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Would Ekalavya Have Benefited From Reservation?

By Dr. Sylvia Karpagam

09 October, 2012

It is interesting how a certain class and caste group in India function.

There is a clear-cut dichotomy In what they SAY and in what they DO. One takes some time to realize that this caste group has ABSOLUTELY NO qualms to say something and do something else. When questioned about what they do (or don’t do) they always hold the position that they have spoken about as proof of their actually having done (or not done) what they are saying.

This phenomenon is so universally practiced and upheld, it is so consistently supported by the others in the same group, it is so vehemently protested and so appreciably argued, that it has now culminated in a fine position called the caste rhetoric.

If you take any position that is speaks on behalf of the poor of the country, you have these caste groups jumping into the bandwagon, shaking their heads, quoting international studies and sagely offering to steer the ship, to lead from in front, to guide, to support, to nurture, to mentor…….. but tell them to step back and let the ‘poor’ take the lead……….. they suddenly develop a hearing loss. Or even worse, they might agree with you.

They might tell you with a great deal of concern that you are absolutely right and that a person from the ‘lower fringes of society’ should be identified to lead the activity, but once any such person is identified, they will immediately get together a minimum of five of their own kind, who will categorically state that the said representative does not have the require skills or moral fibre or whatever.

So you see…………..it’s simple really and very, very effective. It shows them in a good light while ensuring they get ABSOLUTELY what they want. They will even bring it up on their own with their donors, who being Caucasian will understand F*** all about these issues, and who will tut tut and talk about a similar problem in Africa or Tumbuktoo.

India is now caught between two shades of saffron – one the unsophisticated, bawdy, rabid pro-Hindutva fundamentalists, and the other even more insidious, dangerous and venomous – the pseudo sophisticated, modern academicians and self proclaimed philosophers. This category has written books, published papers, spoken at international conferences – even said in so many words that the ‘SC/ST and muslims’ have a bad deal in this country. They will widely publicise atrocities committed against these two groups, they will make sure that these words get special mention in their speeches and writings, but at no point will they look at it as a human right point of view.

They will not take it up as a life time agenda, they will not change their own ‘upper caste’ names, they will still attend all those ceremonies (including the cross thread and arangetram) that validate their caste status, they will still talk about discrimination as a cultural phenomenon that is best left untouched, they will still not question that they are present in overpowering numbers at decision making bodies, they will NEVER give up their spaces.

How long can this rhetoric go on? If you so called upper caste guys and women, really want to move your inane mouthings of equality and equity into the domain of actual practice, then move out ACTIVELY from spaces and bring in ACTIVELY, those your caste group has traditionally oppressed. This oppression has been rampant across the country, outrageous and inhuman. Stop occupying spaces. So what if you didn’t become a professor in spite of all your medals and acclaimed virtues. So what if you won scholarships from the day you were born.

You didn’t have to mind cattle while you studied, you didn’t have to drop out of school to ensure that you had water in your house (because the upper caste group refuses to let you have water when you have the time to collect it), you weren’t made to sit outside a classroom or wash the toilets (coz that’s your job). You didn’t have your house located in a COLONY that government officials NEVER visited in case they got polluted by the caste you were born with.

If you had to get through all that and get into a professional situation, they surely you deserve a little more support, right? That’s kind of the underlining philosophy of equity. Equity, from the point of an ‘upper’ caste person is to give up something you think you deserve because of your CURRENT achievements, to undo the unfair advantages your community or your caste has received because of PAST (and current) human rights violations. You become accountable for what your community has done over generations.

People who are ‘upper caste’ and who object to reservations must understand that they have won the race unfairly. They have access to the best of education, the best of resources, the best homes because they have attempted to destroy and dehumanize their potential competitors. Your grandparents and great grandparents and their relatives and their communities DID not allow your potential competitors to even contemplate the possibility of competing.

Ekalavya came up to the level of Arjun (and more) not because a system supported him. He came up entirely on merit (NO RESERVATION) but the system still broke him. It broke him by taking away the only thing he had (AND LOVED). This has happened for generations and it has broken people’s will and people’s self esteem.

SC students commit suicide. In your heart you think “SERVES THEM RIGHT FOR ENTERING MY DOMAIN’ and that is because you believe very INTRINSICALLY that it is YOUR domain. Your religion, your parents, your community, your ‘upper ‘ caste friends reaffirm this every day and day in a day out. You genuinely believe in your heart that you deserve more. This is this paradigm that drives you ALL the time. You believe that it is your karmic position that gives you this advantage and therefore you happily accept a state of inequality.

This is the core of your belief. Think about it. Really deeply think about it and then decide.

Dr. Sylvia Karpagam is a public health doctor. She feels that many of the issues in the country cannot be resolved unless the marginalized are genuinely given spaces in decision and policy making. [email protected]




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