- The socio-political movement that led to this phenomenon known as “Mandal” has dramatically changed the demographic diversity of people’s representatives.
- Christophe Jaffrelot called it, ‘India’s Silent Revolution’.
- ‘India’s Silent Revolution’ identified socially and educationally backward castes and communities by not letting religion become a barrier.
- Historically, in Varna system, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) formed most of Shudra, the fourth category.
- They mostly engaged in activities such as agriculturalist, field workers or artisans or in the field of construction.
- OBC especially in Hindu belt and social system, situated above the untouchables, but below the twice born known as “dvij” or called as kshtriya and vaishyas.
Issues of OBC:
- According to Mandal commission report of 1980, OBC formed half of Indian population and in 2006 when national sample survey organization conducted, they are found around 41%.
- Low political representation
- Caste bias in development projects and lack of political will to steer development initiatives towards backward communities.
- Long-established upper-caste patronage networks and ‘elite capture’ of government programmes.
Kaka Kalekar Commission:
- Government of India formed first backward commission in 1953 headed by Kaka Kalelkar.
- The commission presented its report in 1955.
- There were many contradictions within the report such as 5 members of the commission put a disagreement note, few opposed the clause that says backwardness should be jointly seen with cast.
- Thus, the commission didn’t present a neutral report and it was thus, not accepted by the government.
The B.P. Mandal Commission:
- Constituted in 1978 by Morarji Desai government, the second backward class commission was headed by B.P. Mandal.
- Reservation of 27% government jobs for OBCs for those who do not qualify on merit
- Reservation of 27% for promotions at all levels in government jobs for OBCs.
- Quota of reservation, if didn’t fill, should be carried forward for 3 years.
- A roster system should be prepared for backward classes on the same pattern as that of Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes and the age relaxation for OBCs to be same as SC, STs.
- Government must make legal provision to make these recommendations a reality.
- The VP Singh government accepted the recommendations of Mandal Commission.
About the Mandal Movement:
- The acceptance of Mandal Commission’s recommendations led to gradual political rise of the backward communities. There were many reasons for the same.
- First, the demographic weight of the backward communities.
- The second was the fact that OBCs were not a natural constituency of the Congress and preferred peasant-based formations, socialist parties and regional parties — all of which were on the ascendant then.
- And the third was the impact of the Green Revolution which led to their economic empowerment and desire for upward professional mobility.
- The Mandal moment saw ferocious backlash by sections of upper castes. This opposition was articulated on two axes — the fact that reservations compromised merit, and if at all reservations should open up beyond what was offered to Scheduled Castes and Tribes, it should be on economic lines.
- These arguments hid beneath it a real fear of losing power and opportunities. And it launched an era of open hostility between upper castes and backward communities, particularly in the Hindi heartland.
- OBCs became a force to contend with, and it is no surprise that no government in Uttar Pradesh or Bihar can now be formed without their active support.
- But it also opened up a Pandora’s Box. For one, the resentment of those communities which did not have a share in the reservation pie increased.
- Further, political parties, in order to appease them, continued to expand reservation — to the extent that now economically weaker sections of dominant communities avail quotas, and in many states, there is over 70% reservation in key spheres.
- This has undermined the entire purpose of reservation, envisaged as a tool to address historic injustice, and made it an exercise in power distribution and employment generation.
- Second, within OBCs, some communities benefited more than others, which led to a political divide and demands for sub-categorisation.
- The role played by two Dalit icons, Kanshi Ram and Ram Vilas Paswan for mobilisation and implementation of Mandal has been immense.
Democracy & Social justice:
- The social justice discourse in modern India can be traced to the initiatives of social revolutionaries such as Jyotiba Phule, Savitribai Phule, Sahuji Maharaj and Periyar during colonial rule.
- But a sustained intervention with a concrete outcome in terms of policy prescriptions surfaced only with B.R. Ambedkar arriving on the national scene.
- The “depressed classes” (Dalits) and “tribals” (Adivasis) — as they were termed by the colonisers — were already listed as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, respectively, by 1935.
- The benefits of reservation in education and employment for these social groups in proportion to their population were adopted as soon as the Constitution of India came into force.
- But a large section of the “backward classes” and occupational caste groups remained socially and educationally backward; hence, their presence in the bureaucracy, the judiciary, academia or the media remained abysmal.
- The Constituent Assembly had debated caste-class dichotomy. It was envisioned that backward classes would be backward communities.
- This was endorsed by B.R. Ambedkar who said: “…a backward community is a community which is backward in the opinion of the government….” But the Mandal report reaffirmed this with the line “a caste can be and quite often is a social class in India”.
- Article 340 of the Constitution entailed egalitarian possibility that resulted in two Backward Classes commissions, the Kalelkar Commission (1953-1955) and the Mandal Commission (1978-80).
- The mobilisation campaign for implementing the recommendations of the latter led to a “Mandal movement” characterised by the announcement of 27% reservation for the Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the central service in 1990.
- The 73rd and 74th Amendments have furthered the idea of social justice by extending reservation benefits to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs.
- Horizontal reservation was also extended to all women.
- In 2006, reservations were extended to OBC candidates in institutions of higher learning — popularly known as Mandal II.
Success of Mandal Movement:
- Mandal parties checkmated communal mobilisations and hate mongering by the right wing. There were two spectacular political decisions in 1990 — the arrest of L.K. Advani by the Lalu Prasad-led government in Bihar at the height of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Second, the Mulayam Singh-led government in Uttar Pradesh ordering the police to fire at kar sevaks assembled in Ayodhya near the Babri Masjid.
- Another point of merit derived from “Mandal” has been the identifying of socially and educationally backward castes and communities by not letting religion become a barrier.
- The consciousness generated by Mandal demolished a perception about Indian Muslims being a homogenous monolith.
- The churning around Mandal also led to the emergence of a pasmanda (backward in Persian) movement among backward Muslims demanding democratisation and representation.
- Mandaite political parties have made serious blunders too by restricting key organisational positions to family members and extending favours to caste brethren.
- Hence, the entire architecture of reservations needs a review, with the aim of creating a just, inclusive and equal society, without pandering to populist movements.
- There could be possible course correction such as being more accommodative towards the aspirations of the lower castes such as the economically backward classes or most backward classes; forging alliances with parties championing Dalit and Adivasi agendas; and pushing for quota within quota in the women’s reservation Bill — which is still pending — with fresh insights, and also fielding more women candidates from the marginalised communities.
Source: The Hindu