02 May, 2007
The intellectual and political battle for reservations for OBC’s or rather the Shudras within the Brahmanical caste hierarchy was won in the 1990’s itself. But the OBC’s, Dalits and Adivasis, who constitute the majority as well the historically oppressed masses of our country, continue to face a determined opposition from within the judiciary and the bureaucracy which are amongst the last bastions of the RSS, the fountainhead of Brahmanism. No political party, including the BJP can now oppose reservations for the OBC’s within the higher centres of learning, which are now amongst the last bastions of the upper castes. So what they have lost in the Parliament, they are trying to desperately salvage through the courts. Needless to say this is a losing battle. The long suppressed forces of egalitarianism are on the march and the sooner that the elite are reconciled to the inevitable, the better it will be for the social fabric of our nation.
India is again in the midst of an OBC upsurge and this “MANDAL II” has been instigated and provoked by the Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and Lokeshwar Singh Panta. This two bench judgement has issued an interim order staying the Reservations of OBC’s in higher educational institutions and this has sent convulsions across the political and social landscape.
The judgement is an affront and an act of contempt against the Supreme Court itself as it challenges the basic judgements and observations of the Supreme Court which have been passed by a full bench in favour of the Mandal Commission Recommendations. The two judges have also challenged the basic character of the Ambedkarite Indian constitution with its emphasis on equality and affirmative action to the historically oppressed castes.
Let the judiciary and the bureaucracy get one thing clear, for the overwhelming majority of the Indian people both these pillars of Indian democracy stand exposed and naked as centres of Brahamanical hegemony. Inspite of all the faults of the Indian political class, they still stand accountable to the Indian masses. We will not standby and be mute spectators when ten representatives of the elite castes within the judiciary, attempt to override the elected members of the Parliament and attempt to subvert the basic character of the Constitution.
As the liberal American President Thomas Jefferson said ” to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions ….. would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy”.
The judiciary and the executive are operating like W.M.O.’s or weapons of mass obstruction.
The current judgement raises two basis issues:
1) The creamy layer issue and
2) The lack of up-to-date information.
Firstly lets tackle the Creamy layer issue. If the people who are so concerned about the lower sections within the OBC/SC and ST’s, they must then ask and apply the similar parameters of the creamy layer to even within the open categories as well. Needless to say they never will.
Data has shown that the application of the Creamy layer rule has actually recorded a fall in the OBC admissions from 12.4% prior to Mandal, to 4.5% in the present.
The basic fact is that the OBC’s are far behind the upper castes in most spheres and the time for the application of the creamy layer will come later. That having been said, special care needs to be taken of the interests of the Most Backward Castes (MBC) amongst the OBC’s and a formula for the same can be arrived at.
As for the supposed insufficient data. It is good that the bench has raised this issue. We should demand a nationwide caste census covering all the religious communities, to be carried out by the Indian state and to be completed within a period of a year. The voices that are rasing the issue of insufficient data are also opposing a caste census on the grounds that it will divide Indian society. Interesting isn’t it?
Also the fact lies that when the Parliament and the Supreme Court supported the recommendations of the Mandal Commission, they did so on the basis of sufficient and scientific data. The sources for the same have been the census of 1931, and the data collected by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). The survey of the Mandal Commission has been exhaustive. All the above only prove the same point that the SC/ST/OBC’s continue to lag way behind the so-called upper castes.
The Supreme Court bench has also insulted the masses and has insinuated that reservations is catering to vote bank politics. Infact as V.P. Singh said “Reservations is not only about vote bank politics, it is more about democracy, in which the people’s will should be supreme”.
The bench further insults the masses by referring to us a “vote banks” that produce “intellectual pygmies” as opposed to the “talent banks” that produce “normal sound intellectual students” based on the erroneous elite argument on “merit”.
Recent history and facts prove otherwise. The South of India is far more advanced that the rest, especially North India for the basic reason that caste struggle against Brahmanical domination has a far longer and successful history. In Tamil Nadu with 69% reservation and Karnataka with an excess of 60%, we see that the society is far more advanced. The Merit argument is a myth and for various reasons.
Also the 50% ceiling on reservations imposed by the Supreme Court is unconstitutional. The basic principle in extending reservations is to draw in as wide a section of Indian society to share in the fruits of education, employment and progress in general. The 50% ceiling in fact only serves to weaken the broadening and deepening of the democratic roots.
Interestingly, in this current phase of Indian politics we are witnessing the emergence of two parallel trends. Mandal II is back on the agenda and so is the issue of justice to the Muslim community. Sachar and Mandal II are movements that will have to co-ordinate and struggle unitedly for their just share. The Sachar recommendations are comprehensive and do address the basic issues of the Muslim community. As far as reservations are concerned, let it be stated unequivocally that reservations will only be applicable to the OBC’s and Dalits within the Muslim community as the Indian constitution is opposed to reservations on the basis of religion. I would also state that “Sachar is the Muslim Mandal”, just as Mandal constituted a turning point for the OBC movement, so will Sachar. The slogan that is gaining popularity amongst Muslims is in fact “Sachar hamara Mandal hai”.
I would sum up with the following demands:
– We demand a caste census across all religious communities to be completed within a year.
– Update and study the data every 10 years so that the government can monitor the progress or otherwise and take the appropriate steps to remedy the same.
– Discard the creamy layer issue from reservations in educational institutions.
– Reservations to be extended to:
All Educational Institutions both Government and Private.
Employment in Public and Private sectors.
– Reservations in the judiciary. This is now all the more urgent as the judiciary is clearly biased in favour of perpetuating Brahmanical domination.
– End the 50% ceiling on Reservations so as to widen the ambit of inclusion in the socio-economic and political structures.
The OBC/SC/ST masses across all the religions will have to wage a joint struggle to achieve their common aims of a democratic, secular and egalitarian India in the humanistic visions of Shahu Maharaj, Mahatma Phule and Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar.
Feroze H. Mithiborwala
Muslim Intellectual Forum