The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) said on Sunday the affluent should not ask for reservation in jobs and education while calling for a study to determine whether the system has benefitted disadvantaged communities, weeks after pro-quota movements turned violent in parts of the country.
The Sangh, considered the ruling BJP’s ideological mentor, was responding to a question on fierce campaigns by the relatively well-off Jat community in Haryana and Gujarat’s Patidar clan, demanding quotas similar to those provided to underprivileged castes.
“If the prosperous sections also demand reservation, then it does not sound good. This reflects a deviation from the thought of Dr BR Ambedkar and the Constitution,” RSS general secretary Suresh Bhayyaji Joshi said at the end of an annual meeting of its supreme policy-making body, the Pratinidhi Sabha.
Quotas are the rule in government jobs and schools in India with politics often holding sway over who gets benefits, while critics urge for a transition to need-based programmes that provide advantages based on economic or geographic conditions.
Last month, the national commission for backward classes had joined the debate and pitched for forcing the private sector to introduce quotas for the deprived sections of society.
The RSS urged for harmony while saying members of the Hindu community are responsible for caste-based discrimination and “we need to eradicate it” for social justice.
“Any kind of discriminatory behaviour and evil like untouchability should be uprooted altogether,” the organisation said. “For the smooth functioning of the society, it is essential that all the social and religious institutions steer the course based on our hoary ideals of life.”
This is not the first time that the Sangh has called for a rethink on caste-based quotas.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat stoked a controversy ahead of last year’s Bihar election by asking for a revision of the policy. Following uproar from political parties and anticipating a backlash for the BJP government at the Centre, he later clarified that reservation should continue until the beneficiaries give it up.
But his comments were seen to have contributed to the BJP’s loss in the crucial polls and, since then, the Sangh has been cautious in its remarks on the policy.
Sunday’s comments by the RSS are likely to spur widespread debate on the issue and throw up a test for the BJP as more than half a dozen states will have assembly elections over the next 18 months.
The development comes on the heels of Jat protesters burning houses and vehicles, vandalising businesses and allegedly even sexually assaulting women in Haryana during pro-quota protests last month.
The turmoil echoed violence that engulfed Gujarat last year over reservation demands by the Patel community, which left several people dead.