The ‘M’ Word

reservation-2.jpgIn the Indian history of resistance, that flaming metaphor was something new. The sacrificial rite of Rajeev Goswami, a 20-year-old graduate from Delhi University, was a rejoinder– naively romantic but powerful– to the politics of denial and division. His self-immolation presented the new face of youth of India.

Students became the force of dissent and change. They wanted freedom from the most divisive ‘M’ word- ‘MANDAL’. Mandal partitioned the mind of India, and it reinforced the truism that caste is the last refuge of the desperate politician. A social engineer named, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, wrote the script of this division. Mandal changed the syntax of Indian politics, and one politician’s paranoia made caste the last- and the lasting- arbiter of Indian politics. No political party could show the courage to counter the caste agenda of the Mandal revolutionary. The biggest traitors are our own politicians who play the caste game and weaken the nation, only to strengthen their own position. India stands divided in the name of social justice.

The specter of Mandal has not stopped haunting. We recently saw a desperate politician playing out the script of Mandal modified to make him a bit more relevant in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. For a while, Arjun Singh set the social and cultural agenda of this government. Like the first Singh of India’s social Balkanisation, he too played quota politics as if he was the chosen one to be the keeper of India’s social conscience. This time too, it witnessed a resistance from students, though in a more non-violent way.

The caste has become indispensable part of India’s politics and few states in country where caste determines everything in an election, plays a huge role in general elections. A dangerous emerging dimension to the caste system is the formation of political outfits based on caste affiliations. The leaders of such political parties seek alliance from other political parties in furtherance of their objective of gaining benefits and political empowerment and form what is now known as “vote banks”. Every assessment, which they make of national problems, policies is based on one factor and that is caste. The result of this is perpetuation of caste system rather than its eradication.

The way class-wars and caste-wars are going on in India; we would see another divided India. Why can’t we see the writing on the wall?

Reservation in Indian law is a form of affirmative action whereby a percentage of seats are reserved in the Parliament of India, state legislative assemblies, central and state civil services, public sector units, central and state government departments and in all public and private educational institutions, except in the minority and religious educational institutions, for the socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or the Scheduled Castes and Tribes who are perceived by the government to be inadequately represented in these services and institutions.

The Hindu society may be a caste-ist society, but the Indian Constitution is not a caste-ist constitution. In fact, it forbids governance on the basis of caste, religion, place of birth and language or any one of them. So there is no justification at all to provide or enable reservation on the basis of caste. When the state does not discriminate admission to educational institutions on the basis of caste, there is no justification at all to provide reservation on the basis of caste, which instead of eliminating caste perpetuates it.

Caste based policies are divisive, anti-secular, and anti-progressive. The policy practiced today of the so-called crusaders of the downtrodden and the following appeasement policy adopted by their rivals to counterbalance their actions have lead and would further lead to fragmentation and division of the society which would be irreversible if allowed to continue any longer.

The reservation system is being misused to create a privileged ruling elite, instead of creating an equal society. Reservation is thus impending social justice and development instead of promoting and diffusing them.

Mayawati’s government was elected in Uttar Pradesh with ‘Sarvajan’ slogan but the chief minister still loves the ‘R’ word and has announced 30 per cent reservations in private sector as well as the state. There are other examples also where political parties are more interested in giving reservations to seek some benefits, be it reservations for poor, in upper class, minority reservation, Dalits Christians and Muslims etc.

As one can see, the caste politics will be played again during the 2009 parliamentary elections to gain some sort of mileage. It is obvious that we cannot eradicate caste under the garb of caste reservation. The impact of reservation, in its current phase is anti democratic. The political mind of India has been mandalised beyond redemption and the ghosts of Mandal will return to create further divisions in our caste-ridden society.

Rishabh Srivastava

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