[Reader-list] Re: More on "mandal II"

Shivam mail at shivamvij.com
Mon Apr 17 13:31:03 IST 2006

Dear Anuj,

My reply:

>  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.

Yes, but after the initial hysteria they seem to have regained some
sense of objectivity and are at least paying lip service to the other
side of the 'debate'.

> 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.

It is no doubt true that OBCs don't face the amount and kind of
discrimination and atrocities that SC/STs do. It is also true that in
much of north India, Dalits and OBCs are in direct conflict with each
other - even in violent conflict at the grassroots level. However,
that does not mean that OBCs are not victims of caste stratification.
My story on caste discrimination in Lucknow's newsrooms includes OBCs:

Chandrabhan Prasad has chiefly three objections:

1) That landed jatis like Yadavs and Kurmis are too rich to need
reservation, just that they need a social revolution for modernity to
arrive at their doorsteps: ""OBCs invest least in education of their
children and block their money in immovable assets. They need a social
movement, not reservations."

This is not true if you see the National Commission of backward
Classes' website where they list the long criteria for a community to
be counted as OBC. A community should not hold this amount of land or
should not be this close to access drinking water, and so on:

2) 40% of OBCs can be classified as MBCs or Most Backward Castes and
they are the ones who really need reservations but the abovementioned
land-owning OBCs take it all.

This point has a lot of merit, and he is right that MBCs don't have a
political voice. The second-level classification of MBCs, however, has
already been happening in many states including Prasad's native Uttar
Pradesh as the compulsions of state-level coalition politics move
constituency by constituency.

3) "The anti-Mandal lobby gained in legitimacy simply because Mandal
went the wrong way. It is in that sense that Mandal hurts even

Now, this is not clear at all. Dalits already have reservation
proportionate to their population, though no doubt a lot more needs to
be done than just reservations. But how do 27% reservations for OBCs
(who form 52% of India) 'hurt' Dalits? I don't know.

> 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.

This is complicated. Firstly, OBC reservation seats in states do not
lie vacant, as far as I know, because there are enough OBCs coming out
of school and college. For SCs (that is, Dalits) there is a large
amount of alleged discrimination. Upper caste individuals responsible
for filling seats say 'candidate not suitable' and write him off - how
much of this is true and how much is caste discrimination needs
investigation. This does show the need for affirmative action to back
'positive discrimination': you need training programmes, etc, and
there indeed are some such training programmes:

(1) http://www.theotherindia.org/caste/catchin-up.html

(2) http://outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20060424&fname=Cover+Story+%28F%29&sid=3

In any case, if seats are lying vacant that cannot be reason enough to
end Dalit reservations: fill those seats with general category ad-hocs
till you can find a Dalit / reduce the percentage of reservation, etc.
But all this needs to be done without any malafide intentions.
Reservations should be handled sensitively. Not filling seats may just
be a loophole. Here is one example of how loopholes are found to
circumvent reservations:

(An example of how not to handle reservations: In IIT Kharagpur, for
instance, I am told that quota students are given library cards that
are of a different colour than the general category. Once there is
identification the room for discrimination is open.)

> 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.

Right: so SCs/STs/OBCs already coming out of school: what about them?
I don't see why the two should be mutually exclusive. Do both!

> But four
> months back, when the 93rd amendment was just about to be passed,

There's way too much confusion if it is the 93rd or the 104th
amendment. Any clarifications, anyone?

> 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.

(See http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1482181.cms )

Although no such decision has been taken, I am all for it. I
completely agree with you about the revolution of a cultural change it
can bring about. Our colonisers started their anti-class movement even
when they were colonising us. And we are still colonised in our public
schools. Our "public" schools need a lot more reform in a lot of
things, far more than government schools, but that's another story.

These public schools, incidentally, are "aided" in the sense that the
land on which they are built was given out to them on very low rates
*because* they were going to build schools on them. They did this -
even back then, when they were building these schools - on the promise
that they would reserve 25% seats for the poor. So your housemaid's
son could study in that school with your son. For years these schools
didn't keep their promise until the Delhi govt went to court.
Thereafter, when urban poor started flocking these schools, principals
asked them in the interview questions like, "Will you be able to
afford the fees?"

When you ask for caste-based reservations, people say make it income
based. When you make it income based, they are not happy with that
either. Incidentally, why should reservations be caste/community based
rather than income based? The answer to that is that the policy of
reservations is not a poverty alleviation programme. Its sole purpose
is to increase the representation and presence of deprived castes in
Shining India. The idea of reservations has more to do with social
diversity and integration than economic upliftement, which merely
becomes a corollary.

> maybe
> reservation on schools need to be emphasised a lot more after all.

Again, I don't see the two as mutually exclusive.

> 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.

I am humbled to be compared with S. Anand (who is a member of this
list, by the way) and have a long way to go before I reach there!

> 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.

Well, in Lucknow I was only asking the question that Chandrabhan
Prasad and others have already done for years in Delhi. If there is
any semblance of debate on these subjects, we all owe a great debt to
Chandrabhan Prasad: http://www.ambedkar.org/chandrabhan/Blacksin.htm

I strongly recommend "Dalit Diary" if you haven't already read it:

At least a few essays talk about the Delhi media.

> Pioneer of course has given a token
> space to 1 columnist. Like the 'zenana dabba' as madhu kishwar inimitably
> calls such measures.

And we owe that to The Pioneer as well! :)

> 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.

That's a very interesting analysis.

> 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.

Yes, but it is early days yet, I think, to come to a final conclusion
about either because the media is in a great churning - I mean, we've
just just had our first copy-cat show of the Pulitzers:

> (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)

Yes, this is one thorn of contention: can we rely on 1931 data? And if
policy as important as reservations across institutions - public and
private schools and colleges, private and public sector - is really to
be implemented we need fresh data.

> 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.

Just go there and ask for the property dealer. My source for this info
was an IANS report, and somebody on this list had contested the claim.
One of these days I am planning to go there and find this out myself.
But I wonder if we will ever know the truth about the line that
separates prejudice and self-isloation...

Thanks Anuj!

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