Reservation in India: equality or justice?

Reservation has become one of the biggest topic of debate in India. There have been debates, rallies and protests, both, in favour, and against the policy of reservation. To understand this issue thoroughly one has to  peek deep down into the history of India. Where does reservation have its inception, in politics, or in ancient India?
The age-old Manusmriti, which is considered to be the handbook of Brahmins of the time contains laws based on grounds of caste, and not merit. Divisions were made solely on the grounds of birth; if a person was born in higher caste or a lower caste. The higher born people got the best of the society.
Bouncing back to the time of independence, Dr. B.R.Ambedkar rightfully used the term Representation in lieu of Reservation in the Indian Constitution. It is the most precise explanation of reservation. It must be understood that reservation is something which is not given to an individual, it is given to him/her for representing the community to which they belong, an underprivileged community so to speak. Reservation is a tool which gives the underprivileged equal representation and participation rights, be it in governance or education. A beneficiary of this reservation is expected to uplift his/her community. Like everything else in India, this noble idea too has multiple issues enveloping it.
To understand this issue entirely, one has to first understand the terms ‘equality’ and ‘justice’. Equality means treating everyone (people of different caste, religion, age, sex, place of birth) equally despite certain advantages that some individuals might possess. Justice means correcting the wrong, though it might be perceived as inequality at times. When certain people are treated differently, or inferiorly, basically when they are discriminated on certain grounds, that is when justice comes into the picture. As we have seen earlier, discrimination has been persistent in India since ancient times. Brahmins and Kshatriyas were considered to be higher than other.

“Article 16 (4) is not a poverty alleviation programme. Its singular aim is to redistribute power to those who have been kept out of the state apparatus so as to end their educational, social and economic backwardness and this class is not less than 77 1/2 % of the population of the country”
– Justice P.B.Sawant.
It can be said that discrimination (on the grounds of caste, race, sex, religion, place of birth) is a disease. It has become an untreatable super germ. To this, reservation is seen as the only antidote. Prevention is better than cure; no disease, no medicine! But will this change the scenario in a country like ours, where discrimination dates back to 3 BC? It is hard to say.
Dr.Ambedkar proposed reservation for the marginally oppressed for a period of ten years. This was in 1950, it is 2017, reservation still exists. This brings to light an important question, ‘Is the purpose of reservation being served?’
Dr. Ambedkar – “The educated people have betrayed me. I was thinking that after education they will serve their society. But I find that a crowd of clerks had gathered around me, who are engaged in filling their belly”. This heart burning is a proof that educated and intellectual class is alienated from the society and is going away from its brotherhood. Because of this reason, atrocities and discrimination have increased on the people living in villages. The class, who was expected to lead the society, became the most obedient servant of the government, and the movement was left for half hearted and immature people.”
The Mandal Commission report said, “It may appear the upliftment of Other Backward Classes is part of the larger national problem of the removal of mass poverty. This is only partially correct. The deprivation of OBCs is a very special case of the larger national issue: here the basic question is that of social and educational backwardness and poverty is only a direct consequence of these two crippling caste-based handicaps. As these handicaps are embedded in our social structure, their removal will require far – reaching structural changes. No less important will be changes in the perception of the problems of OBCs by the ruling classes of the country.”
The SC/STs living in cities enjoy the fruit of reservation. On the contrary, in the villages, where it is needed the most, people hardly get anything. All that is increasing is discrimination, be it linguistic, or in the form of cow-vigilantes, river water disputes amongst states etc. It seems people are unable to coexist in India peacefully.
Ultimately, the onus is on every single person, availing reservation or not, to be rational and say no discrimination. Reservation can be viewed from different perspectives. One of them is, that the SC/STs and OBCs have been oppressed since ancient times when the upper castes alone enjoyed the privileges of education, politics, religion, freedom and wealth. Now, when the tables have turned, the forward class, or the general category is feeling the heat, the same heat which they might have felt for years, and are still feeling. Reservation to me feels like justice. What goes around comes around I guess!

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