It’s not often that I’m in agreement with the RSS. Indeed, many relatives and friends would be surprised to find I am. But in this one instance I’m not going to hide it.
I think the RSS’s stand on reservations — to the extent I’ve understood it — makes a lot of sense. It accords with my views. The question I want to ask is: Do you agree as well?
First: What is the RSS’s stand? Last Sunday its general secretary, Suresh Joshi, said there’s a need to study “whether deserving castes are getting reservation benefits” and “whether or not (the) creamy layer system should be there in all categories”. This was after its sarsangchalak said in September “a committee of people genuinely concerned about the interest of the whole nation and committed to social equality … (should) decide which categories require reservations and for how long”. These comments clearly call for a review of reservations and their effectiveness.
Now, let me give you two reasons why I concur. First, the Constitution initially intended reservations for only 10 years but they’ve continued for almost 70. Isn’t that alone a good reason for reviewing their effectiveness?
Second, whilst no one would deny the majority of the Dalits and tribals still need reservations, should the families of Jagjivan Ram, KR Narayanan and Ram Vilas Paswan, to name just three, continue to benefit from them? Today they are elite in terms of their education, wealth, power and influence.
I have a third reason too. Let me, however, attribute it to Justice Kuldip Singh, whose minority judgement in the 1992 Indira Sawhney case first made this point. These days social status is determined by poverty, not caste. A poor Brahmin or Kshatriya has no social status whilst you could say a Narayanan, Paswan and Meira Kumar definitely do. So if reservations are needed, shouldn’t they also be determined by economic factors and not just caste?
Indeed, you could take this argument further. The Muslims are amongst the poorest, worst-educated and least represented communities in our country. On many scores they rank below OBCs and only just above the Dalits and tribals. So if reservations exist, isn’t there a good argument for extending them to the Muslims?
I believe all of this was in Rajiv Gandhi’s mind when, on the 6th of September 1990, in a two and a half hour speech in the Lok Sabha, at the time of the Mandal reservations, he said: “We have problems if caste is defined to enshrine casteism in our country. We have problems if the weakest amongst the classes are not helped and if the weakest amongst the minority religions are not helped.” I have no doubt Rajiv Gandhi was expounding an argument to re-think reservations. If he had been alive today he would either have to disown his views or agree with the RSS.
The paradox is it’s the BJP that disagrees with the RSS. When it extends reservations to the Jats and Gujjars in Haryana and Rajasthan and, perhaps, to the Patels in Gujarat, is it not rebuffing Mr Joshi’s stand this “is not a thinking in the right direction”?
At times the world can be a topsy-turvy place where you agree with your enemies and appear to quarrel with friends. That seems to be true of this case. I may end up with strange bed-fellows but I’ll be damned if I change my views. If, consequently, appearances deceive, so be it. But I’d rather be consistent in my thinking.
The views expressed are personal