One year ago the Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan resulted in police firing and over twenty deaths. Last weekend Gujjar-police clashes left over thirty dead. Over fifty people have already lost their lives demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to get job reservation for their community. After the Gujjar riots halted last year this scribe wrote: 'Those who think the crisis has ended need to re-think. The crisis has begun.' (Quota Quagmire : Crisis Has Not Ended ' It Has Begun)
Both government and opposition leaders have offered no solutions. They continue to parrot their stupid formulations about caste-based social justice.
The Gujjars have job reservation in the OBC quota. They seek reservation in the ST quota. They think prospects under ST quota would be better than under the OBC quota. In Rajasthan the Jats have hogged the OBC quota. The Meenas have hogged the ST quota. The Meenas are more affluent than the Gujjars. The British listed both the Meenas and the Gujjars as 'criminal tribes'. The Gujjars rebelled against the British. They robbed and looted British garrisons. That is why the British classified them as a criminal tribe.
Given this history, why should Gujjars be denied ST status? Never mind that a hundred years ago the Gujjars were demanding recognition as Kshatriyas, a powerful forward caste. In the insane political context created by India's leaders the Gujjars are also seeking 'social justice'. Going down the social ladder helps folk climb up the economic ladder. So it seems is the current wisdom propagated by India's politicians. Why don't Dr Manmohan Singh, Arjun Singh, Laloo Yadav, Sharad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Prakash Karat and LK Advani take up the Gujjar cause? Are Gujjar votes insufficient to counter the Meena vote, the Jat vote and the Yadav vote? Or is it that our politicians as frightened chickens simply cannot comment on an issue which like Pandora's Box could unleash all kinds of dire possibilities?
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. Dr Lohia and Charan Singh during certain periods of their political careers also favoured caste-based reservation. History tells us that both leaders were mistaken. No leader like God is above human error. However exalted their lives we will pledge blind allegiance to the mistaken policies of past icons at our own grave peril.
Caste-based reservation as a quick-fix for getting strictly limited political support has no real value. Once VP Singh took it up as a political issue his support has continuously shrunk. Today it is pathetic. The Yadav leaders are limited really to their own caste. They attempt to augment strength through tactical alliances with other castes and communities. Politics in India therefore has degenerated to tribal interaction devoid of national policy or relevance.
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.