Press Release: HRF opposes the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019, allowing for 10 per cent reservation to ‘economically weaker sections’
The Human Rights Forum (HRF) opposes the Constitution (103rd
Amendment) Act, 2019, allowing for 10 per cent reservation to ‘economically
weaker sections’, because it fundamentally undermines the normative basis of the
reservation policy as set out in the Constitution.
This amendment is extremely
dangerous and can have a long-term devastating impact on disadvantaged
communities that have historically faced, and continue to face, social disabilities and
humiliating caste prejudice and exclusion. It can and will be used in the future to
manipulate and mobilise caste hierarchy and bigotry against the very notion of social
justice and equality enshrined in our Constitution.
In a country where an individual’s worth is determined by her/his caste, the
BJP led government wants to recast the existing narrative of social justice by
replacing caste with economic backwardness as a criterion for determination of
backwardness. Reservation, intended for the SCs, STs and OBCs, was meant to
counter forced exclusion. In BR Ambedkar’s view, the essential purpose of
reservation, he called it adequate representation, is not poverty redressal but a
remedy for systemic caste discrimination that was legitimised for centuries by law
and custom. To now extend it to socially advanced sections, will turn the reservation
policy into a farce. The amendment defeats the very idea of social justice.
The principle of caste-based reservations has always been opposed and
stridently resisted by dominant economic and social forces. This is because caste-
based reservations, relying on social and educational backwardness have to some
extent dented the historical heritage of caste-monopoly by the few. Constantly
turning the focus on ‘economic criteria’ is one manifestation of being caste-blind, of
not acknowledging the fact of caste and the horrific and insidious role it has played
in our country. An unwillingness to confront the ugly reality of continuing caste
discrimination, oppression and exclusion. It is also a way of resisting any threat to
caste-based privileges. Disregarding the central criteria – historically imposed social
disabilities – as the basis of reservation and instead focusing and relying upon a
material or economic standard to carve out a quota is unacceptable. Non SC, ST and
OBC communities are lacking in opportunities not because of cruel, social
disabilities but because of debilitating policies by successive governments that only
favour a tiny crunch.
It is instructive to recall that post 2014 Mohan Bhagwat, RSS sarsanghchalak
and MM Vaidya, RSS joint general secretary have issued statements seeking review
of the reservation policy, only to grudgingly retract them later. The BJP-RSS has
never been comfortable with the core values that the Indian Constitution stands for
and their antipathy towards reservations is well known. Their world view denies the
very validity of affirmative action and is in direct conflict with the egalitarian
premise of the Indian Constitution. HRF believes that it is the specificity of caste
discrimination that reservation has been designed to address and, therefore,
economic criterion cannot be taken into account. Seeking reservations for the
economically weaker sections is a mere ploy to do away with the salutary notion of
equality of opportunity, one of the seminal features of our Constitution, in the long
We believe this amendment to be nothing short of a venal subversion of the
Indian Constitution. It amounts to the dilution and neutralization of the ‘equal
protection clause’ of Article 14. The amendment has disturbed the entire scheme of
Articles related to Right to Equality in the Constitution. It is a severe blow to the
basic structure of the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution were aware of
the fact that in India the primary concern for the right to equality was the caste
system and Articles 15 to 17 of the Constitution of India were designed accordingly.
Starting with the Balaji case (1963) to Ashok Kumar Thakur case (2008), the
Supreme Court judges accepted caste as a social reality and considered it as one of
the criteria for determination of backwardness. Insertion of 10 per cent reservation
for ‘the economically weaker sections’ under Art 15(6) and 16(6) does not fit into
the scheme of Articles 15 and 16 which strike at all forms of discrimination. Social
prejudices that are deeply entrenched in society are dealt by Articles 15 and 16.
Affirmative action is necessary to curb this kind of structural oppression. The silent
replacement of the word ‘economically backward classes’ with ‘economically
weaker sections’ (EWS) is a clever and premeditated move intended to erase the
collective memory of the debate that reverberated around ‘caste’ and ‘class’ in the
corridors of justice.
The government did not even deem it necessary to conduct a study before
carrying out this amendment. Poverty is a crime against humanity. But the
amendment fails to come up with an intelligible differentia to categorize someone
as ‘economically weaker sections’. This category will not withstand the test of
‘reasonable classification’ or that of ‘arbitrariness’ that were laid down by our
Supreme Court in Dalmia (1958) and Maneka Gandhi (1978) cases.Another worrying aspect is that the 10 per cent reservation for the EWS gained
a constitutional status by finding place in Articles 15 (6) and 16 (6) while the
Constitutional provisions are silent about the percentage of reservations for the SCs,
STs and OBCs. If the courts insist that reservations should not exceed 50% there is
a possibility and real danger that the EWS reservation having a Constitutional status
will fare a better chance over the reservations earmarked for SCs, STs and OBCs.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Amendment Act fails to explain
the historical context, the nature of discrimination it seeks to address, or whether the
form of discrimination falls within the purview of Articles 15 and 16. We believe
that the historical context was deliberately unstated since doing so would amount to
a candid admission of the systemic failure of the government in not living up to the
expectations and objectives of Article 39 of the Directive Principles of State policy.
Seventy two years have not been enough to reduce the gap between the rich and the
poor. Material resources were meant to be distributed equally, but what we have
today is an obscene concentration of wealth. Successive governments ensured that
land reforms were non-starters and implemented policies that replaced planning with
a free-wheeling market economy. These new economic policies have ravaged the
lives of our people and facilitated pillage by local and international capital. The
economy is on the brink of collapse, there is staggering unemployment and instead
of addressing that meaningfully, the BJP has bulldozed this amendment through
which it has perpetuated a signal fraud on the Constitution.
BJP ministers and leaders gave a spin to the whole debate revolving around
criteria by stating that the upper limit for EWS would be an annual income of less
than Rs 8 lakh; more than 5 acres of agricultural land or 1000 square feet plot in a
notified municipal area or 2000 square feet plot in a non-notified municipal area.
This is nothing but a cruel joke on the poor.
The objective of affirmative action including reservation is not to eliminate
poverty but to bring in social parity. If the government was really keen on improving
living conditions of the economically disadvantaged, they ought to implement land
reforms, generate employment, provide social security, improve the public health
system, implement the much neglected Directives Principles of State Policy and be
a Welfare State in the true sense.
Expectedly, the amendment has not evoked objection or protest from the
savarna votaries screaming ‘death of merit’. There is only deafening silence, not the
usual frenzied rage one witnesses at the mention of reservation. This is because whatthey are opposed to is only caste-based reservations, not a ‘quota’ underwritten by a
bizarre economic benchmark that seeks to favour them.
What is also extremely distressing is the manner in which this amendment was
brought about. In a participatory democracy, seeking public opinion on legislative
bills is a pre-requisite and good administrative practice. This is a Constitutional
Amendment, not an ordinary piece of legislation. Hiding it from public gaze, going
about it in a secretive manner and passing it so swiftly amounts to undermining the
legislative process and trivializing of the Constitution.
The ruling party at the Centre may well have calculated a favourable electoral
windfall from this exercise and a compelling poll context might be the reason why
those who in the normal course would have opposed this retrograde move, have not
done so. Also disquieting is the absence of any real opposition by even those political
parties that are ideologically opposed to the ruling dispensation. In fact, they have
backed the amendment. However, to see this move only as a ‘jumla’ or ‘lollipop’ by
the BJP on election-eve is to miss the point. It has to be emphasized that the RSS-
BJP are in basic opposition to the representation principle contained in the
Constitution that seeks to help historically excluded and discriminated castes. Which
is why, time and again they have resorted to the ‘economic criteria’ argument. This
is yet another instance. We urge all democratic forces in the country to oppose this
affront to the Constitution.
S Jeevan Kumar, V Vasantha, A Chandrasekhar, VS Krishna
(HRF AP&TS Coordination Committee members)
VIDUTHALAI CHIRUTHAIGAL KATCHI DEMANDS : DROP THE PLAN TO ARREST DALIT INTELLECTUAL AND ACADEMIC ANAND TELTUMBDE!
We strongly condemn the false case foisted in world-renowned intellectual and academic Anand Teltumbde. On behalf of the VIDUTHALAI CHIRUTHAIGAL KATCHI we demand that the Maharashtra BJP government abandon the steps it has taken towards arresting him.
On 31 December 2017, an event was organised under the banner of the “Elgar Parishad” in Shaniwarwada near Pune, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the defeat of the Peshwa Army by a British regiment consisting of Mahars. Several human rights and social organisations took part in this event.
As it happens every year, on 1 January 2018, lakhs of Dalit people gathered in Bhima Koregaon. When a sanatan group attacked the assembled Dalits, one person was killed and several were injured. Following that, Dalits went on strike from work statewide. Upset by this, the BJP government labelled the organisers of the Elgar Parishad as Urban Naxals. Even those human rights activists who had no connection with this event were under attack by the BJP government and were arrested under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act). Now, the state is taking measures to arrest the internationally renowned Dalit academic and intellectual Anand Teltumbde. The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi strongly condemns this anti-Dalit attitude of the BJP government. We demand the Maharashtra government to drop the false cases against him.
Professor Anand Teltumbde, an IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus, IIT Professor, Executive Director of
BPCL, Ex-MD & CEO of Petronet India, Senior Professor and Chair, Big Data Analytics in
GIM, author of 26 books, columnist in EPW, writer of innumerable articles, a noted scholar of
caste-class and public policy issues, leading public intellectual and democratic and educational
rights activist faces imminent threat of arrest as an ‘Urban Maoist’ in the vilest post-
independence plot by the state.
The criminal farce of exploiting an important day of commemoration for the Dalits, the
anniversary of the battle that took place at Bhima-Koregaon in 1818 in which the Mahar soldiers
played a leading role in defeating the Peshwa rulers, to incarcerate select human rights
defenders, intellectuals and activists in peoples’ movements and curb dissent in the country
is an unprecedented and blatant abuse of power.
The police have claimed that there was a plot to carry out a “Rajiv Gandhi style” assassination of
Prime Minister Narendra Modi! Fabrications such as this have allowed the police to apply
the dreaded UAPA which leaves no defence for the arrested who can be incarcerated for
years without evidence. It is a perfect vehicle for the police, acting at the behest of their
political bosses, to claim knowledge of fabricated “crimes”.
Under the circumstances, on 14th January 2019 the Supreme Court rejected Prof. Teltumbde’s appeal for quashing the “false” FIR against him filed by the Pune Police,
stating that the matter was under investigation and that he could seek pre-arrest bail from
the competent court within four weeks.
Coming from the poorest of poor family, Prof. Teltumbde has passed through the best institutes
in the country with scholastic achievements. It naturally propelled him to take cudgel for the
disadvantaged people in the manner possible for his professional jobs. He is currently General
Secretary of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) and Presidium Member
of All India Forum for Right to education (AIFRTE), a movement for people’s educational
There is not an iota of the “unlawful” either in his voluminous writings or his selfless
activism. His entire academic career and corporate career of nearly four decades has been an
example of integrity of the highest degree.
In the country, when the due process of law itself is a punishment that the police use to the hilt,
it is nothing short of capital punishment to a professional-intellectual-activist like Prof
Teltumbde. People in the past have been kept in jail for averagely five years before they were
acquitted of every charge. There is absolutely no accountability of anyone in our justice delivery
system for this unlawful incarceration and destroying victims and their families. Prof Teltumbde
expressed his anguish over this prospect that he would be kept away from his intellectual
activities, from his students who are admitted in the Big Data Analytics course, the first of its
kind he launched this year, and worried about the investment that GIM made. He is worried
about his half-written manuscripts of books committed to various publishers, research papers at
various stages of completion, and his family—wife, who, as the granddaughter of Babasaheb
Ambedkar hardly bargained for this fate and daughters who are already disturbed not knowing
whatever that has been happening to him since August last year.
AIFRTE strongly condemns the threatened arrest of Prof Teltumbde and demands that
the Maharashtra government should immediately drop all charges (including those under
UAPA) against Prof Anand Teltumbde.
AIFRTE also appeals to all its member organizations and to the university community across the
country to immediately begin this process by approaching the national and regional media,
issuing statements through social media and organizing protest meetings.
*Statement Refuting False Allegations On APSC And In Solidarity With Dr. Anand Teltumbde*
We pledge our strong support and solidarity to Prof. Anand Teltumbde who is facing an imminent threat of arrest in connection with the Bhima Koregaon incident on January 1, 2018, an event he has not even attended. Pune police have presented five fabricated letters to fix him under the plot of ‘Urban Maoist’ and charge him with UAPA but in a very tenuous way. One of the letters written by someone to someone saying that some Anand has taken responsibility of organising Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle which is a blatant lie. APSC was formed by students of IIT Madras without any outside help or guidance on April 14, 2014 with the objectives of
1) initiating debate and discussion within the academic community at IIT Madras on social, economic, political and cultural issues which affect the public at large,
2) promoting the thoughts and ideas of Ambedkar, Periyar and other progressive social thinkers and reformers and
3) promoting scientific temper and an outlook of science and technology for the people.
During that time Prof. Anand was a professor in the business school at IIT Kharagpur around 1600 km away from IIT Madras campus. Prof. Anand is not even remotely connected with the formation of APSC. APSC is an independent student body recognised by IIT Madras administration, whose registration gets renewed annually. We have been conducting lectures, discussions and demonstrations on social, economic, political, cultural and educational issues of interest to masses and for all our events we have obtained prior approval. All the students, faculty and campus residents who attend our events know that the events are run completely on donations collected from them. We condemn, in strongest possible terms, the police lies against us and other respectable persons including Dr. Anand Teltumbde.
After the Modi government came to power, a severe repression has been unleashed on the student organisations, intellectuals, rationalists and social activists around the country. Those who do not accept the hindutva ideology or the Modi government’s anti-people policies are being threatened or silenced either through the state machineries or otherwise. APSC was the first student group to have faced such an attack which came in the form of its derecognition. The attacks on students by the brahmanical forces have later spread to other institutes such as HCU, JNU, FTII, DU, Punjab university, etc.. After three years of slumber, Delhi police have filed charge sheet against the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University- Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya accusing them of sedition. Similar to the case of Prof. Anand, the charge sheet is filed without any valid evidence. Ex-ABVP members who were office bearers of JNU unit said in a press conference that whatever happened in the campus was a “premeditated attack by the ABVP and the RSS” to shift the focus away from the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula. Now as the general elections are getting closer they are again trying to play the ‘anti-national’ card to distract the public from the failures of this government. These cases will also keep the activists busy and away from mobilizing the people to vote against the government. Prof. Anand, Kanhaiya, Umar and Anirban have said that they will fight the cases legally but when charged with draconian laws like UAPA and sedition, it enables the state to keep them incarcerated for months without bail, where the process itself is the punishment. We appeal to all people who are believers of democracy to rally in support of Prof. Anand Teltumbde and JNU students.
Immediate and Complete Withdrawal of all Charges against Dr. Anand Teltumbde – Ambedkarite organisations
Immediate and Complete Withdrawal of all Charges against Dr. Anand Teltumbde
We the undersigned demand the immediate withdrawal of the fabricated charges by the
Pune police against Dr. Anand Teltumbde, Senior Professor and Chair, Big Data Analytics at
the Goa Institute of Management. Dr. Teltumbde is one of India’s leading contemporary
public intellectuals and an internationally known scholar. He is the longest-standing
columnist at the Economic and Political Weekly (one of India’s best-known internationally
acclaimed social science journals), General Secretary of the Committee for Protection of
Democratic Rights (CPDR), and presidium member of the All India Forum for Right to
Education (AIFRTE). Dr. Teltumbde is a prolific writer, with twenty-six books (in English and
Marathi) and research articles on data analytics, cybernetics, caste-class and public policy
His most recent publications include Republic of Caste and the co-edited anthology
The Radical In Ambedkar: Critical Reflections by Penguin Random House. His writings have
been translated into several Indian languages.
Over his long career, Dr. Teltumbde has consistently been on the side of social justice,
democracy, and the Indian Constitution. His books and articles are taught in universities the
world over. He has supported democratic struggles in the country against caste- and
religion-based violence as a representative of very large numbers of ordinary people whose
voices and hopes he bears. His writings –scholarly, technical, and popular– have been very
central to India’s critical thinking. His lengthy resume demonstrates his far-reaching
contributions to several fields of academic inquiry, as well as to bringing about progressive
Despite his professional success, which could have meant a luxurious and carefree retirement, Dr Teltumbde has instead contributed his intellect and experience back to our
society via teaching, writing and contributing to democracy through people’s movements. Dr.
Teltumbde has been invited by organizations/forums worldwide for his scholarship and he
has always expressed his views on making India progressive, inclusive and harmonious.
It is preposterous that Dr. Teltumbde is facing imminent arrest under the undemocratic
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) based on a fabricated case filed by the Pune
police in India under which ten other eminent persons, including human rights activists,
lawyers, and public intellectuals, are already under arrest. The case relates to the organizing
of a peaceful meeting on 31st December, 2017 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of
the Last Anglo-Maratha battle, which took place at Bhima-Koregaon, Maharashtra, India,
where large numbers of Dalit soldiers were martyred. Justice P. B. Sawant, a retired judge of
the Supreme Court, and Justice B. G. Kolse-Patil, an ex-judge of the Bombay High Court,
were co-organizers of this event. In point of fact, Dr. Teltumbde was not even present at the
Following it, several fabricated letters addressed to a “Comrade Anand” were released by
the Pune police as ‘evidence’ for the justification for his arrest. Each of the so-called charges
by the Pune police has been refuted with documentary proof by Dr. Teltumbde.
Notwithstanding this proof, the false charges have continued in a concerted campaign to
intimidate and silence Dr. Teltumbde. As is very well known, under the UAPA, these
fabrications are enough to detain Dr. Teltumbde. We cannot accept such ‘detention withouttrial’. We therefore demand that all charges against Dr. Teltumbde be dropped immediately
and that justice prevail on the side of truth.
Ambedkar International Mission, AIM USA
Ambedkar International Mission, AIM, Canada
Ambedkar International Mission, AIM, Australia
Ambedkar International Mission, AIM, Oman
Ambedkar International Mission, AIM, UAE
Ambedkar International Mission, AIM, Qatar
Ambedkar International Mission, AIM, Japan
Ambedkar International Mission, AIM, Singapore
Ambedkar International Mission, AIM, Malaysia
Ambedkar International Mission, AIM, Brunei
Ambedkar International Mission, AIM, India
Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA), USA
Ambedkar International Center (AIC) USA
Boston Study Group (BSG), USA
Ambedkarite Buddhist Association of Texas (ABAT), USA
Guru Ravidas Sabha, New York, USA
Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (PASC), USA
Ambedkar Periyar King Study Circle (PAKSC), USA
India Civil Watch, USA
India Civil Watch, Canada
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), Vancouver, Canada
Dr. Babasaheb ambedkar International Association for Education(BAIAE), Japan
Ambedkar Mission, Canada
International Commissions for Dalit Rights, USA
Human Rights Forum : Multiple and serious problems with the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018
The Human Rights Forum (HRF) feels there are multiple and serious problems with the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018 that was recently passed
by the Lok Sabha. The transgender community has unanimously been protesting against
the Bill saying it actually violates more rights than it claims to protect.
The trans community demands their right to self-identification, instead of being assessed and certified by a district screening committee as the Bill now requires.
The Supreme Court in the NALSA (National Legal Services Authority vs Union of India) judgment said “[t]hat any procedure for identification of transgender persons’ which goes beyond self-identification, and is likely to involve an element of medical, biological or mental assessment, would violate transgender persons’ rights under Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution”. In simple words that means self-definition is enough for persons whose subjective experience of gender does not match the gender they were assigned at birth.
One major problem with the Bill is with respect to reservations. In the NALSA judgment, the Supreme Court said that the community must be treated as a “socially disadvantaged” class under the Constitution and therefore entitled to reservations in
education and public employment. However, the Act has no mention at all of reservations to transgender persons.
In case of sexual violence and abuse against transgenders, the Bill provides punishment of six months to two years with a fine. Trans activists claim this is
discriminatory since the punishment for rape under section 376 of the IPC is for seven
The Bill prescribes punishment for begging by transgenders. It is blind to the fact
that they resort to begging largely out of compulsion and not out of choice.
The Bill not only dehumanises and criminalises the community thus, but by
deciding where they should live, also violates their Constitutional right to freedom of
residence. A clause in the Bill reads: “Where any parent or a member of his immediate
family is unable to take care of a transgender, the competent court shall by an order
direct such person to be placed in a rehabilitation centre.” This clause that compels
transgenders to live with parents does not consider the fact that their biological families
are many times the primary centres of violence, and that they depend on the families
and kin they choose.
In light of such crucial flaws, HRF believes that the Bill is regressive and must
not be passed in its present form in the Rajya Sabha as it would perpetuate massive
It has to be completely overhauled so as to protect and further the interests of
the transgender community.
S Jeevan Kumar (HRF TS&AP Coordination Committee member)
N Amar (HRF TS State secretary) 10-1-2019, Hyderabad
Here is two incidents i want to let you know. This may help to understand something about what caste is today. In 2013, Adilabad unit of Samatha Sainik Dal organised a summer camp and invited me as one of the speaker. After i spoke for half an hour, i thought i should interact with students instead of one way speech. So i asked them to tell me about their life goals, what they wanted to become in their life. Most of those students are from Mahar, Mala and Madiga. The students started telling about their life goals
1) I want to become a mechanic
2) I want to become a conductor
3) I want to become a teacher
4) I want to buy an auto
5) I want to become a constable
6) I want to become a cinema actor
Today i met with a friend who is teaching in a private corporate university like symbiosis. He was telling about his interactions with the students in the corporate university. When asked, the students about their life goals
1) I want to clear IAS exam only to prove my parents that i am not less than my brother, and leave that position and travel around world
2) I want to become an official in United Nations
3) I want to become a faculty in a university in America
4) I want to settle in Australia
5) I want to become a faculty in oxford university
6) I want to become a judge because all are judges in my family
What is the difference among the goals of Dalit students and the students studying in a corporate university and why. Here i say, the situation that none of the “Dalit” students had goals to become IAS, IPS, MLAs, MPs and Judges etc. Do not accuse those Dalit students for having their goals so small. In my understanding, no one in their families until now, have become a conductor, teacher, constable. Those untouchable families living as agricultural laborer and other menial works. I am unable to forget those answers from our students. Are those tow incidents say something about caste today?