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It's not my fault I was born a Brahmin

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'It's not my fault I was born a Brahmin'
Reportage: Archana Masih
Photograph: Seema Pant

April 17, 2007
Aman Jagannathan, 18, had never been arrested before. Neither had he ever publicly protested against the government.
Last year, the police picked him up twice -- while protesting at India Gate and outside the Supreme Court -- in New Delhi. He and his friends were in custody for 6 to 7 hours.
A friendly and eloquent medical student at India's best medical college, Aman is unsure if he wants his identity revealed as he looks back at the past year.
"I know I am not saying anything illegal but I just want to be careful," says the second year MBBS student at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, sitting on the steps of the Institute's playground. "I don't want to be known on campus as being against OBCs because I am not. I am just against the idea of reservation. I don't want to be misunderstood."
Last year, the government decided to increase the number of reserved seats in central government-run elite educational institutes like the Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Management and AIIMS by 27 per cent for the Other Backward Classes, taking reservations up to 50 per cent. Students on the campus were upset and agitated.
Aman knew he could not just sit back. He wanted to do something. He wanted to be heard.
"I am not against social justice but I feel merit should be appreciated. Reserve seats for those who don't have the economic means. Reserve seats for the children of those in the armed forces. Nobody will protest if you reserve seats for those who earn less than a lakh every year. Why should caste be the overarching factor? It's not my fault I was born a Brahmin."
In December, the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Bill, 2006 was passed in Parliament. But for the students, their fight was far from over.
'Reservation is driving us away'
April 17, 2007
The protests by the students resulted in the matter being taken to the Supreme Court, and on March 29, the court granted a stay on the government's 27 per cent reservation Bill for the Other Backward Classes.
There was jubilation on the campus, but Aman has taken the news with restrained happiness. He is happy that their agitation has borne fruit, that his hunger strike has contributed towards halting a government law, at least for now.
"Yes, it has given us some hope but we can't say things have gone our way. The court says it is a temporary status. I don't know how long the stay will remain, maybe for a year. I am rather pessimistic. I feel the government will think of a way to get past the court order."
As he had expected, the Centre moved the Supreme Court seeking vacation of its stay.
What Aman feels upset about is the government's disregard for merit and hard work.
"It's like they take you into the Institute and then tell you, you don't qualify (for higher exams). It's like stabbing you in the back." If he doesn't get a seat for the Post Graduate course at AIIMS, Aman thinks he will be compelled to go abroad in the future. "It makes no sense in staying here then, it's not as if there's going to be a profusion of seats. Reservation is driving us away."
'We may not stay in our country but it will stay our country'
April 17, 2007
Mohit, like Ekta and Aman, makes it clear that he does not want to be identified by his real name for this feature. After being a very vocal member of Youth for Equality -- an organisation set up to oppose reservation which got its name in a Delhi coffee shop -- he does not want to be in the limelight because it upsets his parents.

"They think they sent me here to study and I am becoming a politician. The fact is that I want to do something in life and that doesn't mean becoming a politician. No normal student these days wants to be a politician. It is being the very person you detest."
In retrospect, he is happy that he took a stand. "We had to get involved because no one else was at that time. People never expected a protest like this could happen in a medical college. Medical students really don't have the time for this, they already have enough to study."
What began as a symbolic gesture of protest became a large-scale movement that even took the students by surprise in terms of its impact and response. "Actually what pushed us was that other higher institutes did not come out in protest like us. Others said it does not affect us. It was so in AIIMS too, there were many who were going to America but who still participated. Who said we may not stay in our country but it will stay our country," says Mohit. "Later we can at least say we tried -- even if it is not going to change anything."

'Why do we think that a Bhagat Singh should be born in our neighbour's family and not in ours?'
April 17, 2007
The anti-reservation movement at AIIMS began with three AIIMS senior residents, who sat on a dharna at lunchtime every day. One of them was Dr Anil Sharma.

"Then we were 7, 11 and counting. I remember, it started on May 13," says Anil.
They would assemble every day under a tree opposite the library. Slowly, others joined them and in a month's time, there were around 80 students who would finish their lunch quickly and join the gathering.
"Many laughed at us saying Yeh kya sarkar ko badlengey? We did not want to become big netas, no -- it was a time, it was an issue and we will continue to fight for it. In the larger interest of the country somebody has to come forward. Why do we think that a Bhagat Singh should be born in our neighbour's family and not in ours?" asks Anil.
The son of a professor of genetics, Anil says his grandfather was poor and died very young. His grandmother cut grass and educated Anil's father, who used to study under a lamp post at night. "My father did not have any reservation. When the Constitution of India, the State of India doesn't give me any advantage of being born in a so-called forward caste, why should I be disadvantaged? What is happening in society is not the responsibility of the Constitution. The Constitution has to be applied equally to all."
I am with you all!!

Dear All,

Remember that you are never alone. I am from a medical college from a different faith. I remember requesting other doctors, who were there to join me in Bangalore. But they shrugged it off... it is not my responsibility.. they all said. Anyway I made it to the place.

I think we have stood up for ourselves :first:
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