Sunday, July 29, 2007

Supreme Court: Wrong precedents

First it was Mohammed Afzal, where the Supreme Court gave him death penalty only to satisfy the ‘collective conscience of the society’.

Now, it is conviction of a B C Deva for raping a girl even though ‘no medical evidence’ suggested there was a rape, and even though the only witness or testimonial is that of this 16-year old girl. Here is what our esteemed Supreme Court has to say:

‘‘Though the report of the gynaecologist pertaining to medical examination of the victim does not disclose any evidence of sexual intercourse, yet even in the absence of any corroboration of medical evidence, her oral testimony, which is found to be cogent, reliable, convincing and trustworthy, has to be accepted.’’

Hmm… sounds dangerous!

So, all you need is a good actor who is so good at acting that they appear ‘cogent, reliable, convincing and trustworthy’ and that testimonial will be accepted by the Supreme Court of India to convict someone.

Such precedents, ‘capital punishment to satisfy national conscience’ and ‘conviction based on oral testimony of the victim without any forensic evidence’, cast a doom for judicial system in this country.

What is to stop a young girl to take revenge on a man? Or parents with a young daughter to take revenge on another man? All she needs to do is say that she got raped, and then be ‘cogent and convincing’. That’s all. No evidence, no other witness and no medical examination need to prove it. The man is now convicted! Wow! What a shame!

The modern judicial system is based on the idea 'it is better that 1000 guilty men go free than one innocent man be imprisoned'. And what are we doing here?

May be, its time to cut off man's penises when any woman shouts 'Rape!'


Indians and much-sought after achievements

You remember the Herbal Petrol incident long ago when an Indian village boy made petrol out of plants and leaves? He created a national sensation, gripped all Indians’ attention for over a week, was invited and honored by many leaders in India, by the CM, and I think, even by the President of India. I had just landed in US then and even I was enraptured by this news. I was too naïve then, just like all others.

This was a classic case of how India looks at itself – 'We don’t need your Western education, your Modern Sciences, we have our own Heritage, our own Vedas, our own homegrown alternatives which can bring about miracles, much bigger and surprising than those of yours'.

Every post-colonial country and every fascist country during 1920s has relooked at its own history to find gems of achievements. Some nations went onto rewrite them to glorify themselves in their past. India is now going through that phase. We want to see great achievements, and bereft of any in the contemporary history, we try to look for such gems in the past. And if we don’t find any, we will invent those gems by changing our histories. And if our texts are befuddled and written in conundrums, we will unsolve them to declare them to be miracles. While we continue to rewrite our histories, we keep looking for much sought-after achievements in the present.

In near future, we might see news items like these-

‘Indian Ayurvedic finds cure to AIDS disease’, ‘Indian village boy creates Apple IPhone alternative’, etc.

Not limiting themselves to Indian villages, the Indian media is now looking for such gems from Indian Diaspora. Everyday news at Times of India or The Hindu keep writing about some NRI who has done something great, when in fact they are quite ordinary feats in those countries. Recently, it was Sunita Williams. The fact that she almost never visited India, and knew nothing much about India, did not deter Indians from embracing her with full arms. More than one week of Indian news media covered photographs of her and also some young Indians doing pujas, praying, and beseeching god to keep Sunita safe from all evils that may touch her when she goes out into space.

Since we don’t seem to generate such people within India, our media want to wallow and bask in the glory of NRI Indians. Now, if you have been an Indian and have lived in US, you will know that there are many Indians doing lot of stuff, ordinary stuff, just like everyone else there.

Here are two news items from same day newspaper – July 26, 2007.

Story One: Indian brain powers Nasa's mission

It will once again be a story of an Indian brain powering an important Nasa flight… it will be a cause for celebration in Gujarat again. The reason: one of the engineers who is playing a key role in this programme is Gujarat-born 40-year-old… Indian-American astronaut, Sunita Williams, is also from Gujarat.

So, what we have is a 40-year old programmer coding his software at NASA and he happens to be from Gujarat, same state where Sunita Williams hails from. That connection is enough for this writer to consider this a newsworthy item!

There are thousands of Indians writing software everyday working with fascinating stuff, starting from Ferrari cars, to Apple Phones, to world’s biggest turbine engines, to NASA flights. These programmers happen to be doing just their job. To describe those ordinary jobs as remarkable feats underscores something very dangerous- either we don’t have any other achievements to write about; OR that our standards are so low that we are ready to take pride in smallest of our achievements.

Story Two: NRI making chips for US space flights

Though the title says that an NRI is making chips for US space flights, the new article writes:

…an Indian American researcher on embedded computers said to be the “brain” behind many everyday mechanisms, is now developing embedded software code generation for space missions.

Embedded software is NOT same as chipmaking. Where is the connection to the chips that the title is talking about? Here it comes:

He is also interested in nano-scale chips… (He) is attempting to create novel tools and techniques to help solve these problems.

I guess, having thought about it is good enough to make it newsworthy. Not writing about actual achievements is quite OK for news items these days.

Story Three: Indian engineer powers the cellular networks worldwide

…An Indian engineer writes software into cellular networks that make your everyday mobile phone work.

Well, I made this one up. If I had lived little longer in US, this is what TOI would have written about me, when in fact I am just one of hundreds of engineers who do the same; when in fact all I do is my part of writing software which is just one chunk of the big thing.

Shashi Tharoor on MF Husain

I made my stand on MF Husain in a previous article. Shashi Tharoor wrote a column on in Times of India titled ‘Why is India's Picasso staying away?’, and now has gone back to give his explanations on the same topic again- It's time to stop harassing M F Husain. [All emphasis is mine].

In the first one, he writes:

These so-called Hindus have clearly never seen the inside of any of our ancient temples, have never marvelled at Khajuraho or seen a sunset at Konarak.

What about the Kama Sutra, the tradition of the devadasis , the eros of the Krishna Leela — are they all un-Indian now, or even un-Hindu?

Then he implores Indians, especially Hindus to standup against the bigotry:

To reduce the soaring majesty of an inclusive, free-ranging, eclectic and humane faith to the petit-bourgeois morality of narrow-minded bigots is a far greater betrayal of our culture than anything an artist can paint.

In the second article, he writes:

The question of why Husain doesn't paint Muslim figures in the nude is a red herring. The Islamic tradition is a different one from either the Hindu or the Western; what causes offence in one is different from what causes offence in another. Islam, after all, prohibits any visual depiction of the Prophet, whereas visualising our gods and goddesses is central to the practice of Hinduism.

About Husain’s paintings, he writes:

His paintings of goddesses are consistent with 50 years of his paintings of other iconic Hindu images, clad and unclad. I saw the paintings in that context; his critics saw them out of context.

He later adds:

Husain himself accepts that if you hurt people unintentionally, the right thing to do is to apologise. And he has done so, more than once. Since when have Hindus become so ungracious that we refuse to accept apologies?

On Husain, he writes:

On his current visit to the United States, Husain was asked by a radio interviewer how he felt about the controversy "as a Muslim". The 92-year-old Master bridled. "I'm an Indian and a painter, that's all.

On the persecution, he writes:

The persecution of Husain does not show Hindus acting in robust self-defence; it shows us as petty and small-minded."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bad Parenting: Creating Terrorists I

International terrorist from India

Suddenly we have seen a terrorist on international arena from India. We always had home-grown terrorists operating at home, but an international terrorist? Yes, it was a surprise. But is it a surprise that he happens to be Muslim? If there was a poll conducted in India a year ago, asking the respondents- ‘If there is an international terrorist involved in suicide bomb attack in London, and if that terrorist is an Indian, which religion would he be from?’ I think, more than 70% would vote for ‘Muslim’. While Hindus would overwhelmingly vote for ‘Muslim’, I think even some Muslims would have voted for ‘Muslim’. It almost goes without saying that if there is an Indian who wants to do something like that in place like Glasgow or London, it has to be a Muslim. (Its like believing that a mugger in a US city is always Black.)

Why is it like that? Is it the religion or is it something else?

Should we blame Islam?

You might have known by now that I don’t like to blame the religious books and its prophets to solve the immediate problems. All religions have its idiosyncrasies, some more than others. To blame one religion for all evils is like acquitting others. The other reason I don’t like to blame the religion itself for such terrorism is because such blaming doesn’t solve the issue of terrorism. Solving religion and its ills is a long-term problem and solving terrorism is a short-term problem.

When you blame the religion such as Islam and say that its sacred texts actually produce suicide killers, then I should see such suicide killers all through the history of Islam, which is not the case. If it is so unique to Islam, how come we had Japanese kamikazes in WWII?

Also, if indeed we were to actually prove using some long-drawn logic that it is Koran that incites people to blow themselves up for a cause, then what is the solution? It is like saying Science creates destruction through creation of atom bombs. Should we eradicate Science then? Should the people of other religion come together to eradicate Islam and its holy text? Or should we force Islam to shun its holy text because we discovered something dangerous in their texts? Would we do the same to our texts if some ‘other’ religion pointed out sinister interpretations in our texts?

All the solutions which include blaming a single religion for terrorism are untenable and unpractical and hence I do not take much fun in blaming the texts. Instead, I try to look for the practical solutions if there are any.

Now how do you explain this International terrorist coming from a well-educated middle class Indian Muslim family?

I was thinking about it since this incident happened in Glasgow where one Indian Muslim blew himself up in an attempt to blow certain section of the airport there. Everyday newspapers devote copious pages of verbiage on this single incident. But the thought in me remains - what’s happening to Indian Muslims, especially those from well-to-do families who send their kids to mainstream schools just like the rest of us? Here, I try to answer some of my own questions.

Religious Training

Many Indian Muslim parents, including those who are holding normal jobs, and have good education, tend to send their kids to some kind of religious training once the kids reach a certain age. This could be out of peer pressure since everyone around them is doing it or because they want to ascertain their identity in a country where they are a minority (usually many minorities go overboard in expressing their cultural and religious identities – like Indian Hindus in US or UK). Whatever may be the reason these parents do send their kids to a nearby school or mosque that imparts Islam into these young minds. Some well-to-do parents bring home a teacher to impart this training. Note that this is very different with Hindu kids who seem to get their learning indirectly from parents and family around them.

The teacher who is entitled with the task of teaching these young Indian Muslim kids is a maulvi or a mullah working in a nearby mosque or madrassa. Most of these mullahs or maulvis are illiterate. Most of them happen to be rejects of the society whose only claim to something glorious is their ability to rote the Koran. This is not very different from sadhus and other godmen of Hinduism who seem to prey on the naïve devotees to get their livelihood. The difference however is that not many Indian Hindu parents would give such men the responsibility to impart religious teachings to their kids. So, what we have here is a maulvi or mullah who has no formal education, that of science or mathematics, and has little experience of traveling or exposure to other cultures, spending hours teaching your precious little kid with his own version of Islam.

While these Indian Muslim parents take extreme care to choose the best schools for their kids for their mainstream education they seem to settle for almost anything when it comes their religious training. Nobody bothers to check the reputation or credentials of such religious teachers. All questions and doubts are shunned when it comes to the matters of religion and its teachings. In fact, this is not unique to Muslims alone; many Hindus, even the educated engineers and professors seem to abandon rational thinking when it comes to matters of religion – they consult an astrologer to start or begin an important event, and refuse to get their son married at an 'inauspicious' time. While such abandonment of reason is usually harmless, there are times when it is quite harmful. I shall deal with those times when it is indeed harmful.

Organized religious training

There is a big problem with any kind of ‘organized’ religious training. An organized religious training starts with suppression of critical thinking, where questioning is discouraged, and blind belief is encouraged. It is done as an organized tool where indoctrination happens without allowing a debate. A kid who goes through such training is bound to set aside all attributes of critical thinking and logical reasoning that he might have been endowed with through genetic inheritance. He becomes a puppet in the hands of interpreters of religion. These kids learn to be selectively credulous and all-believing in matters of religion, while operating with common skepticism and average reasoning in all other spheres of life. They go to normal schools, attend colleges, do well, become professors, engineers, scientists and doctors, but continue to harbor that selective abandoning of reason when it comes to matters of religion. We see such people everywhere. Scientists doing puja before launching of a rocket; top engineer looking for auspicious time to marry off his daughter; businessman waiting for the star alignment to sign up an agreement, etc.

The first step towards indoctrination

This religious teaching of Islam first starts with complete abandonment of logic and reason. It’s like teaching a kid that Santa Claus visits every home on Christmas night to give presents. How a single person can go to so many homes on a single night traveling on a sled is not something that a kid doubts. Even if he doubts, a reason that Santa is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present would clear up all those doubts. The same happens to organized religious teachings. All questions that a sane and rational man would ask are trounced down using the ‘logic’ of faith, where every question is answered using magic, miracles, omnipotence, omniscience, etc. The kids are compelled to abandon reason and just accept the word of God, as it is, verbatim, in literal translation, without raising a doubt. Raising a doubt is equivalent to being a kafir (infidel – non-believer)- that abominable creature whom God has condemned to be fried and burned in Hell forever.

In such organized religious indoctrination, the fairies become real, parting of ocean becomes real, the magic which any ordinary magician can conjure up becomes ‘real’, blotting out sun becomes real, and creation of Universe in seven days becomes real. The human brain gets wired in a way to become selectively credulous towards topics of religion.

Normally, the kids eventually grow up to become adults abandoning the belief in Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy, but the religion has this capacity to make sure these kids never become adults. They remain credulous forever. To achieve this, the puppet masters resort to all kinds of tricks – catching them young and indoctrinating them is a very famous trick- used by all fanatic movements- including Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin. The very elements of man - creativity, the ingenuity, the quest for knowledge, the curiosity, which are the hallmarks of human evolution to make him an intelligent being, are all thrown out of the door in few years of such religious training. This process arrests all the mental faculties, stops all critical thinking and now these pupils are ready to believe almost anything without asking questions - when it comes to religion.

Second step

What happens next in these teachings is introduction of a fiery and radical version of Islam. Whether the Indian Muslim parents choose to know about it or not, some of these maulvis or mullahs, armed with a very fiery version of Islam, incite violence and hatred, teach these innocent kids a very radical interpretation of Islam. To the already credulous kid, this goes into his head easy since he is ready to accept any version or any interpretation, as long as it is coming from the same source- the authority who will interpret the word of God for him.

This version of Islam includes selective interpretation of Islam using selected texts of Koran, accompanied by selected stories from human histories, added with contemporary injustices to make a dangerous potion- where jihad is the fight against all kafir (infidel) – and those infidels could be anybody- including those Muslims who do NOT subscribe to your version of Islam, where martyrdom through suicide killing is the biggest achievement giving you a direct ticket to jannat (heaven) wherein you get access to 72 virgins. Hatred is the word to describe this entire teaching- Hatred of others. And those others can be anybody- it could be a Hindu or a Christian, or even other kind of Muslim. That’s why you see the same hatred and ferociousness in the attack between Sunnis and Shias – they hate each other with same zeal and fervor.

Such radical indoctrinations are easy to come if the first step is already accomplished. What is there to stop you from committing a heinous crime if the God has already mandated it? While most rational people tend to bring in personal morality to question the motives of the interpreters (who ask them to become suicide bombers), some of the believers who truly and really believe in the stories as interpreted to them, would go ahead and commit crimes believing that they are doing it in the name of this invisible but revenge-seeking God.

Note

Indian Muslim parents need to know and understand what version of Islam their kids are being taught. Not giving enough attention can sometimes lead to seeing your son in an international event in a less desirable way!

[To be continued...]

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Is it a sin?

Have you noticed something odd with Indian movie kiss scenes and sex scenes? Except for very few exceptions, in almost all these scenes, the actress (female) sheds a tear, or wears an expression of guilt; is sad or in tears. She never seems to be enjoying it. Or is it how Indian women enjoy a kiss or sex? Or do we want to ensure she feels guilty about it? (Original Sin?)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Of Child Doctors and Child CEOs

One fifteen year Indian kid operated on a patient and actually performed the surgery aided by his own father in Tamil Nadu. The father is proud of his son’s achievements and when the medical association protested against this surgery, the father said that everyone is ‘jealous’ of his son’s achievements.

In another incident, a thirteen year old Indian CEO launched his own company in Silicon Valley. He has an executive team of other thirteen year olds. He hopes to secure funding for his company, and drop out just like Bill Gates.

Many Indian parents nowadays try to see accomplishments and their successes through their kid’s performance and achievements. These parents having reached midlife see a plateau in their career. They now compare their kids with others and feel proud only through the achievements made by their kids.

In India, parents are obsessed with the scores of their kids. They measure the kids only by the scores they get in various subjects at school. And when the kids don’t do well in the exams, these parents get really upset. Some of the parents punish themselves for their kids lack of performance. They are not ready to go out and face the world. They don’t talk to the kid for months. Some parents resort to punishing the kids, stopping their allowance, stopping their play activities, stop their TV watching, etc.

These days its all about child prodigies and child geniuses. The parents don’t want a good kid, they don’t want an excellent kid, what they want is a genius kid- a Bill Gates or Lakshmi Mittal. Not anything less.

Some readers may quickly conclude that we do this because we are in a rat race here in India. Its not very different in other countries. Most Indians kids in US are in a race to outperform the other. Scores, marks, grades, percentiles matter more than anything else. Not much has changed just because you are in a different country.

You will see hundreds of parents in US who want to outdo the others through their kid’s achievements. For most part, their life revolves completely around these kids. They drop them off at school, pick them up from the school, get them ready for music class, drop them off, pick them up, drop them off at soccer practice, pick them up, finish their homework, etc. Their weekends involve more such practices or meeting up other parents who have their kids in the same rat race. The talk revolves mostly around the kid’s performances. In fact, most Indian kids perform very well in US. Spelling Bee contest, or a Quiz competition, Indian kids are right there to outperform everyone else. Those parents whose kids are doing well are sought after for advice by other parents who want to bring up their kids the same way. And those parents whose kids are not doing well, and have realized this, have shunned themselves from such parties, and they hang their faces in shame.

So who are these parents?

These are the middle class parents, just like you and me- lower middle class, upper middle class, all middle class. Most of these parents are above average, have done well in life, but NOT that well. They always felt that they should have had a head start, should have had much better education (than what they had), should have much better opportunities (than what they had). They feel they would have become much more, a Bill Gates, a Sunil Mittal, a Sharapova, if ONLY, if only they had much better access to opportunities, if ONLY they spent more time studying instead of whiling away time in the playground playing silly games, if ONLY they had come home from school and went to evening classes instead of spending time with friends. For these parents, who feel they have lost out on missed opportunities, their kids shouldn’t be wasting their time. They shouldn’t wait to become adults to prove and perform, they should start right away, right now. They should win the spelling bee contests, win the trophies and awards, speak in debates, win the quizzes, win the talent competitions, and be the smartest, brightest, and always the first. These parents PUSH the kids to perform better and better each time, raising the bar each time, and when these kids win accolades, these parents bask in that glory. These are the parents who want to be behind the stage, on the stands, in the audience, congratulating, encouraging, supporting, video-recording, photo-shooting, while their kids keep winning laurels. They have given up struggle for themselves, and instead focus that struggle on their kids now. They think they have reached the peak of their performance, but believe their kids have the world open for them to conquer.

Its not much different for Indian parents in US. Every Indian family in US is more or less the same- two cars, a house, a green card or citizenship, few trips to nearby states, a big TV, small investments in real estate in India, etc. Now they want to differentiate from other families, and this they do by pushing their kids to perform.

Wasted childhood

Recently, I was visiting a bookstore in Bangalore. A mom was accompanied by her 3-year old kid. While the kid was looking blank into the space, the mom was buying a book, it was titled something like ‘How to make your kid a genius’. There, I felt pity for that little kid and I thought, ‘here goes another wasted childhood’.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Reservation XV: OBC Issue

I didn’t think that I would be writing another article on the ‘Reservations’ issue. I have already written 14 of them. But of late, I got some comments on my blog which kept referring to OBC issue. It was the only topic on reservations I had not touched upon in those 14 articles. Now, I think it’s high time I put my thoughts on this subject.

The detractors of an issue usually run from one aspect of the issue to another baiting it from different angles, not because they are interested in debating and reasoning, but because they want to point out at least one flaw so that they can undermine the whole issue using it. That flaw could be anything – it could be an irrelevant one- but identifying that flaw is important for them, because based on that single flaw they can now sit down to discredit the whole issue.

To most detractors of reservations, OBC issue is one of those flaws. By making you concede that this system of reservations-based-on-caste is not perfect when it comes to OBC issue, they want to cast a doubt on the entire reservations issue. The detractors of reservations-based-on-caste love the OBC issue the way the creationists love the supposed gaps in the fossil records of humans. This gap alone seems to make a case for creationism in spite of all the evidences which suggest otherwise. The creationists are bent on reducing the argument to these gaps, and then saying, ‘Voila! There goes your theory down the drain. Hence, creationism prevails!’ The same applies to anti-reservation proponents. OBC issue is their pet gap.

Intentionally and quite deliberately, I did not delve into the issue of OBCs in my previous articles. The reason is simple. As a big first step, I wanted us to agree or disagree on whether we need reservations-based-on-caste. Without resolving that issue first, it’s unnecessary and sometimes confusing to talk about OBC issue. Some of the core ideas I wanted to highlight through my previous articles are the following:

1. Discrimination happened in this country for centuries. It was based on caste.

2. Any correction or incentive to combat that problem has to be based on caste lines, however distasteful the concept of caste is.

3. Reservations-based-on-caste though imperfect seems to be the best possible solutions given other alternatives.

Discussing OBC issue is like opening a can of worms. And I shall open that can in this article. However, this article is not for everyone. If one does not agree on reservations-based-on-caste in the first place, then talking about reservations for OBC does not make sense anyway. Let’s take the case here where we first agree that reservations-based-on-caste do make sense for SC/STs. Then we ask, how about OBCs?

Do OBCs deserve reservations?

I wish Indian caste system was simple. Unfortunately, it is not. Most of us growing up in India fail to understand or comprehend this all-pervading system. Many of us grow up never learning it the right way. Parents refrain from discussing it, teachers pretend such a thing doesn’t exist, and therefore we end up knowing about it from streets, and it usually happens to be a bad education. First, let’s understand hierarchies of castes a little better.

The Indian caste system was systematically developed over thousands of years. Though four or five layers were originally defined (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras, Outcastes), many castes came about within each layer, and over a period of time, the hierarchy of caste themselves changed to certain extent, more so in what is classified as Shudras. The stratification of Indian caste is more complicated than the simplified picture that is usually shown in the pyramid shape. Brahmins themselves had sub-castes and the same is true for Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. Even SC/ST is not just one caste. There is a hierarchy within SCs too. The discrimination faced by these castes within SCs is not same in all parts of India. In some ways, STs (Scheduled Tribes) did not face the wrath of discrimination as bitterly as SCs. Scheduled Castes were closer to the village, living on its periphery, playing a role in the village life whereas STs were completely cut off from the village life, leading their own hunting and scavenging exercises. But, all of them were considered pariah, and were kept out of mainstream of Indian society.

Did Shudras get discriminated?

Shudras (defined as OBC) do not form a single entity. They consist of hundreds of castes and sub-castes. They comprise mostly the worker class. They consist of artisans like potters, weavers, blacksmith, goldsmith, etc, and also castes like fishermen, snake charmers, etc. Shudras constitute a huge section of India. The population of OBC in Indian is in between 300 million and 550 million depending on whom you talk to. Whatever may be the numbers, it’s quite huge, even bigger than population of US. A certain caste of Shudra was not treated the same across all regions. In some regions of India, certain Shudras enjoyed the same privilege or may be better privilege than some of the upper castes. For example, Maharajah of Mysore comes from a Shudra family. In some other regions of India, certain Shudras have become the landlords and eventually merged with other higher caste landlords to create a new caste itself, like Reddys of Andhra Pradesh. At the same time, some of the OBCs were treated as bad as Dalits in certain regions, like the fishermen, or dhobis, etc.

Shudras comprise a huge set of worker population in India. They were those who were carrying out crafts like: fishing, hunting, bird-snaring; agricultural labor on the lands of others; earth work, stone-breaking, salt manufacturing, lime-burning; toddy-tapping; animal rearing; butchery; hair-cutting; washing of clothes; ferrying by boat; safai (i.e. “scavenging”); knife grinding, grain roasting; entertaining through song and dance, acrobatics jugglery, snake-charming, acting; begging or mendicancy.

While the detractors usually cite examples of those Shudras who did well, many Shudras were discriminated to different degrees, including the same treatment as that of Untouchables. This discrimination was varying from region to region. I made the following picture to explain this.


Darker the shade more the discrimination! For example, the castes falling in layer E is closer to Untouchable and were practically considered untouchables while the castes falling in layer A were closer to the upper castes and must have faced negligible or minimal discrimination. Different castes were discriminated differently in different regions of India. A caste in layer B in certain region could well be in layer D in another region.

While Indians usually are ready to concede that Dalits got discriminated because of the extremity of their discrimination – such as walking with broom tied to their backs, they are not ready to accept other kinds of discrimination which include exclusion from all kinds of education, exclusion from all kinds of official positions, exclusion from practicing any kind of art, depriving of living with dignity, etc.

It is patently wrong to say that no Shudras were discriminated. At the same time, it is a grossly wrong notion that all Shudras were equally discriminated.

I have taken the following text from National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC):

Since the concept of untouchability was not practiced uniformly throughout the country, the identification of OBCs is not an easy task. What is more, the practice of segregation and untouchability prevailed more in the southern parts of India and was more diffused in Northern India. An additional complexity is that there are certain castes/communities, which are considered as untouchables in one province but not in other provinces. Some castes, based on traditional occupations, find place in both Hindu and non-Hindu communities. Listing of castes has had a long history, starting from the earliest period of our history with Manu. Medieval chronicles contain description of communities located in various parts of the country. During the British colonial period, listings were undertaken after 1806, on an extensive scale. The process gathered momentum in course of the censuses from 1881 to 1931.

I definitely encourage the readers who cast doubts on OBC issue to read this document cited above. It details how they have identified different OBCs in different regions.

Did OBCs mistreat SC/STs?

Of course yes! All through our history every higher caste badly treated the lower caste whoever they were. Even amongst Shudras one can see the hierarchy. A local landlord though OBC would ill-treat a local Blacksmith (another OBC). The local Blacksmith in turn would ill-treat a local Dalit. And so on. It is not that OBC did not take part in discrimination. They did contribute to continuation of caste system and took part it, one side suffering from it, and on the side meting suffering to others.

Just because some OBCs have mistreated SC/STs does not make a case for depriving reservations to the rest of OBCs who were also highly discriminated.

Conclusion

To answer the question- which of the OBC deserve reservation and which do not - is not easy. However, to assert that OBCs were not discriminated and hence do not need reservations is trying to run away from the problem. And to say that all OBC were equally discriminated and hence each of them needs equal reservations is like oversimplifying the problem.

The answer lies somewhere in between, where one has to identify the groups – castes and sub-castes – for each region and see their indicators- representation in the government and in the education, economic indicators, social indicators, etc, to determine which group requires what amount of reservations. And that’s where it becomes highly subjective. Each group in each region wants to push for including their group into reservation category. Even those groups which have virtually enjoyed the privilege of a higher caste have sought reservations for their communities.

But just because such flaws exist, do we rubbish the reservation system and discard it? Not really. We will try to accommodate it however flawed it is. Just like our tax system. Just because some people end up paying-more-while-earning-less while some pay-less-while-earning-more, do we discard the tax system? Not really! We keep hoping that this system gets less flawed through time and we keep working towards it.

I believe that the struggle of man is to make this imperfect world less imperfect. Reservations-based-on-caste is not a perfect system. But that does not mean we will discard it. And when it comes to OBC issue we do know that many flaws exist, but we will go ahead implement it and work towards improving it.