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This essay interrogates the issue of social justice based on a critical analysis of the categorization debate in Andhra Pradesh, a south Indian state. The Madigas, one of the scheduled castes, demanded the subdivision of the unified quota of 15 percent reservations for scheduled castes. This demand brought to the fore several paradoxes in the system of positive discrimination and also posed a challenge to the principles of social justice. This essay argues that objective of the constitutional principle to institutionalize the system of quotas was to reduce the vast socioeconomic disparities between social classes. It argues that some highly educated castes within the Dalit category have cornered the benefits of affirmative action. The essay illustrates this point through the categorization debate (of delineating quotas for various scheduled castes) between the two prominent Dalit castes in Andhra Pradesh, the Madigas and the Malas. The Madigas’ political groups argued for categorization of the reservations based on the ideas that were to be found in the original principles of the reservation system, while the Malas’ groups based their arguments against categorization on the ideas found in Brahmanism. The essay examines the discussion over the demand for subdivision, the inequalities reproduced by the policy of quotas, and the objectives of the concept of social justice.

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