Thursday, June 08, 2006

When Arjun Singh made him feel 'backward'

Caste-based reservations are an insult to people of so-called "lower castes". But politicians will not listen, as the majority of Indians in OBC vote-banks don't seem to understand this.

From the Indian Express:
New Delhi, June 8: I am an OBC. I come from a place where discrimination on the basis of caste is common. I grew up hearing I was inferior because I was from a backward class. All through my childhood I regretted the fact that I belonged to a backward class.

When friends would tease me over my caste, my mother would tell me the only way to shut them up was to study well and top in class. I took her advice seriously and channelised my frustration into my studies. This brought about a big change in me: I started working very hard. From performing poorly in class I, I now excelled in studies, coming second in the district (supaul) in the class X exams in 1996.

Even after that achievement, some of my casteist friends disparaged my success, insinuating that I must have had some connection with the state government—I shared my caste with the then chief minister of Bihar. I was very disappointed. It wasn’t just the barbs of friends. My disappointment was more over belonging to my particular caste. But then once again I began preparing very hard to prove that my performance in the board exams had been the result of my own effort.

I worked very hard and got through IIT-JEE 2000, ultimately obtaining admission to the B-Tech programme in Chemical Engineering at IIT Kharagpur. Initially, I was apprehensive about facing the same discrimination here as well. But I was surprised when no one asked me my caste. Nobody really cared which caste, creed or religion one belonged to. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of equality.

It is my deep conviction that no place on earth can ever be as secular and free of casteism as IIT. Slowly, the feeling of inferiority engendered by my caste began fading away. I started believing in the equality of humankind. I started loving people—not based on their caste, but based on their values and ideas. I forgot all the discrimination I had faced earlier in life.

Looking back, I feel proud of having lived in such an environment. This place not only educated me technically, but socially as well. After my stint in Kharagpur, I believe I am truly secular. I’m not merely saying it; I feel it.

Perhaps it’s the way of the world that the moment you begin feeling good about something, it’s taken away from you. Before this 27 per cent education for OBCs was introduced, I had begun believing that India was growing not only economically, but also socially. I was beginning to feel free from the restrictions of of caste and creed.

But then our leaders reminded me of my caste. They made me feel "backward" all over again. They made me remember my childhood days. It has suddenly become difficult for me to feel the same as I did before this latest announcement.

I am truly worried about my alma mater. I feel our leaders are going to spoil our haven on earth for their own narrow, selfish motives. I would like to propose a solution: send all our leaders to the IITs. Only then would they come to realise the real meaning of secularism, the value they keep trumpeting. I would not take umbrage if IIT seats were given to our leaders to make them understand the true meaning of secularism.

But now I am sure that once they make reservations mandatory for admissions in institutes, equality shall be replaced with hatred and discrimination. I urge our leaders: please don’t do this to us. Our generation has changed. Please don’t separate us on the basis of our birth, something over which one has no control. We have the power to mould our destinies and fortunes; allow us to do that. We have started believing in equality, hard work and dedication as the recipe for success. Please don’t break our faith. It will endanger the unity of our nation. Please let the new generation of India live in a world where ideas matter, not the caste or religion into which one is born.

The writer was in the Class of 2004, B-Tech Chemical Engineering, IIT Kharagpur.


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