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Reserved thoughts on reservation

By Panchendra Kumar Naik for TwoCircles.net

India is facing acute political and moral disorders – flared recently by Hardik Patel led agitation for the reservation for the Patels. As a community, every leader has rights to demand their share of the pie, which is inadvertently grabbed by a few. However, leaders, while demanding their community’s political and economic right over the nations’ wealth, had failed to digest the very raison d’être for reservation.

Was reservation meant for economic upliftment alone? It was merely a subsistence level of compensation that Constituent Assembly hesitantly considered for those thousands of years of untouched servitude that castes included in the Scheduled Castes list lived upon. It was for that seemingly compromised deal (Poona Pact, 1932) which Mr. Gandhi enforced upon, under the veil of violent non-violence, which this group still bearing upon. The elite of this country is those puritans who hated reservation not because it shrank their possession, but because it brought some joy to the Dalit population. The other way to looking at it would reveal greater political conspiracy of the Caste elites; post-independent India has witnessed resistance from the educated underprivileged castes, that if not checked, could lead to dethronement of the ‘hegemonic power’ which this elite has sustained since eon.

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Six decades of the celebrated reservation has passed, and what has it changed is the status quo – from marooned ‘untouchables’ to undignified ‘touchables’. We are happy with this progress, aren’t we? Revision of this Act is a must, as a few of intellects have suggested. Nonetheless, while suggesting a review, ‘parasitic intelligentsia’ failed to sense that ‘creamy layer’ as a criterion for any further reservation policy, is hold as true to the Castes they represent. How a fair and just reservation policy could overlook creamy-layered upper castes, who have grabbed disproportionate social, political and economic power? And, on the top of it straight fifty percentage of the reservation goes virtually to them – without making much ‘uproar.’ Any attempt to trivialize the reservation discourse without revelation of ‘Caste Census’ – that will set a political cat among these pigeons – would surely lead to a political stalemate.

The grave question that looms India’s conscience is that what could be done to settle this castes-paradox. With all conscience consider the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s thesis, ‘annihilation of caste’ – a sure elixir to this political paralysis! All evils of the social, political and economic instabilities are rooted in this draconian caste system. We are done away with all possible economic measures starting from ‘economic nationalism’ to ‘economic liberalization’. Let’s try with this policy measures (if at all such suggestions fall under the ambit of ‘policy’) since much scientific research (in the subject domain of Anthropology, Sociology, Political Science and very recently, Economics, as a discipline) are moribund with ‘caste as a problem’. When it is very well known that this monster is the very genesis and authority of all social and political menaces, then why ‘annihilation of castes’ does not resonate in the Parliament – a custodian of wisdom and mankind.

Acemoglu and Robinson, MIT professors, in their book Why Nations Fail, have clearly mentioned the India’s woe and it reason being impoverished despite all policy experiments. The authors, institutional vocalist, assert that: in India ‘institutional drift worked differently and led to the development of a uniquely rigid hereditary “caste system” that limited the functioning of markets and the allocation of labor across occupations much more severely than the feudal order in medieval Europe, …the “caste system” [is] a serious impediments to the development of inclusive economic institutions in India [p. 118, emphasis added]. Not only this, there are international literature abound on the persecution of caste system on the half of population. Had this ‘caste’ issue not addressed we would assuredly end up in an epitome of the rat race – every group demanding their respective share of the pie!

However, the suggestion, ‘annihilation of caste,’ is easier said than done. It demands churning of entire ‘hegemonic power structure’ embodied in no mean Hinduism. And, that to happen, shattering obscurantist Brahminical-Hinduism is the sine qua non. Are we ripe for that to happen? Thy economic policy can’t wave aside ‘spiritual poverty’ that this religion persecuted on half of population. From cradle to grave, the shade of ‘guilty-being-untouchables’ lives in, dins beyond endurance, wakes them up if they pretend asleep – O mankind, such is this destitute! And, you talk about the ‘reservation’ that hardly satisfies a tiny household of this castes.

“The distance you have gone is less important than the direction in which you are going today,” writes Tolstoy. India’s direction is directionless indeed, shall definitely lead to Fascism 2.0, an Indian version. That would not only subsume Schedule Castes but Tribes and the lower rung of OBCs, Muslims, and Christians. The grave will be at your courtyard. Sir Drummond had a point in stating: He, that will not reason is a bigot; he, that cannot reason is a fool; and he that dares not reason is a slave. The address was to the academia, who is a torchbearer of the conscience of the masses. A great responsibility lies ahead of the Bahujan intelligentsia of this land to refute the claim of their counterpart, the ‘parasitic intelligentsia’ – to propagate an informed dialogue on the reservation and human rights.

Prove your freedom or die a slave, the choice is yours! No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you!

(The author is currently pursuing Ph.D. at Centre for Development Studies (CDS) (affiliated to Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi), Trivandrum, Kerala. He can be contacted through Email: [email protected].)