Every year, we see numerous agitations going on in different parts of our country in the name of reservation. The situation is such that the reservation system has single handedly created more conflicts than the Indian Media itself.
Sorry ye thoda zada hogya! Anyways. .
The Upper Castes of our country have time and again voiced their concerns over how reservation system is unfair to them and should be abolished with immediate effect. And of course it has been unfair to them. It's not their fault that their forefathers brutalized these castes. Being empathetic is hard when you see another person getting ahead of you with lower marks. You don't care if they prepared for it on their own while you spent lakhs on the coaching because your privileged parents could afford it. None of it matters but the marks.
Multiple PILs have been registered in the Supreme Court to put an end to this practice that works against meritocracy. According to a survey held by Social Attitudes Research for India, 43% people wanted merit to be the only way to education and jobs. Even people who are least interested in evaluating social situations and general governance have opinion on this particular subject.
But what is the origin of this unfair practice? How did this all start? To answer these questions, we will first have to dig deep into the reasons due to which this system was created in the first place.
If you're an Indian, there's no chance you are alien to the concept of casteism. It's almost impossible that you introduce yourself by your first name and nobody at any point of time has ever enquired about your surname. Infact it happens quite often. So what do you think that is? What's that thing in your surname that interests them so much? You got it right, it's most probably your caste.
The origin of castes goes back to the time of vedas. According to the Rigveda, Lord Brahma destroyed himself to create human life on earth. Different parts of his body became different Varnas, i.e. castes. The head became Brahmins, the priests and scholars. The arms became Kshatriyas, the rulers and warriors.The thighs became Vaishyas, the merchants and traders while the feet became Shudras, the labourers. Over the years, a 5th caste was introduced that wasn't included in the 4 Varnas called the Avarna, popularly known as Dalits today.The avarnas were kept in the profession of sanitation and cleaning and were therefore deemed as untouchables. So, basically this is a brahminical concept that has no mention in the vedas. Infact, some scholars believe that the whole concept of 4 Varnas was added to the Rigveda much later than the Vedic period. People in the lower castes ofcourse had no awareness of their rights otherwise one day of strike would have been enough for the upper castes to smell the shit they were strewing both literally and metaphorically!
Years later, a holy book for Hindu Code of Conduct was compiled by Brahmins allegedly based on the vedas known as Manusmriti. However, there were various manuscripts of Manusmriti written between the period of 200 BC to 300 CE that were inconsistent and contradictory to each other which brought down their authenticity to a nought. And it's so funny because the whole point of it was to create a set Code of Conduct for everybody following Hinduism irrespective of their diverse castes and Brahmins, who themselves belonged to the same caste, couldn't agree to a single set of rules. I mean, you had one job!
Out of more than 2500 verses, over a thousand were dedicated to both Brahmins and Kshatriyas individually while Vaishyas and Shudras were left with just 6 and 2 respectively. This clearly established the fact that their basic motive was only to patronise their own relationship with the Kshatriya Kings. So much so to be in the good books that you tried to write one yourself? Such hardworking people you guys!
But their hard work paid off as nobody questioned the Brahmins at that point of time and honestly, who would? Nobody other than Brahmins ever read it. Shudras weren't even allowed to read vedas because what's better way to hide an evidence than telling the victim you can't touch it! Problem solved.
Years of oppression and then Britishers arrived. To add to it ofcourse. It is said that "If two fishes are fighting, an Englishman must have passed by". In our country, they stayed for 200 years. Now, imagine!
Brahmins, being the most literate people at that time, communicated with the British the most and introduced them to manusmriti. Divide and rule being their modus operandi all around the world, Britishers jumped at the opportunity of creating a feud between people. They propagated the ideology of Brahmanism as Hinduism giving rise to Hindu Law that served their interest.
Now when I talk about casteism, you must be thinking about all the discrimination you have seen happening around you. Segregating their area, calling them with derogatory terms, making them sit on floors, not letting them enter temples etc. But this is not it. This is the kind of common discrimination we are witnessing after years of upliftment. Back then, people from lower castes didn't have the right to education. They weren't even allowed to find work outside their family profession. The punishments for entering upper caste areas could go from lashing, whipping to mutilations and even murders. Raping their women was common because apparently untouchability would dwindle in the darkness of sexual urges. Their kids were beaten up mercilessly for even roaming around the schools. Families were burnt alive in their houses for disobeying the upper castes. The shudras were made to eat human excrement for things like walking on their roads by mistake. And before you think it was the thing of the past, I must tell you that a similar thing happened in Tamil Nadu just 2 years back.
To fight such atrocities, reservation system was introduced. Some of the pioneers who worked relentless to make this happen were Shahuji Maharaj, Jyotirao Phule and Dr B. R. Ambedkar. Dr B.R. Ambedkar was the one who drafted the Indian Constitution and also fought for the depressed classes by introducing reservation.
In 1993, the Mandal Commission took the percentage of reservation to 49.5% by demanding 27% reservation for OBCs. The centre giving power of extending reservation to the state government also worked as a fuel to the fire. Various communities like Jats in Haryana, Gujjars in Rajasthan and recently enough, Marathas in Maharashtra decided to fight for reservation in their state. In 2019, PM Modi extended 10% reservation to the economically backward people in General category as well.
Some people argue that the quality of work decreases due to reservation which was proved false by a research that found out that there was no evidence of decrease in productivity due to reserved candidates. A study also nullified the conjecture that reserved students find it hard to cope up with their studies.
But how effective has reservation been for these people?
A research found out that the representation of SCs and STs increased by 22% in Higher Education over the years. However, the representation of STs is still less than their reserved share. The hiring of reserved candidates as faculties in IITs and IIMs remained much lower than their actual share and a serious under representation of reserved groups amongst PhD scholars was reported in these institutions.
Representation of SCs and STs increased in Government jobs but majority of them still remain in the C and D group of government jobs. The D group also involves jobs of Safai Karamchari in which a whopping 40 to 60% is taken by SCs alone. I wonder how many unreserved people would want reservation in that job category.
A study also showed that reservation boosted morale of students and increased their representation in salaried jobs by 5%. Poverty in these caste groups also decreased with time.
The concept of creamy layer has also spiked debates as people believe that some reserved candidates who aren't as deprived are gaining the benefits of reservation. Now it's really important to understand that elevated economic conditions don't necessarily mean an increase in social status. The evidence of this was found in a recent case where a woman panchayat leader from a schedule caste in Tamil Nadu was denied a chair and wasn’t even allowed to hoist a flag because of the perceived lower social status of her caste. Reservation aims to achieve both as economic affluence alone can't solve the problem.
The Upper Castes of our country, mainly Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas claim to face loss due to the reservation system even when there has been no evidence of any significant decline in their development. They outperform other social groups in terms of assets, income and education. They also claim that there's no untouchability or discrimination going on in our society anymore when the country is witnessing Dalit students committing suicide every year due to the harassment they face in educational institutes. The worst part is, a lot of them got admission based on merit and not quota.
What should be done?
Greater Social Integration should be the utmost priority. People should be encouraged to indulge in inter caste interactions. It was found out that students from schools with greater diversity rarely swim with the tide of discrimination. Studies have also shown that friendships in diverse groups are more fulfilling and long lasting than friendships in groups with people belonging to the same caste.
Inter caste marriages should be supported as they blur the lines between castes futher contributing to biologically healthier and diverse genes. In a recent survey, when people in Delhi were asked if intercaste marriages should be banned, 60% of the people supported the act. When we talk about discrimination, people don't take 2 seconds before announcing that the society is progressing and they don't practice discrimination at all. Some go further and boast about the fact that they allow their house helps to sit on the chairs. But when these same people are asked about their opinion on intercaste marriages, they are quite clear about the fact that they support them until their own child decides to indulge in one.
Laws have been made to combat caste based atrocities but they mean nothing until they're implemented. Time and again it has been found out that complaints regarding discrimination go unreported as the police deny from filing an FIR. Infact, in most cases, the police themselves end up being an oppressor. Swift action by police is needed in such cases.
Providing resources to the marginalized groups can fasten the impact. Improving the conditions and quality of education in government schools and providing them books and stationary at minimal costs can be a step ahead. Providing them free coaching is another way of doing so. It was found out that when Ministry of Social Justice launched scheme of free coaching to the reserved groups, 10% students from the scheme managed to crack exams like UPSC, NEET and JEE.
And last but not the least, check your privilege before demanding the abolition of reservation. Be aware. Look around. Keep your eyes and ears open to the signs of subtle discrimination. Stop using casteist slurs and covering it up by saying that you didn't know better. JUST KNOW BETTER.
And if you belong to a caste that has been oppressed since ages, stand for yourself. Voice your encounters with people who have made you feel like a lesser person just based on your family name. Be proud of your identity rather than trying to hide it. The success might be slow but it's worth seeking.
So, this was me trying to rationalize the chaos around a system that has muddled our thoughts for years! Sleep on it before you take offence as it might haunt you later that I made sense!