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

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Reservation amidst the Din of 'Development'

It is important to clarify that the rationale behind instituting reservation in jobs and educational institutions was not to eliminate economic inequality but to dismantle the monopoly of a few castes in government services and educational institutions and to create equal opportunities for the backward classes in an otherwise unequal society.

It has been more than two decades since the Mandal Commission report was accepted but the view that reservation is an unfair privilege given to the backward classes has not changed. In fact it has grown even more fierce in its expression to the point that every now and then a violent demand is made to either end it or accommodate an agitating community, irrespective of its place in the social hierarchy. A similar mentality was reflected in the Jat agitation in Haryana earlier this year and that resulted in widespread violence and destruction of public property. It was astonishing to see the assurance with which this agitation was conducted and the manner in which the state tolerated it. Now compare this to the response of the state against the students who raised slogans in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), demanding azaadi from discrimination; the charge of sedition were slapped against them. The more immediate concern seems to be an attempt to create a sense of legitimacy for reservation on an economic basis.

The overall debate appears to be divided on two grounds. On the one hand there are those who not only totally reject the idea of taking a relook at the policy of reservation but also support further addition to the ever expanding list.1 On the other hand is the anti-reservation brigade, which clearly sees no use for reservation in digital India. Interestingly, this group does not hesitate to lean in favour of the demand for reservation on an economic basis. And in this, the demand for reservation is even couched in progressive terms, that is, pitching the debate on reservation as one of caste (historical discrimination) vs class (economic deprivation). However, no shame or anger is displayed about the atrocities against Dalits and other marginalised sections.

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