Inter Caste Marriage: One POSITIVE Step

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Buddha's solutions to poverty

Individual and group responsibility in the elimination of poverty in a society as portrayed in Buddhist literature

"Dependant origination" or "Causal Genesis" (paticca Samuppada) is the most fundamental doctrine in the teachings of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. This doctrine is of such paramount importance in Buddhism that it is sometimes equated with the Buddha's teachings. In the Mahahatthipadopama Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya (Vol 1 p. 191) it is said: "He who understands dependant origination, understands correctly the teachings of the Buddha and he who thus understands the teachings of the Buddha truly understands who the Buddha was. The whole edifice of Buddhism is built up on this fundamental doctrine. Three current theories were refuted by this doctrine of causal genesis, namely, the theory of divine creation (issaranimmanavada), the theory of pre-destination (pubbekata hetuvada) and the theory of chance occurrence (adhiccasamuppanna vada) (S.II, p. 18-20). So, when we apply this fundamental doctrine of Buddhism to understand the problem of poverty in a county, how it has come to be and how to can be eliminated, Buddhism rejects the view that poverty is due to divine creation or that it is pre-destined or that poverty occurs without causes or conditions. Having rejected these three views, Buddhism maintains that, like all other phenomena, poverty, too, has come into being depending on causes and conditions. When we say that a thing has come into being depending on causes and conditions, the logical conclusion one can arrive at is that, with the changing or removal of those causes and conditions, there will take place a change or disappearance of that thing itself.

We see that poverty of people in a country too, is thus dependant in origination that means that it manifests itself when causes and conditions that give rise to poverty are present, and hence with the changing or removal of such causes and conditions, poverty, too, will wither away. It is not a permanent feature that persists for all time. An important discourse in the Digha Nikaya,,the Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta of the "Discourse of the lion's Roar of a Universal Monarch (D. III. 58-79) very vividly describes how an ancient people declined in all morals and ethical behaviour, due to neglect of duty on the part of the ruler of that country and how that same people subsequently became law abiding, duty conscious, disciplined, happy and content when the ruler reorganized the entire state machinery in such a way that there were plenty of employment opportunities for intellectual economic, spiritual and physical development of the people. This is how the argument runs: "Due to absence of employment opportunities, poverty became rampant. When poverty became rampant, some people resorted to stealing in order to live. When stealing became wide spread, wealth owners armed themselves with weapons to protect themselves and their wealth from thieves. The thieves, too, had to resort to weapons when wealth owners armed themselves with weapons. This resulted in conflict and clashes, ending in death or physical injury to many – to thieves as well as to wealth owners. When the thieves were caught and were produced before courts of law they uttered falsehood and offered bribes to escape punishment. In this way the entire society became afflicted and disorganized, and people had to live in constant fear and doubt. When the situation deteriorated to a very low level the ministers sat in council and advised the king to take suitable measures to rectify the situation. On their advice the king implemented a crash programme to provide people with employment opportunities. Now, those people who earlier resorted to stealing and other forms of anti-social behaviour began to engage themselves in many socially beneficent activities that brought them good incomes; and thus the need to resort to stealing, falsehood and other forms of corruption did nor arise and once again peace, prosperity and goodwill prevailed in the country".

A similar idea is expressed in another Buddhist discourse that occurs in the Digha Nikaya called the Kutadanta Sutta or the "Discourse to Kutadanta" (D.I p.127). There it is said that an ancient king wanted to perform a magnificent sacrificial ceremony to avert peril form evil spirits. When he summoned his counselors to discuss the programme, they unitedly expressed: "Your Majesty, the country is already in a chaotic condition. Poverty is wide spread and many people have resorted to stealing and committing other crimes, because they have no other way of earning a living. Due to these things the general moral standard has reached its lowest ebb. When the situation is such, if the king decides to perform this great sacrificial ceremony involving great expenditure and forced labour that means more burdens will have to be laid on the already taxed and tormented people. If that happens more and more people will resort to stealing and committing many other crimes and the situation will go from bad to worst. Your Majesty might think that by rounding up the wrong-doers and by punishing them severely or by imprisoning them, it might be possible to restore peace and harmony in the country, but it will not happen, because, when some thieves are given capital punishment or imprisonment, many others will take their place to torment the country. What your Majesty should immediately do is to pacify the people by providing them with suitable employment opportunities so that they can earn an income to support themselves and their families. "The king followed the advice of the counselors and implemented a suitable pregramme to solve the unemployment problem of the country and before long the conditions of the country changed for the better and peace and harmony prevailed once again in the country.

Now, all these episodes are meant to drive into our minds that human beings are by nature almost the same at all times, then and now, but prevailing environmental factors make them saints or scoundrels and therefore, responsible human beings should Endeavour to change the social environment in such a way that human beings living in such environments can develop their potentialities in the right direction, for the benefit of the individual and the community.

As far as the individual is concerned, Buddhism teaches that one is one's own master (atta hi attano natho-kohi natho parosiya) (Dhp. V. 160). That means that one is to a great degree responsible for one's own progress or degeneration. In the Pattakamma Vagga of the Anguttara Nikaya the Buddha says that a man with vision and initiative can enjoy a fourfold happiness throughout life. They are: happiness derived when one sees that one has enough wealth and monetary resources (atthisukka), happiness derived when one sees that one's wealth is properly and profitably utilized (bhogasukha), happiness derived when one knows that one is not in debt (ananasukha), and the happiness derived when one sees that one lives a blameless and useful life (anavajjasukha). A person can experience the first kind of happiness if he has energetically developed his potentialities form childhood to gather knowledge, experience and various types of skills through which he is able to earn and accumulate wealth, in a righteous manner, without causing hardship or embarrassment or damage to others. A man who manufactures and trades in weapons of destruction, a man who trades in animals and flesh, a man who produces and sells harmful drugs, alcohol and poison, a man produces pornographic literature, blue films and the like, cannot enjoy this happiness, though he may have accumulated a fortune from such things, because his conscience will keep on pricking him all the time when he ponders over how he earned his wealth. The second type of happiness is derived when one sees that one's wealth is property utilized. One should eat well, dress well and live in comfort and safety. One should also provide for the needs and comforts of one's kith and kin treat friends and neighbors fairly and should also engage in social welfare work. When one sees that one's well gotten wealth is properly utilized in this manner, one derives a happiness there from. A person though rich, if he does not spend adequately for his own comforts and needs, if he does not spend his wealth to make his kith and kin comfortable and happy, if he does not treat his friends and neighbours when the need for it arises, if he does not spend anything for social welfare work, he cannot enjoy the second type of happiness one derives from proper utilization of one's wealth. The third type of happiness is derived from non-indebtedness. Though one may earn much, if he becomes a spend thrift and resorts to gambling, drinking and debauchery, one's wealth would vanish in no time and one would fall into debt. Such a person cannot enjoy any peace of mind. He will be in constant fear and sorrow. On the other hand, a man who earns well and utilizes that money properly and sagaciously will never fall into debt. Buddhism teaches how a person should plan his economics. One's income should be divided into four parts. One part should be used for personal and family needs, such as food clothing and medicine, two parts should be invested as financial investments in banks or to buy property, and the fourth part should be set apart for emergencies. When one plans one's economy wisely in this manner, one will not fall into debt, and thereby one derives happiness and peace of mind. The fourth type of happiness is derived by one when one sees that one lives a harmless and blame free life, a life that is positively beneficial to oneself and many others. One who does not destroy or injure living beings, one who does not steal, one who does not misbehave in the senses, one who does not utter falsehood, slander, harsh speech and gossip, one who does not resort to drugs or narcotics and the like, only, can enjoy the fourth type of happiness.

A programme of work consisting of eight factors (Vism. Chp. III, p.295) is recommended by Buddhism to every individual to make his life here and now happy and content. Firstly, he has to develop correct attitudes and views about life. He has to realise that life is sacred to each and every living being, that beings resent suffering and wish to live in happiness and in comfort, and that all should behave in such a way that community life becomes pleasant and trouble-free to all (sammaditthi-right views). Secondly, having formed such views, one should be well disposed towards all sentient beings and harbour thoughts of friendship and non-violence (samma sankappa – right thoughts). Thirdly, of should use speech in such a way that while avoiding all social conflicts arising out of wrong speech, his speech should result in friendship, efficiency, harmony and peace in society (sammavaca – right speech). Fourthly, all his physical actions should not only be non-injurious to any living being, but positively useful to some being (samma kammanta – right action). Fifthly, whatever activities he would be engaged in, by way of earning a living, should not only be harmless to himself and to others, but should positively be useful to himself and others (samma ajiva- right livelihood). Sixthly, one should always be energetic and courageous to avoid all pitfalls in life and pursue on the path to progress and happiness, with determination (samma vayama – right effort). Seventhly, one should always be alert and vigilant about all his activities, what he thinks, what he speaks and what he does, so that he is able to avoid in time whatever thing is injurious to him and others and to pursue whatever thing is useful to him and others (samma sati – right mindfulness), and eighthly, one should practice meditation or mental culture to overcome and eliminate psychological weakness in him and to cultivate and nurture wholesome psychological tendencies (samma Samadhi – right concentration of mind).

Buddhism also speaks of four supreme psychological states (brahmavihara) (Vism.p.III) that each individual should cultivate and develop in him for his own happiness and welfare and the welfare of others in society. Firstly, one's disposition should be one of friendship and love to all sentient beings. One should always wish for the happiness of all=one's own self, one's kith and kin, friends, neighbours, country-men-in fact all sentient beings (metta – loving kindness). This attitude should cover the whole universe, not only human beings, but all other beings as well. When one has in him friendship and loving kindness to all beings, naturally one would be psychologically moved when one sees some being in an unfortunate situation or in a pitiable condition, under going hardship agony or sorrow. When a sympathetic person sees one in such a situation, he will do something himself, to help the suffering being to minimize its suffering or to completely overcome it. If it is not within his power to do it himself, he will not keep quiet, but will persuade others to do something to help the unfortunate being (karuna - sympathy). When he sees other beings living in comfort peace and happiness, when he sees beings who were in dire circumstances get out of such circumstances, he will experience a feeling of happiness himself, an altruistic happiness born at the sight of another's happiness (mudita) an lastly, he should be able to maintain equipoise or balance of mind in all situations in life-in gain or loss, in fame or ill-fame, in praise or blame and in happiness or suffering (upekkha - equipoise).

Buddhism advocates that each individual has to strive hard to improve himself, but it is not blind regarding the role the environment plays in the molding of the character of an individual. Man is essentially a social being, and many people play a wide role to feed him, care for him in illness, and protect him from possible calamities from all directions and gradually introduce him to the world at large. When he grows up a little, other people come into the scene-teachers, friends and the like-who too play active parts in molding his character. Next comes a very important person, the wife on whom depends a man's success and happiness in life. The wife is followed by children, who too, contribute an important share in the happiness of a man. Buddhism is quite aware of these situations and hence in another important discourse, the Sigalovada sutta (D.III.p.80ff) describes in detail the duties and obligations of an individual to all who matter in his life-parents, teachers, wife and children, relations, friends, religious men, servants and subordinates.

Buddhism does not close its eyes to the importance of the role the state has to play in ensuring the happiness and well being of man. Discussing the origin of state and kingship, the Buddha says in the Agganna sutta (D.III.p.93) that the earliest king was elected from among the people themselves, to look after the interests of all people and that the king could hold on to that position only in so far as he was able to perform his duties and obligations to the people on a righteous and fair manner. Buddhism reiterates that it is the sacred duty of a king or state to ensure human rights to every citizen, to provide facilities for intellectual, cultural, material and physical development of every man in the country. In this respect another Buddhist text (jVol.1, 260-99) mentions ten qualities that should be there in a king or ruler to ensure human rights to all citizens. The ten qualities are: a king should be generous, he should have his senses under control, he should be ready to make sacrifices, he should be straight forward, he should be gentle and king, he should be able to suffer hardship for the people, he should be from anger and resentment, he should be compassionate to all, he should be tolerant and he should be approachable.

In conclusion, it should be added that poverty in all its forms-intellectual, spiritual, material or social, can be minimized or completely eliminated only by a well thought out and properly planned programme of work, where in all sections of people should contribute their share-individually or as organized groups. Form the angel of the individual, each individual should be encouraged to develop his potentialities to the maximum capacity so that he can contribute something to ease poverty while looking after his own interests. He must be trained to live a simple life, utilizing for him the minimum of needs, so that he can make a sacrifice to help others in need. From the point of welfare and religious organizations, they can raise funds form suitable sources and organize welfare activities, such as running homes for the aged homes for children and the destitute, organizing work camps to educate people, finding employment opportunities for the jobless and doing relief work, wherever necessary. The biggest role has to be played by the state. The rulers should be farsighted and state man like, efficient and honest. They must study the problems of the country and the people, minutely and implement suitable programmes efficiently to solve whatever problems there are in the country. The state policies should be planned in such a way that there will be enough employment facilities, for all people. The ultimate responsibility of eliminating the poverty of any people rests with the state and individuals and welfare organizations can only give a helping hand to the state, if the state makes a sincere attempt to solve the problem. There is one thing that religious organizations can do, to help solve the problem of poverty, that is, they can appeal to developed countries who waste away a lot of money to produce weapons of war and destruction, to stop the arms race and utilize at least a part of that money to nourish the millions of unfortunate human beings all over the world

Dr. W.G. Weeraratne

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Untouchability and the Hug !!!

The visit of US President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, to the British “democratic kingdom” turned out to be historic not just because of the Group of Twenty (G-20) summit, but also because of an impulsive hug.

In a disarming and charming manner, Ms Obama hugged Queen Elizabeth at a formal function, breaking the feudal protocol that the monarch can only be touched by her family members.

This was the first visit of the first African-American President and his wife to the mother of democracy, Britain, which still refuses to be a republic and continues with its pre-feudal monarchic system, while its colonial daughter — the United States — has evolved into a democracy with the capacity for unbelievable change.

Those of us who stood for abolition of slavery, apartheid and untouchability of all forms felt that Martin Luther King Jr’s dream had come true when we watched the First Lady’s left hand encircling the body of the Queen.

What a day indeed! Not only apartheid, which British racist colonialism initiated, but also “feudal untouchability” — which was converted into protocol — crumbled like a house of cards.

In fact, all forms of cultural untouchabilities are houses of cards constructed as ideological belief systems. Bringing down such systems without shedding much blood through democracy is a wonderful game of history.

Also, to see both the British public and the media accepting Ms Obama’s hug as something that should happen is the fun part of this millennia.

While Britain gave America slavery and democracy, America marched ahead to abolish slavery and has even enabled a black man to become its President and the granddaughter of a slave to become its First Lady.

But the mother country remains as much a conservative democracy as America moves forward to be radical democracy.

In fact, how can Britain even teach monarchical Islamic nations that democracy is the hallmark of modernity when a feudal, protocol-centred Queen is ruling that nation.

Even now, Britain does not allow a Catholic to become its Prime Minister — leave alone any migrant settler. When John F. Kennedy became America’s first Catholic President, Britain had hidden its face within a cloth of Anglican Protestantism. “You can change, but I remain what I am”, was its attitude.

By embracing the Queen, Ms Obama literally washed away the sin of untouchability. As an Indian who has seen the worst form of untouchability, the change in the touch-me-not attitude of the Queen itself is inspiring. Here is a Queen who is willing to change along with the times.

Of course, Britain had produced its own brand of reformers, such as William Wilberforce and others, who fought against racism and slavery but the nation has not dared to abolish monarchy as yet. That feudal institution needs to be abolished and Britain needs to step into republicanism.

If Mr Obama’s victory was itself an experience of democratic transformation of America, what his wife did in Buckingham Palace in full public and media gaze is yet another milestone in transforming iniquitous feudal institutions that persist even now.

India too cannot be considered to be a modern nation without abolishing untouchability in all its forms. If the Obamas come to India and if they want to visit the Puri Jagannath Temple or Guruvayoor Sri Krishna Temple, will they be allowed?

Untouchability destroys democracy. To be true, democracy has to become operative in every sphere of life — social, political and spiritual. India too should ponder over several forms of untouchabilities that persist in our socio-spiritual life.

The President’s wife raised all these questions in a disarming manner by touching the Queen. Michelle, I salute you.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

IITs: Doing Manu Proud !!!

academic terrorism, casteism go unnoticed
Dalit Media Network, Chennai

Nandanar, a dalit rebel-activist of the bhakti period, sought access to the Shivaloganadar temple in Tiruppungur and the Nataraja temple in Chidambaram, to which the 'untouchable' Pulaiyars provided hereditary services (supplying leather for percussion instruments). For this, the brahman clergy derided him. The Tamil saivite tradition went on to appropriate the political resistance of Nandanar in the great hindu habit of 'assimilation'. In Sekkizhar's Peiryapuranam, a 12th century saivite hagiography, the dalit martyr is made to undergo a 'conversion' - he gains access to worship only after his caste-oppressed pulaiya body is purified' by the sacrificial fire, and lo! he then emerges as a brahman sage - tuft, caste thread and all. Siva is shown to accept the dalit after he undergoes a trial-by-fire. In reality, Nandanar was burnt to death. Incinerated. Today, many dalit students at the Indian Institutes of Technology have to survive a 'Preparatory Course' fire and come out unscathed if they have to do BTech. Not much has changed. The dalits fought for temple-entry; today they fight for entry into IITs - temples of technology.

The IITs, like the peethas of Adi Shankara, are established in different parts of A-k-h-a-n-d Bharat - even Guwahati has one (though the Kaladi revivalist would not have reckoned with hindu colonialism in the northeastern belt). The brahmans zealously guard both these institutions. They would not have a dalit as Shankaracharya. 'Purity' has to be maintained. Nor do they want a dalit instructor at an IIT. 'Merit' cannot be compromised. The IITs are quite like the romanticised gurukulas/ vedic pathasalas where most nonbrahmans, women, dalits and adivasis were/are not allowed. Merit in this country gets reduced to clinging to something for centuries and denying the same to others.

The institute admits students purely on the basis of merit.

IIT-Madras, Handbook 1999

Imagine a student of law, history or engineering being told to undergo an extra year of a 'Preparatory Course', pass it, and then get to the usual two- or four-year term, because she happens to be dalit. Consider this happening in Nagpur University or Osmania or Annamalai. Or Jawaharlal Nehru University. But this does not, would not, happen in these places. It happens only in the Indian Institutes of Technology; in their BTech courses. Many dalits and adivasis who get admitted into IITs are 'counselled' into first attending, and then passing, a Preparatory Course. IITs were not required to implement reservation for students till 1973. When they were forced to, they did it most reluctantly, adding riders - cut-off mark, prep course.

At the outset, dalit and adivasi students have to submit coloured application forms for the Joint Entrance Examination, JEE. (For JEE-2000, the colour was pink.) They are then given coloured answer sheets as well, while 'others' get plain white ones. Defenders of the system argue: This is fair enough. How else do you identify the applicants and fill the quota? Dalits and adivasis have to write their names on the answer-sheets, unlike 'others'. With mere roll numbers and uncoloured sheets, professors would not be able to establish whose papers they are correcting. The Preparatory Course - meant to 'uplift', not empower - is informed by very gandhian perceptions of what the disprivileged need. Much of the Preparatory Course is a revision of Class XI-XII syllabus. 'Their basics are poor, you see. Bad schools. Poor English. They can't cope.' Since IITs grossly violate the provision for affirmative action in faculty positions as well, dalit and adivasi students are taught the Preparatory Course by (mostly) hostile caste-hindu teachers. Such unabashed discrimination is not practised at any other engineering, medicine or humanities course in the country. Which is why, it is argued, IITs are a cut above the rest. And a dalit or adivasi, if she fails - or is made to fail - the Preparatory Course, has to forfeit her seat. One whole year is lost. They must start all over; try their luck elsewhere - if they have been able to salvage any selfrespect, stamina. There is a case here for the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act (1989). A person is punishable under Section 3(1)(x) of the Act if he "intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view". In IITs - a public place - a dalit student is insulted, intimidated and humiliated. This is also violation of Article 14 of the constitution.

But a leading English language magazine has another story to tell. 'These six engineering schools are perhaps the only truly free and fair centres of learning in India' (Outlook, 29 May 2000). The brahman-baniya controlled media pays gushing tributes paid to IITs, and the civil society is indifferent to what really happens on these campuses to dalits, adivasis and women. In Chennai, of course, the IIT stands newly, and more aptly, abbreviated: Iyer-Iyengar Technology.

The faculty of 427 at IIT-M has only 2 dalits; and they have made it without positive discrimination. According to Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, a non-electoral activist organisation which seeks to combine E V Ramasamy Periyar's ideology with Dr B R Ambedkar's, and has been spearheading the campaign on this issue since March 2000, the institute does not have a single Muslim faculty; there are 20-odd OBCs. (At the time of writing, in a tactful move, a dalit was appointed registrar of IIT-M. He has a poor record in his previous assignment and has only 18 months of service left; moreover, in IIT-M, the Dean-Administration is more powerful and the registrar does not command the same status as in other universities.) According to the management of this 41-year-old institute, IITs have been 'exempted' by the government of India from implementing the 22.5 per cent quota for dalits and adivasis in faculty positions. The Public Relations Officer, Pattabhiraman, says the reservation policy needs to be followed only when the basic pay for the lowest post is less than Rs 8,000. 'That would be the case when you start as a lecturer; in IITs we follow a different cadre system where you start as an Assistant Professor with a higher basic. So no quotas need to be filled. That is the government rule. Even the Mandal Commission says so.' Asked if this is not violative of constitutional provisions and if he could show the relevant 'government rules' that imply this exemption, Pattabhiraman just insists they are following the rules.

Sujee Teppal, an adivasi student who topped the Andhra Pradesh common entrance test (EAMCET) for engineering in her category, was keen on a BTech from IIT. At IIT-M, she was asked to take the Preparatory Course route. At the end of it, she was failed in one subject, Physics. (Her Class-XII Maths-Physics-Chemistry average was 94 per cent; she had a centum in Class XI Physics.) After the issue was taken up by the Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, and the subsequent coverage in the local press - which got interested, typically, after Sujee attempted suicide - and following a directive from the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (dated 8 July 2000), the IIT management tried to cover its tracks, conducted another test for Sujee and other dalits-adivasis who were failed along with her, and cleared some of them for BTech. A much-harassed Sujee has now been assured of direct admission into MTech (without having to clear GATE) by the management. First, you are humiliated; then your silence is bought. Several dalit employees have been similarly gagged. Says an employee denied promotions and increments for his outspoken views, 'The management plays one dalit against another, sometimes showering petty favours on one group, manipulating resistance.'
The IIT-M director, R Natarajan, offers a different rationale. 'IIT faculties do not have to follow the reservation provision just like the defence, space and medical super specialities sectors. We follow it only for one cadre, Scientific Officer, which has a low basic of Rs 2,200.' Even the usual excuse - 'we do not get qualified, meritorious dalit candidates' - is not offered; total exemption from affirmative action is claimed. For student intake, the director and his deputy, C R Muthukrishnan, maintain that they implement the quota, whatever be their 'personal views about the lower cut-off mark' and the quota system as such. Does any other university in the country which awards an engineering degree have this concept of a Preparatory Course? Unlikely, says Natarajan. For faculty posts, the PRO and director explain how at the bottom of the employment notice, the fine print says: 'All things being equal, preference will be given to SC/ST candidates.' And all things not being equal, this preference rarely ever happens. The probability at IIT-M: 2/427. In IIT-Bombay, the management is more straightforward and unabashed. According to a recent report, 'IIT-Powai does not have any Dalit teaching staff, even though 22.5 per cent of posts are reserved for them. Faculty members feel that the 'IIT's standards will be compromised if reservations in this area are implemented,' says a faculty member, with pride' (Indian Express, Mumbai, 12 Nov, 2000).

It is not a glass ceiling that dalits, adivasis and women (who have no protective discrimination whatsoever) in IITs have to reckon with. It is a solid, rusty, iron ceiling. And it is so low, you constantly hurt your head even when you walk half-bent. The IIT establishment justifies the policy of non-implementation of affirmative action without realising the social significance of having dalits and adivasis in faculty positions. The need for reservation and a rejection of the brahmanical 'merit-alone' theory has been beautifully articulated by Devanesan Nesiah in his comparative study of affirmative action in the United States, India and Malaysia (Discrimination with Reason? 1997).

Even in respect of jobs for which recruitment is on merit, as measured in terms of specified qualifications, there may be justification for reverse discrimination resting on efficiency criteria alone. For example, a Black, Dalit, or woman student might find it easier to establish rapport with, and learn better from, a teacher of the same category. Further, such a person could serve as a role model, and inspire and motivate others of that category, helping to augment the pool of human resources. Moreover, enrolling a member of a minority group into the management can help to broaden the network of contacts, resulting in increased efficiency in respect of further recruitment and various other transactions. Affirmative action may be the only feasible way, initially, to breach the barriers either on account of prejudice or the narrow self-interest of a closed network. Another factor may be diversity, which could bring substantial benefit to the entire community. Thus selection based on 'merit' alone may be inefficient ... Clearly, the 'merit' criterion is not an inherently 'fair' basis of distribution of rewards, since it may depend less on effort and more on genetic and other factors over which the individual may have no control. That the merit criterion benefits the clever is, in itself, no reason to adopt it (Nesiah 1997, 288, emphases added).
The government obviously has decided to look the other way when the IITs flout constitutional provisions. All the six IITs in the country - and this is likely to be true of other elite institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Management and Indian Institutes of Science - given that they are perceived to be 'highly specialised apex institutions and centres of excellence for higher education in engineering and technology' (Chitnis cited in Kirpal 1999), seem to be getting away with not observing the rules of the game. These institutions depend on heavy subsidy - the annual central assistance to the six IITs amounts to about Rs 499.18 crores (Government of India, 2000, 125), IIT-M receiving Rs 88.64 crore this year - but do not implement reservation. This is not surprising given that even for student intake the IITs, unlike almost all other government-run educational institutions, were exempt from implementing the dalit and adivasi quota till as late as 1973 (Viney Kirpal and Meenakshi Gupta 1999 23, 31). When this was done as per the Chandy Committee recommendations (1972), which specified that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes be taken into IITs 'down to the zero mark at the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE)' (31), the results were 'disastrous'. Most of the first batch of dalit and adivasi students found it extremely difficult to cope at the IIT and were failed or forced to drop out. Hence, 'the system of a two-thirds cut-off point at the JEE as the more reasonable alternative' was suggested in 1977. 'In 1978 all the IITs adopted the system which continues to be used till today' (32). In 1983, the Preparatory Course was conceived, thus further blocking the prospects of dalits/adivasis. How dalit and adivasi students make it to these discriminatory institutes of learning is a unique process that needs elaboration.

On direction from the Union Government, SC and ST students scoring upto two-thirds of the marks obtained by the last GE [general category] student on the merit list [sic] in the JEE are directly taken into the first year of the BTech programme, under the reservations scheme. Students who score below the two-third JEE cut-off point and "x" marks are assigned to the Preparatory Course where they are given one year's rigorous training. On obtaining a certain percentage of marks in Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and English at the end of the year, they are registered for the First year of BTech, failing which they are asked to leave so that they may join some other college. The SC/ST students may pass the programme with a reduced number of credits, i.e., 22 credits per semester as compared to 28 credits for the GE students. Nonetheless, to earn the BTech degree, they have to complete the total number of credits common for all (categories of students). The unique aspect of reservations in IITs is the total absence of compromised standards (such as grace marks awarded to SC and ST students). The concessions offered end with the reduced cut-off point at entry, the reduced course load during the semester and the six years (against the five for GE students) to complete the four-year BTech programme. The degree awarded is on a par with the GE students (Kirpal and Gupta, 36, emphases added).
The study, Equality Through Reservations, by Viney Kirpal and Meenakshi Gupta - both have taught Humanities at IIT, Bombay - is based on data collected from IIT students belonging to batches beginning 1989 to 1992. It says, 'During the period of data collection, there were approximately 5,868 general category students and 616 SC and ST students in the IITs' (49). Percentage-wise, this works out to 10.49 dalit and adivasi students out of the total intake - less than half the quota is being 'filled'. Though awash with statistics of all kind, this book, devoted to examining reservation in IITs, does not bother to work out this all-important figure which amounts to flouting the reservation norm. Nor does the Viney-Meenakshi effort tell us one word about the status of reservation at the faculty level. The authors, while admittedly concerned with how best the disprivileged students can 'integrate' with the 'mainstream' at IIT, are not even alive to the inherent discrimination wrought into the idea of a prep course. They do not see any moral turpitude in the very premise that some dalits and adivasis must undertake an extra year of study (but then they do not see caste as immoral, vulgar); it does not occur to them that such discrimination is not institutionalised anywhere else; nor are they alive to the absence of dalits and adivasis on faculties, and this affecting the social balance in IITs. To top it all, they use the term 'merit list' while referring to nondalit students, reinforcing postMandal notions of 'merit' being the prerogative of caste hindus (they are born with it, they always-already have it); something that is deemed to be unforgivably compromised, and even essentially absent, among persons who avail of affirmative action.

Most caste hindus spoken to express the opinion that it is good that IITs do not take the reservation provision seriously; this enables them to maintain 'standards', unlike other institutions. And since they are 'forced' to take some dalit and adivasi students, at least the Preparatory Course hurdle must be cleared. The Bombay Indian Express reporter who, briefed by the Dalit Media Network about the situation in IIT-Madras, filed a report ('Dalit Quota Opens Doors But Reservations Remain', quoted earlier) on the problems faced by dalits and adivasis in IIT-Powai, conveyed to us excerpts of a conversation in the reporters' desk. 'I wish you had got your facts right about the IIT piece. These people you are defending are dumb fucks who should be where they are. You don't know how many deserving students [as always, the case of some relation is cited] don't get in because of these duffers.' This would be a representative brahmanical response to any 'debate' on atrocities in the IITs, or on the subject of 'reservation' as such.

A fact is most dalit and adivasi students who make it to the IITs have internalised the logic of the Preparatory Course. A typical rationalisation goes: 'Look, they are not protesting... take a survey, and they all want the Preparatory Course without which they would feel further alienated.' Meenakshi and Viney reinforce this opinion, 'Of those who attended the Preparatory Course, 75 per cent felt that the Course had been helpful' (83). Seventeen-year-old dalits, who are within knocking distance of a BTech from an IIT, cannot be expected to reject the Preparatory Course as discriminatory. They might not be in a position to see the politics of it; and even if they do, it would prove personally too costly to act on such injustices. It is a classic case of saying the victim loves the physical or epistemic violence s/he is subjected to, when forcefully extracted tolerance of such violence is made a precondition to some material gain (in the IIT context, a BTech). We must realise that they are being forced to record consent/ approval of their humiliation; they internalise the logic that making it to an IIT matters most, even if it means an extra year and dirty looks from caste-hindu students for the 'lower cut-off mark'. In IIT-M, there have been cases where some dalit/ adivasi students have been coaxed by the management to opt out of the BTech because of their 'poor grades/ nonperformace' in return for diploma certificates, or sometimes, a BSc degree. Here too, the management argues that 'some degree' in the case of dalits would be better than 'being stuck doing BTech forever'. And since there is no academic audit in IITs, decisions of the all-powerful senate and the director's whim go unquestioned. This is academic and intellectual terrorism. Would our dalit and adivasi MLAs/MPs take it if told that they - but not other MPs - have to undergo a training course, similar to the IIT Preparatory Course, before they attended parliament?

One basic anomaly is overlooked. If for 25 years IITs have been implementing reservation for students, why is it that hardly any dalits and adivasis hold faculty positions? Technically, the IITs want to show that they are indeed satisfying the dalit/adivasi need to be part of what is an elite setup at the student level, but in effect they are producing (dalit and adivasi) technologists and engineers who will not be recruited by these very institutions. However, in lower-end posts, ('Class IV' employees), the scenario is predictably the opposite. In 1983, there were in all 800 dalit employees in IIT-M. Of these, 796 were scavengers. Here the brahmans stake/d no claim. There were four dalit LDCs. ('Caste system is not merely a division of labour. It is also a division of labourers' [Ambedkar 1987, 66, emphasis original].) Reservation norms were being overlooked even for non-faculty posts till a Suraj Bhan-led delegation of dalit and adivasi MPs - that materialised at the behest of a dalit employee in IIT-M - enquired into the situation that year. The director then was the now-Padmashreed P V Indiresan. And his views? 'Higher education is, and has to be, elitist... admit only those students who can cope with global standards in science and recruit only those teachers who have an international reputation for research... Both the Constitution and our politicians prohibit any institution from exercising academic freedom' (Outlook 23 Oct, 2000, emphases added). Indiresan, well-known for his anti-reservation line, has been particularly belligerent in the postMandal phase (for which the present government has bestowed on him a padma award). Says T Jayaraman of the Tamilnadu Science Forum, 'From media reports, it is clear that there is strong resistance to reservation in IITs. The extraordinary attack launched on the reservation policy by an IIT director (P V Indiresan), in the presence of the President of the country (Zail Singh) during a convocation ceremony, for which he did not even receive a reprimand/ reminder that affirmative action was a constitutional guarantee, reflects the situation in these institutes... such views stoke the perception that there is a real contradiction between reservation and 'merit', instead of arguing that in a country with a long history of discrimination based on caste, 'merit' must be suitably tied to justice, equality and affirmative action.' Jayaraman, a professor at the MatScience Institute, Chennai, is also of the view that IITs, by never having made a serious effort to identify dalits who are meritorious and recruit them in the faculty, give credence to the counterposing of 'merit' against reservation, and this amounts to an attack on the reservation policy itself.

M S Swaminathan, who by running an institute that takes his own name has made an institution of himself, is a former chairperson of IIT-Madras. On being contacted, he refused comment on the antidalit atmosphere prevalent in IITs, saying he was no longer associated with the institute. But he did say, 'Any questions on agriculture, I will answer.'

At a time when the IIT establishment (in Chennai) was being attacked by dalit and OBC groups - for not implementing reservation on the faculty, and ill-treating/ harassing dalit and adivasi students - Outlook featured a panegyric which began: 'What was Jawaharlal Nehru's greatest gift to the nation? ... what is the one unimpeachably visionary, unquestionably positive thing that he left us, something for which we should be grateful to him? A radical thought, but worth considering: Nehru's greatest gift to his nation was the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). And the world seems to agree' (Outlook 29 May, 1999).

But we do not.

Outlook's cover story, 'Doing India Proud', highlighted the 'achievements' of several 'IITians' ¾ needless to say those of men, mostly caste hindu; and amidst all the recent hype about information technology, most 'achievers' were those who had emigrated to the US as computer and technology coolies. The feature shows how casteist and sexist lies when garnished with bias can assume the taste of truth. In a nation where specific subcastes within dalits are forced to continue to carry caste-hindu shit on their heads and enter overflowing sewers, the IITs perpetrate a caste culture which would have pleased a Manu, who proscribed the Book for the OBC-sudras, dalit-untouchables and women (who together account for about 90 per cent of 'hindu' population). The non-implementation of reservation in IITs is something that is welcomed even in 'progressive' circles. 'No dilution of merit here please; at least spare these institutions.' The issue is sought to be swept under the 'merit' carpet. The merit carpet takes flight. Sitting on it are caste hindus. A brahman steers it. But who made the carpet? Who wove it, made patterns on it? And where are they?

The result: IITs remain virtual brahman monopolies; modern agraharams. And they are supposed to be doing India proud. We would rather believe that the contribution of IITians is the same as a brahman-dominated game like cricket. Both give the caste-hindu middle class a falsified sense of achievement.

Genderwise, the IITs fare even worse. Sandipan Dep, deputy editor with Outlook: 'What was my IIT education all about? It was about IITians: 400 academically exceptional boys (and 12 girls) on a campus...' The girls come in parenthesis. It's all about boys. Despite all those headlines and reports we have seen for years about girls doing better than boys in Class X, Class XII and other state and central board school exams, it is (mostly caste hindu) boys who have enough 'merit' to enter the IITs. And the few girls who make it must prove themselves male enough. 'From one coast to another, women engineering students have shared their relief on being accepted by the men in engineering as one of the guys' (Sally Hacker 1989, 49).

Some letters responding to the Outlook feature raised the issue of nonrepresentation of women. 'I was horrified to see not a woman mentioned in your entire story. Forget the alumni, even the on-campus photos didn't feature any women. Is your outlook so biased?' Another asked, 'Are all IITians men?' (Outlook 12 June, 2000). According to the news report cited earlier with reference to IIT-Mumbai, '(T)he situation for women students remains dismal, with less than 200 among the almost 3,000 students in the bachelor's and master's programmes. For Dalit girls, things are even more bleak. The first Dalit girls, numbering all of three, were admitted in 1997. Since then, their number has increased by one every year' (Indian Express, Mumbai, 12 June 2000).

One of the few dalit girls doing BTech in Mumbai is says, 'If you are in a coveted department like Computer Science and Engineering, the guys wonder aloud how a woman could get through and if they know you are a cata student, there is an audible 'ohh' which seems to answer their question.' ('Cata student' is caste-hindu IIT lingo for those who make it using affirmative action. In IITs, as in other campuses in our country, dalits tend to be allotted only dalit room-mates; dalits also do not figure in IITs' famed alumni associations.)

The problem is not just with the IITs, which merely represent the perverse culmination of a larger social bias ingrained in our education system; our anti-dalit, pro-caste, gender-insensitive syllabi which tend to reinforce existing hierarchies. A system that allows most IITians to take the first flight to the US after completing their BTech. A system that privileges the privileged, and even pays Rs 500 crores per year for it. The 1999-2000 Union Bugdet accounts for Rs 4380 crores (revised) on 'secondary and higher education' (Government of India 2000). Of this, Rs 499.18 crores went towards the six IITs. This works out to 11.4 % of the total expenditure in this sector. (This figure does not include what is spent on subsidising the general tuition, exam, hostel fee etc - about Rs 15,000 per year per BTech student (IIT-Madras Handbook 1999), insignificant compared to what private engineering colleges charge.) After spending/ subsidising so heavily, 'India' seems to gain nothing. 'The take-home package for campus recruits ranges from Rs 4.5 lakhs to 7.5 lakhs per annum plus other perks' (The Times of India, Delhi, 12 Nov, 2000). And whom do they serve? The frontpaged ToI report gushingly begins: 'The Americans want them. So do the Koreans, Japanese, Singaporeans, Germans, Canadians and the French.' Even from a purely investment point of view, the IITs seem nonviable. If the IITs are to have any social value to the country which foots their bill, there must be an effort to completely overhaul them and cast them anew.

Admittedly, the IITs are fashioned after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the California Institute of Technology (CALTEC) (Kirpal, Gupta 68). And it shows. The result is communities which have dealt with leather for centuries - who perhaps can be reckoned with as the first technologists of this country, who knew how to turn animal hide into beautiful bags and shoes, and for which reason were treated as 'untouchable' (Kancha Ilaiah 1996) - would rarely ever make it to these IITs. These institutions are not meant for them.

At IIT Guwahati, where 'every hostel room has an Internet connection' the BTech, Design, course is adapting to 'local conditions'. And how?

Says Sudhakar Nadkarni, head of the department: "In years to come, this will be the course to apply for." Nadkarni is adapting the design course to local conditions too. Bamboo and cane craft for instance. "We get master craftsmen from the northeastern states who impart training to our students who then try to adapt the designs through mechanisation," he says. Top technology meets native Indian talent. That's the way, one suspects, Nehru envisioned the IITs to be (Outlook 29 May, 2000).
But will these craftspersons from 'northeastern states', in all probability adivasis, ever make it to these IITs either as faculty or students? What will be the 'merit' of privileged, elite male students from across the country in comparison to the 'merit' of the nameless adivasis who weave magic on bamboo? And what is the IIT student up to here? These technobrats will computerise traditional adivasi designs using CAD/CAM. Will the craftspersons at least be termed 'visiting faculty'? Will any settlement be paid? And will that do?

Dalit and OBC intellectuals have pointed out how the equivalents of today's engineers and technologists in India hail from what would be dalit, shudra and adivasi groups. The lohars (smithies) who deal/t with metal; the dalits who deal/t with leather; the potmakers and toddy-tappers, the sculptors, ropemakers, and boat/ship-makers...; the aboriginal adivasis who found cures in herbs for which swadeshis and videshis are today vying for patents; the yadava women and men who domesticated wild buffaloes, milched them, made butter, ghee (which basically fattened brah-man stomachs); gardeners and tillers... all came from subaltern groups. A brahman, of course, discovered the zero. But today, IIT-M has seen only brahman directors - P V Indiresan, L S Srinath, N V C Swamy, R Natarajan - in the last 20 years. The chairpersons of this institute also tend to be brahmans - U R Rao, M S Swaminathan, Kasturi Rangan. Technology has been brahmanised. The tussle for the top slot, it seems, is between kannadiga brahmans and tamil brahmans at that. Caste struggle.

The Central Leather Research Institute in Chennai, which neighbours the IIT, is headed by a nondalit; a brahman in fact. Caste hindus dominate the place. Traditionally, most caste hindus kept away from leather - they still do. Now, brahmans-as-technologists can take charge of CLRI, but would do never get their hands 'soiled' tanning leather themselves. The brahmanical scriptures lay down that to touch leather would pollute; only dalits are to do leatherwork. Today, the research agenda on leather is decided by nondalits; people who never treated leather but treated, and treat, leather-workers as 'untouchable'.

A note on my incursions into IIT-Madras. As a nondalit, outsider trying to listen to and gather the stories of dalits - students, faculty and other staff - I was aware of the politics of power inherent in such situations. Forcing oneself on dalits in IIT-M, who on occasions had to be coaxed into believing our 'good intentions', was difficult. In most cases, there is great personal risk for the dalits who open up. Two lower-end staff members were penalised by the management for allegedly sticking up PDK's anti-IIT posters (condemning the 'brahman durbar in IIT') on the campus. A faculty member was quickly stripped of his 'additional responsibility' as SC/ST Liaison Officer when he refused to deny/condemn, as demanded by the management, the contents of a pamphlet that denounced the antidalit atmosphere in IIT-M. An employee, who was associated with the first Dalit Employees Association, and at whose behest a delegation of dalit MPs visited IIT-M to enquire into the problems faced by dalits, is willing to tell it all because he has less than two years of service left, and thinks he has nothing to gain or lose (though he grins: 'Maybe they will delay/ deny me my retirement benefits'). Most others - 2 faculty members, students who are most keen on wringing a BTech out of this scary place - are terrorised into silence; breaking which would mean jeopardising their already vulnerable position. 'Once you enter this place, the rest of your energies are devoted towards survival. To fight these people is unimaginable,' says a dalit employee who avoided campus accommodation because 'the place stinks. They have constructed two temples here. And you must see all the brahmans gang up on Thursday or Fridays, flaunting their caste threads and chanting some vedic and Gita nonsense. It is most offensive and communal.' One or two persons speak, requesting anonymity. 'But what will come of your effort? Suppose you publish all this, would things at IIT change? You will come, talk, write and go... we have to continue to live/study on this campus, face the same set of hostile lecturers/ management. Eventually, your booklet will reach the hands of the management; in no time they will figure out who would have spoken out... and they will make life worse than what it already is for us. For all of us. It is like what happens in villages. One dalit would have 'offended' the caste hindus by sitting and sipping tea before them; and if he did not repent the crime, the entire dalit community would face a social boycott. Some non-IIT people would perhaps come to know of what happens in these institutions. But they can do nothing about it. Nothing will change here.'
Outside the CLRI gate, a dalit-arundhatiyar sits and waits for work. The CLRI takes 'pity' and organises occasional workshops for those who traditionally deal(t) with leather - arundhathiyars, madigas, chamars.... It seems the CLRI is accessible to all 'traditional groups' dealing with leather and is quick to arrange for them an interface with latest technology. (A colleague whose brahman father holds a managerial post in a Jharkhand mine, says he knows of only one adivasi who holds a top management post in the firm. Most adivasis work as diggers. And Jharkhand has a predominant adivasi population.)

In Australia, the settler whites are at least saying 'sorry' to the 'stolen generation'. And an aborigine wins a gold medal in Olympics. In the US, there is a public discourse against racism, though discrimination continues. But 'hindu' India, despite putting in place theoretical guarantees in the constitution, continues to treat its aboriginals most shabbily, and no questions are asked. In the name of 'merit'; in the name of democracy.

Some larger questions remain, irrespective of whether we get the IITs to respect constitutional provisions on reservation and equality or not. In all likeliness, since the very basis of technology in these institutions is brahmanical and pseudoscientific, even those few dalits who make it to these places, in the process of surviving and emerging successfully out of them, are likely to imbibe/adopt values which would alienate them from their own backgrounds. (It is like getting dalits to live in an agraharam for four to five years, and then letting them out.) IITs, in their present shape, are likely to produce dalit technologists who would be constantly looked down upon by the brahmanical group, and who may want to dissociate themselves from commitment to any subaltern cause. Caught in a double-bind, they stand doubly alienated. IITs embody a hazardous combination of the worst of western capitalist-driven technology's social insensitivity and the worst of the local caste system - the only aspect of postAryan culture that has survived, in one form or the other, for 3000-odd years. And casteism in IITs is only a reflection, or an extension, of what is the larger reality in our caste-driven society, where those who benefit most (the caste hindus) by retaining caste tend to see casteism only in the form affirmative action - reservation - for dalits, adivasis. 'The country has gone to the dogs because of reservation,' some retired brahman settled (thanks to an IITian son) in Illinois would lament in a letter to The Hindu.

So, what do we do with the IITs? Can they be reformed, made to change their agenda, mend their ways? Can IITians forced to be more accountable to the nation which subsidises them? Would that be practicable? And what about rewriting and radicalising the very premise of 'technology' to render it more gender- and dalit-sensitive? That would of course mean a long haul, starting with recasting school curriculum where we need to initiate an anticaste discourse and combine it with respect for and dignity of labour. (During the antiMandal agitation, caste-hindu students mockingly polished shoes - with utter disregard for people who depend on such labour for livelihood - mourning the 'death of merit'. They were merely expressing contempt for such work; these were just photo-ops. Even if it comes to remaining unemployed, caste hindus would think it below their dignity to consider shining or mending shoes. They merely wanted to convey that such jobs are not meant for people who have 'merit'. The meritocrats would rather be underpaid in sweatless jobs than sweat it out as shoeshiners or sanitary workers even if paid more. Contempt for certain kinds of labour goes a long way in hindu culture and is integral to the definition of the caste system.)

In a postcapitalist world where even some dalitist ideologues are arguing that if we can't beat the forces of globalisation let's join them and make the best of it - the logic being it can't be worse than brahman-baniya capitalism and may perhaps help unshackle capital from the caste forces - what do we do with IITs which become recruiting grounds for MNCs? Right now, the only answer one can think of - most impossible and impractical though it may sound - is: close down these institutes. Which is what it would boil down to if the state were to, with determination - another most improbable thing - insist that all the IITs (and IIMs and other 'secular' agraharams) strictly implement the reservation provisions both in faculty and student intake, and scrap the blatantly discriminatory Preparatory Course, colour application forms etc. There would then be at least 80 dalit students doing BTech in each of the six IITs every year. And each IIT would have to recruit at least 80 dalit and adivasis as faculty members. Then the caste hindus, led by the brahmans, would say, 'Merit is being buried alive in this country'. To demand a sincere implementation of constitutional provisions of affirmative action in IITs would be the equivalent of saying priesthood and the right to initiation in brahmanic hinduism should be given to all - dalits and women. Which means we would be asking caste hindus to consider the possibility of a dalit as Shankaracharya/IIT director.

The IITs are not alone in flouting reservation norms in faculty recruitment. They only seem to be doing it most unabashedly, proudly. In the same city, the Madras Institute of Development Studies, which boasts of several 'progressive' Fellows (who have no teaching obligations so that they concentrate on pure academic social science research), too, does not respect the reservation norms. And this seems to be the case with most universities according to a 1999 study by the Delhi-based Forum of Academics for Social Justice. 'In the 239 universities and 7,000 colleges covered by the study, SC/ST members appointed under the reservation system constitute less than 2 per cent of the nearly three lakh teachers' (Frontline, 14 April, 2000). Jamia Millia Islamia has only three dalits/adivasis on its faculty as against the 106 required; Jawaharlal Nehru University has 15 dalits instead of the stipulated 89; in Aligarh Muslim University where there need to be 263 dalit instructors, there is not even one; in Benares Hindu University it is 14/ 257. All these are central universities. Not that state universities have a decent record on this count. The IITs can now smugly tell you, 'Look, we told you so...'.
'Ooooooooo!' The brahmans would cry. 'We would rather flee the country.' Then let them (never mind that at one point of time crossing the seas meant losing one's caste; but the brahman comes first, his rules next). But they would not. The government, safe in the hands of a brahman prime minister who gets his name from forefathers who should have performed the disgusting vajapeya yagna, if at all its hands can be forced on the reservation issue in IITs (suppose all the dalit, adivasi and women MPs miraculously joined hands!), will instead announce that the IITs would be privatised. MoUs would be signed with MNCs; Microsoft would take over one IIT, GE another, Siemens.... Then the caste hindus would say: Let's now see how you untouchable duffers get in. Let them privatise IITs if it comes to that; let the meritorious caste hindus pay an unsubsidised fee - it could run into lakhs of rupees - for a BTech...; but the state should not be allowed to drain Rs 500 crores a year and not implement affirmative action provisions by which it is bound.

The postMandal Chanakya, Narasimha Rao, realised that to counter the rise of the subaltern castes the public sector units should be closed/privatised. Today, a former World Bank employee, Arun Shourie, presides over the Disinvestment Ministry. And if we insist on reservation in IITs, the government will begin disinvesting them - 'affirmative action would render them nonviable and they would have to be shut down'. Actually, we don't have to insist that the IITs be closed down. All we - dalit leaders, activists, dalit politicians, MPs, MLAs, writers, lawyers... - need to do is pressure the government and courts (where 78% judges are brahmans (New York Times, quoting dalit activist Martin Macwan, 16 Nov. 2000) into ensuring that the reservation provisions are honoured. That our constitution be honoured. Honouring our constitution would indeed be a dangerous proposition (if the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act were seriously implemented, most caste hindus would land up in jail) . But let us insist on it. The fight for social justice in IITs might seem insignificant compared to larger battles that need to be fought against caste. But IITs have come to epitomise the caste system; they are the contemporary agraharams, the science and technology equivalents of what the maths of Shankaracharyas are in the religious realm for hindus. (To reinforce this connection, the IIT-M Handbook lists one 'Kanchi Kamakoti Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Endowment Award' under its various schemes of financial assistance for students.)

But what do we do with a regime that has put in place a constitution review commission? Tomorrow, there might be a new constitution which might scrap all affirmative action provisions (they broke a mosque and nothing happened to them; in fact, they came to power). And the caste hindus righteously would quote Ambedkar, no less, to support this. 'Even your Babasaheb wanted a review of reservation in 10 years.' (They would never remember, quote or do anything else that Ambedkar said or wanted. Not certainly his Annihilation of Caste.)

Yes, we may prove those sceptical dalit employees and students in IIT-M right. Nothing is going to change IITs. They will be what they are. They will continue to treat dalits and adivasis the way they have been doing. As someone said in colloquial Madras-male Tamil, Oru mairum aagada. 'Not one pubic hair can be made to fall.' Maybe, we should then parse them. The IITs. They must be great places, after all, since they all say so. Let us then join the chorus and praise these famous institutes. Let us sit back and enjoy the carnival of brahmanism being played out here. 6 Dec. 2000


Ambedkar, Babasaheb Dr. Writings and Speeches, Vol 3. Government of Maharashtra, Bombay: 1987

Government of India. Expenditure Budget 2000-2001 Vol 2. New Delhi: 2000

Gupta, Meenakshi and Viney Kirpal. Equality through Reservation. Rawat, New Delhi: 1999

Hacker, Sally. 1989 Pleasure, Power and Technology: Some Tales of Gender, Engineering and the Cooperative Workplace. Unwin Hyman, London: 1989

IIT Madras, Handbook. 1999

Ilaiah, Kancha. Why I am Not a Hindu. Samya, Calcutta: 1996

Nesiah, Devanesan. Discrimination with Reason? The Policy of Reservations in the United States, India and Malaysia. Oxford University Press, New Delhi: 1999

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