Jat Quota Stir and Violence in Haryana: Satendra Kumar

This is a guest post by SATENDRA KUMAR

 

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IMAGE COURTESY: INDIA TODAY

There is an uncanny academic public silence over the Jat quota stir and the unjustified violence enacted during the stir in Haryana. The scale of violence and destruction is such that it competes for the worst instance of caste violence in Haryana’s post-Independence history. So far 30 people have lost their lives while over 200 people were injured in the nine-day violent Jat agitation demanding job quotas in Haryana. There is anger, fear and helplessness among those who lost their kin, homes, businesses and properties.At least 10 Haryana districts were severely affected by the violence. After such a huge loss, as if it was a routine, matter the Union Home Minister announced that a committee led by M Venkaiah Naidu will examine the demand by Jats for reservation in central government jobs.

In Haryana, the BJP’s government in the state has promised to bring a Bill granting OBC status to Jats in the upcoming assembly session. The Jats’ demand for reservations in the central OBC list is not new. Since 1995, Jats in Haryana have been demanding an OBC (Other Backward Class) status, which will help them secure the 27 per cent reservation in government jobs. Earlier in 1997, the Jats in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh had demanded themselves to be included in the central OBC list. It was rejected by the National Commission for Backward Classes. Subsequently UPA government’s decision to include Jats from 9 states in the OBC list was also rejected by the Supreme Court in March 2015. Despite all this, political parties such as Congress and BJP continue promising quota to Jats during election campaigns. These promises have encouraged the Jats to organize and agitate for quotas. However, their agitations for reservations have not been so violent. That is why the most pressing and important question that needs analyses is why has the current agitation by Jats been so violent? Perhaps three factors will help us to understand this severe violence and loss of property worth crores of rupees.

First, in Haryana Jats are a landowning dominant caste with considerable political clout and they constitute nearly 29 per cent of the population. They not only own large parts of agricultural land but also control networks of power. So far 7 out of 10 Haryana chief ministers have been Jats. However, Jats have been restless since the BJP came to power in the state for the first time with strong support from non-Jat communities. Khattar, a first-time MLA from the Punjabi community, was appointed as chief minister, the first non-Jat CM in almost two decades. Wilding power unchecked for decades, Jats , especially those in Rohtak district, the epicentre of the ongoing protests, saw power and material benefits such as powerful positions and government-funded projects slipping out of their hands. Though the government made swift payment of compensation for crop failure last year, there is widespread feeling that under the present government, the community does not have the power it once commanded. Since 2014, there is a widespread perception among the Jats of their political decline. This perception has been strengthening further by the ongoing agricultural crises particularly due to shrinking land holdings and constant failure of crops by climate precarity. Moreover, rising lower caste groups or Most Backward Castes such as Sainis and their successful political alliance with trader communities have threatened Jat’s position further. Thus, it is clear that Jats are fighting to retain their domination, particularly to maintain control over public resources, jobs and spaces.

Second, Sainis, a caste-community of gardeners include small and marginal farmers. A section of the Sainis is also middle farmers and some also got into government jobs due to reservation. The Sainis are an upward mobile caste and gaining prosperity through producing and trading flowers and vegetables. They have been investing agriculture income into non-farm businesses, and a small middle class has been gradually emerging within the Sainis over the last two decades. The Sainis have been trying to make their space in electoral politics and asserting upward mobility through their newly acquired wealth. Sanis’ assertion challenges the status quo and poses a threat to the Jats who already perceiving their political decline due the emergence of the new political alliance of non-Jat communities particularly, Sainis, Brahmins and Punjabis who have captured the state power. This makes Jats desperate to regain their power, and they are responding so violently to the emerging low caste Sainis and their non-Jat political alliances. Jats wanted to teach a strong lesson particularly to the Sainis and their leaders who have been very vocal against the inclusion of Jats in the OBC list. The Sainis know fully that Jats’s inclusion into the OBC list will harm the interests of the Sainis and other poor OBC who really deserve reservation. Contrary to this Jats’s agitation is not for levelling the field through equal opportunity but to control and regain the resources and power they seem to be losing. Probably, this is not the first instance of violent reaction of the Jats. Earlier, in 2013 too, in Muzaffarnagar and nearby districts the Jats had responded similarly very violently to the assertion of the Muslim low caste artisan and service caste groups. In the present case too, the Sainis’s assertion and opposition had not gone down well with the Jat community which holds important positions in the police force and local state.

Third, when the Jat protestors went on looting and destroying private and public properties, the police and local administration instead of protecting the victims chose to remain mute spectators. The Jat leaders of various Khaps including Hooda and Dalal Khap had been mobilizing and addressing their gatherings since the 12th February. These Khap leaders have been instrumental for a quick mobilization, particularly after the Sainis’ meeting on the 18th February. After the meeting the Sainis organised a march against the Jat’s demand for reservation. But the police’s role has been circumspect because of their inability to bring worsening situation into control. Khap organizations along with social media have played crucial role in this agitation and in further mobilizing people for violence and identifying their targets.The protestors were also joined by criminals, goons and history- sheeters. They not only burnt and destroyed public buses, schools, railway stations, police stations, water system, canals and offices but also personal properties such as hospitals, shops, houses and malls. They systematically targeted Sainis, Punjabis Brahmins and other caste groups who have been with the non-Jat alliance. They killed people, young and old indiscriminately. The reports are also coming out that dozens of women were raped in Murthal. The police and civil administration brazenly avoided even hearing complaints of the victims. Now, the National Commission for Women and the state police including the chief minister are asking victims to come forward and resister cases. It is a joke because the victim has to finally go to and face the same police and local administration which shamelessly connived with the perpetrators. How can people trust such a government and its machinery which is totally biased and failed to protect its citizen’s lives and property in the first place? Further, it is so tragic and scary to see that how the state has acted differently in other cases. For instance, in the JNU case the police and state was so prompt to act and arrest innocent students alleging them “anti-national” without any substantial proof, while in Haryana they completely abdicated their constitutional duties and let innocent people be killed. This is not the first time when the role of the state and police has been questioned. Increasingly, in recent times the idea of an impartial state is becoming a chimera in India. Indeed, it is a dangerous development for Indian democracy.

Satendra Kumar is Visiting Fellow, Centre for Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi

4 thoughts on “Jat Quota Stir and Violence in Haryana: Satendra Kumar

  1. Some basic questions:

    I also know that Jat community is not violent one. The questions is: who cut the water supply line and railway line that supplies food and water to Delhi people. Is there any hidden hand that tried to execute their master plan to punish the Delhi people?

    Certainly, it is not Jats who cut the water supply line and railway line that leads to Delhi!

    My question is: why the state government of Haryana remain as a mute spectator? Why they did not guard water supply line when some agitation is going on?

    ???

  2. Author is trying to make a point that Jats are angry because Sainis, Punjabis and Brahmins are in power now and Jats are feeling the loss of power but he goes on to say that the same government of Sainis, Punjabis and Brahmins shamelessly connived with the perpetrators and became mute spectator.

    “They systematically targeted Sainis, Punjabis Brahmins and other caste groups who have been with the non-Jat alliance. They killed people, young and old indiscriminately.”

    Please choose either they did it systematically and indiscriminately or indiscriminately.

  3. The very name ‘Jats’ is suggestive of well-to-do ,prosperous,dominant ,influential,elite,upper caste, segment of any village in northern India wherever they are.It may be Punjab,Haryana,Western Uttar Pradesh,Rajasthan ,Madhya Pradesh ,Hiamachal Pradesh or any other part of the country.Traditionally they are far above all those who are put in the reserved category.Still for the past several years they have been agitating for the reservation status which appears to be really cutting at the very roots of their centuries old status in the rural community.Are they themselves downgrading themselves by demanding reservation?It is totally irreconcilable to their historical position.How and why have they decided to embark upon this path passes one’s comprehension.I am afraid there must be some thing else than meets the eye.It may be repeated how can they themselves be prepared to lose their traditional position and to be bracketed with those who would not sit with them on the same charpoy, a cot.It is really something else which has motivated them to fight for quota

  4. Naresh Goswami

    A very perceptive and convincing analysis… it clearly brings out the crux of the whole matter. I would just like to add one thread to it. The brute force that the community flaunted during the stir was also a manifestation of a sense of insecurity which has dawned on it in the aftermath of Mandal Politics.
    As a community, Jats share almost a close ritual status with the two other prominent and land-owning castes of the region, i.e. Yadavas and Gujars. However, the self-image of the community nurtured over the decades, categorically refuses to be equated with the latter. On the contrary, it seeks to claim a cultural supremacy over other such land-owning castes.
    Even a cursory look at the social history of the region in point would amply reveal the fact that the Jats were the first among all the other land-owning caste to have a home-grown and astute political leader in the person of Charan Singh, who was able to unite the assorted peasant castes like yadava, Gujara, Kurmi and lodh etc, under the umbrella of peasantry and create a niche in the regional politics. However, the benefits of this mobilization were reaped disproptionatly by the jats, partly due to their better exposure to education and a strong tradition of hard work on farm.
    Let’s also remember the fact that until the death of Charan singh, no other leader had the strength to challenge his leadership (read the dominance of Jats). The first dent in the heightened self-image of jats occurred in early 90s when the VP Singh govt. decided to implement the recommendations of Mandal Commision. With the phenomenal ascendency of Mulayam Singh Yadav as the patriarch of yadava Community, the Jat community faced a terminal decline. Either they had to accept a subordinate role in the new dispensation or re-fashion a new political course for themselves by forging alliances with Muslims and other caste groups.
    It is precisely this inability on the part of the political leadership of the community that sealed its fate. The socio-cultural effrontery that the community showed towards other caste groups could, by no means, work in the changed terms of electoral politics.
    The larger than life claim of superiority over other castes coupled with the obstinacy not to share power with other political forces landed the community in an unenviable situation. In the UP assembly elections (2012) Rashtriya Lokdal(RLD), the political trustee of the jat Community suffered a devastating defeat. Of all the eleven candidates that it had fielded from the community only two could make it to the final list.
    Thus, it is the long-standing resentment born out of increasing political marginalization that has propelled the community to this extreme where it chose to turn foe to the possible allies.

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