Friday, April 20, 2012

Community Concerned: Kayastha groups worried over fall in political representation in Parliament and Assemblies apart from decline in influence

Jyotsana Srivastava's victory from a constituency in Varanasi in the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh (UP) election may not seem significant to you unless you are a Kayastha.

After all, when results for the 403 member UP house were declared, she was among the few [three or four] Kayasthas who managed to win. Another contestant, Mukesh Srivastava won from Payagpur while one, Mr Nigam, got elected from Kalyanpur.

Now compare this to 1952, when 52 Kayasthas were elected to UP Assembly. And there were leaders like Rajendra Prasad [President of India], Sampurnanand [UP chief minister], Lal Bahadur Shastri [Prime Minister] among numerous other towering personalities of the community.

No wonder, there is a feeling of concern among Kayasthas, who are considered among the forward castes, over their steep decline in representation in Parliament and Assemblies. In Kayastha community's in-house magazines and programmes, there is growing expression of concern over the decline in their influence as also the clout in society.

As a website* of the Kayastha community mentions:

The participation of Kayasthas in Govt. Service was over 50% at the time of independence, which is now estimated reduced to less than 9%. There were as many as 75% Secretaries or Head of Departments in a particular state in 1977, which is now reduced to a few. There is only one MLA in M.P. Likewise first Bihar Assembly was having 52 Kayasatha MLAs, which is now reduced to only three.In Jharkhand Assembly, there is no Kayastha MLA... 

The site suggests that Kayasthas should also form alliances like other groups for electoral success. There is similar concern that is seen at different fora and one could understand the reasons for their worry.

Kayasthas are less numerous. But as the word 'Kayastha' literally means, 'writer', the community always stressed on learning. As worshippers of 'pen' and 'ink pot', they earned their living by keeping records and through administrative jobs.
Lord Chitragupta

Not just in Mughal era and British rule, even earlier wherever there was a Raja, he would keep a Kayastha to keep his office and records. Mughals, especially, relied on Kayasths, who also culturally got close to Muslims and even great Urdu scholars came from this community.

Nonetheless, due to their focus on education and their exposure, the Kayasthas, who mostly lived in cities and towns, remained vocal and active in all spheres. There were a host of Kayastha zamindars in pre-independence era in Northern India.

The Kayasthas also had a script of their own, Kaithi, which is forgotten now. Even most young generation Kayasthas aren't aware that once there was a much developed script which was used by their forefathers for a long period.

Comparatively, the Kayasthas are more in numbers in UP, Bihar and Bengal. However, the Bengali Kayastha doesn't seem affected as much. Or at least, not worried over this decline in representation and less concerned about his caste identity, unlike the UP-Bihar Kayastha.
                                                        Uttar Pradesh                                                                                                         
In 1952: 52 Kayasthas elected
In 2012: Less than 5

In judiciary and civil services, the percentage of Kayasthas remained quite high. Politically the decline had begun but after VP Singh implemented Mandal Commission report, the Kayasthas' strength in legislatures came down drastically.

With middle-level castes asserting themselves other than the backwards, Dalits and Tribals, Kayasthas were no longer getting favour from political parties. Even in urban centres, it was becoming difficult to claim a seat as a person gets ticket on the basis of the numerical presence of his/her caste group in the constituency.

Srivastava, Saxena, Mathur, Bhatnagar, Asthana and Nigam were getting replaced by Yadav, Meena, Dangi, Gujjar, Kushawah, Kori, Majhi, Maurya and Balmiki. The scenario is same across the country now, either in Assemblies or Parliaments.

In 1952, the first Lok Sabha had 47 Kayasthas. In 1999, the figure was just 5. The first Lok Sabha had 8.7% Kayasthas and in 1999 there were just 0.9%. The change came in a few decades. Though till 1977, their percentage, even after fluctuation, remained substantial, post-1989, their number fell steeply.

While the Mandal movement affected all the Upper Castes, none of the groups suffered such a sharp decline in its representation as Kayasthas.

The Brahmins, and even Thakurs (Rajput), in comparison, have still managed to retain their hold and numerical strength to a certain degree in politics.

For those who aren't aware of the caste system, Brahmins, Banias and Thakurs are the Upper castes. Kayasthas are also considered as an Upper caste.

The Kayasthas mainly worship Lord Chitragupta, their patron deity, who keeps a record of good and bad deeds of human beings on earth.

One of the most famous Indians, Amitabh Bachchan aka Amit Shrivastav, [son of Hindi poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan is also a Kayastha. And so was the great Vivekananda. Also, other famous Kayastha personalities include Urdu poet Firaq Gorakhpuri, Subhas Chandra Bose, Prem Chand & Jai Prakash Narayan [JP].

[*The website link]

[A caste in Maharashtra, Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu or CKP, to which Bal Thackeray belongs is also considered as Kayastha though there are reservations expressed from some sections regarding the group]