RSS sees the Indian Constitution as a roadblock for establishing Hindu Rashtra.
For a long time, RSS and other right-wing groups have been peddling lies that Dr B.R. Ambedkar wanted Reservations for the SC/STs to be discontinued 10 years from the inception of the Constitution.
The Sangh Parivar, a strong believer of the Manu’s (a)dharma code, does not believe in the empowerment of the lower castes and women. It sees the Indian Constitution, with its progressive provisions, as a roadblock for establishing the Hindu Rashtra. The RSS leaders have been making statements on the need to ‘revisit reservations’ or end it. Manmohan Vaidya, at the Jaipur Literary Festival, recently said that caste-based reservations should go. Prior to that, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat made a similar statement just before the Bihar Assembly elections.
Did Ambedkar really want reservations to end? In this context, it is important for us to know how the reservations have come about and what the constitution has to say.
Snapshot of Reservation Policy in Modern India
Reservations for the backward classes were introduced for the first time in 1902 by Chatrapati Sahuji Maharaj of Kohlapur. Later, in 1919 it was implemented by the King of Mysore on the recommendations of the Miller Committee. It was suggested by the Committee that there has to be a fair representation of non-Brahmins in matters of employment and education. This practice was replicated in the Madras Presidency in 1921, where for every 12 posts, five had to go to non-Brahmins, two to Brahmins, two to Muslims, two to Anglo-Indians or Indian Christians and one to the depressed classes (read Untouchable castes).
The struggle for social justice in the modern period began in the Southern regions of India. It then spread to other parts of the country, with the entry of Dr B.R. Ambedkar into the political scene around the 1920s. During the same period, the Depressed Classes were getting organised politically and were approaching the British administration to address their grievances. The struggles of the untouchables were recognised by the British and they provided some nominated positions with the enactment of Government of India Act, 1919. Untouchables were categorised as the Scheduled Castes (SC) in 1935 Act and specific seats were reserved for them in the political sphere. Gandhi sat on a hunger strike at the Yerawada Central Jail against the provisions of separate electorates for the SCs. A compromise position was struck between Ambedkar and Gandhi by signing an agreement known as the Poona Pact. The right to choose members who truly would work for the betterment of the lives of the ati-Shudras was lost forever. Many people believe that the progress of the Scheduled Castes was derailed by the joint electorates where the majority (upper castes) of the population had a larger say in who gets elected.
On the jobs front, reservation in services was extended to the Scheduled Castes in the year 1942 as a policy of the British government. After India gained independence, though a liberal democratic framework was adopted, the Constitution had certain provisions to safeguard the interests of the marginalised - Dalits, women, minorities and children.
Constitutional Provisions for Reservations
The provisions in the constitution which enable policy makers to institute reservations or affirmative action policies are under three sections: Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy and Special Provisions Relating to Certain Classes.
Articles 16 to 16 (4B) of the Fundamental Rights specifically addresses the government to reserve posts in employment or posts that are not “adequately represented in the services under the State.”
Article 46 states that, “The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”
Article 335 of the Constitution directs the policy-makers to have reservations in services and posts of governance.
This article (Article 335) allows governments to provide reservations for the SC/STs in employment and other posts, related to state governance. If Dr. Ambedkar intended to end reservations in services, he would have incorporated a relevant clause. He believed that there should be proportional representation in matters of services and education. He says that, “The question of entry into the Public Service is an important question for all minority communities. But to the Scheduled Castes it is a vital question, a question of life and death. There are many reasons why this must be so. In the first place, it is a question of opening up a career for young men[/women] from the Scheduled Castes. This is an aspect of the question which the Scheduled Castes, and even the Government of India, cannot ignore.”
Ambedkar, for whom representation of Dalits in services was a matter of life and death would not have been so casual about the issue as the conservatives/RSS want us to believe.
Ten-year Limitation for Reservations for SC/ST MPs and MLAs
Babasaheb Ambedkar definitely talked about a set time period for reserved seats in legislative assemblies and the parliament. He introduces the article 295A in the Constituent Assembly:
“... [R]reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes either in House of the People or in the Legislative Assembly shall cease to have effect on the expiration of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution. This is also in accordance with the decision of the House.”
Thus, it is clear that Ambedkar said a limitation of “ten years” should be imposed upon reservations on legislative positions. Reacting to these provisions, on 21 November 1949, S. Nagappa, a Member of the Constituent Assembly, stated in his concluding remarks:
“We too would have been glad to forego our reservations if we had the status of other minorities, the economic status, the social status and the educational status which the other minorities are enjoying today. The responsibility lies more on your shoulders, as you have taken the pledge that you should bring us upto your level within 10 years' time. I hope with this goodwill, with your generosity, we will be able to come to that level.”
The hope Nagappa had, that the untouchable castes would achieve the same level of development as others, remains till date a distant dream.
Though Ambedkar did not say anything about the need to end reservations in services, either in the Constituent Assembly or in any of his works, the RSS thinks that a ‘lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth’. But, it forgets that the exploited lot who swear by Ambedkar are not going to be fooled by such propaganda. This was proven in the Bihar Elections, where the electoral battle was fought on the issue of social justice vs the Hindutva agenda and the people rejected the BJP.
Now with the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh and four other states, the Sangh Parivar is back to its favourite topic of ‘revisiting the Reservations’. However, people are aware of the dangers if the BJP captures power in the these states.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick.