Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Renewing Our Tryst with Destiny

Today India completes 60 years as a republic. It is truly a cause for celebration. At its conception the Indian nation was not given much of a chance of survival. But 60 years on here we are, a vibrant democracy poised to take our rightful place on the world stage. The Constitution of India is the backbone that has enabled this miracle. And while Dr B R Ambedkar has correctly been called the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, it was really the result of 3 year long debate by nearly 300 men and women who made up the Constituent Assembly.
It was at these debates that the very issues that we still debate today were first debated; debated by men and women who were more committed to the idea of India, more aware and passionate about their responsibility to the Indian people and certainly as a group a lot more representative of the ideal of India as it should be, of India as envisaged by our freedom fighters.
The debates of the members of the Constituent Assembly make for interesting reading. A quote in particular which I'd like to make the topic of this blog was attributed to Begum Aizaz Rasul during the debate on minority reservations. She said "Sir, those Muslims who wanted to go to Pakistan have done so. Those who decided to stay here wish to be on friendly and amicable terms with the majority community and realise that they must develop their lives according to the environments and circumstances existing here....To my mind reservation is a self-destructive weapon which separates the minorities from the majority for all time. It gives no chance to the minorities to win the good-will of the majority...To my mind it is very necessary that the Muslim living in this country should throw themselves entirely upon the good-will of the majority community, should give up separatist tendencies and throw their full weight in building up a truly secular state." Of course her comments were roundly criticized by those Muslims who were pro-reservation, but that these comments were expressed at that time and by a Muslim woman is truly amazing. The idea of reservation based on religion was was shot down then but we have still ended up with caste based reservation. What was initially meant to be a temporary step to reverse centuries of injustice to an oppressed people has become firmly entrenched in our lives. In the last 60 years there have been no real studies to evaluate the effect of reservation as policy. Meanwhile the groups of people who have demanded and been brought under the gambit of reservation has steadily increased. In my mind nothing can be a greater statement to the failure of the policy of reservation than that particular fact. All of which brings us back to the Begum's statement. Reservation is a self-destructive weapon which separates the reserved from the unreserved for all time. I've never been able to understand the dichotomy. If religion based reservation does not ring constant in a secular state then how can caste based reservation in a state that has outlawed casteism? Meanwhile our politicians have taken to heart the British policy of divide and rule and will do everything really to try and divide us along communal and casteist lines. Its time to re-examine and re-evaulate our entire policy of caste based reservations. But who will show the political will to take what will be such an unpopular step?
In this the 60th anniversary of the Indian republic my wish for India is a whole new breed of politicians who will show the kind of passion and commitment to India that this nation and its people deserve.

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