The Constitutional provision of reservation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes was never meant to be a poverty alleviation programme. The provision, outlined in Chapter XVI (Article 330 onwards), should be read in the context of Article 46 (Directive Principles of State Policy) which enjoins upon the State to take special care of the “weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation”.
This was considered necessary to ensure Right to Equality for all citizens of the country irrespective of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. In the rigid Varnashram Vyavastha practised for ages in Bharat Varsha, the Shudras (roughly comprising all who were not Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas) were forced to live a condemned life. They did the unclean work, constructed their houses in a corner of the village away from the dwellings of the Savarnas, were denied education and were made constantly conscious that their very touch would contaminate the Savarnas of the villages. In some parts of the country, even their shadow was considered impure.
Through reservations, it was sought to pull them up from the mire and place them on par with the other citizens of the country; in other words, give them a social status. The provision has helped, but not to the extent the Constitution-makers had expected. That is mainly because of the failure of those who were elected by the people to rule the country and enforce the various provisions of the Constitution. Gradually, the reservation was turned by the rulers into a vote-catching device, and the uplift of the weaker sections became only incidental.
The BJP had never had a social policy concordant with the modern society. The Sangh Parivar (of which the BJP is only a limb) had always dreamed of taking the country back to mythological Dwapur or Tretayug when the Varnashram Vyavastha was in vogue and the things like social equality or social justice, as understood today the world over, were not known. The Congress had, however, evolved from the struggle against the foreign rule and with the commitment to end injustice to all sections of the people and establish an egalitarian society.
It was, therefore, surprising how the Congress started talking of reservations for the poor Savarnas. First it was Pandit Narasimha Rao (then Prime Minister and Congress President) who had proposed reservations in government jobs for the poor Savarnas. His proposal did not find favour in his own party and it was almost forgotten. Later the issue was revived by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who comes from a feudal background, and endorsed vigorously by then AICC spokesman S.Jaipal Reddy; for all practical purposes the Congress led by Sonia Gandhi appeared out to transform itself into the clone of the BJP.
No one can find fault with the concern for the poor, whether belonging to the weaker sections or the Savarnas. The Constitution’s Chapter on Directive Principles of State Policy details guidelines on how to improve the quality of life of the people, the poor included. It enjoins, for instance, upon the State to ensure right to work and to education, provide for just and humane conditions of work, endeavour to secure living wage to all workers, agricultural, industrial or otherwise, and provide for free and compulsory education for all children. Had the elected governments been honest in implementing the Directive Principles, the requirement of reservation for any class of people would probably have become unnecessary by now.
Sonia Gandhi, too, should share the blame for sweeping the post-Kargil scams under the carpet. She, as not only the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament at the time but also the President of the country’s oldest political party, had woken up too late to the “mess” that Fernandes had created in the wake of the Kargil conflict and, then too, her approach had been lackadaisical.
Sonia, or her party, did not try to find out if the “mess” was the result of incompetence or design. Defence Minister George Fernandes, the former socialist-turned-trade unionist, had, by his own admission, worked for the West German intelligence agency during India’s Emergency. He might, who knows, still be on the rolls of a foreign intelligence agency not exactly operating in the best interests of India when he was holding charge of Defence portfolio.
His role during the Kargil crisis was inexplicable. His utterances had created so much problem for the Government that the National Security Council (NSC) held its first meeting on June 8, 1999 to discuss the matter and was constrained to ask Fernandes to keep his mouth shut.
On crucial days from May 6, when the first confirmed news of infiltration from across the Line of Control was reported to him, Fernandes was busy holding rounds of confabulations with Chandra Shekhar, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Pawar, amongst others, for new political alignments. On May 8, he left for Mumbai to celebrate the silver jubilee of the 1974 railway strike led by him.
Fernandes took a moralistic stand after the Tehelka expose, resigned from the Government and declared that he would not rejoin it till he was cleared of the allegations. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who must be knowing Fernandes inside out, was also taken in because he declared in his Address to the Nation: “In the highest traditions of the country, to safeguard the morale of our forces and the security of the country, my esteemed colleague, a stalwart of the NDA, George Fernandes, has left office”. Within a few months, Fernandes was back at his position. No one knows if it was some foreign pressure that compelled Vajpayee to take him back, giving a blow to the “highest traditions of the country”, “morale of our forces” and “the security of the country”.
Sonia betrayed the people by forcing an anti-climax to the Congress party’s signature campaign launched with a great fanfare in the wake of the Tehelka expose. It was said that Sonia, accompanied by all PCC presidents, would hand over the signatures to the President and seek action. One can imagine how it would have galvanised the party and sent a positive message to the people. But when the time came, Sonia pushed off to the US, leaving it to some AICC functionaries to present the truckloads of signatures to President K R Narayanan.
Ved Pratap Vaidik’s meeting with Hafiz Muhammad Saeed in the latter’s fortified hideout inPakistan raises some pertinent questions.Vaidik claims that he metSaeed as a journalist but Vaidik’s activities of late have been less of a journalistic nature and more of a freebooter Modi soldier. Was he included in the three-member delegation toPakistan in his capacity as a journalist? If yes, which news organisation does he represent?
The 64-year-old Hafiz Saeed is not only listed on NIA’s “most wanted list” but the United Nation had also declared Jama’at-ud-Da’wah a terrorist organisation and Hafiz Saeed a terrorist as its leader. Besides, in April 2012, the United States announced a reward of $10 million on Hafiz Saeed, for his alleged role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed had, along with Abdullah Azzam, founded in1987 Markaz Dawa-Wal-Irshad, a group with roots in the Jamait Ahl-e-Hadis. This organization spawned the jihadist group Lashkar-e-Taiba in 1990 with the help of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) officers.
Lashkar’s primary target is Jammu and Kashmir. Saeed is often quoted as saying, “There cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy.”
After the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, India submitted a formal request to the UN Security Council to put the group Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed on the list of individuals and organizations sanctioned by the United Nations for association with terrorism. India has accused the organization and its leader, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, of being virtually interchangeable with Lashkar-e-Taiba. India said that the close links between the organisations, as well as the 2,500 offices and 11 seminaries that Jamaat-ud-Dawa maintains in Pakistan, ‘are of immediate concern with regard to their efforts to mobilize and orchestrate terrorist activities.’ On August 25, 2009, Interpol issued a Red Corner Notice against Hafiz Saeed, along with Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, in response to Indian request for his extradition.
Hafiz Saeed lives in Lahore in a ‘fortified house, office and mosque’ that is guarded by Pakistani police and his supporters and closely watched by ISI officers. It is said that no one is allowed nearSaeed’s ‘fort’ without the approval of the ISI. How did Vaidik get clearance of the ISI? On his own ‘authority’? With the help of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)? On personal intervention of Modi through Nawaz Sharif? These are some of the questions that need answers.
Vaidik has not revealed the full contents of his ‘interview’ with Hafiz Saeed. It is Hafiz Saeed who has revealed that Vaidik ‘asked if we would protest Modi’s visit to Pakistan, on which I replied we don’t participate in such politics and protests. Perhaps it says much about Vaidik’s meeting with Hafiz Saeed!
PS: A source, who takes keen interest in Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, feels Vaidik may have gone to give ‘hush money’ to Hafiz Saeed to ensure that he does not create any trouble during Modi’s visit to Pakistan.