Will OBC Reservation be the Main Issue in 2019 Elections?


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India saw a spate of movements led by the OBCs throughout India in the recent time. The OBCs are squabbling over the reservation in the Government and in the educational institute. Though the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) does not provide the exact data of the OBC castes, it is clear that India’s demography is dominated by the OBCs. The OBC is not a monolithic and uniform identity. It is diverse and like everything infested by the caste is: it is hierarchical and graded in its nature.

If there is any issue that raises the country’s attention, it is the question of “reservation”. There are basically three camps of opinions: supporters, opponents, and people who have their own versions of “reservation policies”. In this entire debate, the debate over the annihilation of caste is missing. No party and no organization and no corporate discuss ending this inhuman Hate, built into India’s horrendous caste system.

The nation is not divided as much on communal lines as it is divided into the caste lines, but the communal line is pushed ahead to blur the caste lines by the upper caste dominated institutions. While in other countries, the oppressing classes have worked with the oppressed classes, India is perhaps the only country that sees the discrimination on every level, but the beneficiaries have not come in open to shed the privileges off and fight together with the exploited.

The Constitution of India strives to create a society that is clear and the Article 15 of the constitution bars discrimination based on caste among other things, but the Article 15(4) brings in the “reservation” policy as a measure to make the Indian society and equal and symmetrical. At this point, it is important to bear in mind that the “reservation policy” was NOT the gift of the Constitution. It was the incorporation of the “movement” of the non-Brahmins when the new India was conceived by the Constitution.

Reservation policy existed prior to India as a democratic nation existed on this earth. Therefore, the issue of reservation policy is linked with the idea whose nation India is. The Muslims in the British India got their “separate electorate” as early as the beginning of the 19th century and due to two emerging strands of nationhood in India, the British India got partitioned into India and Pakistan. The rallying point of the Muslims was that “Hindus” do not form a majority in India, but that, there is a caste system among them, and that should be the basis of formation of the new republic. But India’s upper castes elites also made blunders by sharply defining Hinduism despite the “majority” Hindus.

Mahatma Jotiba Phule, the Greatest leader of the non-Brahmin movement, mali by caste, defined the nationhood of Indians coming from the aspirations of the majority of the India’s Shudras (OBCs) and Ati-Shudras (the Dalits). In his ideal scheme of family, he included all the religions co-living together under one roof. His movement inspired the non-Brahmin movement throughout India and it influenced the non-Brahmin movement in South India. It was left to the other great OBC leader, Shahu Maharaj, to enact “reservation policy”: the idea which Babasaheb Ambedkar developed through his role in interventions in defining India since 1919.

Currently, the RSS/BJP is struck with the social movements from all sides. The OBCs have been launching marches for reservation. The Dalits are marching in UP. The Muslims are living in fear. The women have been vilified by the atrocious Hindutva forces. It has become clear that if the opposition parties can create a momentum till 2019, it will be impossible for the RSS/BJP to come to power. It is writ on the wall. Therefore, the RSS/BJP is doing whatever it can to keep a hold on the power. It has to show the OBCs that it is serious about them. But it will be just shown and not a real service to the OBCs. The RSS/BJP proved it by raising the “creamy layer” limits from 6 lakhs to 8 lakhs for the OBCs. The OBCs should understand that the RSS/BJP is not their friend.

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There are two biggest problems with the current reservation policy: creamy layer and 50 percent cap on extending the reservation. They are the results of the “judicial” excesses and must be removed by the Acts of Parliament urgently. The judiciary has no business to put these conditions on the democratic policies that the founding fathers of India put in place. The Parliament in its power can undo what the judiciary had done. The caste is the ‘single” determinant of the reservation system and other factors like “education” are important but do not take the equivalent status of the “caste” as the factor. Bringing economic factor in the reservation is killing the spirit of the policy. The reservation is extended to the class of people who are discriminated historically. Though there are scales of discrimination, the varying levels of discrimination in India are facts of social life.

The communities must be represented according to their numbers in all the organs of the government. This is not the case with the current institutions. They are asymmetrically dominated by India’s upper caste. The OBCs are missing out from important institutions as a class of people in making India work as a democracy. The competent class among them cannot find a berth in the making of power, except for some dominant castes, who are dominating politics because of their sheer numbers. The creamy layer must be removed at once. There should be no cap on the limits of reserved seats. In fact, all the seats can be reserved. It has been proved that though the upper castes have been manning the positions for 7 decades, they have not created any “efficient” system. In the “efficiency-equity” dichotomy, it the equity that creates nation, not efficiency. Efficiency can be cultivated and acquired easily, but not equity.

Therefore, the 50 percent limit is illegal.

The politicians have not been able to work out the clear formula for the reservation system though it is so clearly evident in the making of the policy of the reservation. It is the reservation for the “class” of people who are similarly discriminated and fixed in the similar social scales by the Brahminical social order. There is no scope for “reservation within reservation within reservation”. If this logic is extended, the reservation will end up becoming individual “caste” based and the policy will become non-effective. Hence the class is conceived as “classes” or “scheduled” as “groups”. This grouping is important. However, what is now known as “Karpoori Thakur Formula” is back in the discussion. It was implemented in Bihar when the separate group within the “Dalits” as “Mahadalits” was conceived by the JDU Government. Now there is a similar discussion of conceiving “Ati-Picchada” within the “Picchada”.

The discussion has become all the more important as this is what is going to define the agenda of the next elections.

The politically inspired groupings can only be done away with by the consolidated social movement of the OBCs, SCs, and STs against the Upper Caste elites of India. The tragedy of India is this that though the Upper Caste who constitute just over a few percent has the power to decide the fate of 85 percent in India. Imagine a scene when the consolidated social movement of OBCs, STs, and STs takes a centerstage in Indian politics, it will give a politics that will not only have the reservation as the solution to ending the caste system but perhaps millions such measures to destroy the monster of caste.

Author – Mangesh Dahiwale, Human Rights Activist

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