B.R. Amberdkar Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Who are Dalits?

Dalit means oppressed. It was used to refer to people belonging to the backward castes in pre-independence India, who were subjected to untouchability by those belonging to upper castes.

The term Dalit was popularised by economist and social reformer B.R. Ambedkar, who himself was a member of the backward caste.

Dalits have had the lowest social status in India’s traditional Hindu social system.

The reservations system:

Soon after India’s independence in August 1947, the system of reservations in state jobs and education was introduced to offer a level playing field to members of the backward castes and make them socially and economically empowered.

Dangers of reservations:

Over the last seven decades since India’s independence, the proportion of quota for reserved categories has been increased periodically, with the most significant rise recommended by the Mandal Commission in 1990 — effectively raising reservations to 49.5 per cent in government jobs and education.

This led to protests across India, raising the spectre of a class-divide over state entitlements like never before.

Based entirely on the caste nomenclature, instead of any potent economic parameter, to determine reservation claims, the quota system has served as an effective tool for the political class to consolidate vote-bank politics along casteist lines.

— Sanjib Kumar Das/Senior Pages Editor