Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gujjar Agitation and Reservation; A constitutional crisis?

"Talks between Gujjars, who are on a warpath on job reservation issue, and Rajasthan government on Sunday failed to break the deadlock with protesters unrelenting on their demand for five per cent quota even as they continued blockade of certain rail and road routes in the state."..."You (minister) are always welcome here but when you come here next time, come with a written order on reservation," Bainsla said. - Hindustan Times.

All this started when Jats had been included in OBC category. Then Gujjars started asking for ST status; It was in September 2006, when Gujjars hold an agitation at Hindaun railway station demanding reservation, then in May 2007, 5 people including a policeman killed in violence, then a mahapanchayath on June in the same year, refusing to sell milk in september, 'Jail-Barao' agitation in October, removing railway tracks in November. Another mahapanchayath in March 2008,  and 'Rail-Roko' agitation in may; this agitation was so violent that more than 20 protesters and one policeman were killed.

Then in August 2008, Gujjar mahapanchayath called for the implementation of reservation bill passed in the assembly providing 5% reservation to Gujjars, Gadia Luhars, Rebaris, Benjaras and 14% reservation to EBC(Economically Backward Classes). In may 2010 government agrees for 1%reservation to Gujjars in the special backward category with in the reservation quota, the remaining 4% reservation was put on hold till the court verdict.

Rajastan High court which earlier stayed the quota as it is exceeding 50% limit, now observed that "till such time a data study of backwardness of gujjar community is done no reservation can be permitted. No pattern like other state for excess reservation is permissible as state has admittedly not undertaken mandatory exercise of staistical study of backwardness of gujjar community in Rajasthan before legislating the special reservation act".

Now the Gujjars are back in streets demanding reservation, blocking the rail and road routes. Of course the airline industry started increasing the flight rates day after day.

But if we are looking to this agitation in a national prism, isn't clear that even after six decades of independence we failed to create a national identity? now we have hundreds of communities which are claimed by various politicians as their vote bank. These vote banks are well used in their bargain with the national parties for the seats in union government and/or state government. Once you reduced from the status of MP/MLA of a constituency to MP/MLA of a community, people are expecting favous for their community from the government. And the easiest to appease the people is to give then reservation.

Instead of separating politics from religion; we weaved it so tightly that it is difficult to separate. Now these separate identities want to cement it forever in one form or another. Reservation was supposed to run for a decade, but it is running even today, and may be will run forever. In many states reservation is close to 50% (if the courts are not insisting on this 50% limits politicians may increase it to 100%). 

We may be the only community in the world where various sections asking for the tag of backwardness. Why people want to be branded as backward class? Because they don't have enough opportunity when they are not in backward class? or because they want enjoy the perks of reservation?

I am not saying there was no caste problem in the past. I am not disagreeing with the fact that people currently in SC/ST categories and forest tries suffered because of the low caste tag and still they are facing problems in the remote villages. But do we have to carry forward this tag forever? DMK leader and Chief Minister of Tamilnadu Karunanidhi said that "Raja is a Dalit. That is why dominant forces are levelling malicious charges against him". This was his statement when asked about his opinion on Raja's resignation. But do you think he is targeted because he is a dalit?

If we are going on in this way of 'reservation for everyone who cries for it', we will reach a point where barring certain communities all others will be included in reservation category. But who will get the benefit? the one who is living in the remote jungles of Attapadi, central India, North-East etc? or those in the cities who are already the beneficiaries of first generation reservation benefits?

Time already came for us to separate religion from politics. Instead of playing one community against another and holding the nation's arteries like roads and railways we have to find a way to empower the really backward communities but without making the reservation as their birthright. 

Instead what should be the birthright? the real candidate is education. Here is the importance of 'Right to Education Act'. Empower the people by giving education to them, by giving generous scholarships and making a clear system where the job should not be allocated through 'First come first served basis' but based on true merit. If people starts to believe that there is some value for merit and they will surely try that path. 

Instead of folding legs before the demands for additional reservation government have to find ways to reach out to people. Today, If government accept the defeat then there is not doubt that some other community will start agitation for reservation from the very next day. Simple mathematics says that government cant give even 1% reservation for each of them as there are thousands of communities in India but the percentage is limited to 100!!!


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