Yashpal Malik was a relatively unknown entity until 2010, when the Jat community launched a stir in Haryana. His demand—‘reservation for Jats across the country in the central list of other backward classes (OBCs)’—catapulted him as a leader representing the demands of the Jat community at a national level on reservation issue.
As the national president of the Akhil Bharatiya Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (ABJASS), Malik has been trying to consolidate the Jats across the country in the name of reservation. The realtor-turned-leader of the Jat quota movement, Malik who hails from Uttar Pradesh, talks about various aspects of the second phase of the agitation in an interview to Firstpost.
Why does the Jat quota movement, whose second phase began on 5 June, appears to be fizzling out with people distancing from it?
It’s not true that people are distancing from the movement. In fact more people are joining our peaceful demonstrations. They are supporting our movement, but due to the Haryana government’s high-handed, unethical and unconstitutional approach towards the Jat youth involved in the movement, there’s a terror factor working. Many of our cadres have been arrested, though they were not involved in the violence. People are afraid, but there is anger amongst them. In fact, people outside the Jat community participated in our last meetings and demonstrations.
Is it that some of the leaders of the Jat community in Haryana do not consider you as their leader for this movement as you belong to Uttar Pradesh?
See, I’m not a political leader. I’m the national president of AIJASS, an organisation that has taken up the reservation issue and it has its presence in 13 states. At state levels, we have state presidents. So, the logic of accepting me as a leader of Jat community doesn’t hold true. The people who are spreading this rumour—that I’m not accepted in Haryana—are either political ones or from the government.
Despite the movement taking a violent turn, with agitators going on a rampage that killed 30 people and caused immense loss to property in February, why have you gone for a second round?
Neither in the past nor at present did we support or take recourse to violence. Since the government didn’t pay any heed to our long-standing demand, we have launched this second phase of agitation, but have done so peacefully.
Wasn’t ABJASS involved in the violence?
An incorrect perception has been created against us to show our organisation in bad light. Our people were not involved in the violence, and the rampage happened in February. It was a manufactured riot caused by the Haryana government and politicians. The politicians used petty criminals from slums as political touts in creating violence. Could the BJP stop its MP from Kurukshetra, Rajkumar Saini, who runs an OBC Brigade from delivering threatening speeches? It’s a sorry state of affair that the Prakash Singh Committee indicted bureaucrats and police officials, but spared politicians. Is it possible that without the support of political masters, the bureaucracy can help the rioters? This conspiracy has been hatched just to defame Jats.
Do you think the Jats need reservation?
There is already reservation for Jats in nine states. Jats are not seeking reservation in the manner Patels or Gujjars are seeking it. Jats already had reservation in Haryana from 1991 to 1994, which was scrapped by Bhajan Lal in 1995. The farmers’ community in Haryana belongs to the OBC category and eligible for reservation. But it was the former Prime Minister VP Singh who conspired to weaken Devi Lal and divide the farmers. Jats are being kept out due to political rivalry. If Jats are getting reservation in nine states, why they are not being included in the central list? The Jats are only demanding their rights.
What do you have to say on the Supreme Court rejecting your case for reservation?
The Supreme Court rejected it because of political game. The Supreme Court cancelled it as the Congress leader Kumari Selja got a report from National Commission for Backward Classes stating that Jats as prosperous and have no right to reservation. No survey was done. The Congress gave reservation outside the purview of law, the apex court cancelled it. KC Gupta’s survey in 2012 clearly states that Jats in Haryana are backward but the government ignored the survey then and deliberately didn’t give us reservation under the OBC category. In fact, the Mandal Commission report and the Justice Gurnam Singh Commission report also declared 10 castes including Yadavs, Gujjars and Sainis as backwards, but the government turned a blind eye to all the surveys and reports.
What’s your plan for the second phase of the agitation?
We’re going for peaceful demonstrations and public meetings. Already we have staged demonstrations in the villages of UP, Haryana and Punjab. Our next destinations are Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Delhi. We’ve focussed on villages instead of towns because in a village, you can identify the members in a gathering unlike in a town. During the first phase of our agitation in February, anti-social elements got mixed up as a part of the gathering that we had in towns like Rohtak, Jhajjar and Sonipat, and created a rampage. Resultantly, ABJASS got a bad name and many of our members were arrested. Our immediate agenda is that the government should meet our demands.
What next if the government doesn’t accept your demands?
There is nothing in the hands of public; it’s always the government (or party) in power that makes things happen according to its advantage and interest. If government fails to listen to our demands, we won’t take recourse to violence or any action like blocking of highways and railway tracks. The Jats will take a political decision. It will reflect during the forthcoming assembly elections in UP and Punjab, where the community has considerable influence.