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The Inclusion of Caste in Census


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1 Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, India
     

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The question of whether or not caste should be included in the census for enumeration has been a focus of controversy and debate for decades. Those who are against inclusion of caste argue that it will accentuate divisive tendencies among the people. On the other hand, there are those who argue for inclusion of caste. Their view is that caste is the fundamental unit of the Indian society. To improve the living conditions of the lower castes and provide social justice, a pan-Indian caste-count is imperative. I will be presenting these 'for' and 'against' arguments in the first section of the paper. Then, there are those who acknowledge the importance and relevance of caste in contemporary times but who argue that an all-India level caste-census is not a feasible option. Census in India is a mammoth undertaking. If you include caste, which is not a concrete, fixed category as the people who argue for caste inclusion assume, then it is going to escalate the problems faced by the enumerators. I will be presenting this set of arguments in the second section of the paper. Why would inclusion of caste create insurmountable problems? In an attempt to answer this question, I will historically contextualize the census operations and examine the problems British officials faced then and compare it with those faced in the 21st Century. This will cover the third section of my paper. I will conclude it by presenting the suggestions of social scientists on how to tackle this problem.

Keywords

Caste, Census, Jati, Varna
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  • The Inclusion of Caste in Census

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Authors

Srihari Hulikal Muralidhar
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, India

Abstract


The question of whether or not caste should be included in the census for enumeration has been a focus of controversy and debate for decades. Those who are against inclusion of caste argue that it will accentuate divisive tendencies among the people. On the other hand, there are those who argue for inclusion of caste. Their view is that caste is the fundamental unit of the Indian society. To improve the living conditions of the lower castes and provide social justice, a pan-Indian caste-count is imperative. I will be presenting these 'for' and 'against' arguments in the first section of the paper. Then, there are those who acknowledge the importance and relevance of caste in contemporary times but who argue that an all-India level caste-census is not a feasible option. Census in India is a mammoth undertaking. If you include caste, which is not a concrete, fixed category as the people who argue for caste inclusion assume, then it is going to escalate the problems faced by the enumerators. I will be presenting this set of arguments in the second section of the paper. Why would inclusion of caste create insurmountable problems? In an attempt to answer this question, I will historically contextualize the census operations and examine the problems British officials faced then and compare it with those faced in the 21st Century. This will cover the third section of my paper. I will conclude it by presenting the suggestions of social scientists on how to tackle this problem.

Keywords


Caste, Census, Jati, Varna