The battle of backwards against social backwardness has become a national agenda during 1990. In fact, the aspiration of backwards got expressed through Mandal revolution and it had been in public during the entire twentieth century.
Jotiba Rao Phule sowed the seeds of representation in public life during the nineteenth century.
Phule gave a representation to Hunter Commission in 1882, seeking for the Representation of ‘Sudraathisudras’ in Govt institutions. Earlier to that, a few British civil servants felt the need for pluralising administration. They felt that govt shouldn’t see through the eyes of one community alone and felt the need for inclusion of other castes and communities.
Shahu Maharaj ((26 June 1874- 6 May 1922), King of Kolhapur, who was influenced by Phule’s Satya Shodak movement, Pradhana Samaj, Freedom movement and British democracy, and initiated the policy of ‘50% Reservations to Non-Brahmins’ and issued orders on July 26, 1902. He found that the entire administration was constituted by Brahmins only. To commemorate Sahu Maharaj’s contribution to social justice, July 26 is being observed as Reservation Day.
In view of several social movements and his exposure to the system of democracy, he decided to democratize administration by including several other Non-Brahmin castes and communities who were left excluded from the governmental systems.
Shahu’s move of democratisation of administration through reservation distributed the elite who have been enjoying the monopoly of administration. They felt that such policies of reservation might promote democratic aspirations of the excluded castes and take it to other territories of British administration and that would pose a challenge to their social hegemony. Therefore they opposed Shahu’s Reservation with one voice across Maharashtra.
Bala Gangadhar Tilak, who was in the forefront of the Indian National moment, led the movement against reservations which was essentially a democratic measure and most needed one in transforming caste society.
Tilak argued, what would Kumbis do in the administration? Do they till? Or what would the Shimpies do? Do they stitch there sitting in public institutions? His was a known voice resisting Shahu’s Reservation.
Brahmins in Kolhapur state argued that Shahu Maharaj committed a sin by giving reservations to Non-Brahmins. They went further and said that his mother died because he committed sin. Shahu did not yield to their pressure and went ahead overseeing the implementation of reservation in employment, and education. He tried his best to promote Non-Brahmins in business and industry. He used to campaign that people could develop and prosper if they move into business and industry. He explained the development trajectory of English people to substantiate his argument. That way Shahu’s vision was not only Democratising society but also modernising people by moving out from uneconomic traditional caste occupations.
Since Shahu’s time till today, the social elite has remained rigid in opposing reservations. They do it through social organisations and also political parties and governments they head.
Through writing, invoking undemocratic and trivial arguments, and propaganda in mainstream TV and print media. The social elite continued to resort to age-old mindsets. During Bihar elections in 2015, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat questioned reservations and said with whose costs the Reservations are continued. Lalu Prasad Yadav declared that let there be a battle between Forwards and Backwards. We will establish Mandal Raj.