ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Redressal or Reconciliation?

Situating Caste Politics amidst the Ongoing Farmer Agitation

Redressal or Reconciliation?

The history of local alliances forged between caste groups and the state is interrogated, through the colonial period leading to current day west Uttar Pradesh. The recent farm acts threaten to supplant such alliances, with the state aligning with the interests of big capital. It has necessitated the Jat khaps in west UP to offer resistance by adopting a language of communitarian solidarity that can be traced to the 1980s. However, the shadow of the riots of 2013 has meant that talk of solidarity has veered towards “reconciliation” and “redressal” towards the minorities. As a result, the agitation has revealed new political possibilities while exposing earlier fissures within west UP’s political economy.

 

The political economy of Shamli and Muzaffarnagar in west Uttar Pradesh (UP) is influenced by caste groups such as the Jats, Gujars and Lalas (a term used locally to denote the Mahajan caste). Along with the Hindu Other Backward Class (OBC) castes, they formed the closest allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the region ever since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.1 This was an outcome of the Shamli–Muzaffarnagar communal violence in 2013 which consolidated the Hindu vote in favour of the BJP. The casualties of the violence were the thousands of internally displaced persons who were shoved into makeshift relief camps (Mander et al 2020). Pasmanda Muslims constitute the predominant component in the social composition of the riot victims in 2013 as well as in the north-east Delhi riots of 2020. These are marginalised caste Muslims who have historically confronted caste stratifications in the community (Niazi 2020).2 It is a history that has received scant attention even though the riot-displaced often constitute Pasmanda wage earners.

In 2013, the displaced camps in Shamli–Muzaffarnagar soon turned into permanent dwellings, scattered across Shamli district with the most populous ones located in Kairana. Known locally as “colonies,” settlements such as Jannat colony continue to remain without any basic sanitation or livelihood for the people living there. Hadisa is one of the many displaced who subsist on brick making and agrarian labour. During lockdown 1.0, her employer at one of the brick kilns in Kairana held up the dues owed to her and her co-workers, many of whom were Dalit. They organised and agitated in front of the tahsildar office who intervened to ensure payments were made. These minor victories are shadowed by the endless wait for rehabilitation and reconciliation. Victims find their names missing from entitlements to compensation and have witnessed the gradual weakening of criminal proceedings against the accused (G P Raju 2019).

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Updated On : 2nd Aug, 2021

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