2016 happens to be the 50th year since Haryana came into existence. Unfortunately, it saw a week which can only be described as being from hell. This is not the first time the numerically dominant Jat community has raised its voice and latthis to demand reservation (they form 30% of the population). But the community, which is actually prosperous and quite powerful with good representation in politics and governance as well, demanding quota and resorting to violence for it after the Kapu quota stir in Andhra Pradesh, and the Patel agitation in Gujarat for Patidar OBC status, is opening the Pandora’s Box leading to revival of long-pending demand for Gujjar, Maratha reservations. In all, the Jat stir has caused losses in excess of Rs 20000 crore according to ASSOCHAM and collateral damage extending to bordering states like Punjab, Himachal, UP and Rajasthan.
What’s common between the Patel and Jat community is that both were historically agrarian communities, holding large quantities of land and have been traditionally supporters of BJP for the past many years. Both are financially well of and hence when you see a Jat wearing Nike tracksuit and Adidas sneakers, a chunky gold chain, and RayBan Aviators arriving in a luxury sedan to protest for reservation, it elicits an cringe-inducing reaction.
The issue behind the Jat agitation is not actually lack of job opportunities for the community, but lack of labours who have found better job opportunities after the successful implementation of schemes such as MGNREGA. Jats own large tracts of land and primarily involved in agricultural activities. A shortage of labour is resulting in a situation where their subsistence is threatened. Adding to their woes is ever-rising input cost and the dismal state of irrigation. Also, once who used to be their labour is now sitting in public offices by way of reservation and now the community needs to address them as “sir” in case they need to get things done, eg. when applying for loans, registry, license etc. To rub it in, a state that has been ruled by Jat chief ministers for the longest time is now run by a lower caste chief minister. Jat leaders protested against his name and conveyed their feelings to the PM, who had decided to make Khattar the CM of Haryana. His second most prominent colleague, Anil Vij is a Punjabi too.
The new DGP was a non-Jat and so were many others in key positions including the chief secretary.
Haryana has already granted 49 percent reservation to various backward castes and communities and cannot add to this figure since the Supreme Court has capped reservations at 50 percent. Moreover, fifteen years ago the population of India was over 800 million and there were over 19 million public sector jobs; today the population has crossed a billion but the number of public sector jobs has in fact decreased. So what’s with all this hoopla? Is it part of a larger nefarious design? The Home ministry sprung into action when students of JNU were protesting peacefully. Police lathicharge, raids and arrests followed; but at the same time when hundreds of men took to the streets, blocking highways, allegedly raping women, carrying country-made firearms, iron rods, sword etc, looting and causing wanton destruction of private and public property, the government remains silent. Not once has the PM, Narendra Modi, spoken on the protests that took place in different parts of the country demanding reservation. It raises a pertinent question: Did the government have any role in fanning these protests?
One after the other, communities across India have been demanding reservation and what’s interesting is that these communities are the dominant ones. This points towards an attempt by the establishment to abolish the quota system. There were newspaper reports during the Patel agitation that suggested BJP and RSS sponsored the protest. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has in the recent past suggested review of the reservation policy. The rightist ideology of the RSS and its offshoots like the BJP, which comprise predominantly of upper caste individuals, entails undermining the rights of the scheduled tribes, schedule castes and the backward classes as they form the labour force. Abolition of the quota system would mean protection of their interests.