The Jats and Patels have turned violent. The campuses at both student and faculty levels have radicalized themselves ideologically and a generation of youth faces a long break in its academic pursuit. At the root of this divisive campus unrest are reservations based on totally undemocratic criteria of caste and faith, something like robbing Paul to pay Peter. The authors of this suicidal politics are Jawaharlal Nehru and B.R.Ambedkar, both of whom had earlier opposed reservations for minorities and scheduled castes and tribes.
However feebly, alternative voices relating to campus unrest rooted in an irrational and diabolical reservations regime are asserting themselves. A group of IIT’s Chennai faculty strongly assailed the distortion of constitutional rights to include the right to spread disaffection against the country. In short, sedition. A similar condemnation came from the academic world when a clique of “intellectuals” joined the stampede to return Sahitya Akademi awards following the murder of two writers.
How do you explain so-called progressive forces and the media ravenously feeding on the death of a misguided student who chose to end his life instead of fighting for a cause? Other possibilities with close resemblance to the manner of Potti Sreeramulu’s, believed at that time to be much against his will, began to surface.
The IIT professors have expressed concern over institutions of higher learning becoming “war zones” and maintained that calling for the country’s “dismemberment and ruin” in the name of dissent is not acceptable. In a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee, the 56 faculty members stressed “there is a need to save educational institutions from the scholarship of abuse and hate” and sought his intervention. They said, “However, there is a deep distortion of the meaning of academic freedom which is leading to a vitiated atmosphere in the campuses.”
Shashi Tharoor, one of the most influential voices in the country, told the BBC that an inevitable backlash of the agitation by Patels and Jats is to highlight the unfairness of affirmative action in perpetuity. But a more authoritative assertion came from the Supreme Court, calling for a change in the criteria to get on board all deserving persons who have missed the bus earlier. The Supreme Court had earlier this year struck down the government’s notification including the powerful Jat caste in the list of OBCs.
The judges’ said that the state should not go by the “perception of the self-proclaimed socially backward class or advanced classes” regarding whether they deserved to be categorized among the “less fortunate’s.” The court held that caste, while acknowledged to be a prominent cause of injustice in the country historically, could not be the sole determinant of the backwardness of a class.
While caste may be a prominent factor for “easy determination of backwardness”, the top court discouraged “the identification of a group as backward solely on the basis of caste” and called for “new practices, methods and yardsticks” to be evolved.
“The gates would be opened only to permit entry of the most distressed. Any other inclusions would be a serious abdication of the constitutional duty of the State,” the court warned.
The sentiments of the judiciary, the academia and the agitating publics show that it is time to reconsider an overhaul of the reservations policy and assess the damage it had done to some communities by excluding these privileges from them and compelling the victims to fund a scheme hazardous to their survival and resembling a regime of apartheid. Remember the Mandal recommendations and the fires it had started taking a toll of education and youth. Reservations for Muslims began during the Mughal rule itself and continued through the British and post-Independence years. These years also saw a manifold accrual to the number of existing castes. This charity whetted the appetites of other communities like Jats demanding a share in the cake.
Now let us see the irresponsible role the media are playing in keeping the communal fires blazing by a variety of structural and reporting devices. By the simple means of repeatedly disclosing the caste and faith identities of particularly Dalit and Muslim victims, sometimes even when they were victims of a private murder, and for days and months followed by sob stories about the surviving members of their family the media exacerbated their sense of victimhood and a tendency to blame the majority community for their plight. It is difficult to escape the subtlety with which media texts point a finger at the majority community for any adversity that happens to Muslims and Dalits. Gujarat riots saw the media’s darkest hour for which an apology is overdue.
At tan event, largely ignored by the media and major political parties in the last week of December 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a meeting of over 1000 Dalit entrepreneurs organized by the Dalit Industrial Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) and told the audience that ‘this Government is your Government.’ He said that his Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) has given Rs 50,000 crore worth of loans to 80,000 small entrepreneurs, with most of them hailing from the backward castes. He also said that he aims to double the number of Dalit entrepreneurs in the next two years, adding that his wish was that Dalits become job givers and not job seekers.
Now is the occasion to ask how the Brahmins who have a poor representation in Parliament and legislature are able to enter the central and state bureaucracies’ without the help of a platform similar to the one the Prime Minister had addressed? How are they entering Its and Aims out of proportion to their numbers? Contrary to the popular belief Brahmins are not born rich or intelligent. The fact is they spend a large part of their savings on children’s education. Even if the arithmetic of reservations began after independence there should be at least four to five Muslim and Dalit generations that had enjoyed benefits that should have helped educate their children. These communities have little reason for grievance.