Indian politics has always been pulled in opposite directions by Mandal and Kamandal. Protests by Dalits in Maharashtra and the backlash by the Marathas show, after a brief hiatus, rival forces of the two brands of identity politics have begun their tug-of-war again.
That a 200-year-old battle between Dalits and Peshwas at Koregaon has revived this political war isn’t just a coincidence. For the past few years, the politics of religion, symbolised by the Kamandal (Ram Mandir) movement, had been asserting itself in India. Its counter, the politics of caste symbolised by the Mandal movement, was inevitable.
The Mandal and Kamandal movements have always been ideologically opposed to each other. Dalits have historically been oppressed by the upper castes, especially in rural India. They have valid grievances against the socio-cultural and political hegemony and tyranny of the trinity of Tilak, Tarazu and Talwar (Brahmins, traders and Kshatriyas) that have never been resolved or addressed completely.
This animus has intensified over the decades because of the desire of the Dalits to assert themselves through two means: One, through political mobilisation that seeks more power for Dalits and their representatives. Two, by seeking quota benefits and opposing the extension of reservation to communities that have been politically, socially and socially more advantaged.