On August 7,1990, India gave brith to OBCs at the national level as India became independent on August 15, 1947. In India, OBCs constitute over half of the country’s population but they did not have any identity for 43(+3) years. In fact, the constitution of India promised to give birth to OBCs through a commission that was to be appointed by the President, the constitutional Head of the State. OBCs had to wait for 61 years after Independence to get reservations in education. For economically weaker sections belonging to forward castes,the reservation are given against the constitutional criteria within three days. First day, Lok Sabha passed the bill, second day Rajya Sabha and immediately after that President of India signed the bill and it has become an act providing reservations for Economically Weaker Sections of higher castes (EWS).
Now the question is why did India take over four to six decades to confir the status of OBCs to half of it’s population to avail reservations in employment and education.
This article probes into the trajectory of OBC Reservations in India. An analysis is made in relation to constitution-making, the constitution of Commission, Judicial response, and the response of Political Parties. Further, an analysis of Backward class movement at the national level is also attempted here.
Constituent Assembly started its work, making Indian Constitution in 1946. In the very beginning, the Assembly passed a resolution committing to social and economic justice as the foundation of the Constitution.
When Dr.B.R.Ambedkar, Chairman of the drafting committee of the constitution moved a resolution to confir reservations to scheduled castes and Scheduled Tribes, the Assembly got up and opposed it. In fact, they got reservations as part of Gandhi – Ambedkar pact called Puna Pact. For which DR.Ambedkar had to sacrifice hard-won separate electorate for SCs and STs in the Round Table Conference. This was the biggest sacrifice Dr.Ambedkar made to take reservations for SCs and STs. SC, ST reservation came into existence in 1935 as part of 1935 Government of India Act and it was continued as the Constituent Assembly was debating. Lastly, with a lot of persuasion great resistance from Dr.Ambedkar, the Constituent Assembly agreed to accept Reservations to SCs and STs and they are incorporated in the Constitution.
Then followed a debate initiated by Dr.Ambedkar to extend reservations to other backward classes. Once again the members of the Assembly rose against the proposal. They said, we have agreed for reservations for SCs and STs. Then who are these other Backward classes ?
Dr.Ambedkar replied that a commission would be constituted by the President of India under article 340 of the constitution and it will study the condition of OBCs and submit its report defining OBCs and make recommendations to improve their lot. Several people participated in the debate and expressed opposition to the move. Some said, the definition of OBC would become a heaven for lawyers in the Law courts.
Punjab Rao Deskmukh, member of constituent Assembly, a Maratha, argued that there should be a representation proportionate to the population of castes and communities. There was no OBC representation in the constituent Assembly. In the absence of OBC members in the house and also lack of mobilisation out side, the OBCs were left unrepresented in the Constituent Assembly.
Dr.Ambedkar argued that there cannot be a competition between unequals as the less equals are denined of justice. Therefore Dr.Ambedkar moved a resolution adopting Article 16(4) of the constitution. “Nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making provisions for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any Backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the state, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.”
The Article 340 says, “appointment of a commission to investigate the conditions of Backward classes.
(1) The President may by order appoint a commission consisting of such persons as he thinks fit to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India and the difficulties under which they labour and to make recommendations as to the steps that should be taken by the Union or any State to remove such difficulties and improve their condition as to the grants that should be made for the purpose by the Union or any State and the conditions subject to which such grants should be made, and the order appointing such Commission shall define the procedure to be followed by the commission”.
The High court of Madras struck down the G.O. giving reservations in education for SCs, STs and Backward classes and it was upheld by Supereme Court.
Periyar E V Ramaswamy, leader of Dhravida Movement led a big movement against stricking down reservations and threatened Delhi that we would form a Dhravida Nation extending to a few southern States- Kerala, Karnataka along with Madras etc.
Government of India agreed to bring in amendment to the Constitution providing reservations in education. Thus Dr.Ambedkar moved first constitutional amendment in the year 1951.
Article 15(4) was adopted into constitution and it says, “Nothing in this article or in clause(2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Sheduled Castes and the Sheduled Tribes.”
All India Backward classes Fediration took birth on the day India adopted the Constitution and declared itself a Republic on January 26, 1950. Panjab Rao Deshmukh got elected as it’s president. The federation went on campaigning for constitution of the constitutionally mandated BC commission.
The first Prime Minister of India, Nehru, did not constitute commission for some time. While resigning from the union cabinet, Dr.Ambedkar said, the Constitution did not provide adequate safequards to backward classes. The government did not constitute the BC Commission till 1951. Besides this, Dr.Ambedkar also protested against Indian government for not taking up Hindu code Bill, confiring equal rights and dignity to women by Law.
Later Chowdary Brahma Prakash Yadav, who was the first Cheif Minister of Delhi, became president of AIBCF. The other group was headed by RL Chandapuri, a kurmi from Bihar and subsequently he joined Socialist Party. Both the leaders through their organisations have campaigned for Constitution and later implementation of the report of Backward Classes Commission.
In the year 1953, the First Backward Classes Commission was constituted and Kaka Kalekhar, a Gandhian, was made chairman. He submitted commission’s report in 1955 identifying 2399 castes as OBCs. The report was placed in the parliament in 1956.
While making a statement from union government, G.B. Pant, Home Minister of India in the Nehru ministry rejected the report of the Backward Classes Commission. While government taking position rejecting the BC Commission Report, it argued that the commission identified Backward castes but not Backward Classes. The union government and the Parliament left it to the state governments to constitute their own committees/Commissions to identify backward classes.
About ten to fifteen committees/Commissions were constituted by different states. All of them have been struck down by various courts. Justice Wanchoo, Chief Justice of India, gave a judgement in 1968 in relation to the state of Andhra Pradesh that if castes satisfy the conditions of class, such castes could be called as Backward classes. In 1972, Supreme court of India, upheld the Anantharaman commissions report on backward classes in Andhra Pradesh. Subsequent to the judgement backward classes in AP started getting BC reservations in employment and also in education.
While going for elections in 1977, Janta Party promised in its election manefesto to implement the report of Backward classes commission. After coming to power Morarji Desai, Prime Minister, who came from Congress, a Brahmin, told the Socialists in Janta Party that the second Backward classes commission would be constituted as the first report was submitted two decades back, implying that several changes have taken place during this period.
BP Mandal, Former Chief Minister of Bihar, and a Socialist, was appointed by the President of India as the Chairman of the second Backward classes commission in 1978. He submitted the report in 1980 to Giani Jail Singh, President of India. Indira Gandhi once again became Prime Minister and she placed the report in Parliament. V.C.Shukla, Union Home Minister promised on behalf of the Union Government to implement the report with a few changes. Later the Congress government put the Mandal Commission Report in the cold storage. Rajiv Gandhi, Former Prime Minister of India also did not implement the Mandal Commission Report
On August 7, 1990, VP Singh, Prime Minister, Janta Dal headed national front government at the centre was pressurized by Socialists to announce the implementation of Mandal Commission Report. VP Singh made an announcement in the parliament to implement 27% reservation to OBCs , which is only one of the forty recommendations made by Mandal Commission. Congress and BJP opposed OBC reservations and organised Ram Janma Bhoomi Ayodhya Rath Yatra. The category OBC has become a reality with the judgement of the nine-member constitutional bench of the supreme court on November 16, 1992. The Union Government issued orders in 1993 for implementing 27% reservation to OBCs in employment. Again there was an opposition to OBC reservations education by a forum called Youth for Equality. OBC reservations could be implemented because of the judgement of the SC. The Judgement was delivered by Justice Balakrishnan, chief justice of India as part of the five-judge bench. In the year 2008, the union Government implemented reservations for OBCs in educational institutions like IITs, IIMs, and Central Universities.
Backwards and their leaders have expressed their aspirations in many ways. They organised people through social and political organisations at various levels like local, regional, state and national levels during post-independent history of India.
All India caste associations like all India Yadav Maha Sabha, Kurmi and Koeri Mahasabhas have campaigned in north India for the implementation of Backward classes Commission Report in the 1950s and 60s. In fact they have given a call ” Pichara Jagao Desh Bachao”.
Socialists in a big way addressed backward classes question as part of “Jati Thodo Andolan” by giving preferential treatment. Infact Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia theorised representation as ‘Pichda Pave Sau Me Saat’ to fight for equality. Others who carried forward as part of the Socialist/Samajwadi movement are Mulayam Singh Yadav, Sharad Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan besides socialist stalwarts like B.P. Mandal, Karpuri Thakur, Ram Naresh Yadav etc.
Bahujan Samaj Party headed by Kansiram organised series of protests for the implementation of the Mandal Commission Report. In the South, Periyar EV Ramasamy led self respect movement and Dhravida movement for equality and justice empowering backward classes, during pre and post-Independent India.
We need not mention the fact that the contributions of Mahatma Joti Rao Phule and Dr.BR.Ambedkar to social revolution which became the foundation for powering Backwards and building a social democratic nation in India.
India’s half of its population called OBCs suffered in the hands of leaders from nationalist movement and religious nationalists. The leadership invariably comes from upper and dominant castes and they are represented by Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party.
For want of OBC identity, 52% of India’s population lived in anonymity fighting for constitutionally mandated OBC status. They were not visible neither in government nor in politics for almost four decades. OBCs did not find a place in public or private employment. It’s true that they did not find place in the positions of Bureaucracy, Judiciary, Universities, Scientific Institutions, Media, Trade and Industry, Politics and Governance, Contracts etc. Most of the sectors were dominated by upper castes and as a result of which the government and non-government institutions got casteised. The casteist mindset of politics led by Congress- BJP excluded the OBCs making them orphans in their own country and also made the nation backward. Indian democracy and development got casteised. There is a need for mobilising backwards- Dalit, Adivasi, OBC, Minority, women in pluralising democracy and building inclusive Social Nation.
Backward classes have fought for equality and Social justice for decades during the 20th century and succeed in getting recognition and identity for half of India’s population. August 7, 1990, has become a historical epicenter in taking birth of OBCs in India. However Backwards have to face Himalayan opposition in the guise of Upper/Dominant castes and the institutions they constitute. Mandalites, as higher castes call the supporters of Mandal Movement, and Backward Classes of India have many more Challanges infront of them.
(Prof.S.Simhadri, State President, Samajwadi Party, T.S
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