ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Affirmative Action, Reservation or Appeasement

Taking Sides: Reservation Quotas and Minority Rights in India by Rudolph C Heredia (New Delhi: Penguin), 2012; pp 383, Rs 499.

The political scenario in India is heavily dominated by quota and reservation politics. The implementation of the Mandal Commission report by V P Singh in 1990 totally changed the political scenario and continues to affect it. Reservation for women in panchayats sailed through but reservation in Parliament is mired in innumerable problems. Based on the findings of the Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra Commission there have been demands for reservation for Muslim minorities in some states, but the proposal has met with such hostile opposition that it is practically impossible that such a step can be contemplated for implementation. Besides, with the change of regime in May 2014 and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government coming to power at the centre, such issues will be relegated to the past. It is against this background that this path breaking book written with deep insights into the Indian social reality and the unevenness in all sections of society needs to be given serious consideration and debated in different social and academic forums.

Rudolf Heredia, whose previous intervention, Changing Gods engaged with the issue of conversions which have been the bone of contention and the axis around which the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) constructed its politics for decades was again deeply rooted in Indian reality. It demonstrated the genesis of the issue and the need to understand “why conversion” rather than raising temperatures on this phenomenon. In Taking Sides Heredia takes pains to go into the lack of proper process of secularisation-democratisation which led to the present morass where multiple sectors of society suffer from the disadvantages due to their caste, religion or gender. His premise is very humane, for him the central concern is justice, “A ‘just society’ involves our understanding of justice as much as it does our understanding of society” (p x). Justice must be done and seen to be done and not just debated. There is a need for practical action beyond the debating rooms. This again requires the consent of the governed for different actions leading towards justice in society. The limits of our actions in this direction are guided by consensus and legitimacy and how far they can be stretched. This book sets out to explore those outside limits of action.

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