Proportional representation is the only way to resolve our reservation crisis

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*

This happened about two months back. Though IIT Kharagpur teacher Seema Singh apologised for her abusive remarks against the students of SC-ST-OBCs in an online class, the matter should not have ended there. When the video of her abusive class went viral, I thought whether she was a teacher at the prestigious institution or an old caste prejudiced head master in some nondescript part of the cow-belt where he would beat up the students and use filthy language. Moreover, what is this Vande Mataram, Bharat mata kee jai, business in your classroom? It looked as if some Bajrang Dal members were threatening students over not uttering the same. The behaviour of the teacher was most disgraceful.

After much pressure on social media, the teacher apologised but should that be accepted? I have written many times in the past that India’s institutions of higher learning have become killing fields for the SC-ST-OBC students. Rohith Vemula was institutionally murdered yet despite protests all over the country nothing moved, nobody was guilty and the chapter is closed. Similarly, there are many other students who were forced to commit suicide but the Ministry and these institutions never bothered to find out as what ails them and why the students from the marginalised sections face a hostile environment inside them.

Actually #reservation has become the biggest point of hatred against the SC-ST-OBCs. The savarna hatred that drives them towards Hindutva is purely the thought that the party will dismantle the reservation system so that ‘merit’ can be maintained. We all know ‘merit’ in India is brahmanical hegemony in our institutions that facilitate and run our democracy. Whether it is judiciary, Universities or colleges, bureaucracy or media, this hegemony is now complete. Thirty years ago when the V P Singh government decided to implement the Mandal Commission Report, it was the same forces which opposed it tooth and nail. Political parties realised that opposing reservation is politically damaging hence they ensured that reservation is dismantled without speaking about that. And the result is that since 1991, when P V Narsimharao took over, the public sector was being dismantled and rampant privatisation started in India. It all meant that space for India’s Bahujan Samaj was being reduced in the public sphere even when we saw rise of Bahujan Samaj Party and emergence of strong regional kshatraps belonging to OBC communities. Nothing moved. 27% reservation meant for OBCs became the bone of contention despite the known fact that it was never implemented properly.

Why has the ‘reservation’ issue which unites the ‘Hindus’ of all variety, is unable to unite the Bahujan masses. Why the political parties of SC-ST-OBCs are unable to raise this issue with courage and conviction. All these parties neither raise the issue of land reforms nor speak about reservation ?

I had an interesting anecdote about these parties when I spoke to Late M C Raj, a brilliantly articulating Adijan philosopher who said, ” Look these parties are not Dalit-OBC-Adivasi parties but either led by those who are born into these communities or founded by them. So in the first part the post system, they don’t speak of issues of their community but try to look ‘broader’ and ‘progressive’. In India where brahmanical ‘secular’ elites define you, being progressive means that you despise ‘reservation’ because after all ‘merit’ in India has enabled this elite to keep its hold in power structure.

The Courts are already speaking up against reservation. There is already a ‘ceiling’ of 49% despite the known fact that the SC-ST-OBC population in India is not less than 80% yet even for their ‘legitimate’ seats things are not being done honestly. Universities have ensured that this system is dismantled. All through these years, the elites in India have decided to find ways to demolish the reservation system and they have succeeded because they realise that at the helm of affairs are the people who ‘encourage’ them and support them. At least on this extremely important point the netas support them wholeheartedly.

A video of Tripura DM misbehaving with family members gathered at a marriage ceremony gone viral yesterday. There has been a demand for suspension of the District Magistrate for his behaviour. Even the BJP was upset with it. Now, one can argue for or against the whole incident and the role of District Magistrate but what is happening now is a campaign on social media that the DM has hurt the ‘Hindu sentiments’ as he spoke rudely with the priest there performing the marriage. More tweets started coming in for his being a ‘quota’ appointee. Now, where is the link between the quota and the incident. In fact, some of the people supported District Magistrate Shailesh Kumar Yadav for his strong message. Ofcourse, people like us felt that he should not have been involved straight forward and could have dealt with it in a more polite way.

Why the campaigner started targeting him as a ‘quota’ fellow. Why should he be termed as anti Hindu ? But you know some people sleep with their castes and wake up with this only except the known fact that they never speak on the issues of caste atrocities committed on India’s Dalits and Adivasis.

Anupam Kher recently tweeted that despite all our criticism, ‘ayega to Modi hi’, ‘Modi will return to power despite all our campaign’. Now, I want to narrate an interesting incident of my recent visit to Lucknow which was very short. I met with a known Doctor there who gave me all his ‘knowledge’ about India being ‘super power’ and whatever Modi is doing is just to ‘undo what has happened in the last 70 years’. He was so proud of Narendra Modi that he was not bothered about anything. He said it is not for the prime minister to do things which are supposed to be done by us. His brother, a senior engineer too was happy with the current government yet told me his ‘mazboori’. We live in Vikas Nagar area and wanted to vote for a BSP candidate ( Just because BSP had fielded a Brahmin candidate), who had done a lot of work in the region and was accessible to all. Engineer Saheb supported Ms Mayawati’s work culture and said that there was no corruption at the lower level. So when he informed his children and brother’s children about the same, they all got upset against them. You can not vote for BSP, they said because it supports reservation. Doctor Saheb intervened, why should there be reservation when everybody is equal before law. Modi is doing the right thing by privatising everything, he said.

That gave me the idea as to why Narendra Modi remains the ‘supreme pontiff’ of Hindus as they dont expect anything from him. Despite miserably failure to govern India in the last six years, people still are ready to vote for him. It means that the ‘opinion making’ or narrative building communities are convinced that Narendra Modi’s dismantling of the public sector will ensure the Savarna monopoly on everything. From Bengal to Tamilnadu, to Karnataka to entire north India, the hegemonic castes have found their way out and they feel that it is time to oppress the oppressed and the only way is to eliminate reservation, kill the public sector, remove government’s interventions and privatise everything. Unfortunately, all this is not on the agenda of those parties who should have been speaking against it.

The parties that claim that they are the sole representative of SC-ST-OBC votes need to work in close coordination. Learn from Tamilnadu Experience where all the major political parties including DMK and AIDMK worked together to bring the reservation to 69%, way above the Supreme Court’s 49% ceiling. It was the power of Periyar’s movement that Tamilnadu today is in a far better position. Alas, north Indian political parties of Dalit Bahujans have least understanding of the Periyar movement and his rich and powerful legacy of social justice. They fear that speaking his name will put them as anti Ram and therefore give a handle to BJP to campaign against them. Such things happen only when we lack ideological strength.

The government is already appointing people at senior level bypassing civil services and UPSC. This is a way to introduce the people who can help maintain the dominant caste hegemony in bureaucracy. It is also time for all of us to speak up for National Judicial Services through where reservation is implemented as per law. Media , academia and judiciary must have the presence of India’s Bahujan Samaj.

Also, in the last few years, after the Bahujan Student broke the ceiling and started appearing as a ‘general’ candidate, their number grew. More and more, SC-ST-OBC students were passing through without reservation but India’s crooked mind realised that with this the bureaucratic structure have more SC-ST-OBCs than the Savarnas and that is why they initiated not only the backdoor entry of straight appointment but also suggesting that all those who qualified on merit were placed under their ‘caste category’. That way 50% ‘General’ has converted for the brahmaical castes which is ‘disproportionate’ representation. General does not mean ‘upper caste’. It actually means unreserved but how this unreserved has been converted into ‘general’ for the upper castes which is clearly a theft and must be clarified.

One question must be asked as what is the ‘idea’ or ‘rationale’ behind 50% reservation. Second, if 50% unreserved are meant for the so-called dominant caste students then it is dangerous. Why should 10% people get 50% and 90% Bahujans to be confined to 49% and therefore fighting among them.

When there is so much hatred against ‘reservation’ then it is better to convert it into ‘representation’. Let India have proportional representation at every level of our government structure as Baba Saheb too wanted. Let the Bahujan communities get representation in all sectors as per their size of population.

India is a complex country and hugely diverse. We will have to look to deal with its issues in different ways but the only alternative that looks feasible is either ensure each person gets a quality education or job or allow proportionality of representation at every level.

In the meanwhile, India also needs to clean the caste prejudices from the minds which have ruined its social harmony for centuries and still continue to threaten our integrity. Let the supremacy of our constitution run and each person is treated in great dignity and respect. Caste slurs/violence must be declared as illegal and unconstitutional like racism is being challenged in the rest of the world. India can not held its head high in the comity of nations as long as there are caste discrimination, untouchability and violation of rights of the marginalised. Will our leaders and government listen and act ?

*Human rights defender

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