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22

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.

3

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar converted to Buddhism on 15 October 1956 at Deeksha Bhoomi, in Nagpur. Around 8 lakh followers converted in his steps. At this time he took 22 vows, more like open declarations. These are a rejection of Hinduism as unequal and something that the upper dominant public "memory" rarely remembers. We'd like to begin and end Ambedkar with the constitution and a few photos.

has now withdrawn a book about Dr Ambedkar from school syllabus, because it contained this "objectionable" content against Hinduism. The publisher had added them in the blank space left after the content of the book - not entirely an inappropriate choice given that these are perhaps 's most influential words ever as a part of the 's largest religious conversion.

So much for the claims of Buddhism being "a part of" Hinduism. Unless their Brahmanical symbols are respected, they will not allow the words. So this Brahmin publishes them with pride on my blog and states that there are still Brahmins who manage to be human beyond indoctrinated prejudices of birth. And there must be more.

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar's contribution to the deprived classes of has given him the status of a God among them. Over half a century after his , people come from all over the nation in his memory by the lakhs - something no politician alive has managed beyond rigging up paid crowds and transporting them by bus.

I say his words have legitimacy and deserve to be read. Here are his 22 vows.

  1. I shall have no faith in Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh nor shall I worship them.
  2. I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna who are believed to be incarnation of God nor shall I worship them.
  3. I shall have no faith in ‘Gauri’, Ganapati and other gods and goddesses of Hindus nor shall I worship them.
  4. I do not believe in the incarnation of God.
  5. I do not and shall not believe that Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu. I believe this to be sheer madness and false propaganda.
  6. I shall not perform ‘Shraddha’ nor shall I give ‘pind-dan’.
  7. I shall not act in a manner violating the principles and teachings of the Buddha.
  8. I shall not allow any ceremonies to be performed by Brahmins.
  9. I shall believe in the of man.
  10. I shall endeavour to establish equality.
  11. I shall follow the ‘noble eightfold path’ of the Buddha.
  12. I shall follow the ‘paramitas’ prescribed by the Buddha.
  13. I shall have compassion and loving kindness for all living beings and protect them.
  14. I shall not steal.
  15. I shall not tell lies.
  16. I shall not commit carnal sins.
  17. I shall not take intoxicants like liquor, drugs etc.
  18. I shall endeavour to follow the noble eightfold path and practise compassion and loving kindness in every day life.
  19. I renounce Hinduism which is harmful for humanity and impedes the advancement and development of humanity because it is based on inequality, and adopt Buddhism as my .
  20. I firmly believe the Dhamma of the Buddha is the only true religion.
  21. I believe that I am having a re-birth.
  22. I solemnly declare and affirm that I shall hereafter lead my life according to the principles and teachings of the Buddha and his Dhamma.

High time India knew more about Dr. Ambedkar than the carefully controlled "wrote the Indian constitution" which is about the limit of what our upper caste dominated public space has carefully caged him in.

For the curious, Google up why Ambedkar resigned from the cabinet. Spend some time thinking about it, and what it means for concerns we face today. A great leader doesn't deserve to be shoved into a closet of cliches.

4

So was finally hanged this morning. The did a dramatic early morning hearing to hear the challenge to the President's rejection of Yakub Memon's mercy petition, and Yakub lost the case.

Even if he had won it, it would have won him at best 14 more days to live. Perhaps some new trick could be pulled out of some hat and he would live for the rest of his life in jail was the hope.

He lost the petition.

There are many arguments in his favor, many against him. I myself was of the view that is an irreversible thing. While there is any redeeming factor, a death penalty seems obscene. I am no legal eagle. If someone seems polite and constructive in , that is redeeming enough for me. I hold no eagerness for the life and death of another to rest on my conscience - however evil. I have no revenge gene. That he could not do more harm was good enough for me.

Regardless of my views, it is the Supreme Court that decided and whether it was a melodramatic thing that could have been avoided with a stay and more leisurely process or not, is all a postmortem of a dead thing. So are other arguments. They will not bring him back. They will certainly feed a justified, but toxic sense of persecution among Muslims.

And they achieve nothing constructive. While the death penalty exists, it will be awarded. How often or not is immaterial. If our whole system is prejudiced against Muslims, it will reflect in the sentences and executions as well. The defeat of the death penalty itself was a goal beyond the scope of this case - or indeed every case when we suddenly wake up. It needs to be an independent war.

I am no fan of the . I think it is closet fascist - both in terms of as well as economic view. It is a toxic bunch of opportunists there whose worst sin is not even against those they persecute, but those who repose the most faith in them with expectations they have been led to believe, which are little more than carrots.

I agree that the judiciary itself is swayed by public opinion and has several and severe problems with quality (like every aspect of ). I agree socio-economic conditions are their own bias of availability of opportunities of , and prejudice in who is perceived as innocent or guilty by default more easily than another - which is possibly something that can never be proved without serious behavioral research.

Yet, flawed as it is, there is a need to stop where the system stops. There is a need to pick and choose battles when it comes to . A dead person cannot be brought back, and harping on about the injustice to him serves no purpose beyond creating distress, resentment and potentially rebellion among those who experience themselves as persecuted by association.

This will be more harmful to the vulnerable sections of society than the powerful ones - whether financially, communally or politically. Frustration and anger can take over ones life and set people on paths they would not otherwise choose. Yakub Memon himself would not be hanged if it were not for frustrations over another evil incident leading an entire group of people down a path that ruined their own lives irrevocably as well, beyond the unsuspecting others they killed. Even a big don like , who lived and breathed  can never return to his beloved place of birth again. Uprooted forever. Being a gangster is one thing, being accused of mass slaughter is another. Mumbai is no longer safe for him. He must watch over his shoulder all his life. Know that the people of the city he loves want his head for his actions. There is no coming back. For victims or criminals.

A supremacist majority WANTS minorities to do crimes they can hang them for and counts on prejudices they seed to create an acceptance for their retaliatory crimes as victimhood. We have seen this over and over. There is no fear in bloodlust even though talk of dangers is used to create an aura of threat. Nor do they feel any desperation to avoid loss of life of nameless others on their side beyond their advertizing potential in shaping social prejudices - you need victims for victimhood. It is no coincidence that the second attempt to fell the Babri Masjid succeeded when leaders of the movement killed their own to fuel a frenzy of outraged victimhood. While we still have a modicum of functioning judiciary, fair or not, prejudiced by circumstances or not, it continues to be the best bet of a vulnerable minority.

I do not mean that people who are wronged should shut up and suck it up. I most certainly do not endorse communal domination of any sort.

All I say is that Yakub Memon is dead. I appreciate that he was not killed in secret like Ajmal Kasab or and he and those trying to save his life had the opportunity to fight for it till the end. It is time to take a pause and reorient and seek justice in ways that enrich and empower everyone.

Even if you look at Yakub Memon's case, there is so much hindsight on what was not done adequately to defend him, that now leads to a perception of him not getting a proper chance. Well, there are many Yakub Memons still in prison. Illiterate, poor people from various castes, classes, religions. People condemned to crimes so horrid that they have no choice but to accept whoever the court forces to help them because even with money no one may take their cases. Perhaps the learnings of this defeat can help them. That would help the process of justice as well, if good legal help were available to those who did not have it.

A robustly defended accused makes for a clearer conscience in whatever his end fate is, leaving no doubt that the is understood and argued fully resulting to a punishment as per law. It is in national interest. It is in the interest of god knows how many who end up serving sentences because they have no idea how to defend themselves.

And it need not be for the death penalty alone. Just yesterday, as I was contemplating Yakub Memon's case, I found myself preferring the death penalty over a long drawn imprisonment (I know Yakub got both). How many in India serve entire terms in jail before seeing the inside of a court?

I am aware, that this is easy for me to say, not knowing Yakub Memon in any way or having fought to save him or suffered similar or even experiencing first hand what it means to be a Muslim and have a default perception of guilt when accused. All I am saying is that I do care and I respect a battle well and passionately fought and I believe that it is important for everyone that the Supreme Court word remain final - particularly given that it can no longer be changed.

I think the moment of high drama is when emotions cause extreme stands. To save an accused in a horrendous crime and see the end of justice in it as though we aren't killing innocents daily. To stand outside a jail baying for blood of one who spilled ours, while the ones who planted the bombs got their sentences without a fuss, and they live. A moment of climax focuses everything we feel about a subject on a single outcome.

But sometimes, it is time to step back, breathe and look at the living.

1

Once Maharashtra was the land of progressive thought. Now it is the land where progressive thought is killed. After Narendra Dabholkar's murder in Pune, Comrade Govind Pansare was shot in Kolhapur. He has succumbed to his injuries.

This is the man who hosted events asking dangerous questions like "Who killed Karkare?" or protested the powerful IRB Infrastructure Developers. Over decades of service, he has stood up for all kinds of rights of people. He faced virulent hate propaganda from fans of Nathuram Godse more recently (Nathuram godse is Mahatma Gandhi's murderer) from Sanatan Sanstha and others.

[tweetthis twitter_handles="@Vidyut, @_AamJanata"]Govind Pansare is dead. Murdered brutally to silence. His killers roam free. Where is justice?[/tweetthis]

In a state where the supporters of the ruling parties are the most venomous haters of progressive thinking activists, there appears to be no point expecting justice. In a country where the state machinery works to free killers and frame activists, there appears to be no point expecting rule of law. What is justice anyway? Two or ten worthless souls put behind bars cannot compensate the social loss of progressive thoughts being proliferated time and again.

Justice for the murder of a thinker can only come from the proliferation of their thoughts. Voices that resonate with ethics become louder because they speak the hearts of many, address the needs of many. They can be silenced by guns, but they cannot be refuted. Thoughts let lose in the world cannot be reeled back in.

We all die one day. The fearless die once.

When Narendra Dabholkar was murdered, I was overwhelmed with shame for having agreed with his views, but never taken the effort to add my voice. From that day, I remain committed to speaking out against superstition.

[tweetthis twitter_handles="@Vidyut, @_AamJanata"]We all die one day. The fearless die once. One dead Pansare spawns many more.[/tweetthis]

Today, it seems the commitment needs to be wider. There are so many things that need voices speaking truth to power. So many voices that going around with a gun becomes unfeasible. In the absence of deterrent for criminals from the state, the strategy of minds insisting on progressive thought must evolve to build in deterrents. This is one.

I promise to continue speaking. Loud and clear. Against superstition. Against corruption. Against exploitation and inequality. Against communal hate.

It is but one voice and the task is huge, there is no alternative but to grow to meet it.

Walk along. Let not voices of reason be a few heads sticking out in a crowd that can be shot out of the picture.

5

The Aam Aadmi Party made a huge deal out of women's safety. Women were among those campaigning for AAP on the streets. Taking out rallys. Yet the 46% of women voters are represented by less than 10% of MLAs and NO ONE in the cabinet - where most of the power of the government resides.

This is not an accident. It is impossible that Arvind Kejriwal did not realize that there was no woman on his cabinet. It was also brought to his attention. This is deliberate.

I have been bringing this up on social media over the last two days and here are some reasons/responses/excuses I got defending this all male cabinet and why I don't think they wash.

No one should be chosen for gender

Well, there is a Muslim and Dalit on the cabinet. And that is a good thing. But I doubt that they were chosen by accident. So the larger question is why AAP sees a need to show some vote banks a visible represenation but not women who comprise almost half of all voters and voted overwhelmingly for AAP? Their votes got taken for granted and no power needs to be given to their representatives? If no one can be chosen for gender, no one can be excluded for gender either. When there is not a single woman on board, the question is less about choosing for gender and time to ask if the exclusion was for gender.

Even having Muslim and dalit is wrong only capability should be seen not tokenism

If you assume that the natural owners of power are Hindu upper caste men, then them including others is "tokenism" and a handout. If you are choosing to form a team to govern a diverse city, minorities of religion, caste and gender bring with them practical experiences of realities and problems faced by various identities that are not as obvious to the "majority". This is good team formation, not favors done to anyone. If you are ruling a diverse city, perspectives on its diversity are COMPETENCE - not handouts and tokenism and symbolism. To call them thus basically implies that they have no right to power and the default inheritors of power are upper caste Hindu men and anyone else getting it must have to earn it.

Men handling women and children ministry is refreshing

Sure it is. I never said you need a woman cabinet minister to serve as some custodian of the harem. Even if there are women on the cabinet, a man can handle the Women and Children portfolio, though it may take some juggling to manage when dealing with sensitive situations. The presence of a woman brings a perspective on realities of women that is an extremely relevant competence when you made a big fuss of your "womanifesto".

An all male cabinet tasked with delivering women's safety is like a bachelor advising women on how many children they should have. Or an all women's team designing the city's toilets including urinals for men. The logic and intent may be there, but what do they even know about the realities? How many of the cabinet ministers get stalked or groped or catcalled just because they happen to be men?

This is something every woman faces - not just specially designated victims. It is relevant to women's safety. Women are the most affected by issues of water shortage - another huge point on AAP's manifesto. Women form the majority of people ferrying water to households, the majority of people using water for household work. Women are the people most involved with caring for children and the sick. They are the ones who birth babies. They form a huge chunk of those interacting with the healthcare system. Women are disproportionately higher among those taking charge of their children's education. They are those who juggle household budgets and most impacted by prices of food or fuel on the aam aadmi level.

They thus have significantly different challenges from men and thus priorities and a completely different way of looking at problems and solutions because of that. They will have a different approach and perspective on policies . To not have a single woman among the core decision makers of the government is like saying the womanifesto was a JUMLA and 46% women should be happy with what we men decide to give you.

Can't men deliver what women need?

Of course they can. They've been doing it for thousands of years. They can. The Khap Panchayat can too, if it wants, and so can this cabinet if it thinks making a big show of giving stuff to women will get it glory as a good government that delivers. It is called patriarchy. Where women's needs are articulated by men, they aren't capable enough to be among men as equals in important positions of authority and they can have their needs met as men deem appropriate and they aren't capable enough to have a say on their own realities. It essentially says women are too stupid to fix their own problems. I don't respect this rubbish. Particularly given that I find most men incapable of understanding women or respecting their needs.

The points are endless. When there is abject inequality, you cannot approach it from any side without glaring wrongs being visible.

If anyone makes further arguments worth mentioning, I will add them here.