The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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New Delhi, March 29: Kumar Harsh knows how much a policeman’s lathi can hurt, how water can sting when sprayed from a cannon, and how eyes burn when a smoke bomb explodes.

Today, the excitement of taking on the government of India, no less, and “beating” it became the latest in the spectrum of roller-coaster emotions the 25-year-old AIIMS doctor has experienced in less than a year.

For the president of the AIIMS Resident Doctors’ Welfare Association and one of the founders of the anti-quota Youth for Equality, today was a day to celebrate unrestrained.

The Supreme Court order, putting on hold the 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes in higher education, is being hailed as a victory by the student activists who battled reservation last year.

“It’s been a long year. But we’ve evolved our theoretical strategies, just as the government has. Today’s decision is momentous,” said Harsh, out of breath after the impromptu celebrations that broke out on the AIIMS campus this morning as news of the apex court order filtered in.

Students at IIM Ahmedabad, too, were upbeat. “The Supreme Court has done the right thing. The manner in which reservation was being implemented was not acceptable to us. Not that we do not care for certain underprivileged sections that should get preferential treatment. But quota is not a solution,” said Rohan Mathur, a first-year student.

Nirmal Kumar, another student, echoed him, saying there was “no justification” for reservation.

What appears to have clinched today’s order in favour of the anti-quota group was the government’s use of a census dating back to 1931 as its basis for arriving at the figure of 27 per cent.

“How can the government rely on 70-year-old data' India’s demography has changed significantly since then,” Harsh said.

The Youth for Equality sees today’s order as a vindication of its “theoretical” stand — that reservation divides people.

A garden and two hostel blocks away, dozens of other AIIMS doctors and students sat locked in their rooms.

Ghettoised — allegedly by upper caste students — and ignored — allegedly by the AIIMS administration — the reserved-category students waited, fear-stricken, for “reaction” from “the other side”.

“The last time they (quota protesters) claimed a victory (when Delhi High Court ordered that doctors be paid wages for the days they were striking), we were abused... laughed at,” said Satinder Meena, a Scheduled Caste student.

Outside his hostel, the jubilant anti-quota group was increasingly growing raucous, and Meena’s brows furrowed a little more.

Like many other reserved-category students here, Meena has taken to reading works of B.R. Ambedkar over the past year to help him escape the “increasingly hostile” environment at AIIMS.

“Don’t worry, you go. Let’s just hope nothing untoward happens,” he said, picking up one of Ambedkar’s books.

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