Anybody with a passing interest in consistency or coherence might be forgiven for being stumped at the political spectacle unfolding right now. Yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured us that his government was committed to reservations. The statement was made at a ceremony to inaugurate the Ambedkar memorial at the Indu Mills compound in Mumbai. The fact that ordinary Dalits, in the habit of thronging any joyous celebration on Ambedkar in big numbers, were kept out of the ceremony, is possibly irrelevant. After all, officialese is officialese, and no political party – certainly not the BJP – has a monopoly on stiff-necked commemorations of people’s leaders that want nothing to do with the people. It is Modi’s commitment to reservations and the Indian constitution that is of interest. In some ways a statement of this nature made at the inauguration of an Ambedkar memorial, makes perfect sense. Apart from the occasion and locale, also not coincidental was the timing of Modi’s statement – one that he himself alluded to, when he referred to the bitterly fought Bihar elections now underway, “With a BJP government in power and polls getting under way, a malicious propaganda is being spread that the government is against reservation…”. The fact that the anti-BJP mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) in Bihar has made reservations one of their chief planks, with Lalu Prasad Yadav declaring in his inimitable style that he will kill himself if reservations are removed, is relevant.
Zooming back from the Ambedkar memorial event, the PM was clearly also responding to the threat to his Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas model begun a couple of months ago by the irrepressible Hardik Patel. Patel – erstwhile BJP supporter, self-styled Patidar-Patel revolutionary and a wild child in imminent danger of being silenced (or coopted) by the BJP – was temporarily subdued by the Gujarat administration following the wave of violence over his first call for reservation, but resurfaced a couple of days ago to be the nightmare Modi hadn’t dreamed yet – saying his aim was to expose the “Gujarat model of development”. This is for the current party nothing short of the youngest born of a rambling illustrious family running into the street from the family mansion saying our house is made of mud! our house is made of mud!
What follows is a ‘status update’ from EFL University, Hyderabad, with special reference to the recent regulation of free speech on social networking sites in the university. It follows the polemical structure of a facebook status update as it tries to bring in a new dimension to the nature and scope of the idea of public and public sphere. At the very outset, let me make this point very clear. We are not fighting for some anarchic and absolutist idea of free speech. We know very well that freedom of expression also means a lot of responsible thinking.
First, some detail about the facts of the matter before we reflect on the philosophical and theoretical problems that they posit in the face of the ‘here and now’ of student politics in Indian universities in general and EFLU in particular.Two students, Kt Hafis (the author) and Thahir Jamal were handed show-cause notices, issued by the Proctor’s office signed by Deputy Proctor Sujata Mukhri, for having expressed our opinion on Facebook regarding the anti-reservation remarks made by Mr. Tariq Sheik, a member of the administration and Deputy Dean of Student welfare, at a students’ general body meeting organized by the Dean of Students welfare to select the electoral committee for the upcoming students’ union election at EFL university. In that meeting, students sensitive towards the problems of representation raised genuine concerns about the absence of reservation in the central panel (President, Vice-President, General Secretary, Joint Secretary, Cultural Secretary, Sports Secretary) and against the denial of the posts of SC/ST, OBC, women, disabled and foreign representatives in the new constitution of the Students’ Union. These had been approved by the Vice Chancellor of EFLU and in response to a students’ struggle conducted the last year. Continue reading Chanting Sacred Election-Ritual Mantras by Regulating Free Speech: ‘A Status Update’ from EFLU, Hyderabad:Kt Hafis→
The cast in this short film: Sharma- Rajesh, Mishra- Nishant, Choudhury- Roshan, Dalit- Dinamani
Camera- Babita, Script and Direction- Dinamani (firstname.lastname@example.org). Special thanks to Anoop for making the office available for the shoot.
In an interview last month, Mr. Salman Khursheed was posed the query: ‘There are reports that you are considering Muslim reservations within the OBC quota?’ He responded affirmatively: ‘Absolutely. Sachar described them as SEBC, socially and educationally backward classes. This is a special segment within OBC.’
Nowhere in the Sachar report are Muslims categorized as SEBC (Socially and Educational Backward Classes). They are categorised merely as one of many SRCs (Socio-Religious Communities). Moreover, the Sachar Report has acknowledged caste-based stratification within Muslims and has suggested quite unequivocally: ‘Thus, one can discern three groups among Muslims: (1) those without any social disabilities, the ashrafs; (2) those equivalent to Hindu OBCs, the ajlafs, and (3) those equivalent to Hindu SCs, the arzals. Those who are referred to as Muslim OBCs combine (2) and (3) [p. 193 (emphasis added)]’.
So, according to the Sachar Report all Muslims cannot be conceived as a socially and educationally backward class (OBC) because the forward Muslims (ashrafs) are ‘without any social disabilities’. Well, one may ask if the minister who exhorted everyone to read the Sachar Report critically and not as gospel truth, has failed to practice what he himself preached. The honorable minister seems to have read the report incorrectly.
So… I get a phone call yesterday. It’s a reporter from the Financial Times who wants to know what I feel about the recent ban on the movie Aarakshan in certain states, and also what do I feel about caste-based reservations in general, whether caste is still relevant in the India of today, the theory that quotas just increase inequality etc.. I tell her I haven’t seen the movie, and if she still wants to know what I feel about caste-based reservations we could talk for a bit. She says she absolutely wants to know. So I say fine, and we have a 45-minute conversation. Allow me to reproduce a very simplified version of that conversation (in Q&A forrmat):
This post is dedicated to a Facebook friend who, when I asked her her caste, replied: “Now, now, now! In any case, with the brouhaha surrounding the census, what’s the proper form these days? Mention of caste in or out?”
I woke up to this headline in The Indian Express today. My reaction was to wonder what many others’ reaction would have been? Those who argue that reservation and ‘caste census’ and such measures serve to solidify caste identities rather than weaken them – I wonder what they would make of this headline? Continue reading Jats rock, caste shocks→
Industry leaders, CEOs, and Corporate big-wigs have been falling over each other to portray the Satyam scam as an isolated case, as a simple failure of corporate governance. On the other hand critics from the left once again have had a field day with their “I told you so” condemnation of capitalist free market economies. There is also a moralistic middle class which blames it on greed pure and simple. The fact that the Indian private sector is largely dominated by family owned and controlled businesses of sundry sizes, that caste, community, gender, and social networks play a significant role in who gets nominated to top positions within the companies, and how businesses are run, that these have significant implications for corporate governance as well as corporate loot – these are issues that are too dangerous and embarrassing at the same time, and so are conveniently ignored.