A group of concerned citizens have launched “Meri Jati Hindustani”, a new movement to pressurise the government to discard caste from Census-2011. The citizens under the banner of Sabal Bharat (Strong India) held a press conference in the Capital to state their aims and to raise popular support against inclusion of caste in the Census.

The group has won backers in former Lok Sabha Speakers Somnath Chatterjee and Balram Jakhar and former Union Ministers Ram Jethmalani, Vasant Sathe and Jagmohan. A core group with citizens from all walks of life has been formed with senior journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik as convener.

Among the members of the core group are former Union Minister Arif Mohammed Khan, dance exponents Sonal Mansingh and Uma Sharma, former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha Subhash Kashyap and former bureaucrats Bhure Lal and Jagadish Chandra Sharma.

A mission statement released by the group reminded the government that “the Constitution makers had realised the divisive potential of caste and community and had specifically abolished untouchability and separate electorates to deny caste and community and role in the political domain”.

Speaking to media persons, Mr. Vaidik said the initial response to the campaign was overwhelming and he had been invited by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to lead a delegation to meet him to voice their opposition to the inclusion of caste in the Census. He added that the group strongly supported meaningful affirmative action for the deprived and disadvantaged sections of society.

Mr. Balram Jakhar said he feared that inclusion of caste in the Census would create divisions in society and divide the country along caste lines.

Mr. Vasant Sathe opined that India was perhaps the only country where society was divided by caste and such moves by the government would give recognition and respect for caste identities.

Mr. Arif Mohammed Khan said the citizen was being forgotten in the rush to identify people along caste and community lines.

Mr. Subhash Kashyap noted that both Jawaharlal Nehru and B.R. Ambedkar dreamt of a casteless society. He added that the Supreme Court had noted on many occasions that caste cannot be the only criterion to decide social and educational backwardness.

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