New Delhi: “I am walking with a Constitution in my hand, to tell the BJP government that if they want to attack reservations in India and burn down our Constitution, we will confront them with Article 14 and Article 16 to remind them of our Constitution and our principles.” said Saifullah Khan, a student of Jamia Millia Islamia.
With the same fervour and belief in the values of the Constitution, hundreds of teachers, students and activists marched from Mandi House to Parliament Street, to ensure that this message reaches the Prime Minister’s office.
The symbolic march was in line with other such protests in the national capital against the catesist, exclusionary 13-point roster system as well as the recent Supreme Court decision on the eviction of over 10 lakh tribals whose claims have been rejected under the Forest Rights Act, while the Supreme Court has stayed the order for the time being the two-pronged attack on the reservations for the SC’s, ST’s and OBCs in educational institutions and the and the rights of the forest dwellers and tribals is becoming a major flashpoint for the BJP.
With continuous protests, students and teachers have been successful in stepping up heat on the BJP government ahead of the 2019 elections, especially with regard to the further marginalisation of the tribal and adivasi communities. On Tuesday, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar assured the protesters that a solution would come in the next two days.
Also Read: #ChalloDilli Day 2: Teachers Ask, When Will Attack On Higher Education Stop?
The protestors are demanding promulgation two ordinances to secure their rights that have been affected by Supreme Court decisions: the first to secure the forest rights of tribals, and the second to ensure fair representation in UGC (University Grants Commission) faculty posts.
Kedar Kumar Mandal from Delhi University said, “The government has turned absolutely deaf and blind towards our demands. It came to power on the votes of backward castes and now is betraying the same people who voted them to power. They are following Manusmriti and the RSS, not the Indian Constitution.”, he sadi, adding that “We are demanding an immediate restoration of the 200-point roster system, the government is conspiring to remove the backward communities from their land, their water and our forests and restricting us to come to university spaces and climb up the social ladder.”
Speaking to Newsclick, Nandita Narain former President of the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) said, “We have been waging and we will continue to wage a struggle against this government, we need the ordinance to come in by tomorrow in any condition.” Tomorrow is a crucial day as the final cabinet meeting of the Modi government is to take place tomorrow before the dissolution of the present Lok Sabha.
The Supreme Court on February 27, had quashed the Centre’s plea seeking review of its earlier verdict, by which it had declined to interfere with a decision of the Allahabad high court on the crucial quota issue of the 13-point roster. The roster is being seen as one that is oriented towards eroding the spirit of reservation and inclusion in the university spaces.
Under the 200-point roster system, the entire college or university was taken as one unit, across which the reserved seats were distributed. It was ensured that out of every 200 posts, 99 posts remained reserved for SC, ST, and OBC communities, and 101 posts were unreserved. This made sure, provided that 200 appointments were made in the entire college or university, all reserved categories were given earmarked number of seats across various departments. This system meant that a deficit of reserved seats in one department could be compensated by more people from the reserved communities in other departments, therefore ensuring constitutionally mandated reservation.
Also Watch: Why are DU Teachers on the Streets Protesting the New Reservation Roster?
In April 2017, the Allahabad High Court said that the 200-point roster system was faulty, and implemented the new 13-point roster. Under this new system, instead of the entire college or university, each department was considered as one unit, and posts were reserved by taking into account all teaching positions – professors, associate professors, and assistant professors. According to the court, the previous roster could mean that distribution of reserved positions would be uneven across departments, resulting in some departments having all the reservations, and some departments only having unreserved candidates.
The protestors are also demanding that the government establish the Indian Judicial Services under Article 312 of the Constitution, for recruitment in higher judiciary posts to ensure inclusion of SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities and women.