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Dear Havells India, Reservation Is A Constitutional Right, Not A Favour

01/04/2016 8:15 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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"From his mouth god created the Brahmin, from his arms the Kshatriya, from his thighs the Vaishya and from his feet the Shudra." - Laws of Manu

The Laws of Manu were overthrown and replaced by the Constitution of India, drafted by a 'Shudra' called Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. However, Manuvaad survived and continues to be perpetuated in the minds of many upper caste people and communities. Lately, a new campaign has been started by the upper caste anti-reservation brigade to harass and mock the reserved category students.

This ad is a classic example of casteist and regressive manuvaadi thinking...

Havells India recently released a new television commercial (later deleted from YouTube and Facebook page) for its range of electronic fans which openly mocks and stereotypes reserved category students. The tagline is 'hawa badlegi' (the winds will change). This ad is another classic example of casteist and regressive manuvaadi thinking, and an example of why Kanhaiya Kumar of JNU was right in calling for 'Manuvaad se azadi'.

You can watch the advertisement here:

The ad was deleted, but the damage was done

Many people expressed their dislike for the ad on YouTube, with some threatening to boycott Havells' products. After a few days of campaigning by various Ambedkarite groups and continued objection on social media, the company removed the ad from their official YouTube and Facebook page. The company, however, shied away from apologizing for this advertisement.

This is what Havells India said after deleting the advertisement:

A sequence in our recent Fan campaign of "Hawa Badlegi" seems to have hurt the sentiments of some viewers. Havells is a...

Posted by Havells on Monday, 28 March 2016

Shameful stereotyping

Have you ever wondered what a reserved category student looks like? Havells' new ad has the answer for you. According to them, a reserved category student is characterized by traditional outfits and a 'black thread' around her neck? Why does she need to be different in her appearance from other students? This regressive stereotyping speaks more of the director's thought process than anything else.

Have you ever wondered what a reserved category student looks like? Havells' new ad has the answer for you.

In another scene, the ad questions the burning of books as a mark of protest. The students, as seen in the video, are wearing blue bands which are generally associated with Ambedkarite groups and other like-minded movements. The BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) also bears the blue colour on its flag. For many years, Ambedkarite groups have used the burning of Manusmriti--the verses in which have for centuries legitimized caste-based atrocities--as a mark of protest against the caste system. Therefore, burning of this book (the ad, however, doesn't show Manusmriti) is a powerful and legitimate way of protesting against the whole caste system.

Humiliating lyrics

"...apni hawa mein hun pala apne dum par hun khada, nahin chahiye mujhko seedhi, arey main hun aane wali peedhi..." (I'm standing on my own feet, I don't need a ladder, I'm the future generation...)

The anti-reservation brigade is fond of saying, "You are what you are because of reservation; without reservation, you would have been nothing." In the above mentioned lyrics, "taking reservation" is likened to "using a ladder" or taking the "easy route".

Not very subtly, the ad ridicules the achievements of students who have availed of their right to reservation.

Reservation is not the easy route. The easy route is to mock the reserved category students to gloss over your inability to get a seat in the general category. As always, the shameful anti-reservation brigade is associating the achievements of a reserved category student with reservation. According to the lyrics, those who do not take reservation or voluntarily give up reservation are the ones who stand on their own feet. Not very subtly, the ad ridicules the achievements of students who have availed of their right to reservation.

Voluntarily giving up reservation

The one good thing that the ad does is to celebrate the voluntary relinquishing of reservation. Nobody is saying that this must not be encouraged. I do agree that certain category of people within the backward communities should voluntarily give up reservation, such as those who come from a privileged background, those earning in lakhs per month and the beacon-flashing community (MPs, MLAs, officers of the IAS and other allied Group A services, judges, etc.)

I do agree that certain category of people within the backward communities should voluntarily give up reservation... However, even they are under no obligation...

However, even they are under no moral or legal obligation to give up reservation and cannot be forced to do so. It is a decision of conscience and can be taken only by the individual concerned. Economic condition is not the sole criteria in recommending reservation to a certain community. Government provides other benefits like scholarships, subsidies, special income-based reservations etc. for checking the income inequality. The reservation meant for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is more of a social inclusion tool.

Constitutional sanctity

Reservation is a legitimate constitutional right. It is a tool to mend the wrongs perpetuated for centuries by your forefathers. It is a tool to uplift the oppressed classes. A tool to bring the under-represented and marginalized sections of our society into the mainstream. It provides reserved seats in legislative bodies, academic institutions and government services. Moreover, reservation has constitutional sanctity. Article 330 to 342, Part 16 (Special Provisions Relating to Certain Classes) of the Constitution of India provides for reservation and other measures for uplifting the socially backward, economically weaker Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Any decision on reducing, withdrawing or scrapping of reservation is the domain of the courts, policymakers and constitutionally mandated national commissions.

Stop hounding reserved category students

Caste-based hatred and oppression is not a rural phenomenon. It is not rare for those taking reservations to be mocked and harassed. Students from backward communities are hounded by the upper-caste elite on a daily basis.

Forms in different colours, separate lines and separate venues at the time of admission are some of the methods to segregate the reserved from the unreserved.

Casteist remarks such as, 'quota waale' and 'chamaar' by fellow students and teachers is a common thing in academic institutions. Forms in different colours, separate lines and separate venues at the time of admission are some of the methods to segregate the reserved from the unreserved. A method to separate untouchables from touchables. It is as if they are being punished for taking reservation.

The anti-reservation brigade must introspect and learn a thing or two about the issue of reservation and the history of caste-based oppression and atrocities. If you feel strongly about the issue, take it up with the courts and policymakers instead of aggressing against students.

Here's a glimpse of how students are taunted and harassed by the upper caste anti-reservation brigade (a scene from the movie Aarakshan):

Merit? Let's see

As far as merit is concerned, let me enlighten you about the many SC/ST and OBC students who have achieved top ranks in the merit list. These are some of the top ranks achieved by reserved category students in the country's toughest Civil Services Examination (CSE):

Rank 4 - OBC (IAS CSE 2005), Rank 28 - SC (IAS CSE 2005)

Rank 11 - SC (IAS CSE 2006); Rank 1 - OBC (IAS CSE 2006)

Rank 29 - ST (IAS CSE 2007), Rank 9 - SC (IAS CSE 2008)

Rank 1 - OBC (IAS CSE 2010), Rank 18, 20, 22 - SC (IAS CSE 2010)

Rank 57 - SC (IAS CSE 2011); Rank 36 - ST (IAS CSE 2012)

Rank 4, 5, 6, 7 - OBC (IAS CSE 2014); Rank 14 - SC (IFS CSE 2014)

Rank 46 - ST (IAS CSE 2014)

You have every right to celebrate those who voluntarily give up reservation. However, you have no right to stereotype a community.

A message for Havells and anti-reservation crusaders

You are free to exercise freedom of speech and expression. You have every right to espouse your views and demand scrapping of reservations. You have every right to celebrate those who voluntarily give up reservation. However, you have no right to stereotype a community. No right to mock and harass those who take reservation by saying "apne dum par hun khada, nahin chahiye mujhko seedhi". No right to ridicule the achievements of reserved category students by saying "reservation is the easy route". No "winds of change" (hawa badlegi) argument can mend historic wrongs, but reservation might.

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