Haryana is on boil. Three lives have already been lost in the violence during the ongoing Jat stir in the state demanding reservation in jobs and educational institutions.
Properties worth crores have been damaged by the violent agitators. With protestors blocking rail tracks, Railways have suffered a loss of more than Rs 100 crores. While the opposition leaders are being blamed for stoking fires, some BJP leaders too are being accused of having initially backed the agitation.
Behind the reservation issue there is also a caste angle involved. For the last 20 years Jats were in power in Haryana and the Chief Minister used to be one from the Jat community. With BJP in power since late 2014, now there is a Punjabi CM and the Jats feel they have been sidelined from power.
On the other hand members of other backward classes (OBCs) are angry and perturbed that if Jats get reservation they are the ones who stand to lose as it will be their reservation quota which will be cut. So BJP's MP Rajkumar Saini who belongs to the OBC category, has been issuing statements against reservation for Jats, adding fuel to fire.
There have been open and violent clashes between members of OBC and Jat community. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has tried unsuccessfully to sort out the issue peacefully by promising inclusion of Jats in economically backward persons (EPB) quota for general castes and increase in quota from 10 percent to 20 percent.
What is the whole issue about?
Jats have been demanding reservation in jobs and educational institutions in the state claiming their inclusion in the reservation category like several other castes. Ever since the Punjab and Haryana High Court stayed the decision of the Haryana government on July 27 2015 to grant 10 per cent reservation to Jats and four other castes-Jat Sikh, Ror, Tyagi and Bishnoi under the Special backward Caste category (SBC) the Jats had been planning agitation. Prior to the High Court decision, the Supreme Court had quashed the former Congress led UPA government's decision on March 17, 2015 to provide reservation to Jats under other backward classes (OBC) category of the central government.
Was the government aware of the scale of violence and protest by the Jats?
The Manohar Lal Khattar government was clearly caught on the backfoot. The Jat leaders had been warning of protest for months altogether, but the government paid no heed. It had no idea the scale and intensity of the protest would be so high. In the last week of January 90 Khaps of Haryana came together and gave their consent for organizing blockades in the state from February 15. Sarv Jat Khap Panchayat Khap leaders even prepared a road-map for the agitation under which 50 locations had been identified where road and rail blockades would be organized, but the BJP government did not take the threat seriously. The result is for everyone to see now.
Was the state BJP divided over the reservation issue?
The Jat leaders of the state BJP supported the reservation for the communit, But the OBCs were strictly against it. MP Rajkumar Saini, who belongs to the OBC has been giving anti-reservation statements for the last one year. Clashes between Jats and the OBCs are occurring at several places in the state as a result. Khattar has disowned Rajkumar Saini's statements. Show cause notice may be issued to him by the party.
Were Jats earlier included in the Centre's OBC list?
Yes Jats had been included in the Centre's OBC list thanks to the UPA goverment which made this move in the final year of its power in 2014. Earlier the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) had rejected demand to include Jats in the Centre's OBC list, but the UPA government overruled it and gave reservation to the Jats in several states including Haryana, Himachal Praadesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and parts of Rajasthan with eye on the Jat's vote bank.
Was the genesis of the present crisis sown by the state Congress in Haryana?
Taking a cue from the Congress led UPA government at the centre, Bhupinder Singh Hooda led Congress government in Haryana re-constituted the Haryana Backward Classes Commission (HBCC) to study the reservation demand of Jats as well as Jat Sikhs, Rors, Tyagis and Bishnois. What's more the HBCC even recommended 10 per cent reservation for the five castes under the Special Backward Caste (SBC) category. Led by the Jat Chief Minister, the Haryana congress government lost no time in implementing the reservation for Jats which constitute 26 per cent of the total electorate and others.
Had the Congress government under Hooda exceeded the reservation quota limit in Haryana?
Yes, it exceeded the quota limit. The Haryana government provided 20 per cent reservation to the Scheduled Castes, 27 per cent reservation to the Backward Classes till December 2012. The Hooda government provided 10 per cent reservation to the SBC and 10 per cent reservation to the Economically backward persons (EBP) for general caste, thus taking the total reservation percentage in the state to 67 per cent, much above the 50 per cent limit set by the Supreme Court of India. Those who benefited under the EBP quota included Rajputs, Punjabis, Aggarwals and Brahmins.
What do the protesters want now?
The Jats are agitating for getting reservation back for them. Jats constitute 26 per cent of Haryana's electorate. It is the single most powerful and politically influential community. Out of the total 90 assembly seats in Haryana, Jats and Jat Sikhs have incluence on about one third or 30 seats and no government can survive without their support. The ruling BJP is worried over the political fallout. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has announced to bring special BC quota Bill for Jats and four other castes in the forthcoming Budget session of the Assembly.
What is the way out?
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has set up a 4-member committee under the state Chief Secretary to prepare outline for future action on the reservation policy. The government has appealed to the agitators to withdraw stir but to no avail.
Experts say that government's decision to bring the bill to declare Jats and four other castes as backward will not withstand judicial scrutiny because again the government will have to cross the 50 per cent quota limit which the courts will not allow. The government may however buy time and manage to control the agitating Jats meanwhile.