The Gurjjar unrest tells us about India

Posted on December 8, 2008. Filed under: Reservations/Caste |

The Gurjjar unrest tells us about India

Jagdeep S. Chhokar

The Indian Express, Monday, June 04, 2007

When the prime minister made ten suggestions to corporate India, just one of which was to “resist excessive remuneration to promoters and senior executives” (‘Vulgar wealth display insults the poor’, IE, May 25), almost the entire media and of course the corporate sector raised their voices in consternation. Perhaps they should take another look at the PM’s remarks after the ‘Gurjjar trouble’ in Rajasthan.

A community demanding a particular status is not a new phenomenon, but when one finds deaths occurring because of protests in a community into which one is born, one tends to sit up and take note. Let me clarify at the outset that I have never either sought or got any benefit for merely being a Gurjjar and being one has never been a handicap in my professional career, starting with the Indian Railways and ending with a stint of almost 22 years with the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Therefore the comments I choose to make now should not be linked to the fact that I happen to be a Gurjjar myself.

Notwithstanding all that has been written about social justice, empowerment of the dispossessed, and the like, the path the country has traversed in trying to ensure equality of opportunity to all citizens has been far from smooth. The objective, and hope, of the framers of the Constitution that equality of opportunity will be achieved in ten years, has obviously not been met. Some of us might wonder if they were naïve or over-optimistic. They were neither. But they were certainly idealistic and I assume that those who lead us would also have similar ideals.

The Indian genius has evolved over the last 60 years and the socio-political milieu of the country has changed beyond recognition. But the assumptions and expectations of the members of the Constituent Assembly have been belied. The pious hope of the framers of the Constitution about the reduction of the impact of caste in day-to-day social interaction has obviously been defeated. Caste has staged a comeback, as a means of political and electoral mobilisation. That is partly why every now and then one or the other caste or community group wants to gain from reservations as a means of advancement.
It is time we realised that tinkering with the lists of SCs/STs will not take us any closer to the objective of ensuring equality for all citizens. Every time a group decides to use this principle of reservation or a political party decides to use a community to gain visibility, the situation will only deteriorate. The fact that there has not been equal opportunity for all citizens needs to be recognised by all, including the urban elite. We need to create a national consensus on this. One way to do this is to have a non-partisan group of people to apply itself to the issue of equality of opportunity and prepare a document for national debate. Of course, getting such a group together in the current climate of political divides appears almost impossible. Therein lies the dilemma of our times!

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    This blog contains Jagdeep S. Chhokar’s views, opinions, and comments on variety of issues.

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