18 April, 2006
Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh declared government’s intention to fix a quota for the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in the premier government educational institutions like the Indian Institute of Technologies (IITs) and Indian Institute of Managements and other institutions of higher learning. While one know very well the intentions of Arjun Singh and his Congress Party, which was in the forefront of anti-Mandal agitation in 1990, it is important to analyse the nature of protest and fury of the upper castes in India. Why the same upper castes who burnt themselves today keep silent. Whether Arjun Singh and his party is just working on tokenism and refuses to learn lesson that the cry from the Dalit and backward today is political power which has not yet been over despite the fact that they had chief ministers and ministers. The administration remains strongly in the hands of the upper castes.
A Revisit to events in 1990 : A hero became villian
On August 7th, 1990 when Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh announced that his National Front government was going to implement the Mandal Commission Recommendations in Education and jobs, there was not much fury in the beginning. Slowly, a slanderous media campaign was launched particularly to attract circulation. A middle class newspaper like Indian Express and its loud mouth Editor Arun Shourie became mouthpieces of the upper caste contempt to the Dalits and backwards. Shourie, worked not as an ethical journalist but as a hired lawyer who has to defend his case. Upper caste students and their parents went on rampage in North India. Suicide were committed by the innocent students as young as 8 years of age who might not have known what Mandal was and what was the meaning of reservation for the downtrodden. Clearly, two big brahmanical parties of the country, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party used this opportunity to target the government.
Lal Krishna Adavani decided to go on a Rathyatra to unite the Hindu society, which was ‘divided’ by V.P.Singh and his actions. There was a wave of anti Muslim sentiments in the middle classes. Advani became hero who revived the Hindu society and VP Singh became ‘dushman number one’ of the upper castes in India. Yes, the prime minister of the popular votes of India became the target number one because of reservations. All his merits became non functional once he ordered the implementation of the Mandal recommendations.
Commentators after commentators condoned the Hindutva and their thugs, their misdeeds and anti national act of spreading hatred and violence but none of them could ever muster the courage to support a prime minister who dared to go ahead against all odds. Yes, one may not agree with VP Singh and his style of politics but one need to see his track record as an efficient minister and an honest Member of Parliament. It was for the first time in history of India that a government fell because it defended a shrine and committed its constitutional duties. Yes, Ayodhya’s October 1990 events led to fall of V P Singh government. It is not for nothing that he decided to stay away from the parliamentary politics, disown prime ministership and is persistently being seen with the growing mass struggles in India when the so-called mainstream politicians are busy with their castes, religious sentiments. How many of them come and support Narmada or the cuase of dying farmers. When the slums were being dislocated none of the politicians dared to come out and challenge the court. But these things do not matter for the journalists who have decided that they have to oppose anything, which brings social justice.
V.P.Singh is nowhere in mainstream politics but his Mandalisation process has spread all over. That is the great achievement because the composition of our parliament has changed. Dalits and backward communities are asking for their share in power. The political parties have to listen to them and come to the reality. Today, thanks to Mandalisation process among the Muslims, the one time social justice hero Laloo has to go.
15 years later when Arjun Singh informs the journalists about the reservation policy, there is not much war by the upper castes though there is resentment by the ‘meritorious’ industrial houses who run on a monarchical basis. Again, the same talks of merit being affected and non-availability of the students from the backward and Dalit communities. It is amusing how people change their stand. Industrialists like Rahul Bazaz, known for the shameless Hindutva lineage, remarked that reservation in the private sector would damage the credibility of big companies in India. The Bazazs should tell the world why most of the business works in India is done by the Bania community. North East South West, it is the Marwadis and Banias who have captured the major institutions with Brahmin their Gurus. The opponents of reservation should also inform why the scavenging work is fixed for the Valmiki community in India. Why is this ‘Intellectual property Right’ over certain work while ignoring others. Social scientists should also explain why no other community person is seen as doing scavenging work or carrying night soil over head. This meritorious upper caste would then hang their head in shame.
What is happening is most astonishing and show double standard. In 1990, the Dalits were in the forefront of supporting the Mandal Commission Recommendations meant for the backward communities. Today, a number of ‘Dalit’ intellectuals, who would like to parade Dalit capitalists in Delhi, are asking for a creamy lawyer theory to implement the Mandal Commission Report. An example is being given here of the lone dissenter why should the dissenter argument be taken into account. Mandal gave a report and government accepted it in toto. A person like S.S. Gill who was member secretary of the Mandal Commission today condemns VP Singh for implementing it with political motivation. It is amusing when commentators write of political motivation. Why should not any work done with political motivation? Did not the backward communities voted for the government? It is also important to analyse as why some of the Dalit intellectuals are crying for fixing quota for the Most Backward Communities (MBCs).
Arun Shourie, who spearheaded anti Mandal agitation through his reckless writings and was later rewarded by the Sangh Parivar for persistently abusing the minorities through his newspaper columns, would never had imagined that Mandal would eat his own party. He might never have foreseen the growing assertion among all communities after it. Why was India burning in 1990 and quiet in 2006.
To be sure, in 1990, the people realized that the government that time was determined to give the Dalits and backward their due share in power. One need not to remind that Ministers like Ram Vilas Paswan and Sharad Yadav had become very powerful proponents of the Mandal Mantra. The government did not stay there only. It was bringing a bill in parliament for labour reform particularly related to labours participation in Management, bill on electoral reform under Dinesh Goswami, autonomy to Prasar Bharati apart from putting Dr Ambedkar’s statue in Parliament and honoring him with Bharat Ratna. Every of these acts had loud messages. It is this time that the Buddhists converts got right in job reservations. Mandal in 1990 changed the politics of the country. It gave an unprecedented and lethal weapon for the Dalit backward and Adivasis to come together. Every party had to understand the power of Mandal. Over the years, despite talks of globalisation and Hindutva, Mandalisation process continued. In the process, the upper caste leadership of the Hindutva gangs have to play second fiddle. Right from Uma Bharati to Kalyan Singh and Narendra Modi, caste his forced the Sindhi Lal Krishna Advani to ponder over his own future and he is again on another Yatra, knowing fully well, that he has lost his caste battle. The upper castes are silent and protesting just in front of the cameras. A few papers that do not sale much are again trying to instigate people to protest but those who get everything at home cannot protest. Secondly, they know they have their own government and their opposition. A government which just pretend to work for the Dalits and backward and has no real intention to do so. Most of the people know that in Manmohan Singh’s safe hand their interest are safe and would be looked after. After-all, Arjun Singh’s own track record for social justice is laughable and his politicization of Ministry of HRD is well known. The tricks of anti Hindutva do not work all the time in the same way as the anti Muslim card of Advani failed miserably.
Why Opposition to reservation for backward communities
One needs to understand the psychology of opposition to Mandal. Reservation for Dalits was never implemented properly before 1990. Every time it was informed that due to lack of non availability of the candidates, seats remained vacant and quota was filled by the upper caste particularly those close to the people in power or with big bags. The 1990s changed that the backlog has to be filled with the candidates from the same community. Therefore 1990 is a watershed in the history of India and implementing the Mandal Commission Report VP Singh might have become the most hated politician of the country despite his impeccable credentials, yet, the politics of India has changed.
15 years later when Narsimha Rao crookedly with the help of the Hindutva brigade tried to undo what the Mandal had done. He went overboard to implement the privatization process and added fire to the Hindutva. Therefore, both the demolition of Babari Masjid and growing privatization were part of the Narsimha Rao era which some of our pen pushers termed as glorious. One need not to inform the readers here how Narsimha Rao died. Not a single tear was shed for him.
When the jobs are nowhere and everything is gone private, then why are the upper castes angry at reservation for backward communities? The fact is that seats for Dalits were rarely fulfilled and we had seen huge backlog. There has been no protest. It was easier to curtail the protest of the Dalits because of their numbers and social background. Now, the reservation for backward communities being a reality, the powerful backward communities will hit and break the bone of the upper castes. That is the fear of these. They know that there are enough students from these communities who will join the great institutions of technology and managements.
Today, these pen pushers pretend that reservation should only for the Dalits. Similarly, Dalit opportunists also dance to the tone of their brahmanical masters when they condemn reservation for the backward communities. It is a fact that many of the backward communities should not have been there in the list. But that is not a way to justify that there should not be reservation.
Discrimination despite merit
It is completely lie to say that Dalit and backwards are not doing business today or they lack ability. To say that there is no discrimination in India on the basis of caste is again a great lie which only insensitive caste Hindus can tell the whole world. Four years back I investigated a case of a very bright Dalit student Jyoti Prakash Vishwas who passed out from R.K.Mission School in Kolkata and was working as an engineer in a central government public sector company. His Bengali bosses used filthy language against him and suspended him on various charges, which were found absolutely untrue by a team of human rights activists including me. Vishwas was not allowed to join a well paid job in a reputed private company. His wife who was working with Government of West Bengal was not given medical compensation as per company’s rule. After our fact-finding report came out, the management tried to strike a cordial note. Vishwas who by then had never knew what exactly was Dalit movement and discrimination realized what is the identity of a bright Dalit scholar. Two Years, when he left Delhi, Vishwas one day send me a mail from Saudi Arabia where he was working as an Engineer. He wrote: “Sir, I thank you for standing with me in my struggle against injustice. I know Dalits would not be able to get justice as long as they are part of Hindu system. I have decided to embrace Islam, a faith which give me strength and inner peace.”
Those votaries of ‘merit’ should understand clearly well that things are not as easy as they think. A few days back when I was in Chhatishgarh and a Dalit student from National Law University Raipur came to me and informed me about the harassment he faced in the University. Despite the fact that he was the only candidate in his course of M.Phil/Ph.D/LLM, it took 3 years for the board of the college to accept his M.Phil and then deny him right for Ph.D. Yes, I talk about Abhishek Priya Anand, a student who completed his M.Sc from Hyderabad and qualified and ranked 8 th in the merit in the National Law college entrance test, today face a caste prejudiced Vice chancellor and his bureaucracy.
Will the Indian merit mongers ever think why they want to shut every door for the Dalits and backward communities? If Dalit converts to other faith, the Hindutva brigade is up in arm against it. There is no reform movement with in Hindu dharma where they can get justice. The jobs, which were reserved for them, have been privatized. Educational institutions rarely fulfill their quota. So demeaning are the upper castes that they are ready to get forged certificate of Dalit quota to get admitted in the University. In Delhi, a prominent doctor of a famous medical college got his MBBS degree on passing an entrance test under the SC quota. He produced a false certificate of adoption by a Dalit father. The fact was that his father’s servant happened to be a Dalit. This upper caste doctor used his leverages and asked his servant to ‘adopt’ him to get admit. A Similar case of admission has been found in Lucknow by a Brahmin girl.
Creamy lawyer theory is dangerous at the moment
Unfortunately, some of the Dalit intellectuals have also jumped in to condemn the quota for the Dalits. These commentators are talking in terms of creamy lawyer theory. Question is let the government first implement the reservation only then creamy lawyer theory could be implemented. If the creamy lawyer theory could be implemented in the Mandal, then the same should be true for the Dalits also. And the same should be true for the upper castes also in the general seats. It is a dangerous preposition. It is a fact that the power elite of a community are the first to get the benefits of education and quota. Did not the Brahmin got it from the upper castes initially? There are so many of them but many of them have little representation in power structure. Same is true about Dalits and backward communities.
Of course, the politics of quota is dangerous. Arjun Singh’s intention has been like that of his party. I am sure he know it well that Dalit and backwards are thoroughly politicized and are not going to be just ‘vote bank’ of any party. They are today running with confidence and asking for a share in power. While the political parties may not have implemented the reservation fully, the Most Backward Communities in Uttar-Pradesh have learnt a lesson from Bihar. The MBCs have already revolted against the political elites of the state and asking for their fair representation in power. Today, power is the real need of the people.
As far as jobs are concern, let the government bring a white paper on reservations and give us ideas as how long will it take it to complete its backlog. When can we see 17.5% IAS officers from Dalits, 27.5% from backward communities and 7.5% from tribal? Once the government fulfill its promise we can think of new ideas to give representation to MBCs and oppressed Dalits particularly women from these sections of society.
Reforms mean debrahmanising India
In a welfare state, the government cannot shy away from implementing reforms. Where are government reform for land, forest and water? If reform mean giving precious national assets to a few cronies of the power elites then the government has to be ready to face protest of various forms. Reform means that the government demolish its brahmanical structure. Reform truly mean debrahmanisation process of India. It means India’s corrupt caste structured village structure is hit from below the belt. For that a strong land reform measures need to be carried out. Our corrupt and caste-iests Industrial magnets are not ready for the same therefore face resistance from the people. Reform means that the upper castes should learn that time for hegemony has gone and it is time they learn to live together and respect diversity of India. Reservation are going to stay as long as government does not reform itself and Hindu system remain caged in the age old myopic vision of division of work based on caste. Let us truly reform our society and work for a truly democratic India where every community participates in power and every person go to school irrespective of caste and creed.