Saturday, March 8, 2008

Secular Common Sense

I read Mukul Kesavan's essay on secularism in India. He makes a lot of interesting points which I would like to recount here.

An important point but one which we might already be aware of is that Congress's secularism was founded as an opposition to imperialism. Only when it represented all of the Indian society could congress be successful in its freedom struggle. India as a state as we know it today was ironically formed as a result of imperialistic economic oppression of all sections of our society. If congress were any less secular, then it is possible to imagine that the Indian subcontinent might have been divided into more parts than is the case and the divide and rule policy might, once again have been triumphant.

He quashes the idea which finds many entertainers that Congress (and hence the Indian state) has appeased minorities at the cost of majority to establish the State's secular credentials. Exactly opposite has been the case and too little has been done in this respect. Muslims, and I am speaking of only a section of the minorities here, albeit the largest one, were by all standards of development, backward compared to the rest of the country, even before independence. At the time of partition, many well-to-do Muslims moved to Pakistan and so the discrepancy widened.

Kesavan then talks about reservation. Caste-based reservation was built into our constitution to right the centuries of wrong done to Dalits by the upper caste Hindus. This reservation is exclusively for those Dalits who are Hindu. Thus in a curious way all the minorities, who do not have any kind of reservation have been subsidizing a large section of the Hindus. This, on top of when the ones responsible for the condition of Dalits were Hindus.

I believe that reservation is still necessary to have because the centuries worth of injustice cannot be undone in a short time. But then, we have to make sure that our current policies are not creating future conditions for more reservation. An option could be to make financial condition of a family the criteria for reservation instead of caste.

In 1996, Supreme Court of India in relation to the case of annulling an election on the grounds that the candidates had used religion as a tool to garner votes, ruled that "...the word Hindutva is used and understood as a synonym of "indianization". i.e. development of a uniform culture by obliterating the difference between all the cultures coexisting in the country." At best, Hindutva might be understood as a way of life, just like Islam is. But I do not think the minorities think of Hindutva in the same breath as indianization.

But as an unnatural nation as chronicled beautifully by Ramachandra Guha in India After Gandhi I believe we would go on and become better along the way.


Anil P said...

Reservations will be demanded as a matter of right on some vague sense of 'injustice' of centuries ago to prolong benefits because they are either incapable or unwilling to become competent to compete with the rest for their rightful share!

If this were to happen and it looks likely it will given the clamour of majaority communities, politically powerfull, then the country will face fissures along faultlines that Mandal created.

The Gurjar agitation, the Jat agitations are cases in point.

Huzefa Mukadam said...

I do think that the injustice was and is real and well defined. Though it does not come to light always. A part of the reason why the reserved categories are at present incapable relative to the rest is this injustice itself. Deny the opportunity for long enough and they will stop even consider it as one.

The Gujjar agitations which are over their demands to be included in OBC category are politically motivated. I do think that the OBC category itself is an abuse of the reservation system- created as an afterthought to placate the electorally significant group.

Muzammil said...

Reservation is like crutches, and those who champion this are the idiots with half baked brains. It is as good as killing the confidence of the affected person for his/her own personal gains.

If reservation is for economically backward ppl upto a certain age then it makes sense. But reservations based on caste, religion etc are politics of divide and rule.

The blacks in US, the natives in Canada, the backward castes in India haven't become competent even after reservations and economic dole outs. At the max it has slightly improved their living standards. What is needed is to instill confidence in them that they too are competent and can win without any support.

If you feed a person a fish -- you feed him for a day. If you teach a person how to fish you feed him for his life.

Huzefa Mukadam said...

You are right Muzammil. The supreme court has passed a similar judgement regarding he OBC reservation recently - to exclude the "creamy layers".

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secularism is a philisophy so I must be respected! Nobody should be forced to do something they do not want. It is very interesting that this philisophy is being introduced in India

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as long as my freedom does not infere with somebody else's life, reservation is very personal so that it should be respected.

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