Recently, a debate has started on the issue of reservations, as renowned columnist Tavleen Singh wrote (IE, December 10, 2023), in a column titled "Time to end reservations," mentioning that Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar suggested reservations only for ten years. However, she did not make it clear that the suggestion was only for political reservations, not all reservations, i.e., universities, colleges, and jobs. There is a need to analyse her arguments objectively, not emotionally.
Firstly, she argued that reservations have failed to bring social equality and justice for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Her argument was challenged by Dalit rights activist and DU Asst Prof Dr.Aditi Narayani Paswan (IE, December 15, 2023), where Paswan mentioned the story of the Dalits of Bodoland, how they reached higher education with the help of reservations, and how they were able to break down the trauma of caste, which has been responsible for their inferiority complex. If reservations did not exist, they would not have confidence and dignity.
Secondly, her (Singh's) argument was that other backward castes did not need it. She mentioned that anyone who knows rural India slightly knows that these backward castes are not backward at all. In the Hindi Heartland, they have been at the top. Therefore, she is speaking right, but OBCs did not get reservations on the grounds of backwardness. Instead, they got reservations on the grounds of less representation in all spheres of public institutions. And their claim for reservation was evolved by the Supreme Court of India, which makes it more and more acceptable. She mentioned that our honourable Prime Minister himself proudly admits to being an OBC. But she used these remarks not in a positive sense, even though she had been trying to make the PM’s caste identity an issue, while recently, the Prime Minister spoke that for him, only the four biggest castes are the poor, youth, women, and farmers. This shows that he does not believe in caste identity and that he is firstly the Prime Minister of Indians, not a member of a bunch of castes.
Thirdly, she has been relating the demand for a caste-based census to reservations. How has she been claiming that caste-based censuses affect the reservation policy? The Census is a political agenda of political parties, not the agenda of the government, and if it does, then it would be beneficial for policymakers to make policies for the marginalized sections of society, and data would never create disharmony.
Fourthly, she (Singh) argued that youth are very angry about reservations. Again, I agree with her argument, but I also agree with the answer of Paswan (IE, December 15, 2023) that youth are also angry at why all the ragpickers and sanitation workers invariably belong to one caste, and why the judiciary belongs to descendants of a few castes or families.
Lastly, she (Singh) argued that the government should scrap all reservations before so-called upper castes demand reservations for their rights, but we should understand that now the economically weaker section has also gotten a 10-percent reservation by the constitutional amendment of 103. These economically weaker sections cover the so-called upper castes, and their criteria for reservation are economic backwardness, which is also checked by our SC. Before leaving these arguments among intellectuals, I would appreciate the courage of Singh and Paswan, who took this risk to speak about a very controversial issue of reservation. I agree that reservation has also become a tool on the agenda for political parties and caste-based organizations. But I want to mention Karl Marx here as he wrote in the “Communist Manifesto” that we all know about the problem, but the matter is that, who would resolve it and how? The same thing has been applied to the issues of casteism and reservation.
- The Author Dr. Krishan Kumar is a scholar based in Haryana specializing in Dalits and Marginalized Studies, with a focus on social inclusive policies. He is currently engaged in research related to caste issues
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this text belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of any institution or organization associated with him.