It’s always said that if you misuse something for your petty self-interest, someday, it will come back to haunt you. Political misuse of reservation is such a demon. The politicisation of reservation is always a great political tool for rich dividends in elections. But gradually, it’s becoming an uncontrollable phenomenon, difficult to handle and sure to put the nation in turmoil.
The Jat agitation, demanding reservations, has completely held the state of Haryana to ransom. The violence, hooliganism and damage to property is huge, let alone the inconvenience caused to the common people of Haryana who were practically imprisoned in their homes. As per the news, the Army has been called in and curfew declared in some districts. No one knows when this agitation will end. Haryana Chief Minister called an all party meeting to resolve this issue, although that seems difficult because of the apex court’s stand on this issue.
The present Jat agitation is neither the first nor will it be the last. Previously, similar violent agitations were carried out by Gujjars in Rajasthan, Patels in Gujarat and the Kapus in Andhra Pradesh. The list may be expected to go on increasing in the coming days. The fact is that political parties use reservation to play ‘vote bank politics’ for their self-interest. So, now the communities which have the potential to become a vote bank, have a chance to start demanding reservation vociferously.
I will not be surprised if minority communities, too, come out in violent protests demanding reservation. And, why not? They too are Indian citizens and they are a very strong vote bank. You can argue that the Supreme Court has struck down such demands in the past, in the case of Jats for example. Did that stop the Jats? No. Then why should the others accept? The time is not far when there will be a ‘quota war’ in India, which would be beyond the control of anybody.
Just look at the present case. The Jat community destroyed public property. There’s little condemnation of this. Political parties merely appealed to them not to indulge in violence and hooliganism, but didn’t dare condemn the vandalism. Such is the power of a vote bank. This can be considered as reverse vote bank politics where the vote bank demands it’s due from the obliged political class. That’s the danger in this game of reservation.
By now, some would have classified me as someone who is anti-reservation. Let me be clear that I am not against reservations. Rather, I am for reservation for deserving people. Let me elaborate briefly. I support the reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as stipulated by the Indian Constitution. Here one should note that the proposed reservation was not for poverty alleviation as poverty was rampant throughout India across all castes and communities. Reservation was intended to uplift oppressed communities like the SCs who had been subjected to social discrimination.
Similarly, in the case of the STs, because of their linguistic differences with the mainstream and the remoteness of their settlements, reservations were required for them to bring them into the mainstream. The makers of the Constitution made this provision for a stipulated time period, hoping that both SC and ST communities will be at par with the rest of the country by the end of that period. This didn’t happen. Hence, and rightly, this provision was extended and it should remain in force till the last member of these communities feels that there is no discrimination. I don’t feel anyone should have any complaint regarding this.
Problems started with the Mandal Commission recommendations. Before V.P. Singh, every prime minister realised how these recommendations were a can of worms which would have serious consequences in future. These apprehensions have been proven to be well founded. You only need to look at the present day violent protests to see that. But V.P. Singh implemented them without proper deliberation. Maybe, he came under the influence of his colleagues who saw a potential vote bank. The recommended communities indeed form a sizable decisive vote bank.
I have no disagreement with the Mandal Commission’s observations on the backwardness of many communities. But I have disagreements regarding its recommendations. I truly believe that Other Backward Classes (OBC) need reservations for parity with other advanced sections of society. But I don’t accept looking at ‘Other Backward Class’ as ‘Other Backward Caste’. The simple reason is that there exists a caste-based reservation for SCs. If there really are some castes in need of reservation that remain excluded, then they can very well be included in the SC category and, if required, the quota for SCs can be increased. Why is there a dual system of caste-based reservations? SCs get reservations because they were discriminated as untouchables. Is it because these groups do not want to be identified as SCs?
Why, then, have reservations for castes who discriminate against SCs the same way as the upper castes do? Why have reservations for the Other Backward Classes, that are, in fact, dominant castes in many areas and are never treated as untouchables? Lord Krishna was born in the Yadav clan, but Yadavs are considered as OBCs now. Similarly, how can you claim that Modi, Mohanty, Patel etc. are discriminated against? If you ask them to get included in the SC category to get reservations, they may not agree. Is it because their dignity will be hurt?
I don’t argue for abolishing reservations. I don’t argue also that there should not be more categories for reservation. But, yes, I oppose this dual system of caste reservations as it itself amounts to discrimination. OBCs by caste are always considered higher than SCs in the caste hierarchy. I argue for reservation for the trailing poor classes, because poverty is the reason for the backwardness of many communities across all castes and religions. These communities are unable to compete with the advanced classes. Poverty has no caste. Classifying communities as ‘Other Backward Classes’ based purely on economic criteria will put an end to all unrest. Nobody will complain because in every caste (other than SCs) and in every religion there are poor people that deserve a push by the state through affirmative action. Yes, it has a disadvantage for politicians because, by doing this, vote bank politics might cease.
At present, the government has agreed to provide quota for Jats capitulating in the face of violent protests. This might set the precedent for other communities like Patels, Gujjars, Kapus and many others to follow and they might also indulge in such violent protests. Politicians might also agree to their demands because of vested interests. But is the politician’s interest more important than national interest? Politicians will look out for their interest, but who will look out for the national interest? Will the Supreme Court consider this aspect? We’ll have to wait and see. Till then, brace yourself. Get ready to see more and more violence, hooliganism and vandalism in the coming days. Maybe much worse than the present Jat agitation in Haryana.