Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reservation Quota for an "Indian"

The quota issue has raised its head again (I won’t say ‘ugly head’ for fear of being chastised as privileged-educated-middle class-drives a car-has a maid-kids study in private school-nondalit-Hindu and who knows what else) and I have serious issues with the “let us reserve for those who are needy/underprivileged/minority/victims of casteism” simply because the other side (not necessarily the opposite of the adjectives that describe the “need reservations” group) is unrepresented and therefore, ignored.

To understand what I am getting at, all you would have to do is go to the Tehsil office in your district and observe the queues for ‘domicile certificates’ and hear what those standing in the queues, who are not natives of the state, have to endure.

Today the reality of an Indian like me (of Marwari origin, born in Delhi, raised in Kerala, married to a Tamilian Brahmin, lived across the country courtesy spouse’s service in the Armed Forces, now stationed in Maharashtra, and who can speak 6 Indian languages with absolute ease) is that my identity has become restrictive.

Simply because I cannot respond with confidence to queries regarding region, home state, mother tongue etc with an emphatic “I am an Indian” and leave it there. It is not enough.

“Ha ha…yes I know. We are all Indians. But really, which state do you belong to?” I am often questioned by incredulous acquaintances who also announce rather alarmingly when told the truth about my multi-cultural upbringing, “Really? Baniya from Kerala? But you don’t have a mallu accent at all!!!!” the blame of which I usually shift to the missionary-run school I attended through my academic life in uniform that insisted we speak in English all the time. “Yes, but still, your English has no malayali accent…”

Ok I admit I do feel a cheap thrill when I am told that my accent carries no traces of my education from Kerala where the accent is the butt of several thousand jokes. But that is where it ends, because inclined as I could be (or should be) to be known as a Keralite minus the accent, I am keener to be known as an Indian.

Sadly that is a card that is not working and as time goes by, it is getting tougher for our tribe to survive.

I have to belong to some place in India to qualify to be part of a socio-cultural or socio-economic group. As an out of work journalist, I am not part of any socio-economic structure any way and my socio-cultural identity was long ago snatched after it became mandatory to “belong” to some state in the country.
So while I “must” technically belong to Kerala (on paper; the heart is a different matter altogether), I do not, because I don’t vote from Kerala not having lived there for over 23 years. I do not belong to Maharashtra, where I currently live, even though I vote from here, because I have not resided here for fifteen or more years (to claim domicile). I cannot belong to Haryana, where my father grew up because we no longer have any property, friends, relatives or bonds there and furthermore I have never lived there.

Despite all this, I have managed to trundle through life proud of my unique identity as an Indian who did not base her allegiance to a region/state to feel a sense of belonging to her Motherland.

But this I reckon (practical as I am) will not be of much help to my children, who from a very young age have been questioned, amongst others, by class teachers about religion, caste and home states (to which we have continued emphasising a zealous “Indian” as an answer), and who will have to make a choice eventually because when we seek admissions into colleges, universities and the like, our ‘regional’ orientation will matter as much, if not more than our sexual orientation.

It will matter a few years from now when my daughter needs admission into a college, and where the existing sundry reservations would mean one of these three choices: either she scores a 120% marks to get a seat through merit (the cut offs for colleges are getting distressingly unachievable), look for a reservation category that we fall under (so far there isn’t any), or compel her to make a different career choice.

So, finally, after years of being subjected to religion-caste-region questions I have come to the conclusion that people like me, who are a veritable cocktail of the cultures that makes India what it is, need to have our have our very own reservation too.

There must be a reservation for those whose hearts beat for India and who do not stake a claim on any particular region, language or culture as their own – who are Indians first and Indians forever; a reservation quota for “Indians” in academic institutions, government jobs and the like.

Now that I have my ideology clear, all I would need to do is focus my energy towards finding the perfect poster boy, celebrity, mouthpiece who could be suitably instated chairperson of the movement and who will passionately vocalise our “feelings”. A dharna, march, bandh etc can follow later (those will be part of Plan B).

Please wish us luck!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Moral Policing - Pune Nightclub Incident

I have a problem with this phrase – Moral Policing. Because these two words, that briefly mean, “the effort of a select few individuals to ‘protect’ India’s ‘culture’ against ‘western influence’”, can cover all manner of sins.

Case in point is the rounding up of 300 individuals who were partying in a nightclub in Pune, their subsequent detention and the harassment they went through for over 12 hours, being held, without food or water, at the venue.

This nightclub, which has a restaurant attached, located in the suburb on the Eastern side of Pune is known amongst party goers as a hip place to hang out in, where the music is good, the dance floor large and the crowd that comprises of mostly techies and working professionals, (which would qualify in clubbing parlance as a ‘safe’ crowd,) a place devoid of hooliganism, where groups of women (unaccompanied by men) can have fun without the fear of groping, or soliciting.

Pune rural police that swooped down on the club say that the party organisers didn’t have requisite permissions and a large quantity of ‘illegal’ foreign liquor was being served. The party continued way beyond midnight and while rumours were agog about the presence of narcotics there is no concrete evidence so far to prove that guests were using drugs.

So far, it doesn’t seem like the guests at the party were indulging in any nefarious activities other than drinking, dancing and having fun. And this is where the problem is.

This was no rave party nor a private party; the attendees paid Rs 1000 per couple as an entry charge for a night of dancing that was advertised on a radio channel too.  It was a typical Saturday night out for over-worked professionals who like letting their hair down.

Unfortunately what we are witnessing is that lawmakers are entrapping themselves in these dual roles – one of law enforcers as the police and the other of morality enforcers as moral police.

If the organisers were flouting rules (such as closing time) or didn’t have requisite permissions, why were 300 guests detained and held for hours without food or water? If the police suspected underage drinking, why were those who are of legal drinking age not allowed to leave?  The onus of serving liquor to underage guests lies with the organisers, then why were others detained beyond a reasonable time?

The media meanwhile, indulged in hyperbole so typical of the moral brigade terming the action of the police a “raid”. They went berserk on the so-called statistics of the so-called raid – “There were Iranian nationals at the party” – (Is there a law against foreign nationals enjoying an evening out?); “The party was even attended by 110 women” – (What does “even by women” imply? That women cannot have fun in a nightclub?); “Some boys and girls were found in compromising positions” – (Compromising position? Have they been inside a cinema for a matinee on a weekday, where the cover of darkness hides a lot more than a compromising position?)

Hypocrisy is the benchmark of moral policing – the same brigade that has a problem with smoking, drinking or dancing but won’t bat an eyelid nor raise a furore when a porn star turned actor is the chief guest at Dahi Handi celebrations in this very same city.  This moral police won’t save the dignity of a girl being groped in public by lascivious men, but will mind if girls mingle with the opposite sex at their own free will. This same bunch of people who claim to uphold the culture of our land will stand by and do nothing when two young men are stabbed and killed for standing up to their girl friends in Mumbai.

Moral Policing – actually sounds like the only implement that these select individuals have to mete out their fanatical, hypocritical and diabolical ideologies on the youth of this country. The detention of these guests is an unfortunate occurrence and must be condemned by all those who believe that as long as they function within the ambit of the law, their right to have fun should not be violated by anybody – not the “police”, not the “moral police.”