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(Fire Spreads as Gujjars block the Dlehi0 Jaipur Highway)
The struggle of the Gujjars in Rajasthan to be included in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category is nothing but their quest for being ‘backward’ in the law. Chinappa Reddy J in Vasanth Kumar v. State of Karnataka stated that never has he seen castes fighting for backwardness (in the case of ligayats and vookaligas) and this marked the state of our nation. Similar circumstances have arisen now.
The Gujjars are traditional shepherds found across many states in north and western India. They are both Hindus and Muslims. In places like Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, they have been given the ST identity. Haryana and Rajasthan have sought to keep them in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. From what I understand, the tension began when the Jats, a powerful community in Rajasthan were classified as OBCs. The Jats constitute 15% of the population in Rajasthan; their classification by the BJP Government was seen as nothing but a political move by which the BJP gained a lot of support.
The procedure for the classification of a scheduled tribe is given in Article 342 of the Constitution. It states
342. Scheduled Tribes.—(1) The President may with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within tribes or tribal communities which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State or Union territory, as the case may be.
(2) Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Tribes specified in a notification issued under clause (1) any tribe or tribal community or part of or group within any tribe or tribal community, but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification.
Pursuant to this the Constitution Scheduled Tribes Order, 1950 was formed which contains the list of tribes. The Gujjars wanted to be included in that list.
But why then would someone want to be included in that list? Are reservations in educational institutions and government offices so tempting that one would sacrifice their identity and status for them? Ironic though, it’s a true state of affairs in this Country of ours. In fact, this situation is perfect for the advocates of anti- reservation to stand up and again raise hue and cry about it. While on one side some amongst us say that there must be reservation in the country to uplift the classes, on the other side we have groups fighting for recognition and that upliftment.
I went through wikipedia and the sources mentioned on Gujjars; and here’s what I could infer:-
a) that the Gujjars are not that economically backward as compared to other tribes in the ST list.
b) There is a lot of vote bank politics involved in their classification as a ST.
c) they were a ‘criminal tribe’ during the british period. (though not an issue now)
Development for certain classes of people in the country then has largely become a political issue. Not that it never was. Its just that now constitutional fundamentals and ideals are being mixed with politics. Nani Palkhivala wrote in the Times of India, (26 Jan 1992) after Indira Sawhney v. Union of India,
‘I am sure Mr. VP Singh was sincere when he said that after the Supreme Court judgment in the Mandal case he could die in peace. But his policy has ensured that the nation will not live in peace. The poisonous weed of casteism has been replanted “where it will trouble us a thousand years, each age will have to reconsider it”.
Its then time for reconsideration of the way reservation is implemented in this country. We are tired of strikes, road blocks and the deaths of people. Violence is being used as a tool for getting demands met. We do not need immediate actions but lasting solutions to such problems.