[Reader-list] More on "mandal II"

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina gabyvargasc at prodigy.net.mx
Thu Apr 13 21:41:55 IST 2006

Dear all,

As a true outsider to this debate, I just want to say this: I think quotas
are a cheap way to show a democratic face in any country.  I am a university
professor and, sure enough, some of my most brilliant students have come
from the upper echelons of different European and Latin American countries;
but every now and again I get a student from a poor family in a rural
village, and I can recognize her or his brilliance.  It is my job and that
of my colleagues to make that brilliance come out and bring the student up
to par with the best of the best from among young scholars (some of whom I
have been fortunate to teach to).  However, the unfair distribution of
elementary and secondary education affecting my and all countries I know,
ensure that only exceptionally will one of these students make it into my
university classroom.

Real democracy would be providing the best education for everyone, without
differences between rich and poor, urban and rural and so forth.  Since this
is not happening, quotas are a cheap but at this point necessary policy to
ensure that I will get at least one of those future great minds every five
years or so, because quotas notwithstanding, bright but underprivileged
students will remain so and will not get to the universities, no matter

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina
Professor of Anthropology
Merida, Mexico

On 4/12/06 11:03 PM, "Anuj Bhuwania" <anujbhuwania at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear Shivam,
> I found your postings very informative and insightful  especially the bit
> where you talk about "gather here for protest, gather there for protest. NDTV
> has promised support. Sahara has promised support".I think this is a very
> important process to document.
> Just wanted to continue the conversation further. Have been lurking in this
> list for ages but couldnt resist contributing  with an inevitably simplistic
> and too long rant on this issue.
>  Am substantially  in agreement with  your views in your articles and this
> post, and have watched myself get irritatingly  indignant on coming across the
> blatantly propagandist  campaign in the English language media.(Incidentally
> would be interesting to compare the current campaign in HT/TOI etc   with that
> of Gujarat samachar/sandesh in Ahmedabad around 28 Feb, 2002.  and also of
> course the supposed 'finest hour' of the english-language media  then with
> their nakedly elitist campaign now- which is in a way my point. The divergence
> between the vernacular and the english media then is nicely contrasted with
> the convergence now on this issue. more about this later below)
> However some questions came up for me in reading some of the more interesting
> of the reservation-critical  stuff published recently. Maybe these need to be
> taken somewhat seriously after all.
> 1. What about OBC reservation being seen  as fundamentally  different from and
> even in opposition to SC/ST reservation. Not just uppercaste bloggers but
> Barkha Dutt talking of Chandrabhan Prasad in "we the People" in her HT
> article, argue  on these lines. This is a crucial question I think.
> 2.The well-known problem of reservation seats lying vacant. Now this is of
> course because of blatant refusal to implement it etc. But why is it there is
> so much less public and political discourse on proper implementation and on
> demands for filling vacant seats than on creating new quotas.
> 3. A common refrain recently has been that college-level is already too late
> for reservation and it should be done in schools to get them ready. But four
> months back, when the 93rd amendment was just about to be passed, we heard the
> elite public schools in delhi screaming murder when reservation there was
> theoretically made possible. I personally think this is the most radical and
> necessary step- reservation in private schools- towards destroying elitism
> right at its roots.We know how the very basis of the education system from
> Nehruvian times has been casteist  by underinvesting in primary education.
> And again of course they'll do "whatever it takes" (sorry couldnt resist it)
> to subvert and minimise the effect of any reservations in schools as well. and
> notice- this is the only time these guys get concerned about government
> schools- "you destroyed them and  you want to destroy us now." Maybe thats
> what will bring more attention to public education more generally. maybe
> reservation on schools need to be emphasised a lot more after all.
> 4. One of my specific interests, which I was very happy to know that you
> strongly shared, is in the upper caste nature of the indian news media. Your
> analysis is of course rare and acute and the only other person I have read on
> these lines is S Anand from Outlook.
> However my question is why only concentrate on Lucknow, a great place to start
> this of course, why not Delhi as well. How many SC/ST/OBCs are there in IBN,
> NDTV, TOI, Indian Express etc. Pioneer of course has given a token space to 1
> columnist. Like the 'zenana dabba' as madhu kishwar inimitably calls such
> measures. 
> What I am trying to say is that the we continue to see the English language
> press as afflicted by elitism, but only that of class and not of caste or
> communalism. So dainik jagaran/ Gujarat Samachar  are seen as the great
> communal upper-caste newspapers and TOI etc as neo-liberal but not communal.
> Maybe on the lines of the difference between BJP and congress. But I think
> there is a problem here. Maybe its high time we  stopped seeing the English
> media  as the great saviour from the local vernacular primordialism in
> Traditional India,but just as implicated as dramatis personae in whatever
> these practices are. We supposedly casteless secularised english-speaking
> folks should maybe no longer see ourselves as  liberators documenting the
> brutal traditions of the hinterland. The babu view from Delhi continues to see
> like the state, inevitably leading to interventions like Supreme Court PILs,
> an inherently authoritarian move though sometimes a benevolent one.
> mahmood farooqui had written in response to aaditya dar that OBCs at least are
> 27% of the population. Well apparently they actually are 52%. So we are
> talking about 74.5%(SC/STs + OBCs) of the population getting 49.5 %
> reservation. Or in other words, the 25.5%  mostly uppercaste population have
> access to 50.5% of seats. And still they are the ones protesting.
> (why the Mandal commission relied on 1931 Census is because no caste census
> has been allowed since then. It was proposed again in 2001 but it didnt
> happen, provoking an interesting debate)
> Oh finally, can you please tell me how one can get a flat in gaurav aprtments,
> patparganj. I think somebody I know might be interested.
> Best,
> anuj
> On 4/11/06, Shivam <mail at shivamvij.com> wrote:
> There are more than enough seats for all higher education students in
> the country. Be it engineering or medicine or management or plain old
> BA courses, there are more than enough seats in this country. Why then
> are the anti-reservation alarmists painting a picture that some
> general category people will go without an education?
> If you read this:
> http://www.thehoot.org/story.asp?storyid=Web2196523711Hoot122711%20AM1229&pn=1
> <http://www.thehoot.org/story.asp?storyid=Web2196523711Hoot122711%20AM1229&amp
> ;pn=1> 
> and this:
> http://www.countercurrents.org/dalit-vij061204.htm
> you will know more or less why I support reservations in principle:
> I've seen how caste prejudice works and I have seen how reservations
> help.
> There is this whole one-point facetious argument of merit. In my
> college 22 or so per sent seats are reserved for Christian students.
> Fair enough: the college was established by Christian missionaries and
> wishes to preserve its Christian character. As a result I have
> Christian classmates who got much less marks in their Class 12 exams
> than I did. But many of them are performing much better in their
> academics than I am. Quotas and the issue of merit is much more
> complicated than what it is being made out to be. Quota doesn't mean
> that an absolute nutcase is going to sit in an engineering class. It
> means that a student with 65% marks could be studying in a class with
> a student who got 95%. To say that the two can't co-exist is absurd.
> The media has coined a corny title for this one - Mandal II. In the
> last post Dilip has already mentioned media bias in the coverage of
> the issue. I've been getting all kinds of sms-es from friends in Delhi
> University: gather here for protest, gather there for protest. NDTV
> has promised support. Sahara has promised support. And then an sms
> said that Aditya Sarma (a III Maths student of Hans Raj College) is on
> a hunger strike and may immolate himself soon.
> I wonder if Mr Sarma is planning to contest Delhi University Students'
> Union elections next year. That's what Rajiv Goswami had done after
> attempting to immolate himself in 1990. Goswami finally succumbed to
> health problems in 2004. Do you see the irony here: by the time his
> immolation killed him, Shining India had arrived. The picture they had
> painted in Mandal I - that 'we' will be left unemployed, uneducated -
> is the last thing you see today.
> If Aditya Sarma does immolate himself, all those of you igniting this
> false frenzy - all the bloggers and editors and the chai-shop
> gossipers - you will be responsible for it.
> Lastly, all those opposing "Mandal II" should tell us whether they are
> non-OBC. Upper castes are no doubt meritocratic (which is why sons
> inherit fathers' businesses), and they are no doubt oblivious to caste
> (just see the matrimonial pages), but there is the hint of vested
> interest here. And if you are opposing reservations because admissions
> will become tougher for you, you won't get the point of affirmative
> action anyway. 
> Lastly, as an aside, will you believe me that I have met Mandal? No,
> not Justice BP Mandal but Ashok Mandal. He is a rickshaw puller in
> Delhi University and hails from Murho in Madhepura. Just where Justice
> Mandal came from.
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