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November 3, 2023 @ 7:30 am - 11:30 pm


The clamor for a caste census by the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) and the reluctance exhibited by Hindutva forces, primarily led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has invoked discussions on the impact of a caste census on secularism in India. This contentious issue has underlined the collision between social identities, political agendas, and the trajectory of secular politics.

What is Caste Census:

The caste census involves categorizing India’s population based on their caste in the regular population enumeration.

The Census, a ten-year count of the Indian populace, has regularly recorded the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, representing the Dalits and Adivasis, along with various demographic data including religion, language, and socio-economic status from 1951 to 2011.

However, it hasn’t accounted for the OBCs, which constitute lower and intermediate castes, comprising approximately 52% of India’s population, as per the Mandal Commission.

All castes apart from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have been grouped under the general category.

This gap in caste representation is the fundamental reason for the call for a caste census.

What is Socio-economic Caste Census:

The SECC, conducted for the first time since 1931, aims to survey every Indian family in both rural and urban regions, inquiring about their:

Economic status, enabling Central and State authorities to establish multiple indicators of deprivation. These combinations can be utilized by each authority to identify individuals living in poverty or facing deprivation.

Specific caste names of individuals, providing the government with an opportunity to reassess the economic conditions of various caste groups, distinguishing the economically disadvantaged from the better-off sections.

The SECC holds the potential to outline broader inequalities within society.


Distinguishing Census from SECC:

The Census gives an overview of the Indian populace, whereas the SECC is a tool for identifying recipients of state aid.

Data from the Census, under the Census Act of 1948, remains confidential. In contrast, the SECC data, as per the SECC website, is available for government departments to determine household benefits and limitations.


Caste Census and Poverty Link:

Role in Institutional Poverty: Scholars note that caste perpetuates institutional poverty, shaping historical occupation and skill determinations. It crucially influences network-driven occupations in the modern economy.

Need for a Caste Census: The absence of recognizing the correlation between caste and poverty, fails to acknowledge the enduring pain of this societal reality. Rahul Gandhi’s reference to the census as an “X-ray of India” highlights the necessity for such an analysis to unveil this reality.

Reluctance of Hindutva Forces:

Fear of Disruptions: Hindutva’s reluctance toward a caste census stems from the apprehension that it might unleash a series of claims and counterclaims regarding positions and power. They fear a Pandora’s box of divisive politics leading to a disturbance in their established Hindu majoritarian unity.

Concerns about Divisive Politics: Hindutva aims for Hindu majoritarian unity through religious polarisation, worrying that a caste census could threaten this established unity by initiating social engineering and discord.

Secular Politics and Caste Census:

Historical Perspectives: The past reliance on caste-based politics by the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) coalition managed to contain the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh. However, subsequent political developments have witnessed a resurgence of Hindutva politics.

Limited Impact on Secularism: While a caste census might restrict the pace of Hindutva politics, it doesn’t assure the revival of secularism in India. It’s seen as a risky gambit that may contain Hindutva but not necessarily ensure a secular political culture.


The absence of a caste census since 1931 and the resistance towards its resumption post-Independence, primarily during the 1951 Census, points towards the influence of right-wing elements within secular political formations. The contemporary resistance echoes similar reasons, indicating the organized opposition against the establishment of a caste census and its implications on secularism in India.


November 3, 2023
7:30 am - 11:30 pm
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