Can We De-Stigmatise Reservations in India?
The policies of affirmative action or reservations seem to create an inherent conflict between the processes of redistribution and the demands for recognition. While it is a fact that the policies of reservation have created new opportunities for the specific disadvantaged social groups, these however have come at a cost of causing the more intangible injury of mis-recognition. `The result is to mark the most disadvantaged class as inherently deficient and insatiable, as always needing more and more. In time such a class can come to appear privileged, the receipt of special treatment and underserved largesse. Thus, an approach aimed at redressing injustices of distribution can end up creating injustices of recognition`. In spite of various struggles and new mobilisational strategies, dalits in India continue to be stigmatized and continue to face new forms of discrimination in modern public sphere, institutions of higher learning, market and civil society. This paper argues that the new wave of reservations- also referred to as the `second democratic upsurge`, is to change the stigma attached to the discourse of reservations in India. For the first time in India an already existing elite section of the population would be part of the `reserved category`. Demands from such dominant groups (caste groups such as Jats and Rajputs) are gradually making reservations a more generalized feature of the Indian polity, rather than being identified with any specific caste, community or classes. This in turn makes it very difficult for the so-called forward or upper castes to denounce or stigmatise the discourse of reservations. Instead, this debate has headed in the direction of `reverse social osmosis` seeking reservation for the poor among the upper castes.