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Molotov India April 14, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in Blogging, Culture, india, Personal, Politics, Thoughts, Writing.
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India is a Molotov cocktail.

I read in school history books about the 4 main castes and the other castes and sub-castes. The 16 (now 20) official languages and the 2000 other un-recognized ones. India was, as Mr. Basham described ‘The Wonder that was India’. I grew up in Jamshedpur. It is a cosmopolitan city. My earliest memory of growing up was the scary 1979 riots. Smoke all over the city, curfew and armed gangsters roaming the streets. There was no sikh persecution though when Indira Gandhi died in 1984, although people were scared. Binny, a friend cut his hair, to be on the safe side.

Then came 1989. Reservations. A dreaded word. Growing up, the first time I realized its impact and importance was during the implementation of the Mandal Commission Report by then Prime Minister V.P. Singh, and the consequent agitation. Rajiv Goswami became an overnight hero.

I was in school then. My response to it was conditioned by the responses that surrounded me. I come from what people derogatorily call the ‘Brahman’ community.

Yes, my thread ceremony is done, although I don’t carry it on my body. Anyways, I didn’t know the intricacies of the agitation. All I could gather was that lesser opportunities will be available to the more affluent. More opportunities for the historically disadvantaged. I was also made to feel threatened by the entire movement.

People told me about the inherent politics of it all. All politics was corrupt and therefore this too. How have things changed since those violent days of 1989. There should be equality people said. How can you have qualified work force when people with suspect skills are okayed because of their caste affiliations or economic disadvantages?

I went to college, Delhi University and met both the groups; professors who supported the implementation and people opposed it. I had by then, no problem with the issue of reservation. Why? Because I thought I could get a job because I was skilled. In what, I, didn’t know, but I was sure that I could fend for myself.

1989 and 2008 – 20 years. India is a different place. Is it different for all of us or only for a minority? I would go with ‘minority’. The rich, the affluent, the successful and privileged are at a natural advantage. Other’s are in misery.

Tribal’s are being attacked. Their land is being forcibly snatched in the name of development. States that don’t want SEZ’s are being forced by the Center to say yes. Regional parties like MNS want 80% of reservations to people who have Maharashtra domicile. Farmers are being forced to adopt genetic crops and the rate of farmer’s suicides in India is alarming. The divide between the northern and southern states is increasing. More crimes are being committed against women than ever before. The female to male ratio is plummeting especially in the richer states.

There has been the assertion of Dalit rights. Other castes and sub-castes also waste no time vocalizing their status – so that they can avail of economic and other benefits guaranteed by the constitution. More and more these are turning out to be violent. Atrocities on the weaker and minority sections also follow a pattern.

In the midst of all this the Supreme Court gave its historic April 10th judgement.

“In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the legislation providing 27% quota for other backward castes (OBCs) in centrally funded educational institutions, including IITs and IIMs.”

The contentious ‘creamy layer’ the economically well-off from the OBC’s will be out of its ambit however. An additional rider in that these will be reviewed every 5 years.

It has obviously angered some and made many happy.

It is the perennial Indian problem. More candidates for the same number of Seats. There is a solution to this also. Increase the number of seats by the percentage of quota – 27% and if candidates from the reserved category fail to fill up the 27% then make the creamy layer from the OBC’s fill those seats rather than making them available to the general. Some bad blood will be created on this point.

This judgement also is not valid and binding on private, unaided institutions. That’s a huge percentage. How to make them fall under the purview is another big question mark?

In the midst of all of this India is facing a food crisis. In fact, the entire world, according to the IMF, although I suspect the IMF of being an American stooge.

So as usual we are at the cusp. We are an eager, ambitious, talented and corrupt nation trying to attain heights of glory. One section dreaming on empty stomachs; the other wasting on excess; the other comfortable in corruption; some blasé; some snatching; some impatience; some honest; some daring and some talented.

And as usual we are divided. Everybody is divisive.

The same emotions targeted by by BJP during the 1989 elections – the emaciated Hindu consciousness because of Mughal and Imperial oppression (largely Mughal because the English were too far away) is sometimes used by some of the supporters of reservations. There is danger of reverse discrimination and consequent recourse to the same emotions by these professional extremists who can violently polarize people along caste lines. This situation is completely avoidable.

What the policy makers should evolve is a consensus on the parameters that make somebody avail of these benefits. They can be from the forward or backward caste. It is time we accept that the rich does not automatically mean the ‘forward castes’. It is time to see that oppressors can belong to any caste. To not condone violence, discrimination and hate no matter where they are coming from.

There are only 2 castes in the entire world – the rich and the poor and the twain shall never meet.

It is to be noted these literal definitions…Backward, OBC etc although convenient, are still labels and stop people from making an identity outside of these labels. Psychologically I am still being identified by my caste. Always. India and Indians are still party to the caste system, no matter how good their intentions of eradicating them.

Or do they or we actually want to remove these barriers? Are they not convenient devices to separate people so that loyalty can be cultivated and nurtured by playing arbiter/mediator? After all Us and Them is handy for the I.



1. myexpression - April 14, 2008

i almost agree with all of it… though i don’t understand how your mentioning your caste makes a difference to the writing or whether you wear the sacred thread or not… you could have probably just mentioned that you fall under the general category in current scheme of things. honestly i see this as brandishing of your sentiment that you belong to a superior tribe, though very quietly… am i disappointed…

2. myexpression - April 14, 2008

i’ll just shrug my shoulder…

3. astralwicks - April 14, 2008

your doubts that i mentioned my caste because of a superiority complex is completely wrong. I have no such. does the writing smack of vendetta…then I have failed to make my point. In fact, after Jharkhand got a state for itself, I was persecuted. In small ways, but nevertheless. It happens. We all want our pound of flesh…but then one day it might all get over. And then what…?

4. v - April 14, 2008

you might be correct i’m not doubting ur honesty… i’ll believe that u did not do it knowingly but astral there are lot of things which people do, not knowingly like

> asking surnames of people who do not look like them or have the same accent

> looking at dark people and saying that they must be illiterate and from some schedule caste

> looking at a woman and deciding on her fate

sadly a lot of times they are people who have been educated who do not flaunt their caste and have faced marginalization at some point or other. they are sensitive. i just wondered if ur not mentioning ur caste would have created a deficiency in ur writing. i guess when u mention such a thing has a lot to do with ur conditioning… may be we all need to forget our father’s and mother’s name.

5. astralwicks - April 15, 2008

we will quibble forever. memory and identity are not weaknesses. and yes, we are living in quite a dumb world. that smacks of arrogance but being a victim of cateist or racial bias is nothing new…at least not in india. look at our sunday matrimonials. the sooner we accept that it is a jungle out there, the better. and there are new biases being born every day. oh your kid is not at IB, oh she is from IIM. oh you work in the film industry (must be corrupt and debauched) etc etc

6. myexpression - April 15, 2008

do we need to know that its a jungle out there… i guess we know it already… don’t u think thats what we need to fight…

no we’ll not quibble forever…
both memory and identity are weaknesses for a society… they are traps…
all i wanted was a simple thing, to know if not mentioning your caste would have made your write up weak? yes or no.

let me try and explain; firstly ur writing is not reeking of vendetta… it looks like a brahmin boy not very sure of the happenings around him looked at reservations and thought that he will still make something of himself or fend for himself, how he did not know but still…
and not to forget that he had the sacred thread ceremony though he does not wear it… then you tell me more things… before winding up and saying that the real dividing line will be rich and poor… i totally agree but astral how will anyone as you said’ ‘Psychologically I am still being identified by my caste’, if you mention it just like that…

7. gudus - April 15, 2008

dude i think there’s been some sort of a freudian slip kind of a thing on your part, maybe you more conscious of your caste than you actually think…i don’t think you are “brandishing of your sentiment that you belong to a superior tribe, though very quietly” though.
another thing, its RAJIV goswami, the overnight hero

8. astralwicks - April 15, 2008

@gudus thanks for pointing the error.
at least there are some comments happening. getting to the point. my mentioning my so called caste in the beginning was to tell the kind of conditioning I was surrounded by. brahmin or not brahmin, i hope, we all agree that we are conditioned. some of their superiority and others of their inferiority. ways of lookin, receiving and interpreting. i agree that me not wearing my ‘janeu’ could be a style statement and deep inside i could be a fascist. people who know me will know me. who i am will be revealed by what i do and what i say. what you guys are talking of is the kind of guilt the germans are subjected to because of the nazis or the kind of chest thumping right – winders expect of indian muslims whenever there is a bomb blast. this constant desire to be apologetic does more harm than good. i must be seen for what i am not what my ancestors did. one has to read the sentence in a context and not according to one’s simplified perceptions of what the other is because of caste or no caste. the net has been cast.

9. astralwicks - April 15, 2008

oh and i forgot to reply to my expression – what difference if i had not mentioned my …. NOTHING.

10. myexpression - April 15, 2008

thanx astral…

11. gudus - April 15, 2008

btw good post.
i remember the debate which sprung up during the bhajji controversy. I agreed with many, India is so prejudiced and casteist within, one could almost suggest that it’s the most subversively racist country in the world today

12. gudus - April 15, 2008

astral beta…be nice to her

13. astralwicks - April 15, 2008

debate’s have to be fought through. and those dots don’t mean any abuse. i even wanted to avoid the word so…

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