Skip to main content

Sacred games UP style: Caste, crime and punishment amidst battle for political clout

By Aviral Anand*
As the news regarding Vikas Dubey began flooding all media outlets, the names that crowded the descriptions seemed a little startling. Especially for those who might not be in the know of such things. It would have been too unrealistic to expect a Gaitonde in the Hindi heartland, but there was no Sardar Khan, Faizal or a Ramdhari Singh of the Wasseypur variety either.
Instead, there was a parade of last names such as Dubey, Chaubey (or Chaubeypur), Mishra, Pandey, Agnihotri and Bajpayi (Vajpayi/Vajpayee), all markers of the Brahmin caste. Suddenly, it seemed the entire clutch of Kanyakubj (Brahmins from Kannauj) and Saryuparin (those who crossed the Sarayu river) Brahmins -- the storied Brahmin gotras associated with a good part of the Hindi heartland -- were actors in a mahayuddha that was scarcely known outside that region.
Here were family-names associated with ancient rituals, like the Vajpeya and Agnihotra Vedic fire-sacrifices (yagna), playing with fire of a different kind in modern times.
It is not out of place to mention that Vikas Dubey was often referred to as Panditji and was also praised as a “Brahman sher (tiger)” by some. His killing was seen as a body blow by many Brahmins.
Maybe it is also not entirely irrelevant to mention that in the complicated twists of the narrative, Dubey claimed closeness to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), describing it as “home” in an old video statement (“Baspa [BSP] mera ghar tha jahan 12 saal main reh chuka hoon…”). Notably, in BSP’s victory in the 2007 state elections in UP, its Brahmin candidate from Chaubeypur emerged victorious, as did a host of other Brahmin contestants.
What is crucial to note is this battle of  “political varchasva (clout)” being fought out in the Hindi heartland by the upper castes, often among themselves -- whether as part of more traditional political formations such as the Congress or even the BSP, when wooed by them.  
While Dubey was basically a free man in Bikru despite having racked-up more than 60 cases against himself, the Indian jails are filled with undertrials who are largely from so-called lower castes, adivasi communities and religious minorities (read Muslim) [references here and here]. 
Vikas Dubey was often referred to as Panditji and praised as Brahman sher. His killing was seen as a body blow by many Brahmins
This entire episode was not about the more common conflict between caste-groups that one often hears from UP; it was portrayed as a purely law-and-order and criminal justice issue, but it does give us some insights into the ground-level social realities:
  1. The criminal involvement of the upper castes, especially the Brahmins in the fabric of everyday life. So, let us all accept this openly that criminality is not a monopoly of any one caste; rather, one should realize that the upper castes can be as brazen as anyone else, maybe more so because of the impunity they can bank upon.
  2. The domination by the so-called upper-castes in the local administration. This is a larger story -- that of the over-representation of the higher castes in most positions of power. 
  3. An indication of landholding patterns by the “dominant castes” in those areas (Dubey claims his father was a ‘zamindar’). As the scholar RS Khare noted in his study of Kanyakubj Brahmins, “the gazetteers (1903-27) of such districts as Kanpur, Hardoi...and Lucknow consistently indicate that these Brahmans owned a sizeable part of land and managed them in ruler-style, 'even if they did not plough the land themselves.’” It is also well known that Brahmins throughout India were given generous land-grants and the “biswa-scale,” is a traditional marker of the amount of land granted to Brahmins. 
  4. Villages like Bikru/Bikroo (which fall under the Shivrajpur block), have a Scheduled Caste population of around 30%. We do not have too much information about the treatment of Dalits and OBCs in the region, but the Economic Times (ET) reports the following: “A youth hailing from a backward community said that Dubey helped only people belonging to the ‘upper’ caste while the others were insulted by his men.” The same report tells us that, “The caste divide was pronounced. A woman belonging to one of the Scheduled Castes said she was ‘ineligible to even comment’.” 
While most of the media has quickly moved on to other news, having viewed the incident from various lurid lenses, there have been some voices that have questioned the impunity with which the UP police dispatched Dubey in an encounter. 
All such calls for scrutiny of police procedure, the protection provided to the likes of Vikas Dubey by vested interests etc. are urgently needed. But like so much else in India, and especially in its heartland UP, one cannot ignore the aspects of caste positionalities that were visible in the background.
One is used to criminality being pinned on certain communities and castes and the swift punishment meted out to them. Most of the media and the public almost seemed to pass this incident over as an anomaly, not really trying to bring unfavorable attention to the caste and religion factor here. 
This was probably because it did not know how to deal with the issue, what with those from the so-called top-rung of the society standing exposed, neck-deep in all manner of criminal activities. Brahmanism is evidently alive and well.
---
*Writer based in Delhi

Comments

TRENDING

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

JP advised RSS to give up Hindu Rashtra, disband itself: Ex-IAS officer tells Modi

Counterview Desk
Major MG Devasahayam IAS (Retd), chairman, People-First, in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of Jayprakash Narain’s (JP’s) death anniversary (October 11) has wondered whether he remembers “a patriot called Jayaprakash Narayan”. Recalling what JP thought on issues such as communalism, freedom, democracy, Hindutva etc., Devasahayam says, Modi has been been doing “the very opposite of the principles and values for which JP lived and died.”

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

UP chief secretary, DGP have 'surrendered' to political diktat: 92 retired IAS, IPS officials

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, 92 retired IAS, IFS and IPS bureaucrats, commenting on “blatant violations of the rule law” following the Hathras incident, have blamed that the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police for abjectly failing to exercise control over a “highly compromised” administration the state.

Gujarat literati flutter: State Akademi autonomy curb a Sahitya Parishad poll issue?

By Dankesh Oza*
The 115-year-old Gujarati Sahitya Parishad is in election mode. More than 3,000 life members of the Parishad are set to elect its 52nd president and 40 plus central working committee (CWC) members, which in turn will elect its executive and two vice presidents, six secretaries and a treasurer for the coming three years (from 2021 to 2023).

Hathras reflects Manu's mindset dominates: 'Women are false, it's in their nature to seduce'

By Parijat Ghosh, Dibyendu Chaudhuri*
The woman died and then we woke up to protest. She was alive for two weeks after the heinous incident. Many of us even didn’t notice what had happened at Hathras, how she fought during the next 15 days. Those who noticed, many of them were not sure what actually had happened. So much so, we as a nation were more busy in finding out who among the Bollywood actresses were taking drugs, who smoked weed, who had ‘inappropriate’ or more than one relationship, what kind of private conversations they had in their chat boxes and what not!

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Delhi riots: Even British didn't accuse Bhagat Singh of reading Lenin, Jack London

By Vikash Narain Rai*
After the #BlackLifeMatters movement seriously tested the credibility of police across America, the Houston police chief Art Acevado talked of ending “lawful but awful” policing. No comparison, but in India, a citizens’ committee comprising former top judges and bureaucrats is now set to inquire into the role of the state machinery and media in handling the February 2020 Delhi violence, which followed protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), “as the investigation by the Delhi Police has evoked extensive critical commentary in recent times.”

Atrocities against Dalits: Why don't MPs, MLAs from the community ever speak up?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
In Gujarat, a young Dalit activist lawyer Devji Maheshwari, belonging to the Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMSCEF) was killed in Surat, allegedly by a goon who was warning him against his Facebook posts not to speak up against Brahmanism. Facts have come to light suggesting there are other issues also which led to the murder, mostly related to land disputes, many a time ignored by activists.