Thursday, June 01, 2006

Solidarity from Friends of OBCs

Dear Friends,

we received a lot of emails from many of you responding to our first letter. Some are simply hate mails which we would not like to respond and some very genuine concerns from upper caste people. Most of the mails centered around the fact that the feelings, reasons and perspectives of SC/STs on this whole reservation issue are being negated and not understood by upper caste. In connection to this feedback, we requested some of our Dalit and Tribal friends to work on a small note to state what they feel about the way the anti reservation upper caste protest has shaped up and what they feel about the very sad overt hatred that is being spewed everywhere against them. Below is their short response:

Power has changed hands. The rules of the game is being redefined, not by higher caste but by groups other than them. Sixty years of democracy has restructured the system to such an extent that a new India is emerging. Two thousand five hundred years of rigid structures favoring the higher caste are being confronted and challenged. If you wonder why there is minimal to no public show of strength by oppressed caste groups, the reason is because they hold the key to all corridors of power and are the force behind makers of all rules and regulations in this nation. The politics is as simple as this- for every single oppressor in this country, there are ten oppressed waiting to reduce them to size. For every single anti-reservationist, there are ten silent pro-reservationists waiting silently to cast their very powerful vote for members of their caste group. Please do not blame them for this behavior. They were taught by the upper caste to behave in such a manner.

Till the British came to India, the higher caste groups were supreme. They held all the positions of power. They defined everyone's behavior and, worst, they decided how much and who should have access to the abundant available resources. During the period of British rule over many states, the higher caste groups were given 'reservations' (which they wish to deprive others now) but still rule the roost over the vast majority of communities within these states. After the British left, the upper caste raised their heads again and claimed their rightful authority to rule. They forcibly brought these small independent states into a nation. But, since fifty nine years, with the acceptance of a democratic system of governance, they are slowly but surely fading into the background. Democracy has done a lot of good to this country and the biggest impact has been the decentralization of power and the strengthening of the voices of the oppressed build on the basic premise of equity and social justice.

The second best thing that happened to this 'nation of states' is the "Reservation Policy". The stagnant wheel which had the upper caste on top, claiming hereditary privileges and condemning the lower caste to eat and get soaked in the mud, (which came into contact with the earth), is now moving again. This push to make the wheel move was achieved through the enactment of the "Reservation Policy". Tying the oppressed groups into one category, giving them access to resources and opening up doors of opportunities has instilled in them a sense of pride, hope and self-belief that they are equally capable and could reach places where they could never even dream off. It is a historical fact that the Dalits were never even allowed to dream beyond their caste occupations. Now that the wheel is turning and starting to move, it is natural to expect that those who have enjoyed hereditary privileges would shout, protest and make a hue and cry about the process. Further, thousand of years of stranglehold over every other community have rusted the wheels, and making a rusted wheel move is painful and energy consuming. It is a fact that any restructuring is a painful process because one has to change oneself and adapt to new circumstances. The upper caste would now have to let go of privileges they once thought was their birthright. They would have to share opportunities with the people they consider inferior and non-meritorious. Whether they like it or not, this is the new reality.

The forms of protest by upper caste groups are showing signs of a sense of helplessness. They are becoming more radical with every passing day. These extremist tendencies have ranged from hunger strikes to self-immolation. These are acts of desperation. A desperation fueled by a sensed of being totally cornered and negated. But all these acts are quite normal and natural. They happen at every stage in a society's life, whenever oppressors are being confronted, challenged and overthrown.

Minute observations of these protests reveals aplenty. While not negating the fact that they have every right to do so, what is most pathetic, which we call the 'pits of inhuman behavior' is their true feelings revealed in the forms of hate mails in the internet. Such is their hatred for the poor and the underprivileged, that their writings have touched levels of obscenity and reveals a subtle form of mental imbalance. This is observed across every single mail written by them and their prime targets are SC/STs. We ask why? You are fighting against OBC reservation, yet your focus is our community. Whether it is a joke, a note, an article or even simple mails. You breathed hatred, you spit insults and you puke arrogance against our people. Why target us?

In the forefront of upper caste protest are the 'White Coat Enemies of Equality', a more appropriate name for the anti-reservation protesting doctors. Theoretically they should re-examine their understanding of equality. They have ironically called themselves the 'Youth for Equality'. It is a paradox that the very people, who oppress others and garner all the resources and opportunities for centuries to this very day, should call themselves by such a name. An in-depth scrutiny of their ideological positioning would reveal that they are actually the 'Youth Against Equality'. Probably good sense will prevail over them some day. If only these 'Youth for Inequality' could use their stethoscope to examine the feelings of the poor (and not their physical heartbeats alone), they would become much more in-tune with the real India.

The upper caste owned media deserves a clapped. What can one do? The best way to handle them is to smile and pray that someday truth shall prevail and their biases shall help them discover their own selves better. One can't even dream that they would (or could) be even a little sensitive, humane or at least rational. Forget about them being pro-poor, they have, (even before studying the historical issue in-depth), fueled the hatred and divide to new heights. But then one cannot expect them to even take a balanced position. It would tantamount to a farmer in Russia asking the Czar to print pro working-class arguments.

The media has twisted every pro-reservation argument and portrayed the same in bad light. For instance, they have paraded Dalits and OBCs publicly, prodding them to talk against reservation. The space given to 25 SC and OBC IIT students in a national newspaper identifying reservations as demeaning to them, was a case in point. The very reason which has shown that the reservation policy is making the right impact, is being used by the upper caste owned media to argue against reservation.

While reservations for SC/ST are a "right" of the community and not a dole by the upper caste, they are simply not willing to accept that we are a country of established disparities and injustice. The indirect objectives of reservations is to produce (those from the historically deprived sections) people who are strong on self esteem and self respect, rooted and able to contribute back to their community and be at par with privileged children in every sphere. This was to be achieved by opening up existing opportunities which have been guarded and cornered by upper caste (with walls of religious steel) for centuries.

The SC/STs themselves have started awareness programs to conscientized their own people not to misuse the reservation policy. It is one opportunity we have as a community to afford and live a dignified life like everyone else. We are aware that reservations were given to communities and not individuals. We feel we are duty bound morally to create space for those still left behind. It is a fact that some of our community members forget this. But we are working on it. Unfortunately this, on the other hand, is being used by upper caste groups as a reason to do away with reservations. They are not even willing to concede that the SC/STs alone have humongous and historic reasons for redressal suffered over centuries of structural deprivation by upper caste.

We have always known it, but Yes, it is painful to know that the upper caste have so much hatred against us. Yes it is heartbreaking to be aware of the animosity you carry deep within against our SC/ST community. But may we 'point blank' tell you that we shall not live by your diktats anymore and more important, your centuries old ploy to make us feel "in the wrong" about everything that we are has ended. Remember, (please remember), you cannot make us feel guilty anymore about who we are, what we think and how we should live our lives.
We wish you peace, and hope that someday we shall all stand together as brothers and sisters.

Dalits and Tribals
Friends of OBCs