Updated: June 28, 2022 4:59:37 pm
The caste system in India had been a form of reservation system where only people belonging to some castes could get education and enjoy wealth, senior Karnataka Congress leader and ex-chief minister Siddaramaiah has said, asserting that reservations are needed to overcome the social inequalities caused by the caste system.
“In the Chaturvarna system only Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas could be educated. Only they could enjoy wealth. Only they had the opportunity to govern. Was it not a form of reservation? The majority Shudras were robbed of access to education. They could not enjoy the benefits of their own hard work,” Siddaramaiah said at a function held here last Sunday for the release of a book “Reservations – Myth and realities” written by former Karnataka High Court judge H N Nagamohan Das.
“This is why Dr Ambedkar said that as long as there is a caste system there must be reservations. As long as there is social inequality there should be reservations,” Siddaramaiah said.
The Leader of Opposition rued that the backward classes failed to demand their constitutional right for reservations and that the move by the Narendra Modi-led BJP government to provide 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker sections among upper castes was a “setback” for the demand for reservations for the socially and educationally deprived communities in the country.
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“Changes do not happen just by spoken words. It has been 75 years since Independence and 72 years since the framing of the Constitution of India. There has been no change in the situation. The presence of backward classes in government jobs is only two per cent at present,” he said.
Siddaramaiah,73, who belongs to the backward class Kuruba community is among the foremost BC leaders in Karnataka. Before joining the Congress in 2006, he was a part of the Janata Parivar, where caste and affirmative action were a central tenet of the socialist politics pursued by its leaders.
Like the Bihar CM and Janata Dal (United) supremo Nitish Kumar, Siddaramaiah is an admirer of Ram Manohar Lohia, who championed the cause of the underprivileged classes while seeking to break caste strangleholds in Indian society.
Siddaramaiah attempted to build up his support base among minorities, backward classes, and Dalits before he quit the Janata Dal to switch to the Congress. He has had limited success in nurturing this political base splintered across parties. The Kuruba community, which makes up nearly eight per cent of the 33 per cent backward classes’ population in Karnataka, is however among those groups who have continued to rally behind his leadership, even as he gears up for the crucial Assembly elections next year.
In his hard-hitting speech at the book-release event, Siddaramaiah said, “Now what has happened is that Narendra Modi has given 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker sections in the upper castes. Is there any provision in the Constitution of India for such reservations under Article 15 or 16? What do these Articles say? It says that the socially and educationally backward people must be given reservations. There is no provision for reservations for the economically weaker section. They passed the bill for reservations for economically weaker sections in a hurry, within a day. It was an unconstitutional move and we all have been keeping quiet,” he charged.
“Reservations are not new, it has been in existence in Karnataka for over 100 years and many other places. In Maharashtra it was done by Sahu Maharaj — the Justice Party campaigned and got it done in Tamil Nadu. It did not happen in North India but it happened in South India,” Siddaramaiah said, adding that many backward class people were themselves unaware of the reasons and efforts for reservation for the socially and educationally backward communities.
“There is no understanding on why reservations are needed and the purpose of reservations,” he said. “How many in the backward classes know the background of the reservation issue – how many know about the Miller Commission, Kaka Kalelkar Commission, Naganagouda report, Venkataswamy report, about the Chinappa Reddy Commission report — no one has read these things. Even among the educated many have not read the Constitution,” Siddaramaiah said. “After the Kalelkar Commission (first backward classes commission) report was rejected in 1955, no one asked for a new commission for 22 years. In 1977 the Janata Party government announced a new commission – the Mandal Commission. The report was submitted to the government in 1980. The report did not see the light of day until VP Singh became the PM (in 1989). We have been tolerating the injustice and living quietly.”
Taking aim at the ruling BJP, the Congress leader charged: “Who opposed the reservations? The ones who deliver big lectures about the backward classes these days (the BJP) are the ones who opposed it at the time. Who carried out the rath yatra? Who arrested them? We have been living quietly despite all the injustice. They carry out atrocities and keep asking what is the purpose of reservations, for how many years will you have reservations?”
Siddaramaiah further said, “There are 4653 castes — who created these castes? If I say these things, then everyone pounces on me. That is the problem. You cannot tell the truth,” he said. “It is a fact that despite being in the majority we (BCs) are the ones who get abused. If one of us speaks then there will be a response from 20 on the other side. No one on our side will speak after that — they will all go quiet.’’
“Even those who have been provided with reservation are not bothered… There should have been celebrations over the Mandal report which recommended 27 per cent reservations but they (from BCs) joined the protests against the commission,” Siddaramaiah charged.
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