It is the time for entrance examinations in India. While I was preparing for an entrance, a good friend of mine, made a remark which affected me deeply, prompting me to write this. She says that people like me get into colleges easily and the very presence of me in the examination system is unjust and an indignity to merit.
No. I was not privileged enough to get the best education from the best schools in my area. I was not rich and powerful enough to buy NRI seats or easily secure admission at private colleges. Nor am I a prodigy. In fact, she wouldn’t have raised much voice or cried out injustice had I been born a prodigy or secured admissions via Management Quota.
I was causing injustice to the educational system of the country because I was born into backward class and yet I was ‘not poor’. I had a home, clean clothes and was not mired in poverty, so me ‘using’ reservation was unfair.
And my atonement should be that I renounce Reservation so that the “deserving” Backward class students get seats. But when I apply the same logic and contend that people like her, who can easily afford NRI seats must renounce her government seat and study in Management seat so that “deserving” Forward class students could study in government institutions, it is met with vehement refusal.
I think this refusal is reflective of the double standards of our society. If I am rich and was applying for a government seat it is totally normal. But if I am a ‘quota’ and I am not poor, it is abnormal. Even if poor, I’ll still be accused of taking advantage of the system because we need to ‘study only half’ and we have to only pay lesser fees. Few people understand the turmoil that the Reserved category student goes through.
You claim that Reservation destroys merit, but you are silent about NRI quota or Privatization of seats where mammon reigns over merit. Isn’t this a blot to your meritocracy?
The opponents of Reservation Policy often conveniently reduce reservation the narrative into a purely economic matter ignoring the social aspect associated with it.
Have you ever wondered why you take pride in your caste even though you struggle to acknowledge it, thanks to your progressive mindset, while many people, especially the ones like us who are supposed to be poor and wear tattered clothes are reluctant to reveal our caste?
When my friend contents that a non-poor SC/ST is no more backward, she is tactfully ignoring a fact that she knows all so well. The fact that assuming she is willing, if I ask her Father for her hand in marriage, even if I have secured merit in general seat, even if I am educated or well-settled, he would never perceive me as his social equal. Why?
Welcome to the reality of casteism- something many Forward Class pretend never exists but knowingly or unknowingly perpetrates.
What is caste? What is its purpose and relevance in these times?
My learning says that the purpose of having to fill the column for ‘caste’ is to identify whether the applicant is legally eligible for Reservation or not. If the caste happens to be falling within the list provided in the constitution, it means the person is eligible for Reservation owing to their historic social and economic backwardness. Otherwise not.
Given this premise -why are the Forward Class people still using their caste name and clinging to this identity? What purpose does it serve?
The newspapers and matrimonial websites are overwhelming with caste. Why?
I don’t think I would be mistaken if I’m to say that the Educated Forward Class who still cling to their caste identity, practice casteism and lament over the less ‘meritorious’ Backward students getting admission are practicing Hypocrisy of the worst kind.
The Reservation system is a big problem for the Forward Class but their clinging to their caste identity is nothing!
In workplaces, If the man belonging to Reserved Category is having trouble reading English, he is incompetent draining the efficiency of the system. If he has the ability to read in English and wears a neat dress, he is taking advantage of the Reservation system by denying the deserving poor people of opportunity.
In this manner, the person belonging to the reserved category is sure to get denounced no matter what. Isn’t this sheer discrimination?
You are so keen to determine the ‘backwardness’ of a caste with the intention to strike it down from the Reservation Category but never bother to ask the fundamental question whether the vestiges of casteism practiced by so called “Forward Class” is really progressive or not.
If casteism is to end, mustn’t the first step be the dropping off of the caste identity altogether by those for whom it is no longer relevant?
You say that Reservation takes unfair proportion of seats? Let’s look at the facts. Backward class account for 67 percent of the total population of our country according to the Mandal Commission Report.
Let us take the skeletal premise of Reservation System. Assuming that there are 100 seats in Indian college, this would mean that 67 % of the Backward class competes for 50 seats! Does that sound fair to you? Where is your fairness radar?
The only reason there is no uprising among Backward class is that most of these poor wretches of our great nation are so busy scrimping and scraping for getting two square meals per day that they can’t afford to provide quality education to their children.
What about the grotesque crimes, student suicides, violence, inequality, humiliation and injustice that the Dalit community of our to-be trillion-dollar economy face even today? National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data says that every 6 minutes, a crime against a Dalit is committed, every day, 6 Dalit women are subject to Sexual crimes.
You cry over the fact that your merit is lost because of Reservation, but have you ever thought of the lives lost because of Casteism?
Till date, more than 1046652 migrant laborers alone were displaced as a result of pandemic, according to reply filed by Ministry of Labor and Employment. Most of these migrant laborers, the slum dwellers, the beggars, the gypsies are the wretched vestiges that the caste system shitted out after it nourished its creators for generations. Out of these wretched people, how many children would complete their education? How many of them can secure admission to college? Who cares!
How will our Nation ever be free of caste discrimination if you preach the Noble ideals of our Nation while practicing casteism?
If you really want to end the reservation system, begin by ending your casteism. The Backwardness of the Backward Classes will never end unless and until the Forward class ends their casteism and MEAN it.
Nikhil Suresh is a law student. Graduated from Mahatma Gandhi University, School of Indian Legal Thought, Kottayam in 2020. Currently preparing for pursuing Masters. Contact: email@example.com
I wrote this article in the light of certain experiences me and people like me regularly have to face while participating in entrance exams or exams like PSC or UPSC. Many people keep quiet and swallow the bitterness and humiliation, unable to even express their indignation or dissent. I speak for those muffled voices. After reading this, if at least one reader in inspired to challenge my narratives or abjure their own casteism, I would consider my purpose of writing this article to be fulfilled.