Friday, June 13, 2008

Gujjar As ST ,Meenas and Reservations

As a School boy I use to be very racist. Born into Jat family, I grew up hearing stories and listening to the traits of Jats from elders (and even from people of other castes) about jats being some sort of special caste in world. As I started to read and search on this, it was supported by facts like British naming jats as “Martial race “and about valor of Jat Regiment ,their true spirits a Kshatriya….. .I slowly developed this feeling that Jats are among most courageous, fearless and highest placed caste in world. But here the last adjective got a little setback to me in 1999-2000 when Jats of Rajasthan except bharatpur and dholpur distt were given OBC status by Govt of India ( exception in two distt may be because Jats ruling history was too known in these districts).I began to wonder what OBC means to Jats…. Have they now lowered themselves in social classes in India or are Jats of Rajasthan are inferior to Jats in Haryana, Punjab? Maybe answer was somewhere else. But this move saw many Jats making a shift in their political inclination from Congress to BJP, Indeed it was a huge vote bank. But then next question which came in my mind was …”What made Jats in Rajasthan as OBC than other castes in Rajasthan? Was it social backwardness? I guess that was never palpable .Then was it Economic? Maybe… Maybe not as I had seen jats in western UP to be effluent people. So best thing came to my mind was it is just a political appeasement... My family decided to settle around Noida .If they would have rather decided to settle in Jaipur or I would have taken admission in NIT Jaipur instead of NIT Surat , Why would that have made me entitled to gain educational and other reservation benefits . Just by moving 100-200 km one suddenly becomes backward or forward?

But one thing I best learnt was ...”Going down the social ladder helps folk climb up the economic ladder “

Just Imagine a condition : “A multi millionaire Meena IAS officer's boy is studying without paying the fees whereas the Brahmin who works for class D for the IAS pay fee for his son in the college “ .Will discuss it but lets first look into Gujjar ST thing first .

I just thought… what the recent outbreak of ire implied??
a) that these Gujjars aren't responsible human beings who cannot think beyond their ST status
b) that they probably do not deserve what they're agitating for
c) that they needed to resort to tantrum-throwing on a large scale to bring attention to what they want
d) that they couldn't behave like adults and find out a more peaceable way to solve their problem
e) that they are confounded tribals who engage in primitive and savage actions if you dare ruffle their feathers
f) that they expect themselves to be taken for tribals sitting in the Capital and therefore being absolutely non-geographically-isolated (which is a major requirement for being a ST)
g) that they think blowing up vehicles of mass transport is a great way to prove themselves capable of handling their ST status - if any

Now I am trying to look into it with a historical view…

In 1947 British left India, but their strategies were carried by the Indian politicians. Reservations, that which was put in the constitution with a very noble idea of uplifting the depressed, began to be used as an effective tool to gather votes from specific castes.

The Gujjar`s ST demand is just a mix result of political rhetoric and caste made turmoil which has prevailed for so long India. Let’s just try n look at this issue with respect to other castes in India espl Meenas and political propaganda with future aspect

Gujjars or Gurjars basically nomadic tribe who r believed as ancient immigrants with relation to Huns have mostly employed themselves in occupation of animal husbandry, from Himalayan footholds to plains mostly concentrating themselves in North West region of India. With time they even had their few kingdoms in various parts of north India at different times in history .They have been in all Varna with some at par with Kshatriya varna and while few have been in Brahmin varna like gaur and some have been even placed in Shudra varna ( Its impossible to discuss complexities of varna as who and why belong to which Varna of the four available Varnas ). Various places in India and Pakistan like Gujarat in India and Gujrat and Gujranwala in Pakistan shows their deep influence in Indian subcontinent.

Meanwhile, the Meenas who are now arraigned against the Gujjars getting the ST status also have an interesting history.

Meena or Mina another predominant caste in western India , whose correct origin is unknown as to they were indigenous or migrated tribe believe their lineage from matasya avtar of lord Vishnu .They are believed to be original rulers of mataysya kingdom (now Rajasthan) but degraded in power in Rajasthan after Rajputs ,Jats and other communities takings control of kingdom and land .

The similarity between the Gujjars and the Meenas appear over the way in which the British treated them.

During British rule esp. after 1857 Gujjars and Meena were listed in criminal tribes and they further degraded their cause of status in society, it may be seen that both had belonged to a much higher caste order and were later relegated into Criminal Tribe during the Imperial rule later abolished by govt of India in 1952. At that time Gujjars and Meenas were almost equal in society with respect to economic and social standings in society. Initially a certain section of Meena (of rajasthan) were given ST status in reservation and Gujjars were later given OBC in Rajasthan and UP.

Meena who are again The Zamindar Meena , The Chaukidar Meenas , Parihar Meenas and The Bhil Meena (Tribal). in society with Zamindar and some Chaukidaar Meenas even enjoying status equal status to Kshatriya in society were better placed than most of Gujjars in that region. ST status was ought for tribes in Meena (Bhil Meena of southern Rajasthan of Udaipur belt) but due to political game got extended to whole society. so in subsequent years Meena got better in advantages than Gujjars in Rajasthan so Gujjars started feeling at disadvantages and started enjoying better advantages of govt services and education with Meena taking lions share of ST pie.

When out of politics advantage Atal bihari Vajpayee decided gave economic and socially stable JATs OBC status in reservation .This made a direct impact on Gujjar share( Jats being 12-13 % in Rajasthan ,Meena 11-12% and Gujjar 6-7%). JAts being economic, socially, educationaly more rich started enjoying greater pie of OBC share. Gujjars started feeling left out. BJP again for their political rhetoric promised Gujjars their ST status and won state election in 2003-04.But Meena who has for long enjoyed the benefits never liked the idea of someone sharing their reservation pie and made open statement to oppose BJP in elections if Gujjars r given ST status…. This made it a web of Politics and caste in Rajasthan and now whole issue is politicized.

Gujjars have been recognized as ST in Himachal Pradesh and J&K, but not in other States, underlying the geographical differences. Despite their recent fury, there has been no attempt on the part of their leaders to articulate their demand for inclusion in the ST list, or how they qualify the criteria. Merely because Meenas, a community similarly placed, has been in the ST list, does not ipso facto sustain their claim. And why they thought they are the only people who are suffering? Another question is “Will grant of the status solve Gujjars' perceived problems? Or, will it generate a process of schedulisation with every jaati demanding the lowest status possible for the crumbs of the quota raj?” For me This schedulisation is the exact reverse of sanskritisation .

And now Politicos are competing with themselves in achieving the lowest schedulisation possible for every jaati on the assumption that jaati identity is a critical vote-bank criterion. Ain’t there no other way of ensuring affirmative action to undo the status of deprivation? Is quota raj the only method known to a civil society?

. This shows how dangerous this entire vote bank politics game called "Reservations" is. The short sighted politicians have failed to see that they are playing with fire in enforcing and supporting reservations because it is a great dividing force and would divide the country on caste and creed basis. Today, Gurjars are demanding for inclusion of their community in the ST list, Rajputs have already many a times created protest to be included in OBC just of reason "If the Jats can get reservation, why can't Rajputs?" . Meena in MP are in for demand of ST status .Tomorrow, Yadavas would demand listing of their community in the SC list and this game would never end. So, politicians should open their eyes and see to it that all sorts of reservations in jobs and Central Education Institutes etc. are immediately abolished otherwise it is sure that the country would go mess.

There are over 3000 listed castes among the OBCs alone. In a caste-based reservation system is it not inevitable that such demands and grievances will never stop proliferating? VP Singh had no idea about the complexities of the issue when in pursuit of short term political advantage he recklessly unleashed the Mandal formula which itself is flawed

The most ironical aspect of this issue is that reservation on the basis of caste is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court signally failed to discharge its responsibility by failing to enunciate this. Earlier this scribe had quoted Article 16 (2) of the Constitution to assert this. There has been no convincing rebuttal from any quarter until now. If caste-based reservation is constitutional, so would religion-based or region-based reservation be constitutional?

Neither politicians nor the judiciary display the guts to address the issue courageously. The Indian establishment seems totally overwhelmed by false conventions and traditions that are in no way sanctified by law. Unless there is radical reappraisal of India’s political system and culture, the nation will continue to blunder from crisis to crisis.

Over the last 60 years or so, the Scheduled Tribes appear to have evolved into two distinct groups: those who have able to take advantage of the protection and benefits guaranteed to them under the constitution and have been able to decrease the gap in development between them and other communities; and those Scheduled Tribes whom such programmes and protection have failed to reach and who, therefore, still exist at subsistence level with poor health, without education ” jobs and low income levels

I believe the main problem is the "class"ification of the caste. There is wide intra-caste disparity
in income levels, educational and even social backwardness in many castes. That too in large states like Rajasthan with many geographical regions, this disparity in effectuates any serious caste based solutions. Rajputs of Rajasthan are considered backward than Rajputs of MP . A Shekhawati Jat cannot be compared with a Bharatpuri Jat. The Jat in Barmer stands somewhere in the middle. A Bhil Meena in Aravallis is no where near the Meenas in urban Tonk. The problem of Gujjars is even more acute. Gujjars in the upper reaches of Poonch in Jammu, Gujjars in trans-Jamuna Delhi and Gujjars in Rajasthan are a world apart.. Now we see this bizarre spectacle of all of them coming together in the struggle for their brothers in Rajasthan.

Caste is a too large brush, ineffectual to capture the whole picture. We need some other standard of reservation ,maybe economic. Moreover as we saw in Gujjar meena clashes , Caste based reservation has just been perfect for “Division in always divided India“ . The Gujjars and the Meenas seem to have been living most harmoniously before the “socially just” policy of reservation was implemented. And yet, its supporters will have us believe that reservation does NOT divide society.

"Dis-unity in diversity" is certainly conclusive, at least the paraphernalia of Indian Democracy says so.


Farah said...

Nice Article

reetika said...

a comme il faut one!

@k@nksh@ said...

nice article indeed.......
just to add to the constitutional set up when meenas wre to given reservation, they were not "meenas" in particular.infact the reservation was actually sought for "bheel meenas" who were really downtrodden n used to live in jungles. but one of the legislators took out the word bheel out of bheel meenas n it became reservation for the whole meenas. n now look at them due to that listing evry meena family in rajasthan at an average has at least one IAS officer in his family.

Amlan Nanda said...

you have done some nice research!

I do not see any hope for this mess to end in fore seeable future.

Arpan Chaudhry said...

Great News
Rajasthan new name will just be Reservisthan now
ST (Meena ,Garasia ) 7.5%
Jats Yadav some others 27%
SC (dhobi, nat ,bhangi,valmiki and others ) 15%
Gujjar 5%
Rajput ,Bhrahmin 14%

Aur koi hai jisko chahiye???
Caste reservation on sale

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