Category Archives: Education

The unfairness of the advantage


I know for most of the people in the not northern part of India, the Gujjar agitation means nothing. Just another group fighting for another cause. Especially because it will not really affect you and me, and our living. Or so we think. The current agitation is because the Rajasthan High Court has put a stay on a reservation granted to them about 3-4 years ago, as a part of caste politics. It has asked for quantifiable proof that it is a ‘backward community’. Indeed, if we are getting technical, I want to know what is a backward community and how can I become a part of it.

A few years ago when the Gujjar agitation has started and they were burning down buses in Delhi, it was affecting in my life. And, at that point, someone had taken the pains to explain to me what they were demanding. The community, based in Rajasthan, I understand was demanding a 1% blanket reservation in all jobs, college seats and wherever else reservations were used. This was over and above the already 50% of reservations we already have for all kinds of backward communities in India. That is what the court stayed.

The person explaining the fight to me also found it necessary to explain that Gujjars were a rich community, at least in the cities. A lot of the law enforcement in Delhi and UP consist of the Gujjar community. So money certainly was not a requirement. Being categorised backward was perhaps.

That got me thinking. About really affluent Dalits, who are well educated and make 6 and 7 figure salaries and whose parents have worked in cushy government jobs (maybe due to the reservation, I do not know)… do their children still need reservation? And if they are benefiting from the reservations, why aren’t the deserving Dalits, back in villages benefiting? And if these affluent city folks are successful and educated, why this crutch of a certificate?

The Gujjars you see lying across the tracks protesting the stay- are they the ones to benefit if the reservation is back on track? Or will all the cops of Delhi stand to gain? Making it only a victory in principle for people who perhaps actually need the reservation.

Isn’t that what we hoped education would do? Stop them feeling the need for an edge over the disadvantage? Give the equal platform and bring them to par? But now it seems to succeed you need to be of a backward caste. That’s an advantage the common man won’t give away for the money and success of it while the politician will not want to take away, lest he lose his vote.

And at the end of it all, two-three generations after Independence, there are still huge cities and towns of people who do not get to use the advantage they have had while the so-called meritorious or earlier know as upper caste, today look for ways to fake a ‘backward caste’ certificate.

Yes, of course, I am a Brahmin and wouldn’t be complaining about the advantage if I had it (I think). But my being a brahmin is just because my father was so why should that decide who or what I am and what opportunities I am entitled to? If I can prove my worth, I should be eligible. So what if I am Dalit or a Gujjar? You have the marks/ abilities/ qualities, you get the job, seat etc. But today good marks or skills make me eligible for half the available opportunities, all because of my surname. But I guess that is the argument that was used for reservations in the first place.


The printed wor(l)d


InĀ  the last few years a new phrase has come to being. The saffronisation of Indian school text books. It was being bandied about quite often and usually in the same breath as the (in)famous Hindu right wing fundamentalists. Then another tribe started growing in the age of the internet — the internet Hindus they were called. Once a new term is coined, it feels like something far more tangible than just a thought a group of people had, doesn’t it?

While I heard about all this, there was never any need to encounter them, I thought. And I just pushed them into that corner of my mind where all hateful things lie, coloured in a deep red hue, unable to make out form from faction. Religion is something I am not comfortable discussing, mostly because I am so ambivalent and vague about what I believe in that to rally about my beliefs when I am almost apologetic about it, is very difficult.

Then I started work on my current work project where I (we) had to refer to all state curriculum text books across the country, and that’s when my moment of aghast began (am still to recover). The first textbook I referred to was my home state and couldn’t get over the self-congratulatory tone of Shivaji’s exploits. But then, since I am the first to dismiss any marathipan, from my Marathi surname, I didn’t say much. Kept it to myself thinking maybe only Maharashtra’s textbooks were doctored? It’s always easiest to be ashamed of one’s own..

Then I moved on to textbooks from North and South India and realised Maharashtra’s biggest folly was perhaps only bad language (and Shiv Sena ignoring Shivaji’s most important lesson of being fairl and tolerant a king above everything else but who knows if that is doctored). Most textbooks glorify all Indian kings for fighting against the “Muslim” rule but still being “tolerant” by allowing their subjects to practice Islam. Most textbooks refer to “ancient Indian texts” as a source of reference for everything, including the technology for airplanes. After all “Ram did return in an aeroplane.” So what if we are getting mythology mixed up with science?

What was scarier was the next line. “Logical people disagree with this.” It galls me to see school text books encouraging to blindly believe myth and reject logic and proof because it does not fit their stories. What’s worse is that child who is going to, in all likelihood, mug it, will grow up with this as part of his psyche and won’t understand the reasoning of why we call this “indoctrination.”

The child then grows up and decides to investigate for himself and turns to the internet, where he meets the scary tribe of internet hindus and because he has not been taught any style of application in education, he accepts with looking for logic or reasoning or even questioning why.

Talk about far-reaching effects!

And then, there are people who will believe almost anything read on a website, forgetting that even websites are written by people and one should only but use a pinch of salt with it. The internet is very important today as it gives so much informationĀ  but it becomes imperative to have some sort of filtering mechanism, one that is based on your own thought process and not a borrowed one.

And then I finished reading this book, where he discusses how this book can be taught from a dharma-that-caters-to-a-universal-religion perspective rather than a religious text and it makes complete sense to me. That, of course, in the hindu in me but the difference is I realise it. What also makes the book even more palatable is the initial embarrassment Gurcharan Das talks about when people mention his name and holy books and studies in the same sentence. It’s something many urban hindus face today ( or I would like to imagine they do .. I know I do).

We need to save the opinions of children for tomorrow, don’t we? At least long enough for them to able to make them up on their own (and as I write this I realise how small and inadequate it seems as the problem seems as vast as India itself and blame to be ascribed to all political parties, for meddling where they have no business meddling).