Union Home Minister dangles ‘reservation’ carrot


Union Home Minister dangles ‘reservation’ carrot to woo the Pahari-speaking Kashmiris and prepare ground for creating vote banks through surfeit of ‘jumlas’

Union BJP Home Minister Amit Shah, during a three-day visit to Kashmir, announced that the central government will give jobs and educational reservation to the mountain-region Pahari-speaking community in accordance with the recommendations of the Justice G D Sharma Commission which examined the issue of quota. Shah, however, hastened to add that there would be no decline in the ST quota of Gujjars and Bakerwals who are mainly nomads, and everyone will get their share. Then he justified the much-criticized policy of abrogation of Article 370 and claimed that it has paved the way for providing reservation benefits to the deprived sections of the society in Jammu and Kashmir. Pertinent to mention that although the Gujjar-Bakkerwal tribes and Pahari community are born in the same social and cultural milieu, the former lives a nomadic life, shuttling between Kashmir and Jammu regions with their livestock, while the latter are socially stratified, economically well-off and culturally moored with caste and other ethnic divisions. While the announcement by the BJP heavyweight minister, known to be an ardent proponent of ‘jumla’ theory to deceive people is viewed by many as a calculated move to inject life into Kashmir’s atrophied polity by so called empowerment of a marginalized social group that cuts across religious and regional lines, apprehensions are also expressed that the decision could end up setting off savage new fires instead. In fact, the announcement came amid deepening anxiety in the Union Territory as Gujjars and Bakkerwals are already expressing doubt about fallout of this granting of ST status to the relatively better off Paharis which could nibble away at seats reserved under the ST category for them. Already, there have been reports of protests by the Gujjars and Bakkerwals who constitute 40% of the population in the border districts of Rajouri and Poonch, in Jammu, as well as Shopian in Kashmir recently against the move to grant ST status to the Paharis.

Dangling carrot of ‘reservation’ to diffuse brewing discontent
Clearly, the carrot of reservation has once more been dangled to douse the fire of brewing discontent and accumulated grievances among the peace-loving Kashmiri people who have seen over the decades more and more ruthless oppression, deception deprivation, infringement on freedom, curtailment of human rights, tyranny and brutality, as well as large scale indiscriminate killing by the Indian Army, enjoying impunity under the draconian Armed Forces (Special) Power Act (AFSPA), on the pretext of containing terrorism. There is almost no family which did not have at least one casualty, either in the form of encounter death, or rape or mysterious disappearance. The serene valley encircled by beautiful white-capped mountains, lakes and array of varied flowers is now a hotbed of state terrorism, sporadic violence by foreign-aided radical-fundamentalist groups and other extremist forces. This suffocating situation has further exacerbated after the BJP government had revoked Article 370 of the Constitution all on a sudden on 6 August 2019 and bifurcated the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories (UTs). Simultaneously, it declared Section 35A, which had stipulated distinction between the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir and the outsiders in so far as acquisition of properties etc., are concerned, as defunct. All tall claims of restoration of democracy, development for Kashmiri people and a joyous mood among the Kashmiris hitherto stifled by these binding clauses which were obstructing integration of Kashmir with the rest of the country, have fallen flat. In fact, Kashmir was virtually taken over by the military before revocation of Article 370 akin to implanting so-called democracy at gunpoint. Now, election to the newly formed UTs is on the anvil. So, it has become imperative for the BJP leaders to showcase their prosthetically created pro-people face and shower a bunch of customary promises like imminent investment of large sum of money towards developmental and welfare projects, job creation and establishment of ‘Naya Kashmir’ etc. Amit Shah, however, skirted the obvious question whether the figure of investment ipso facto means remunerative permanent job creation at a time when the coinage ‘jobless growth’ is doing the rounds. Alongside all these fake promises, the BJP top leaders, cunning as they are, have calculatedly decided to play the ‘reservation’ card to sooth the frayed temper of the aggrieved Kashmiri people.

Backdrop of inserting provision of reservation in the Constitution
In the feudal system of India, this casteist oppression became more accentuated and the Brahminical tyranny, under the patronage of the feudal lords, assumed unthinkable dimension. The British rulers also, in order to sustain their colonial empire by following ‘divide and rule’ policy, wanted the caste system to remain in vogue. In fact, the caste-based repression on the dalit and tribal people became so unbearable that they took up cudgels against the alien rulers. The heroic struggles launched by them under the leadership of Birsha Munda, Sido, Kanhoo and others have been recognized in the history as first anti-British armed upsurge in colonial India. Gradually, when the national liberation struggle began to crystallize and advanced thoughts of Western renaissance dawned upon the thinking people of the country, it was expected that the hidebound society encumbered with such barbaric beliefs and customs, calamitous preaching of caste-vanity and caste-hatred, etc., would give way to the emergence of a new era; the bourgeois democratic reforms would take in its sweep the mortifying shackles of feudalism and all such ills.
So, at the time of gaining political independence from the British rulers, there was legitimate accumulated grievance in the minds of these utterly disadvantaged dalit tribal and various segments of backward people and there was public pressure on the authors of the Constitution to frame some remedial measures. Thus, a special provision of reservation for the SCs and STs in job and education found berth in the Constitution. This reservation was applicable in the government schools, colleges, offices and public sector units and the percentage was decided based on the proportion of these sections of the people to the total population.
It is pertinent to mention that the authors of the Indian Constitution were aware that this provision of reservation cannot be perennial since that would mean indirect acknowledgment of perpetual backwardness of the dalits, tribals and other downtrodden sections. So, this provision, if retained for long, would obstruct the process of uplifting them to a level-playing field with others. For adequate development and flourishment of merit, there ought to be a healthy competition among all, just like the way a good student sharpens his skill when competing with a host of other meritorious students. So, they stipulated this reservation would be for 10 years and thereafter a review should be taken as to how far this reservation for a limited period had met with its objective.
Moreover, there was no reservation prescribed originally for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution did not view them as any separate caste or could not even identify who would come under this classification. Hence, they addressed these relatively disadvantaged segments of the populace as a separate ‘class’ to segregate from the caste people becoming beneficiary of the reservation policy due to the specific socio-historic reason of having been victimized of a system through ages. The BJP, has also discovered among the OBCs an Extreme Backward Class (EBC) with a view to wooing them for getting electoral support. These OBCs, EBCs etc., are classifications that the bourgeois rulers have brought forth in course of time to further split the already split Indians. Some quarters in the country have even been pitching for special reservations for the minority community and as a reaction to that, various non-minority segments of people seemingly being prompted by agent provocateurs are threatening to stir.

Outcome of reservation policy
But what has been the outcome of this reservation policy? Have the benefits envisaged accrued to the vast multitude of the dalit, tribal or other downtrodden sections? Or has their condition worsened further in tandem with the other sections of the masses in independent India? 60% of the dalits are still illiterate. It is 70% in case of tribes. The percentage of school dropouts of the dalit children due to appalling poverty and need to earn a pittance for helping to run the family is as high as 80%. 80 % of the seats reserved for SCs and STs in technical education lie vacant. Even statistics show that adequate number of candidates from among the dalit or tribal people is not available to fill up whatever vacancies are earmarked for them under prevailing reservation rules. This shows that the dalit, tribal and other downtrodden masses continue to languish in abject backwardness and deprivation even when country is stated by the BJP Prime Minister to be in ‘Amritkal’ after 75 years of independence.
On the contrary, fratricidal feuds and bloodbaths were often fuelled by the ruling class and its appointed agents centring on ‘reservation’. It bears recall that a Mandal Commission was established in India in 1979 by the then Janata Party government under Prime Minister Morarji Desai (which included the present BJP) with a mandate to ‘‘identify the socially or educationally backward classes’’ of India. In 1980, the Commission-identified OBCs on the basis of caste, social, economic indicator which made up 52% of India’s population. The Commission recommended that members of the OBC be granted reservations to 27% of jobs under the Central government and public sector undertakings, thus bringing the total number of reservations for SC, ST and OBC to 49%.
A decade after the commission gave its report, in 1989, V.P. Singh, who broke away from the Congress and became Prime Minister with the joint backing of the BJP and the CPI (M), tried to implement its recommendations. Immediately, the country went up in flames. There were violent protests from the non-reservation communities. Across northern India, normal business was suspended. Shops were kept closed, and schools and colleges were shut down by non-reservation student agitators. They attacked government buildings, organised rallies and demonstrations and clashed with the police.
Incidents of police firing were reported in six states during the agitation, claiming more than 50 lives. Altogether, nearly 200 students belonging to the non-reservation sections committed self-immolations. Later, similar violent agitations were seen in the state of the then BJP-ruled Rajasthan and the adjoining areas of the four bordering states of Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh erupted with full fury causing at least 26 deaths and wounding a large number of people besides severely disrupting road and rail traffic there as well as in the neighbouring belts when the people belonging to the Gujjar community demanded inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category. Particularly after the Jats of Rajasthan were granted an OBC status, the Gujjar people became more apprehensive of their future and started pressing for downgrading their status into ST, presuming that such a switch to the bottom of the caste pyramid would brighten their chance of being benefitting through quota route.
It may be mentioned that in a bid to secure Gujjar community votes on the caste line, the BJP before last state assembly poll had assured them that if voted to power, it would accord them ST status. But after assuming power, the BJP developed cold feet to and shelved the promise made to the Gujjar people following strong opposition to this proposal from the influential Meena community that in turn was afraid that if Gujjars gate-crashed into the ST category, it might have to share fruits of reservations with another group.
Thus the nightmare of the Gujjar quota demand fury turned into a full-blown caste conflict with Rajasthan’s dominant ST, the Meenas, turning on the Gujjars. Incensed mobs of both Meenas and Gujjars fought pitched battles in several places taking a toll of lives of both Gujjars and Meenas. Stunned countrymen became beholders of a most reprehensible fratricidal bloodbath over the issue of reservation in jobs and education that is being systematically nurtured even today by the vote-seeking bourgeois politicians from the most ulterior motive of deriving electoral mileage by playing one section of the people against the other in a situation of rising poverty and galloping unemployment. Similarly, for quite some time the Rajbanshi community of Assam who are in the general category has become vociferous in demand for being conferred with ST status expecting such downgrading in the caste hierarchy to secure reservation benefits. And as a reaction to this, the tribal population of both the hills and the plains who genuinely belong to the ST category are visibly tense since this would mean, they apprehend, substantial erosion in the benefits they are entitled to in the quota regime. There is indeed a vertical divide among the people and enough commotion had been created in the state on this issue. In Rajasthan itself, people belonging to Rajbaris, Rawats and Sahariyas, currently on the OBC list, were also reportedly intending to seek ST status.

Who reaped the limited benefits and how
As we had shown on a number of occasions earlier, the benefits envisaged in the reservation policy did not accrue to the vast multitude of the dalit, tribal or other downtrodden segments. Rather, as expected in an oppressive capitalist regime, a small fraction, hardly 3%, of the dalits, tribals and other downtrodden segments usurped all opportunities and benefits as proteges of the ruling capitalism and emerged as a ‘creamy layer’, a tiny group of affluent ‘elite’ enjoying all privileges and clout as part of the handful of dominating rich in the society, being totally callous and indifferent to the rapid degeneration of the livelihood of the highly distressed backward communities. Thus, they have practically become an appendage to the ruling bourgeoisie. This emergence of a creamy layer within the dalits, tribals and other downtrodden segments has once again attracted pointed attention to the fact that under capitalism, class division is becoming sharper every moment; the yawning gap between the haves and have-nots is making social stratification more pronounced and vivid. In a crafty move, the ruling class is intent on carving out more and more small privileged groups from the most oppressed section of the masses to be pliable to its class interest and projected as proof of prosperity (!) of the dalits, tribals and other downtrodden segments. For example, the Paharis in Kashmir include élite castes like Muslim and Hindu Rajputs, as well as Muslim Syeds and Brahmins.

What is the value of reservation when jobs are elusive
The ruling monopolists and their political managers like the BJP, Congress and other bourgeois parties know that solving unemployment problem in capitalism is a utopia. Let alone creation of jobs, existing jobs are shrinking fast. Permanent jobs at remunerative salary have now become a thing of the past. The BJP government itself introduced a most atrocious labour code which talks of fixed term or contractual employment at as low as possible remuneration and conferred an unfettered right on the employers to retrench anyone at any time, change service conditions arbitrarily and whimsically, close down industries at any time without seeking permission from the government and deny all rights of collective bargaining including right to strike. All data including government statistics show that unemployment is now at a 45 year high. Highly educated youths are applying for jobs of sweepers and morgue assistants. All these speak volumes about the rapidly plummeting job opportunities in the country. Incidentally, the Gujjars and Bakerwals had been granted benefits of a 10% quota for STs in jobs and educational institutions since April 1991. Have they derived any tangible benefit of that?
In such a situation, the ruling Indian monopolists and their pliant political parties have for quite some time been using the ‘reservation’ or ‘quota’ in jobs to assuage the feelings of the unemployed people particularly those of the economically backward communities. In fact, it has been serving three purposes of the ruling bourgeois parties. First of all, reservation is being touted as an assured passage to jobs. Secondly, the sections or communities who are brought under ‘reservation’ with much fanfare are used as vote banks in the race for power. Thirdly, it also more often than not creates cleavage among the various oppressed communities as ‘reservation-favoured’ section is viewed by others as ‘privileged’. This precipitated disunity, just like other engineered divides based on caste, religion, ethnicity, language etc., helps the ruling dispensation to stall surge of united movement of the toiling masses against growing capitalist exploitation. What is relegated to the back is the fact that there is no creation but speedy abolition of jobs—a feature of decadent moribund crisis-ridden capitalism.

Brief recapitulation of post article 370-abrogation situation in Kashmir
The same saga is now going to be repeated in Jammu and Kashmir also. Let us briefly recapitulate the antecedents of Kashmir to understand the bourgeois machination of the RSS-BJP there. Jammu and Kashmir was one of the 562 princely states accessed to Indian Union on 26 October, 1947. Though a Muslim majority state, it was under the rule of a Hindu king, popularly known as the Maharajah. While under the British colonial rule the people of various provinces of India, in spite of speaking different languages and having cultural diversities, were in the course of their struggle for independence developing as a nation, the people of Kashmir were not connected with that process. So, the sense of oneness that developed among the people inhabiting the Indian Territory did not grow among the valley people.
The Jammu and Kashmir people under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah were then fighting the feudal autocracy ruling there. In course of that anti-feudal struggle, a kind of Kashmir identity sense that came to be known as Kashmiriat developed in them. This feeling was neither similar to the sense of Indian nationalism nor compatible with the so-called two-nation theory based on religion put forth by the proponents of Pakistan. Rather it used to bear an admiration for the ethos underlying Indian freedom movement. Sheikh Abdullah was a man of democratic principles and secular values.
When the question of accession of Jammu and Kashmir with either India or Pakistan arose, he opposed joining Pakistan based on the criteria of the religion of the majority populace. Spurred by liberal democratic values, Sheikh felt natural inclination towards India which declared adherence to secularism. Thus, he could convince the valley people that their betterment lay in accession to India and overcoming strong religious appeal of Pakistan as well as discarding Mountbatten criteria of accession based on religion of the majority of the people, he succeeded in materializing the same. Detailed history apart, Maharajah of Kashmir (that included Jammu as well) also finally, at the insistence of Sheikh Abdullah, signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’ under which the state was granted complete autonomy in deciding all areas except areas of defence, external affairs and communications which were vested with the Indian government.
In order to safeguard the special status and autonomy of the state as envisaged in the ‘Instrument of Accession’ to the fullest extent, allow the valley people to build up their state according to their best traditions and culture while offering fullest cooperation to and seeking all necessary assistance from the Indian Union, reflecting true spirit of federalism, Article 370 was subsequently incorporated in the Indian Constitution. The special status became synonymous with azaadi to the valley people who held that while Pakistan wanted to enslave them, India came forward to defend their freedom.
But the trail of events that followed had, instead of honouring the special status in right earnest by providing equal opportunity to the valley people to develop their culture and language and putting in motion the correct scientific process of gradual development of sense of identity with Indian nationality, which had started to grow at the time of accession among the valley people, and facilitate voluntary integration with Indian nation, the turn of events reversed the direction altogether. As trusted representative of the ruling class, the Congress was not free either from communal bias and that also worked behind dilution of the special status of Muslim-dominated Kashmir as contained in Article 370. Instead of developing Kashmir economically, socially, culturally and democratically to win over the Kashmiri people and thereby facilitate their total integration with rest of the country gradually, the Congress-led central government adopted a policy of ruthless suppression of Kashmir people which alienated a considerable section of the people of Kashmir, and as a consequence of this, the hands of the secessionist forces were further strengthened. The bourgeois government of India, whether headed by the Congress or the BJP, persistently evinced an intransigent and arrogant attitude towards Kashmir issue and resorted to muscle power to tame the valley people. Obviously, this caused grave resentment among the valley people who began to think of having been let down and betrayed.
Over and above, the BJP with its communal mooring committed a heinous crime by suddenly abrogating Article 370 in August 2019 and reduced Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir to Union Territories trampling down all democratic norms. Prior to that, BJP government deployed 10,000 additional troops in Kashmir to preclude anticipated backlash. After annulment of Article 370, Kashmir had been in a state of lockdown with mobile phone networks, landlines and internet access cut off. These steps clearly indicated that the government was frightened about the repercussion and sought to muzzle the voice of protest and dissent. Since then, the Kashmiri people have been more and more alienated from India and seething from within. The atrocities by the army stationed there have further made the Kashmiris infuriated. Despite all attempts to instigate Hindu residents against their Muslim brethren, inflating stories of persecution of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, bracketing all Kashmiri Muslims either as terrorists or collaborators of the terrorists and even making a film on this subject, Kashmiri people are refusing to accept a flawed decision and show tolerance to perpetual state terrorism.

Same dirty trick is now being tried in Jammu and Kashmir
So, the BJP government, considerably discredited worldwide at flagrant violation of human rights in Kashmir and pursuit of overlordism there, has been mulling on using different strategies to tame the Kashmiri people, pending which the monopoly giants and multinationals who are keen to exploit the natural resources, tourism business and grab land there, would be held back. Hence, the BJP top brass is on a goodwill mission in Kashmir and the monopoly-controlled media is well-tutored to propagate ‘‘how successful has been the visit of the Union Home Minister’’, ‘‘how the gathered capacity crowd’s chant echoed Amit Shah’s chant of Bharat Mata ki Jai’’, ‘‘how buoyant the BJP leaders are about their electoral prospects’’ and such other ‘manufactured truths’. And what a crowd it was. Policemen, CRPF personnel, Sashastra Seema Bal (Armed Border Security Force),employees from various J&K departments ‘‘on duty’’ as well as panchayat and waqf board members from across the region were summoned to attend the event.
Amit Shah, during his sojourn, has been tight-lipped about their arch Hindu communal doctrine, persecution, harassment and even lynching of Muslim minorities in the country, setting so called cow vigilantes on them, persistent hate campaign including provocative slogans like ‘‘Desh ke gaddaro, ko Goli maro saleki’’ (Fire bullets on the rascals who are treacherous to the nation), ‘‘chun chun ke maro’’ (Select and kill) and ‘‘sar kat do, haat kat do’’ (Behead them, chop their hands) against them, weaving ploys to brand genuine Indian Muslim citizens as ‘foreigners’ by omitting their names in the so called National Registrar of Citizens (NRCs), ghastly Gujarat pogrom, criminal demolition of historic Babri Masjid and now stretching out hands towards other mosques like Gyanbapi, Mathura and others. He has also cunningly avoided any reference to revocation of Article 370. Instead, among other things, he has sought to highlight the generosity of the BJP government in granting ‘reserved’ category status to the Pahari-speaking community simply to use it as a tool to seize back caste privilege. Any sensible man would agree that if the country is to get rid of the scourge of casteism, communalism, mutual distrust, ethnic hatred and such other narrow sectarian pernicious thoughts, then the reservation policy must be based not on caste or community but on economic backwardness and there should be strict compliance with both identification as well as providence of due benefits to the economically weaker sections. But then the objective of ‘reservation policy’ is different as detailed above.

Rise against capitalism and deceptions of its paid political servants

As we have been pointing out every time, the root of all evils including mounting unemployment, increasing job loss, abject penury and utter misery of the common people is the dying utterly corrupt and overwhelmingly reactionary capitalist system. In the capitalist system, the capitalists invest capital in mills, factories or agriculture to produce commodities to be sold in the market to earn maximum profit. They book this profit, the difference between the money invested and the price of sale, by appropriating the surplus value created by the labour power of the workers and peasants. Since the working people at large are thus denied their legitimate dues, their purchasing power dwindles. So even if they have need for some commodity or an item of daily use, they cannot afford to buy it. This causes shrinkage of the market and the capitalists, unable to book profit through sale of produced goods, stop production. So, the industries get closed, people are thrown out of job. In absence of market, new industries also do not come up. More the days roll by, more plummets the purchasing power of the common people to further aggravate the market crisis of capitalism. That is why crisis ridden capitalism cannot force open the path of unfettered industrialization today.
It is thus clear that when there is no scope whatsoever for any kind of gainful employment nor is proper education within the reach and means of the general people, the ruling class and its political managers are making a hullabaloo over ‘reservation’ and vending dream of employment and education through quota system and in the process surreptitiously precipitating mutual disaffection and mistrust among the various segments, straining the chord of unity and amity among the toiling millions, pitting one against the other. It would not take much intelligence to find that this much-bandied concern of the dream-merchants for the downtrodden segments of the society is not even skin-deep. In a class-divided society like ours, in the context of conflicting class interests between the exploiter and exploited, the ruling bourgeoisie and the proletariat, it is futile to expect equal opportunity for development of all individuals, equal opportunity of education for the children of all strata, people’s welfare and social progress by way of economic development through unhindered industrialization and providence of job to all.
Our fervent appeal to the brothers and sisters of Kashmir is that do not allow the power-monger servitors of capitalism whether clad in Khadi or saffron to get away with all such perjuries and hoaxes. They will only buttress their agenda of making fortunes at your cost. What is imperative for you is to rise above all casteist communal passions and not to be misled by fundamentalists-terrorists who also, as agents of capitalism, have an axe to grind. You need to frustrate the dark design of the criminals in politics who survive only on the sinister game of ‘divide and rule’ inherited from the imperialist rulers. And the only way to do that is development of powerful organized sustained democratic movements for righteous demands in a fraternity with the similar struggles surging forth in different parts of India along right track and under correct revolutionary leadership.

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