The sizeable Jat community of North India is once again gearing up to kickstart a major agitation to demand job reservation for members of their community. A Shaheed Samman Samaroh was organised in Meham where their Khap representatives pledged to mount a concerted fight starting September 28. This would climax in a large rally at the Ramlila Grounds in Delhi.
An aggressive Yashpal Malik, president of the All-India Jat Reservation Agitation Committee, came down heavily at the meeting on both the Congress and the BJP who, he believed, have betrayed the Jats on their reservation issue.
“The Central and state governments are adopting a dual policy and wasting time by prolonging the issue in courts,” he said.
Reservation for the Jats has become extremely convoluted because while the Jats in Rajasthan, UP, and Delhi have been given reservations, their caste counterparts in Haryana have missed out on this quota.
The result is that while Jats living in Nangloi, which falls within Delhi, enjoy reservation, their caste brethren living 5 km away in Haryana do not enjoy the fruits of reservation. “This has built up a strong sense of resentment within the community .The BJP, in its election manifesto, had promised reservations, but on coming to power in the state, failed to do so,” said Malik.
The problem is further compounded by the inner dynamics of the BJP with a voluble section of their Haryana OBC leadership opposed to extending job reservation to the Jats. “BJP MP Raj Kumar Saini has openly opposed reservations for the Jats and on many occasions has sworn he would resign if there was any dilution of the OBC quotas in order to accommodate the Jats,” Malik added.
The Jats of Haryana are facing major problems. A dominant North Indian community, they gave Haryana seven of the 10 chief ministers. The situation has changed in recent years. A largely agrarian community, the shrinking of farm holdings has created a situation where farming is no longer an economically viable profession, forcing large numbers of their youth to move to cities in search of jobs.
Large scale unemployment has seen a rise in drug addiction, alcoholism and worse, an acute shortage of brides due to the unequal sex ratios. This has created a strong sense of grievance amongst the youth further aggravated by the incendiary statements made by the BJP MP from Kurukshetra to create a further divide between the Jat and OBCs. “The BJP has created an OBC brigade, which is a loose coalition of the backward classes in order to cut the Jats down to size,” Malik said.
Jayant Chaudhary, Rashtriya Lok Dal general secretary, agreed with Malik. “When the BJP selected the CM for Haryana,” he asked, “what was the need for the BJP president to say publicly that we will select a non-Jat CM or that no Jat leader was being considered for the top post? Chaudhary is a grandson of Jat icon and former prime minister Chaudhary Charan Singh.
Speaking on the Jat’s decision to continue with their quota agitation, former Haryana chief minister and Jat leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda claimed he had tried his best to sort out the reservation issue by creating a special category for the Jats. `We created a special category of reservation for the Jat community, but this was struck down by the Supreme Court,” he said.
Following the February agitation, the Manohar Lal Khattar had moved to give 10 per cent reservation to Jats and five other communities. The state assembly increased the quota to 67 percent but it turned out to be legally indefensible given that the Supreme Court had capped all quota percentages at 50 per cent. Ever since this act had been struck down, it was obvious to the shaky state government that the Jats would react angrily by setting in motion the second wave of unrest.
This is exactly what has happened with Khap head Mahender Singh Nandal warning, ` We didn’t fight such a long battle to see this day. This government has to take strong and effective steps to show their support to our community.’