10 things to remember when discussing caste reservations

High caste parents withdraw their children from school because of caste prejudiceTV report on high caste parents withdrawing their children from school because of caste prejudice. Will this society allow dalits to thrive in education if reservations are removed?

With Hardik Patel ratcheting up the decibels on a daily basis, there is a growing multi-layered, highly organized effort at building public opinion against caste reservations and a beautifully architectered amnesia on the fact that Hardik hardly challenges the state when he demands that elites get reservations or they be removed for all. It is the exact BJP agenda he is parroting, that an elected government cannot, publicly. BJP and RSS have always been on the “remove” side of the caste debate and demands to remove it being promoted as a challenge to Modi’s authority take extreme gullibility to believe… or an audience age below 20 with no real understanding of caste, reservations or their public history in India.

Regardless, this is not a post about all that. It is a post describing my views on the issue because I’m tired of saying the same things over and over to people who think they are making wholly original arguments by going “hey why not remove caste based reservations”. So here is where I am.

Reservations cannot fix caste discrimination

Agree. Reservations are not meant to fix caste inequality – which is an effort all those wanting them abolished haven’t even managed to start, for all their talk. Reservations are meant to prevent caste supremacists from outright denying the less privileged their right to learn altogether. That it works is seen from the fury of the supremacists over the “injustice” to them that they cannot occupy all the opportunities and must share. Reservations cannot end caste prejudice, but they can and do prevent denial of rights till someone bothers to do it. They have been doing exactly that. Which is why the upper castes are pissed.

Reservations are against the idea of equality

Sure. I agree. I think reservations should be done away with too. AFTER ensuring discrimination has ended. Not one moment before. Till then, anti-reservation demands are a weapon of inequality masquerading as a noble hogwash of equality.

No one excludes lower castes anymore

Well, they do, but they cannot do it on a massive scale because…. reservations. Which is exactly why they want the reservations removed – to be able to discriminate and use the reserved seats for elites as well.

And, even with reservations in place, stories abound of colleges keeping reserved seats empty rather than admit dalits, college canteens with separate “thalis” for students according to their caste, colleges with separate canteens altogether on the basis of caste and even midday meals served in schools feeding dalit children poorer quality food or seating them separately from the rest of the students. If they were allowed to deny education to lower castes, make no mistake they would do it in a flash.

If you ban discrimination, you don’t need reservations

Discrimination is already illegal in India. In fact, so is murder. Yet court after court is acquitting self confessed brutal mass murderers of dalits. There is no outrage, no pressure on the government to bring them to justice no questioning of those exposed for providing material support to the murderers as they continue to hold positions of power. Do you really think anyone is going to give them justice for being refused a seat?

Reservations should be economic, not caste.

This is like saying we will fight one kind of inequality but not another. In my view, both should be addressed, not only one. Discrimination of denial of rights must be combated by ensuring that a proportional space in the whole is reserved for the people at risk of being denied on account of prejudice. No, not the Patels. Poverty, on the other hand does not necessarily need reservations. Lack of economic resources can be fixed with free tuitions and funds to enable study. Particularly worthy students from economically backward sections of society could even be paid to attend college so that they don’t have to drop out in order to earn. This may have an overlap where backward castes and economically backward students overlap, in which case they should benefit from both, of course. Removing protections to one kind of vulnerable group in order to assist another is not a better method, it is fundamental stinginess that refuses to take responsibility for the whole range of assistance needed.

Replacing caste based reservations with those that are economic capacity based will have an extremely predictable result of filling seats with high caste poor people and disenfranchising the lower castes while pretending that this is a more just system.

Understand this. If you understand nothing else.


This is a simple process of taking the resources (educational/employment capacity is a resource) of a country and saying that those who are in a better position to monopolize them.

Where access to something that ought to belong to all is defined in a manner that prevents use by some so that the remaining may appropriate their share.

But isn’t competence important? I wouldn’t want to be treated by an incompetent doctor

I don’t think India has any laws forcing you to be treated by a doctor not of your choice. Feel free to check out the surname and prefer to die than be treated.

Competence is indeed important. Here’s the thing. Our education system does precious little to inculcate it and the admission system makes no effort to measure it. Examination marks are not competence. They are merely a reflection of your memorization skills in an age where everyone can look up information in an instant in any case. Even then, a few percentage points does not make anyone clever or stupid. No seriously, you are really not more competent than your friend who got 5% less marks than you, or a stranger you’d prefer to snatch a seat from. To get an idea, in professions not limited by access in terms of percentage, find out the marks the most successful individuals got in their examinations. Most of the time you will find that their education is irrelevant to their chosen profession and that the range of examination scores is more likely to be between 60% and 80% than the high 90s. While it is fine to use it as a uniform method to share the limited resource of seats, arguing that it means that a person getting 80% marks is too stupid to study or be a professional is plain absurd, which you would immediately spot if your head weren’t enveloped in a castesist fog.

The myth of ‘competence’ is another elitist fiction created to instill a bias in favor of those with the ability to spend considerable resources on an ability to memorize and reproduce quickly.

It is not fair that students study hard and are denied seats and dalits can get them if they just pass

Another elitist myth. That idea that the number of seats reserved for dalits are so vast that any dalit with a whim gets admissions. In reality, dalits too have to work to get admissions and they too get cut off like any other student. Also the idea that low caste people are lazy and not interested in education is an upper caste myth where the lower castes are so objectified as unworthy, that the idea that they too study to create careers simply does not occur to the thoughtless hordes taught to resent their very presence.

And oh, the real reason students struggle to get admissions is not Dalits – they too struggle to get admissions. It is your oh-so-very elite classes that run your country and have not bothered to create educational facilities that are adequate for the population size. This serves all, as the demand and supply rule results in nice fat bribes donations to… not dalits.

Reservations keep caste discrimination alive

This is bullshit. There are no seat reservations in college canteens that serve people separately by caste anyway. If a college can have separate canteens for dalits, and yet screams outrage that there is a separate admission quota for them, all I can conclude is that they basically want the dalits to vanish and abdicate all the opportunities to the privileged classes.

Caste discrimination is when a news organization fights to show the impunity with which mass murderers walk free, acquitted by courts one after the other and yet, none of the supposed equality supporting people find this an outrage enough to raise a voice for accountability. There is no caste quota for mass murder, in case you were curious.

What about lower caste people who are already privileged? Why should they get donations?

Feel free to create a rule that goes “people richer than XYZ must seek admissions through the general quota” and not occupy seats meant to protect the deprived. That would be the logical move, yes? But that will not happen, because last thing the elites want is for more competition in their “merit”. They’d rather point out to the privileged few and use it as an excuse to deny all.

Wake me up when this bunch of jokers points out to the richest people in India – many of them doctors – many of them running businesses on black money that deprives the country of its due and argue that children of doctors or otherwise rich people must pay the real cost of education of a doctor instead of the massive state sponsorship of the training for all. Yes? No? Why not? We’re talking about people who can afford it still using government provided benefits, right?

Well, a lot of medical students who are in “doctor families” so to say will wade through money to reach the college, learn on massive government subsidies meant to make the training affordable for far poorer people, and then go abroad and sell their services cheaper than doctors there who had to invest a lot of money in their careers. Wake me up when someone has a problem with that and goes children of the rich must pay the real cost of education …

But we can’t have reservations forever! What is the answer?

If we can discriminate for thousands of years, we can still go a few hundred years without worrying about reservations being continued too long. That said, the answer to this lies with the elites. If there is no discrimination, the reservations will not matter and can be removed – frankly if there is no discrimination, removing them will not create enough of a difference for anyone to get worked up about it.

The truth of the matter is that the people who always oppose caste reservations have also been implicated in caste crimes. The removal of reservations is just another front of attack to strangle the rise of castes they wish to subjugate in an ongoing caste war. The claims of equality are bullshit as you would see if you scratched even briefly under the surface. This mythical Hardik Patel protest against the state over reservations is speaking exactly the BJP line. BJP has wanted caste reservations gone since before Hardik Patel was born and now there are protests “against” the BJP to “force” it to do exactly what it wants to do. Who are we kidding?

BJP leaders are also implicated in support to dalit massacres that ranged from money, assistance in procuring weapons, getaway vehicles when surrounded by police during a massacre and political impunity including intimidation of investigation and inquiry proceedings.

These people are going to allow equal opportunity to those whom they helped kill? Who are we kidding here? The minute caste reservations are gone, exclusion on the basis of caste will rise. Your “underprivileged” will overwhelmingly be from privileged castes. By design.

So you tell us what can be done

Recognize caste discrimination for the disease it is. And like any other disease, eradicate it from the country. Monitor cases of caste violence. “Treat” them with justice and social reform. Reduce incidences and when caste discrimination ends or reliably gets justice in judicial process, remove the reservations. Just like the disease it is.

Your move, caste supremacists!


Note: This post is likely to get updated as I encounter more creative arguments on Twitter.

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About the Author

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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