A two-day international online conference on the caste census in India will take place at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom on February 5 and 6, 2022. The conference has been organised by the South Asian Alternative Forum, housed at St Antony’s College.
It is the first international conference to host a majority of Bahujan speakers as well as the first to focus on the growing debate around caste census in India. The event will see six panels and 30 noted speakers from diverse fields of academia, journalism, politics, activism and art.
The aim of the conference is to promote conversations around various topics surrounding caste census such as reservation, access to resources, policymaking, wealth distribution, participation of marginalised caste groups in governance, electoral politics, etc. The discussions will aim to raise questions about the construction of ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ in Indian politics, academia and popular culture.
The conference will begin with a keynote speech followed by three panel discussions each day. The first keynote will be delivered by Sonajhariya Minz, vice chancellor of Sido Kanhu Murmu University, while the second day will begin with keynote speech by Bharat Patankar, President of Shramik Mukti Dal.
The following panel discussions are framed to explore political, electoral and cultural nuances of representation, colonial history of caste census, caste census and Muslim question and the links between caste and racial bias. The speakers comprise celebrated scholars, activists and artists, including several noted Bahujan speakers, such as Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, Grace Banu, Ali Anwar, Kancha Ilaiah Shephard, Khalid Anis Ansari, Christophe Jaffrelot, Meena Dhandha, Ellis Monk, Dilip Mandal, Pa Ranjith, Gopal Guru, Meena Kotwal, Asha Singh, Anupama Rao, Suraj Yengde and Satish Deshpande. The first day will also feature a rap performance by celebrated rapper Arivu.
Highlighting the urgency and relevance of the issue, Meena Kotwal, Founder of media platform The Mooknayak noted, “The last caste census was conducted in 1931, but since then there have been significant changes in the demography of India. Therefore, a new caste census is necessary to make sure that those castes that are not represented in the institutions of this country and to take steps towards achieving equality.”
While Dilip Mandal, Former Managing Editor at India Today, pointed out the absurdity of the situation saying, “As Indian society is quite diverse and not having data on its diversity causes a situation in which policymakers are making policies without any empirical evidence. India is one of the unique countries which doesn’t want to have enumeration data pertaining to its primary fault lines.”
The conference is free to attend and open to all. More information about the conference, full schedule and a link to register for the event can be found here.