Monday, November 8, 2010

Reserved India

India, as a civilization has had a long history. Like any other civilization, there have been historic wonders and blunders. One grave defect in Indian history is the division of people based on their profession and imposing a hereditary system that forces the offspring to continue his/her father’s profession whether he/she likes it or not. This historic blunder eventually resulted in what we now refer as ‘caste system’. More than 90% of the people in India were considered as ‘lower-caste’ and weren’t given equal human rights, almost all throughout the history. Given the fact that, at no point in the history there has been a notable rebellion against caste system by the people, it would be safe to say, most Indians have got adapted to ‘caste system’. For many of them, their ‘caste’ gives them a sense of identity of being part of a particular community. It was this sense of identity among people based on their caste that posed a threat to India being as a single nation post 1947. If Jinnah can incite a group of people of his faith to fight for a separate nation, why can’t another leader from a particular caste incite the people of his/her caste to demand a separate nation? Such a rebellion can take the nation apart. Though, never expressed, this question lingered the best minds of India while defining the Constitution of India.

As India was on the verge of receiving independence from Britain, majority of the people including future Prime Minister who controlled the power belonged to the elite ‘upper caste’. It became increasingly evident before the people that, independence was only for ‘namesake’, the power still remains with the same class of people, albeit in a different form. The situation was such that, all it needed was one capable leader from ‘lower caste’ to start a civil war that would break the nation into pieces. The fear was evident but was unspoken in open. Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was one such leader, who represented the educated voice of ‘lower caste’ people of India. He openly criticized the ‘way of life’ of people, raised his voice against customs of untouchability and demanded power for ‘Dalits’. Moreover, Dr. Ambedkar was one man who had guts to criticize even Gandhi in public and get away with it. He once quoted ‘Don’t call Gandhi a saint. He is a seasoned politician. When everything else fails, Gandhi will resort to intrigue’. Also, Dr. Ambedkar made his intension clear in his book The Untouchables: A Thesis on the Origins of Untouchability, in which he quotes ‘…the Hindu Civilization is a diabolical contrivance to suppress and enslave humanity. Its proper name would be infamy. What else can be said of a civilization which has produced a mass of people... who are treated as an entity beyond human intercourse and whose mere touch is enough to cause pollution?’.

clip_image002Top politicians in India were intelligent enough to sense the gravity of the situation. If Dr. Ambedkar was allowed to propagate his agenda, the nation would witness war for the rights of ‘lower-caste people’ and the power would go away from the hands of elite few. How can the elite upper class (caste) remain in power and yet give assurance to lower-class that there is a future ahead of them? Something had to be done before it becomes too late.

Just when the doubts were being raised, Indian National Congress demonstrated its political acumen by making Dr. Ambedkar the Union Law Minister and Chairmen to draft the Indian constitution. The point to be noted here is, Dr. Ambedkar was not the member of Indian National Congress (INC) and had contested elections against INC during 1946 elections. Now, the ball was in the hands of Dr. Ambedkar. He is the one now who is drafting the laws of the nation; he can do all he wants to make the laws in favor of lower-caste people. Had Dr. Ambedkar not accepted the government post and fought for the rights of suppressed classes of people, today, he would have been considered the ‘Nelson Mandela’ of India and probably would have been the first Prime Minister of India with Dalit background. Instead, he accepted the post of Union Law minister and drafted the Indian constitution.

clip_image004Dr. Ambedkar had several challenges before him. The foremost being, he wanted to abolish the caste system in India however, he soon realized, if caste system is abolished, then he cannot demand for special privileges for ‘lower-caste people’ for the years of discrimination. That’s when he came up with the idea of classification of castes in terms of economic positions. He called the upper-castes as forward castes and lower castes as backward castes. With the new classification, it was easy for him to defend special privileges for backward castes. Dr. Ambedkar took the idea of reservations (the idea of reservations for certain castes existed in some parts of India since 1900) one step further. He drafted the constitution such that it allowed up to 50% of the public jobs and admissions to universities reserved for the people from backward castes. Obviously, Dr. Ambedkar knew the repercussions of ‘reservations’ but for him, it was the safest way he could safeguard the rights of backward classes and project himself in good light. I say this especially because Indian constitution could have easily defined reservations to ‘backward people’ instead of ‘backward caste’, which would have also helped in abolishing ‘caste system’ in India. But Dr. Ambedkar felt, it is easier for him to justify reservations for backward castes than backward people. In all his technical work towards Indian constitution, Dr. Ambedkar failed to realize, the precise reason why he was granted the position of Union Law Minister of India even though he wasn’t from Indian National Congress. In the end, all he did was, solved the thorn for INC. With ‘reservation system’ placed, Dr. Ambedkar made sure that - there is no uprising against the forward classes, who controlled the power.

For last sixty years, no one has dared to remove the concept of reservations in Indian constitution; instead politicians have only strengthened it by using it for political gains. Flaws of ‘reservation system’ have been openly discussed in public forums, internet chats and media. Narayan Murthy, the founder of Infosys and a potential candidate for President of India once remarked ‘We have become, perhaps, the only nation in the world where people fight to be called backward rather than forward’. It sounds all good for Narayan Murthy to give such quotation but no politician or people’s leader in India is dare enough to put forward the unspoken truth before people. It still remains- it is the reservations that have kept our nation as a single entity in last sixty years. Remove the reservations, the nation will break apart.

In such a scenario, what best we can do for the development of nation? The answer is simple. The task is to create a path for development within the framework of reservation system. As politically correct as I may sound, that’s the only way going forward. Also, ‘reservations’ is not the actual problem, the problem is, how long will it continue? I humbly request all those people who aren’t ‘backward’ anymore and yet continue to take advantage of reservations, to think about two things:

(i) No religion discriminates people and it’s the people who are culprits. Now, the time has given opportunity to everyone to follow their religion in proper sense. From the scriptures of Santana Dharma (that’s the actual name of Hinduism, I bet more than 50% people who claimed to be following Hinduism doesn’t know their religion’s actual name). I have read, it clearly states every human being is equal before God. It’s time for the followers to read their scriptures and follow their religion in true sense. And when you truly start following the religion, you will realize that ‘you need not force your children to be of your same caste’. A Hindu can be a true Hindu without being part of any caste.

(ii) Constitution of India grants you the right to choose any religion you want. If you still find yourself suppressed by caste system then you have the right to free yourself from it. You are free to choose any religion that gives you equal human rights or not follow any religion at all.

In the end I want to say, if you are not economically backward, it is ethically wrong to take advantage of reservation system

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