August 10, 2020
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The Way To Poona

‘Separatism’ is not the way to an egalitarian India

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The Way To Poona
BAPSA raises slogans in JNU campus
Photograph by Jitender Gupta
The Way To Poona

I read of a new students organisation, BAPSA, which contested elections in the JNUSU and DUSU elections. This motivated me to write this article. I fully understand the grievances of these sections of soci­ety, but I believe their approach is totally wrong. Harmful to the nation, and to these sections themselves. BAPSA calls for separate hostels for Dalits, OBCs and minorities, and lowering the marks of viva voce from 30 to 10. This, in my mind, would be a regr­essive step. It reminds me of the Nation of Islam and its radical members like Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan, who preached black separatism in America.

Separatism of this kind is wrong for two reasons: the elite are too powerful to be challenged in this manner; and worse, the separatists are playing into the hands of the rulers, who secretly approve of any divide and rule policy—it strengthens them. In fact, the Minto-Morley ref­orms providing for separate ele­­ctora­tes was a key British imperialist policy seeking to divide (and rule) Hindus and Muslims. The Dalits, OBCs and minorities  should, in my view, join hands with the enli­ghtened sections among caste Hindus and toget­her fight the expl­oitative system.

The Dalit Question: It is true that the worst caste discrimination continues even today. In this age, this is just unacceptable, and regressive varna practices are dividing us at a time when we must be united to face India’s formidable socio-economic problems. But how do we deal with the problem? For quite some time, the answer off­ered by our politicians was to give reservations to these categories in admissions to educational institutions and jobs. Though reservations did serve a useful purpose for some time after Independence in uplifting the oppressed, the time has come to abolish all caste-based reservations, and replace them by giving special facilities to the poor of all castes and communities. Such reservations have now become the main plank of votebank politics, and such votebanks are manipulated by crafty politicians for their own interests.

The national interest requires the destruction of feudal forces and their replacement by modern scientific ideas and practices. Though reservations create the impression among Dalits that they benefit all Dalits, how many of them have actually benefited? Maybe 0.1 per cent, the rest 99.9 per cent of them still live in horrible conditions even after 70 years of reservations. Quota merely creates—and perpetuates—an illusion.

The Problem of OBCs: The Other Backward Classes, of course, are not just one caste. There are many. Before Independence, the zamindari system prevailed in India. The zamindars were mainly elite caste Hindus and some Muslims, while OBCs like Yadavs and Kurmis in the north were the tenants of the zamindars and almost all illiterate and really backward. This situation changed radically when zamindari was abolished. The tenants then became landholders, and with the income coming from the land, they educated their children. Now, the Yadavs and the Kurmis are no longer backward, they are doctors, engineers, professors, civil servants, etc.

It is a strange irony that when Yadavs and Kurmis were backward (before Indepe­nde­nce), they did not have reservations, but when they are no longer backward, they enjoy it by virtue of the Mandal Comm­ission recommendations, which were upheld in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, AIR 1993 SC 477. I submit that reservations for Yadavs and Kurmis are wholly unjustified, and should be scrapped immediately.

The Muslim Tangent: The iss­ues faced by this community—low economic indices, difficulty in getting jobs or even houses on rent—have been highlighted by the Sachar Committee. It falls upon the nation to honestly address this shame. But Muslims have another problem: the hold maulanas have over them. Most maulanas are downright feudals and reactionaries (like much of the RSS), as evidenced by the fact that the All India Muslim Personal Law Board opposed abolition of the barbaric practice of triple talaq in its affidavit before the Supreme Court.

I have criticised the prevalence of the feudal purdah system. Many Muslims say this should be left to the woman. I disagree—no freedom can be absolute, one has no right to remain stupid. No parent should have a right to send a child to a madrassa or Saraswati shishu mandir, but should be compelled to send the child to a secular modern school. A burqa is like a cage, and it is revolting to see a woman caged in modern times. Burqa should be abolished, as was done in the 1920s by the great Turkish leader Kemal Mustafa Ataturk and by France now. 

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