Sunday, December 6, 2009

[ZESTCaste] Concepts Of Reservation

Concepts Of Reservation

By Ashok Yadav

05 December, 2009

As in Mandal I the so called creamy layer in the OBC was kept out from
the reservation purview. In both Mandal I & II we see a clear pattern
that the reservation was first opposed with all might by the upper
castes vested interests and, when they did not succeed in halting the
reservation, they took recourse to keep the so called creamy layer out
from the domain of reservation. In both instances we find that the
anti-reservationists went to the judiciary and pleaded that the
reservation granted to the OBC, the first time in job and the second
time in education, the second fifteen years after the first, was
against the basic structure and tenets of the constitution and so fit
to be rejected. Being already convinced that their agitation against
reservation will not succeed, either on road or in the court, in view
of the onward march of the OBC, they settled for not allowing the
creamy layer among the OBC to come into the ambit of reservation. So
the question is why are the anti-reservationists not willing to allow
the so called creamy layer to enjoy the benefits of reservation. But
before that we have to understand the basic philosophy of reservation.
Only then we will be able to grasp the whole issue of creamy layer

We often hear that reservation is a means to uplift the targeted
community, to give opportunities to the deprived sections so that they
may move upwards in education and jobs. Some persons even equate the
reservation policy with poverty alleviation, job creating and
education spreading programmes. These are vulgar understandings of
reservation and create confusions and lead to wrong conclusions. One
of these wrong conclusions is to keep the so called creamy layer among
the backward out from reservation ambit. Even many backward caste
people welcome the exclusion of the creamy layer from reservation
ambit as a result of wrongful understanding of reservation.

Reservation is nothing but a means to break the monopoly of handful of
castes called upper castes, Brahmins, dwijas, swarnas, abhijat etc in
the common parlance of caste conscious Indian society in the state
structure. Bureaucracy, police, judiciary, army, academics etc. are
components of Indian state, or for that matter of any state, which are
characterized by its monopolization by the brahmin and other upper
caste people. Out and out undemocratic character of Indian state is
not only due to its excessive centralized structure but also due to
its social structure and character which is indicated by the dominance
of its top, middle and low posts by the brahmin and other upper caste
people. Even its excessive centralized structure is basically due to
its monopolization by a miniscule section of our society. Mandal
commission which gathered data about the social character of Indian
state proved unambiguously that Indian state bears the monopoly of
upper strata of Indian society. During mandal I the upper caste first
opposed the reservation with all their might. But when they saw that
job reservation cannot be halted they settled for the introduction of
creamy layer concept. It is a common refrain of upper caste people in
Bihar who are natual supporters of creamy layer concept that why
should children of Ram Vilas Paswan or Laloo Prasad Yadav enjoy

Monopoly in any form is directly antithetical to democracy. If
monopoly capital leads to concentration of capital in a few hands and
ultimately leads to fascism, so does monopoly state structure wherein
state power is the monopoly of certain sections of society which in
Indian context are certain castes. The monopoly state structure is the
biggest stumbling block in the path of the forces of democracy. So the
democratization of Indian state, at least in terms of participation,
if not in terms of restructuring of state organs, of all sections of
people in proportion to their percentage in population, becomes the
first principle of any democratic movement in India.

Historically, reservation in job and education has emerged as most
effective way to break the stranglehold of traditional dominant
castes/classes in state power. History of reservation also testifies
this. Reservation in India for the first time was implemented by
Shahuji Maharaj in his princely state of Kolhapur Riyasat. Why did
Shahuji Maharaj implement reservation? What was the necessity for
doing so? To quote Shahuji Maharaj himself in his letter dated 19th
February, 1919 to Col. Wodehouse, " You know since my boyhood it has
been my pride and a cherished object to over-rule and breakdown
brahmin bureaucracy." In another letter marked September, 1918 to Lord
Sydenham, Shahuji Maharaj wrote, "Although the British are the rulers
of the country, the real power rests with the Brahmin officers who
pervade every rank of the service from the meanest clerk and the
village accountant, the kulkarni, to the highest offices and
predominate even in the councils…Very few can realize the influence of
the brahmin bureaucracy as your lordship does. Being very strong in
every branch of the service, high or low, it has its ways and means to
keep other communities down, who have to submit to their exactions and
dare not raise a protest even when flagrant injustice is done to them.
A merchant of Kolhapur was cheated by a Brahmin pleader. When asked to
prosecute the latter the former said that he had no chance of success
as the judges were brahmin , the police were brahmins, the clerks were
brahmins and that instead of getting any redress of justice he would
make himself a marked man and that he would have to bear the
consequences of brahmin revenge. Even when I asked him to prosecute
the pleader he begged to be excused and refused to move in the
matter….The best way to break down this citadel of brahmin power is to
grant communal representation, not only in the councils but also in
all branches of the service, high or low. It will not do to appoint a
few non-brahmins to important places. This remedy is worse than the
disease…The remedy lies in granting proportionate communal
representation in the subordinate and clerical staff also. Recruitment
for the posts of the lowest clerks should be made from non-brahmins
and for this purpose a list of eligible candidates from those
communities should be maintained, and appointment made from among them
until the non-brahmins get a percentage of posts in proportionate to
their numerical strength…Communal representation is the only remedy."
Shahuji Maharaj was also instrumental in releasing the non-brahmin
manifesto in 1916. It will be educative to quote a portion of this
manifesto so as to know the motive behind the promulgation of
reservation policy in various states of British India. "The Hon'ble
Sir Alexander(then Mr) Cardew, now a member of the Madras Executive
Council in his evidence before the Public Service Commission in 1918,
described in detail, the relative positions of the brahmins and the
non-brahmins in the Public Service of the province.. He is reported to
have stated that in the competitive examinations for the Provincial
Civil Service, which were held between 1892 and 1904, out of sixteen
successful candidates fifteen were brahmins. In the Mysore state where
open competitive examinations for Mysore Civil Service were held
during the preceding twenty years, brahmins secured 85% of the
vacancies. In the competition for the appointment of Assistant
Engineers in Madras the number of successful candidates during the
same period was 17 brahmins and 4 non-brahmins. Out of 140 deputy
collectors in Madras at the time, 77 were brahmins, 30 non-brahmin
hindus and rest Muhammedans, Indian Christians, European and
Anglo-Indians. It is curious to note that even where competitive
examinations did not exist, as for instance in subordinate judicial
service of the Presidency, the major portion of the appointments were
in the hands of the brahmins…From these and other figures of a like
nature he naturally concluded that an open competition for the civil
services in India would mean an almost complete monopoly of the
service by brahmin caste and the practical exclusion from it of the
non-brahmin classes…We do not deny that in these days of fierce
intellectual competition the skill to pass examinations is a valuable
personal possession. But it passes our understanding why a small class
which shows a larger percentage of English-knowing men than their
neighbours, should be allowed almost to absorb all the government
appointments, great and small, high and low, to the exclusion of the
latter among whom may also be found, though in small proportions, men
of capacity, enlightenment and culture." (Source of these quotations
of Shahuji Maharaj from Kashinath Kavlekar's Non-Brahmin Movement In
Southern India.1873-1949)

So historically reservation in appointments and education was employed
as a means to break the monopoly of a certain caste in the state
apparatus. Mysore and Madras were other states apart from Kolhapur
that promulgated reservation in appointments. Situations have not
improved, rather deteriorated, in the last hundred years and the
struggle for reservation continues to be as much intense, protracted
and bitter as it was during the time of the pioneers of reservation
movement. In a way twentieth century can be termed as a century of
struggle for reservation. Barring a few states like the left ruled
West Bengal the OBC have clinched the struggle for reservation in
their favour though partially. Due to limit imposed by the Supreme
Court on reservation to the extent of fifty percent the states except
Tamilnadu could not implement reservation in state services and
educational institutes in proportion to their population. Only when
OBC, SC and ST will be able to get reservations in services and
educational institutes, in government as well as in private sector, in
states as well as in centre, in proportion to their population, then
only the struggle for democratization of Indian state and polity would
be said to have completed the first stage of democratic revolution.

Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, the great social revolutionary, wrote of
reservation as, "The reservations demanded by the servile classes are
really controls over the power of the governing classes…The
reservations do no more than correlate the constitution to the social
institutions of the country in order to prevent political power to
fall into the hands of the governing class." He wrote at another
"Whenever the servile classes ask for reservations in the
Legislatures, in the Executive and in public services, the governing
class raises the cry of 'nationalism in danger'. People are told that
if we are to achieve national freedom, we must maintain national
unity, that all questions regarding reservations in the Legislatures,
Executives and the public services are inimical to national unity and
therefore for anyone interested in national freedom it is a sin to
stand out for such reservations and create dissensions. That is the
attitude of the governing class.' Who were the governing class in view
of Dr Ambedkar? Dr Ambedkar wrote that the governing class in India
consisted principally of the Brahmins. (All quotations from Dr
Ambedkar's 'What Congress and Gandhi Have Done To The Untouchables: A
Plea To The Foreigner')

Thus reservation in posts and education for the lower castes is not a
reformist agenda or palliative measures as many people, most prominent
among those being the Indian leftists, believe but a radical step to
weaken the monopoly of certain castes in positions of power,
privileges and decision making. Radicalism of reservation is also
enforced by the violent and venomous opposition to reservation by the
upper caste ruling elites. Nature and quantum of reaction of the
ruling elites against any measure is an effective indicator to judge
whether that measure is reformist or radical in nature. Reservation to
the underprivileged castes have always been violently and
vitriolically opposed by the ruling elites. We just need to remember
the ruling elites' reaction to the V P Singh government's decision to
implement Mandal Commission's recommendation to implement 27%
reservation to the OBC in central government jobs. We the backward
caste people of Bihar cannot forget the widespread incidents of arsons
and violence that upper caste ruling elites resorted to when Karpoori
Thakur government implemented reservation for the backward castes in
state government jobs in 1978. The upper castes ruling elites'
reaction to Mandal II took place only a few years back and are fresh
in our memory.

People often equate reservation in India to the positive
discrimination or affirmative action policies in the USA. But there is
a fundamental difference between reservation and affirmative action.
While the majority white people bestow certain rights and privileges
to the minority black people, it is the reverse in the case of the
reservation system in India where majority people belonging to the
lower castes demand reservation in jobs and education from the
minority people who form the ruling elites of this country. While
giving benefits to the black people under affirmative action
programmes the white, who form majority population of the USA, are
free from any fear that the minority black people can erode their
dominant position by using posts and positions that they get under
affirmative action programme. But the situation is quite reverse in
the case of India where the minority upper caste ruling class people
are fearful of the majority people from the lower castes who will
corrode their dominant positions by getting reservations in education
and jobs.

The reservation question is not mere a social question. It is also a
state question because the provision of reservation prepares the
ground for participation of all castes and communities in the state
organs. The more open, the more inclusive, the more participatory the
structure of state even in the existing system, the more conducive and
less forbidding it will be for the growth of democratic movements and
processes. The participation of men and women from socially deprived
communities irrespective of their class status, who are free from
caste prejudices against the low caste people, in the higher rung of
state apparatus, will tend to democratize the state. It is not without
reason that both monopoly capital and monopoly social groups join
together in resisting any move to give reservation to the OBC.

In 1947 when India became independent the power did not go in the
hands of the poor Indians. Yet it was welcomed by all sections of
society because it meant freedom from imperialism. We the OBC do not
mind if the benefits of reservation go to the affluent sections among
ourselves. We want our representation in the higher echelons of the
system whether they come from the affluent or the poor sections. We
will rejoice and be satisfied to see the erosion of upper caste vested
interests in the higher positions. What are called the creamy layer or
the affluent sections are just ahead from the rest of the community.
They are not bourgeoisie so that we should avoid them.

The so-called creamy layer is the strength of our society. In a caste
society we turn to them for help in a state of crisis. If they are
excluded from reservation their bonds with the fellow beings of the
community get weakened. The implementation of creamy layer concept
lands the so-called creamy layer in a no man's land. The upper caste
do not absorb them in their fold, their own caste men see them as
separated from themselves.

Reservation is a great uniting factor. The 15% SCs and 8% STs are
united because of reservation. Mandal united 60% OBC population.
Reservation is glue which binds the so-called creamy layer with rest
of the society. When a so-called creamy layer boy or girl obtains
caste certificate and furnishes it with his/her application form, the
caste consciousness gets reinforced in him or her. It is this caste
consciousness that is very valuable from SC/ST/OBC point of view. The
creamy layer concept is malicious treatment with those who managed to
reach positions of some prestige and importance through labour and
toil and opportunities that came their way. The creamy layer concept
is an unkind treatment with those who could not move ahead but looks
upon to the advantaged individuals of their society for guidance and
help, because creamy layer concept seeks to disconnect the so called
creamy layer individuals from the poor people of their caste. In
dalits the creamy layer people are great strengths of society. Their
affinity with their caste fellows will be considerably eroded if they
are kept out from reservation on the plea of their being in creamy
layer. That is not to deny the fact that a good section of these
affluent SC/ST/OBC people have undergone the process of brahmanisation
and grown vested interests in the social justice movement. But these
brahmanised elements are at the worst irritants and undesirable
elements in the whole struggle for social justice and cannot become an
excuse to support creamy layer theory.

Chapter One of the History of the CPSU (B) writes at one place (para
9), "Nearly all, if not all, government posts in the national regions
were held by the Russians." Did not the analogous situation prevail in
India at the turn of the last century? Does not the analogous
situation prevail in India right now? Did not the king of Kolhapur
riyasat, Shahuji Maharaj, democratize the state administration by the
help of caste-based reservation? Some may raise the objection that the
Russian question being nationality question cannot be equated with the
caste question. To this objection our answer is that like nationality
question the caste question is a group question. In every society
there exist a number of group questions side by side with the
exclusive class questions. No social revolution has ever fructified in
history on the basis of class questions alone. To uproot caste based
hegemony is in the interests of all OBCs whether one is rich or poor.
No breach in the unity of the deprived castes is desirable on the
economic lines. Hence we oppose creamy layer. Martin Luther King, jr.,
the great Black leader, wrote, "We have been oppressed as a group and
we must overcome that oppression as a group." We too assert we have
been oppressed and discriminated against as a group and we must
overcome that oppression and discrimination as a group.

Creamy layer concept is often justified on the ground that some
backward castes are well represented in the political power structure.
Their increasing number in the legislature is not attributable to
their education and resourcefulness, which they seldom possess, but to
their rising social and political consciousness and big population and
the opportunities thrown by the parliamentary democracy, which is
their savior. The backward castes who are well represented in the
political power structure are entangled in a vicious war of attrition
with the upper caste dominated media, civil administration and
judiciary. Under- representation of the lower castes in bureaucracy
frustrates all attempts of an OBC chief minister or minister to do
anything concrete for the lower caste. The little federalism that the
Constitution of India offers does not give much space to the backward
caste leaders who every now and then come in power in provinces. A
study of family backgrounds of backward caste MLAs, MPs, leaders and
activists will reveal truth about class locations of these leaders.
Some of these leaders may have made wealth but their wealth is
regularly dragged in the judicial and media scrutiny. Without money
they cannot sustain themselves in politics and when they make money
they invite the wrath of brahmanical system. Manusmriti works here
which has enjoined that wealth in the hands of shudras pains dwijas.
The educational backwardness of most of these wealthy OBC leaders make
them appear boorish and laughing stock. The glamour of power
associated with these OBC leaders cannot lead one to conclude that the
shudra have prospered. Behind every OBC leader there is a vast
multitude of poverty stricken people. These OBC leaders have largely
failed in improving the lot of their people. But this is no place to
discuss their successes and failures.

Reservation is an outcome of the caste system. So long as caste system
continues, the fight for reservation will also continue. Abolish the
caste system and abolish the reservation system. In the caste system
the caste of Ram Vilas Paswan or Laloo Pd Yadav or M Karunanidhi does
not change howsoever one progresses economically, politically,
educationally etc. A dalit will be a dalit even if he becomes a big
capitalist though it is next to impossible to happen. A Brahmin will
always be a Brahmin even if he is a proletariat. If the Brahmin
community sits together and takes a decision that since Laloo Prasad
Yadav has become affluent, he is no longer grazing cattle and milking
cows, he has shed all the "obnoxious things" associated with his
caste, he may now be absorbed in Brahmin caste fold, then only
children of Laloo Prasad Yadav or for that matter of Ram Vilash Paswan
can be kept out from reservation on the plea of creamy layer.

A weak, subdued, rural based OBC is not a threat to the upper caste
vested interests. Only an educated and economically well off OBC can
challenge the traditional vested interests. So the upper caste people
often cry why should children of the likes of Ram Vilas Paswan or
Laloo Pd Yadav enjoy reservation.

If reservation was just about giving some jobs and seats to the OBC
there would have been not much outcry against the same. The extreme
reaction of the upper caste against reservation is due to the fact
that reservation will dilute their monopoly and privileges that they
have enjoyed for centuries. Mandal I brought great changes in
politics. The entire backward caste people whether proletariat or semi
proletariat or small peasants or middle peasants or lower middle class
or urban middle class rose in unison in support of job reservation in
1990. If job reservation was about giving some jobs to the backward
caste people, only a miniscule section of backward caste population,
living in towns and cities, would benefit and the vast majority of
backward caste people would not have come onto the street in support
of job reservation. In job reservation the millions of backward caste
people saw an occasion of break of the entrenched upper caste vested
interests. Job reservation gave an expression to their ages old hatred
and fight against this entrenched upper caste vested interests that
have always thrown insults to them.

Reports say that in IITs and IIMs only 10% of the reserved seats for
the SC and ST are filled up. If the so-called creamy layer among the
SC and ST are excluded from reservation all the seats will remain
vacant. The same thing also applies in the case of the OBC. The
Hindustan Times dated 18.05.2006 published news report wherein a
result of the study conducted by National Institute of Education
Planning & Administration has been quoted. According to this study the
enrolment figure of the OBC students in school is just 29 per cent. In
this news report an official of HRD Ministry is quoted as saying that,
"as most of the OBC are from economically weaker sections, the drop
out rate is likely to be similar to the scheduled castes and scheduled
tribes. In the same news report an educationist is quoted as saying,
"If we consider the drop out rate in the country, one can presume that
the enrolment will not be more than 15 per cent." Thus by excluding
the so called creamy layer from reservation purview the same story of
non-fulfillment of reserved seats will be repeated in the case of the
OBC also.

The creamy layer concept is nothing but a ploy to protect upper caste
hegemony in job and education. It is not without reason that the BJP
and the Congress like forces support the creamy layer concept.

The democratic forces of India have yet to realise the importance of
reservation in job and education to the SC/ST/OBC in their struggle
for democratising the Indian polity.

Ashok Yadav is active on social justice front and advocates in
particularly OBC causes. He has written on issues relating to social
justice, secularism, democracy, social reforms etc. He is associated
with many social organisations concerning SC/ST/OBC.


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