Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fighting for Backwardness

The struggle of the Gujjars in Rajasthan to be included in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category is nothing but their quest for being ‘backward’ in the law. Chinappa Reddy J in Vasanth Kumar v. State of Karnataka stated that never has he seen castes fighting for backwardness (in the case of ligayats and vookaligas) and this marked the state of our nation. Similar circumstances have arisen now.

The Gujjars are traditional shepherds found across many states in north and western India. They are both Hindus and Muslims. In places like Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, they have been given the ST identity. Haryana and Rajasthan have sought to keep them in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. From what I understand, the tension began when the Jats, a powerful community in Rajasthan were classified as OBCs. The Jats constitute 15% of the population in Rajasthan; their classification by the BJP Government was seen as nothing but a political move by which the BJP gained a lot of support.

The procedure for the classification of a scheduled tribe is given in Article 342 of the Constitution. It states

342. Scheduled Tribes.—(1) The President may with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within tribes or tribal communities which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State or Union territory, as the case may be.

(2) Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Tribes specified in a notification issued under clause (1) any tribe or tribal community or part of or group within any tribe or tribal community, but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification.

Pursuant to this the Constitution Scheduled Tribes Order, 1950 was formed which contains the list of tribes. The Gujjars wanted to be included in that list.

But why then would someone want to be included in that list? Are reservations in educational institutions and government offices so tempting that one would sacrifice their identity and status for them? Ironic though, it’s a true state of affairs in this Country of ours. In fact, this situation is perfect for the advocates of anti- reservation to stand up and again raise hue and cry about it. While on one side some amongst us say that there must be reservation in the country to uplift the classes, on the other side we have groups fighting for recognition and that upliftment.

I went through wikipedia and the sources mentioned on Gujjars; and here’s what I could infer:-

a) that the Gujjars are not that economically backward as compared to other tribes in the ST list.

b) There is a lot of vote bank politics involved in their classification as a ST.

c) they were a ‘criminal tribe’ during the british period. (though not an issue now)

Development for certain classes of people in the country then has largely become a political issue. Not that it never was. Its just that now constitutional fundamentals and ideals are being mixed with politics. Nani Palkhivala wrote in the Times of India, (26 Jan 1992) after Indira Sawhney v. Union of India,

‘I am sure Mr. VP Singh was sincere when he said that after the Supreme Court judgment in the Mandal case he could die in peace. But his policy has ensured that the nation will not live in peace. The poisonous weed of casteism has been replanted “where it will trouble us a thousand years, each age will have to reconsider it”.

Its then time for reconsideration of the way reservation is implemented in this country. We are tired of strikes, road blocks and the deaths of people. Violence is being used as a tool for getting demands met. We do not need immediate actions but lasting solutions to such problems.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Creative Freedom v. Moral Policing: A Question of Human Rights.

(By Arun Mohan)
Perhaps this post comes at a time when the Vadodara art attack controversy seems to be in the letting-off-steam stages. However, it is imperative that we address the larger, more significant question that has been churned out from the incident.

The uninitiated may read about the issue in question at “ Art Held Hostage in Vadodara ,″
Incidents of such nature are not too uncommon in present day Indian society; be it the ruckus created over the Richard Gere-Shilpa Shetty incident or the commotion made over M.F Hussain’s works depicting Hindu Goddesses in the nude, or for that matter the attack made on the Tamil Daily Dinakaran’s office in Madras over a controversial opinion poll. At the onset, it is stated that I do not wish to delve into the premise of merits/demerits of moral policing and media-gagging; nor am I speaking from the standpoint of the urban, educated and liberal citizen. There are always two sides to a moral/ethical debate (irrespective of which weighs more) and to enter it would be futile.

What then am I broaching on? To reiterate, the larger perspective simply must focus on the question of human rights. We are, vis-a-vis the context of discussion, talking about the freedom of speech and expression; one that has been recognized, respected and documented since time immemorial. To quote a learned man;
“I may not agree with what you say, but I shall defend to death your right to say it” - Voltaire

Society has been stirred, revolutions have occurred and autocracies have been thrown in the fight for this mighty and noble right. Fundamental in today’s society, in both layperson and legalese terms, the Indian Constitution recognizes it under Article 19 (1) (a). However, many would surely be aware of the fact that a right in paper cannot be equated to a right in actuality. Hence, what we are all concerned with here, is the way/attitude that has been adopted towards the exercise and restraints pertaining to rights fundamental in nature. Whether the ’saffron brigade’ decided to vandalize the art exhibition at Vadodara is of no concern to me at this juncture. What is disappointing however, is the towing of a similar line by the police, very much a State appendage. A lower Court in Rajasthan decides that a display of antics by Gere and Shetty amount to gross obscenity; are we witnessing a gradual recession in freedom within the freedom given to us? perhaps, a signal to society from State machinery and guardian institutions like the Judiciary that our rights, far from being absolute, are subject to the whims and fancies of morality of those vested with power?

Questions such as these need to be raised, answered and sensitized to the populace. Only then are we realizing our ideal of political participation in the world’s largest democracy.

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New Blogger

Wanted to annouce a new addition ..

Arun Mohan

calls himself a communist, amongst KK's favourites... I must say he's quite involved in 'social issues'///


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Why Human Rights?

I write this at a very crucial time. I, a student of law have to decide which line should I go into; the corporate side and firms where there is easy money, litigation or higher studies. This also comes at a time when the student community is debating about reservations and those who recently finished 12th would soon be on the look out for the appropriate college. Over the past few days I’ve been encountering human rights to a very great extent. Interning with various NGO’s and the Poverty course at the University have been heavily responsible for it. A question that I often ponder about during these time, “Why Human Rights?” is what I’d like to write about in the next few paragraphs.

I observe that no rich man will ever talk about a violation of his human rights, plainly because he has the means to fend for it. The very fact that one of you is reading this article is proof that you know about your rights and have the resources at hand to fight for them. But the problem is that apart from us, there are 250 million in this country and another billion or so in this world who cannot. Neither do they have a preacher nor a protector. Rights exist not for the rich but the poor who are faced with their violations every minute. They are placed at the mercy of state systems that can do as they please with them. While there are 100,000 dying in Darfur, millions displaced in New Delhi as a result of demolitions, and god knows how many languishing in Indian jails without due process; we seem to be divided into three main groups. The first, that has no clue about them and doesn’t want to associate with them. They just want to go on with their so called ‘personal lives’ without even looking at them. The second, reads about them, would like to do something, but then decide that their individual careers are more important and carry on. These two constitute the majority of the population that can fend for themselves incase they are subjected to any injustice. The third group, consists of those who make a difference in this world of inequalities. The members of this group go on the presumption that they exist in this world to fight for those who are affected by human rights violations. And why so? Because the man above did not give them the means to fight for it on their own. Because they cannot stand living in this world with so much injustice going around and lastly because they love their country.

The last line in more of a rhetorical argument. Albert Camu wrote, “There are means that cannot be excused. And I should be able to like my country and still love justice. I don’t want just any greatness for it, particularly a greatness born out of blood and falsehood. I want to keep it alive by keeping justice alive.” Camu’s quote above was written in response to the French injustices in Africa but bears lot of relevance here. The future of my country today is bleak. In the garb of globalization, millions are suffering. At one place the majority poor are being killed for the expense of a few million dollars in building a Special Economic Zone. On the other hand people languish in jails without no idea what the future has in store for them. I find it hard to believe that most of us are silent on issues like Nandigram where states get away by ordering the killing of poor farmers. To add to it, most of us seem to be more interested in the profits that an Indonesian company will make than taking the lives of people.
In my studies at law school and successive internships I understood that the most important word is ‘rights’. Once my rights are secure, only then can I look at others. In as much as some activists might argue that rights are founded on concentration camps, displaced people or the poverty stricken, I stick to the belief that it is not a gift given by the state or a decree passed by the Court, but a possession that has to be won everyday. But does one be have to be an egotist and draw the line at his rights only or does he have to look beyond? History has witnessed enough of egotists and knows too much of its consequences. I could go on passionately as most activists do as to how we need to protet human rights and all that stuff but I’d like to stop here to delve upon a greater issue, “rational legal thinking”.
Within the human rights circle I observe that there are just a few who fight not for the people but for the law. They believe in the black letter of the law and abhor the twisting of the laws for some and not for others. If I were to emulate anyone in the future it would be these kind of people. They are way above the HR activists and fight for the forsaken because they believe in the strength and application of the law. Not bundled with emotions or any passion, they rationally argue for the poverty stricken and the violated and gain ground through the legal system.
So while I intern with a person who believes in the black letter above I see a sense in their struggle with returns. But I then ask myself if this is the path I want to take as financial considerations seem to take the upper hand.
I have three more years to go at law school. Enough time to decide what to do. Umm... Let's see where I eventually land up...

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Debut. Of sorts.

Why Skeptical Dogmatist?! As a wise man once said, We know too much to be dogmatists, and too little to be skeptics.

I follow confucsioinsim.

I assure you, it has nothing to do with Confucious. Probably, it has everything to do with Confusion. Am I a right-conservative or a left-liberal? Am I centrist? Or libertanian? Authoritarian? Or is it Liberal-Marxism, the Presi school of thought! My contributions to this blog are merely an attempt to find an answer to this question, which has often plagued my mind, since Presidency. I, for instance am dead against Reservations on basis of Castes. Does that make me a rightist?! But then, I feel Godhra was nothing less than a genocide. Oh! so am I a leftist now?!

May be my definitions of rightist/leftist are screwed. [I'm sorry, but I couldn't find a better adjective] I'll learn. Soon. Through this blog. Hopefully.

Or may be you think I'm a bored nerd who is trying to be cool. ;-)

New Blogger

We just got ourselves a new blogger to write for the blog; Brajendu a.k.a. Skeptical Dogmatist.

The books list on his profile says,
I have read playboy. I have also read the new testament

I have known Skeptical Dogmatist since the age of 13. We both were together at Military School and now doing law together at Nalsar. As a condition, he has requested that his posts not be moderated and he is free to express his views on this Blog. Might I make my readers aware that he is one of the most intelligent and well read guys in my class.
The next post is yours Skeptical Dogmatist.

PS: Apologies for no posts lately. Exams are going on. Posts will be regular from the 5th of May.