30 Jan 2009

My 'de-reservations' about the Reservation

An ELian view

The memories of anti-reservation protests haven't faded yet. We might have stopped talking about it as there are other issues to discuss about but to think the matter is over is too naive a view. Say, one fine morning Government decides to introduce reservation for religious minorities or any other disadvantaged group for that matter, the agenda will be back in limelight. There will be angry protests by the sections being negatively affected by this policy of positive discrimination, then there will be protests against the aforesaid protests by the sections being covered in the ambit of the new policy and there will be every possibility of these antagonist protests taking an ugly turn.

Meanwhile the media will have a field day. Everyone from a rickshaw-wala to a business tycoon will be seen pouring out their staggered and half baked views on the tube. Some looser might decide to light himself on fire to show his devotion to either cause. The scenes will be bad, the time will be bad. However, as it always happens, the present will become the past and the past is best forgotten to prepare for the future. We tend to make this mistake believing that future will bring something new, never realizing that clues of the future lie in the past itself.

I remember taking part in an anti-reservation rally back in 2006. How angry I was, how cheated I felt and now I realise how narrow my view was. It's not that now I am in perfect consonance with this variant of Affirmative Action but certainly now, I am able to see it as an essential tactic in the larger national strategy of achieving redistributive justice. However, the problem arises when it becomes 'an end in itself'. The policy makers at the high echelons forget the other tactical policy initiatives and hence everything gets eclipsed by the reservation policy.

Talking of reservation in educational institutes, it may be a strong pillar of affirmative action but foundation of such an affirmative action lies in universal reach of effective primary and secondary education. However, as the latter reaps fruits only in a long term, its sincere implementation gets neglected by the political class for whom quick returns matter the most to maintain their parliamentary strength. What can be a better option for them than the reservation policy! Hence, 'displacement of goals' takes place as reservation policy becomes a means to satisfy a different end altogether, i.e., amassing votes at the elections. Vote-bank politics leads to innovations to include more and more sections of the society within the reservation ambit rather than clipping down the list.

If we look into our caste history, we witness a phenomena known as Sanskritization wherein the so called lower castes strive to move up the caste hierarchy by adopting 'cleaner' habits, to achieve a higher status in the society. However, in present scenario, we see people fighting to move down the hierarchy, the recent Gujjar agitation its apt example. So some sort of 'de-sanskritization' is taking place in contemporary Hindu society. The reason behind it is not far-fetched. With lower status comes better reservation provisions. Better the provisions, better the chance to rise the class and political hierarchy. The money and power provide a parallel means to attain a higher status in the society. Hence, diminution in the import of the caste based hierarchy as a means to attain the same takes place.

With this background to ponder over, I'll now be addressing those anti-reservationists who discard this policy in totality, i.e., in both letter and spirit. I must say they are making a grave mistake. By doing so, they are alienating the marginal sections of the society. The need is to accept the reservation policy in principle but oppose its misuse vehemently. India has a long history of caste system. To uproot all the associated ills, affirmative action is a must. As mentioned earlier, reservation is a strong pillar of the same. However, it should only be used if its right implementation is guaranteed or at least sincere efforts are made by the administration for the same.

Those opposing the misuse, should foremost take the marginal sections into confidence. These sections must be shown, how those in power want to keep them marginal to reap their votes by making false promises year after year. In a number of cases, the real enemies of the marginalized sections tend to be those from amongst their own ranks only, who have successfully attained power over the years. Till yesterday the two were equals but today one is the 'mai-baap' of the other. Hence, they will try their best to keep this equation in their own favour by perpetuating the miseries of their brethren. They'll make promises but tactfully keep them unfulfilled and put the blame on the 'others'.

Hence, the breed of anti-reservationists, I am addressing here, help such manipulators by distinguishing themselves as a pool of 'others' against whom the wrath of the marginal sections can be directed by the dominant ones amongst them.

Things are not always black or white. Its important to identify the different shades of grey that lie within. Think about it.

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Shanks said...

How the hell do you end up writing so well!!!! SSS

Vipul Grover said...

Good question... its the result of my solitary confinement;)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post!

Vipul Grover said...

Hey IHM gr8 2 hav u here:)
welcm 2 my blog frst of all..
nd thnx 4 appreciating this post..
keep reflecting:)