste census information released

Graphic by Manisha Yadav| ThePrint

Note: The row numbers may not add up to exactly 100 because of rounding off. 

Overall, 52 per cent of Indians surveyed wanted the Union government to make public the detailed caste census information. Among the rest, 28 per cent either did not know about the issue or did not have an opinion. Only 20 per cent said this information should not be made public.

Bihar is clearly the most aware and opinionated state on this issue – 56 per cent of people surveyed wanted this information to be made public, and only 23 per cent were either not aware or did not have an opinion. But in Tamil Nadu, 36 per cent of people were not aware or didn’t have a view on this issue while only 46 per cent wanted this information to be made public. Across all states surveyed, roughly only 20 per cent of people opposed the release of this information.

Contrary to belief, all social groups want caste census to be released

Graphic by Manisha Yadav| ThePrint

Note: The row numbers may not add up to exactly 100 because of rounding off. 

When viewed across social groups, surprisingly, a vast majority of both Dalits and OBCs support the release of the caste census information. This puts to rest speculation over Dalit anger over the release of this information. Understandably, while 25 per cent of ‘upper’ castes surveyed did not want this information to be released publicly, only 13 per cent of Dalits don’t. Even among ‘upper’ castes, 54 per cent support the release of this information. Expectedly, minorities such as Muslims, had the least awareness of this issue – 41 per cent of them did not know about this issue or didn’t have a view.

Overall, this makes it clear that the fear harboured by the BJP and Congress of upsetting some social groups over release of this information is unfounded. Broadly, all social groups – Dalits, OBCs, Minorities and ‘upper’ castes – support the release of caste census information.

Prashnam, in keeping with its principles of transparency and integrity, makes available the entire raw data of this survey here for analysts and researchers to verify and analyse further.

Rajesh Jain is founder, Prashnam, an AI technology start-up that aims to make opinion gathering more scientific, easy, fast, and affordable. He tweets @rajeshjain. Views are personal.

The article is part of ThePrint-Prashnam Vox Pop series.

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