Skip to main content

When Sardar Patel opposed reservation, asked Scheduled Castes to give up their “inferiority” complex

Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel
By Dr Hari Desai*
It is ironical indeed. Though Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was opposed to any kind of reservation in the government jobs and education as well as in the legislatures (like Mahatma Gandhi), even today his name is being drawn in controversies in the present-day agitations demanding reservation in India.
No doubt, Patel was very keen on giving due share to all the minorities in administration of free India. However, as a Constitution maker, he is hardly being discussed. While drafting the Constitution of India, his contribution as chairman of the Advisory Committee on Minority Rights in extending political safeguards was quite significant. He was assisted by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Rajendra Prasad, KM Munshi and Dr BR Ambedkar as members on the Advisory Committee.
The Constitution provides safeguards, such as reservations for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in the government jobs and education, as well as political reservations in Parliament and other Legislatures. In late 1990s, reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) on the basis of the Mandal Commission recommendations was also implemented.
The concept of minorities and usage of the phrase Scheduled Castes has created considerable confusion in international treaties and law.
Munshi’s view in the Constituent Assembly in this respect was: “The ‘minorities’ so far as international treaties and international law is concerned, is only restricted to racial, linguistic and religious minorities. The Harijans, generally known as Scheduled Castes, are neither a racial minority nor a linguistic minority, not certainly a religious minority...”
He added, “To clarify the position that so far as the Scheduled Castes are concerned, they are not minorities in the strict meaning of the term; that the Harijans are part and parcel of Hindu community, and safeguards are given to them to protect their rights only till they are completely absorbed in the Hindu community.”
Since “untouchables” were deprived of equal status with caste Hindus for centuries, the provisions were proposed for the initial period so that they can be brought in the mainstream. Unfortunately, the reservation criterion has not only become permanent; even the caste Hindus like Brahmins and Rajputs have been agitating for getting included in the backward reserved categories to get the job and educational benefits!
Worse, all the political parties without any exception favour not only continuation of reservation but demand extending it for other castes and classes in order to garner votes.
Not only Sardar Patel, even Pandit Nehru never dreamed of such a scenario. Both of them were not in favour of reservation for eternity. At one stage, the Sardar and Munshi tried to convince Dr Ambedkar, who was law minister in Nehru’s Cabinet, and was given responsibility to chair the Drafting Committee of the Constitution, to give up his insistence on reservation.
Barrister Ambedkar, who was born in the Mahar community of “untouchables”, refused to budge. He even offered to resign not only his seat in the Constituent Assembly but also as law minister. Nehru and Patel could not afford a giant like Dr Ambedkar to resign, hence they never raised the issue again.
Patel visualized the so-called untouchables as difficult to distinguish. He said during Constituent Assembly debates: “There is no Scheduled Caste between us.”
While referring to an SC member HJ Khandekar, he added: “So those representatives of the Scheduled Castes must know that the Scheduled Caste has to be effaced altogether from our society, and if it is to be effaced, those who have ceased to be untouchables and sit amongst us have to forget that they are untouchables, or else if they carry this inferiority complex, they will not be able to serve their community.”
Patel continued: “They will only be able to serve their community by feeling now that they are with us. They are no more Scheduled Castes and therefore they must change their manners and I appeal to them also to have no breach between them and the other group of Scheduled Castes. There are groups amongst themselves, but everyone tries according to his own light. We are now to begin again. So let us forget these sections and cross-sections and let us stand as one, and together.”
Patel did not preach for the sake of preaching. He even followed what he believed. In Wadhwan, in the convention for the removal of untouchability, Patel joined Scheduled Caste delegates who were sitting separately in the Pandal.
Sardar Patel managed to convince the Muslims, Christians and Parsis to give up the claim for any kind of reservation for their community. When the Constituent Assembly was debating reservations, Dr HC Mookherjee (a Christian member and vice-president of the Assembly), Maulana Hasrat Mohani, Tajamul Husain (Muslim members), RK Sidhva (a Parsi member) and a thumping majority of the members wholeheartedly supported in favour of non-religious reservation, even when some members were insisting on reservation.
While Congress leader Maulana Abul Kalam Azad preferred to remain neutral, Nehru expressed his opinion in favour of the Sardar: “Frankly, I would like this proposal to go further and put an end to such reservations as there still remain. But again, speaking frankly, I realize that in the present state of affairs in India that would not be desirable thing to do, that is to say, in regard to the Scheduled Castes.”
Nehru added, “I try to look upon the problem not in the sense of a religious minority, but rather in the sense of helping backward groups in the country. I do not look at it from the religious point of view or the caste point of view, but from the point of view that a backward group ought to be helped and I am glad that this reservation also will be limited to ten years.” He was referring to the issue of political reservation on May 26,1949 in the Constituent Assembly.
Dr S Radhakrishnan, who was to become India’s first President, expressed solidarity with Sardar Patel’s proposal for political reservation for a limited period in a poetic language: “With a view to develop a homogeneous, secular, democratic state, the devices hitherto employed to keep minorities as separate entities within the state be dropped and loyalty to a single National State developed.”
Radhakrishnan too considered a period of a decade enough for the reservation. Unfortunately, even today no party except the party, the Republic Party of India (RPI - Bahujan Mahasangh), headed by Advocate Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Ambedkar, favours scrapping of political reservations in Indian legislatures.
---
*Senior journalist and socio-political historian. Contact: haridesai@gmail.com. A version of this article was first published in the Asian Voice

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

India sees 62 journo deaths, 4th highest, amidst pandemic: Swiss media rights body

By Our Representative The Switzerland-based media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) has noted that India is the fourth most affected country as far as mediapersons’ death on account of Covid-19 is concerned. According to Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC, the global tally of casualties among media persons in the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 1,036 journalists in 73 countries till date.

Liberating Bengal Hindus? Worst flames of communal division, lessons from the past

By Shamsul Islam*  The whole thrust of the RSS-BJP election campaign for 2021 state assembly elections in West Bengal has been to save Bengal from the rule of Mamata Bannerjee who is allegedly not a ‘Hindu’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, as usual set the polarizing agenda. While addressing the first election rally, he called upon the electorate to overthrow the ‘nirmam’ (cruel) rule of Mamata by showing a ‘Ram Card’. He did not name Hindus directly but there was no confusion about the religious identity of the electorate Indian PM was addressing to.

Pradeep Bhattacharya, who spent his life for the cause of working masses, rational thinking

By YS Gill*  At 11:30 pm on May 3, 2021, I lost my best friend and comrade Pradeep Bhattacharya. He spent his life dedicated to the cause of the working masses and rational thinking. A person of thorough scientific outlook and a well-read student of Marxian thought, he was a walking encyclopedia and could speak on a wide variety of topics from art and culture to science, philosophy, history and politics.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Rs 5 crore 'demand' for India Today anchor: What about 52 lesser souls who died in April?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  A well known Hindutva protagonist masquerading as journalist passed away recently resulting in messages of condolences and tribute right from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to progressive liberals expressing grief of his untimely death. It is said that he passed away due to cardiac arrest, though the fact is, he was also Covid infected. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister termed him a ‘brave’ journalist, insisting, his passing away has left a big ‘vacuum’.

Modi's Hindutva 'ensuring' empowerment of rich, disenfranchisement of poor

Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The Hindutva socio-psychopaths are neither nationalists nor patriotic people. These medieval reactionary forces don’t understand the idea of citizenship, justice, liberty, equality and humanism. Indian democracy is merely an electoral transaction for the Hindutva forces. Hindutva forces neither follow science nor understand the sufferings of fellow human beings. These core qualities are common among the Hindutva forces in India.

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

India's Covid-19 'nightmare': A product of majoritarian Hindutva ideological praxis?

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Indians struggle to find place and time to bury their dead due to the devastating effects of the second wave of Covid-19 in India. The crematoriums in the capital cities are overflowing with dead bodies. People are dying without oxygen and basic medical support. The cities like Delhi and Mumbai are struggling to cope with the rising number of infections and COVID-19 led deaths. The deaths and destitutions are products of a defunct BJP government led by Narendra Modi.

Indian media persons collapsing to Covid disease as fast as 3 per day, third highest

Yogesh Sharma, Shailesh Rawal  By Our Representative  The Switzerland based media rights and safety body, Press Emblem Campaign ( PEC ) has said that it is “alarming for Indian journalists”, who have lost at least 107 colleagues to Covid-19”, noting, Indian “journo-colleagues” have been collapsing to the Covid-19 complications now as fast as three scribes per day. In a statement, PEC said, “India with 107 media corona-casualties has already placed itself on the third position just below Brazil (181 dead) and Peru (140) in the list of Covid-19 victims among journalist.”