Reservation has been the talk of the town for decades now. It is followed like a routine habit, for instance – one should take a bath daily. Many people don’t know the historic background behind the commencement of ‘Reservation’. It is JUST THERE. But, in a time when the very concept of caste based reservation is under constant scrutiny, it becomes utmost important to know how the deal came about.
The primary objective of the present-day Indian reservation system is to enhance the social and educational status of underprivileged communities and thus improve their lives. But why was the need felt to develop such a system? Why, in the first place, were there “underprivileged communities”? Are these communities still underprivileged in the 21st century? If yes, what difference did reservation bring in their lives since these communities continue to be “underprivileged”?
It all started with the social stratification made during pre-modern origins of India called the ‘Varnas’. We all have grown up learning about these varnas – Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra – or the four Hindu castes. This is how the Brahmanical texts decode them:
- the Brahmins are priests, scholars and teachers;
- the Kshatriyas are rulers, warriors and administrators;
- the Vaishyas are cattle herders, agriculturists, artisans and merchants; and
- the Shudras are laborers and service providers.
- Certain groups, now known asDalits, were altogether excluded from this system on account of being “toilet cleaners” or “untouchables”.
Technically, the system is in place since long before, and was later transformed during the British Rule. In other words, it may have taken the form of quota system a few decades ago, but the constant clash between social class and caste all goes down to the varnas. This, my friend, is the history of casteism, I mean, ‘Reservation’ in India.