Sabotaging Dalit Reservation : Kerala Style
At a time when pet-themes like anti-reservation stir and stopping of reservation system are mounting-up, the same vested interest lobby of upper castes and backward communities snatch the posts reserved for different Dalit segments through fraudulent and manipulative methods. The purpose seems to be not only getting personal gains, but also to show artificial figures of total Dalits reservation to support their argument to put an end to the ongoing reservation system.
A seminar, "Sabotaging of Reservations", organised on March 10 at Museum Auditorium, Thiruvananthapuram, by Confederation for Dalit Rights (Kerala) threw some glaring insights into these murky dealings within the State. The seminar focussed attention on the common practice of snatching the benefits meant for Dalits by some upper and backward communities with the help of fake caste certificates showing them as Dalits. Through this widespread fraudulent practice, numerous posts in government service and other related wings for which only Dalits are entitled were already cornered by them. Because of this practice adopted by upper and backward castes, who occupy financially and socially dominant positions in the social milieu, figures of Scheduled Caste representation in government services show an artificial increase from 8.00 per cent to 10.40 per cent. By raising this manipulated artificial figures, it was also alleged that the SC-ST representation in government services had surpassed the " quota limit" for which they are entitled. On the basis of this argument, demands like freezing SC/ST reservation posts, converting them into general category as well as total withdrawal of reservation system are being aired. Terming this as a serious situation, the Seminar opined that it had already constituted a major challenge for the entire SC/ST segments in Kerala.
A memorandum submitted to the Kerala Governor by the Kerala State Action Committee of Forum for Protection of Dalit Reservation gave elaborate details on this fraud. The memoradum, while drawing the Governor's attention to the SC/ST rights duly protected under Acts 15(4), 16(4), 341, 342, 46, 330, 332, 243-D, 243-T and 335, said that other undeserved castes and communities are cornering all these rights and benefits meant for Dalits. The memorandum recalls the 9 criteria under which 1931 Census had classified the SCs and STs on the basis of which they were given voting rights as per the 1935 Government of India Act. Some of these important criteria were: People belonging to lower castes who were not entitled to walk through public roads near temples, whose rights to draw water from public well were denied, who were permitted to study in schools, as well as those who were segregated on the basis of untouchability by both upper castes and backward communities. There was no change effected to this criteria to determine SC/STs which were mainly based upon the horrors of untouchability. Thus, the same SC/STs list of 1931 was duly incorporated into Act 341 of Indian Constitution to provide Constitutional recognition to all these Dalit castes. Also, under Section 17, untouchability was prohibited in India in 1950. Therefore, there is no possibility or scope for any new untouchable caste taking birth afresh in Independent India. Besides, as per Act 341(2), no castes other than mentioned in the 1931 Census cannot be treated afresh as SCs.
The memorandum to the Governor recalled the peculiar situation prevailing in Kerala when there were separate SC lists remaining in force in Malabar region and Travancore-Cochin region at the time of State's reorganisation in 1956, which contributed various to problems in determining the actual population of SC/STs in the newly formed unified Kerala State. Therefore, in order to facilitate calculating SC/ST population, an act (108/76) was passed in 1976 by incorporating the two separate lists into one, which came into force on July 27, 1977. This new list was not meant to include any news caste into the SC list but, on the other hand, only to determine the actual strength of SC/ST population in order to protect their rights. "However, in actual practice, the powerful forward castes and backward communities in Malabar region misused this new list by virtue of similarity of their caste names with that of Dalits and to snatch reserved posts and other benefits meant for Dalits. A clear example of this relates to the "Peruvannan", who rank 51st in the OBC list, who faked it into Dalit castes such as "Mannan", "Vannan", "Perumannan", etc. through fraudulent caste certificates and snatched the posts and benefits for which only Dalits are entitled to." The memorandum informed the Governor that due to this practice of snatching away of Dalit reservation posts by BCs and OBCs, numerous educated Dalit boys and girls remain as unemployed.
The memorandum demanded : 1) To remove all those undeserving candidates who occupied reservation seats and fill the posts by appointing SC/STs; 2) By re-recognising the 1956 list, remove the BCs of Malabar area like "Perumannan" from the SC list; 3) Restore ownership of alienated tribal lands back to the tribals and fill-up all the existing vacancies of STs through special recruitment drive; 4) As per the 1974 Central Government order, extent reservation systems to all institutions which pay salaries from State exchequer; 5) Since the right for excess land is being denied to SC/STs by giving them 3 or 4 cents, it should be allotted to all those who are having less than 10 cents.
The inaugural session of the Seminar on "Sabotaging Reservations" was presided over by P. Sasidharan, Retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, who is also the grandson of Ayyankali, the famous crusader of yesteryears for Dalit rights in Kerala. Notable among those who addressed the gathering include Dr. M. Kunjaman, Member of University Grants Commission. C. V. Subramanian, Additional Secretary of Law Ministry, and C. K. Kuttappan, State President of SC/ST Employees Association.