Originally posted at Youthpad.
An editorial by Vir Sanghvi in today’s Hindustan Times caught my attention today. Ties in nicely with the theme of discussions happening earlier on Indians being to sensitive and demanding apologies for everything. The premise of the editorial is that Indian ‘liberals’ indulge in double standards when it comes to many things
Sangvhi points out that while liberals might object to MF Hussain paintings being banned, they adopt a completely different tune when it comes to issues like the caricatures of Prophet Mohammed published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Suddenly it’s no longer kosher to go against standard religious norms just because the religion being dealt with is Islam. (I’ve already stated earlier that I believe “Either everything is open to be made fun of, or nothing is.”)
More than that, he points out how almost every ‘liberal’ is against reservations on the basis of caste for SC / ST / OBC, but when it comes to the Women’s Reservation Bill everyone forgets about the whole ‘merit over social factor’ argument and supports the Bill. (In case you didn’t know, the Women’s Reservation Bill proposes that one-third of seats in the Parliament be set aside exclusively for women.) Here’s what Vir Sanghvi says:
Let’s take the case of reservation. By now, it should be clear that most liberals oppose an extension of reservation. It’s not that we are against lower castes, we say, it is that we are for the principle of merit. Once you start reserving seats in Parliament or in engineering colleges, for so-called disadvantaged minorities, you destroy the basis of any system based on elections or merit.
Except, of course, that all these reasoned views are tossed out of the window when it comes to women’s reservation. Then, the very same arguments that we dismiss when they are used on behalf of Muslims, Yadavs and the like, are recycled on behalf of women.
It gets worse. When the likes of Sharad Yadav and Uma Bharti say they will oppose the Women’s Reservation Bill, unless it creates a separate category of reservations for lower castes, this is dismissed as shameful casteism.
This is really something we must give thought to. He does mention that the double standard is probably not borne out of casteism but because people haven’t thought through properly on what principles they stand for. I admit, neither have I. Till this point I had no opinion on the Women’s Reservation Bill – no stand either for or against. Mostly because it’s something which crops up in every Parliament session over the past decade, makes no headway and dies on the front page side column news as a small footnote. I do realize that what Sanghvi is saying is very true. Editorials in his own newspaper have opposed caste reservations while supporting women’s reservations.
I am against special concessions for women in workplaces or laws open to misuse (and discriminatory towards men) such as Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. The editorial convinced me that the Women’s Reservation Bill is something all of us should be worred about – and oppose. There should be absolutely no room for doubt that merit, merit and only merit should be the criteria whether it be for colleges seats or Parliament seats.
While liberals might have double standards on this (and other issues), it also shows that our parliamentarians have double standards (surprise!). Practically it’s just vote-bank politics at play since ‘caste’ relations are much stronger in the hinterland than any mileage they can gain out of reserving seats for women. Our parliamentarians were right in opposing it, for the wrong reasons though.
Issues such as caste reservations and women rights are terribly controversial issues. You’ll get away with lesser stings if you stirred a hornet’s nest instead. Liberals do need to collectively get the story straight though on what principles they actually support.