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The die is caste

Like a recurring nightmare, the Gujjar violence that spread across Delhi and Rajasthan last year has come to haunt us.

india Updated: May 25, 2008 20:43 IST

Like a recurring nightmare, the Gujjar violence that spread across Delhi and Rajasthan last year has come to haunt us. So far, at least 35 people have been killed as members of the Gujjar community went on the rampage demanding their inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category from the present OBC one. As happened earlier, Gujjar leader K.S. Bainsala has decided to prevent the bodies from being taken away. The question here is why this issue was not resolved after last year’s mayhem?

At that time, BJP president Rajnath Singh, whose party rules Rajasthan, had promised a resolution of the issue. Faced then with the wrath of the powerful Meena community that refused to tolerate any concessions to the Gujjars, the party swept the issue under the carpet hoping that, somehow, it would go away. But given the entrenched caste interests and hostilities, this was willful neglect and political ineptitude. This is a pattern we have seen in several states that have had recurrent caste violence over goodies like reservations. Among these specifically named by the National Commission for ST/SCs are UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. To a large extent, such problems arise out of populist poll promises in return for votes. But once in power, the politicians who make these grandiose promises find that they come up against other vested interests and are unable to deliver the goods.

This is what has happened in the case of the Gujjars. The state tried to buy peace with the foolhardy plan of a special Rs 282-crore package to Gujjar-dominated districts. Sensing the state government’s desperation, the Gujjars rejected it and have gone back to the ST-status issue. It is a travesty of justice that the very same state that makes rash promises that it either cannot, or has no intention of fulfilling, turns on those trying to hold it to account. The police firing on the Gujjar protestors is a case in point. Now with elections drawing nearer, we will see more meaningless promises. Unfortunately, in the complicated and caste-based coalition politics of today, it would be utopian to think that we can hope for better days ahead.