Dalit scholar wants political reservations abolished, says: India's Constitution helped perpetuate caste system

By Rajiv Shah
Well-known Dalit rights expert Anand Teltumbde is all set to trigger hornet's nest by insisting on the need to "revamp" the reservation policy for scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs), and other backward classes (OBCs), allegedly meant to "empower" the underprivileged sections in India. Teltumbde wants reservation to be "delinked from castes", saying, this should be done by "creating a separate schedule."
While it is not clear how does he seek to arrive at a "separate schedule", which, he says, should have "definitive metrics to be phased out within a definite time frame", he insists, reservations should be "revamped to be family based", and "families within the schedule, defined as a unit of married couple with their children, would get preference over those who already got reservation."
Pointing out that this would "dampen the public struggle that exists for reservations and pave the way for their abolition", Teltumbde, in his paper on "Envisioning Dalit Futures" -- a collection of articles in the voluminous 683-page "Alternative Futures:India Unshackled", edited by Ashish Kothari and KJ Joy -- further wants that political reservations should be "scrapped immediately", as even Dr BR Ambedkar, father of Indian Constitution and Dalit icon, was "sceptical about it."
Providing other steps towards "alternative futures", which he says are necessary for what Ambedkar called "annihilation of castes", Teltumbde says, "The contemporary castes are sourced more from Constitution than any Hindu religious scriptures", adding, Dalit conversions to other religions have only "infected the new religious societies with castes".
Given this framework, he says, there is a need for the "abolition of castes in the Constitution", which would lead to "abolition of caste identifies from public spaces". Calling SC is just an "administrative category", he adds, "I am aware, millenia-old social structures may not be merely with public policy but it can surely be choked to its eventual demise."
The scholar explains, "The Constitution outlawed untouchability but not castes. On the contrary, castes were consecrated in the Constitution as the basis of of extending the affirmative action policies in favour of the Dalits, the tribals and the OBCs. With castes surviving, untouchability, which was just an aspect of caste, was not expected to disappear", one reason why even today, "untouchability is prevalent in both rural and urban India, in both visible and subtle ways."
He say, "The Constitution basically reflected the Congress thinking... All upper caste reformers, best represented by Gandhi, vehemently spoke against untouchability but defended castes. Untouchability was too crude a practice to defend and hence needed to be abolished. Caste could, however, be a potential weapon in their hands to divide people and hence would not be done away with."
Among other recipes, Teltumbde says, because caste in rural India is integrated with the village power structure, and land being its signifier, holding "the key to the caste question", the issue should be addressed by nationalising cultivable land by "abolition of private property in land beyond homesteads". Wanting "compensation for taking over the lands" should be worked out, he adds, it should ensure that over "a certain period" the title is "fully passed to the state."

Comments

Senior IAS officer, Gujarat cadre said…
It is a subjective opinion with half truth. It is true that the reservation benefits should go to the families who deserve the most.

Bakshi or OBC or Mandal reservation aimed in Gujarat for the development of Thakors, Devipujaks, Barbers, etc, backward communities. But when Prajapati (1.5%) and Chaudhari (1.5%) entered into the list through the political means, now taking away approximately 15% share of the 27% reservation. Some entered into the list through circular became OBC. It means the list is making the forward castes backward. Bringing equality by increasing the base of the bottom!

SCs STs are mostly in Class-3 or Class-4 posts in government. And only those competing at Class-2 or Class-1 level or claiming medical and engineering seats who had some opportunity of education because of the class-3-4 jobs of their parents. Therefore, if you suddenly delete them from the queue then none will be there to claim the share as the mean education level of the SCs and STs are very low.

Coming to the political reservation Issue, ST may have their representatives because they live in a group in tribal area, therefore, none can defeat them in the elections. But for the SCs, they are few everywhere, hardly 7-15%, can’t win on their own. Nobody will vote for him if there is a choice between SC and Upper caste. Therefore, to safeguard their interests in the Assembly and Parliament, the political reservation will continue in India till India exist with the present Constitution of India. 😊
Uma Sheth said…
Is it the authors' suggestion that the Constitution be changed? I feel that unless the backward castes stop thinking of themselves as backward and unite to fight for their rights (like the blacks did in USA), they will remain where they are. Many have come out of the morass and are doing well for themselves, but do they help their brethren?