The Rajasthan Story Of Caste Politics.
What is happening in Rajasthan is pretty shameful but not unexpected. The Gurjars have come out on the streets and their demand is that their OBC status be changed to ST. The protests have turned violent and as usual loss of life and public property follows. This includes pelting stone, burning police stations, road blocs and what not.
While the Gurjars are protesting to be included in the ST category, The Meena community is protesting against it. They have vowed to not let this inclusion happen as they are the only community classified as ST in Rajasthan.
What do you make of all this?
In my view this is happening for two reasons. One is Caste based identity Politics and the other is Quota Reservations. Because of Caste politics people vote en bloc as a community and they benefit as a bloc. This is what happened when jats in Rajasthan were granted OBC status. Since they are powerful and well off they kind of cornered the benefit of reservations. The gurjars, that has an OBC status was later promised ST status by BJP. The community voted and BJP came to power. The Gurjars now want the promise fulfilled. Apart from reservations the gurjars have another reason to protest. They have had very less political representation throughout Rajasthan except Dausa. Dausa is perhaps the only place where they have any political clout. When they learnt that Dausa was being converted into a reserved seat their patience ran out with BJP and they have come on the streets. Now if Gurjars get included as ST then the other ST community Meena suffers because someone else will come to share the ST reservation pie. Hence they protest to maintain their exclusive benefits. All of this is ridiculous but not unexpected. Looks like group assertion in India has become the only way to achieve any kind of benefit. This is a sad situation but is Muscle power of the community the only way to get social justice?
These events also bring out a big short coming of the entire social justice programme based on reservations. Many have been arguing all along the futility of implementing such huge programmes without solid data backing them. With incidents like these one can not help but doubt the fairness of the reservation system. The entire ad hoc classification process of communities as OBCs has to stop. The government needs to collect data and clearly define criteria based on which a community can be given a particuar status. It should also tackle the issue of creamy layer otherwise what is happening between different communities will get repeated within the same communities. Thereafter will come the quotas within quotas and so on.
Pratab Bhanu Mehta has an excellent take on the whole issue.
I personally feel it is time to revamp the whole reservation system with something new.
related reading in the blogosphere