This is a translation of a speech made by Mr. Siddaramaiah on the topic of caste, reservation and EWS quota. The video link was shared on his Facebook page on 26, June 2022.
They ask, “more, how many years of reservation?” After 72 years, even now we don’t have representation equal to our proportion in the population. In Karnataka, the SCs and STs are 17.15% and around 7% respectively. That is 24.15% reservation. Has it happened? Has it happened in IAS, in IPS, in IRS, in IFS?
They have created the caste system and shackled us and then they ask ‘Why reservation? How many more years should it remain?’ They ask such questions – is it just? If I voice it, there is anger against what Siddaramiah says. Just look at the situation we have got stuck in! And the ones who raise this and get scolded/trolled as a consequence are in a minority. When I raise it, I am alone. Twenty of them speak against it. None of our people say anything. They sit silently. What a tragedy! ‘Let’s leave it, let Siddaramaiah get scolded.’ Even now, our ghulamgiri (slavery) mindset has not left us. If a Brahmin cook comes along, we bend down with folded hands and greet him ‘namaskar buddhi” At the same time, when we see a Dalit, a wealthy one an educated one, we say “hey fellow, how are you? How are you doing? Are you doing well?” Because of the same slavish mentality. It must go. We must uproot it and throw it, shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t there be self-respect? Will education alone cut it? Shouldn’t there be self-respect? Can one realize the full human potential without self-respect? Without self-respect, can one hold the head high and go about? Can one live with dignity? We haven’t uprooted the slavish mentality. To come out of all this, you have to learn what the constitution is, you have to learn what reservation is. And you have to learn why they provisioned reservation. That’s why he said – this is not alms; it is a constitutional right.
[Once] Rachiahavaru was praising Ramakrishna Hegde as being a big intellectual, a scholar and so on. J H Patel stood up and said, “Sir Rachiahvare, you see, Ramakrishna Hegde can be an intellectual and scholar because he has access to 5000 years of literature, for me, it is after Basavana appeared. I have access to 800 years of literature, and you have access to literature from the time the constitution was written.” You can see how meaningful an observation it was! J H Patel was a very “witty” person. He said this and sat down. Poor Rachiah did not understand it. He was later explained. Hegde is born in the Brahmin caste; he has access to literature which runs longer over history. As a Lingayat I have some access. You have access to literature since the constitution. Hegde being a scholar or intellectual is no big deal. Having authority and wealth is nothing remarkable, it is not the property of any caste or group. Given the opportunity, everyone will be an intellectual. Had Babasaheb Ambedkar not been educated, could he have written the constitution? Babasaheb Ambedkar was an intellectual whose origin was from the oppressed people. Was he lesser intellectual than anybody? Babasaheb Ambedkar is among very few illustrious intellectuals of this country. Otherwise, how would we have got such a constitution?
This Bharat, this country is made up of numerous castes, religions, languages, (pointing to an author in the audience) He has said that there are 4,635 Jatis. He did not say it, he based it on Aadhar identification.
4,635 castes, who gave birth to these castes? This question is asked by the ones who gave birth to the caste system. I am not joking, it’s a fact. If I state this, they will all attack my body. This is the problem in our society. Can’t tell the truth. If we say, Aryans came from central Asia, they will ask “What sir, you are questioning us”. But it is a fact. We are Dravidians, they made us Dasyus(enslaved), but it was not only Aryans others also came. They committed atrocities on us. If we say these truths, they get angry. In our village, we describe it as “we said something the way it is, they got up and kicked us in the chest for it” [rhymes in Kannada], So the situation becomes like that!
For scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, Ambedkar gave reservation in the constitution. For the backward castes, to get reservation, it had to wait till the eighties, long after the constitution came into being in 1956. It was during VP Singh’s tenure that they got reservations, 27% reservation just in jobs.
Who opposed this? Who sirs?
The ones who make big speeches about the backward castes. They were the ones.
They opposed it.
Yes, or no?
Who did the Rath yatra? Who arrested them?
We are silent even as casteism is happening, we are inactive. They created the caste system and then they ask us, why reservation? How many more years should it be there? They ask such questions – is it just? To make this understood, Nagamohan Das has written about it because ‘you all don’t know this, please get to know it.’’
Krishnaraja Wodeyar, for the first time in Karnataka, in Mysore province, during 1918, set up the Miller committee. They gave a report in 1919. It came into force in 1921. Who opposed it then? Tell me. Let us see. Talking about it makes people angry. They say Siddaramaiah tells this [Audience Laughing]
There is inequality, should it be fixed or not? What did Basavanna say? “Sama Samaja Nirmana Agabeku” ‘Equal society should be established.’ When did he say it? 900 years ago. Has it happened? But we quote Basavanna’s vachannas all the time.
~Who is he? Who is he? Who is he?
Don’t dwell on that
He is ours, he is ours, he is ours
Dwell on this
Say he is a child of your house
Kudala sangama deva ~
To quote this is very nice, but has it come true? Has everyone become ours? It is still – who is he? Who is he?
Many people quote this vacchana and immediately ask “what Jati are you?’
Now what has happened, this Narender Modi has come and given 10% reservation to the ‘poor’ among the upper castes. Is it in the constitution? Tell me, let’s see. Is there any provision? In Article 15 or 16 of the Indian constitution? NO. What does the Article say? Socially left behind… Educationally left behind…Where is the provision for economically left behind? They bulldozed the procedure and passed it in one day… against the constitution… against the core principles of the constitution. And we are all keeping quiet.
After they also got 10% reservation, now I suppose they will not ask “Why reservations, how many years it should stay?”
That is why Ambedkar clarified, so long as the caste system persists, the reservations must be there. So long as there is social inequality, reservations must be there. Even after all these clarifications, they ask “why so many years?” “Shouldn’t it have gotten over in 10 years, isn’t it?” All this, a lot of people don’t even know. Forget the ones who opposed it. They know the reason why they are opposing it. The people who have been given reservation don’t know about it. That is the predicament we are caught in.
During the Mandal protests, the backward classes should have celebrated, shouldn’t they? 27% reservation was given! But they joined the ones who were opposing it! The biggest protests were by SC ST people, this is not a joke, it is a fact. I was with the Janata Party at that time, one of these Mandal protest marches was passing by. I looked trying to understand who those were, the opposers. It was our own boys! They had joined in. I took them aside and asked them “why are you in these protests?” They said, “What sir, it seems we won’t get jobs because of the Mandal commission, so we are protesting.”
So, there was a need for this sort of work, you’ve made great efforts, Mr. Nagamohan Das. I saw a lot of statistics here..
Siddaramaiah served as the chief minister of Karnataka between 2013 and 2018, he is currently the leader of the opposition in Karnataka.
Translated and transcribed by Anu Ramdas and Swarna Kumar A from here.