Backward Classes Commission: Will it bridge the schism or widen the gulf?

By Santosh Bhartiya

The government has decided to constitute a new Backward Classes Commission. When the Mandal Commission was being instituted, identifying backward classes had set the country abuzz. Almost every section of the society which can be classified as backward classes was classified as such. In due course the Mandal Commission presented its recommendations, but no government dared to implement those recommendations except the one led by Vishwanath Pratap Singh. The background that propelled the Vishwanath Pratap Singh’s government to implement the recommendation of the commission was the feeling beset the minds of the backward classes. Most of them felt they were economically and socially excluded. They wanted their share in power. The idea behind implementing the report was that if the backward classes will get their share in power, they will work for inclusive development of every marginalize section of backward classes, and help them bring into the political, social and educational mainstream of the country. The upper castes vehemently opposed the government’s move. Their contention was the basis of backwardness should be economic rather than caste. The concerns of upper castes were not left unaddressed, as while implementing the Mandal Commission’s recommendations, Vishwanath Pratap Singh has also proposed to provide 10 percent reservation to economically poor section of the upper castes. He intended to bring a bill for the same, but the BJP withdrew support and the bill never saw the light of the day.

Vishwanath Pratap Singh hoped that Mandal Commission will weaken the caste system, while political, administrative and financial empowerment will trigger a social change in India. But in his last days, it was very disheartening for him to see that the Mandal Commission, the recommendations of which were implemented with intent to weaken the caste system, has in fact widened the schism of society. However, the changes brought about by the Mandal Commission helps a new lot of backward caste leaders to emerge, who successfully replaced the senior politicians from upper castes and become the leaders of their respective castes. It is altogether different matter that today most of them are facing corruption charges, which entails that if the vision of a social transformation will not be on equitable system, then that will create a new dominant class within its own caste.

Now the BJP government has decided to create a new Backward Classes Commission at the national level incorporating the point suggested by the Supreme Court in its verdict that a creamy layer has grown out of backward castes. The proposed commission will also identify such groups which have not yet got the benefit of reservation, and proposed divide this group into two: backward and extremely backward. At first glance, it looks very sound proposition, but if we analyzed it politically, we will find that this decision can be used to break the unity of backward castes. This division of backward and extremely backward castes will affect all the castes, which have been getting the full benefit of reservation till now.

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The second question is that neither the Central Government nor the State Governments have yet filled the entire reserve posts. The backward castes leaders contend that first fill all the vacancies meant for backward castes and then raise the question of backward and extremely backward, but 2019 election is round the corner. Nitish Kumar had successfully divided scheduled castes into Dalits and Mahadalits in Bihar, wherein Dalits were already getting advantage of reservation. He made special provisions for Mahadalits, which paid him rich dividend in elections. Now the Central Government will identify such sections through this commission, who may be classed as extremely backward or marginalized. The selection of words will be done by the commission. In short the intent is to help extremely backwards and marginalized sections, which have not yet got the benefit of reservation, to get benefitted at the cost of the dominant backward castes. In this way, the political power of the backward castes will be weakened and a large section of the backward castes will vote the BJP in 2019 elections.

However, in last elections the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has successfully established his backward caste credentials and Amit Shah too tried to float his backward caste background. They benefited greatly in the Lok Sabha, but they could not get the benefit of it in Bihar Assembly Elections. In Uttar Pradesh elections, they exploited their background, while both Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati fail to retain all the sections of backward classes in their fold. Their style of functioning alienated extremely backward classes who joined hand with the BJP. Now it is safely said that these castes are associated strongly with the BJP.

Will this Backward Classes Commission prove to be Mandal Part-II? Will the new Backward Classes Commission, successfully identify such sections of the backward classes in the country, which have not yet got the benefit of reservation or will there be any problem in it? As of now, the senior leaders of the backward classes, including Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Yadav, Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar, have not took up the matter seriously. They may air their views at any time. However, it is yet to be seen as to whether new Backward Classes Commission will fill the schism or widen the gulf? Our society is passing through a continuous social churning, society is ready to get divided, individual is ready to get divided and every class is ready to get divided. Probably the message of “sabka saath sabka vikas” is not reaching and will not reach in near future to those who are classed as Dalits, marginalized, backward and maha-Dalits. Let us see what the future has in store!

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