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Caste reservation is akin to Article 370, here is how

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Jai prakash Ojha
The author works with IGNOU as Assistant Registrar. He frequently blogs/writes articles on social and political subjects. A post graduate in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations, he also holds a post graduate diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication. He may contacted on jojha601@gmail.com.

Caste reservation is akin to Article 370 and there are good enough reasons why I am saying so.

Article 370 prevented the integration of Jammu & Kashmir with the rest of India. Caste reservation is doing the same by preventing the integration of social communities and defeating the project of nationalism. Even Ambedkar had opined that reservation is anti-national.

Article 370 though a temporary provision was a holy cow. Any critical reference to it was blasphemy. Any talk of debate over it was sacrilege. The entire political spectrum, intelligentsia and the civil society were aware of the repercussions of Article 370 at how it was breeding separatism & religious fanaticism, thwarting development and driving a wedge in the amalgamation of the Kashmiri populace with the national mainstream but despite this, they adopted an ostrich-like approach. Minority vote bank concerns triumphed over national concerns. Much like Article 370, Caste reservation though a temporary provision has become permanently ingrained in our polity. No one wants to talk about the pernicious effect of reservation for fear of losing vote banks. Even a passing reference to it is met with huge uproar, hue & cry. Reservation is tearing apart the social fabric, fragmenting the polity, trampling down merit and engendering reverse discrimination but the civil society/politicians are maintaining a studied silence over this.

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What benefits accrued to Kashmiris due to Article 370? How their lives improved due to Article 370? No discussions ever took place over this and the issue lingered on because no politician (till Amit Shah arrived on the scene) had any answers to it. The same case is with caste-based reservation. Despite more than 70 years of Dalit reservation and around 3 decades of OBC reservation, the government has not come out with a White Paper on the impact of reservation at redressing the socio-economic inequalities. With the passage of time and with the increased economic growth & democratization, it was expected that the volume of reservation would come down but just the reverse has happened. Even the judicially ordained ceiling of 50 per cent reservation has been breached in quite a few states due to crude caste politics and the clamour for reservation seems to be unending. This means there is something fundamentally wrong with the implementation of this reservation policy but politicians are busy hiding their heads in the sand. Even a constructive suggestion for a review of the reservation is enough to raise the temperatures as the RSS chief recently realized.

The attitudes of the Dalit/OBC politicians who are pro reservation are not different from the mainstream J&K politicians. PDP chief and NC chief dared the Union govt to abrogate Article 370 and even talked of secession and playing with fire if any attempt to sabotage Article 370 was undertaken. BSP, Ambedkarite Dalit organisations, RJD, SP, JD (U), Prakash Ambedkar, Udit raj, Kancha Illaih etc also talk of bloodbath and bringing the nation to a standstill if any attempt to tinker with reservation is made. And the most remarkable thing is that neither the Kashmiri mainstream politicians want to debate 370 nor the Bahujan politicians want to debate reservation. Both thrive on raising the bogey of fear and peddling lies and deceit.

J&K politicians pollute the minds of their constituencies by stating that once Article 370 was gone, Hindus would swamp J&K and the Muslims would be outnumbered. The very identity of Kashmir would be threatened. The social justice wala politicians inform their constituencies that once reservation was gone, India would be ruled by Manu Smriti and there would be no constitution. To buttress their points, they come up with all sorts of false narratives about historical atrocities and selective interpretation of adulterated Hindu scriptures. Dalit-Bahujan icons who never studied Sanskrit claimed mastery over the interpretation of Hindu religious texts. They saw India through a western prism.

The similarities don’t end at this. Article 370 benefitted just the Kashmiri mainstream politicians and the elite sections of the society leaving out the masses to fend for themselves and grovel in poverty or become stone pelters and breeding grounds for jihadis. Caste reservation just benefitted the elite sections of the Dalit/OBC population and the opportunistic Bahujan politicians and its benefits failed to percolate downwards to the bottom rungs of society. There is so much acrimony over any mention of reservation because the elite Dalits/OBCs want to perpetuate their domination over their less fortunate brethren and have become too selfish to think about national priorities. They know that people have now become educated enough to understand their narrow agendas. Their defence of caste reservation lacks conviction and logic and hence the shrillness in their voices.

Article 370 was a thorn for the unified national vision of RSS. And so…. It had to go. No amount of fear-mongering and doomsday prediction could save it. The same is the case with the caste reservation. Mandalites/Ambedkarites are defending reservation as if heavens would fall if caste reservation is dispensed with. It’s time to call their bluff and review reservation.

Protests against Article 370 failed to take off and the same will be the case if caste reservation is done away with provided law and order machinery does its work sincerely and the political parties do not incite people. A nation of 5000 years civilizational history can’t be held hostage to the whims and fancies of casteist ideologies. The people have already seen through the game plans of caste parties which are nothing but family bastions.

BJP will always be susceptible to caste politics; it may have found a way out of the caste quagmire by pitting one OBC group against the other and one Dalit community against the other for the time being but to say that its caste management policy will succeed for a long run is a bit preposterous. Caste will always pose a threat to the Hindutva project of the political unification of Hindus.

The BJP govt has already made a beginning to tackle the complex caste reservation conundrum. It has brought in amendments to include economic backwardness criteria apart from the already existing educational and social backwardness yardsticks for determining suitability for reservation and the outcome was 10 per cent EWS reservation which simply turned affirmative policy in India upside down. Time and again even the judiciary have advocated for moving away from the caste centric focus of reservation. Regional variations in caste and the social deepening of democracy have ensured that caste can’t be the sole determinant of backwardness. Many political experts feel that reservation can’t be given on economic backwardness grounds because the reservation is about representation and not poverty alleviation as was the intent behind Ambedkar-Gandhi Pune pact in 1931.

But then, what explains the rationale behind crores and crores of public money being pumped in SC/ST sectoral plans? What explains tuition fee waivers and various financial incentives given to Dalits in education? Why application fees are not charged from them? Scholarships and programme fees amounting to crores are being thrown at Dalits. The harsh reality is that taxpayers’ money is being splurged without any accountability and utility audit. Since Dalits and OBCs together constitute more than 70 per cent of the population, it does not mean they will do what they want.

Representation as per population is okay but what about their contribution in national taxes? The upper and the middle classes who contribute maximum to the national kitty can’t be silenced by people who want everything without contributing anything. Representation should also take into account your contribution to national taxes and not merely count the heads. The nation must debate whether public money should be spent on education and welfare of the very people who miss no opportunity of denigrating Hindu culture and gods-goddesses and threaten to convert to another religion if their demands are not met.

It’s high time civil society engages in the reservation debate that has been set into motion by the RSS chief. Article 370 culminated in the othering of Kashmiri Hindus and their persecution; it led to Islamic terrorism. Reservation has resulted in the othering of upper castes and rise of subaltern terrorism which is not averse to hitting the streets on even the slightest provocation and even in defiance to judicial pronouncements. This reservation cry is not about assertion or justice but it has nefarious designs to subdue the upper castes. If things are allowed to spiral out of control by vested interests, days may not be far when social hatred and divide would make the life of upper castes akin to Jews of erstwhile Nazi Germany.

Moreover, due to internal contradictions among the OBC and the Dalit communities, internal squabbles can’t be ruled out. OBCs and Dalits have never shared a cordial relation with each other since ages. The nation can’t afford to be converted into a social war zone. The ultimate loser will be the Hindu society and the nation. Just take a look at our history. We lost out not because the Muslim invaders or the Europeans were stronger than us but because we were not united.

The RSS chief deserves accolades for daring to speak on an issue on which every politician keeps silent.

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Jai prakash Ojha
The author works with IGNOU as Assistant Registrar. He frequently blogs/writes articles on social and political subjects. A post graduate in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations, he also holds a post graduate diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication. He may contacted on jojha601@gmail.com.

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