OPEN LETTER TO MODI— Indians matter, not caste

Hon. Prime Minister Modi,

The most damaging result of caste-based reservation, now being pointed out by me for the umpteenth time, has been the label of ‘low caste’ being stuck permanently on a person’s forehead. He suffered oppressive humiliation for ages under an unsympathetic social order and now again he is made to suffer all in the name of giving him benefits. Once already condemned now this social justice funda makes him relive his old life of humiliation and inequality even if some of them mistakenly “poor” enough to own a BC certificate and are able to flaunt their wealth and power in the mistaken belief that all is well with the new social order.

When the Mandal Bill was brought to Parliament by VP Singh it was meant to kindle baser instincts on a humongous scale to generate hatred and jealousy in order to maximise VP Singh’s and Janata Dal’s political fortune through vote gerrymandering. Giving benefits not on the basis of economic and educational backwardness and disability but purely on caste was not only discriminatory and humiliating but a clear violation of both the letter and spirit of the Preamble as well as the Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution that deals with Fundamental Rights. VP Singh knew he was committing a grave sin against those whom he was misguiding in the name of helping their lot. Yet seized by a peculiar madness he went on to unleash the most destructive and divisive Mandal genie that swept away even the all-powerful Supreme Court to cave in to political blackmail.

Whatever benefits the caste quotas are meant to purvey to uplift the weaker sections could have easily and more usefully be given on the criteria of economic and educational backwardness. With political premium high on caste it is only the well-off sections in the concerned reserved communities get rewarded repeatedly and who have made it a fetish to milk the benefits. Thus the very purpose of helping the poor and the weaker sections has been defeated. Actually it is a human rights violation of the poor, to whichever caste or creed he or she may belong, as they are entitled to relief & succor from a civilized government.

Giving quotas away by the neo-Maharajas of India is no less flagrant than what the Mughal royalty once did giving away gifts to those who sang its fulsome praise. This made a mockery of helping deprived sections of society which indeed should have been the real objective presumably of giving them benefits when the Constitution was framed.

Congress ruled for some 55 years without seriously thinking of providing positive economic and educational empowerment to all those who have been traditionally denied these opportunities. Instead those who came first and could grab it got away with the reservation loot because of their sheer political or financial muscle power.

We must give special scholarships to the children belonging to the weaker sections and economic assistance by way of special loans to these youths to start some business. There are also so many other ways in helping them like giving special facilities for housing and health to this section. But why attach the label and stigma of “low caste” when doing this? Haven’t they suffered enough for generations without degrading and humiliating them further all in the name of SOCIAL JUSTICE?

Many have protested to no avail against all identifying marks and names by which the caste of a person can be recognised and for its removal when admission in schools are sought from where the child first gets stigmatised and his caste legitimised. Caste is a disease that nurtures venal politicians of India. I hope the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi who knows how brutal the caste cancer is eating our nation’s vitals will try and abolish caste by law. Obviously if law can remove untouchability why can’t it do the same to caste? Equality can ONLY be brought about by improving the economic and educational status of our citizens by providing them with positive opportunities in different fields without asking anything other than their Indianness.

Historically, the caste system was meant as division of labour and vocations were set aside for different sets of people. This innocuous arrangement soon turned into a tool of humiliation affecting human dignity. Precisely because of this that Gautam Buddha and later Guru Nanak went on to establish new faiths based on the principle of equality. Even those who converted to Islam and Christianity did so because there was reportedly no caste system in these religious groups.

A free India paradoxically fell into a rut no sooner it kicked the British out. Instead of seeing a nation free from caste and class and evolution of a truly secular society, what we got in the bargain was more discrimination that are today irreversible with perpetuation of religion, caste, race, sex, language, place of birth etc. Paradoxically this was what was promised to be eradicated initially in the Constitution’s Articles 15 and 16. Yet, venality of poltiicians and the dynastic orientation of politics began touching new high and the very first amendment in 1951 violated this golden principle for the sake of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. This cancer was thought to be a short-term measure but a little cancer is as bad as the full blown one as cancer never stops spreading. Today it has seized our body politic. A defenceless India has fallen apart with reservations for Other Backward Castes being imposed in government services and legislatures which were most cynically introduced with BJP and Congress vying to play a game of oneupmanship with the 2007 UP Assembly poll being round the corner. This brazenly raised the cynical bar of tolerance in ushering more quotas. Evil eyes were cast on private educational institutes, industry and business houses. I would say the danger still hovers menacingly as rogues can come together in a mutual bond of survival to push India further down the Black Hole if, say, Modi loses control.

What India sees today is official recognition of caste and perpetuation of the social discrimination and degradation of the backward groups, these very groups who have cried for centuries for emancipation. Except downgrading merit and spreading illwill nothing substantial seems to have benefited these groups either economically or otherwise if the latest statistics is anything to go by with over half of India termed as BPL. Those who benefited most were unworthy of getting these benefits in the first place anyway.

However most damaging fallout of this system has been the sticking of the label “low caste” on the foreheads of these poor and defenceless people who still await redemption and ironically their low caste not getting the due attention it deserves. The social engineering euphoria let loose by VP Singh was to engineer its own powerful groups to crystallise into blocks to unseat a massive vested interest block that was bringing the Congress to power decade after decade.

Concept of reservations is simply to Rob Peter to pay Paul without bothering about the difficulties or harm being done to Peter or in warding off the humiliation and even social alienation of Pauls termed as “low castes” who supposedly are getting the benefits, at least on paper.

But once we have made caste as the main factor behind identifying our citizens, there is another disastrous consequence waiting to happen. Till now, there was at least the myth of a common Hindu society which is an amalgam of thousands of castes, merged together without their separate identities highlighted. But caste identity of Indian citizens can easily degenerate into each caste seeking a separate minority community status, like the Muslims have, as a means to grab benefits undoing the very concept of secularism. Can India afford to see its society broken to pieces once again and different groups turning hostile to each other?

Whether it was VP Singh with his Mandal or BJP supporting Arjun Singh in bringing OBC quotas during 2007 UP assembly elections through the back door what the nation suffered most was being caught unawares by the viciousness of the purveyors of divisive quotas. Unfortunately, as it always happens, once the divisive genie is uncorked it is impossible to put it back into the bottle.

Modi has to take the quota bull by its horns before it puts him in horns of dilemma. There are enough mischief-makers in his Cabinet who could show restlessness once again.

Adi Shankaracharya had said, “by birth everyone is a manual worker. It is by education that he becomes twice born.” (Janamana Jayate Shudro-Sanskarat Dwijam Ucchate). Let anyone who goes to school be declared a Brahmin with the right for upanayanam if he wants. This way we would have a true social engineering and a strong India. Reservations on basis of caste has proved a remedy far worse than the disease. Hope India now at the crossroads has a new Raja Ram Mohan Roy in Narendra Modi.

Yours sincerely,

V.N. Balakrishna.

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