Home विमर्श Birth of Reservation, The incredible story of social justice

Birth of Reservation, The incredible story of social justice

Although the caste based reservation for Brahmins, Kshatriyas & Vaishyas was for centuries according to Chatur Varna system, but reservation for backward castes came much later.

How did reservation begin?

Raja Shahu Maharaj : The Ruler who Fought Against Caste

The 28 year old iconic descendant of Chhatrapti Shivaji Maharaj, the young dynamic English educated maharaja of Kolhapur, the great educationist, philanthropist and a great king and whom, Babasaheb Dr Ambedkar referred as “Pillar of Social Democracy in India” and who is widely regarded as the saviour of miilions of Shudras and former untouchables, the Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj was once denied the vedokta style recitals of mantras by his Durbar’s Brahmin priest Narayan on his holy bath in Panchganga river in October 1899 on the ground that the Maharaja is low born or he is a shudra and shudras are not entitled to the vedokta style recital of mantras which is reserved only for Trivarnikas (presently, it is limited to Brahmins only) excluding shudras.

Shahu Maharaj himself was highly educated, holding degrees from both India and abroad. (Photo – Internet)

The incidence was followed by Palace’s chief priest Rajopadhye’s religious disobedience of the King’s command to perform all palace rituals in vedokta style recital of mantras. His repeated and stubborn refusal entailed his dismissal, confiscation of ‘watan’, and all gifts, landed properties, powers and privileges were withdrawn. That also lead to the stoppage of palace grants to Shankaracharya of Kolhapur. The Priests and Shankaracharya were well supported by Poona’s Brahmin leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak who had visited Kolhapur to stand with Shankaracharya & Brahmin priests supported Brahmins against Shahu Maharaj and instigated hatred and violence in the State of Kolhapur.

Shahu ji also financially assisted Dr. Ambedkar for higher education, and for starting his first monthly newspaper “Mook Nayak (Photo Source – Internet)

The initial denial of vedokta mantras was followed by another refusal of performing the vedokta style last-rites of Maharaja’s mother Anandibai Ranisaheb Bhosale on 14th Sept. 1902 by Brahmin priests of Durbar. The Brahmins claim of superiority of descent, birth and race and inferiority of Maharaja by birth who was born as Maratha led to the real birth of reservation policy of equality which has reshaped the political landscape of India from West to East and South to North. The Brahmins did not stop there, they conspired and burned down the part of palace in protest against Shahuji Maharaja.  The chief priest, Rajopadhye preferred three appeals before The Political Agent, Governor of Bombay and Lord Curzon, the Viceroy and the Governor General of India and finally lost on 13th June 1905 before the Viceroy of India.

In a Bahishkrit Varg Parishad at Mangaon, on March 21-22, 1920, Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj declared Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar as ‘the saviour’ of Bahujan Samaj. (Photo Source – Internet)

During this period, shahu Maharaj felt that he is surrounded by Brahmins alone in his administration and therefore, on 26th July 1902, on his Birthday, when he was on England/Europe tour for attending coronation of King Edward VIIth, he proclaimed from Italy (Sicily islands), the reservation for Backward classes including Maratha in his Kolhapur State that excluded Brahmins, Prabhu, Shenavi, Parsees. When he became the Ruler of Kolhapur 1894, Brahmins had occupied 60 of the 71 senior administrations positions in his administration. There were only ten non-Brahmins among the 500 clerks. Following the implementation of Shahu Maharaj’s reservation policy, only 35 Brahmins were left among the 95 administrative officers in 1912.

Dr Ambedkar gave a permanent status to reservation for the SC/ST/OBC throughout India. (Photo – Internet)

After 47 years thereafter, Babasaheb Dr Ambedkar, who himself was influenced and benefitted by the love, compassion and affirmative action of Shahu Ji Maharaj, adopted the policy of reservation for the SC/ST/OBC in the Constitution and gave it a permanent status throughout India.

This is how the reservation was born in 1902 in the western state of India. This is the short story of Birth of Reservation. If you have liked it, please share it with your friends and family.

  • Nitin Meshram is a Supreme Court Lawyer and Social Activist.
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