Reality Check India

Dare to question, thank you Mr Tathagata Satpathy

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 18, 2006

Recently, the Indian Lok Sabha (545 members) assembled to pass the so called “Central Educational Institutions – Reservations in Admissions Bill”. Not one dared to call into question the fundamental workings of the OBC category. “On what basis does a caste X come to be classified as OBC, and on what basis does it remain to be so”. None of the Bengali politicians did not care about why only 6 out of 100 Bengalis are eligible for the newly created seats. For all its talk about creamy layer, the CPM did not push the matter. The most backward Muslims in WB/Assam will not get OBC benefits, but the richest Muslims from Kerala (Mallapuram) and TN will.  Judge for yourself the quality of the debate. Read more here (select Session 9 and Date 14/12/2006)


Anyway, this post is about a man named Tathagata Satpathy of the BJD (Biju Janata Dal) from Dhenkanal, Orissa. He was the only MP in a house of 545 to speak his mind and ask several uncomfortable questions. We want to highlight his speech in this blog.  In the year 2021, if someone wants to find out why backward people throw stones, and why there is wretched poverty among many castes,  and why some poverty stricken castes still carry the night soil  – they can google and find out there was only ONE person who spoke for them.  Mainstream media coverage : Indian Express story here , South Asian Media here

The following is his speech

1740 hours

SHRI TATHAGATA SATPATHY (DHENKANAL): Mr. Deputy-Speaker, Sir,    I am grateful to you for giving me this opportunity to speak on the Central Educational Institutions (Reservations in Admission) Bill, 2006. 

            Sir, we know that the human nature does not allow that anybody gives anything to anyone else, and you have to be able to receive it.  If we go according to this belief, we find that in this Hindu community in India, the upper castes, the Brahmins, the kshatriyas and others have been considered as the creamy layer and thus deprived of reservation, which I wholeheartedly support because the perception is that they are ahead of the others.  But, Sir, when we see the effects of reservation for the past sixty years, whether for OBCs or SCs and STs, we find that amongst that section of the society, those who have become the creamy layer, the upwardly mobile and those who have been benefited, are unwilling to let go of the benefits that they have received.  Therefore, it can be safely assumed that in this country, today there is a backward race.  Everyone wants to become backward.  As Shri Gangwar has said earlier, from 2000 institutionalized or registered OBC castes, now we have 6,500.  This number alone shows that we have got into a sick mode, a mode where people have become mentally sick, and everybody wants to be backward.  People are tricking this system to get themselves registered.  Those who can manipulate and become backward and willing to be registered as backward  because they want the benefits. It is a ‘grab grab’ situation.  We, politicians, here and who have been elected to this August or September or October House are unwilling to speak the truth.  This is no more a august House. … (Interruptions)

MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER:  Please conclude.

SHRI TATHAGATA SATPATHY (DHENKANAL): Sir, give me some more time.

            Sir, we are unwilling to find the truth; we are unwilling to say what the truth is; and we are unwilling to accept the reality of this country.  It is a race.  Everybody wants to become the champion of the backward.  It does not matter if the champion is a Rajput or a King or a Zamindar.  We saw that in 1990 when Shri V.P. Singh ventured out and wanted to be the champion.  Now, we are seeing many more champions.  But it is a sad state for this country that there is nobody who is willing to come up and say: “¤ÉºÉ £ÉÉ<Ç 10 ´É­ÉÉç BÉEä ÉÊãÉA +ÉÉ®FÉhÉ lÉÉ*” The founding fathers of the Constitution in this country said that after ten years, you get rid of this reservation.  Today, we are in a backward race, and we want to become more and more backward so that we get the benefits of this nation.  Sir, when do we change this mindset?  Will we remain as we are or will we change ourselves?  That is the question.

            Sir, it is a question of what kind of a society do we want to create.  I would like to question the hon. Members of Parliament from both sides of the House to give in writing that when they go to CGHS dispensary or RML Hospital, it should be mandatory that they should get a doctor who comes from their community or from the backward community, and they shall not in for a doctor who is qualified.   [R142]


            If you say, on the one hand that there is no merit; if you say, on the one hand that merit does not matter; on the other hand, you are saying globalization; you are saying that we want to be competitive internationally. You have to recognize merit; you have to recognize merit only when you bring in  the OBC or ST or SC from the lowest of the low, from the poorest of the poor.  If they are fed well, clothed well, educated well, then they become  competitive.  We do not do that; we cheat them; we try to take their votes; we try to benefit from their backwardness; and we give them solace that: “Listen, you are backward; we will do something for you.”… (Interruptions)

But it is not them that we are benefiting.  We have our eyes in the coming UP elections; we have our eyes on becoming the champions of the backwards.

MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER:  Please sit down now.

SHRI TATHAGATA SATPATHY (DHENKANAL): Sir, this is a repressive step; this is a very reactionary mindset, and I hope and believe that this Government and those who are present in this House today, will really consider this step and will think of the nation, think of India’s future; and not become caste ridden, religion ridden, petty or small, but grow beyond all that.  They have to rise above personal conditions across party lines.

            With these words, I conclude.  Thank you.

Hats off to you sir. We dont look upon you are a pro or anti reservationist. We dont care what your caste or religion is. We applaud you for just having the courage to ask the tough questions. On behalf of poor and marginalized castes we thank you for raising the creamy layer issue.

27 Responses

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  1. Reason said, on December 18, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    and there are people who are waiting for Rahul or possibly even Priyanka’s Kid to come out and take ‘the bull by the horn’.

  2. rc said, on December 18, 2006 at 4:22 pm


    Take it easy on Revathi please.

    It is indeed true that if Sonia spoke out, pretty much everyone would shut their traps and go back. Same thing with Rahul, if he says “creamy layer is out” perhaps in his sleep – that would be it ! No more discussions as far as Arjun Singh / Manmohan Singh/ or who ever. That is just how the Congress rolls and we all know it.

    She was just wondering aloud why Sonia and Rahul are keeping quiet. A lot of us have a fairly good idea about the answer to that one though !

  3. Apollo said, on December 18, 2006 at 5:53 pm

    Well the House of “Elders” just passed it without a murmur. it is as good as law of the land now.

  4. rc said, on December 18, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    Apollo –

    That makes the stand of this man even more exemplary.

    It doesnt matter if the MP voted for or against this ill conceived bill. This man tried to initiate a real debate. He did not fall in line – he bucked the herd mentality. That counts for a *lot* in our book.

  5. Barbarindian said, on December 18, 2006 at 9:00 pm

    My congratulations and condolences to Mr. Satpathy, Surely he just committed political suicide. But good job nevertheless.

  6. Basker said, on December 19, 2006 at 12:42 pm

    It’s a great feeling to even imagine that at least one MP had the manliness to stand up and talk about the reality of the state when all the other so called elders of the Houses chose to keep mum over the issue without even raising a murmur or even a whimper.Honesty and integrity exists only on paper and that too with a few elected representatives today.All politicians have an eye on vote banks and they would not hesitate to divide the nation itself if that helps them to come to power.What they do not realise is that the future generations will pay a heavy price for the omissions and errors that they have done.

  7. xyz said, on December 19, 2006 at 1:50 pm

    “I salute you sir”.Atleast one man in the august house of bas…ds.

    • diya sen said, on May 20, 2010 at 2:00 pm

      absolutley fantastic! rarely we see such courage to question and specially the honesty that is so obviously evident! well done!

  8. Sharan Sharma said, on December 20, 2006 at 5:01 am

    and the golden interjectory words of the Dy. Speaker?

    > MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Please conclude.
    > MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Please sit down now.

    To me, it was almost like “Dammit….shut up, man. Don’t ask these questions….people will hear”

    Which gets us to the question : why blame the average politicians for not raising these questions?

    They merely reflect what society wants. It’s really a marketing problem. Brand ‘Reservations’ sells because the people want it. The day people demand brand ‘basic amenities’ to brand ‘reservations’, politicians too will change. Will the people demand that? i am not too sure.

    One school of thought says that it’s just that no political party is ready to take a risk at asking uncomfortable questions. But if they did, people would be with them. i don’t quite agree. Politicians are smart enough to understand that the average Indian is really not bothered about where the country is heading, as long as it serves her/his narrow short-term interest.

    So all in all, blame the enlightened citizens of India.

  9. rc said, on December 20, 2006 at 5:39 am

    >> Brand ‘Reservations’ sells because the people want it. >>

    Sharan, there were absolutely no protests from the OBCs seeking quotas in AIIMS or IITs leading up to Arjuns surprise announcement. I dont even think they raised the issue in parliament in a big way.

    Now, that the toothpaste it out of the tube, everyone is scrambling to appear to be the savior of the “poor and oppressed”, although this bill means zilch to the “poor and oppressed”.

    Tathagata has nailed it.

  10. Sharan Sharma said, on December 20, 2006 at 6:24 am

    Well, RC, from a marketing angle i guess this would be ‘latent demand’.

    Consumers are not expected to specfically ask for a brand. But the marketers job is to understand what would sell if they introduced it into the marketplace. And that’s exactly what Arjun, the CMO of UPA (or himself? 🙂 ) has done.

    He’s introduced the brand. If his company (UPA) takes it off the shelf, consumers will protest. it is very likely that a competitor (NDA?) then will introduce the same product in a different package which will obviously sell. And that’s what i mean when i say ‘demand’.

    As an example, toothpastes, of course, don’t sell merely by their product attributes. They sell by ‘confidence’, ‘get opposite sex attracted’ etc. In reservations, the thing about ‘poor and oppressed’ is just that – the packaging and/or communication. It’s to help sell more of the brand . And it’s working. At least with the average Indian voter.

    Another angle – does the average comsumer know what there is in the toothpaste that she/he uses. No. Do we expect the average voter to know the mechanics, (irr)rationale behind the reservations scheme. No.

    At the end of the day the toothpaste consumer asks whether this brand delivers – does it keep my teeth clean? Will it get me boyfriends/girlfriends?

    At the end of the day, the average Indian voter asks herself/himself – do reservations help me? Oh boy, yes. Will it help me take “revenge for 5000 years of discrimination”? Well, that’s what the commercial said. Must be true.

    It’s quite a hopeless situation.

    How about introducing a competitor brand? Like, development? Will not sell. Even if a politician ensures that his constituency sees great development but opposes reservations and makes that known will most likely not see another term. (like Barb said “my condolences to Mr. Satpathy”. Anyone who opposes reservations is seen as ‘castiest’/’elitist’ and my impression is that the average voter thinks so too.

    …and yes, this in no way goes against what you are saying : Tathagatha has nailed it. But there are no buyers for this brand. My point is that if you have to blame anyone, we need to start with those who voted these guys in the first place. And blame is again probably a wrong word – if they ‘want’ it, they get it. Democracy right? Many laws can be changed (shah bano?).

  11. rc said, on December 20, 2006 at 7:03 am

    >> How about introducing a competitor brand? Like, development? Will not sell. >>

    Some brands cannot co-exist.

    Brands that are on the “larger interest” grocery shelf will not sell when there are brands on the “narrow interest” shelf nearby.

    In purely my opinion, the attitude of the indian voter is

    at best = “all things being equally bad, let me select someone who is going to give my caste something exclusive” (poorer obcs)

    at worst = “politicians are scum anyway, let me select someone who will ensure my caste gets screwed last – that will give me sufficient time to make a getaway” (wealthier and educated obcs)

    There is a whole range in between.

  12. Sharathraj said, on December 20, 2006 at 9:44 am

    I dont like to blame any one either it is Sonia, Rahul or Manmohan. If some thing can be done to this country its we who should take the initiative. May be some thing like we join the Armed forces to protect our country we should also join politics and try to serve some thing for our country, May this step will take a long but ………………………

  13. Reason said, on December 20, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    There is a difference between ‘democracy’ and ‘republic’. India is ‘Republic of India’.

    It may not make much sense to make a connection between the circus that goes on in the name of governing this republic to a single vote that the poor, illiterate or semi-literate voters cast once in five years. A Dalit in UP is likely to have voted for Mayavati last elections, and is likely to repeat that again in the next elections. A Muslim or Yadav in UP most likely voted for Mulayam in last elections. Christians in Tamil Nadu were asked by church to vote against Jayalalitha in 2004 Lok Sabha polls because she dared to curb conversion. A good share of whatever little vote BJP gets in tamil nadu is likely to be thevar vote because they form the bulk of Hindu Munnani in south tamil nadu.
    Which of those votes do we say authorised UPA to provide OBC reservation for creamy layers in IITs?

  14. […] Four MPs asked the tough questions in the Rajya Sabha (strength 242) Of the four, only one MP was from a major political party (SS Ahluwalia of the BJP). In the Lok Sabha, only one remarkable politician Tathagata Satpathy of the BJD tried to initiate a debate. See here for details. […]

  15. xyz said, on December 21, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    Thinking ahead,what could happen, now that reservation have become a closed issue.
    1)it might be challenged in courts and nullified in the august house of …
    2)what about TN, “home state” for so many of us.Ironically,this might turn out be a nail against tamil nationalism.They will have nothing else to fight for.This might open the floodgates of north indian telugu,migrants to north tamil nadu.madras is close to the andhra border and a substantial population is already telugu.karunanidhi is very old.The dmk leadership might wither away.
    3)In north india, reservations might unleash the untapped potential of backwards.The ensuing competition might finally make india modern.This is possible because there is no linguistic- cultural divide like in TN.
    4)Or it can unleash inter-caste conflicts in north india
    5)both 3 and 4 can happen simultaneously
    6)Brahmanas who are already retreating,will recede further.This will not be bad in the short term.This might even strengthen indian unity in the short term.It will benefit some disadvantaged groups.(who will they be?How many of them?well…,we have to forget that.)
    7)In the long term,the forces let loose by karu-VP Singh in the 1990’s will gain a fresh lease of life.Perhaps,this is inevitable given india’s history.
    8)No great ideal or ties of kinship will unite india.(one must not forget that even after independence,these values meant very little to large masses of people.)Mere exigencies of situation will hold us together.
    9)The brahminical hand which guided the nation will become irrelevant.Inspite of its obvious shortcomings and though not free from regional jealousies,the brahmana class shared some ideals.
    10)In a way,it is inevitable that the “masses” will control education and power.They will become the new pseudo kshatriyas.This has been the pattern of indian history,since parikshit,No wonder,the new shudra(pseudo kshatriya) class consisting of the likes of lalu,karu,ramadoss will acquire the trappings of power,claiming egalitarian ideals.
    11)Brahmanas(read technocrats) might pay obeisance to these pseudo kshatriyas in return for security and law and order.The pseudo kshatriyas will get ceremonial status(iits,ias,judges,cabinet posts)
    12)when the new pseudo kshatriyas face inconvenient problems(in increasing frequency),one can expect them to resort to all sorts of chauvinism.
    13)Development is not the issue here.It is lust for power.with no regard whatsoever for truth,ethics,morality etc..Most brahmanas will resign themselves to the situation.Human desires and wants are multiplying.Every human being has his own vasanas,motivation ,desires and capabilities.Given the degradation in our environment,etc perhaps these goondas might be the best bet for rough and ready justice.(katta panchayat for pathinettu patti ooru)
    14) it is a depressing forecast,but not unlikely

  16. Brahman said, on December 22, 2006 at 5:07 am

    While I do not agree with all of XYZ’s forecasts, one must remember that the so-called political domination of the Brahman class was very short-lived. It was only after 1850, after the British vanquished the Kshatriyas and Mughals (also in a way Kshatriyas) that the intellectual Brahmans prospered, they were just serving a different master, one who happened to be richer and less arbitrary. I guess 150 years was too good to last, and it is back to the past for Brahmans.

    Of course demagogues will claim “5000” years of oppression by Brahmans since they will not dare take on the sword arm of the erstwhile ruling class, who were the real oppressors of the peasant class like in medieval Europe. For TN politicians, who see the imminent end of the Karu clan, a skirmish is already erupting among the Ramadosses and Chidambarams and Marans for the mantle of the “aam admi” champion. Hence the stridency and unseemly haste in pressing for quotas and other forms of redistribution policies. But these will backfire, since the natural inclination is to drag down anything which is successful. People will thus stop being successful and just try to scrape by without attracting attention. Or they will flee to less suffocating shores.

    I predict Brahmans will suffer the same fate as Mughals, witnessing a steep fall in living standards like in TN, except that a successful core will be safely out of the reach of Indian politicians. They will watch from afar as the Indian population burgeons to 1.7 billion over the next 40 years, the IT industry implodes under the onset of private sector reservations and social engineering in institutions of learning and resulting internal conflicts and morale problems, the peasant revolution who will still form the majority of the population with vastly more mouths to feed and other problems galore.

    As the demagogues cannot back off from their adopted stands, this is inevitable in many ways, momentum has already been built up. As the developed countries increasingly automate their factories and farms, and move towards a virtual economy where transactions are primarily digitized, and India’s population of unskilled workers swells to over 680 million from 420 million today, there can be some interesting occurrences that the world has never witnessed. A huge seething mass, no longer satisfied with the demagogues explanations of “the evil Brahmans are responsible for all your problems today”, may exact a terrible revenge on them that no amount of finger pointing will nullify in this globalized age of satellite television.

  17. […] until now ? In contrast to your father, you did not speak up when it mattered. Do you remember the one person (in a full house of 545) spoke up about the dangers of dividing the country along caste and […]

  18. […] politicians have demonstrated in the Lok Sabha (with the notable exception of Mr Tathaghat Satpathy) that annoying things like data and monitoring of entitlement programs are not to be discussed. […]

  19. Lambodar Dash said, on April 25, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Since professionally i’m a journalist, I personally know tathagata satpathy. He was brave and stright forward. his comments on education reservation is praise worthy and a lession to other parliamentarians who dance with tunes of reservation for vote politics.

  20. Rajeshkanta Tarai said, on May 4, 2009 at 8:38 am

    really sir u r the brave person who is not daring to ask any type of questions.Dhenkanal district should be proud of you by getting a Mp like you.

  21. […] Four MPs asked the tough questions in the Rajya Sabha (strength 242) Of the four, only one MP was from a major political party (SS Ahluwalia of the BJP). In the Lok Sabha, only one remarkable politician Tathagata Satpathy of the BJD tried to initiate a debate. See here for details. […]

  22. Nirmal Chandra said, on November 22, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Well done, Sir! Keep it up. The voice of the voiceless is behind you. We pray for you and pray that the likes of you breed more and breed prolific.
    Thank you again.

  23. […] In honour of the “-1″ in “544-1″ […]

  24. M K RAY said, on June 26, 2010 at 6:30 am

    How long this pretension will continue? Our politicians for their narrow personal(read Vote) interests are the biggest stumbling block in our progress.Tathagath Satpathy echoed the voice of Late Biju Pattnaik who despite being a CM at the time of Mandal Commission fiasco had braved to dismiss caste as the determining factor to segregate people. He opined “there are only two classes – HAVES and HAVE NOTS”. God can only save this country particularly when these opportunist politicians are now eyeing the private sector.

  25. susanvankoski said, on July 2, 2010 at 1:54 am

    In America, where I’m from, “reservation politics” as known in India is called “diversity” and “openness” and other such things (pointedly so in the state where I live and teach– New York).
    Mr. Satpathy is an old friend of mine from when I studied in India for my Ph.D. from Columbia University fifteen years ago. I am proud of him for his courageous principled objection to “political correctness.” I never expected anything less from him. He was always a man of innate kindness and integrity and great judgement (I wish I’d listened to him about my then-boyfriend).
    I applaud his views in all respects, for both our countries and the world at large should they catch on.
    Dr. Susan VanKoski

  26. […] Tathagat Satpathy (Lok Sabha 1 in 544 […]

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