Let me tell you, I am not proud of my caste, my region or my religion. I am only proud of being an Indian. Caste, creed, religion, colour or sex of a person never bothers me. And I feel that this is the thinking of majority of the youth in India today as well. However, there are ‘few’ in this country who don’t allow you to forget your caste and religion for the sake of their personal interests.
The Bench that gave its verdict on the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota said, “Reservation is necessary for transcending caste and not for perpetuating it. Reservation has to be used in a limited sense, otherwise it will perpetuate casteism in the country.” When the hearing began in the year 2006, senior advocate K Parasaran, appearing for the Tamil Nadu Government said “They (upper caste) dominated for centuries and now they should suffer.” What a great thought.
Ever since I have developed an understanding of Indian politics, one thing which I have observed is that the whole of Indian politics is based on ‘caste’. Mahatma Gandhi, BR Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru had radically different approaches to caste, especially over constitutional politics and the status of ‘untouchables’. Till the mid 1970s, the politics of independent India was largely dominated by economic issues and questions of corruption. Since 1980s, caste has emerged as a major issue, after the Mandal report in 1979. Since then, many political parties have emerged in the country with caste being their main issue.. Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Janta Dal (JD), Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) etc are some of the names in this list. Because of caste politics, people vote en bloc, as a community and they benefit en bloc. This leads to the rise of regional issues over national issues. The situation worsens when the regional sentiments start taking over national issues.
India needs to rise above caste politics and look up to someone who can bring the society together. If the pessimists point that it is simply impossible, then I fear the worst is coming very soon. The verdict of the Supreme Court has given Congress a chance to woo their lost political base, especially in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar, where caste politics is dominant in its worst shape. And you won’t be heard in the political arena if you voice your opinions against the move. The reason is that, no political party has the courage to support the ‘right’ today. Caste politics is an arena where you cannot dare or are not allowed to say anything about the other caste, even if you are right. The reservations and the politics that is being played in our country is the ‘politics of reverse discrimination’. If you have read the newspapers in the last few weeks and months you will understand the point that I am trying to make here.
Take Mayawati’s attack on Rahul Gandhi last month. She said in a rally that after spending the night with a Dalit family and, indeed, whenever he met Dalits, Rahul went back to Delhi for a purification ritual. What is more, he even had a bath with a special “saabun”. I wonder how Mayawati knows that. Surprisingly, there was no furore over the issue and every section of political party kept silent as they fear attacking a Dalit leader, ruling the most populous state.However, would the story have been the same, if the same thing was said by another person belonging to the upper caste? I guess he would have been isolated in the political circle and would have had to face extreme consequences. Why was there no critic for the sheer show of casteism by Mayawati? The point is highlighted by yet another incident, which took place few weeks back. Mahendra Singh Tikait, a Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader who called Mayawati chamar and had been arrested following a wide spread agitation. Later Tikait said, “It was a slip of tongue and I used wrong words. She is like my daughter. I am ready to withdraw my remarks. We don’t want any violence”. He was still arrested and released on bail a few days later. How ironical. Is this not a case of reverse discrimination? Will the problem abate if this is the attitude of the chief minister against the upper caste?
I still remember an incident, which took place in the UP assembly when a leader from the opposition pointed out that raising statues of BR Ambedkar throughout the city might be a plan to acquire land illegally. The point raised was very genuine but he was attacked from all the quarters of the political arena. How dare he raise such a point, which involves an icon of the underprivileged? Is Dr Ambedkar not an icon for India as a whole?
Leave the caste aside. You will see reverse discrimination that exists for Hindus in our nation. When the Ram Sethu controversy was going on, Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) leader and Tamil Nadu chief minister said some seriously derogatory remarks against the Hindu religion and its followers. It is just unimaginable what would have happened if a similar remark had come from a leader of Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) or any party for the fact, against the Muslims. You would have found so many caretakers for the issue then. But nothing was said or done against Karunanidhi for his remarks, which had the potential to trigger a backlash that time. The proposal to give reservations on the basis of religion is another case of reverse discrimination.
Indian politics is in dire straits, where the people in power do not want to create an egalitarian society. Neither appeasement nor hatred solves any problems. Solutions lie in courage and magnanimity. Our politicians don’t want to solve the real problems, because their power depends upon complicating the problem that already exist. The more miserable the citizen is, the more powerful the politician becomes. Sir Ernest Benn, once described politics as the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy. We have the prime examples for the statement!
[Image Source: http://flickr.com/photos/bootbearwdc/20109566/]