Social (In)Justice

A kind gent (lady?) left this comment on my Dalit post , which is the basis of this post. This entry partly tries to address some issues he (she?) has raised, and is partly a record of my stray thoughts on the subject.

But let me ask you a question, do you or don’t you agree that there are indeed grave problems in the realm of social justice in India? I think before blaming other groups for political conversion or trying to find conspiracy angle to these things we should think about the caste problems carefully.

The right question we need to ask is this: what is the precise definition of social justice? I’m rather loath to accept the definition in currency for most of the 59 years since Independence. This definition has its roots in the Marxist scheme of a classless society, which is a little more than an absurd fantasy. According to this scheme, one would expect a scientist to earn the same as a railway porter and still feel happy about it because he’s living in an equal, just society.

We have seen it happen in the erstwhile USSR where the gap between a chosen few and almost the whole country was enormous. They used fancy balderdash to trumpet it: egalitarian society. The current regime is using its full might to ensure that we get there. Only, we call it social justice. Our means too, to get there are different.

Fifty nine years may not be long, but it is significant to show the success or failure of our understanding and implementation of social justice. We have not implemented social justice. We’ve legitimized freeloading. Nothing else explains the uniformly abject inefficiency of every institution in this country. A superior cannot chide his junior for inefficiency/dereliction of duty for the fear of inviting a caste-discrimination lawsuit.

In the name of social justice, we’ve encouraged absenteeism, petty politicking, groupism, laziness, and even violence. If the morons who took over the country–mostly after 1965–were serious about real social justice, they would’ve introduced measures to empower those they wanted to uplift. Empowerment by putting into place systems that enabled the selfsame Dalits etc, to rise through dignity. But that’d be the end of their vote banks. So they perverted the whole process to ensure that the downtrodden were always dependent on this political class.

They corrupted what India was always known for: its system of values.

Look around everywhere today. The most vociferous claimants of reservations never talk about dignity or hard work: they vehemently oppose it but sugarcoat this opposition in clever language. They simply say, “merit is not important,” “how backward you are takes precedence over merit.” Merit is earned while backwardness needs just a certificate. They faithfully follow the precedent that was set earlier. For example, Karnataka’s Vokkaliga and Lingayat communities were the earliest birds who feasted on the Reservation benefits. But the distribution of said benefits however, is grossly disproportionate to their population.

Now for the premise on which Reservations are built. It is easy to blame the caste system but is it the whole truth? The caste system is perhaps largely irrelevant today where occupation-based division of society is more or less obsolete. As a method of organizing society, there are few systems that are superior to the caste system. This is for another day. It is actually incorrect to blame the caste system as evil–the culprit is really the perversion of the caste system . In his latest book, Falling over Backwards, Arun Shourie raises some interesting questions:

How is it that what was explicitly forbidden by the Constitution–classification based on caste–has become the rule? How is it that what were enabling provisions have become mandatory minima?… How is it that what were begun as reservations at entry became reservations in promotion also? How did this become a right to accelerated promotions? How did that become a right “accelerated promotions with consequential seniority? How did that become a right to have the prescribed standards diluted–to the point of being waived altogether? Even in educational institutions. Is this any way to become a “knowledge super-power?” [.] The race then was to get one’s group recognized as a higher caste. How has it become a race to get it anointed as “backward?” Are the “backward castes”, the weak ones who need protection and privileges? … Who is most responsible for atrocities on harijans ?

And more such uncomfortable questions throughout this compelling book. Interestingly, the ones who make the loudest pro-Reservation noise are not the actual folks from downtrodden/backward castes but the liberals who do one, some or all of the following:

  • Lend legitimacy to braindead schemes by the likes of Arjun Singh.
  • Consciously advocate the merit-as-bullshit (see above) argument while arguably, lots of these folks have gotten where they are by hard work, and merit.
  • Visit/meet villagers and/or “low caste” people in rural India and build a case for Reservations based on what they see there.
  • Build their case based purely on specious premises.

The last point is noteworthy: it is easy to find a premise, any premise. From there, it is just a step away: data is readily available aplenty. However, it requires a special genuis to twist it to prove their premise. The Left-liberal clique possesses this in copious amounts. Their argument is mostly based on appealing to emotion. They see the appalling poverty in the Indian rural side and attribute that solely to the caste system: therefore, Reservations are a must. This clique is out to inflict the maximum damage to the cause of the Dalits, downtrodden, etc. By constantly harping on their backwardness, they perpetuate it: you’re backward, only Reservations can help you. We, the do-gooders, the Reformers of Society will ensure that you get them.

We again return to the same question: what makes us so sure that Reservations are the only way forward despite the miserable record of its failure over 59 years? The truth is India now has more castes than at any other time in her long history. A political class whose avowed aim is to abolish caste has embarked on a massive caste-data search today. The few remaining sane voices are out-shouted, or go unheeded.

If we were really convinced that the caste system is evil, why do we still perpetuate it in the name of eradicating it? Why weren’t we serious about Ambedkar’s rider of 10 years?

Now I ask my gentle commenter, what “caste problems” do we examine? More importantly, where do we start?

Cross-posted at Desicritics.

8 comments for “Social (In)Justice

  1. Palahalli
    June 20, 2007 at 1:11 PM

    Sandeep,

    This is a late post on the subject..but I only just noticed the subject.

    You say the Caste System is a superior system of social organization.

    Out in the market place, folks generally speak about Varna as against Caste. The reasoning is that Varna was flexible and confined, obviously, wrt profession and did not start with birth. Caste, they argue, is a later perversion.

    It would be interesting to hear your argument in defence of Caste.

    I have been a “Hindu” for the past 36 years. Frankly, I can count on my fingers, the number of times folks have asked who I was? A Brahmana? Or a Bengali? or something else? Nary a situation where I was asked about being a “Hindu”. I suppose the drive toward being called and identified a “Hindu” is limited to Blogs and the local Sangh Shakha. Not in everyday mundane life.

    It is very easy to see why politicians, an overwhelming majority of whome are “Hindus” of all Castes, like to take advantage of reservations. It is very easy to keep the “Hindus” in disunity and in a quarrelsome and eventimes murderous moods amongst each other. In most other times…its plain indifference. To treat a fellow “Hindu” of a lower caste..forget a Dalit..on par even in social intercourse seems a big deal in this society.

    But then, “Hindus” who know better are also a worried lot. They like to say that the Caste System is good and superior…but would like folks on the outside not to take advantage of weaknesses. The….”the perversion of the caste system..” is an argument the higher castes may like to use as some sort of burn proof cloak for “Hinduism”..but educated Dalits by and large can see through it like clear glass.

    What surprises me is that when it comes to Caste atrocities, *”Hindu” Upper castes* love to pounce on the fact that a large number of cases are those that got perpetrated by “lower castes” or more technically, the OBCs. They seem to forget for the moment that these are after all “HINDUS”. Parts of the whole kind of argument :) It suddenly becomes very important for such folk to defend the fair name of the Upper Castes and more specifically, the Brahmana.

    Such hypocricy has now failed to astonish thoughtful folk.

    Any State Policy will fail if society is unprepared. Ambedkar may have thought 10 years was good enough time for “Hindus” to realize their great dilemma and start repair. I doubt it if anybody would be rash enough to say Ambedkar’s 10 year timeframe, had in mind Dalits and Lower Castes – UPLIFTED. The current “Hindu” sense on the web and outside, is that it will take many generations for Caste Consciousness to disappear. Until then, they would rather Dalits wait.

    Jaffna – You have hammered many nails on their heads. Thank you Sir.

  2. Ravi Gupta
    December 13, 2006 at 8:46 AM

    Sandeep,

    You do write forceful arguements. I am Bania and was raised in a privileged family in Mumbai. I am also against reservations for the very reasons you so eloquently argue. But I very strongly believe that grave injstices have been done to the lower caste. I admit taht todays reservations drama is all about politics, but i strongly believe that we need strong social movement to completely remove caste. Even today some dalits cannot enter some temples. Bojil Kolarov mentions in Voice of Dharma that caste system is making Hindu society weak and helping Islamists. Thus Hindues should work hard to abolish caste and make strong attempts to convert Muslims

    http://bojilkolarov.voiceofdharma.com/offensive.html#2ch4

    Jai Bheem

  3. Robin
    November 17, 2006 at 7:19 AM

    Jaffna,

    Liked your post. Well thought out, carefully worded and toned in equanimity :)

  4. Robin
    November 17, 2006 at 6:56 AM

    Sandeep,

    Good post, but I think you have immoderately focussed on the reservation issue. While reservations have become a politcial tool, the core of the matter still remains – caste is a big deal and it is no fun being at the receiving end. The gent/lady misplaces the cause as (Hindusim), but dont you think there is good sense in picking up the cudgels to thwart pretentious-Hinduism?

    Parallels are difficult to draw, and when drawn they are rarely parallel, but let me make an attempt.

    If future votaries of Seriously Sandeep were to twist the words on this blog completely denuding it of its spirit, then will a Sandeep-realized person be merely content in defending Sandeep or will he/she be proactive in dispelling the twists and reinstalling the spirit of the blog?

  5. November 16, 2006 at 4:14 AM

    While both Jaffna and you make valid points, I don’t think the change against discrimination against dalits will come from legislation, judiciary or utterly bogus reservations. Change has to come from everyone, not just social reformers, to erase existing castism – of any form, not just dalit and like. Caste has outlived it utility and exploitation. Relying on politicians to solve social problems is the last thing we should be doing. And we can always put social reformers on a pedestal and forget their message.

    It has to come from all types of Hindus – parents, teachers, priests, and young people – to just say no to caste. RSS has recently called for dalit priests. I don’t think that’s enough. We have to stop using caste, as criteria, in social activities – like marriages – where caste perpetuation is the key. If not, atheist left winger and non-Hindus, both local and foreigners, will keep exploiting the situation to beat up on Hindus until there are is no Hinduism left.

  6. socal
    November 16, 2006 at 3:08 AM

    Sandeep,
    You must write about the murder of Dalit family near Nagpur. Story here-

    http://www.indianexpress.com/story/16226.html

    Looks like the ST/NT Gond tribals killed the Dalit family and MSELM (main stream english lang. media) is busy painting it as upper-caste crime. The spin has just begun and will do a lot of damage is not responded. Leftie blogs are abuzz with mischievous comments.

  7. November 15, 2006 at 2:46 PM

    Dear Sandeep

    A thought provoking piece. Let me respond. As a practicing Hindu from Sri Lanka, I think it necessary that issues of social justice be addressed. I agree with you that the current system of reservations in India has more to do with electoral politics than with the genuine desire to uplift the poor and dispossessed. But something needs to be done nonetheless given the alarming rates of illiteracy, poverty and rural backwardness in India (its neighbors are no exception).

    There is a rich tradition of dissent in Hindu civilization. The Upanishads question ritual and ceremony. These texts emphasize reason as against priest craft.

    Concepts of caste were likewise challenged in our tradition. I refer here to Ramanuja, Ramanand, Raidas, Tukaram, Namdev, Kabir, Narasimha Mehta, the Siddhas, Vemana (?) Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Mohandas K. Gandhi and many, many others. This social activism needs to be revived in keeping with our traditions.

    In terms of today’s sociology something needs to be done to make the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes more competitive in the market place. There has to be investment in schools that target the scheduled castes, in teachers and in technical education to ensure that this takes place. The Government of India has failed in this regard and instead used the easy way out i.e. reservations. The latter was a gimmick to cover up the utter failure of Nehruvian Indian educational policy.

    There needs to be rural land reform to empower the scheduled castes. The tillers of the soil need to own the land that they work on. Indian policy failed in marked contrast to post-war Japan, South Korea and Taiwan that introduced far reaching land reform. The scheduled castes are often agricultural laborers working on the land of others with minimim pay.

    The law has to take its course when the rights of the scheduled castes are violated in rural India. Unfortunately, the police are often mere bystanders doing nothing to bring to book those who have violated the law of the land.

    The judiciary is overwhelmed with the sheer caseload of cases that nothing happens on that front either.

    The panel of eminent jurists that drafted India’s constitution in 1950 outlawed untouchability. The Indian legislature passed the Civil Rights Act in 1955. It introduced the Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act in 1976. Parliament enacted the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in 1989. I am not sure whether any of these laws have had their intended effect.

    There were 147,000 cases under the Prevention of Atrocities Act pending in the Indian courts in 1998. Only 31,011 cases were brought to trial. And only 5.4% or 1,677 cases ended in a conviction. All others charged were acquitted. Conversely the conviction rates in cases tried under the Indian penal code was 39.4% in 1999 and 41.8% in 2000. This discrepancy is a travesty of justice.

    So while, I agree with you that the current policy of reservations is an electoral gimmick designed to create constitutencies of support in the absence of real solid solutions, social justice remains relevant.

    One has to re-assert this radical trend in Hinduism and re-emphasize the oneness of humanity. One can then recover an inheritance centered on loka samgraha, the purposive action towards the social good, and Kshemakrit, the welfare obligation to the poor. The highest worship is that of Daridra Narayana, that divinity who assumes the form of the downtrodden. Social justice remains key to India’s advancement!

    Best regards

  8. Vikram
    November 15, 2006 at 9:08 AM

    Hey Sandeep, did u read the claims by the Chinese Ambassador on Arunachal Pradesh?

    As usual the Marxists brigade is dead silent on the issue.

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