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Why not economic basis for women’s reservation and other questions

Why not economic basis for women’s reservation and other questions

ila gaikwad

Ila Gaikwad

ila gaikwad“Silence is a powerful weapon”. We have all agreed to this. Even if we’ve hated Gandhi, by virtue of him having favoured either the RSS ideology or other beliefs, at one point or the other in our lives we’ve felt that non-violence is a powerful holistic weapon. And yet, we clearly assert — “I’ve never been an oppressor really. We never discussed caste at home. I was unaware of a system in the society till I had to fill in the forms and be told that somebody with a lower score aka lower competence will be prioritized over me. I was shaken, but not in an angry way. I think I deserve justice because I am in no way privileged and I have never been an oppressor in this whole system.” Poor chap, you not being told your caste or having to not know it for so many years is a privilege in itself. Ask anyone your own age from an underprivileged community if caste was never discussed around her/him — the answer most likely will be affirmative. The person of your own age has been made to feel worthless about it more than once before you even knew such a notion. Silence is a weapon, and the oppression is even more powerful in silence. Silent treatment to men and women cleaning roads, to the roads that move tangentially to slums and neglected settlements, to the caste system which is ingrained so deep that it is a part of our subconscious mind.

Anti-feminism works the same way — silently. We do not like the word feminism. Nor do we like women defining feminism for us. They may keep their definitions and implications to themselves. The only way for us to apparently agree with it is while revoking the ‘woke-feminist’ card. Anything describing the woes of women, irrespective of their background, can be conveniently termed as ‘a typical feminist rant’, which the society does not need. After all, most persons behind the bars are men; male privilege is a scam.

It’s high time that we take cognizance of the centuries when women have had to mutiny against every little thing that a human should have been rightfully bestowed upon- right to decide for oneself, right to live independently, right to vote, right to think for oneself, right to own, right to get educated, right to dress up with their own volition, right to eat what they want, right to travel alone or with their male colleagues, right to decide what time they want to come back home, everything. So have the Dalits, the underprivileged, whose status in the Indian society. Their mutiny was for  — right to access to common wells, rivers, temples, roads, food, jobs, communication, housing, right for women to cover their breasts, right for their children to sit in classrooms, everything, even walk on the roads without having to worry about the steps they’ve taken. With time, as these are slowly but visibly dwindling, the forms and levels of these oppressions and rebellions are transforming. For instance, women in certain domains now demand equal pay as an increment from sharing workplaces with men. A Dalit man recently made news because he needed around 150 police to peacefully take his marriage procession through a high caste dominated area. In the same universe, girls around me who strongly condemn caste-based reservations are seen not only taking the benefit of gender-based reservation but also irresponsibly endorsing it.

It no longer surprises me. Such emotions (insecurities and their forms) surface every now and then around us all the time. A large fraction of people, for example, is interested in brawling over whether or not ‘Dalits-deserve-reservations’. Most of them, I have observed, have little or no knowledge about each of the 3 words. And yet we assume that we know about justice better than the oppressed themselves. Like we know feminism better than the women, undoubtedly. With no awareness of ‘endosmosis’ in sociology or social sciences, we shame people benefitting through reservations every chance we get. The choice of the 3 words is a borrowed set of colloquial words. What surprises me is how each of them proposes only one solution — ‘taking away reservations’, as if nobody was allowed to think for themselves. Again, with little or no effort of research or ground work, ‘economic status based reservation’ is better, is said almost in unison. 

The truth is, practical empathy is a hard virtue to imbibe within me when I belong to the oppressor side of society and not the suppressed. More so when the suppressed get benefits that I apparently never will. While we’re seen quoting ‘Ambedkar wanted reservations only for 10 years’, we are unaware of Ambedkar having ever demanded a separate electorate altogether. While I see everybody around me suggesting ‘income based reservation’ as a substitute for the ‘caste based reservation’, I am unaware of how this has been fed to the masses in the first place. Why are we failing at checking out valid research about the links between societal economic and caste structures? Had it not really been fed, millions of people would’ve come up with at least a 100 creative solutions to aid the discomfort if not millions. In the words of Mark Twain, “In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand” and we take them for truth, thoughtlessly. Nobody is seen, for instance, suggesting an income-based or locality-based reservation as a substitute for gender-based reservation. That’s probably because we can already distinguish between the kind of women making it to the managerial positions and the kind of women making it to the mining kind of labour.

If we have to collectively drain this conflict away as a society, we need to liberate and heal those oppressed as well as work on the ‘silent oppressors’. Osho says that liberation of man is not possible without the liberation of women. And therefore, I suggest that we talk to our women and our girls about their issues and try to combat them collectively, instead of locking them and trying to ‘protect’ them collectively. We need to empower them through dialogues and subtle measures to ensure that they take decisions, that they emerge as powerful and able women. We need to enlarge the scope of our dialogue with them and proceed into the area of their insecurities, of their inhibitions, about their aspirations, about their deepest desires, about consent, of the ways in which they feel trapped, tormented, of the ways in which the women before them have suffered. We need to really talk to them and help them rise above the petty things that they still have to fight for. We need to transform our conversations from ‘come back in time’ to ‘let’s talk of what makes you uncomfortable’ This Ramzan, A. R. Rehman posted a beautiful message saying the same.

As you enter society, with or without the background of your upbringing, as a woman who has come of age, you see that the label ‘woman’ itself smacks into you thousands of years of oppression, responsibilities, abilities and foresight. They put it in lovely words that “Every woman who heals herself, helps heal all women who came before her, and all those who come after her.” This kind of healing certainly creates ripples in the society in and around the healed women, and sometimes spreads out, beyond the family and community. I think that the way to treat our women is a way of caressing our insecurities. We like and dream of ‘clean’ daugters-in-law and unconsciously, help in smothering our own daughters by raising them into prospective ‘good’ women, not realizing that in it we’re doing nothing but tending to our own insecurities.

I often think that the global crisis of wise leaders is because the world is occupied with its collective insecurity or whether it is because the underprivileged are really taking undue benefits. “Our jobs are being taken away”, “our religion is in danger”, “had they not been here, sharing resources with you,…”, “they are destroying our religion on purpose” are clear indications of how easily we are bowing before what I like to call ‘collective insecurity’. We like the ideas of a lofty magnificent history before us and our rightful shares in it, and we hate having to share it with somebody else. Even if this were a joint effort, I feel it can be traced right into the crisis that every other person of the century is facing — immediate, instagrammeable gratification. Almost every successful start-up thrives on fulfilling the customers’ one madness — instant gratification. Whoever feeds the need, clearly wins best. We have collectively reached such a superficial collective conscience that we respond more to emotional content based on our side of insecurities than to clear facts.

I think I can conclude by saying that inclusivity is a sure way of healing insecurities (loving women and helping them embrace their lives and choices, opening our isolated ‘islands’ reserved for the rich for the masses, treating the masses as humans, following and being concerned about the labour laws and issues like the labourers trapped in Meghalaya, being aware and standing up against casteism, untouchability, superstitions and mindless rituals), which works even better for the silent treatment.


Ila Gaikwad says, “Jai Bhim! I am a fellow vipassana meditator and looking forward to learning and working for the cause of Dhamma”


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