The current politics of reservation need to be converted into representation and we must talk about it in proportionality. Let the Savarnas get their proportional share in India’s nation-building and allow all the other communities to have that too.
The quota bill providing 10% reservation for the upper caste poor has been passed by the Rajya Sabha with the support of opposition parties like Congress, Samajwadi Party, AAP and left parties. The AIDMK walked out of the Parliament with DMK also taking a stand as Tamil Nadu already has 69% quota. The question is whether this act will be challenged in the court of law and if it is, then will it be quashed or will it remain. Is the government sincere or is it just playing the gallery before the general elections?
According to newspaper reports, “The 124th Amendment Bill provides for 10% reservation to economically weaker sections in the general category, especially upper castes. “Weaker section beneficiaries” include people who earn less than ₹8 lakh annually, own less than five hectares of agricultural land, the residential property of less than 1,000 sq. ft and a residential plot that is less than 109 square yards in a notified municipality and 209 square yards in a non-notified municipality.”
Bill helps Savarna elite and betrays the poor
No one knows how the government came to the conclusion for 10% quota. The provisions and definitions of the bill clearly indicate that this bill is actually against the poor upper castes. There may be a substantial number of those categorized as upper castes who might be absolutely landless and might be living in BPL families. It is shocking to see the governments definition of the economically deprived, which might as well describe the pamper salaried class, many of who might be in plum secretarial positions, teachers in Universities living in government bungalows yet may not have any house or land in their name, for all technical purposes. The bill’s provisions are actually meant to help these Savarna elites and is a clear betrayal of the poor who will never be able to compete with the middle-class Savarna elite which defines India today.
If the government was really bothered about Savarnas, it should have appointed a commission in the same vein as Mandal Commission. We do believe there are many communities and people who live below the poverty who need economic support.
Government jobs are not an anti-poverty programme, reservations address the issue of representations in power structure and it is a well-known fact that right from academia, media, bureaucracy and other power structures, the Savarna castes from various states dominate. Among them, the Brahmins dominate in these services taking the fat share, followed by Kayasthas, Baidyas, Nayars, Reddy’s, Bhumihars, and Banias. It would have been better if a government formed commission gave a state-wise report of all castes and their share in power so that those who have not got it, are given due opportunities. The sheer generalization of quotas as upper castes, Scheduled Castes, OBCs, etc only helps the numerically, financially powerful who are well connected to grab the positions. The right thing would have been to do a survey of all the Indian govt jobs as well as state jobs and get the caste-wise status and then opt for representation of those communities who have lesser representation or no representation. Despite reservations in jobs, we don’t find Balmikis, Tharus, Boxas, Doms, Mushahars and other numerous communities in government jobs. It is the sweeping generalization of the bigger categories that allows powerful and dominant people to take advantage of the situation and the most marginalized remain on the margins. Who represents them and why should anyone else represent them? Why not the communities themselves?
General does not mean Savarna but unreserved
It is also important to understand that ‘general’ categories are not upper caste categories. General has been wrongly interpreted as upper caste for the last two decades after the Mandal commission hit the backbone of the Savarna politics of dominance. General clearly means non-reserved seats and hence anyone who is not applying through quota can apply here. If the government criteria for 10% is not challenged then I am sure 90% Indians can apply under that but at the end of it, the Brahmanical elite will manipulate.
Savarna bureaucracy at work
This quota was force-fed by the Savarna bureaucracy who are now feeling threatened everywhere with the dominance of the OBCs. The Savarna academia of all varieties manipulated the spaces in the Universities and other prestigious institutions through ‘historical’ connection to power structures and when the OBCs, SCs, STs presence was increasing inside these institutions challenging them, they struck to manage their supremacy. Actually, it started long back and Anna-Kejriwal’s anti-corruption movement was nothing but an assertion of the Savarnas to capture and control their lost background.
The movement was sponsored and supported by the sympathizers of the Sangh Parivar who built the ‘narrative’ of Savarna exploitation. The movement resulted in unprecedented help to RSS and BJP. After BJP came to power, the Savarna caste knew that it is their government and they went berserk. Right from the politics of culture to Ram Temple movement, Savarna were back in the lead. Everywhere, conflicts were created by the Sangh Parivar and its Savarna goons were out to destroy the growing strength of the Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims.
The background for the anti-reservationist agenda started from various phases. Anna’s movement began by creating lots of confusion and differences, followed by the clamour for it by Gujjars, Meenas, Jaats, Rajputs, Marathas and Patidars. All of these communities remain agrarian and politically powerful. Politicians too found it easier to speak about reservation even when they knew that there are no government jobs and this government has killed public sector and bigger institutions. Even railways do not have jobs to give to people.
Shouldn’t political parties be fighting with this government which has systematically destroyed the public sector and the jobs?
It is these people who instigated political parties to go against the issue of the reservation in promotions. Parties like Samajwadi Party, when in power in Uttar Pradesh, actually acted against it. Even the OBC students when demanding fair representation were disappointed to see the stand taken by Akhilesh Yadav that time. The courts have come to the rescue of the Savarna elite and all the issues of reservations for the SC-ST-OBCs now face a huge challenge in different forms. Now the universities have already got reservations in the higher level department wise and thus finishing it in one go.
While the Congress, BJP, AAP and left parties went on the expected lines criticizing the move as political and at the same time trying to not seem anti-Savarna, it was astounding to see the BSP and SP behave the same way even when they know that Savarna votes are not going to come their way. We must compliment the Dravidian parties as well as RJD for speaking up against this categorically.
Why Muslims and Christians are being denied reservation
Speaking in Rajya Sabha, Amit Shah pointed out that parties are ready to give protection to Muslims while opposing it for Savarnas. Amit Shah and his chelas always try to bring the Muslim issue to make it communal and then succeed in their divisive tactics. One of the most shocking thing in the entire quota ‘kahani’ is that everybody is promising things to their caste groups despite well-known fact that there are no opportunities.
The most shocking part of the entire quota debate is that the Hindutva gang has successfully put the entire political spectrum into defensive mode as far as Muslims are concerned as if they are not the citizens of India or one should not talk about their welfare. In the past four years, this government has systematically made Muslims look like a second-grade citizen and every issue is being converted into appeasement of Muslims so that the voters are polarized. But the issue here is whether political parties should succumb to it.
When reports after reports have acknowledged that there are backwards and Dalits among Muslims then why are they not being allowed to get that under the quota. A similar thing happened to Christians too. It is a known fact that majority of Indian Christians are actually Dalits and Tribals who are very low on the economic ladder yet outside the purview of reservation. Now, citizens are being discriminated against on the basis of their religion and our political parties have remained conspicuously quiet just for the fear of a so-called ‘savarna’ backlash. This is disgusting and shameful, to say the least. As a constitutional republic, we cannot violate our constitution and discriminate among citizens on the basis of their religion and castes.
Remembering Mandal days
On August 7, 1990, the then Prime Minister V P Singh announced the acceptance of the Mandal Commission recommendations in Parliament. Nothing happened then but slowly the country was engulfed in fire. The Savarnas, with a solid backing of all the parties and media, unleashed a reign of hatred and terror in the North Indian streets. The hatred was that reservation has been granted for the people know what would happen. Boys and girls would stand up with begging bowl in the street or sweep on the floor with a broom. Many of the boys and girls were seen shining shoes in public suggesting that they will not get a job and hence they will have to do jobs ‘reserved’ for Dalits. Girls were heard saying who would they marry if there were no jobs.
All efforts were made to scuttle the implementation of the Mandal Commission report. The twice-born or what we called Dwijas were completely exposed irrespective of their parties, all of them opposed Mandal. ‘Progressive, leftists, socialists, seculars, liberals all in their unison voices were opposed to Mandal report. The darling of seculars these days, Arun Shourie was shouting his lungs against this, bringing out different reports against the implementation and at the same point of time, refusing to publish the report in support of the Mandal.
But the one thing that Mandal did was change the complexion of India’s Parliament. That might not have been the original agenda of Mandal but the hatred against it resulted in an extraordinary alliance among the Dalits-OBCs and Adivasis. This alliance proved lethal for the Hindutva and Brahmanical forces which ensured that the alliance is broken well in advance. Uttar Pradesh faced the tyranny of feudal Savarnas because of this alliance break up.
Resettlement of land and respect for Adivasis customary rights
Though the political compulsions have compelled both the SP-BSP not to oppose the Savarna reservation in Parliament, it is time for the party leaders to discuss the future agenda in details. An alliance with a short term perspective will not work. It is important, therefore, for the Samajwadis to train their cadres in the Bahujan history and movement.
Long back, when Akhilesh Yadav, first became chief minister and took oath on March 15, I had written that he can fulfil the original agenda of BSP. When both the parties lost last year, I suggested that Mayawati should run for the Prime Ministerial candidacy through the alliance and Akhilesh Yadav should concentrate on Uttar Pradesh.
We are at the historic movement now. Through the Savarna reservation, the BJP and the Hindutva lobby has attempted to make reservations redundant. Be very careful of forces like Youth for Equality, who are said to be opposing it. There may be various reasons for them going to court. The Bahujan forces should form an alliance and demand a complete national census based on caste including upper castes and their economic status. Once the economic status of castes comes out in open state wise, there will be bigger chances of economic poor making alliance with the Dalits, OBCs and Adivasis.
Of course, all these parties cannot just pay lip service to the Pasmanda question and the Dalit Christians issues. They will have to take a categorical stand on their question apart from strengthening the public sectors, redistribute and settle of the land question according to the Mandal recommendations. You cannot hide the land question and that of the forest and water resources with just ‘sarkari jobs’. India’s democracy will only be strengthened once the rural power equations change and that is impossible without a full commitment to land reforms, and respecting the autonomy and customary rights of the Adivasis on forests, fisherfolks on the rivers and pastoralists on the grazing lands.
Proportional representation the only solution
The fact is India will have to one day opt for proportionality in every sphere of its life including the electoral system, as without that we won’t reach anywhere. The current politics of reservation need to be converted into representation and we must talk about it in proportionality. Let the Savarnas get their proportional share in India’s nation-building and allow all the other communities to have that too. But will that happen when the elite Savarnas have full control over media, judiciary and academia? For proportionality to come into our system, we need strong voices of Ambedkarite, Periyarist and other ideologues who can take the Brahmanical system head on and oppose Brahmanism inside their own structure.
Baba Saheb Ambedkar never talked of reservations. In fact, the entire background of the reservations emerged from the Poona Pact where Baba Saheb Ambedkar was pushed for an agreement by Gandhi’s manipulative fasting. Baba Saheb wanted a communal award for a fair share of power for the untouchables in India’s power structure and Gandhi adamantly opposed it.
You cannot fight against the Brahmanical supremacy by creating your own hegemonies in your domain areas. The democratisation of our social structure will ultimately pave the way for proportionality everywhere and vice versa. Let us work for that to make India a better and humane society. For that to happen, parties too must adhere to that principle and start from their own structure otherwise we will always be at the receiving ends when parties give the poor a lollypop and once they are in power, the brokers take control and cadres are only supposed to just keep quiet in the greater ‘interest’ of the party.
A proportional system will ensure India’s diversity and the role to be played by each citizen irrespective of his caste, religion and other identities in nation-building. The country cannot be handed over to the Hindutva nationalists of ‘Hindi Hindu Hindustan’ variety as that will only impose north Indian Brahmanical hegemony on all of us, hence we need to resist all these attempts and expose them. Let the political parties adhering to social justice understand what Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Periyar had spoken of years ago and dedicate to their ideals of social change and not make a mockery of social justice. The time to democratise India’s socio-political structure has come in the greater interest of the country and proportionality at all levels will strengthen it.