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Why I stopped talking about reservations
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tejas harad

 

Tejas Harad

tejas haradThere was a time when I would defend reservations very vocally. I would post links and status updates on Facebook in favour of the policy and would passionately participate in the discussions that ensued. People who would condemn my posts and pro-reservation stance would, of course, be Savarnas. And they used to make the same set of predictable arguments. The trope of “the son of the IAS Dalit”, the trope of “the poor Brahmin”, and how “meritorious” upper caste students lose out to “quota” students even though they score much higher marks. (Mahitosh Mandal has beautifully debunked all these tropes and other anti-reservation arguments in an essay on Round Table India.1)

Brahmins were/are the gatekeepers of knowledge. They take pride in the fact that they give utmost importance to “learning”. But for all this talk about knowledge and learning, they make such simplistic arguments when it comes to reservations. “If you are the most intelligent person in the classroom, you will score the highest marks.” “If you are the most hard working student in the classroom, you will score the highest marks.” They do not think there can be other variables which can also affect how much marks a student scores. Your caste capital and the social/economic/cultural capital that comes with it plays a huge role in how you perform academically. But majority of Savarnas are too dense to understand this fact.

Sometimes there used to be really heated arguments on my Facebook wall. I lost at least one friend and attracted ill will of lot of others due to my passionate defence of reservations. Ironically, the few friends who would support my pro-reservation stance also used to be Savarnas. Majority of the Dalit Bahujans are yet to acquire fluency in English and yet to be equipped with the cultural capital that makes it possible for them to participate in such discussions.

I eventually got frustrated and stopped talking about reservations. There was another major reason why I stopped: the fact that reservation is not Dalit Bahujans’ issue. Anoop Kumar puts this really well.

“…The same thing happens when you utter the word caste; the first reaction from the upper castes is ‘What about reservation?’ And they will not listen to you. They will not listen to the point you are making and they just want to reduce the debate to reservation. Because that is their issue; that is what hurts them. Reservation doesn’t hurt me at all so it is not my issue. For me, the reservation debate was settled when the constitution was written. I am not debating reservation. Whether it’s good or bad, that is your debate because it hurts you.”2

Talking about reservations takes up lot of energy because there are just too many Savarnas trying to shut you down. I would rather invest that energy somewhere else. I would rather talk about monopoly of Brahmins in academia. I would rather talk about atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis. I would rather talk about how Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasis are challenging the status quo and making dents at our oppressive caste structure. I will not talk about reservations; I will not talk about it until there is a serious threat to the existence of this policy.

Recently a friend shared the following picture with a caption lamenting reservations:

Tina Dabi

Another friend, a Brahmin, mentioned me in the comments phishing for reaction. I did not even cross-check if the mark sheets were genuine. I simply ignored the post.

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Notes

1. Kumar, Anoop (2015): “The collective dilemma of the left, right and centre: What to do with Ambedkar?” Round Table India, http://roundtableindia.co.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8199%3Ahow-can-they-say-they-are-above-caste&catid=119&Itemid=132
2. Mandal, Mahitosh (2015): “The Question of Reservation and the Future of the Dalit-Bahujanas in India,” Round Table India, http://roundtableindia.co.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8408:the-question-of-reservation-and-the-future-of-the-dalit-bahujanas-in-india&catid=119:feature&Itemid=132

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Tejas Harad works in the copy editing department at Economic and Political Weekly. His interest lies in studying the intersection of Ambedkarism, feminism and theoretical Marxism.

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