(This article was first published in INSIGHT in its November 2004 issue on ‘Reservations’. Anoop Kumar is one of the founder-members of the magazine)
1. Why India continuously gets outwitted by Pakistan in diplomacy at various international fora? Can any of the readers guess?
No? Let me explain to you.
It is because in Pakistan there is no reservation and hence it is able to produce fine diplomats whereas India, due to reservation, is unable to produce such (diplomats) to defend its interests.
Find this ‘revelation’ shocking? For me it was, while getting enlightened about this ‘grave national shame’ by one of my professors at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, in 2003.
During a lecture on Indo-Pak relations, in one of our MA classes at the School of International Studies (SIS), our learned professor narrated how Pakistan kept scoring over India through diplomatic maneuvering in international fora like the UN.
Being surprised over the phenomenon and the sheer brilliance of Pakistani diplomats, she tried to enquire about it by posing this question to one such diplomat. According to her, the Pak diplomat replied that the reason for such brilliance rests in Pakistan not having a reservation policy.
After narrating this in the classroom, the professor shrugged to show that the Pakistani diplomat’s argument had hit the bull’s eye and she had nothing to add. Flashing a half smile, she went back to complete her lecture on Indo-Pak relations.
After this ‘revelation’ I was unable to pay any attention to the rest of her lecture. Anger crept into me. I wanted to stand up and question her but decided against it as she could very easily say that, this was not her statement. My belonging to a ‘non-meritorious’ background also kept me silent.
But I tried to remember the name of any Dalit who had committed the atrocious crime of representing India. Only Iyers, Menons, Mishras, Dikshits, Subramaniums came to my mind. Almost all of them sounded brahmins to me then.
My dear professor, what about Pakistan’s dominance over India in Cricket and Hockey? I think one should ask Wasim Akram, Shahbaz Khan or Yousuf Youhana or perhaps Saurav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar (both belonging to meritorious community) about it!
2. Now let me take you to my home. I live in a locality that came up around 1980 and has two ‘non-meritorious’ families (SC) and a ‘half-meritorious’ one (OBC). All others are those who originated from above the waist of almighty Brahma.
These three families started from much below the ‘poverty line’ but today have acquired “respectability” as their second generation is now very well settled. Some of them are class I officers or professionals like doctors and engineers. One is even happily settled in the US of A, heading a top bank.
In comparison, ‘meritorious’ families came to that locality from their ancestral villages with much wealth in terms of land, other forms of property and a long tradition of education but their second generation is full of school and college dropouts.
To begin with, their children fully enjoyed their childhood whereas ‘non-meritorious’ parents did not provide any liberty to their children. They forced them to concentrate only on their studies. Watching others playing and enjoying, these children resented it, but were beaten up if caught even roaming with ‘meritorious’ ones.
‘Non-meritorious’ families’ persistence in educating their children was phenomenal. They were wholly imbued with the idea of education as a panacea for all their ills. ‘Meritorious’ families often ridiculed them for being so strict. But they never paid any heed and worked harder to provide the best facilities to their children.
Now, when we go back to our homes we find most of our ‘meritorious’ contemporaries all ‘happily’ married (with hefty dowries) but without regular jobs. Their eyes still betray the same caste arrogance, the type which we grew up witnessing but now they know that they are incompetent and powerless.
On meeting, they always bring up the issue of reservations, one way or the other, trying to justify their failures and our successes.
3. Back to JNU. It is the time of admissions. Various students groups have their assistance stalls at the Administrative Block. All around one can see their volunteers competing with each other to catch newly arriving students for ‘admission assistance’.
In this hullabaloo there is a small desk in one of the corners with the banner of a Dalit student group. Behind the desk is a student volunteer who looks quite exasperated sitting there all alone for long, as none of the group members have turned up as yet since the morning, while trying hard to appear ‘brave’ in front of the volunteers from other student organizations who often smirk at him while passing. Certainly, among all the ‘ideologically driven’ students’ groups, his Dalit students’ group is always the odd one out.
Suddenly he becomes aware of the presence of a girl. She appears quite tensed. She comes closer and straightaway starts narrating about how one of the most ‘progressive’ centers of JNU is not filling up the reserved seats in M.Phil admissions and then asks the Dalit student group to apply pressure on the JNU administration to fill it. She is speaking as if words are coming to her with great difficulty. While speaking she is looking all around as if to notice who all are watching her talking.
On inquiring about her interest in the issue she reveals that she is a Dalit student who has completed her Post Graduation from JNU with fairly good academic performance but has not got admission in M.Phil. She claims that reserved seats are lying vacant in that department.
The volunteer shows keen interest in the issue and assures her that his group would certainly fight for filling up of all the reserved seats. He then asks her name and contact details. The girl refuses to divulge the details, even her name and tells that she would come by herself on the next day and walks away very fast without saying anything else. The volunteer is quite surprised at this behavior and realizes why the Dalit student movement is not growing in the university campuses.
So much inferiority complex despite being well educated!
Ever heard of poor landless Dalit labourers hiding their identities despite being continuously exploited and abused? Why then in a place like JNU do we try to hide?
4. I am sitting in JNU and typing my ‘reflections’ on a Pentium IV computer despite belonging to the ‘non meritorious’ community. I will always remain grateful to my parents’ single minded perseverance towards their children’s education and to Articles 16 (4) and 335 of Indian Constitution without which, I am sure, I would be reaping the fruits of ‘bad karma’ from hundreds of my past lives by cleaning shoes or washing clothes of others as my grandparents and their forefathers did for over two thousand years.
And this is true for millions from my community across the length and breadth of the country.
I just want to cry.
Three cheers for their hard earned success in this most violent casteist society that hates them, abuses them, and ridicules them despite being humane, hardworking and the most productive community in this wretched country called India.
This is their real merit and I am very proud of being from such a meritorious community.
Anoop Kumar is National Coordinator of Insight Foundation working with Dalit and Adivasi students in Higher Education. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image: Cover picture of the November 2004 issue of INSIGHT.