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As reported in the media that the BJP led Union Cabinet on Monday 7th Jan 2019 has approved 10 reservations for economically weaker upper castes in the government jobs and education.  For giving the reservation, the government has underlined the criterion for deciding economically weaker section, would be based on the size of ‘land holdings’ and the income of the respective upper caste families (namely Brahmin, Kayasthas and Thakur’s). To note that if it implemented the limit of reservation will reach up to 60 percent. However, Supreme Court has said in 1992 that Reservation in government jobs and education cannot cross the limit of 50 percent.

After that most of the political parties and public at large mostly progressive section have reacted by saying that it is a ‘political stunt’ to woo the upper caste votes. In this respect, BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) and progressive forces have expressed dissatisfaction and questioned the motive of government behind this move. The BSP supremo, Mayawati has said that it is a ‘political stunt’ and she questioned the intention of the government behind this move, ahead of 2019 general elections.

The fact must be noted that the philosophy behind the reservation is not for the ‘anti-poverty’ programme as wrongly understood by many. The constitution makers pointed out that through the policy of reservation we could compensate ‘historical injustice’ perpetrated on the hitherto the depressed classes for long period of time. In short, the philosophy behind reservation is to ensure the ‘Self- representation’ in the ‘public institutions’ as Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had underlined during the formative years of the nation-building. To note that criterion for giving reservation to Dalits and other backward classes are not based on economic factor alone but ‘social and educational backwardness’ as also underlined in our Indian Constitution. The fact must not be ignored that still, the upper castes are  dominating the public institutions like Judiciary, Civil services, Universities, , Industries, Media houses, and Civil society institutions as  noted by sociologist  like Vivek Kumar  who is currently Professor of sociologist at JNU.

It has to be noted that Dalit Muslim and Dalit Christians had availed the reservation facilities during the colonial time.   However, through the presidential order of 1950,  the Article 341 had been amended  and Dalit Muslims and  Dalit Christians were deliberately kept outside from  the fold of reservation solely because of they are affiliated to religious communities like Muslim and Christians which are still for communal forces alien religion. Here, the BJP-RSS often argue that Dalit Muslim and Christians should not be provided reservation facilities because for the BJP-RSS unlike Hindu religion, within Islam and Christianity, the caste system has not been sanctioned by religious scriptures.  The fact must be underlined that within Buddhism and Sikh religion too, the caste system could not be theologically established. However, in 1956 and 1990, Sikhs and Neo-Buddhists have got the reservation.

The eminent scholar and Sociologist Prof. Imtiaz Ahmad and other academics including the Sachar committee report (SCR;2006) said that for not giving reservation to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians are in fact contrary to the principle of ‘Secularism’ and violates the provisions of ‘Fundamental Rights’ of the Indian Constitution.  In this respect, SCR also observes, ‘there were voices that questioned the non-availability of the SC quota for Muslims while it was available for Mazhabi Sikhs and Neo-Buddhists’ (SCR: 2006, p. 26).

Unlike the claim of the Hindu right-wing forces, the recent studies done by the social activist and school teacher Dr. Aiyub Rayeen has consistently shown in his research (He did several studies at the grassroots levels in a different district of Bihar among Dalit Muslim castes) underlined that the socio-economic conditions of Dalit Muslims are the worst than any other groups.  One could theoretically say that Islam is an ‘egalitarian religion’ but in the Indian Muslim society the caste and practices of untouchability are still can be noticed, Rayeen says and shown in his works. In a similar way, several studies have also underlined that within Indian Christians community caste and practices of untouchability could be noticed.

The point must be noted here that despite the claim of championing the cause of women rights, the BJP has not taken any serious initiative during his tenure to pass the women’s reservation Bill which is pending for last more than two decades. However, it is ironical to note in spite of the strong opposition of the recent ‘Triple talaq Bill’ (which criminalizes the Muslim men by giving three years of the punishment) by the opposition parties, the BJP has put its all efforts to passé the said Bill in the Lok Sabha, however, the Bill is now pending in the Rajya Sabha.

To conclude here, on the basis of earlier mentioned points one could say that the BJP has ‘communal perspective’ on reservation by not considering the hitherto under-privileged social category like Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians. However, it is right to say that poverty is prevalent not only in the lower caste but also in the upper-castes too.  Several Studies and reports  including like Arjun Sen Gupta report (2007) have shown that menace of poverty is larger Indian phenomena and prevalent in the general caste category too. As report pointed that 836 million people in India live on a per capita consumption of less than Rs 20 a day in the unorganized sector.

However, the reservation is not the only way to deal with the problems of poverty, unemployment and lack of education found in the upper caste poor.  To remove the poverty and educational backwardness, it is necessary for the government to increase the budgetary allocations for the welfare programme and schemes and not to privatize education. The fact must be noted that since the BJP’s government led by PM Modi came into power in 2014, it is not wrong to say that current ruling dispensation has reduced the budget on the welfare programme and educational schemes. On the contrary, due to implementation of ‘demonetization’ and ‘GST’, including the speedy process of privatizations has increased the problems of poverty, unemployment, caste atrocities and communal tensions. So, therefore, here, it is argued that if the government is really committed and interested to remove the poverty of the weaker upper-castes, and overcome the problems of their educational backwardness, must  focuses on the welfare schemes and other ‘anti-poverty’ measures including more expenditure on public educational sector rather than giving 10 percent reservation to economically weaker upper castes.

The author is a research scholar, Department of political science, university of Delhi

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