SC ST Act | SC ST Reservation | Reservation in India
Posted on August 30th, 2019
Welcome to this episode of Dr. Ambedkar Thoughts.
In our last video, we have discussed Dr. Ambedkar’s views and his contribution to social Justice. To give social justice to the untouchables and depressed classes there is a provision for reservation in the constitution which is the most explosive subject in India. The most polarising subject in 21st century India. Most debated, most misinformed subject in India. We will try to discuss all the myths related to the subject of reservation in our coming videos.
First, we will discuss the views of Dr. Ambedkar on reservation an uncompromising crusader of social justice, who is solely responsible for bringing reservation into the constitution. In 1942, On the request of Indian Branch of Institution of International pacific affairs, Dr. Ambedkar submitted a report on the question of untouchables for the Peace Conference in Mont Troblant, Quebec province, in Canada. Volume 9 page 401 to 433
In the preface of the report, Dr. Ambedkar clarified that he had accepted to write this report because he felt that it was the best opportunity to draw the attention of the world to the problem of untouchable in comparison to which the problem of the slave, the Blacks, and Jews is nothing. The world is aware of the problem of the Jews, Blacks but it does not know about the gravity of the problem of the untouchables which is far more serious. In this report, he writes, in most part of the world there are people who are considered as lowly or have low social status.
Romans have their slaves, the Spartans their helot, the British their villains, the Americans their Negroes and Germans their Jews. So the Hindus have their untouchables. But none of these can be said to have a condition which is worse than that of the untouchables. Slavery, serfdom, and villeinage have all vanished but untouchability still exists. Jew is despised but he is not denied the opportunity to grow. In this report, he categorically pointed out that, If there is any cause of freedom in this Indian turmoil for independence it is the cause of the untouchables. The cause of the Hindus and cause of the Mussalmans are not the cause of freedom. Theirs is a struggle for power as distinguished from freedom.
Why there should be special provision for untouchables in the Constitution?
In the chapter on ‘Caste and Constitution,’ he writes why should demands (regarding special provision and safeguards related to education, employment, and legislature) of untouchables find a place in the constitution?
According to Dr. Ambedkar, while framing the constitution, the social structure must also be kept in mind. The political structure must be related to social structure. The operation of social forces is not confined to the social field. They pervade the political field also.
Dr. Ambedkar pointed out that nowhere in the world have the makers of the constitution been compelled to deal with such matters. (matters dealing with caste-based or ridden society). It is the characteristics of Hindu society. It is the caste system and religious system of the Hindus which is solely responsible for this. Here he is saying that because of caste-based society in India there should be provision for untouchables in India.
He further added that there are people who admit this but argue that caste can be abolished from Hindu society. Dr. Ambedkar denied and said it is a gross error to think that Caste is an institution like club and municipality or country council. Caste is a religion and religion is anything but an institution. Religion is an influence or force suffused through the life of each individual molding his character determining his actions and reactions, his likes and dislikes. These likes and dislikes action and reactions are not institutions which can be lopped off.
some people argue that there is no difference between the class system in the west and the caste system of the Hindus. Ambedkar says this is false, the Caste system is a system which is infested with the spirit of isolation and in fact, it makes isolation of one caste from the another as a matter of virtue. There is isolation in a class system, but it is neither virtue nor does it prohibit social intercourse. It is true that the class system also produces groups, but the groups in the class system are only non-social while the castes in the system are; because of their mutual relations, definitely and positively anti-social.
Caste is anti-social because they generate jealousy and antipathy between castes and caste. They are forces and influences which can be dealt with by controlling them or counteracting them. If the social forces are to be prevented from contaminating politics and perverting it to the aggrandizement of the few and degradation of many, then it follows that political structure must be so framed that it will contain a mechanism which will bottle the prejudices and nullify the injustice which the social forces are likely to cause if they are let loose. Why is it necessary that in the Indian Constitution the Communal Scheme must find its place; and why in the public services, for the untouchables, should be specified and should be assigned to them as their separate possession?
According to Dr. Ambedkar, the Justification for these demands is easy and obvious. It arises from the undeniable fact that what divides the untouchables from the Hindus is not a mere matter of difference on non-essentials. It is a case of fundamental antagonism and antipathy. No evidence of this antipathy and antagonism is necessary. The system of untouchability is enough evidence of the inherent antagonism between the Hindus and the untouchables.
Given this antagonism, it is simply impossible to ask the untouchables to depend upon and trust the Hindus to do them justice when the Hindu get their freedom and independence from the British.
Scheduled Castes are a minority in India. According to Dr. Ambedkar separation of religion is not the only test of a minority. Social discrimination constitutes the real test for determining whether a social group is or is not a minority. In an editorial in Harijan dated 21st October 1939, Gandhiji has given his opinion that scheduled castes are an only real minority in India. In India, the majority is not a political majority. In India the majority is born; not made. That is the difference between a communal majority and a political majority. A political majority is not fixed or a permanent majority. It is a majority which is always made, unmade and remade.
A communal majority is a permanent majority, fixed in its attitude. One can destroy it but one cannot transform it. In India, the majority is a communal majority. No matter what social and political program it may have, the majority will retain its character of being a communal majority. Nothing can alter this fact.
In ‘states and Minority’, he writes scheduled castes are more than a minority and any protection given to the citizens and to the minorities will not be adequate for the scheduled castes. In other words, it means that their social, educational and economic condition is so much worse than that of citizens and other minorities that in addition to the protection they would get as citizens and as minorities, the scheduled castes would require special safeguards against the tyranny and discrimination of the majority.
He writes, the Hindu is alien to untouchable as European is. What is worse, European align is neutral but Hindu is most shamefully partial to his own class and antagonistic to the untouchables. There can be no doubt that the Hindus have all these ages despised, disregarded and disowned the untouchables as the different and contemptible start of society, if not to a different race. Dr. Ambedkar asked, Who can say that untouchable is not right in saying that he will not trust the Hindu?
Why Should untouchable entrust their fate to such people?
How could Untouchables be legitimately asked to leave their interest into the hands of people who as a matter of fact are opposed to them in their motive and interests, Who do not sympathize with the living forces operating among the untouchable, who themselves are not charged with their wants craving and desires, who are inimical to their aspirations, who in all certainty will deny Justice to them and discriminate against them. and who by the sanction of their religion have not been and will not be ashamed to practice against the untouchables any kind of inhumanity.
The only safety against such people is to have the political rights which the untouchable claim as safeguards against the tyranny of the Hindu majority.
The untouchables are not opposed to freedom from British imperialism. But they refuse to be content with mere freedom from British imperialism. What they insist upon is that free India is not enough. Free India should be made safe for democracy. Starting with this aim, they say that on account of the peculiar social formation of India, there are minorities communities pitted against a Hindu communal majority. And that if no provisions are made in the constitution to cut the fangs of Hindu communal majority, India will not be safe for democracy.
The untouchables therefore insisting on devising a constitution which will take note of the special circumstances of India and contain safeguards which will prevent this Hindu communal majority in Indian society from getting possession of political power to suppress and oppress untouchables with at least a medium of political power to prevent their suppression and exploitation and to enable them at least to hold their own in their struggle for existence against communal majority.
Vol 9 169.
Dr. Ambedkar rightly pointed out that unlike the other countries, governing class in India, which is composed of higher castes, is omnipotent and omnipresent. Their behavior towards servile class is antagonistic; because of this, servile classes which consist of backward castes, depressed castes, must have some safeguards apart from the adult franchise. (To make India safe for democracy.)
In India, unlike other countries the governing class is so omnipotent and omnipresent that other remedies besides adult franchise will be necessary to give adequate power to the servile classes to protect themselves against exploitation by governing classes. Looked at in the light of these observations, the reservation demanded by servile classes, though different in form from the checks and balances embodied in the American constitution, are fundamentally checks and balances and must be considered.
Volume 9 P 482
In our next video, we will discuss Dr. Ambedkar’s views on a reservation in public services.
Let us summarize the arguments discussed so far:
Among all the exploited and deprived classes of the society anywhere in the world, the condition of untouchables in India, is the worst and persistent.
In India, because of the caste system, the majority is the communal majority, thus we need a communal scheme in our constitution.
After independence, to ensure that the backward classes and depressed classes are guaranteed social justice, they should be included in the legislature, executive and general administration through constitutional provisions.