Reservations and the Relevance of Hardik Patel

Hardik Patel, a 21 year old young guy, has risen into an overnight sensation courtesy the Patel community’s demand for reservation. Of course, this is a political agitation. And certainly it is not prodded by the Congress, not till now at least. Yes, it could be an AAP+BJP insiders’ agitation — it is more or less a confirmation. In fact, the political ramifications of this agitation are inevitable: unless it’s Singapore, you can’t have the same autocracy for too very long in a Democracy or even otherwise; Modi perfected the art of autocratic rule in Gujarat, but now it’s a different ball game; and at the national level he is also failing badly. So much for politics; now let us discuss the real issue, i.e. the reservation per se.

Reservation or positive affirmation is a necessary ingredient of Right to Equality. The only question is how it should be practiced. Should it be practiced as in Google or Big Boss’ house, where people can be promoted completely arbitrarily, pretty often for granting political rewards. Or should it be practiced transparently on the basis of fixed criteria. Till now, the reservation in Gujarat has been practiced in the first realm, i.e. arbitrarily. And, probably, Patels were also one of the biggest beneficiaries of it, but since this kind of reservation is not formal, they have felt left out and now want more. So, I am just rejecting their demand for reservation outrightly.

However, India also has a constitutional scheme, in which reservation has gained the status of not only a constitutional but also a fundamental right. In the Indian Constitution, three categories of reservation rights have been established through judicial activism. First, the rights of schedule castes to get reservation. Secondly, the right of schedule tribes to get reservation And thirdly, the right of the socially and educationally backward classes to get reservation. Out of these, I say with great responsibility, the creation of the fundamental right of the schedule castes to get reservation is communal, and for which the Supreme Court is solely responsible. The idea of the constitution was never to create this positive affirmation as a fundamental right. How can there be a fundamental right for only one religion? So, obviously, the other religious groups like Muslims and Christians also started identifying the “dalits” among themselves and demanded reservation for them on lines of the reservation for “dalit” Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists — I wonder why ever B. R. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism. Anyways, if allowed, this will certainly also identify the potential target groups for Ghar Wapasi. So, I am all for the removal of caste based reservation.

However, the most contested reservation right is that of the socially and educationally backward groups. This identification in India has emerged more or less on the caste basis on the premise that, in India, it is the social classes, i.e. castes, not economic classes, that define backwardness. I can’t blaim the judiciary much in this because they couldn’t have intrepreted economic backwardness in social backwardness. But, it is indeed an opportunity lost for judicial activism, which allows for innovative intrepretations far beyond the fantasies of poets and writers. Why the judiciary didn’t do it is the question I want to ask — actually, it is a rhetorical question for I know the answer but won’t even murmur it for the fear of autocratic action of judiciary under the contempt laws.

So, all in all, our constitution has completely screwed up the fundamental right to get reservation, and it indeed needs a fundamental change. And this is where comes the true relevance of Hardik Patel. He has raised an important issue of reservation policy in India — which incidentally has been raised more directly and more recently by RSS’ Mohan Bhagwat and some Congress leaders; Congress’ raising this issue is a clever move towards communism, but RSS’ raising this issue is harakiri, for this intrusion into Dalits and OBCs is the biggest political achievement of Modi. Hardik Patel is an insignia of changing political dimensions of India, where old foes of reservation have accumulated all kinds of Hindus in their fold, whether Brahmin or Dalit, thus they can’t even think of meddling with reservation policy. At the same time, the AAP’s successful stratification of voters into the poor and the rich has opened up new dimensions in Indian politics, atleast in Urban India, if not Rural India. If Hardik Patel is indeed a strategy of the AAP, I will have to admit they comprise minds far smarter than I imagined. Of course, Gujarat, where poverty is defined not merely by existing financial backwardness but also by the opportunity cost of educational backwardness, has to be the first state to practice the poor-rich divide in a rural setup, and which action has started with a big bang.

Hardik Patel is indeed a political phenomenon, which has the capacity to overturn the politics of India. No wonder the US media has recognized him, and so will those who are ignoring him as of now.

About the Author

Ankur Mutreja
Ankur Mutreja is an advocate-cum-writer, and his blogs are amongst his modes of expression. He has also authored six books: "Kerala Hugged"; "Light: Philosophy"; "Flare: Opinions"; "Sparks: Satire and Reviews"; "Writings @ Ankur Mutreja"; and "Nine Poems"; which can be downloaded free from the links on the top menu.

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