Rilke, the German poet, in one of his letters to his beloved Lou Andreas - Salome said “Now I come to you full of future. And from habit we begin to live our past.”
This remark, though made in amorous context, aptly describes the preoccupation of our leadership and the tragedy of our country. Saddled with the claims accrued in the past we have deferred thinking about our present and have prorogued the future. Looking back and walking forward, we are fighting tomorrow’s battle with yesterday’s weapons.
The two main issues which are engaging the mind of the nation are related in curious ways, and must be considered as part of an integral whole: they are both throwbacks to our past. It is along these axes that the democratic politics is active today. The clamour to construct Ram Mandir at Ayodhya as well as the more strident assertions for reservation, hew in to the same logic: they seek full reparation today for injustices done to aggrieved groups in historical past.
It is a large, general, and undisputed fact of history that the Muslim invaders demolished countless temples and built mosques on the rubble and showed the contempt of a conqueror towards a subjugated populace in many other ways. Whether Babri Masjid was definitively one such is in a parlous state of confusion. Some groups like VHP and other hardliners demand three temples to indemnify them for the large-scale destruction of temples by Muslims in the past irrespective of historical specificity of their claims. The combined wisdom of Indian judiciary is busy boning up the fine points of historical scholarship on the veracity of the claim that there was a Hindu temple at Ayodhya before Babri mosque was built. To this extent the juridical principle has been recognized that demand for specific reparation must establish the specific nature of grievance.
The forefathers of members of today's scheduled castes and tribes suffered inhuman indignities and denial of opportunities at the hands of the caste Hindus for ages and it is one of the most shameful chapters of our history. Reservation for them today, also called affirmative action, is by way of compensating them for the lost opportunities to their ancestors in the past. And what could be more affirmative and demonstrative than robbing the present-day Peter to pay present day Paul!
Those who came of age in 1950s were discriminated against to advance the claim of their SC/ST compatriots. They philosophized this deprivation as their share of the burden for promoting the newly born Republic. The rights of their children were similarly taken away to accommodate the children of the privileged father who had taken away their father’s right. To this generation philosophizing offered no solace. They recognized their helplessness and let the matter rest there. Now when the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the same groups are similarly being forced by the third and fourth generation of the newly privileged dynasties, they know they are victims of profane majoritarianism, political convenience and the palpable sense of frustration even anger can be seen all over.
Man, mineral and microbes live in different time spans. The constitution provided for a ten year limit to this arrangement which was consistent with the human life span, which is measured neither thousands of years nor in hours and days like mineral and microbes respectively. Many a ‘ten years’ have gone by and it is now seventy years and looks like going to go on forever and forever. For the proponents of social justice, it is an open-ended programme which seeks reversal to the old iniquitous and unjust system. They now want to cast themselves in the role of the oppressor, because they are rich in votes, the currency of power today. If the reservation is to last for another thousand, even fifty years what is there to keep the many generations of Indians affected by reservation interested in democratic politics? What does equality of opportunity mean, after all you have only one life to live.
Reservation as envisaged only makes entitlement for Peter and disenfranchisement for Paul hereditary. Give it a free run and it will recreate the arrangement in the vilified Manu Smriti. The dalit should not only be uplifted, the Brahmin must be diminished and demonized. (Tilak, Taraju aur Talwar, inko maro jute char. BHURA Baal Saaf Karo, Abki bar bhado mein, gori kalayian kado mein).
Is it any different from the desire of some ill-advised aggressive elements among Hindus, who would like the arrangement reversed, with Hindus at the top and Muslims relegated to secondary status like it was in the days of hegemony of Muslim rulers? Our politics does not aim at uplifting the outcast, it merely wants to put the tag on other groups by shutting out some castes- from opportunities and relegate them to illiteracy and poverty for long will.
Surprisingly, the secular liberal opinion favours a judicial verdict on Ayodhya on the basis of concrete historical evidence but it also supports the strange jurisprudence of indemnifying the living and identifiable beneficiaries for the injustices caused to the anonymous, unidentified ancestors by robbing identifiable progenies of unidentifiable ancestors in the present.
India Today magazine once referred to Manoje Nath, a 1973-batch IPS officer, as being fiercely independent, honest, and upright. Besides his numerous official reports on various issues exposing corruption in the bureaucracy in Bihar, Nath is also a writer extraordinaire expressing his thoughts on subjects ranging from science fiction to the effects of globalization. His sense of humor was evident through his extremely popular series named "Gulliver in Pataliputra" and "Modest Proposals" that were published in the local newspapers.