Gujjars & 4 Other Castes, Re-included in OBC list: Rajasthan

Written by SabrangIndia Staff | Published on: May 20, 2017

This decision has been taken on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the first agitation of the Gujjars for inclusion in reservation that took place on May 23, 2008; another agitation that turned violent took place in 2015


 

The Rajasthan government has on May 19 re- included five castes, including Gujjars, in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. This decision has been taken on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the first agitation of the Gujjars for inclusion in reservation that took place on May 23, 2008.  This is after the state High Court had struck down the Special Backward Class (SBC) Reservation Act, 2015, which provided special backward class status to Gujjar and four other castes, in December just last year.
The states Social Justice and Empowerment Department on Friday issued a notification declaring that the five castes -? Banjara/Baldia/Labana, Gadia-Lohar/Gadalia, Gujjar/Gurjar, Raika/Rebari and Gadaria (Gaadri) -- have again been included in the OCB list.
 
There is a background to this entire affair, these castes were first included in the OBC list in 1994. A law was enacted in 2008 to grant five per cent quota in government jobs and educational institutions under the SBC category to four castes/communities. It was implemented in 2009 and a separate government notification was issued in 2012 to include Gadaria (Gaadri) in the SBC list. However, this government decision ran into legal issues and the high court stayed the reservation in 2009 as it had exceeded the legal ceiling of 50 per cent.
Finally six years later, in September 2015, the state assembly passed the Rajasthan Special Backward Classes (reservation of seats in educational institutions in the state and of appointments and posts in services under the state) Bill to give 5 per cent reservation to the five castes and issued a notification on October 16, 2015 to bring the act into effect. Following the notification, the overall reservation in the state had reached 54 per cent.

However, the high court had scrapped the Act last year, saying there were no extraordinary circumstances to allow that overall reservation in government jobs and education institutes in various states should be allowed to go beyond the 50 per cent cap set by the Supreme Court.
"The Act was struck down by the high court on December 9, 2016. As a result, all five castes have again been included in the OBC list," the notification issued by ACS, Social Justice and Empowerment, Ashok Jain said. The notification is effective from December 9, 2016.
Meanwhile, Rajasthan Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti spokesperson Himmat Singh Gujjar has said the community will protest against the decision. The decision to protest has always a threat to turn violent given the recent history of Gujjar protests.

Background of Protests: Violent
The Gurjar agitation in Rajasthan had seen a series of protests in the state of Rajastan, India, beginning 2008 and then most significantly in 2015.

Nine years ago, violence erupted in the state of Rajasthan on May 23, 2008 when police fired on protesters belonging to the Gurjar caste who were demanding a higher scheduled tribe status, instead of their current OBC (Other Backward Class) status. The agitation turned violent and in retaliation, the protesters lynched a policeman in the Bharatpur district of Rajasthan. The spiral continued and in response, police shot at protesters as they tried to damage railway lines and government property. At least 15 were killed on the spot.

It was on May 24 of 2008 that the Indian army was called in to help calm the violence as another 15 people were killed when police shot at a mob of protesters trying to torch a police station in Sikandra. Many thousands of protesters blocked a rail route between Delhi and Mumbai. Highways had also been blocked, and state authorities cancelled many buses. Getting almost nothing from the government for their demand of a 5% quota for government jobs, Gurjars again went on to agitate, this time in 2010. This time there was an Ashok-Gehlot run Congress government in the state. They jammed trains on the Jaipur-Delhi and Mumbai-Delhi routes. Unlike the unrest in 2008, there was no violence in 2010. In May 2015, a similar protest was organized and over thousands of Gujjars blocked railway tracks halting train traffic.

The state government, however, has so far declined to change their status. Instead, it has announced that Rs. 2.82 billion ($ 67 million)will be spent to improve schools, clinics, roads and other infrastructure in Gurjar-dominated areas. However, Gurjar leaders have said that they "do not want money". Kirori Singh Bhainsla, the head of the main Gurjar protest organisation issued a statement — "We do not accept the economic package."

In 2007, Gurjars in Rajasthan fought police and members of the Meena tribe that had already qualified for Scheduled Tribe benefits and is opposed to Gurjars sharing the benefits it has cornered for itself. At least 26 people were killed in that violence. In the wake of the ongoing Gurjar agitation in neighbouring Rajasthan, high alert had been sounded in the border districts of Madhya Pradesh to check any spread of violence. The agitation finally ended after Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasnundhara Raje agreed on a 5% reservation under a new special category.

Violence

Soon after the Modi government assumed power in Delhi in May 2014, Gujjars demonstrated their caste might. In 2015, in an agitation that saw the widespread destruction of public property and also the utter paralysis of roads and communciations that led to the national capital, Gujjars mainly targeted the Jaipur-Delhi, Jaipur-Agra, and the Mumbai-Delhi transport routes as they believed it would capture the attention of the government and media altogether and resorted to violence when security forces tried to clear the roads and railways.

Some Gujjars alleged that the role of home minister and chief minister as provocative and oppressive. They blamed the government for giving the agitation a violent turn by firing at people gathering around patoli village whose bodies were then preserved using salt and ice for the duration of the entire period of agitation. The demand for punishment for those responsible for killing the villagers was added to that of gaining the reservation. The news of dead bodies lying without cremation attracted many gurjars from far off areas and even other states which added to the numbers of agitators who were now beyond the control of the police or the rapid action force and thus the Indian Army was called in.
However, the violence only stopped after some assurances from the government. Police in Sikandra town fired at protesters who torched a police station and two buses and shot and wounded a policeman, said Amanjit Singh Gill, Rajasthan's director-general of police. Protesters also burned down a police station in the nearby village of Chandra Guddaji, Gill said. Fifteen demonstrators died Friday when police fired live ammunition and tear gas to halt rioting, said Singh. A police officer was also beaten to death. At least 70 injured people were hospitalized in Jaipur, the state capital, and the town of Dosa.

Demonstrators blocked a major highway linking Jaipur to Agra — site of the world famous Taj Mahal monument — stranding thousands of people. Thousands of army, police, and paramilitary forces patrolled villages to control the violence.

Sporadic violence began again on 26 May when more than 36 towns observed a bandh to protest the police firing into the crowds. Six wagons of a goods train on its way to Agra derailed near Bandikui station in Dausa district due to tampering of rail tracks, allegedly by the Gurjars. Northern railway cancelled nine trains passing through Rajasthan and diverted several others to different routes.

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