Caste in my living room – 4

This post is in response to  I AM~~ME’s comment to the last post:
I AM~~ME’s comment: This series provokes serious thoughts on the very many beliefs held by the majority. I guess there is no single answer. Just like how you had your moment of realization on meeting a first gen grad, everyone at some point in time will hopefully have their own moments!
On a related note, how do you see when reservation benefits when the rich class, 3-4 generations of business/employed class, capable of even getting a management quota, grab a seat through affirmative action? This is one question that always lingers in my mind.

My response plus extra salt, pepper and honey:THANKOO for reading 🙂 I guess all of us have felt this seemingly righteous indignation at some point about reservation being misused, overused and abused and I will see if I can address this issue below. Looong post alert!

Honestly, the trope that one incident changed my view towards casteism is only an intellectual shroud to excuse myself from the number of conscious or inadvertent, direct or indirect oppression from my end. Don’t let that comfort you. But don’t let the past error govern your future conduct towards humans. Just to set the record straight, I don’t mind one bit in being harsh towards the community I was born into, because I believe that there can never be a good human being and a good*insert caste-Hindu sobriquet.* The patent and latent power game is impossible to balance with basic human rights. Thank God, at least consciously I don’t go around defending my caste and boot-licking the elite class because it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the elite when their ways are logically questioned. I say consciously, because who is to say what is not oppressive for those who are oppressed? One can only strive to be a human being, let alone a “good” or “better” being.

Fortunately, there IS a single answer – casteism is against humanism. You cannot and should not pitch people in a hierarchy based only on their birth – unless you are a Biologist, in which case, you should be conscious of your resultant hierarchical arrangement not hampering your social life. (If you should distinguish based on birth, you better be a strict Law-maker with the intention to erase the ignominy of hierarchy *drum roll* arrives Reservation.) This is a simple fact which everyone born in this earth knows instinctively, how? As human beings we get slighted easily when we find a hint of inequality against us. We hear these complaints often – “She got the opportunity just because she is good-looking, God knows she is brainless.” “He didn’t pass the exam in merit, he mollycoddled the teacher by bribing her with expensive gifts.” “They are both from Kerala, no wonder they sideline the rest of the team.” “He calls only when he wants something done, bloody opportunist.” You see, our eyes are forever open for unfairness against us, which we methodically craft as someone else’s misgiving. Who is to question the fact that Gandhi began his struggle against the Colonists only when he was personally targeted in South Africa. Perhaps we are psychologically attuned to only react to inequalities against ourselves as opposed to inequality in general. Our moral compass should always take a side in our favour, after all, no? This explains why the number of people who fight against inequalities are in minority as opposed those who don’t. Or, the fighters, if I can categorize them thus, have successfully merged their individual self with that of the oppressed society as a whole. It is in this line that I see the grabbing the affirmative action allegation against the oppressed.

Let me reemphasize, reservation is really not a gift offered by the privileged community that some of the affluent among the rest grab it uncivilly enough to attract castigation of any kind. Reservation is the right of the oppressed and under-priveleged and there are many shades to oppression than we are allowed to see. I recently heard that female candidates reaching the interview stage UPSC Civil Service Examinations have a speculative advantage of about 10-20 marks out of the maximum 300 marks (which is a game changer in the scheme of the exam) over their male counterparts .I am a second gen graduate in my very well educated family and have probably faced less friction than many of my own friends as far as upbringing and attitude towards female empowerment is concerned. But, I am aware that I am in the minority and, if induced, I could go on and on about the discriminatory treatment I sense at home and outside personally. Fact is, those 10-20 points considered as “grabbed” by women candidates by some is their right, earned, courtesy historical oppression in the past and the social structure of the present. If observed closely, you will find that women are the Dalits in their community, in comparison. There may be a room for a very-privileged-extremely blessed-adored-by-destiny-type woman who has not faced an iota of oppression all her life reaping the benefit of those “extra” points. It is laughable, but plausible, and negligible – why? Such women, if they ever exist, will be in minority and that is not how the concept of reservation works. The token reservation, ideally, is meant to be a leveler which should be understood in the right perspective and should not evoke resentment and rebellion from male candidates.

Back from the intended digression, the idea that there are 3-4 generations of employed/business class among the oppressed community needs to be probed further. Reservation was introduced originally in 1950, which means some 67 years have passed since –now, hmm, how does it make 3-4 generations by any fair assessment? It falls short, even if one assumes that people started experiencing the benefit of reservation right from the word go in 1950. The Dalits Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI like FICCI) was floated in 2005 to support Dalit youth to enter business sector and generate their own employment. A recent news report  suggests why, despite DICCI, Dalit youths struggle to find opportunities for business – they don’t get contacts easily – why? No face value, trust deficit, social stigma. Well, why on earth would a rich Savarna fund a filthy Dalit even if he is meritorious? What if a Dalit succeeds and gets ahead of a holy Savarna? One shudders! Ever heard of a Brahmin sweeper? or even an OBC sweeper? That is practically the only employment/business reserved perennially for Dalits.
I graduated in 2011, if I can give you an example of a girl who is the first grad in her family – well, take a moment to let that fact sink in. You could consider it one off, fair enough. Take this case, some 84 MBBS seats allocated for SC student went unfilled in Punjab last year deliberately. This is not an one-off incident, this is an ongoing scandal across States, particularly in education sector – make sure the SC/ST quota seats remain unfulfilled by deliberately ignoring deserving candidates and then de-reserve it, introduce open candidate students into the SC/ST quota! Talk of backdoor entry and mockery of Constitutional mandate.

The reason why some of us, despite understanding the purpose of reservation, think “they” are at an advantage is because that is what we are fed by the fundamentalists among us. We are force fed with the misconception that we are meritorious and “they” are misusing their charity.( I didn’t spend hours researching the data mentioned above, I just typed “SC/ST quota, de-reserved, unfulfilled” and I used one of the first news available.) You will constantly hear that some of the affluent Dalits don’t work towards uplifting their community and act selfishly. (Aspirational Savarnas everywhere!)  But, cut them some slack, they have never owned privilege like the rest of us do and the moment they get some, they use it to overpower others, forgetting their own tragic past. This is exactly what they meant when they said power corrupts.  Most SC/ST candidates are still discriminated at their school level – they drop out of their schools because they are asked to clean toilets, don’t we read this every other day in newspaper? I have seen older Dalit women addressed with singular pre/suffix, much against Bharathiya/Hindu samskar, by caste-Hindu children. Do you have no suspect for a case? Go to the Muslim ghettos or the jhopdipattis, bring a Muslim or a Dalit – never mind he is an educated, IT going guy. Do we know that there were postgraduates and software engineers among the SIMI “terrorists” recently killed in an obviously faked encounter? (Absolute power corrupts absolutely!)We are comfortably hiding behind the blanket of nationalism, culture and holy-mother-of-Mylapore-fairness. Have the oppressed communities been so widely and deeply empowered to even honour this view of ours is a moot point. (Cue: BLOODY NO!) My question is, have we, to start with, earned the right to point fingers? Well, just who are we kidding?

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