Two thousand years ago, the great Aristotle said: “Injustice arises when equals are treated unequally and also when unequals are treated equally.” This profound statement is what lies at the heart of equality – a fundamental human right. That’s right: every human…simply by virtue of being a human being…is entitled to equal treatment. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
If we look back into time, human beings have always managed to find a way to segregate and discriminate amongst each other…and not always and solely on the basis of colour, caste, and creed. [Heck…we discriminate on all possible variables, be it wealth, region, religion, language, gender, education, sexuality, physical appearances, disability…blah, blah, blah.]
Of course, the most significant, pervasive, and violent discrimination in our country piggybacks on the back of the centuries-old caste system. Even though the times have changed and aeons have passed, the truth is…we are still trapped in the clutches of the caste system.
The caste system, in fact, glares back at you every Sunday when you open the newspaper and stare at the caste-classified matrimonial classifieds. This is why inter-caste marriages are still a taboo, despite the strides made in the name of progress. Of course, this division of caste is not just reserved for when you wish to tie the knot. It accompanies you every step of the way…from the time you’re born to the time you die.
Unfortunately, it is this very caste system that has been the bane of our country’s existence…the one thing that has prevented us from being a unified whole. You already know how the British exploited this weakness of ours through their philosophy of ‘Divide-and-Rule’…And even though the British have left, this “division” is still alive and kicking – thanks to the caste-based quota system.
In fact, this division has been brought back to the forefront in the wake of the Jat unrest in Haryana. And sadly, like the British, the politicians are now resorting to the same principle of “Divide-and-Rule” (playing caste politics in the garb of caste reservations)…choosing even to ignore the directives of the Supreme Court, which has ruefully regretted this “privilege that has remained unchanged even after 68 years of independence…as if it was to compete with eternity”. Not that you can blame the politicians…after all, when political interest is at stake, who cares about national interest?
If we look at the Reservation Policy in India, we are the only country in the world that provides affirmative action based on individual caste identities. While it it often argued that Reservations are tools of upliftment for those disadvantaged groups who have suffered years of discrimination and oppression at the hands of the higher castes, the sad truth is this: “The quota system has not bridged the gap, it has broadened it”!
In fact, even as the drama unfolded on our television sets, the ramifications became clear as crystal: Today it’s the Jats, tomorrow it will be ___________________ . How long can the country trample the human rights (of some people) in the name of safeguarding the human rights (of some people)?!? After all, reverse discrimination is also discrimination. You are not only driving a wedge between the different communities, you are playing with the nation’s interest; thereby instead of working towards becoming a meritocracy that values human effort and human knowledge, we are bowing down in defeat to this very caste divide that stares back at us like a fierce six-headed Hydra, threatening to spew more venom in our already-fragile social system.
If we do not revise (and abolish) this preferential discrimination policy — aka the Quota system or the Reservation policy — we are going to see more division, more resentment, and more violence. It’s alarming, really! Not only are we robbing ourselves of peace and progress, we are robbing ourselves of our very human right.
Of course, before you give in to despair, you must remember these words of a coloured man, Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”.