Rohith Vemula: Indian Left and the Dalit Student Suicides


By Saswat Pattanayak (Written for CounterCurrents)

Rohith Vemula did not just commit suicide – he was murdered. And this murder was not committed by the right-wing ABVP – it was conducted by the left-liberals. The “Dalit problem” citing which Rohith gave up his life, is not the creation of any fringe elements among communal Hindus – it is sustained by the liberal Hindus who tremendously profit from the status quo it provides. None of this is an exaggeration – these comprise a reality that must be confronted. The entire Hindu society, the Savarnas, are the perpetrators – no one among them is eligible to be member of the jury.

This is so because, whenever the colonial masters have been credited with infrastructure and development, the critical thinkers have added to the discourse a very crucial aspect – that, the ruling class of any given era also deserves to be blamed for the maladies. For instance, it is often said that the British could not blame the Indians for Satti and child marriage practices – if the British could take the credit for building colleges and for educating the Indians, they should also take the blame for the prevailing societal violence against women and widows that took place under their rule.

The ruling ideas of any era belong to the ruling class, and so do the existing contradictions. The ruling class of Indian academia are not the British anymore. They are the left-liberals. And Vemula’s suicide is not the first one to have been committed by a Dalit student at a higher education institute of India. Quite the contrary; it is an alarming continuation. The only reason why Vemula’s news has so caught up the protesting landscape is precisely because there is a right-wing government at the center and its youth wing ABVP that is purportedly responsible this time. In a macabre parallel, the Occupy and the anti-war activists have re-emerged now that the liberals need to be salvaged. The truth is the left parties and their student bodies which dominated the academia ever since India turned a sovereign republic, have consistently downplayed caste discriminations on campuses. Reason why the Left is responsible for Vemula’s demise today is because it did not sufficiently critique the hostile environment its own student leaders and professors were/are enabling all these years.

If the education system in India takes pride in being predominantly leftist, then it must also accept the utter failure in practicing the tenets of progressive politics. The hypocrisy of the Indian left is exposed threadbare in its historical incapacity to take a principled stand against caste atrocities that are systemically flourishing across top research centers of India. From policy makers, to academicians, to vice chancellors – almost all the shining stars in Indian institutes are progressive intellectuals strongly aligned with the Indian Left. College campuses have historically been dominated by youth brigades of Congress and CPI/M. Textbooks are overwhelmingly authored by leftist historians. Open Air Theaters and Ganga Dhabba meetings and the IIT/IIMs are crowded by liberal intellectuals at both student and leadership levels. And instead of addressing the legacies of segregations, all these institutions of higher learnings in India, spearheaded by JNU have remained busy with earned accolades for being tolerant and diverse.

Just as they have been rightfully receiving laurels, they must also be made accountable for what systematically continues in a parallel manner in all the major universities across India. What is it that makes the deans and heads of departments invariably always upper caste Hindus? What is it that sustains a climate where “reservation” is treated as though it is a favor, and not a right? What is it in academic environment that encourages student politics of dissent, but the dissenting voices are indeed from the profiteering social classes? What is it that labels minority students “casteists” while the students whose ancestors invented caste system and passed it down as a virtue, are labeled youths for “equality”? What is it that produces so few scientists, engineers and doctors within the Dalit students? What is it that drives so many Dalit students to suicides and yet the pattern remains unreported in mainstream media?

The Left needs to answer why most Indian universities glorify Marx and Engels, but do not even admit Ambedkar and Phule in their midst. Expulsion of Rohith Vemula and other Dalit students need not have come as a surprise, therefore. The hegemony of left politics inside campuses remains without a dispute, but its consequences upon the Dalit students deserve studious attention. It is not Savarkar or Golwalkar whose presence in university curricula overshadows that of Ambedkar or Periyar. Gandhian and Nehruvian scholars are the ones who have for decades marginalized, if not silenced the voices of Dalit icons inside campuses.

More than just the historical battle between the ideologies, the prevailing animosity against Dalits in Indian educational settings have been nothing less than ghastly. All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is a classic case in point. The Medical strike of 2006 had “merit” students holding placards in broad daylight of Delhi announcing their disdain towards a possibility that their own children may end up becoming cobblers if reservations are implemented. Being the most prestigious governmental institute in medical sciences, AIIMS has continued to offer such a casteist climate that the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to personally intervene and set up a three-member committee headed by UGC chairman Sukhdeo Thorat in 2007 to assess the situation there.

The findings at AIIMS pointed to nothing other than a climate of “Caste Apartheid”. 100% of Dalit students reported caste-based ragging, 88% complained of hostel isolation, 76% reported mess discrimination, 72% of Dalit students expressed bias in Cricket, 92% in basketball, 72% highlighted teacher bias in classroom. Regarding the caste-based ragging, a Dalit student said, “They would call us to their rooms and order us…’tell us 10 reasons why you should get reservation…if you don’t we’ll beat you.”

Despite media coverages of the above, neither the government nor any educational institute aided by powerful leftist student bodies established procedures to address the climate of segregation. Insight Foundation reported the suicide of Linesh Mohan Gawle, a second year PhD student from National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi on April 16, 2011, the suicide of Balmukund Bharti, final year MBBS student from AIIMS on March 3, 2010 and even recorded testimonies of family members in a documentary “The Death of Merit”. The complete report “On Suicides of Dalit Students in India’s Premier Educational Institutions” is available on Countercurrents.

The instances of suicide among Dalit students are too many to be blamed on “right-wing political student groupings like the ABVP”. This shifting of blame to an external agency, preferably “fringe elements” is a convenient method adopted by liberal Hindus who wish to retain the status quo while coloring it progressive only because they enjoy the privilege to see published their feel-good stances of meaningless empathies. A win-win situation where the protest is registered, self-respect enhanced, and the tag of being social reformers keeps giving. In a sickening parallel to charitable organizations that need a state of poverty to remain so they can stay relevant. Bizarre but true, political parties like the Congress and the Left need caste hostilities (and despondency among Muslim youths) to remain, so that they can occasionally support the politically correct positions as progressive political outfits. Appears like Caste in India must not be annihilated, but sustained, across the spectrum – Left to Right.

This double standard has been long exposed at the level of electoral politics, where the Dalits and Muslims are increasingly choosing candidates not aligned with either the Congress or the Left. But more crucially, it is also being increasingly realized among the Dalit students who are joining “study circles” to seriously examine Ambedkar and Periyar and the likes who are deliberately kept out of academic curricula.

Rohith Vemula was himself one of those who realized that the Left in India was “inefficient” to tackle caste issue and to unite the working class. Even as he remained an admirer of Marxism, Vemula was disenchanted with the left politics on the campus that was led by the SFI. He made a call to “resist the communal ABVP, reject the inefficient SFI and to support the UDA for a stronger union”. But he was not limited only to student politics on campus. More importantly, he had made a theoretical intervention that is worth analyzing. On August 13, 2014, Vemula wrote, “The shift of my political identity from Marxism to Ambedkarism is a conscious move into building a new future on the basis of more humane, more inclusive society. Thus compelling the present stratified society, perforce, to take off it’s elitist mask of generosity and solidarity in the name of seamless majoritarian cultural unity or nationalism. My core intention is to challenge and expose the upper-class hypocritical advocacy of progressiveness which shamelessly maintains it’s ties with the oppressive structures of class, caste and gender. To fight against the symbiosis of cultural chauvinism and communal politics, to popularize the subaltern, dravidian history and to shout out sharply the radical realism amidst the euphoria of freedom. With my basic world view conditioned by marxism, I dream and work for a society which Baba Saheb has always aspired.”

If the Indian Left needs a wake-up call, this is it. Yet another occasion to own upto the utter failure on its part to align with the working class interests of those who are most exploited in India. Luckily for them, despite pointing out the “upper-class hypocrisy” represented by the Indian Left, Rohith Vemula never quite gave up his hope in communism. With his astute and critical observations that shall comprise the legacy of Rohith Vemula, he refused to fall for political polarization and bourgeois opportunism. He called for the revolutionary unity of the working class instead, and for a much more efficient and radical Left that would spark revolutionary spirits.

Almost a year after his analysis on shift in his political identity, Vemula would assess and hail Marx as “one of the greatest of minds that ever lived on this Earth.” He wrote the tribute on Marx’s birth anniversary on May 4, 2015, “He (Marx) along with Engels produced the fierce theory of revolution. He explained the capitalist exploitation and gave a scientific sense to out anger. His dialectical materialism proletariat revolt idea, historical materialism and class conflict concept will forever help the oppressed sections in revolting against the oppressive systems. Long live Marx..Long live Marxism…Long live Revolution.”

No rest in peace.

Jai Bhim, Comrade Rohith Vemula!


Meritocratic Jury

(In the backdrop of Supreme Court of India’s bench comprising Justice Misra and Justice Pant citing national interest to scrap quota in higher education institutions)


Looks like you have the merit –
Birthright of the nationalist.
Wearing that Sacred Thread.
Making a call to daddy’s
old boys network every now & then.
Misra uncles and Pant uncles
And their colleague uncles.
Uncle’s uncles. Bhagwat uncles.
Generationally scholarly.
Proud Indian Hindus.
Feeling the national interests
Merit runs in their veins.

Your access not denied
to the temples.
Of gods and sacred texts.
Interpreted by
sacrosanct gatekeepers.
High Court
Jagannath Temple
Supreme Court
Meenakshi Temple.
Looks like you have the merit
To determine the fate
of those you get to oppress.
Cannot reverse the caste,
whose virtues and vices –
are determined at birth.
No automatic entry
Into life of dignity.
But Hinduism is not religion.
Just a way of life.
Savarna – Salvation.
Dalit – Damnation.

No fault of Brahmins –
Just born that way.
Conspiracy of the galaxy
Coming together of forces
To offer them higher birth
infinite inborn meritocracy.

Being born a Brahmin
Is it a reservation –
Or is it a merit?
Who gets to answer?
The Brahmin himself.
The enlightened one.
So, end of argument.
Dialogues among his peers.
Their judicial reviews, their revisions.
Recommendations. Directions.
Judgements. Death penalties.
Fake penalties. Bail penalties.
End of reservations.

High priests of justice
Enlightened enough
to believe in no caste.
They create caste, they dispose caste.
Just a state of mind.
Situationally enlightened sign.

Unlike, those that decide
to liberate themselves,
for their own interests.
Not for the Brahmin nation’s –
sacred temples
sacred cows
sacred courts
sacred definition of merit.
A nation of monopolists
over professions of science,
law, medical, engineering,
historical lies.
All things intellectual,
no things scavengential.

Looks like you have passed
the Brahmin-Savarna IQ Test.
Standardizing the merit –
since the founding of
the Hindu religion,
not the disease.
Working to promote
the national interest,
not nepotism.
Feeding the country’s
collective conscience,
not meritorious lynching.


– Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet, 2015

Post-Miley Feminism



(Written for Kindle Magazine, December 2013)


By Saswat Pattanayak

A wealthy white woman used specific “ghetto” elements from the black culture to materially profit from those insincere projections. And much of the world media ignored this aspect entirely, while castigating her instead for wearing indecent attires. And finally, when this attracted the attention of white feminists, they rallied behind her to protest slut-shaming.

Following her memorable performance at VMA in August, Miley Cyrus helped generate what Mikki Kendall had earlier hashtagged as, “Solidarity Is For White Women” (in lambasting the ways white feminists had been protecting the disgraced Hugo Schwyzer).

In conveniently overlooking the serious nature of cultural appropriations, what suddenly reemerged within the feminist discourse is how race intersects with feminism itself. It became quite apparent that feminism – or for that matter, any radical politics – was not going to make any headway, if it was not explicitly going to embrace intersectionality. In other words, was Cyrus going to find support from only a section of feminists, on issues that had direct implications for them? Does feminism often work this way? If yes, should it?

The images of Cyrus that night were compelling for various reasons. Her sexy outfits were the least of them all, in an era of a virtually saturated landscape so far as sexualized visual images go. What stood apart was how she used black women as props on the stage that night, reminiscent of the days of slavery when white masters used slaves as stand-alone objects/accessories for amusement of their guests. What stood apart was how she created an atmosphere of a circus, with herself as the ringleader motorboating black women as the dancing bears.

That she wanted to live out her fantasies and feel sexually empowered were all defensible propositions, but the fact that she had to degrade black women as objects in order to play those out, while in real life she does not have to experience the racist society as a black woman does, was what made it all so irrefutably disgusting. Likewise, while the white feminists upholding her right to rub herself on Robin Thicke was an acceptable defense, what became a profound contradiction was their remaining silent over her own treatment of backup dancers. Indeed, when black women pointed this out, they faced the charges of misconstruing feminism – thus, it remained no longer a Cyrus moment. It demanded critical reflections on part of all those who identify with feminist, progressive and revolutionary politics.

Batty Mamzelle wrote, “Historically, black women have had very little agency over their bodies. From being raped by white slave masters to the ever-enduring stereotype that black women can’t be raped, black women have been told over and over and over again, that their bodies are not their own. By bringing these ‘homegirls with the big butts’ out onto the stage with her and engaging in a one-sided interaction with her ass, (not even her actual person!) Miley has contributed to that rhetoric. She made that woman’s body a literal spectacle to be enjoyed by her legions of loyal fans.”

What the Cyrus episode brought to the fore was not just the need to apply intersectional analysis to feminism in the US, but by its very extension and logic, to have it applied everywhere. In much similar vein, argument can be made about the selective solidarities displayed among Savarna feminists in India, who remained eerily silent throughout the protest marches against rape and murder of a Dalit woman in Jind district of Haryana. The level of indifference was so staggering that the mainstream media which had gone agog to report extensively on rape culture since Nirbhaya, entirely ignored a three-day conference organized by Dalit women to question the casteist nature of Indian justice system. In a bold move to oppose what I would term, after Kendall, as “Solidarity Is for Savarna Women”, the organizers (AIDMAM) exclaimed: “The silence from all corners is deafening and this particular case of alleged rape and murder of a 20 year old Dalit girl in Jind is only another one in a long list of cases of sexual violence on Dalit women. Today, we do not even know what to ask for! Should we make a claim for a separate State for Dalit women? A State that will give us a life of security? A separate State that will allow us to live our lives peacefully? A State that will permit us to go to schools? A State that will allow us to go to the toilet without fear? A State that will give us the basic right to life? Dalit women have lost all hope in the Government, in the police, the judiciary, the elected representatives and with civil society. We do not want to just trigger the conscience of the system and the people, but seek all voices for justice for Dalit women in India.”

While the defense of “sluttiness” remains the primary – and, valid – agenda for white feminists in the US, the demand for police protection of nightlife in Delhi remains a legitimate concern of savarna feminists in India. At the same time, what the racial implications of the powerful images of Cyrus that night suggests, the peripheral realities can no longer be kept under wraps. While defending Slutwalk, it is necessary that white folks do not appropriate slavery, just as while deploying additional police force to ensure “Bekhauf Azadi” for urban women, it is necessary to make the legal system work efficiently to render justice for Dalit women whose priorities may vary qualitatively.

Solidarity across race and caste is a possibility only when the histories of unique struggles by the historically oppressed are duly recognized, and sufficient consciousness-raising efforts are undertaken by the historically privileged.

I Will Wait

For the time of victory

Of the good over the evil


Good being the invisible

Downtrodden, oppressed

Outcasts, racial minorities

The Dalits, the tortured 

Women and children

The students with loans

The teachers without jobs

The atheists everywhere 


Good being the physically 

Emotionally, financially

Challenged, the slow learners

The unemployed poets, 

The crazy philosophers,

The ones who never were 

Featured on television nor

Paid respect anywhere 


Good being the one who never

Was called an intellectual

Or a scientist, a statesman

Nor a grand prize winner

Coveted with glory or fame

Featured on magazines

And never knew negotiating 

Executing, decision-making


I will wait 


For the time of victory

Of the hitherto vanquished


I will wait 


– Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet

Beyond the Judiciary – Reservation as Reparation

Written for Radical Notes
Thursday, 19 April 2007
Saswat Pattanayak

“The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expressions of the dominant material relations, the dominant material relations grasped as ideas; hence of the relations which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance” (Marx and Engels).

The recent Supreme Court of India decision imposing a stay on the implementation of the 27 percent reservation for the “other backward classes” (OBCs) in elite institutions is a desperate attempt to secure a few public institutions exclusively for the ‘meritorious’ few, whose merit rests on accumulated wealth, connections and opportunities. This is also an attempt to draw a limit to the concessions that a neoliberal regime can admit (for the sake of public legitimacy) against capitalism’s Malthusian values which it is supposed to protect. Already the ruling classes in India – the capitalists and their political and institutional henchmen have been troubled by the growing demand for affirmative action in the private sector. The SC decision comes as a relief for the executive and the legislature, who are formally bound to local interests and pressure. On the other hand, the judiciary is above and beyond every democratic and institutional binding, thus can be more consistent in its approach. Even if the Indian government’s attempt to solicit the opinion of a constitutional bench to overrule the two judges bench decision result in the implementation of the reservations, the present judgment comes as a clear warning – this far and no further!

Here we will address the above issues from two disparate quarters: one, from the lens of the Supreme Court itself, since it appears like the judiciary might have acted here almost independently (considering all the criticisms it has been receiving from political parties), and two, from the perspective of the class society in India, at a more micro level.

Judicial Elitism

If we agree that despite all the technological progresses that should have made life for everyone way easier in the planet, the world is still in a despicable state suffering from unjust social order where majority of the human population is at the receiving end-afflicted by poverty, unemployment, homelessness-across countries, then something somewhere has gone really wrong. And perhaps to set things correct, to offer not mere sacred guidelines but forceful means to implement them, the societies have formed relatively autonomous judicial systems, which are considered essential for establishing the much-revered rule of law. Apparently the judiciary comprises the wiser of the lots deciding over how we are all going to lead lives, when there are disputes and conflicts.

However, the reality is that the revered judiciary for most comprises either people who are close to power structure (when they are selected by the government), or people who get there through sheer academic elitism (by virtue of their access to top law schools). In either case, the judiciary then does not necessarily, and very rarely comprise people, enriched by their varied experiences of social failures in life through which they understand the complexities of living conditions. Often times they are fed through to good schools and better jobs by utilizing their family’s Old Boys Networks. Most often the judges then reflect the interests of the upper social strata of the society – becoming in themselves, the rich, creamy layer. Hence, even when they seem charitable, it is charity that is expected ‘normally’ from these strata.

The basic agenda before the judiciary is to deliberate on what is the best way of maintaining the status quo within a given legal and institutional framework. Revolution cannot be enacted by the judges – on the contrary, when a revolution or any grand change seems imminent, it rests upon the judiciary to make it jurisprudentially ‘normal’, legal and systemically palatable.

On the other hand, one of the basic elements in the conception of peoples’ movements, howsoever moderate, is their challenge to the institutionalization and alienation of rules from popular scrutiny and control, even if they are not explicitly against them. This aspect puts them in conflict with the ‘rulers’, i.e. those who oversee the implementation of these rules. Naturally, every time the activists land at the court’s door for justice, by this very act itself they fail their cause, upholding the ‘sanctity’ of the court or the jurisprudential policing. The court as the arbitrator appointed by the system to negotiate between the system and peoples can legitimately do anything. It has famously disgraced millions of people attached to their landless movements time and again. It is because of the court that displaced peoples (a la Narmada) do not receive any justice. It is because of the court that the high-rises are still allowed to exploit reservoirs worldwide. It is thanks to the court that no ruling has ever banned the police from attacking the workers when they stage a protest against the exploiting bosses. In fact, it is the court alone that has prevented the working class strikes from being legal.

If the society has made any headways in its civilizational history – if it has forced even a faint “sense” of equality among men and women, and among the races of people-it is because of the thousands of movements outside the courtroom-and, always against the prevailing social order. A court merely observes the situations outside to safeguard its own interests inside, because the court often consists of the same class of people that become the object of protests. As the agreements are reached outside, the rulings are made inside-which is why the court is always for months (or weeks) delayed in taking decisions. In the present case, let’s wait till August, the judges have cautiously remarked.

Who’s Afraid of the Class Society in India?

For, it is outside the courtroom, the realities are more apparent, as they are unmediated by the jurisprudential exactitude, which trims down the realities to fit them in the judges’ learned sense. After all, most people do not pretend to be either wise or learned. In a country like India, where fifty percent of women and 35% of all people are sheer illiterate, people have been even instructed that they are not learned. And since wisdom in the age of information warfare is constituted of how much one succeeds in reading books and rulebooks, and not in reading people and situations, the large majority of Indian population is considered to be object, not subject of knowledge, of power.

How else can the country still be managing itself to be riding a racist power ladder since six decades of its “independence” now? How else can one rationalize why the judges could have ignored what the world could not any longer – that casteism in India is racist in nature. Just one week prior to a display of the Indian Supreme Court’s learned ignorance, the United Nations had already recognized in no uncertain terms that India carried on a tradition of racism against the lower castes of people. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) voiced its feeble protests against India being a country that “systematically denies Dalit rights at home”, even as the “learned” creamy smart bunch of Indian delegates at the UN debated over the difference between caste and race, confirming that they can be moral “pundits” over race matters, but will disown their roles in caste oppressions.

The seemingly unwise, ignorant fools of India – that comprises most of us who do not appreciate the fact that getting an entry into one of the elite institutions like an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) or Indian Institute of Management (IIM) has anything whatsoever to do with one’s ability to showcase more merit than others – are obviously adopting a regressive path somewhere. How else can one justify the almost complete and continued monopolization of upper castes in India’s power corridors, even as they constitute a tiny percentage of the population? Whose country did we wrest for when the struggle was against colonialism? A country that would have gone back to the elite bureaucrats of the Raj or a country that sought for social equality among classes of people – divided along the line of castes and religions by historical ruling elites?

A mantra of India’s Independence has been well played now – and one can say enough played now – to evoke ringtones and create a thriving industry called Bollywood. But it sure is a sense of humor we could do well without. India continues to be oppressed by a small elite which is a mirror image of their counterparts during the colonial period – a group of people who believe that only a certain segment of population can be allowed to flourish. A group that thrives on a class society that makes impossible to bridge the gap between mental and manual labor. In fact, it thrives because it maintains a relationship of slavery – in which the manual workers are the slaves. In a land predominantly agricultural, India is in fact a sorry country of its slaves-where by its own official estimates, 111,000 peasants committed suicide last decade-even as the slave masters continued to climb corporate ladders in their age of “globalization”. Definitely, this slavery is modernized today – with such a big number of slaves in reserve, you are not required to feed them continuously. The capitalist “hire and fire” machine is very convenient, indeed.

The official Republic of India is the country of slaves and untouchability – one in which discriminations used to be part of an unofficial public policy (until now – after the court decision, it is already official). That is, the Nehruvian dreams had drafted on its mammoth constitution certain sections along the line of abolishing untouchability. In doing so, the racists of India also smartly got rid of their age-old guilt trips arising out of their practice of untouchability. They created cultural images of untouchability existing only in the village lines of drawing water from the well. And silently they went on creating domestic slaves of the manual servants from the lower caste people in their high-rise buildings. They declared that in rural schools, now everyone was free to study and anyone who discriminates against others based on their caste will be penalized. Because they knew they would never enter those schools anyway-schools without blackboard, furniture and most of the times a teacher. Instead they created their own private English medium schools and created a reservation policy for students to enter into their elite technical institutes.

Who deserves reservations?

The progressive reservation policies – be it for SC/ST or OBCs; for the women, or for the people with disabilities-are of course different from the other form of reservations that exist without a debate – for the Non-Resident Rich Indians who call themselves “India Inc” and for the Indian Rich who are invited to buy the seats reserved only for those who can afford them.

The rest of the seats, they call comprises for the students with ‘merit’. No surprises to be here, considering that among other grand narratives of India’s entity (such as independence, liberalization, software giant, knowledge powerhouse, superpower for 2012 etc), this merit proposal fits rather beautifully. After all how can a country claim itself to be a “giant” without saying it has done so through merit!

India is indeed a giant-only one that has surged forward through perishing under its wheels of fortune, the millions of hungry and homeless it always chooses to ignore. After all, giants emerge only in this vicious manner – by gulping down anything that comes on their way. India has almost perfected that art by now, in refusing its people the land they deserve, by refusing its students the access they require, by eliminating its dissenters from its public and private press discourses.

The current discourse around reservations is quite interesting. Indeed no political party seems to be agreeing with the judiciary. So, suddenly have all the political parties gone progressive in India? What is at stake here?

In a simplistic fashion, possibly it is true that the political protests are in part to their apparently temporary loss of power. After all, even with legislative approvals, how could the court nullify the government decision? These protestors still have not got over the shock over this tacit powerlessness, far from realizing that it is they that hold the court to be a sacrosanct institution where they could run to every time they had a conflict over state water policies. Every time the government utilized the court to replace peoples’ protests into policy matters. So whenever in India (or elsewhere in the world likewise) people took up a movement to destabilize the government system, the ruling party and the opposition together rushed to the court in the pretext of granting people justice, whereas all they do is to convert the revolutionary spirits into a “wait-n-watch” policy matter. They took away the issue from the people and gave it to the court. And here we have to realize that this “powerlessness” is actually as much a gimmick as any other power rationales are.

Remember how the Kings used to rule over their states in the bygone days. They would address their resenting masses that the Brahmins will decide the issue, and get absolved of the responsibilities thereon. The Brahmins of course were always in the King’s favor. It would be quite unnatural otherwise-except in cases where the Brahmins themselves resolved to be the kings.

The high priests of those days have now occupied the IITs, IIMs, and National Law School at Bangalore. These are the ones now advising the Kings – the political parties. That is their assigned role (being part of the “three pillars”) because they want the desired positions of security, money and power. It’s true that we know what the priests want. The question, is what do the Kings want?

The political parties of Indian parliament are not in difference with each other. After all, with all the chair-flinging incidents they still are together under the same roof. This is because what brings them together is of a greater value than that, which could force them separate. What values does their unity bring? Why the political parties – despite their most fundamental differences in their agenda sheets-stay together along with their pillar partners – judiciary and the press – is because they can form their so-called “democracy” system only when they stick together. If the “executive”, “legislature”, “judiciary” and “the press” do not stay together who will each run to when they face peoples’ wrath? Who will play the Brahmin when the time comes?

Officially, a prime minister of president or Supreme Court judge or mainstream media editor or any of their corporate investors are claimed to be different “check and balance” corridors of power. In fact at this mass deception too, they play out the acts very well. They have a question hour (get paid for asking questions on behalf of people), they have public interest litigation (what has public interest got to do with the court, anyway?), they have a letter to the editor (views that are of no consequences whatsoever), and they have corporate social responsibility (what’s that?). These are conscious and deliberate efforts to normalize their operations in the interest of the ruling system of which they are a part. No matter if they change political parties or newspapers or corporate houses or departmental bureaucratic divisions – they are the cohorts of the same batch of rulers that must “swim together or sink together”.

Of course they would prefer to swim together. And in this larger context of reservations, especially so.

What is important is not why the judges came up with such a decision (which is a natural class-alliance issue), but the more pressing question is how did they get away with making this decision? Were they not afraid of the people outside – that majority of people in whose favor a contrary decision was supposed to be taken? Were they not taking a chance with the Parliament-that sacred body of legislators who had already taken a decision? The answer is neither.

And in fact, quite the contrary. Judiciary has been once again used by the government to do what it always wanted to: to provide an illusion of equality while maintaining the status of inequality. The parliamentary decision last December had come with pressure to answer back to the constituencies of OBCs. Once the pressure was off, the government rushed to the judiciary with ill-filled papers of 1931 (as an excuse) to reverse the legislation. And the two-bench committee did exactly as per the governmental wish. Like the Brahmins of the royal era, the judicial priests knew that they were the last resort of blinded wisdom.

Such macabre dramas play out in our life everyday. One needs no reading of Arthashastra or of The Prince to learn the art of governance. We are acutely aware of the true faces of power accumulating politicians, corrupt judges, greedy business houses and the corporate press – and we are well aware how despite the façade of apparent disagreements, they all gel so well as to unite together against the majority of people by creating an elite commonsense.

The opposition to reservations in India is part of the elite commonsense. The judges got away with such decisions because they knew they would be protected only if they do so. The larger Indian media have been harping on the need to abolish reservations, so also the top administrators and corporate kingpins. From the editors, to bureaucrats to industrial leaders-majority of them do not just incidentally happen to be belonging to the higher castes, in fact they are there only because of their trampling over the hopes and aspirations of the lower caste peoples.

Just as economic classes developed the race paradigm, they also created the caste structures. Historical alliance between class and caste is no mystery today. What needs exploration is beyond the academic understanding of the alliance, and more of a social revolutionary movement towards destabilizing that alliance.

At this stage, the commonplace dominant narrative insists that the SC/STs were granted reservations by the well-meaning leaders of India. This is entirely false. The “backward” castes of India were not granted anything. They fought along the lines of demands and protests to earn the reservations-and by the sheer proportions of their success in relation to their historical dispossession-they proved worthy of every bit of that. It’s entirely wrong to imagine that a government or its judiciary wing will donate anything in charity. Such a misplaced imagination can only lead one to the corridors of a court.

The fight to go on has to transcend its own limited imaginations. Knocking the door of judiciary is appealing to the hearts of the Brahmins. It is not the Brahmins who need to be blamed after all, considering that they have a share of power. What is important is to revitalize the movement taking place outside to make it entirely impossible for a regressive policy to be crafted either in the Parliament or in the Courts. And that is just the beginning. It’s not a question of reservation issue. It’s a question of revolution issue. The majority of people do not want nominal reservations. They deserve the entire institutes. They do not wish to work for the structures. They want the structures to work for them.

Ultimately reservation is not just a demand, but historical reparation obligation. And at its heart lies not the questions regarding the efficacy of reservations. At its heart lies the question of social order maintenance that thrives on discrimination. The sick medical students and arrogant doctors that went to strike last year are the questions to be solved. The reactionary right wing NGOs like Youth for Equality (who forever fail to understand that they are the root cause of inequality) are the questions to be solved. The judicial system that has no business with social justice is the question to be solved. The question to be solved is the question of our times: how long will people silently suffer at the hands of a political system that uses unofficial policies to maintain authority – pimping press, and a free market. The question to be solved is how to snatch the power from these sugar-coated, superpower-dreaming elites of one-nation Indians and replace the feel-good plutocracy with a truly working democracy driven by the will of the real majority, where the difference between the manual labor and mental labor would have subsided enough to make the issue of IITs/IIMs and their reservation policies quite irrelevant. And any wishful thinking, any pleading politics is not going to ensure that the striking doctors will accept the wage of their domestic servants – no matter if the servant cooks wonderfully to serve the rich master and the doctor lets hundreds of slaves die because he has to stick to the Apollo and the thriving corporate hospital industry.

To snatch the reactionary power of the ruling elites, the task is not to appeal to the rulers. In fact, quite the contrary. Let me end the passage that started this reflection, by quoting Marx and Engels again: “The existence of revolutionary ideas in a particular period presupposes the existence of a revolutionary class.”

That’s the only task that needs to be done: to build the class that snatches its reparations by revolutionary means, not through appeals to courts and parliaments that ride on the waves of social injustice.


[The above article relates to the following decision by apex court of India:
(Case No: Writ Petition Civill No. 265 of 2006 (With WP Civil No. 269 & 598 of 2006, 35 & 29 of 2007))
Ashoka Kumar Thakur Petitioner versus Union of India and Ors Respondents
Date of Decision(mm/dd/yy): 3/29/2007.

The Subject Index reads:

OBC reservation policy — prayer for grant of interim protection in the writ petition — the policy of 27% reservation for the Other Backward Classes (in short the ‘OBCs’) contained in the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006 is the subject matter of challenge. The primary ground of challenge is that the Union of India has failed in performing the constitutional and legal duties toward the citizenry and its resultant effect. Consequentially the Act shall have the effect and wide ramifications and ultimately it shall have the result in dividing the country on caste basis. It would lead to chaos, confusion, and anarchy which would have destructive impact on the peaceful atmosphere in the educational and other institutions and would seriously affect social and communal harmony — concept of creamy layer cannot prima facie be considered to be irrelevant. It has also to be noted that nowhere else in the world do castes, classes or communities queue up for the sake of gaining backward status. Nowhere else in the world is there competition to assert backwardness and then to claim we are more backward than you — the creamy layer rule is a necessary bargain between the competing ends of caste based reservations and the principle of secularism. It is a part of constitutional scheme. Therefore these cases have to be examined in detail as to whether the stand of Union of India that creamy layer rule is applicable to only Article 16(4) and not Article 15(5) is based on any sound foundation — court not staying operation of the Statute, particularly, Section 6 so far as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes candidates are concerned.]