Delhi Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam Tuesday said the time had come for those from the reserved categories to say they did not want reservation, as the same was being used against them, and to question their merit and abilities.
He was speaking at a public gathering at Delhi University’s (DU) Arts Faculty North Campus before a candlelight march demanding justice for Payal Tadvi, the Mumbai resident doctor who committed suicide, allegedly due to caste discrimination.
Speaking at DU, Gautam said, “This is a matter of great sadness that every two-three months there is one or the other issue and we stand up for it, to fight, to protest and agitate. Whereas our entire community’s attention should be on development (vikas), these issues divert us from this goal, so that we forget about development and are forced to fight for justice… Whether it is the Rohith Vemula suicide, or Dr Payal Tadvi’s suicide. We need to understand what the conspiracy behind this is.”
“I feel the time has come for us to say something. We also now need to say that we don’t want reservation. They comment on us, question our ability and merit, when it comes to reservations. Now we need to say that we need in every sphere hissedari and bhagidari (share and participation), whether it is farm lands or our other natural resources,” he added.
Gautam was met with ‘boos’ from some in the crowd, and his speech was followed by slogans of ‘Reservation pe hamla nahi sahenge (we won’t toleration any attack on reservation)’ by students.
Speaking to The Indian Express on the sidelines, Gautam said he was not against reservation but felt focus needed to be shifted from it.
“I’m not against reservation. I am where I am today because of reservation, but the focus needs to change now. It is being used against us, to attack us. For example, instead of reservations in jobs, we should be given financial aid so that it can help us in setting up small industries. Let’s not forget that reservations were not our original demand anyway. It was given under pressure by Mahatma Gandhi because Ambedkar was demanding a separate electorate,” he said.
Besides Gautam, several students and teachers from DU, JNU, Ambedkar University, Jamia Millia Islamia spoke at the protest and demanded justice for Tadvi. Parallels were also drawn with the suicide of Dalit Hyderabad Central university scholar Rohith Vemula in 2016.
N Sukumar, a teacher of political science at DU. said SC/ST cells were dysfunctional across the board. He too drew a parallel with Vemula and said, “These Brahmanical institutions are not being challenged by us. If Appa Rao (HCU vice-chancellor at the time of Vemula’s suicide) had been punished, this would have not happened today.”
(With inputs from Ananya Tiwari)
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