10 things to remember when discussing caste reservations

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 caste 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 address economic vulnerability, 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.

Caste 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 caste 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.

Comments 17

  • ”stop blaming Reservation for government inefficiency”.
    Reservation is there to draw a equal line parallel to the line drew by privileged category

  • All things you’ve written comes down to one last conclusional statement, that “Rervation ends with Discrimination.”
    Think of the students who are against discrimination and all, study with their 100% and score sky rocketing marks I’m their 12th standard.
    Some will definitely not be financially well off.
    They go in search of admissions.
    Now with the belief of a anti -discrimination, anti-this anti-that he/she goes in search for a better future.
    But what happens? With round 20% less marks a Dalit gets the admission and the General doesn’t. Is this fair? Reservation was introduced in around 1960s for 4 decades so that the coming generation won’t get affected by the shit of society. Deadline got delayed and it seems like it’s forever. The General has to compromise, suffer, lack opportunities just because by caste he’s a ‘GENERAL STUDENT’.
    This is not the way it should be! You can’t mix religious beliefs, cultural differences and practices with education! Is this even a thing to give a thought too? Why should a student suffer because of the discriminatory practices that have been coming down as a LEGACY for generations!
    And you say that for a few 100 years it’s OKAY to have reservations?!
    I being a Brahmin don’t possess ay of the perks of being HIGH CASTE.
    Yoh talk of equality? How is providing reservation to Dalits a GOOD METHOD TO DEAL WITH PROBLEMS and BRAHMINS not?
    Who knew one day a Bradman stu dent will say this but yes I will. AREN’T WE HUMANS? DON’T WE DO HARDWORK TOO? If yes then WHY ONLY THEY GET BENEFITS?!
    I agree that discrimination should be removed from the root level but making General category students SUFFER is not anecessary option!

  • 1. “I think reservations should be done away with too. AFTER ensuring discrimination has ended” and when will that be ? How will we know if it has ended ? By reading your blog ?. 2. “stories abound of colleges keeping reserved seats empty rather than admit dalits, college canteens with separate “thalis” for students according to their caste” don’t be lazy and provide some links of such instances. There is a thing such as sense of proportion and measurement. Do not make it appear like things are same as 2000 years ago. Progress always is measured from one point to another. Things how does it compare with 10 years back , 20 years back etc ? Are you aware of that kind of notion ? Or is easier to misinform with sweeping statements without any specific references or links ? 3.”Yet court after court is acquitting self confessed brutal mass murderers of dalits.” Lazy blogger links please !! Your sweeping generalizations are not fooling anyone here. And when you speak of that bias why are you failing mention the legal evolution that has happened in favor of Dalits ? Why don’t you mention that prevention of atrocities act has become harsher than before ? Stop being selective for the benefit of your “injustice and exploitation everywhere ” scene .Even if what you say is true, do explain why ,70 years of reservations which as per you are beneficial, have not created enough strength among the beneficiaries to remove ( at least partially) such systemic biases against the dalits ( Now please don’t say there is no reservation in judiciary and that’r why ….!!.) ? And if that hasn’t happened , why are you supporting reservations ?? 4. 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” Here you are so much in agreement with caste supremacists !! Why else would be scared that poor from upper castes would take the seats from Dalits ? What advantage do they have if they are as poor as the dalits ? Are you saying they have some innate advantage over the dalits ? That’s very much the argument of a supremacist ! 5. “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.” That’s such a blatant lie !! I can agree in case of OBCs, the difference is much much lesser than General as compared with SC- General gap. It’s much higher than 5% ( talking of the entrance exams , not college or school . It’ not a case of 100 vs 80. There are numerous cases of people get into Engineering colleges scoring next to nothing in entrance exam . AND such students struggle to pass after getting into the college . Now someone like you can blame even that on the “environment” in the college ! But how far will you keep playing this victim card ?? There must be point of time when an individual / community / caste / society has to take responsibility for their states of existence . Not everything can be blamed on the external environment. Not forever for sure. 6. ” 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.” That’s such a stupid and illogical thing to say and so much contradicts with your ” Poor upper castes will take all seats in reserved category ” So one moment you are afraid that upper castes will eat up reserve seats and the next moment you say “upper castes are afraid of to let Dalits in merit category ” make up your mind !! And the biggest thing that you miss by supporting reservations for the rich people from SC/ ST / OBC is that you are creating elites within the overall reserved castes category . Can’t you see how only some castes get most of the benefits of reservations ? Yadavs in UP & Bihar , Meenas in Rajasthan . Are there no other castes within their reservation categories ? Even within these castes you’ll see that the benefits are going to few families only.

  • Ten things to remember when discussing reservations
    1- For the beneficiaries of reservation, it is not a necessity. It is rather a political right.
    2- Reservation can not fix poverty. It can not feed the poor.
    3- Reservation is not something new. Upper castes have enjoyed it for millennia.
    4- The beneficiary of reservation does not want to part or share what he gets. Only the deprived portion loves the idea of sharing.
    5- Reservation did not divide the society. It was a by-product of divisive social consciousness.
    6- Reservation can not serve the purpose of social respect for which it was basically formulated.
    7- Reservation, as a system, has failed because of the emphasis on social respect rather than to make a living.
    8- Education system is discriminatory. Wanting a shelter from discrimination in order to be a part of a discriminatory system is not a rational idea.
    9- Both beneficiaries and the anti-reservation people want their share at the cost of another.
    10- Reservation and discrimination is a chicken and an egg situation. Both go together or both exist together. Reservation is as ancient as discrimination.

  • 1. Reservation is a policy of representation provided to the unrepresented communities for centuries in the administration of the state. Because the representative government is more democratic government.
    2. According to the anti- reservationists merit is nothing but memory test…but according to pro-reservationists merit is creativity…and creativity will lead to efficiency. The moral of competition is that…there should competition between equals not between unequals.

  • Hey why don’t you quote Dr. Ambedkar & Gandhi’s discussion on subject during RTC & poona pact. When Gandhi promised Dr Ambedkar that caste based descrimination wall vanish in 10 years but couldn’t achieve this till date. As a reaults they can’t help w/o reservation being extended for next 10 years. It’s a failure on the part of rulers of india that they simply don’t care abt Dalits. And this keeping dalits confined to seeking just jobs rather political power.

  • As a common man with a rationalistic viewpoint, I have some observations w.r.t the caste based reservations:
    1. Politicians are using it as a tool for making political gains and thus dividing the society in general. Take the case in UP.. Either SP or BSP is coming in power and how they enjoyed the taxpayers money as against the development of lower caste people.
    2. When the caste system was at it’s peak in autocratic set up ,people in general were not educated and the so called higher caste people made rules to prevent lower caste enjoy the fruits of life. and their life was miserable. Now in a democratic set up, it is an opportune time when today’s youth is thinking
    rationally for the development of India rather than the caste politics played by Pseudo Secularists.
    3. What is the fault of a general class BPL student who is sincere, hardworking,and somehow complete his study and wandering here and there in search of jobs.. Will it not create unrest in Society. It’s like appeasing one class and repressing other class who has been given all constitutional rights like any other…
    4. It is only percolating hatred in the society, which is not good for the development of any nation. This will only support brain drain. Eg. Google CEO
    5. Reservation will never remove discrimination but it will increase as identified groups are being treated as not hardworking, less intelligent with stigma of reservation, although they may be very intelligent and hardworking…
    6. Those who are well off are also enjoying the fruits of reservation. But actual BPL families are left out…Now we are having platforms like digital india wherein BPL families by linking with AADHAR may get maximum benefits if reservation is based on poverty.
    7. Equality among equals should prevail.

  • Your post is, politely put hogwash!
    “If we can discriminate for thousands of years, we can still go a few hundred years without worrying about reservations being continued too long.” – really? so, you would like this to extend to say colonialism or barbaric practices by Islamic rulers? the subjects did suffer as a result, did they not.
    “This is bullshit. There are no seat reservations in college canteens that serve people separately by caste anyway.” — clearly, you are someone who has not been to an university any time in the last 15 years!!! political affiliations, gangs, lunch menus, pretty much everything is drawn based on caste these days.
    “Discrimination is already illegal in India. In fact, so is murder. Yet court after court is acquitting self confessed brutal mass murderers of dalits. ” — and herein lies the real problem. It’s like the U.S south. Ensure that you have enough policing, that your police is robust and honest rather than solving this problem by making everyone equally uneducated. That will never happen even in your funny social experiment with somewhat devastating results.
    The reservation bogeyman is always – economic reservation does not work and we’ve discrimination everywhere. So invest on your tax system and policing — its much cheaper; and in parallel invest in extra classes, special tutoring and other privileges for under privilged students. As we stand, reservation is a joke. Every caste is now fighting to be considered backward; let that sink in for a moment – and this goes from jats, marathas, gujjars, patels and now brahmins in the south. Where does this stop? To paraphrase a Disney villain, “if everyone is reserved, no one is reserved”.
    I’ll leave with one comment from Einstein that says doing what you always did and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. As a scientist, this is natural to me. Apparently, not to many others….

  • Thanks for writing this. You’ve been very clear in your arguments.

  • Reservations are against the idea of equality:

    Treating uequals, unequally is Equality. Equality is not about ‘giving equal treatment’, it is about identifying inequality at the start of the race and “creating Equality” through various measures like Safeguards as one of them.

    Anti-reservationists fail to understand what Dr. Ambedkar explains below:

    The objections to equality may be sound and one may have to admit that all men are not equal. But what of that ? Equality may be a fiction but nonetheless one must accept it as the governing principle. A. man’s power is dependent upon (1) physical heredity, (2) social inheritance or endowment in the form of parental care, education, accumulation of scientific knowledge, everything which enables him to be more efficient than the savage, and finally, (3) on his own efforts. In all these three respects men are undoubtedly unequal. But the question is, shall we treat them as unequal because they are unequal ? This is a question which the opponents of equality must answer. From the standpoint of the individualist it may be just to treat men unequally so far as their efforts are unequal. It may be desirable to give as much incentive as possible to the full development of every one’s powers. But what would happen if men were treated unequally as they are, in the first two respects ? It is obvious that those individuals also in whose favour there is birth, education, family name, business connections and inherited wealth would be selected in the race. But selection under such circumstances would not be a selection of the able. It would be the selection of the privileged. The reason therefore, which forces that in the third respect we should treat men unequally demands that in the first two respects we should treat men as equally as possible. On the other hand it can be urged that if it is good for the social body to get the most out of its members, it can get most out of them only by making them equal as far as possible at the very start of the race. That is one reason why we cannot escape equality.

  • Thanks for writing this. Also I don’t see anyone who wants “merit” worried about payment seats or donations.

    Also I don’t see the people who say caste is not an issue remove their caste names or marry outside their caste. Name and marriage are the two factors that keep caste discrimination alive.

    So those who say caste does not matter should first declare if they use caste in their name or if they are married to a different caste or have courage to marry from a different caste.

  • Creating watchdog is the objective of Reservation. Reservation is not a poverty elimination programme.

  • It is well-known that in the course of the negotiations between the representatives of Ulster and Southern Ireland, Mr. Redmond, the representative of Southern Ireland, in order to bring Ulster in a Home Rule Constitution common to the whole of Ireland said to the representatives of Ulster : ” Ask any political safeguards you like and you shall have them.” What was the reply that Ulstermen gave ? Their reply was ” Damn your safeguards, we don’t want to be ruled by you on any terms.” People who blame the minorities in India ought to consider what would have happened to the political aspirations of the majority if the minorities had taken the attitude which Ulster took. – Dr. Ambedkar

  • By the way, if Safeguards have been justified by the courts, anti-reservationists must ask themselves the below question worth this topic.

    A group of Indians need ‘Safegaurds’ against ‘another group of Indians’ (themselves), then how great potential danger they possess to their own fellow Indians.

  • Reservations: A safeguard

    If scheme of reservation is introduced to protect the intended beneficiaries then it is quite logical, nay essential, to ask a question: From what the intended beneficiary is being protected from? In case of India the intended beneficiaries of reservations are the SC/ST/OBCs’ and they are being protected from the injustice and discrimination arising out of the Caste System. The fundamental principle of safeguard is to protect the minority (religious or otherwise) from the tyranny of the majority.

    Now if someone wants to prove that the scheme of reservation, i.e. the safeguards, is no more required then that person must show that the caste system is dead wood of the past. Is caste system dead? The answer is no. On the other hand the caste system is a feted reality.

    In fact, when the top courts (which understand Justice better than Anti-reservationists ofcourse) after all the due process, upheld reservations – Safeguards, then certainly anti-reservationists need to introspect their position.

  • Open or Privileged Category

    The term open category is a very misleading term. It denotes that this category is open to all. However this is not true is clear from our experience. If this would have been the case then the question of providing reservations itself would not have arisen. All the positions which are kept ‘open for all’ are grabbed with certain exceptions by the privileged class. Hence, the term “Open” denotes the privileged class in real sense. Therefore the term ‘Privileged category’ must be used instead of the ‘Open category’ to help everyone understand the nature of the problem of reservation. When we now use the term Privileged category it becomes clear that keeping certain positions ‘open for all’ means reserving it for the privileged category. Only if the privileged category lacks merit, is uninterested, gets alternate better opportunity or is challenged by an exceptionally talented reserved category candidate that it will lose a position to the reserved category candidate otherwise the ‘open for all’ category is easily grabbed by the privileged class. Thus, ‘open for all’ is a category implicitly reserved for the privileged class and therefore is a ‘Privileged category’

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