India Today

Quotas in the Time of Achhe Din

The EWS quota turns the original logic of reservations on its head. Is the ruling coalition finding ways to deny Dalits their seat at the table?

The battle-lines in the anti-Mandal agitation of the early 1990s were clear: those in support were labelled 'casteist', a label that became synonymous with 'anti-merit', indicating that those opposed to reservations cared only about merit and not about caste. This was yet another reinforcement of the stereotypical equation of upper-caste status with merit or ability, cleverly masking the reality that those opposed to reservations were equally caste-conscious and casteist, in that they were very committed to preserving their caste privilege, totally opposed to sharing even an extra inch of what they considered their space.

Coming on the heels of the anti-reservation agitations in Gujarat in the mid-1980s, the dominant discourse of the time condemned reservations and those who used them; the need for reservations was seen as a public display of weakness, an admission of inadequacy, of lack of intrinsic 'merit', a dependence on the State that could only be pitied-the SCs were

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