I just returned from three weeks in India and saw how their democracy works—somewhat like ours and in many ways, totally different. One of the newest efforts has actually been the law for decades: abolishing the caste system. As a result, India has developed a sort of Affirmative Action process much like the U.S. started in the 1960s. But recently, there have been affirmative action problems in India.
It started, informally, when Mahatma Ghandi went to dedicate a beautiful Hindu temple in Old Delhi. He insisted that the lowest caste (untouchables) be allowed in the temple to worship or he wouldn’t dedicate it. The officials agreed. Since then, the caste system has been officially outlawed. Except, that it is really still alive and practiced by everyone.
To counter that, the Indian government has set up quotas for admission to schools and jobs—to make certain the lowest castes and religious minorities get a shot at both. As can be expected, people disagree about this. Here’s a good story with video of a recent protest about the quota system by the Jat people in India. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35627819
The protest has three fascinating aspects to it:
- The Jat are primarily Muslims and are wealthy, land-owning people. Although not as high in the caste system as the Bramins, the Jat are used to special privileges. Now, they have created affirmative action problems in India. They are upset because the access they used to have to schools and jobs has been decreased. In their place, the lower castes are getting into these jobs and schools. The Jat want reverse discrimination. They want to go back to the privileges they enjoyed before.
- The protesters have sabotaged one of the main water canals that supplies the 16 million people in the city of Delhi. The affirmative action problems in India are so upsetting, the protesters have cut-off water to an estimated 10 million people in Delhi. They also blocked a few of the main roads into the city This has stopped millions of people from coming into or leaving Delhi.
- If a group of protesters, mad about the affirmative action problems in India, could do this much damage, where is the Indian security? What if a terrorist group had done the same thing with much more dangerous reasons? Why didn’t the Indian government protect such a vital part of the city—its water supply?
It is interesting to study how protesters in another democracy try to get their way. The affirmative action problems in India have been growing for years. Other groups have also been opposed to the quota systems.
Can you see how different the U.S. population deals with this issue? What do you think we’d do if we had the same affirmative action problems in India?