The Reservation debate
The courage to take sides with the socially excluded
by Ragland Remo Paul
The ongoing Reservation debate
Reservation has always been met with reservation. Every time the reservation issue came up there has been some hue and cry that has been raised. The recent one being the one that has been kicked up at St. Stephen’s prompting Ramachandra Guha to call it the “Murder in the Cathedral”. The reservations issue has not been without its share of bloodshed. The implementation of the Mandal Commission Report saw bloody riots in 1991. The entire reservation policy is based on the paradigm of providing of opportunities for persons who have been unjustly denied access to basic amenities so as to bring about a society based on values of equality.
India which predominantly had and has persons following Hinduism was and is deeply rooted in a social stratification called the caste system. This caste system was religiously sanctioned but was socially flawed as it was a hierarchical system with increasing order of social benefits and decreasing order of social benefits. The lower ones position in the system lesser the social privileges. The other chunk of persons was the tribals who were basically animist in their religious beliefs thereby not coming under the caste system. However the tribals were also socially backward due to their economic, academic, geographic and social reasons.
So, when India became an Independent nation in 1947 and the framers of the Indian Constitution spearheaded by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar (a member from the lower strata of the caste system himself) et al wanted to right the wrong that has been meted out for over 3000 years.
Understanding the reservation Policy
Thus the reservation policy finds its root in the Constitution of India. Article 330 and 332 provides for proportionate representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
- Article 15(4) allows the state to make any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- Article 16(4), Article 16(4A), Article 16(4B), Article 335, and Article 320(4) provide explicitly for reservation in educational institutions for the backward classes and the authority of the state to make any required changes with time, as required.
On the face of it this reservation policy looks like a great idea to bring about a society based on justice and equality, but unfortunately that is not the case.
- The reservations policy has led to reverse discrimination. We have instances were Brahmins have had to take up jobs as toilet cleaners due to the inability to find jobs.
- It has also lowered the standard and quality of students we churn out of our education systems because of the entry cut off was lowered.
- The reservation has perpetuated a pseudo-caste system with the hierarchy reversed from the original caste system.
- It has brought about mediocrity in the national administration as the quality if the persons obtaining administrative positions have been mediocre.
Now the reservation policy is not all about having created a negative result, the reservation policy did result in some good. The policy gave access to basic amenities of food, shelter, health and education to persons who never had access to them. It also curbed the widespread caste based discrimination. It provided for a relatively fair playing field between the haves and have not.
Here I stand!
Now this brings us to the very important question that I get asked every time there is a discussion on this much heated topic. WHAT IS MY POSITION ON THE RESERVATION POLICY? For a long time I shuttled between the pro and against position and for a short time I took a neutral and a non-committal position. However as I continued to look as at how God would look at it, here is what I have come to believe in. In dealing with social and highly debated issues like this, what is needed is a Biblical framework that will enable us to do the right thing.
We need to understand (if not already known) that we live in a world that is not based on principles of justice and equality. The fallen nature of man will hypocritically agree that he believes in justice and equality all the while trampling on a fellowman to achieve his own goals. All our social ills are basically due to our flawed and hypocritical understanding of justice and equality. On the contrary our Lord is a Lord of justice and equality. The Old Testament is full of God’s instructions and guidelines to the Israelites on taking care of the poor, captives, aliens and widows. This teaching is not Old Testament teaching alone we find ample instructions in the New Testament. The choosing of the 7 to serve the widows (Acts 6: 1-7), teaching against favouritism (James 2:1-13), The proclamation of salvation to Zacchaeus after he restores all that he had wrongfully accumulated (Luke 19:1-10) and the instructions to Paul whose predominate focus was to work with the rich and in urban areas not to forget the poor in his zeal to present the Gospel (Gal 2:10) are some of the examples of how much importance that the Lord places on justice and equality.
Here I stand on the side of Justice
It is this great emphasis that the Lord places on justice and equality that forces me to take sides with the ones who are poor, oppressed and those who are denied basic rights. This will not be an easy task. When I take sides, I stand in opposition with the majority that enjoy power and support. Hats off to Rev. Valson Thampu, Principal of St. Stephen’s College for the courage he had to take the position in reserving seats of Christians from the Dalit Community. I am not in blind agreement with any reservation policy, but any act that takes sides with poor and oppressed my allegiance is with that act, not because the poor need to be patronised, but because my Christian worldview demands it.
The God of justice and equality demands that you and I live by the Biblical principles of justice and equality. Do you have it in you? – Remo Ragland Paul
(The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)