Disclaimer: Views expressed are my own. Any hurt is unintended. If someone is offended, then I am sorry they are so sensitive.
Caste: Such a controversial subject. I wasn’t sure whether I should write this.
Reason for writing this? Recent protest. Which one you might wonder! For we are a nation of protestors. In fact, every couple of months there is a protest relating to reservation. Reservation is our pineapple pizza, but more serious. It has divided the youth and united the political class.
In my adolescence, I was perturbed by reservation. To me, it was wholly unfair. I have never discriminated against anyone so why should I be punished? It is against meritocracy. Reservation will lead to more discrimination. Could I have been more wrong? I don’t think so. Many people still say these things. They are as ignorant of reality as I was then. As an ‘upper caste’ I cannot relate to my ancestors being excluded for centuries and being confined to menial work. We cannot pretend to understand that. We also should not pretend that it doesn’t exist.
Caste exists. Not simply in the matrimonial ads we read for amusement but as an integral part of our society. Whether we acknowledge it or not. For some it’s a privilege, for others it’s a handicap, a barrier. Climate change deniers in the west often argue (during winters) that global warming is not real because it is snowing. We laugh at them but do the same back home. Simply because we haven’t seen or experienced it for real doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It is, in fact, a proof of our privilege. I went to a private English medium school. I don’t remember knowing any lower caste student, let alone befriend them. In the societies I have stayed in, most people are upper caste. It took going to a government college in north India to jolt me into reality. If I hadn’t, I would probably still carry around these notions.
On a similar note, we say caste, and all might be real in villages but in cities, it doesn’t matter. It does. Urban chaos shields it. Cooperative housing societies make their own rules and have almost complete autonomy over its members. That’s why I don’t remember playing with a lower caste kid or a tribal kid or a Muslim kid. Most families were and still are upper caste and Hindu, ironically in a city that prides on being home to Parsis, Jews and Catholics. That’s classic exclusion by the way.
Next one: But I never discriminated against anyone so why should I be punished?
Nobody is holding you accountable for the past. Reservation is not punitive, it is representation. It’s not economical, its social. It’s an opportunity to those who have been historically subjugated. The society cannot move forward unless all its diverse groups move forward together. Some have been stopped from moving forward for a long time. They need special focus and affirmative action. It’s also about the basic premise that decision makers of a society must be representative of its diverse groups.
I blame the history books for this one, reservation leads to discrimination and further divides the society. There is no chicken or egg scenario here. Discrimination has existed for 2000 years (on record) and reservation for about 70 years. Math aside, the divisions exist more strongly in non-reserved areas of life. Open a newspaper and see it. Reservation is not responsible for Dalits being beaten for riding a horse to their wedding. For honour killings. For rape and for murder. In fact, caste-based gender violence is a reality that mainstream feminists have ignored.
Similarly, some say that reservation is neo casteism. Doesn’t fly. Firstly if 50% of seats are reserved then 50% are open for all. Unlike casteism which meant that certain occupations were 100% reserved for members of a certain caste. Upper castes are not meritorious, intelligent and hardworking by default. Social capital has elevated us in terms of resources, not abilities. Still, if merit is an argument, compete for the 50% seats without complaining. Don’t use reservation as an excuse for failure because, in those 50% open seats, people got through.
On the other end, reservation is the holy grail for its proponents. It should be open for discussion. It should be allowed to evolve so it may rise above vote bank politics and truly empower those that need it. We must have constructive dialogue over sloganeering and strikes.
Preview Photo: indianexpress.com