Open Letter to Amulya Gopalakrishnan – 2 PDF Print E-mail

KK Kak
This is with reference to your blogpost "Fanning the fire: why the Havells anti-reservation ad got everyone winded" (ToI, 31/3/16,

Did it get “everyone” winded? You represent and speak for “everyone”?

What is so offensive about asking people to give up their reservation privileges? Reservations are only one method of affirmative action, and whether they actually work or not is open to debate. In fact, in over 60 years of reservation politics, we have not seen a single SC/ST/OBC caste move out of the quota ambit -- what we are actually seeing is a race to the bottom where even powerful castes (Jats, Patels, Marathas) want quota benefits. So when you say it is difficult for OBCs to cross each educational threshold, to which OBCs are you referring -- Jats? Patels? Yadavs?

Then you criticize those who ask why the better-off Dalits and OBCs should give up their quota benefits -- you ask why my own inherited privileges are okay. Would you mind telling me what privileges I, as a so-called forward caste, have inherited that the children of Lalu Yadav or Ram Vilas Paswan haven't? What privileges will my children inherit that Lalu Yadav or Ram Paswan's grandchildren will not inherit? The Yadav/Paswan children have access to the best schools and best circles of Bihar society. They have about ten times as much money as I do, and a ready-made job in politics waiting for them as soon as they are old enough to take it. Why should they get quota benefits -- as opposed to me, or even more so, to a poor brahmin earning Rs.5000 per month?

This whole image of prejudiced forward castes grudging helpless Dalits/OBCs "any shaky foothold in the interests of social justice" is about 20 years outdated. Many so-called OBC groups have made massive strides, e.g., the Yadavs are probably now the most powerful caste group in UP and Bihar. And they still cling to quotas. And it is also said that the biggest oppressors of Dalits in UP/Bihar are now the OBC Yadavs and not the “forward castes”. Jats burning down Haryana are scarcely weak or helpless -- and yet they are now called OBCs.

The question is not whether the genuinely poor should get help, but whether all who claim to be backward are really so.

And the Havell's ad is not about caste but about gender -- why should a woman avail of gender quotas if she doesn't feel backward? During my MBA days, a prominent company offered to institute an award/scholarship for the women students only. The women students asked for the award to be made open to all on the grounds that they could compete equally with their male colleagues -- they needed no special award. The corporate refused because an open award wouldn't meet their CSR objectives! The women students thanked the corporate and requested it to take its CSR women-only award somewhere else -- they wanted no crutches and no patronization. That is self-respect. And that was nearly 20 years ago. It seems that many women today have still to reach where those women-students were two decades ago.