Social scientists and senior bureaucrats admit that Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s proposal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to provide four to six per cent reservation to the Gujjars in the category of ‘denotified and nomadic tribes’ can never be implemented.
The denotified tribes of Rajasthan – as elsewhere in the country – have been listed and extensively studied, both by anthropologists and social activists seeking to improve their lot. “Never once have Gujjars figured in that list, except in one district of Uttar Pradesh,” said Prof RD Gurjar, an expert on denotified tribes.
The term itself stems from the reprehensible practice of the British raj to officially dub certain castes and tribes in the country as ‘criminal’. Various lists of such tribes were prepared and periodically revised under British rule.
Following Independence, the government constituted the Criminal Tribes Act Inquiry Committee headed by A. Ayyangar, which recommended abolishing the concept altogether. The formerly ‘criminal tribes’ were thus denotified and came to be known as ‘denotified tribes’.
“The Chopra committee rejected the Gujjar claim for inclusion among Scheduled Tribes after studying the matter closely,” noted a senior bureaucrat. “How can Gujjars, who could not even qualify as Scheduled Tribes, be listed among denotified tribes, when they just don’t have that history?”
Currently, ‘denotified tribes’ as a category are not entitled to any reservation. In Rajasthan, two of them, the Bhils and Meenas, have been included in the list of Scheduled Tribes. Another four – the Sansis, the Kanjars, the Bawarias and the Nats – are placed in the Scheduled Caste group. When OBC reservation was introduced, the rest were categorized among the OBCs.
The state government currently provides 12 per cent reservations to Scheduled Castes, 16 per cent to Scheduled Tribes and 21 per cent to the OBCs, all adding up to 49 per cent. A Supreme Court order bars states from providing more than 50 per cent reservation. Gujjars comprise six per cent of the state’s population.
“Creating a separate reservation category for denotified tribes is thus completely unfeasible,” maintained another bureaucrat, “unless the existing reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs are reduced and four to six per cent reservation carved out keeping the total extent of reservations below 50 per cent. Will any of these groups allow their privileges to be thus compromised?”