Reservation & its Misinterpretation
For the past few years there has been a growing public demand for the reservation for SC,ST,OBC should be abolished completely and replaced by reservation for economically weaker section. However, as the word “Dalit” has a completely diverse meaning from Indian understanding of the term & Western definition, there lies the biggest confusion.
If you search the internet, and Wikipedia being one of the most reliable source for understanding of the word ‘Dalit’, it will come as a shocking disbelief, that their definition of the word is completely different from that of Indian (Whether for administrative purposes or common use of the term)
To understand the word ‘ Dalit’ in Indian context, we have to understand the caste system prevalent in Indian subcontinent in the Colonial and Pre Colonial era.
Before the advent of Muslims into the subcontinent, the Hindu society was divided into 4 main classes of people, the Brahmins who were the teachers and performed religious rituals, they were also the advisers to the rulers, the next class were the rulers and the soldiers, who managed the state’s affairs, both internal and external. The next were the various professionals and traders, including the general farming communities. And finally the lowest class of people that is the sweepers, cobblers, caretakers for the crematorium, these people on account of handling waste and dead were considered untouchables (as they were often carrier of diseases etc due to the kind of profession they were in). With the passage of time, switching between professions (unlike today) stopped completely as it’s often the case that if a child gets into the same profession of their parents, they are better equipped as they are aware of the tricks of their trade better than someone who has no such guidance. With time the lower class of professions were treated poorly/oppressed by the people who were socially upward.
With the coming of the Mughal Empire into India, and forced conversions, these oppressed class of the people were the first ones to get influenced as they really had nothing to lose and the present religion didn’t treat them fairly. Also the religious taxes being imposed by the Muslim ruler meant that only the well off were able to afford to practice the religion other than Islam.
When the British came, this was the social structure they found in the Indian subcontinent, and being a populous country there were still quite a lot of oppressed subjects and another wave of conversions began. Thus the subcontinent now not only had Hindu religion along with Sikhism, Buddhist, Jains which has their roots closely associated with Hinduism but also Islam & Christianity.
Now lets come to the Wikipedia description of Dalits – “The term dalits was in use as a translation for the census classification of Depressed Classes prior to 1935. It was popularised by the economist and reformer (1891–1956), who included all depressed people irrespective of their caste into the definition of Dalits.”
It further goes on to say “India's dalit as a label to be "unconstitutional" because modern legislation prefers ; however, some sources say that Dalit has encompassed more communities than the official term of Scheduled Castes and is sometimes used to refer to all of India's oppressed peoples.” “Scheduled Caste communities exist across India, although they are mostly concentrated in four states; they do not share a or . They comprise 16.6 per cent of India's population, according to the .” considers official use of
Thus even though our own constitution defines Dalits as India’s oppressed people, and they do not share a single language or religion. But both Indian public & bureaucratic establishment’s understanding of this word is “that of people belonging to the untouchable community specifically of Hindu religion.” This the root cause of all the problem being faced currently by the public.
Whether it’s the lack of understanding or poor command over English as a language, successive Governments with the help of Indian bureaucracy, encouraged this interpretation of the word DALIT for vote bank politics, and reservation which was initially proposed as a temporary measure to lift the oppressed class (poors) became a means of ensuring votes for Politicians, there by separate reservations for Muslims, ST, OBC came into force, which was both constitutionally illegal and had no practical purpose other than ensuring a vote bank for a said politician/political party.
If therefore we go by the true meaning of the word DALIT or Schedule Caste as per our very own constitution,, it means all marginalized and poor people of the country irrespective of their religious belief. In other words everyone who falls under the Poverty Line, they will have the benefit of reservation till such time they come above the Poverty line.
Therefore a scheduled caste member the moment he gets a job which pays him/her the minimum wage as prescribed by the Law NO LONGER CAN BE CALLED A SCHEDULED CASTE. Not only him/or her but their family members as well cannot claim any benefit meant for the SCHEDULED CASTE. If respective State & Central Government agencies respects the Constitution of this Country, they should with immediate effect implement the true interpretation both in letter and in spirit.
Mass agitation being pushed by various communities all over the country (for vote bank politics) will not only stop, but truly deserving class of poor people will get the benefit, whether they are Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jains, Sikhs etc. Further this reservation has now even penetrated the bureaucracy in terms of getting preferential treatment meted out to people belonging to SC,ST,OBC etc at the time of getting internal promotions, which should be solely merit based, further a SC if he is already working in a government department means he is certainly not below the poverty line and thus cannot claim/be eligible for any further benefits.
Even Banks & financial institution have a policy of lending money under various schemes on the basis of this reservation system, which is a oxymoron because if a prospective borrower can fulfil the documentation requirements then it means, as per our constitution he doesn’t constitute the class of scheduled class. So Banks, distinguishing its borrower on base of SC,ST,OBC, MUSLIM is both illegal and unconstitutional.
The broader agitation to abolish the reservation system and have an reservation targeting the economically weaker section is nothing but the actual interpretation of the constitution as envisioned by Dr. B.R.Ambedkar. The Political establishment should have the grit and determination to implement the true interpretation of RESERVATION without delay & am surprised that our Judiciary which is an impartial autonomous body & custodian of our constitution hasn’t taken a Suo moto action against successive State & Central Governments, as these illegal reservations first started decades earlier.