Rajputs and the Indian Left Politics

The Indian politics is primarily centered around the binaries of caste and religion with public centric issues being shoved on the back-burner as a norm. And sadly, even the voters don’t seem to mind this political trend, hence the Indian politics hasn’t quite seen a radical change in its approach. Politics of ideology is not well received for multiple reasons and this is probably the reason why the Indian Right and Left wing do not purely play on ideological turf in the open & tend to oscillate either left of center or right of center; never really aligning with either sides completely. Enough has been spoken and written about the Indian Rightwing but the Left either remains under heavy fire for its perpetual anti-establishment stance or for its activism politics. Today, we choose to shed light on another interesting aspect of the Indian Left, where we connect the dots analyzing the relationship between Indian Left and the Rajputs (Kshatriyas), the oldest martial community of the Indian subcontinent.
The general equation between the Indian Left wing and the Rajputs has largely been hostile. The unapologetic self-conscious Rajputs are neither absorbed by Left parties and activism; nor do Rajputs vote for the left parties or embrace their ideology fully. A thorough probe behind the reasons suggest the following reasons for the wide gulf between the Rajput and the Left Wing:

• Composition of the Indian Leftwing • 

Eminent political theorist Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd rightly quotes in one of his articles, “Communist leaders claim that they recognise class but not caste. But they do not even seem to realise that their own names carry tags of their so-called higher castes (Bhadralok: Brahmin, Baidya, Kayastha triumvirate). Sarkar (Manik), Bhattacharya (Buddhadeb), Basu (Jyothi), Mitra (Ashok) indicate caste background. If the communists believed in de-classing themselves, they should have also initiated a process of de-casting themselves. Indian communists, who took the theory of class struggle from the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ to fight for for socio-economic change and transformation, could have evolved their own theory of caste struggle.”¹ Thus, the Indian Left, primarily is dominated by Brahmin, Kayastha, Vaidya caste groups, who tend to hold their aeons old hegemony over Politburo & grassroot politics, with Dalit-Adivasis being their footsoldiers and agrarian caste groups like Jats/Jatts being their musclemen. 

Dr BR Ambedkar identified the same Brahmanic hegemony within the Indian Left when he said, “The Communist Party was originally in the hands of some Brahmin boys – Dange and others. They have been trying to win over the Maratha community and the Scheduled Castes. But they have made no headway in Maharashtra. Why ? Because they are mostly a bunch of Brahmin boys. The Russians made a great mistake to entrust the Communist movement in India to them. Either the Russians didn’t want Communism in India – they wanted only drummer boys – or they didn’t understand.”²

Also, the targeted and strategic appropriation of other caste groups by the Indian communist parties made its composition one-sidedly hostile towards the interests of the Rajput community. For instance, CPI(M) created a ‘red island’ in Rajasthan in Shekhawati region by unionizing peasants & Jat landlords of this area under All India Kisan Sabha in 2017. Since the land-owning farmers of this region were mostly Jats, the history of Communist-led peasant movements has been under a Jat umbrella since 1932, when social mobilization was targeted against the jagirdars, mainly from the Rajput caste

• Ideology of the Indian Left and projection of Rajputs as common enemy •

The left wing ideologues divide society into faceless masses and the elite, the latter being the top privileged section of a society, exercising the functions of administration and patronage of culture. The chief purpose of a concept like this is to make the working classes believe that the roadblock between them and an independent life is the exploiter ruling class. This concept of class antagonism is peddled as caste antagonism by the Indian Leftwing, projecting the oldest ruling and warring community of Rajputs as the ‘exploiter class’. This slow feeding of micro-aggression amongst the Dalits & other backward groups towards the Rajputs by the Indian Left (ideology) results in culmination of the binary of Exploiter vs Exploited (caste groups), which is the fertile breeding ground for the communists to play champion of the exploited masses. Typecasting the Rajputs as ‘the common enemy’ has been executed by the Leftwing through soft and overt propaganda through decades and through multiple channels. Hence, the question of embracing self-aware Rajputs within the Left fold is suicidal for their own ideology.

• Propaganda & Activities of the Indian Left against the Rajputs 

 Ideology: The Rajputs had a blood drenched history of warring and sacrifice and had acquired a large part of the lands owing to their militaristic campaigns, as anywhere in the world martial history. Incidentally, Mediaeval rulers of the Indian subcontinent had divided the society into different administrative ranks and the title of ‘Samant’ or ‘Zamindar'(Feudal) was allocated to the classes who were delegated the task of administration, revenue collection & we’re deployed to supervise above peasants. Many caste groups like Jats, Gujjars, Tyagis, Ashrafs including Rajputs were made feudatories but the left ideologues shrewdly handpicked the Princely State Rulers and the Rajputs to be typecasted as the epitome of the exploiting ‘Feudal Landlords’.

Politics: During the first general elections of Independent India, the CPI’s election manifesto obliquely critiqued the Nehru Government for its pro-Zamindar approach. It blamed the Nehru Government of paying hefty compensation to the zamindars, following the abolition of the zamindari system, and allowing the princely states to continue their corrupt and oppressive rule, these being the two main pillars of feudalism which sustained the British rule.⁴
Prakash Karat traces the history of Indian communism by saying, “From the outset, Communists strove to deepen and widen a democracy constrained and distorted by the class rule of the bourgeois-landlord alliance. At the time of independence, the concentration of land was enormous in the hands of a narrow stratum of zamindars and landlords. For the Communist Party, land reforms became the basic slogan to weaken landlordism.”⁵

The Left nurtured Naxalite violence under the garb of caste-wars further targeted the common Rajputs through massacres & ambushes.

The CPI (ML-Liberation) which started out as an underground communist party in the 1970s but joined mainstream parliamentary politics since the late 1980s has evolved from a strictly land-based struggle to one with a broad-based agenda in tune with the aspirations of Dalits.⁸ The violence of caste landed armies was avenged by such Marxist-Leninist organizations [Naxalites], who claimed to be well wishers of the poor peasants.In 1987, The members of the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), a Naxalite group, massacred 43 Rajput peasants in the villages of Dalelchak and Baghaura. Significantly, all those convicted belonged to the backward Yadav caste.⁶

On electoral front, the Left wing has selectively fielded candidates against the Rajputs to dilute and decimate the electoral influence of the Rajputs. For instance, In electoral parlance, Aurangabad is often called the Chittorgarh of Bihar because it has, for years, elected only Rajput candidates to the Lok Sabha. In 2019, Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S) fielded Upendra Prasad, a Dangi (Kushwaha), against Sushil Singh, BJP’s sitting Rajput MP. This has heightened the chances of the constituency witnessing a close contest between them on caste lines. some recall Upendra’s links with the Revolutionary Communist Centre (RCC). “Upendra was with RCC that was in direct conflict with Maoist Communist Centre in Imamganj. The RCC was an outfit of Koeris”.⁷

As highlighted already, other backward caste groups & Dalits-Adivasis have been strategically appropriated by the leftwing to fuel the stigmatisation & ideological violence against the Rajputs.

In this continuum, the Left leadership, dominated largely by Brahmin Baniya, Vaidya, Khatri and Kayastha groups not only obliquely targeted the (Rajput) landlords through manifestoes & sloganeering but also ushered in a soft propaganda through cinema, theatre and literature.Culture & Popular Media : Cultural arms of the Leftwing like IPTA has had a legacy of writers and directors who depicted Rajputs as quintessential exploiters and villains through their literature & films. Left ideology entered Indian cinema with the artists of IPTA and films like ‘Do Bigha Zameen’, ‘Madhumati’, where the negative portrayal of a Rajput character became a norm. Writers like Premchand wrote stories like ‘Thakur ka Kuaan’, linking ‘Thakur’ to the image of a feudal exploiter forever.

Historiography: From academic denialism meted out to historical contribution of Rajputs to targeted smear campaign against Rajput figures and now, appropriation and distribution of Rajput identity to other caste groups, the left historians have played their part in this anti-Rajput rhetoric very prominently.

In 2004, when the Left supported UPA came to power, Former NCERT chief and academician J S Rajput was declared a non-person and all traces of him have been ordered to be expunged.¹² Notably, Rajput had been on forefront of revising NCERT syllabi during NDA rule to Left scholars’ disapproval.
Left leaning Historian Girish Shahane casually terms Rajputs as ‘defeat specialists’⁹, Prof Harbans Mukhiya on record blatantly negates the contribution of Rajputs in the Indian Freedom Struggle¹⁰, JNU scholar Ruchika Sharma routinely smears the Rajputs by maligning their history on odd days and by calling their historical figures fictional on even days.¹¹

On distortion of Rajput history & academic appropriation of Rajput figures by other caste groups, the leftist scholars silently approve of this cultural usurping. In an article by India Today, a prominent Left leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, insists that alleged ‘lower castes’ are doing the right thing by demolishing Rajput ‘monopoly’ over the Rajput icons. This strips bare the agenda that Rajput history is systematically being usurped and divided amongst different groups in connivance with historians and political strategists to scaffold their social engineering agenda. By yielding to project of ‘Rajputisation’ of other caste groups, these historians fuel clashes between Rajputs & other traditional social allies like Gujjars, Bheels, Meenas, Sikhs etc.

• Contribution of Rajputs to the Left Ideology •

Although broad brushed as feudal and oppressors by the Left leaning intelligentsia, Rajputs continued to exhibit their zeal for justice and commitment to the socialist cause, with or without the Red flag.

Rupesh Kumar Singh: An upper-caste Rajput, Rupesh Kumar Singh was committed to chronicling the plight of forcibly displaced Adivasis in Maoist insurgency-hit areas in the states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh facing militarization, pollution and takeover of their lands. involved in issues concerning India’s most disadvantaged community, its 110 million Adivasis or tribals.  Rupesh Singh was arrested for his alleged links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) or CPI (Maoist). Singh was booked on similar charges in 2019, but released on bail after police failed to produce a charge sheet.¹³

Comrade Chandra Singh Garhwali :He was a soldier in the British army who refused to open fire on unarmed people. This gave high status to the Garhwali battalion in Peshawar Revolt and since then, Chandra Singh got the name of Chandra Singh Garhwali and came to be considered the hero of Peshawar Revolt. These soldiers were prosecuted for not obeying the British. On 22 December 1946, due to the cooperation of the communists, Chandra Singh was able to enter Garhwal again. In 1967, he contested the election as a candidate of the Communists, but he did not get success in it.¹⁴

Vishwanath Pratap Singh: The National Front with V. P. Singh as its convener fought the 1989 elections. They won a simple majority but thanks to the support, from outside, of the Communist parties and of the BJP, V. P. Singh was able to form a government. He mooted historical decisions like implementation of the Mandal Commission report, giving OBC reservations in central government institutions. This decision by a Rajput PM born in a feudal household continues to remain a shining medallion in the history of Indian social justice movement that belies claims of Rajputs being merely exploiters.

Atishi Singh ‘Marlena’ : The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Atishi Marlena’s surname ‘Marlena’ was reportedly given by her left leaning parents and was a combination of names of communist thinkers Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.¹⁵ Atishi’s pathbreaking job in education sector in the Delhi government has earned her laurels nationally and internationally.

Raghuvansh Prasad Singh : Raghuvansh Babu, the senior RJD leader was the unsung architect of MGNREGA, the programme that survived change of political colour at the Centre and emerged as a lifeline for millions of local labourers and migrant workers.

Comrade Pitambar Singh: Leftist leader and former MP Comrade Pitambar Singh, born in the family of an ordinary farmer in the remote rural Kadhan-Bariya village of East Champaran district of Bihar, kept fighting for the rights of the poor, laborers, students and youth all his life. He has worked to open many schools for the development of education. Late Pitambar Singh is also called Lenin of Champaran.

Comrade Satyanaran Singh (SN or SNS) was born in a peasant family in Bhojpur district of Bihar. Young SN worked among the peasantry in old Shahabad district (comprising of Bhojpur, Buxar, Rohtas and Kaimur now) especially among landless and poor peasants. SN survived and made important contribution to the communist revolutionary movement of the country. SN had played an important role as an architect in the struggle against revisionism and neo-revisionism as well as left deviation.. His struggle against ‘Left’ deviation began with criticism of annihilation of rich peasants -equating them with landlords.

Kunwar Brajesh Singh of the Kalakankar royal family: Kunwar Brajesh Singh was among those communist leaders who made Moscow, Soviet Union, his home after 1930. Singh was one of those students who became an active communist and began closely working with MN Roy to establish the Group of Oppositional Indian Communists that would be affiliated with the Communist Party of Germany Opposition and INC. The primary reason for the establishment of the organisation was to protest the Ultra-leftist attitude of the Communist International in India. He also married Joseph Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva.

Adam Gondvi : Gondvi, (pen name of Ramnath Singh), was born in Gonda in UP in 1947, the year of India’s independence. He made ghazals a medium for people’s protests. Gondvi was primarily a peasant by livelihood. His poetry got its revolutionary edge from his proximity to left movements. His poetry was a powerful voice against communal frenzy, calling passionately for an end to war on religious lines, and calling instead for a united war on poverty and oppression. He lived and died in poverty.

Commander Arjun Singh Bhadauria adopted a revolutionary role in the war of independence and recruited armed soldiers by forming the ‘Red Army’ on the lines of Russia and tried to achieve independence by carrying out planned attacks on British positions. He was given 44 years of rigorous imprisonment by the British and this revolutionary great man, who was constantly transferred from one jail to another, was kept with shackles on his hands and legs continuously for two and a half years. He was arrested 52 times. After independence, Commander Saheb joined the socialist organization of Acharya Narendra Dev, Jaiprakash Narayan, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia and started carrying the torch of socialism. The foundation of the strong stronghold of Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh was laid by Commander Saheb.¹⁷

Bhoodan Movement: Gandhian Vinoba Bhave’s idea of the land-gift movement for the landless peasants saw unparalleled contribution from the Rajputs, royals and commoners alike. Raja Bahadur Giriwar Narayan Singh, Raja of Ranka donated highest acre of land to the village in Palamau area on 19 November 1969. From Bihar alone, around 15 lakh acres of land was donated by Ruling zamindars for the Bhoodan Movement.

• Rajput antagonism towards the Left Wing •

Regimental Tradition of the Rajputs: The Rajputs, have been par excellence the military caste of the Indian subcontinent. They have a legacy of fighting bravely against the enemy till death. This tradition continues till date since the Rajputs join the Indian armed forces as a duty and inherited legacy. Till date, the Rajputana Rifles has an equal mix between Rajputs and Jats, while the Rajput Regiment mainly has Rajputs and Gujjars with a sprinkling of Muslims and Bengalis.¹⁶ This, the inculcation of nationalistic spirit comes naturally to the Rajputs. Whereas, Left-wingers often cite the adage that patriotism is the last resort of the scoundrel. The communists don’t completely endorse romantic nationalism like the Rajputs; instead they vouch for the concept of universal citizenship. Communists have a track record of criticizing Indian Army in Kashmir, North East & Tribal belts. These conceptual contradictions in the idea of nationalism & patriotism makes The Left and the Rajputs misfit for each other.

Communal Appropriation of the Rajputs It is an open secret how the Right wing has appropriated Rajputs in their communal project owing to the religiosity and Righteous commitment of the latter. Not only have the Rajputs been made frontline champions of the Ram Janmabhoomi Andolan, they also claim their rightful descent from Shri Ram. BJP MP from Rajsamand (Rajasthan), Diya Kumari a member of the erstwhile Jaipur royal family, claimed that her family has descended from Lord Ram’s son Kush. Owing to their religious zeal, they’ve been made flag bearers of Sanatan Dharm & often, radicalized with ‘Muslim invaders against Hindu Rajput king’ rhetoric by the Right-wing. This communalism & religious jingoism distances the Rajputs from Indian communists, who contest the (above-mentioned) majoritarian narrative with subaltern stories. On top of that, Atheism of the left ideology doesn’t sit well with religiously inclined Rajputs.

Incitement against the RajputsAs discussed earlier, the Leftwing pitches the Dalits-Adivasis and OBCs against the Rajputs in an attempt to change traditional social dynamics of the caste ridden Indian society. But interestingly, the Left wing treads cautiously as they criticise the Brahmins with disclaimers but they attack Rajputs in face with hollow theories & culture war. The left has been on the forefront of pitting other communities against the Rajputs eg Meenas against Rajputs using Moolniwasi idiom for the former. Yadavs & Brahmins have been pitched against Rajputs in Bihar & UP by Leftwing activists using fabricated clickbaits as ‘Thakurwad’ using social media and popular rhetoric. This distances Rajputs from parties associated with the left, as they see a perpetual detractor in the Leftwing.

• Conclusion •

Although Rajputs and The Indian left wing continue to remain at ideological loggerheads for various reasons since decades, there is always a hope for reconciliation and mending the wall with changing socio political circumstances. Pragmatism takes a lead over Ideology in Indian politics and the sooner Rajputs and the Indian Communists learn this, the better!


¹ https://scroll.in/article/904775/continuing-indifference-of-communist-leaders-towards-caste-discrimination-in-india-is-worrisome
² BAWS Vol-17 Part-1, Page-406, Dr B.R. Ambedkar
³ https://scroll.in/article/851229/sikar-farmer-agitation-how-the-cpi-m-created-a-red-island-in-rajasthan
⁴ https://thewire.in/history/how-communist-party-of-india-emerged-as-largest-opposition-to-congress-in-1951-52
⁵ https://peoplesdemocracy.in/2020/1018_pd/communists-and-struggle-democracy
⁶ https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/indiascope/story/19921215-maoist-killers-in-bihar-accused-of-killing-43-rajput-peasants-sentenced-to-death-767289-2012-12-21
⁷ https://m.timesofindia.com/elections/lok-sabha-elections-2019/bihar/news/in-bihars-chittorgarh-rajput-defender-faces-obc-challenger/amp_articleshow/68784317.cms
⁸ https://thewire.in/politics/bihar-bhojpur-dalits-communists-land-struggle
⁹ https://amp.scroll.in/article/728636/what-our-textbooks-don-t-tell-us-why-the-rajputs-failed-miserably-in-battle-for-centuries
¹⁰ https://www.bbc.com/hindi/india-42793512
¹¹ https://scroll.in/article/858619/history-lesson-padmavati-was-driven-to-immolation-by-a-rajput-prince-not-ala-ud-din-khalji

¹² https://m.rediff.com/news/2004/aug/03swadas.html
¹³ https://article-14.com/post/another-strike-against-the-free-press-why-a-journalist-who-stood-with-adivasis-was-arrested-62f1c669d732c
¹⁴ https://www.rajputcommunity.in/t/chandra-singh-garhwali-chauhan-soldier-who-refused-to-fire-on-unarmed-people-and-became-a-freedom-fighter/953
¹⁵ https://www.sciencespo.fr/mass-violence-war-massacre-resistance/en/document/v-p-singh.html
¹⁶ https://m.timesofindia.com/india/army-rejects-calls-to-raise-new-units-based-on-caste-or-religion/articleshow/18248941.cms
¹⁷ https://agnialok.com/commander-arjun-singh-bhadauria-is-not-just-a-name-but-history/

Credits Aeshwarya Thakur

With valuable inputs from Rajeev Singh Jadaun and A.S. Deora

क्षत्रिय सामाजिक, राजनीतिक और धार्मिक चेतना मंच।

Jai Ramdev ji | Jai Tejaji |JaiGogaji |Jai Jambho ji| Jai Dulla Bhati | Jai Banda Bahadur |

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