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Political unity among reservation communities

Political unity among reservation communities

Eighty percent of the state's social communities enjoy constitutional reservation. Ever since the concept and implementation of reservation took roots, there have been moves to torpedo its very idea - which is a mechanism for the uplift of the socially backward. One of the crucial and ingenious methods of doing this has been to inject the principle of economic reservation into it. As early as in the 1950s, Communist leader EM Sankaran Nampoodiripad had been in the scene with this precept. The ruling class could not put in force only because of the resistance by backward communities and the legal bar imposed by the Supreme Court. At the same time, moves aimed at toppoling reservation at the implementation phase have been consistently going on presided over by the upper class-dominated bureaucracy. In a way, the history of reservation is also a history of its upending too. A crucial chapter of this toppling of backward quota is what is currently being done by the decision of Kerala's LDF government to implement 10 per cent forward class reservation across the board in government employment sector. As a matter of fact, the constitutional amendment made to this end does not mandate allocating ten perent reservation, but only provides for reservation not exceeding ten percent. As soon as that amendment came into force, the LDF was seen rushing, without basis of any study or empirical data, to dole out ten percent to the upper castes that form 20 percent of the state's population. With its implementation in educational institutions, as a beginning, the upper castes became a class enjoying the benefit of quota higher than even that of backward communities. Today, the upper castes have become the largest reservation-eligible community in the state.

What should have emboldened the government to totally ignore the clamour and protests of the communities that numerically constitute 80 percent of the population, and implement upper class reservation with no let or hindrance? One reason is that most of the mainstream parties are in favour of that in principle; in the matter of upper caste reservation, the CPM, Congress and BJP are unanimous. Viewed in the perspective of vote politics, political parties normally should not be making bold to adopt a stance that puts aside the large majority. But when it comes to upper caste reservation, no such fears seem to deter political parties. The simple reason for this is that the leadership of all the mainstream parties rests in the hands of the supremacist minority, who deem that backward communities are not a force to be factored in. The second reason is that although backward sections would numerically form 80 percent, they are politically splintered. A case in point is the forward class reservation of forward communities the LDF government is implementing now. The organisation of Ezhavas, the largest backward community of Kerala, has already raised its protest. Its leader Vellappally Natesan responded to the decision saying that the government stabbed the community from the back. A confederation of organisations from reservation-eligible communities, the Reservation Communities' Front, has called for protest actions. Muslim bodies, including the Samastha outfit with a large community representation and the Latin Catholic section have severely criticised the government. But the ruling coalition LDF and the chief minister have taken an adamant position that there is no question of budging from forward caste reservation. This intransigent government attitude draws its strength solely from the confidence that any clamour of political unorganised reservation communities will be of no avail.

It is in this context that the call by SNDP Yogam president Vellappally Natesan for reservation communities to form a third front, assumes relevance. His thesis is that the only way for backward communities to overcome this is for the rightful claimants of quota - the 80 percent mentioned here - to organise themselves politically. His statement couldn't be more correct in principle. But he has not given a clear blueprint for its implementation. The existing edifice in which the minority upper castes monopolise all resources and powers, needs to be rebuilt. Mere statements and clamour cannot clinch the deal, but it requires political mobilisation of backward sections. What is imperative for backward community leaderships is to channelise the current collective, which has evolved in the light of, and against economic reservation, into such a political movement. Conversely, there is no point in looking forward to concessions from the mainstream political leadership dominated by the hegemonistic class. And that is exactly the kind of politics, that has not taken shape so far in Kerala, but certainly has to evolve in Kerala.

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