Casteism is Regressive or Reservation is Regressive?
We Indians, as a society and as a global power, are becoming the forerunner among all the South Asian nations. But some regressive concepts like casteism, on which the present domestic Indian politics is dependent, are still prevailing, which does not allow an individual to have frank and free relation with the so-called ‘untouchables’ of the society.
To address this nuance, we first have to look towards the origin of this nonsense approach. Historically, our society was tolerant to each other. Till the Vedic Period, there was no sign of casteism. However, in the later Vedic Period, the classification of the society was started on the basis of economic activities, namely the Brahmins, the Kshatriya, the Vaishya and the Shudras.
In Hindu mythology (originally in the Sanatan), it is believed that Brahma is the creator of the Universe (Brahmand). Thus, the privileged persons of that time (later Vedic Period) in the society to claim their prowess on rest of the less privileged, derived the tool of nomenclature of the classified society.
The classed society had the Brahmans as the head of the society as they were associated with the elite jobs like worship of God, Yagna etc. And because they represent the head of the Creator of this Universe (the Brahma), this class was named Brahmans.
Next class was the Kshatriya who represents the hands of the Creator because they had chosen the work of protection of the society,i.e; the ‘warriers’. The rationale behind this nomenclature was that hands are always there for the protection.
The Vaishyas were associated with commerce and business and they represent the thigh of the Brahma. The last section of the society was the Shudras and the then ‘untouchables’ who represent the feet of the Brahma, associated with the work of cleansing the garbage and the waste materials of the society. As they represented the feet of the Brahma, their destiny was to revere the Brahmins with full gratitude; this is still in practice in some of the countryside.
The prevalence of caste is there in the society on the basis of heredity, despite the fact that the society was classified on the basis of the economic activities of the people. Now, in our society, the opposite thing is happening, here the classification of the society is on the basis caste. By this arrangement, the Brahmins reclaimed their sovereignty over the society and still continue to do so. They are always pessimistic about the greater freedom of the‘untouchables’ on pretending that the freedom of the downtrodden will dilute their dominance over the society. Legally, these so called ‘untouchables’ are named as Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).
Now, the social condition of the SCs and STs is not too much different from that of the time of later Vedic Period. Here the high caste people is too reluctant to have relation with them, even there is a few who do not want a glass of water from these so called ‘untouchables’. Economically also, they are yet to be emancipated, freedom of choice of profession (Article 19) is alien to them, caste-based discrimination, sexual exploitation and atrocities (as prohibited by the Article 15)are the fate of the women of this section, even naked parade and witch hunting are usual phenomenon.
Constitutionally, all the citizens of India have the right to live with full dignity with equal opportunity in all the affairs of life. Article 14-18 of the Constitution deals with the provision of “Right to Equality”, within which Article 16 deals with the “Equal Opportunity of Employment”. Freedom of choice of profession is also guaranteed by the Constitution (Article 19). So, it is not the wisest thing to force a section of society to practice a profession on the basis of heredity. They should have greater say while choosing their mode of wage-earning. Similarly, Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India empowers the State to have some special provision for the backward classes of the society, if their representation is not adequate in any affairs of life. For this purpose, the policy of reservation (Article 335) came into existence, which is politically called as “Affirmative Action”.
In this context, the hypocritical high class is always against this provision with the excuse that reservation policy deprives the other section (high class) of the society and it also causes the grave violation of the Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution. To my understanding, it is not a violation of the Constitution and nothing in this provision deprives the others. The weaker sections of the society are too weak to compete with the economically elite class on equal terms. They should be brought in the mainstream first; they should economically be as empowered as the elite, then they should be asked to compete on equal basis. The thing is like that a race between a physically challenged man and a man on bike cannot be considered. So, the policy of reservation is not as regressive as it has been widely circulated. It is a type of special care taken by the Government of India, by its Constitutional obligation, for the downtrodden.
Politically, to safeguard the privileges of the SCs and STs, the Constitutions has guaranteed the rights of the scheduled people of India. The National Commission for SCs and The National Commission for STs are there under the Article 338 and 338A, respectively, established after the bifurcation of the combined Commission by the 89th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2003, but came into existence in 2004. SC and ST women’s seat has been reserved in the Rural and Urban local bodies respectively, by the 73rd and 74thConstitutional Amendment Act, 1993. These were the ‘Special Provisions’ enacted by the framers of the Constitution and the Government of India for the SCs and STs.
But, here we have to argue, why there is a necessity to entertain such provisions like ‘reservation’?
We are living in a welfare state, so welfare schemes are anticipated. The economy of Indian society is a mixed kind of economy (though Preamble of the Constitution of India describes India as a ‘Socialist’ country but actually we are moving towards ‘Capitalism’), in which some precautionary measures are being taken by the government to protect the weaker section from the exploitation of the capitalists. This is exactly the same reason, for which the Indian companies are given some protection from the exploitation of big multi-national corporations (MNCs), by reserving few commodities to be produced by the domestic companies only. Here, the hypo-critic class should shout on the basis that Government of India should not reserve the goods to be produced, as government has liberalized its economy in the 1990’s and the companies should be left to the demand and the competition of the market. So, reservation is inevitable, in both economic and social aspects.
Now, the question arises, on what basis should the reservation be given? Whether it should be given on the basis of caste, or on the basis of economic status, or on the basis of religion? For how long the policy should be continued?
According to me, the criterion of reservation should be made on economic line rather than on the caste-heredity.So far, the policy of reservation benefitted the weaker people (though ghost beneficiaries are there) among the Hindus only, leaving the weaker ones of other faiths into the pyre of struggle. Sachar Committee Report (2006) says, the conditions of the people among the Muslims are much worse than average. The righteousness is that weaker sections of the society from all faiths should be brought under the umbrella of reservation, on the basis of economic status. So, this is imbecile to say that reservation should be given to Hindus only, though so far the politics of India has been alluding to the same.
The argument about the duration of the policy should be addressed in a constructive manner. When the policy was inaugurated, it was piloted only for 10 years and from then it has continuously been renewed for another 10 years and still is being renewed. The renewal was on the basis that the upliftment of the SCs and STs was not as much as anticipated. But, this policy has now become hereditary and the already benefitted are still plucking the spring blossoms of the policy of reservation. We have to stop this sinful practice; we have to push the marginal to avail this benefit. If, once a generation being benefitted and has been brought into the mainstream, its entitlement to reservation should be cancelled and be forced to compete with equal terms with the rest privileged. But, in reality, the privileged are getting more and more privileged and the section which deserves it most is still in the darkest hour of the day. So, the policy should be for one generation rather than on heredity.
Finally, we can conclude with the statement that, as we living in a ‘Socialistic’ country, as such the Constitution of India describes us, we cannot escape from the fact that the gap between the have and have-nots is widening day by day. We need to bridge that gap, as people of ‘India’ is in an advanced stage of society, whereas the people living in ‘Bharat’ is not as capable as the elite. So, social welfare schemes like ‘reservation’ is needed but have to say no to casteism to have the emancipation of the scheduled people been done.