Of all the various Azadi chants in the recent JNU fracas, the one that stood out for me was 'Manuvaad Se Azadi'--freedom from caste. (I didn't care too much for the 'Punjivaad Se Azadi' since I'm a capitalist at heart, believe in meritocracy and think that it's better to make everyone equally rich rather than make everyone equally poor! But I digress...)
Much like racism in the West--but for way, way longer--India has been plagued by casteism. It apparently originates from the time of Manu, the first man who sort of framed the rules of how we Hindus should structure civilized society. It was pretty inspiring and visionary when it started: the idea was to develop excellence in individual disciplines from generation to generation. But over the centuries it became completely rigid--a model of suffocation and persecution with large dollops of religious connotation thrown in to give it fake legitimacy that finally created the vile caste system that people couldn't break out of, and still can't.
We don't need populist budgets, vote banks, reservations, crony capitalism and glacial progress. We need disruption. We need to overturn society. We need Azadi.
Modern science has by now taught us at least a few things--that we are all made of flesh, bones and blood; that Earth is not the centre of the universe; that beyond the clouds is no heaven but cold, empty space; that there are no inherent differences between peoples of different colours, races, geographies, castes or religions; that human emotion is universal, that the loss of a loved one causes equal grief irrespective of your faith or caste; that all humans equally need food, water and air and that no humans are more equal than others. The jury is still out on the Hindu rebirth cycle but I think we all know what the answer to that one is going to be.
At best what can separate one person from another other are physical and/or mental ability and the amount of wealth you are born into. But unless acted upon and diligently nurtured, even these advantages quickly fade.
The Prime Minister wants India to occupy its rightful place on the world stage. The Prime Minister wants to be a Man of Destiny, he wants to make the 21st century India's century. But to do that, he must and we must make some bold moves. Something radical, even audacious. Something that disrupts the very fabric of our DNA, tears it apart and then creates anew. We don't need populist budgets, vote banks, reservations, crony capitalism and glacial progress. We need disruption. We need to overturn society. We need Azadi.
Reservations only continue to foster the caste system, keep it alive. When the US banned slavery, it didn't create a complicated system of reservation for African Americans.
So here's an idea--instead of perpetuating reservations, why don't we, as a society, just BAN caste?
Reservations only continue to foster the caste system, keep it alive. When the US banned slavery, it didn't create a complicated system of reservation for African Americans. Instead, over a period of agony, resistance, violence and some affirmative action, American society grew up and came to terms with the fact that all men and women are equal. It is a process of maturing that India desperately needs to do. Not just caste, we're immature about humour, sex, politics, well just about anything under the sun. We need to grow up.
We should ban Manuvaad. I agree with the chant. Manuvaad Se Azadi!
Anyway our caste system is nuts. For the average Joe (or Jai), we are long past being priests (Brahmins) or warriors (Kshatriyas). We know that occupations like trade and service can be choices. We know that no one can really be 'untouchable'. We know that all humanity shares common blood groups. We know that an African or Chinese heart will beat just as well in a Harijan's body as it will in a Brahmin's or Muslim's body only if medical science permits it. It's got nothing to do with God.
If 1947 was the first Azadi with much credit to the Gujarati Gandhi, then 2016 can be our next Azadi with all credit to another Gujarati--Modi.
I think the Prime Minister should take a Lincolnesque position. Abraham Lincoln banned slavery. Narendra Modi should put an end to reservations and ban caste. Ban it. Force all party support, amend the Constitution. Make it illegal and harshly punishable. In one fell blow, he will shake India to its very foundation. Rather than try to gradually unravel millennia of evil dogma, he can and should just slice through the Gordian Knot like Alexander The Great. He can free India, truly free India. If 1947 was the first Azadi with much credit to the Gujarati MK Gandhi, then 2016 can be our next Azadi with all credit to another Gujarati--Narendra Modi. Gandhi moved a step forward and created the Harijan, Modi can take a leap forward and destroy the very idea of caste.
Too much? Too absurd? Well, I don't know. To start with our Constitution had already made caste discrimination unlawful, with a very specific affirmative action to help integrate the absolute backward tribes into the mainstream, a reservation for Scheduled Castes and Tribes. Along the way Mandal added reservations for OBCs and then VP Singh opened Pandora's Box. Political parties now play the caste and minority cards with impunity. But nation must come before caste and religion. It must come first, always. I think Mr Modi is trying to say that but then his millions of minions proceed to say and do the exact opposite.
So what does banning caste mean? It means that we immediately cease to be Brahmins and Kshatriyas and Rajputs and Yadavs and Singhs and Kumars and anything.
So what does banning caste mean? It means that we immediately cease to be Brahmins and Kshatriyas and Rajputs and Yadavs and Singhs and Kumars and anything. All caste and tribe references become purely surnames and over time lose all significance. I am Sameer Nair... it sort of geographically places me as a Keralite but that should be about it. I should not have anything further to go with. From here on, meritocracy must take over, and whatever advantages (mental, physical, of wealth) of birth I have or don't have is just the luck of the draw. By banning caste, we are actually banning reservations.
Instead of giving sops to the less fortunate, the State must actively and aggressively build infrastructure for them--education, health and employment. The faster we do that, the quicker caste inequality will dissipate and the sooner we will become truly equal as a society, a society that places a premium only on meritocracy, a society that gives unfair advantage to no one, either rich or poor. Caste discrimination today happens primarily in a religious and political context, impacting education, accommodation, government jobs and marriage. Take that away and it solves multiple problems at once.
Instead of giving sops to the less fortunate, the State must actively and aggressively build infrastructure for them--education, health and employment.
Who will revolt? The upper castes? They're anyway in the minority, and have had it real good for long, so that won't fly! The lower castes? Saying that by banning caste, we've also thrown their "reserved" status out and that it's an unfair level playing field? The religious minorities? Because they'll realize that their turn is coming next, that minority appeasement will no longer be a card to play? Or the RSS? They shouldn't mind really. They've been seeking a Hindu Revival, a Hindu Renaissance if you will--what better than returning to a glorious, golden age of Hinduism where merit, not caste, ruled.
Yes, there will be considerable sense of loss of entitlement for all the "affected parties". To offset this, and using the considerable savings it would generate, the State should provide infrastructural support on a massive scale. It will be argued that unless you have some form of reservations, how will the less fortunate get equal opportunity? Like a wartime mobilization, make it the State's singular and primary focus to rapidly build additional infrastructure to bring everyone into the fold. Treat religious minorities also like caste, ban the freebie but give them full access to the State's infrastructure. A couple of laser-focused Five year Plans and we'll never look back again. We will have truly arrived into the 21st century, we will have finally laid to rest Manu's ghost and unlocked the potential of 1.2 billion minds. Only then will it be India's century. And only Mr Modi can do it.
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