In Search of Reservation

They are back in business—caste lords of North India. With Bihar Assembly Poll, not far away, the so-called Janata family (Janata Parivar of Lalu, Nitish and Mulayam brigade), an obnoxious symbol of reverse casteism, is trying to incite caste prejudices, only to strengthen the very caste system, much to the satisfaction of upper-caste or upper class people. The redoubtable Lalu Yadav is now demanding the early release of caste census. So Lalu Yadav’s family enterprise—Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)—oraganised a day-long hunger strike to press their demand, accusing the Modi Government of suppressing the latest caste census report. The last caste census was done in 1931. But his attack on Modi that he was biting entire Bihar was too ludicrous to be taken seriously by any sensible person. Modi, being the generally accepted communal face of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a darling of corporate India, had no option but to talk in terms of caste while addressing election rallies in Bihar. Bihar politics means caste politics.

No doubt caste census figures would reveal the real number of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes people, which the Lalus claimed, and not unjustifiably, had increased three times over the years. So they would demand higher reservation for the ‘downtrodden’ and separate outlays for social welfare programmes for them. In other words their world vision doesn’t go beyond reservation. The hard reality is that the present economic model pursued by the Modis is not creating more jobs, much less in government sector. Unless the pattern of jobless growth is attacked, any number of hunger strikes for more reservation won’t be able to move the mountain. In their politics of reservation there is a lack of interest in what is happening to vast majority of the marginalised. The list of ‘development refugees’, is growing, there are the people fighting at the forefront in different regions, against the Centre’s neo-liberal onslaught. But they don’t matter in reservation calculus of the Yadav brigade of Bihar. Too many people, both educated and uneducated youth, are chasing too few jobs. It’s not their concern. Nor does the Janata family that now gets media attention for reasons other than Janata—people—bother about wider perspective of people’s movements that reflect the aspirations of all sections of population. At the time of writing scientists, academics, students, social activists, concerned parliamentarians, progressive lawyers and others were expressing their solidarity, support and participation in the march to be launched from the 6th of August, by the struggling people of the Narmada Valley. Incidentally the Narmada struggle is now 30 years old and it is continuing. While marking the occasion on the eve of 30 years of relentless struggle by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement), people in the Sardar Sarovar Project affected areas called upon the Union Government to review decision of Sardar Sarovar Project and expedite rehabilitation as per law and judicial orders. But the Modis are non-responsive. Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat repressed the struggling people of Narmada Valley. And Modi as Prime Minister is unlikely to review their pet project, rather a prize project of World Bank for vested interests.

Today Narmada struggle is a national struggle for peace, justice and democracy. It’s a people’s movement and it has acquired international dimension over the years. But the struggling Scheduled Tribes people in Gujarat don’t matter in the casteist electoral politics of Bihar. So they don’t figure in their scheme of social welfare for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes people.

As for the casteist obscurantists like Lalu Yadav, talking of higher representation by the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes people makes little sense because they are actually concerned about their fellow caste brethren in the OBCs (Other Backward Communities), not Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Tribals are being systematically targeted by the Modi dispensation everywhere, almost in every state, not excluding Bihar, to allow the Corporate India to loot natural resources, forcibly grab prime agricultural land and destroy whatever remains of ecological balance. No, they never raise their voice against jobless growth and neo-liberal policies of the centre. What all they do all the time, is how to sharpen the caste-divide and create fertile ground for perpetual sectarian animosity in society.

But the struggle in Narmada is in reality emblematic of what is happening in whole country. In the Narmada Valley initial concerns of environment, the destruction of local economy and tribal cultures have all come true in the past 30 years. Law of the Land has been far too slow and often working, somewhat openly, against ordinary people. What is more, movement for environmental justice is being interpreted as ‘anti-development’, giving easy lever in the hands of the central and state authorities to silence genuine voice of dissent.

If the Lalus and their friends, are serious about the plight of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes people, dalits and adivasis, they must address the problem against the backdrop of corporate bulldozing. Demanding reservation endlessly is no answer to the hopeless situation the socially disadvantaged have been in for decades.

Caste is a stumbling block in the path of people’s struggle against social and economic injustice. But these casteist outfits want to keep the ‘backward people’ backward forever because it suits their political game. These parties are replete with fanatics and liars who deny the reality of how ever growing social inequality is threatening the survival of large number of people cutting across caste and religion under the gradual erosion of sovereignty and all-round corporate attacks.

Bankruptcy of thought is nowhere so pervasive as in maintaining caste prejudices and fomenting communal passion. Social justice is a movement that cannot be won simply by talking more of the same—Reservation. Quota politics has reached its limit and to stretch it further cannot be anything but counter-productive.


Vol. 48, No. 5, Aug 9 - 15, 2015