Interrogating the Savarna Self – Managing Casteism in the Grab of ‘Merit’


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Reservations to thik hai, magar merit se compromise karna thik nahi

A friend of mine tells me about the implementation of reservation policy in educational institutes. A sensible person can read the double edge involved in the statement. At one level the person wants social justice and another level the person finds people availing reservations to be having less merit. The paradox is apparent now.

My Savarna friend finds it theoretically sound to preach reservations but in case of actual practice “it devalues merit”. Those of you who have interacted with ‘general’ category friends in close quarters know that reservations are looked down upon, if not hated. The reason, they say, is merit. Merit becomes an important plank to devalue reservations. One fails to see, why those who value ‘merit’ end up having only forward castes in their colleges and departments.

I fail to see how come only ‘open’ category people have merit! Is ‘merit’ a racial attribute?

A social sciences student has to deal with the complexities of ‘theory’, ‘practice’, ‘social justice’, ‘quality research’, ‘critical thinking’ and ‘self-reflexivity’. All of such heavy terms operate within the mind at one and the same time. As a student of social sciences one is compelled to deal with, often contradictory positions, and sort out them in a neat and coherent fashion. Our academic ‘self’ is slowly and gradually made by that long and continuous practice. But academic Self also is placed with the broader socio-legal structure in which the person is actually operating. An upper caste is compelled to say that s/he does not believe in caste. Most of the Savarnas are quite vocal about their secular world view. Those who are ‘radical’ speak, write and share FB posts mocking religious beliefs and practices of their own Hindu religion. But I fail to understand why such things are shared within their own friend’s circle which remains Savarna! Marriages for that matter, are most conspicuous.

Our academic ‘self’ is slowly and gradually made by that long and continuous practice. But academic Self also is placed with the broader socio-legal structure in which the person is actually operating. An upper caste is compelled to say that s/he does not believe in caste. Most of the Savarnas are quite vocal about their secular world view. Those who are ‘radical’ speak, write and share FB posts mocking religious beliefs and practices of their own Hindu religion. But I fail to understand why such things are shared within their own friend’s circle which remains Savarna! Marriages for that matter, are most conspicuous. Savasana, quite ‘radical’ in their opinions, marry exclusively Savarnas and opt for conservative Hindu rituals! May be I don’t have enough merit to see their actions as ‘radical’!

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Now the point is clear, Savarna definitely has ‘merit’ when it comes to managing their ‘academic’ self and their ‘personal self’. Their academic is ‘radical’ demanding attention, publishing papers, and winning laurels. But personal Self-remains Savarna. Savarna in friendships, marriages, and social contacts (this, in turn, produces casteist and communal form of knowledge ). The two contradictory Selfs have to be performed neatly and that requires practice, long practice for years. This comes from family, friends, school, and neighbors. All remain brutally casteist and communal. A kid normalizes casteism and communalism by the time s/he has grown up. S/he rebels, but only in public sphere. Privately the same old casteist and communal Self-remains at play.

I ask my fellow ‘radical’ Savarnas: Why can’t they be radical in their practice? Why can’t they genuinely listen to Bahujan people? Why can’t their classrooms have people with diverse backgrounds with diverse opinions? Why can’t they tell in public what they actually believe: ‘reserved category hai, talented kaha se hoge’? Why can’t Savarna marriages be secular? Why can’t they make public their opinion that “post OBC reservations standard of Indian universities have gone further down”? Why?

Do you lack ‘merit’ to practice what you claim to profess?

Author – Zeeshan Husain

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