Ironically, the caste-based reservation system in India is a necessary evil. After the country was freed from the British clutches in 1947, the successive Congress government didn’t take any solid measures to deliver the fruits of economic and educational reforms to the classes occupying the bottom strata. Of course, several castes escaped the vicious claws of castism and social injustice, but not at the pace that was required. With time, it was used as a political tool by opportunist leaders who played on their social insecurities to fill their vote banks. Consequently, what started as the journey towards development, transformed into the race to the bottom where different castes fought one another to grab maximum opportunities for themselves. This resulted in several deadly events like the Gurjar agitation of 2008.
If you missed on the unfortunate turmoil affecting the peace, law and order in Rajasthan, here are 10 facts that you must know about Gujjar Andolan.
Gurjar Cast Riots in Rajasthan: 10 Facts we Bet you Didn’t Know
- Fact No. 1
‘Gurjar Hano Hain Gurjar’ was a trading/farming community recognised as ‘Other Backward Class’ by Indian government. They didn’t face much discrimination in Indian society, but self-proclaimed Messiahs like Kirori Singh Bainsla and Himmat Singh Gujjar demanded 5% reservation for the Gujjar communities in educational institutions and government jobs. They felt that the Gurjars were economically and educationally backward. So, they wanted to be re-classified as the Scheduled Tribe.
- Fact No. 2
This resulted in social clashes between the Meenas, Gujjars and Jats. The Gurjars who were misled by Bainsla demanded the government to admit them to the ST categories. Fearing competition with the Gurjars, the Meenas protested against their demands. There was a parallel clash between the Jats and the Gurjars. The Gujjars claimed they would give up their demands if the Jats were stripped off the OBC list.
- Fact No. 3
Seeing it as a lucrative opportunity to win Gurjar votes, the Congress government at the Centre proposed a positive action plan that set aside quotas in educational and employment sectors. Knowing that caste-based reservations would do no good to the Gurjar community, but pave way for further agitations, the state government declined to accept this unreasonable demand. In time, it proved correct when Hardik Patel demanded backward status for the Patels along the same lines as the Gurjars.
- Fact No. 4
To empower the Gurjars with valid opportunities, Raje government allotted a financial package worth Rs. 2.83 billion for ‘Devnarayan Scheme’. This ambitious school aimed to improve clinics, hospitals, schools, infrastructure and roads in Gurjar-dominated regions. Nevertheless, Bainsla, who had his selfish interests invested in the cause rejected this move and went on to lead the first Gujjar protest in 2007.
- Fact No. 5
Rajasthan Gurjars fought the Meenas (that were already recognised as the Scheduled Tribes) and the police to pressurise the government. In the wake of the ongoing agitation, at least 26 people were killed and the government had to announce high alert in the state. Even neighbouring states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh implemented strict measures to control this agitation.
- Fact No. 6
Between 2008-2011, the thousands of Gurjar protestors blocked rail routes and highways between Delhi and Mumbai. They targeted Jaipur-Delhi, Jaipur-Agra and Mumbai-Delhi transport routes. The protestors burned down the police station in Sikandara town and caused unrest in more than 36 towns. 37 people were reported dead, about 70 were gravely injured and hundreds were left wounded in the tussle between Gurjars and Rajasthan police.
- Fact No. 7
Sporadic violence broke out on 26 May 2008 and the government had to announce a ‘Bandh’ in the state. The last Gurjar protest that continued for a week, resulted in a massive loss of Rs. 100 crores for the Indian Railways. Due to protests, the railway authorities had to reschedule 326 express trains due on Kota-Mathura route. 1.9 lakh passengers cancelled their tickets on website since May 21, due to Gurjar protests.
- Fact No. 8
The agitation finally ended when the Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje agreed to accept their demands regarding 5% reservation under the SBC (Social Backward Class). The Rajasthan high court intervened in this case because the demands of Gurjar community were not only unreasonable, but illegal according to the Indian constitution. 5% quota was granted to the Scheduled Backward classes (including Gurjars, Gadarias, Gadia Lohars, Banjaras and Raikas). It exceeded the 50% quota mandated by the SC. Therefore, the Jodhpur bench instructed the government to turn down this request.
- Fact No. 9
The Gurjars conducted protest marches against this decision. Expressing concern over the deteriorating law and order in state, the Rajasthan High Court sought a reply from the DGP and Chief Secretary when they failed to arrest the protesting members. The Gurjars conducted several rounds of talk with the Raje government that failed to break the deadlock. The court’s order resulted in agitation amidst local Gurjar communities while Bainsla and other anti-social elements were planning yet another Gurjar Andolan in Rajasthan.
- Fact No. 10
Rajasthan government, on behalf of the Gujjars, applied for a stay in High Court. On December 9 2016, the court refused a grant on stay and scrapped 5% additional reservation for the SBC classes. Since the court had put an end to Gujjar reservations, the community leaders approached Raje government yet again. Despite knowing that their demands were unreasonable, Rajasthan government assured them that it’ll file a petition in the Supreme Court against the High Court ordinance. Concurrently, they’re running the progressive ‘Dev Narayan Schemes’ to uplift the status of backward Gurjars living in remote villages. Moreover, the authorities are trying to knock some sense into the members of the community.
It’s sad, but surprising that reservation is not just an Indian phenomenon. In 2003, the US Supreme court agreed to the plea of academic institutions that demanded the use of race as a criteria for admissions. The bigger question however is, even if the apex court grants the request of the Gurjars, will it actually uplift their status in the society?