The Eletist Enterprise

Couple of days ago I was called to participate in a discussion on reservations. Reservation in general, is a subject that causes much argument and such. By virtue of this it is particularly important to maintain what I like to call a semblance of objectivity. There were several things that made me particularly unhappy that afternoon. Importantly my stand on reservations or anyone else’s for that matter turns out to be irrelevant with regard to this.

To engage in meaningful conversation one first must make a commitment to intellectual honesty. This implies a) Knowing the facts 2) Not choosing to adopt a stance merely because everyone else has 3) Understanding that not all things are subjective and that some objective truths and objective rights and wrongs exist.

Now this discussion that I was a part of consisted of what was called the enlightened ‘youth’ of today. They were aspiring civil servants, aspiring lawyers, aspiring public policy makers and so on. Then there was a moderator. That man perhaps requires a line or two more for a description. Soap box orator, art of living guru, management guru and throw a couple of other fake disciplines in for good measure.

Here is what I heard at the discussion:

1) Reservation is bad because my dad, mom, sister, friend and NDTV say so. What facts do you have to back it up? “Hey, I’m well informed I have Wikipedia”!

2) Forward castes don’t have quotas… Ever heard of the management quota?

3) Alternatives? Silence.

4) Backward castes are not really discriminated against in India. Hallelujah!

5) Only we deserve the IITs and the IIMs and such…. hmmm, self interest.

Wait a minute, didn’t I say a couple of posts ago that I was anti-reservation too. Nope. I said I was anti-reservation the way it is enacted now. There is a subtle difference. Somehow in the whole discussion nobody seem to question the budgetary priorities of the country, nobody seemed to ask how we can create incentives in primary education for the so called ‘lower-classes’.

To top it all, the moderater in question was apalled when I said “dalit” and a friend said “shudra”. This discussion was so elite that we were supposed to thrash out solutions in twenty minutes to misplaced reservation outcomes without mentioning castes.

Pause for a minute and think why. To my mind it is because these words are now the new ‘un-unmentionables’ just like untouchables. Linguistic discrimination however is a powerful method of exploitation– take a look at how “Harijan” is now a casteist abuse.     

There are several reasons why this kind of thing is problematic. The top reason is this: What if these people get through the IAS or become policy makers? Where does India go then?

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