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Social Injustice

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Since when has it become kosher in India to ask people to state their castes in everyday interactions? Congress dynast Rahul Gandhi is doing this on a regular basis nowadays, most recently at a press meet, when he asked journalists if they belonged to the OBC category. If such questions are asked of SCs, STs in normal interactions just because someone wishes to know caste identities, it would cause a major furore and invite legal action. However, the political narrative is being adjusted for the entitled few; and in this particular context because society seems to have lost sight of the original reasons for affirmative action. Whatever the fate of caste surveys and consequent expansion of reservations, the result will only be hardening of caste identity and greater social division. In fact, the Congress Working Committee, in its desperation to shape a winning vote combination, has even promised to go beyond the fifty percent restriction.

It may have been a slow process, but Indian society has been moving towards annihilation of caste discrimination. With education and opportunities becoming available to all sections of society, employment and social advancement requires increasingly less affirmative action. Youth from all sections of society are making their mark in activities that cannot function on the basis of ‘reservation’. This is evident from the performances of Indian sportspersons across the board and at the recent Asian Games, in particular. Affirmative action for them has meant providing facilities, coaching and platforms to exhibit their talent and not ‘reservation’ on the basis of caste. At the same time, targeted schemes for categories of individuals have also helped, depending on their circumstances and location, rather than social stature.

And what would be Rahul Gandhi’s caste, if it comes to identification on this basis? He is certainly not a Brahmin, as is often projected, as it is a patrilineal concept. His pedigree would require a new classification, which is exactly why there are thousands of sub-castes in existence that cannot be placed in any specific bracket. They are small in number and thus remain devoid of benefits shaped around caste.

The resort to caste politics by the ‘Grand Old Party’ is a sign of desperation as much of the opposition space comprises dynastic outfits. Already, politicians in UP are claiming that this new approach would make the Congress the primary opposition in that state. Can the SP afford to ignore this intrusion? Will it lead to competitive OBC identification and how would that present itself?