Political Science II

II Year, IV Trimester
National Law School of India University
ID: 2344
INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................................ 3
CHAPTER I: LOYALTY AND EXILE .................................................................................................... 4
CHAPTER II- POLITICAL OBLIGATION FOR THE DEPRESSED CLASSES ............................................... 8
CHAPTER III: CASTE POLITICS AND ELECTIONS ............................................................................. 12
CONCLUSION.................................................................................................................................. 15
BIBLIOGRAPHY .............................................................................................................................. 15
Caste is a unique form of social division which has existed in India for more than a thousand years
this has gone on to shape the political reality of the modern state. Caste though initially began to
segregate people along the lines of their profession soon got caught up in a larger Brahmin
narrative where they sought to consolidate their position in society and became rigidified. Even
today caste provides perhaps some of the greatest hurdles to upward mobility in India. The way
the caste system works is unique in consideration of the fact that it works along the lines of purity
and impurity where certain tasks are termed to be pure and thus can only be undertaken by
individuals from a particular caste whereas other which are considered impure stop those who
undertake them from even interacting with those who perform tasks that are considered pure.
Though after the implementation of the Constitution the discrimination along the lines of caste was sought
to be abolished it still exists today as the country grapples with a system which had remained the staple for
more than a thousand years. It is particularly due to this that inter-caste marriages are not allowed in various
communities. But the way caste influences politics if much more pervasive and sinister as the tug on the
loyalties of the individual for their own community and manipulate it to force the individual to vote for
candidates who specifically come from a particular caste or group.
Through the course of this research paper the researcher will be aiming to do three things. Firstly the
researcher will look at the way loyalty and political obligations function. In doing this the researcher will
explore the difference that exists between loyalty and political obligation while also examining how this
loyalty influences individuals to act in a particular manner. Then the researcher will explore the relation of
political obligation and those who have been historically disenfranchised by the state. Here the researcher
will look at the way this historical disenfranchisement dislocates the political obligation owed by people of
this community to the state. Finally, the researcher will look at the way caste interacts with politics in India
and in doing so will examine the effects both negative and positive of this interaction.
Very often the terms political obligation and loyalty are interchangeably used in common
parlance.1 For the purposes of this research paper the researcher will begin by trying to distinguish
the two terms. Obligation specifically political obligation refers to the various demands that laws
in a country or agents created by law demand of the common populace. 2 The reason why an
individual often obeys the command of these agencies or the law itself is the fact that these laws
and public agencies are deeply rooted in the principles of natural law and reason. In most liberal
democracies the reason why certain political obligations are accepted by the populace whilst others
are rejected is rooted on the concepts of consent. It is propounded that in liberal democracies that
an individual has the free choice and will to obey the commands of the state and the reason why
they choose to do so is because of a quid-pro-quo between the individual and the state. The state
provides the individual with certain rights while on the other hand demanding certain obligations.3
This theory of political obligation is akin to the model laid out in when discussing the social
contract that an individual enters into with the state and the researcher shall be using this model of
political obligation as the basis for this paper.
What distinguishes loyalty from political obligations is that unlike political obligations which are
meant to cater to the rational exchange between the individual and the state, loyalty is based on
something much more affective and not primarily rational.4 Loyalty for the sake of clarification
shall be referred to as the attachment of an individual towards a social group or identity. The
membership of this social group maybe founded on consent or choice or it may not. But the fact
that an individual belongs to a particular group or identifies with one creates hitherto an obligation
of that individual towards that group. This obligation that the individual feels towards that group
unlike normal political obligation is one which is based on widely emotive and affective factors.
This emotional character of loyalty thus makes it stand apart from any other form of obligation.
Whilst an obligation is driven by rules, loyalty is completely based around the cult of personality
and the feelings that are evoked by nations, ethnic groups, churches, parties and by the doctrines,
J.N.Shklar, Political Thought and Political Thinker, 32(1) CANADIAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, 195-197
J.N.Shklar, Obligation, Loyalty, Exile, 21(2) POLITICAL THEORY, 181-197 (1993).
Supra note 1 at 195.
cause and ideologies the form these associations. When the loyalty towards a group is one which
is created by the choice of an individual than the commitment created is deeply more personal and
one which is made on emotive factors rather than rational or logical ones.
When this loyalty of an individual is given towards a particular group then it is ceremoniously
attached with the fidelity of that individual towards the group. Any cause regardless of it being
moral, political or aesthetic demands this fidelity. This fidelity when extrapolated from mere
hypothesis and looked at in the realm of politics shows us how big a part it plays in modern political
discourse. Political leaders right from Donald Trump in the USA to leaders such as Asauddin
Owaisi demand fidelity from groups which they seek to represent and the groups which they seek
to represent demand fidelity from the individual member’s part of that group. This loyalty and
fidelity towards certain groups and certain leaders is what creates a backing for social movements
and in-groups and out-groups it leads to the affective otherization of peoples and groups which do
not believe in the same political agenda and who might owe loyalties to another group.5
More often this loyalty to groups is not a matter of choice. Very often there is no instrument of
agency that exists when joining a particular group, most of these groups of which an individual
becomes a part of are created by the randomness of birth. No individual chooses to be born Black
or Latino or Brahmin or Dalit. Simply due the randomness of birth individuals are born into various
groups each of which espouse different political and cultural beliefs. The socialization right from
birth of an individual towards that group creates the loyalty.6 An individual who is part of a certain
political or social group feels loyalty towards that group and by association towards that group’s
larger political beliefs because the Individual often recognizes other individuals within is broader
group who share similar life experiences and interests thus binding the individual to the group.
It is now important to note however that these loyalties that an individual has is not limited to a
certain group or towards a certain individual. No matter how sincere an individual may be in their
commitments or no matter how rational a particular belief is, loyalties are stretched and demanded
by various groups and individuals at all times this often breeds conflict as an individual is then
meant to choose between these loyalties and uphold what in their mind is more important.7 For the
Y.Shain, The Shifting Character of Loyalty: The Dilemma of Exiles in Times of War, 22(3) COMPARATIVE
POLITICS, 323-339 (1990).
Supra note 2 at 184.
O.P.Goyal, Caste and Politics – A Conceptual Framework, 5(10) ASIAN SURVEY, 522-525 (1965).
purposes of this paper the loyalty which often breed conflict in the larger political scheme, the one
between loyalty towards a particular cultural group and the nation-state shall now be looked into.
The feeling of nationalism and the rhetoric that often accompanies it can often be reinforced by
the very systems of loyalty which disavow an individual to the state. The nationalist rhetoric can
be coupled with this feeling of loyalty by drawing the link between the group and the nation. By
viewing the group as one working within the larger narrative of a nation which again is created
through common history and experience leads to the reinforcement of the loyalties towards both
the nation and the group. These ideas however conflict when the group is viewed as being wronged
by the nation or it is viewed that the nation is a larger conglomerate controlled by another group.
It is here that the loyalty of the individual is tested.
Now it is important to discuss the second central theme of this chapter, exile. An exile is someone
who is involuntarily forced to leave the country or for the purposes of this research paper a group
which has been removed from the larger political interface of the country.8 This type of exile which
has been examined is often termed by political thinkers as being internal exile. 9 Meaning that
exclusionary laws of citizenship or constitutional regimes which work on unjust or immoral
considerations seek to ouster a group from the political narrative leaving them hapless and
Towards the end of World War II, after the bombing of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese. All
Americans of Japanese ancestry were sent to internment camps or forced to be part of the American
military as a show of loyalty towards the state. These individuals were viewed with distrust by the
state machinery as well as the populace as a whole and seen as illegal aliens.10 However, an
important part of this story which is often lost in the larger discourse is the human and personal
one. There is enough literature which talks about how this policy was wrong, immoral and actively
led to the Japanese being viewed with a lens of xenophobia and suspicion but the human story is
left behind. The one which talks of the intensely personal decision each individual had to make
regarding his loyalty to his ethnicity and that of the state of which he is a part of. In the end more
than two-thirds of the Japanese men volunteered to serve the American army and the ones that
A.Beteille, Race,Caste and Gender, 25(3) NEW SERIES, 489-504 (1990).
Supra note 1 at 1995
Supra note 2 at 188.
didn’t predicated their decision of not joining the military as a feeling of disenfranchisement by
the state.11
This analogy leads us to an interesting question which shall be discussed in the following chapter.
Does an individual or a group owe obligations to the state when that state actively works toward
their disenfranchisement? The questions of loyalty and exile are deeply personal ones and ones
which affect the political climate of a country. The next chapter shall delve into the situation of
the depressed classes in India their organization and the obligations that they owe to the state.
Supra note 2 at 190.
The Vedas while speaking about the origins for the various castes in India talks about how the
Brahmin was born out of the head of God, the Kshatriya out of his hands, the Vaishya from the
thighs and the Shudras from the feet. According to the Vedas these four castes had set objectives
which they had to fulfil straight from birth. A Brahmin was meant to worship, learn and teach, a
Kshatriya was meant to protect and rule, A Vaishya was supposed to trade while a Shudra was
meant to serve. By setting out right at birth the objectives for an individual and denying them the
agency to choose what they want to do or become led to the active disenfranchisement of those
groups which were the lowest in the hierarchy. Thus Shudras and Dalits who were viewed as being
outside the Varna system collectivized and often turned to newer religions ones which wouldn’t
impose the same obligations that the Varna system did. 12
Modern India can be slated to be much more different from the India of the past. There is now
much more technology, infrastructure and opportunities for an individual in this globalized and
multipolar world, yet for those that were historically oppressed things for some reason seem to
remain the same. The age old parochial structures of caste are supposedly ousted by the state and
there is an endeavor that has been made to stop discrimination on the grounds of caste, class or
religion but the situation though a little better off for these disadvantaged communities remains to
a large extent the same. The caste system may have been ended officially but remnants of it still
survive within the populace and as one moves away from the lights of the cities these caste ties
become more prevalent and clearer.13
The Depressed Classes which shall be talked about in this chapter consist of those who for
centuries had been disenfranchised by the caste system and also those who had independent lives
and systems of governance of their own before they were subsumed by the larger state. This
Chapter shall seek analyze whether these historically backward classes owes a form of political
obligation to the state that it is now part of.
A.R.Vasavi, Caste Indignities and Subjected Personhoods, 41(35) ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY, 37663771 (2006).
A.Roy, Caste and Class: An Interlinked View, 14(7) ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY, 297-299 (1979).
To begin with let’s start with those who were systematically disenfranchised by the caste system.
Here while analyzing the caste system it is important to look at the way caste influenced decisions
not only on a larger group based capacity but also affected individual and personal functioning.
Caste as a system is said to have evolved on the basis of needs, it is said that initially rather than
being an exclusionary and oppressing system, the caste system was simply a means of
organization.14 Those individuals who performed a certain function were part of one caste, while
those that performed others were part of another caste. Interestingly enough this mode of
organization was even based on the choice and attributes of that individual rather than the simple
accident of birth. However, over time this method of organization was rigidified such that a clear
hierarchy was created and those at the bottom were precluded from ever reaching the top.
After Indian Independence this system was abolished and constitutional measures were enacted
which prohibited discrimination along the basis of cate lines. The discrimination never really
ended however. New groups sprang up which sought to reinforce the traditional and conservative
notions of caste that existed before the constitution and continued to harangue and plague people
of the depressed classes. Though untouchability was abolished from India by law it remained
within the hearts of people and groups who continued to practice it despite it being prohibited.
It is at this point that we must examine the economic and political capital that exists with these
depressed classes. Due to their historical oppression most individuals from these depressed classes
found themselves lingering along the border of poverty.15 After the capitalization and liberalization
this economic deficiency was even better rooted as it allowed for individuals who already had
capital to become richer while those that remained poor were further pushed into the depths of
their poverty. This economic deprivation was coupled with social deprivation of these castes as
the often found themselves outside the schemes of the government while fostering education or
increasing employment.
A major reason that these depressed classes had very little upward mobility even after
Independence can be ascertained to the intense socialization and conditioning that these classes
faced as a group.16 Straight from the inception of the Varna system these classes were treated as
A.Beteille, Caste and Family: In Representations of Indian Society, 8(1) ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY, 13-18 (1992)
R.Mukhopadhyay, Role of Caste in Agrarian Relations, 8(9) SOCIAL SCIENTIST, 42-52 (1980)
being lesser human beings than those that belonged to other classes, they were forbidden from
drinking the same water as other individuals, or going to school with them or learning about the
way things function. When the Varna system was fully in place the depressed classes were
supposed to feel as if the only thing that they are meant to do is to serve the classes above them.
Over time this bondage to supposed masters and a life of service towards them became their
culture. Poverty and oppression became their ceremonies. Education was viewed as being
something which was outside the mandate of these individuals.17 Further something that intensified
this feeling of deprivation, otherization by the state were the actions of the populace as a whole.
Just like the Japanese who were sent to internment camp for a few years, these classes faced the
same for about a few centuries. It is at this juncture that we begin to ask ourselves this question.
Whether such individuals owe a political obligation towards the state.
The concept of political obligation arises out of the consent of the individual and his or her
willingness to sacrifice certain freedoms in exchange for rights given by the state.18 The state
further creates obligations towards the individuals. Thus the foundation for the entire concept of
political obligation arises out of this exchange that happens between the individual and the state.
But what exactly happens when the state actively works to disenfranchise you, demolish your
culture and makes you fit into a certain mould which it sees as fit?
Discrimination against Dalits and Lower Castes maybe prohibited by the state but it still exists in
society. In large parts of the country inter-caste marriages are not allowed, people of the lower
castes can be actively beaten with sticks and stones for entering into parts of the town which are
occupied by the richer and higher castes. These castes cannot touch various instruments or else
those instruments would be defiled and rendered impure. Students in schools are meant to be wary
of students with a particular surname and domestic helps and servants in big mansions are again
from such depressed classes.
Therefore, despite there not being any sort of discrimination by the state. There is discrimination
by the people and this discrimination becomes structural in nature since most structures have as
their heads individuals from a higher caste thus precluding the lower castes from getting that job.
Supra note 16 at 15.
Supra note 16 at 15.
Education despite reservation for these castes has been missing and there is a negative co-relation
between these castes and higher education. Though one reason might be the in-affordability of
education for these economically depraved people another very important stakeholder becomes
the society and the culture of which they have become a part of. It is viewed against their culture
if they endeavor to move beyond the discrimination that is faced by them and the education which
perhaps is the greatest emancipator is viewed in a negative light. For these reasons they continue
to be oppressed by the system while contributing to their own oppression through subservience
and compliance with a regressive and oppressive system.
Violence against the state has often been a legitimate way of expressing the grievances of an
oppressed class against the oppressor. Beginning with the French Revolution which echoed the
maxims of liberty, equality and fraternity while the peasantry fought against their feudal lords to
the slave rebellions in America where the slaves rebelled against the castigation and oppression
that was forced unto them by the slave owners. The Dalits have in no way been quiet about their
oppression and in Maharashtra carried out a militant uprising against the state which they believed
was the fundamental reason behind their oppression.
To answer the question of whether political obligation is owed by such classes towards the state is
then simple. If the political obligation arises out of rights and protections which are being given
by the state to individuals and groups then when the state fails to confer these protections and the
rights that are given are in a constant state of infringement then the political obligation owed by
the individual ceases towards the state.
The research paper has so far in depth explored the relation between political obligation and
depressed castes and will now move on to the aspect of loyalty which enshrines the way modern
caste politics is played in India.
Caste is a prevalent body which exists both in villages and cities (though probably more prevalent
in the latter) and has dominated the political scenario of the country for the past 60 years. Caste
politics works on the premise that people of the same caste will vote for someone from their caste.
Thus when politicians stand up for elections they do so from constituencies which align with their
caste or ethnic group. This premise is based on an innate loyalty that is shown by people of one
caste for another member of their own and shall be examined in detail through the course of this
Loyalty unlike obligations are much more personal to the individual and are thus based on the
individual’s emotive and affective factors. This is played to great effect in caste politics where
people from the same caste collectivize and then elect a candidate from someone belonging to the
same. There exists an implicit belief that this individual which has come from the same caste will
represent the interests of other individuals from the same caste and will thus be the most able
candidate to work for a certain class of people.
The problem with caste politics is that it moves attention away from issues which affect the people
to who is from what caste. Thus someone who maybe a Brahmin might have stunning ideas
regarding the improvement of the community or the state but the majority of the Dalits will choose
not to vote for the candidate and instead vote for another who might not be as capable but from
the same ethnic group. This constant bickering regarding castes thus stops the agenda of
development for the country as the voting population is then more focused of getting a member of
their caste elected rather than getting someone who might actually get the job done.
There are counter arguments from the other side as well which say that a person from a particular
caste will be in the best position to understand the problems of others from that caste as they will
share common experiences and life events which will influence the person from that caste to work
for the benefit of others from the same group. There also exists an interesting argument regarding
representation and the co-opting of narratives by the more powerful groups. For example when a
white man in America goes about explaining racism, though a perfectly legitimate and noble
expression will not have the validity of the black community simply because the individual has
never faced any racial discrimination himself, all that individual can do is talk about the
experiences and hardships faced by others and not by himself.19 Additionally when someone else
begins telling the story of an individual the story gets co-opted and moulded along the lines of
what the person telling the story sees and good and bad. This might be completely against the ideas
of what is fair and right in the minds of the individual who actually lived the experience.
Entire Political parties have emerged in India to take advantage of this unshaken loyalty that
individuals have towards their caste. The Bahujan Samaj Party led by Mayawati and founded by
Kanshi Ram came from the earlier BAMCEF which was a social group which worked to uplift
individuals from backward castes and bonded laborers. The BSP since its foundation has then gone
on to become the largest party and rule the state of UP twice since its inception, working simply
along the lines of rhetoric which talk about the hardships faced by the Dalits.
Another interesting thing done by parties to evoke loyalty from members of the castes is to create
symbols and icons who represent the culture or oppression faced by the people. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
is a common symbol which is used to unite all Dalits under one umbrella, similarly groups in South
India use Periyar as the image which unites the South together.20 This constant flooding of images
along with the rhetoric heavy speeches that politicians continue making so as to create stronger in
and out groups lead to a polarization of politics where people vote regardless of the issues for
people from the same caste. The biggest problem with such voting is that often once elected into
power these individuals stop working for the caste for which they have been elected and start
working for the party which can give them the quickest way to power. Not only does this deeply
corrupt the political game but also strains at the very heartstrings of what it means to be a liberal
Loyalty as stated before is based on personal connections ones we often do not have the power to
choose. Democracy as an institution which works on the foundation of free and fair choice gets
impinged when the population makes the biggest political decisions on the emotive factors of
Supra note 14 at 3775.
Supra note 15 at 298.
loyalty, loyalties one did not choose but were forced onto by the accident of birth. The principle
of free choice thus gets impinged.
It has been already established that caste plays a deep and pervasive role both in the way society
functions in India and the way that this effects the politics of India. Though the government has
taken several measures to try and disassociate caste and society the years of its functioning has
made it difficult for it to be completely divorced from the way society functions. In fact it may
take a hundred more years before society and individuals within it can function independent of
obligations that are imposed on it by caste.
Through the course of this project the researcher has explored the role that caste has played in
Indian politics. In doing so the researcher has looked at the loyalty aspect and how individuals
within a caste or social group have a strong tie of loyalty towards their caste and how this impacts
the way they choose their leaders. The effects and justification of this loyalty has been looked at
in two ways, first by looking at the reason why people within a particular caste vote for others
from the same here the question of representation has been explored. On the flipside the researcher
has looked at the effects of this caste politics on democracy in India and how it actively stops
individuals belonging from caste groups to make a free and fair choice.
The researcher has then gone on to look at the way the depressed classes have been subject to
historic disenfranchisement by the state and the society. Here the question that is explored by the
researcher is whether such individuals owe a political obligation towards the state. It is concluded
that these individuals in fact do not owe a political obligation towards the state insofar as the state
actively fails to secure rights which should arise from a social contract and the protection of these
Finally the researcher has explored in great depth the relation between political obligation and
loyalty. Loyalty has been defined as something which is commanded without really getting the
consent of the individual. It has been defined as something which works on emotive and affective
factors as opposed to obligation which works on rational factors. The question of loyalty has been
greatly explored by using the way it affects Indian politics. Further an analysis of exile has been
made in relation to the internal exile that is often faced by individuals within a state
1. A.Beteille, Caste and Family: In Representations of Indian Society, 8(1) ANTHROPOLOGY
TODAY, 13-18 (1992)
2. A.Beteille, Race,Caste and Gender, 25(3) NEW SERIES, 489-504 (1990).
3. A.R.Vasavi, Caste Indignities and Subjected Personhoods, 41(35) ECONOMIC AND
POLITICAL WEEKLY, 3766-3771 (2006).
4. A.Roy, Caste and Class: An Interlinked View, 14(7) ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY,
297-299 (1979).
5. J.N.Shklar, Obligation, Loyalty, Exile, 21(2) POLITICAL THEORY, 181-197 (1993).
6. J.N.Shklar, Political Thought and Political Thinker, 32(1) CANADIAN JOURNAL OF
POLITICAL SCIENCE, 195-197 (1999).
7. O.P.Goyal, Caste and Politics – A Conceptual Framework, 5(10) ASIAN SURVEY, 522525 (1965).
8. R.Mukhopadhyay, Role of Caste in Agrarian Relations, 8(9) SOCIAL SCIENTIST, 42-52
9. Y.Shain, The Shifting Character of Loyalty: The Dilemma of Exiles in Times of War,
22(3) COMPARATIVE POLITICS, 323-339 (1990).