Show of Opposition unity at first AIFSJ conference; TN Chief Minister Stalin demands caste census

He calls for a unified voice to establish the principles of federalism, secularism, equality, fraternity, socialism, and social justice.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Apr 04, 2023 | 11:07 AM Updated Apr 04, 2023 | 11:07 AM

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister speaking at the first national conference of the All India Federation for Social Justice

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin has urged the central government to carry out a caste-based census in the country to ensure social justice.

Joining the non-BJP bandwagon of Opposition leaders demanding the caste-based census, Stalin said Scheduled Castes (SCs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and minority populations should be accorded proper reservation in government jobs and judiciary.

The DMK leader was virtually addressing the first national conference of the All India Federation for Social Justice (AIFSJ) on Monday, 3 April.

He called for the implementation of OBC reservation in promotions in government jobs.

“The Union government should conduct a caste-based census and release the data. It should be monitored all over India. It should be monitored with the lens of social justice,” Stalin said.

Show of unity

The conference grabbed attention as a show of Opposition unity with leaders from different political parties from across the country sharing a common platform ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D Raja, and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav addressed the conference.

Jammu & Kashmir National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Derek O Brien, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA Chhagan Bhujbal, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Sanjay Singh, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Manoj Kumar Jha, MP Muhammed Basheer, BRS MP Keshava Rao, Maharashtra MLC Mahadev Jankar, MP Nabar Kumar Sarania, and former MP Rajkumar Saini, too, spoke.

MDMK leader Vaiko, Thol Thirumavalavan of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), MH Jawahirullah, MLA, ER Eswaran of the Kongunadu Makkal Desia Katchi, and K Veeramani of the Dravidar Kazhagam, also attended the event.

The conference was held two days after Stalin and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan jointly urged people to learn from the non-violent Vaikom Satyagraha movement and fight the forces weakening the country.

The leaders were addressing the inaugural function of the 603-day-long centenary celebrations of the movement at Vaikom in Kerala.

Also read: All about a stir that fine-tuned the non-violence movement

Blatant murder of social justice

The chief minister viewed the BJP government in Karnataka scrapping four percent reservation for Muslims as blatant murder of social justice.

On 24 March, the Basavaraj Bommai-led Cabinet in poll-bound Karnataka decided to take away the 2B category of reservation for Muslims and divide it equally between the Vokkaliga and Lingayat communities.

The government said the Muslims could benefit from the quota earmarked for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).

“The struggle for social justice is not an issue of a single state. It is not an issue of a set of states. It is an issue concerning all states, and it is associated with the structure of the Indian society,” Stalin said.

The enormity of problems along caste and class lines in each state may vary. But the core issue is the same. Wherever there is discrimination, exclusion, untouchability, slavery, and injustice, social justice is the panacea for these illnesses,” he opined.

Also read: Karnataka has scrapped OBC quota for Muslims, but can it be implemented?

EWS quota is not social justice

The Union BJP government has shrewdly added “economically” to socially and educationally backward classes and they have already given reservations based on economic status, the chief minister said.

“It is not a static criterion. One who is poor today can become rich tomorrow, and vice versa. A few can even conceal the wealth they possess. Hence, it is not right to have this criterion for reservation,” Stalin said.

He further stated that the BJP implemented the EWS quota on the pretext of helping the poor among forward castes, which is not social justice.

“We are not against providing financial help to the poor and needy. It is economic justice and not social justice. If something is for the poor, shouldn’t it be for the poor from all castes,” he asked.

“Why the exception for forward castes? Is it not an injustice to push the poor, oppressed caste people out of the EWS ambit? This is the reason why we oppose EWS,” he explained.

Also read: YSRCP makes fresh pitch for caste-based census

Call for SC/ST commissions

Stalin mooted the setting up of SC and ST commissions in all states like the ones in Tamil Nadu. The commissions comprise government officials, academicians, and legal experts.

“On behalf of the DMK, we have been running study circles to teach the history of social justice to the younger generation,” he said, before making a plea.

“I request the leaders from various states taking part in this conference to establish similar study circles in their respective states in the name of social reformers like Thanthai Periyar, Babasaheb Ambedkar, and Mahatma Jyotirao Phule to create an understanding and awareness of social justice among youngsters,” he opined.

Also read: In split verdict, SC upholds EWS reservation

Needed: A unified voice

Stressing the need for a unified voice to establish the principles of federalism, state autonomy, secularism, equality, fraternity, socialism, and social justice across the country, Stalin said: “However idealistic an ideology may be, for it to succeed, unity among parties which have accepted the ideology is of great importance.”

“Such unity is not enough if it is confined to only a few states. It has to happen in every state,” he added.

The BJP is opposed to caste-based census in India.

Also read: MK Stalin, Kharge, Abdullah call for ‘Opposition unity’ against BJP