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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.

Image: The All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. AIIMS is widely considered the country's best medical college.

Also see: Are Brahmin the Dalits of today?

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