‘Azad maidan’, the name instantly brings to mind furious protests, conflagarating political rhetoric and the omnipresent equalizer “mumbai police lathi” which finds it’s destination infalliably surpassing all barriers of religion, caste or creed. This Sunday wasn’t any different, only the lathi was curiously silent and much of the talking was done by the anti-reservation protestors who had gathered here to vociferously decry their stand against the proposed and now implemented reservation policy of the UPA government. The student body at the forefront of this agitation is the ‘Youth For Equality’ (YFE), which with it’s relentless efforts of encouraging students and anyone else who felt strongly about this issue to make their presence felt at the grand rally held on Sunday, 28th of May.
The atmosphere was electric probably due to the thousand-odd student crowd that was not too shy to exercise their freedom of expression at the highest possible decibel. Placards, arm-bands and protest pamphlets firmly in hand, the enthusiasm and energy was infectious. I had come here with the sole intent of understanding the strong sentiment behind this whole issue for which students felt compelled to leave their exams and doctors abandon their practice.
I decided to indulge in some corroborative investigative journalism. My aspirations of acquiring juicy reality–bites went capote due to the teeming mass in front near the podium. As the evening progressed the rationale behind the anti-reservation rhetoric became more than evident and the overwhelming support with which the students stood by it was impressive considering the indifferent passive response social issues manage to garner from a similar demographic. But there was something amiss and considering the situation I was afraid that the answer would be very disturbing.
Here’s a conversation I had with a PYT, protesting young thing, in this case, on why she was against reservations:
Me: So why are you opposed to reservations for the socially-backward? Don’t you think it is necessary for their growth in society?
PYT: Reservations are bad for our country’s progress, they must be removed. These OBC’s want it easy, why can’t they study like everybody else and get admissions. It’s so difficult for general category students to get in IIT’s, IIM’s. We don’t have enough seats left for us! That Arjun Singh is an idiot, he doesn’t understand anything!
Me: Then what about other reservations like NRI and management quota, women’s reservation?
PYT: That’s different. Women need the help to be uplifted; they have limited opportunities, so it is justified. The other quotas can go but isn’t it the prerogative of the institute to decide that?
Me: So you don’t completely oppose reservations, just are selectively against it?
PYT: No nothing like that. You know reservations also compromise merit. How can we build a progressive
Me: Is a three hour exam held on a single day enough to judge merit, to ascertain the capabilities of an individual completely?
PYT: No, but that is how it is and they should also be judged on an equal basis.
Me: So you don’t necessarily believe that the results of an entrance exam are corresponding to a person’s merit?
PYT: Not always, maybe. What’s you point? Why are you against a good thing that is happening? We all here are opposed to it. Don’t you think it will harm your own interests in the long run?
Me: I am not for reservations as such, but am just trying to understand the reason behind these protests.
PYT: What’s there to understand? It is pretty obvious.
What is disturbing is that most of these protestors don’t seem to be willing to take time to reflect, discuss or even understand the universal ramifications of their actions. I do not base my observations on my conversation with a single person nor do I undermine the intellectual capacity of doctors, engineers and esteemed, highly respected individuals associated with this movement. I only wish to question the volition behind these passionate pleas and vociferous agitations. Conviction, they say, can cause more harm to the truth than lies itself. Have we as students lost our foresight to the demons of frustration and angst? The latent hatred in the eyes of the protestors was alarming.
Yes, reservations are regressive; they have no standing in today’s competitive world of globalization and it is not a competent solution to bring about social justice and equality. In practicality, a zero reservation policy is difficult to adopt as we ascribe to ‘neutrality in secularism’ and not ‘prohibitive secularism’ as seen in
p.s. also see previous post.