We Indians pride ourselves in our myriad cultural diversity. When we attained independence, several prominent political commentators argued that the idea of India as a country was flawed and India might descend into anarchy and political degradation as a result of diversity. But by sticking together for as many years as we have, we have proven that there is unity in diversity. However, are we really united?
Today we have Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis etc., living in harmony (of course not always). When we look at countries like Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Libya, all Islamic nations, they have more unrest than we have ever experienced. Therefore, our concept of unity is not flawed, it is our innocence and trust which is misplaced. OBCs, SCs and STs, due to their illiteracy and backwardness become easy targets of politicians of an exploitative nature. They mount their guns on these people’s shoulders. This is the principal reason for the backwardness of our country and for the increase in regional parties.
In a vast country like ours, secularism is a crucial characteristic. But secularism in politics is always opportunistic in nature. Take for example Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP, which left the NDA in 2002 after the Godhra riots, citing secularist issues. Yet, they decided to join the same BJP with the Prime Ministerial candidate, arguably responsible for the riots, because of his popularity. The irony is that the BJP welcomed them with open arms. Today’s secularists are pseudo-secularists. A prominent political spokesperson from south India asked a South-Indian political party whether they’d be willing to support BJP for the forthcoming elections. The party denied it outright owing to BJP’s pro-Hindutva ideology. But when the spokesperson asked the party that if the BJP secured more than 220 seats, listen to what the party said, then the BJP is a secular party. (As seen on a CNN-IBN debate).
BJP, maybe one of the least secular parties of all times, is trying hard to shed this image of its. When faced with questions about their aim to build a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya or their alleged hand in Godhra, the party’s spokespersons falter. The fact of the matter is, BJP is a hardcore right-wing party and can never claim to be secular unless it actually proves so (if it forms the next government). Congress, which has been so proud of its secularist advantage over BJP, is nothing more than opportunistic. When the 1984 pogrom took place, Rajiv Gandhi stated clearly, “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes”, referring to her mother’s assassination and in a way justifying their alleged hand in the riots. Therefore, no party can claim to be secularist in nature. They all have their ulterior motives which they will always satisfy by a divisive rule.
Castes are as old as religion itself. What is it if not racism? The backward classes were discriminated against since time immemorial. Therefore, the Janata Party in 1978 decided to appoint the Mandal Commission for caste-based reservations. Its findings were implemented a decade later by V.P. Singh’s government. There were widespread protests from upper castes and colleges. There were self-immolations as well. What these reservations did, was deprive the meritorious students of general category an equal opportunity and instead allowed backward castes to punch above their weight. The concept of reservations in India is to enhance a vote-bank. How the Congress wants to include Jats in these categories during election season portrays the nature of our politicians.
But the real question is, is this reservation feasible? The fact is that caste-based reservation is discriminatory in nature and pointless. If there should be any reservations, it should be based on economic lines. Are all OBC families poor? Are they so deprived that they cannot compete against the average Indian? Only economically backward families should deserve such preferential treatment. There are poor Brahmins and millionaire Dalits. For instance, when I appeared for a national level examination, the candidate next to me belonged to Scheduled Castes. But his Nikes stated otherwise. We have been hammered with this ideology that all backward classes are poor. That is not the case. It is actually the creamy layer which reaps the benefits.
Caste-based reservation denies the right to equality. It is against the idea of secularism. But of course our pseudo-secular political parties can never understand that. If any government wants to make real changes in the situations of these classes, it should ensure primary education and vocational training. “Give a man a fish; you feed him for one day. Teach a man to fish; you feed him for a lifetime”. Government must not handout freebies in the form of seats in colleges or government jobs. It not only deprives meritorious students and opportunity but leads to inefficiency and the provision of services to someone who doesn’t deserve it.
All this leads to civil unrest and may even lead to a widespread civilian protest. Instead of discriminating against people like this, governments must spend more of their time and money in breeding equality and abolishing age-old caste divides. Just like there are no more Maharajas, there should be nor more Dalits. When one classifies oneself in such a fold, it breeds stereotypes and prejudices.