A reservation based society has two fundamental problems. Firstly, it abuses the very right to equality assured to its citizens by the Indian constitution. Secondly, it shows the indifference of the government’s attitude and its inability in creating grounds for an overall development.
While elections themselves cause the slowdown and almost shutting of government functions and other economic activities in an area, contesting elections on communal grounds causes a lot of hidden social turmoils.
UP is politically the most important state in India. Let’s not forget that 80 Lok Sabha seats belong to the state of UP, the highest number in India, followed only by 48 in Maharashtra. And therefore the way elections were contested in UP by and large reflects how elections are contested in India.
Guess how each of the major parties contested the elections in UP? Well, there is no doubt that, like every year, the Bahujan Samaj Party contested elections by pleasing the Dalits of the state. While Congress eyed the Muslim votes with a promise of a subquota, Samajwadi Party projected it as a reduction in the 27% quota available to Yadavs and other dominant OBC castes. Bharatiya Janta Party hoped to consolidate Hindu votes by highlighting this as an attempt of Muslim appeasement by the Congress party. None of these parties, for once, even mentioned the overall development and welfare in the state.
The problem of caste based politics in India is not new. Immediately after independence, the status of minorities posed a dilemma even to the makers of the Indian constitution. While a uniform civil code was desired and needed to impose the right to equality among all the citizens, a temporary measure was also advised for Indians to be able to rise beyond their barriers of caste through education and knowledge. Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the man behind the drafting of the constitution saw the quota system as solution to this.
However, he couldn’t foresee the political selfishness and greed of the forthcoming generation of politicians. The quota system that was supposed to be eliminated after a few decades of independence was extended over and over again, and these quotas were increased from less than 15% during independence, to close to 50%, in order to lure voters into caste based politics. A rich man’s son in India can now get a quota in primary education, college level, and then into the job market, solely on the basis of his caste.
In the USA, the hardships and racism that black Americans faced at the hands of their fellow countrymen were very similar to the plight of Indians from the lower caste. They too, were not allowed to study in school and colleges. Public transportation and restaurants provided segregated areas for them too. However, the way their problems were addressed was different form ours. While Indians adapted the path of reservation and quota, Martin Luther King Jr. never asked for any special privileges. He fought for the right of African Americans to be treated equally like any other American citizen. The outcomes are in front of us. While the African Americans of the USA have progressed since then, India has tied itself tight with the shackles of caste and community.
It is high time politicians and community leaders realize that they are playing with a fire that can divide this nation further and turn communities against each other. The great country was divided once on the basis of religion and suffered the misery that it is yet to be overcome. Why can’t the reference of caste or community in the open be constitutionally banned and instead direct the efforts to the right education and development of the people?
The new drama of extension of job reservation to Muslims threatened to add a newer dimensions to differentiated citizenship in India. This nation has suffered for thousands of years bearing the burden of separate identities, be it of religion, community, or caste. We have to end this practice before it cripples our dreams of becoming a strong and united nation. As long as there are community-based quotas, there will be politics around them. It is high time we look at the problem from another perspective.
The remedy does not lie in perpetuating reservations but in finding a more effective way of opening up opportunities for all. Instead of fighting over shattered slices of a small pie, what is needed is the expansion of the national pie which would entitle everyone to get their 'equal' and larger share!
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