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Democracy evolved after thousands of years of anarchy and monarchy. It promised establishment of an egalitarian society, individual freedom, and opportunity for the pursuit of happiness for everyone. Initially it was viewed as a panacea for all the social problems – a utopian dream; but things did not turn out to be similar as envisaged. Democracy is not the perfect political system, but it certainly is the least of evils.
Democracy is still an inchoate political system considering the ten thousand years of human history when humans became hunter-gatherers to farmers. So, it is not impossible that it might topple one day and supplanted by some new form of governance.
Democracy certainly ensures that the intelligent and the powerful are not able to exploit the majority. It has certainly reduced inequality, provided freedom, and has given people the power to choose a government they like. But viewing it from the perspective of a minority, it is not that pleasant.
In India there are two major religions: Hinduism and Islam. There are around 80% Hindus and 14% Muslims. So whatever benefits can be derived from being a minority, Muslims get it. But are Muslims the real minority? no they certainly are the religious minorities but not the electoral minority; the latest assembly election results in Bihar show that they are the the largest community – about 17% . BJP—a party which was founded to unite hindus and save the Indian culture not to be overthrown by foreign culture (especially Arabian)—lost the assembly election. It is a proof that hindus are still divided among castes and Muslim votes are most valuable.
They have divided Hindus in three main categories: upper castes, SC/ST and and OBC (Other backward castes). The upper castes have been affixed as the opressores; the lower castes are backwards and are presented as the victims. The backward castes are further divided into two categories the SC/ST were placed at the lowest rung and OBC in the middle. The upper class are at the uppermost level, the OBCs are the largest in number (more than 40%) and upper class are the lowest – less than 15%
The caste system has abated to a great deal, considering the philosophy the caste system is based upon.
Earlier a person was born in a caste, he worked what his fellow caste persons were ordained by God to do. They were not allowed to sit on a chair in front of the upper caste. It was considered a sin to eat food offered by them, they were not even allowed to enter temples to worship; in a nutshell they were deprived of any human rights. Now that situation is changed: anyone can do work of his/her choice irrespective of the caste he/she born in. In rural areas there is still some problem but it will not be wrong to say that ideologically caste system has ended. The ghost of caste system is still conjured by the schizophrenic politicians.
The Muslims are put into the minority compartment, the upper castes hindus have been tagged as the oppressors, and the backward castes are the victims. Muslims are around 14% in population but they are enjoying the status of the most coveted group by the political parties. Muslims enjoy this privilege because they vote as a block; all the muslim votes go to a particular party, the ones who become successful in appeasing them. The OBCs are the dominant community in modern india as they are the largest group. The SCs and STs also get special privilege, but since they have suffered a lot the upper castes are not unhappy with it, but they are unhappy about the size of the quota allotted to them.
Like every society—and especially a society as diverse as Indian—it works under a narrative that emerges out from the collective sub consciousness. Everyone thinks, even some most enlightened intellectuals, that the uppercastes are the oppressors and others are the victims. This narrative is totally false and is manufactured; the uppercastes had been oppressors for thousands of years but that was the time when barbarism prevailed. All the kings did was to plan to attack this kingdom or that. Alexander conquered the world but he is assigned the sobriquet of ‘Alexander the great’. Same goes with Napolean and other greats. There is an adage in Hindi: “Jiski Läthi uski bhæns”, which roughly means, “One who has the baton, the buffalo belongs to him.”
I am not justifying the evil deeds done in ancient times; no one can justify that. What is wrong is wrong, irrespective of time and place. All I want to tell is that when you confiscate the human rights of an individual, that is a bigger evil, and that is happening with the upper castes in India. The human race has evolved in all spheres; today we are more likely to be murdered with an automatic pistol than a knife. Technology has advanced to such an extent that it some times feel as if we are living in sci-fi society. Social progress and amity is as necessary as technological advancements. Earlier it was anarchy, then came monarchy, then communism, and then the darling of all political systems: democracy.
Any system, however perfect it might be, is driven by the human mind; and we know how irrational this creature’s mind is. It discovers breach in any system. So unless the human mind progresses, there is very little scope of inclusive progress.
Even in the ancient times, the upper castes were not rulers. The last of them were the British, who created the quota system. Before them were the Mughals who ruled for 250 years. The Mughal empire came to rule india when Babur beat Ibrahim Lodi in the battle of Panipath in 1526. Before Mughals various other dynasties ruled India. So India was ruled by foreigners for more than 1000 years; where comes the uppercastes? It’s true that some of the uppercastes were zamindars and collected lagans from the poor, the foreign rulers could have changed that but the will was not there.
I have great respect for Dr. Ambedkar who made the Dalits aware that there is no god and there is not a divine hierarchy which placed one group over another. But Ambedkar was an English beureaucrat who supported the reservation and made it sure to continue it after the british had gone away. Ambedkar was a minister in the Viceroy’s council. Later when India got liberty he joined the congress. The congress, with a magnanimous gesture appointed Ambedkar as the president of the constituent assembly. The constituent assembly was the architect of the Indian assembly, so the indian constitution was anti-upper caste from the outset.
The first prime minister of india was Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. That man could have been a better writer had he chosen writing as his career but he chose to be a politician and failed at it. That man and his colleagues could not envision that such a draconian law as reservation in government jobs and educational institutes would be so difficult to repeal. Repealing sounds too presumptuous a demand, the problem now is how to stop it from further proliferation. Every caste now wants a backward status. Recently Jats started a movement (It was more hooliganism than movement) to be included in backward castes. Since Jats are the majority community in the state of Haryana, the state government succumbed to their demands. Other castes like Gujjar have also demanded such status. Most of the indian communities think that getting included in backward castes will solve all the problems, but the fact is the problems are escalating.
After independence major changes were carried out in favor of the backward castes. The most draconian scheme was maneuvered in 1979 with the establishment of the Mandal commission to assess the condition of backward classes. The Mandal commission presented a report, based on 1930 data, to increase the reservation from the existing quota of 22.5% to 49.5%. The recommendations of the Mandala Commission were implemented in Government Jobs by the then Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh who later died of blood cancer, and so many members of his party Janata Dal became ambitious that the Janata Dal disintegrated into many parties.
Now regional parties are planning to gather together and they are planning to strike the master blow – the coup de grace. Bihar Chief minister has revealed his intention of plunging into the center politics with the demand of reservation in private sector and increasing the limit of 50% decreed by the Supreme Court of India. If such circumstances arise, there will be a maelstrom which will be difficult to snuff out.
Persecution of the upper castes began in south but it took a deadly turn in Bihar in 1990s when Lalu Yadav become the chief minister. After Hitler and Idi Amin he was the modern era’s only leader who called for the ethnic cleansing of the upper castes. He coined a slogan, which became popoular: “Bhurabal saaf karo”. Its literal translation means shave off the brown hair, but it called for the ethnic cleansing of “Bhu” (Bhumihar), “Ra” (Rajput), “Ba” (Brahman), “La (Lala)”, and saaf karo means shave off. During Lalu’s era many massacres took place but I cannot forget the dread among the upper castes after the Bara massacre. It had crossed all limits of brutality. It was so gory.
There is a method to become Hitler, Idi Amin, or Lalu Yadav. First choose an easy prey, like Jews in Germany, or the upper castes in Bihar. Then mobilize the majority by spreading hatred against the prey; then start their propaganda. Most of the bloody propagandas work this way.
Intellectuals and the media should be wary of stereotyping a whole community as oppressors; it makes the persecutor feel that their hatred is justified. The media did all it could to broadcast to the world that hindus are intolerant.
Reservation cannot be logically justified. It was served as a package under “affirmative action” or “positive discrimination”. Affirmative action should only be employed after assessing the long term consequences it will have, otherwise it will only turn the names of the victims and the oppressors. It will become a tool for reverse discrimination. If my great grand father kicked your great gramd father, it does not give you the right to kick my butt.
Upper castes should be given the status of electoral minority to protect them, otherwise democracy will become only a tool for persecution like the older forms of governance.