The Bhartiya Janata Party government in Rajasthan has its back to the wall on the issue of the Gurjar community’s demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category. And it has no one to blame but itself.
In November 2003, with the assembly election on its mind, the BJP promised the community that it would forward its case to the Centre if it came to power. It won the election but failed to keep its word. The clashes on Tuesday that left 16 people dead and over 100 injured prove the situation is now well out of control. The government not only has to come up with a solution to the Gurjars’ problem but also make sure it does not step on the toes of other castes in the process. The task is easier said than done.
The Gurjars constitute about 7.5 per cent of the state’s population and consider themselves socio-economically backward, like the Meenas who are already in the ST category. But if the state government recommends their case to the Centre, the Meenas will surely be up in arms against it as they see their share of the reservation pie get smaller. In fact, the Meenas have already threatened to launch an agitation against the government if it accepts the demand of the Gurjars.
Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria says the government has not forgotten about the demand. “Three meetings of the cabinet sub-committee (formed to look into the matter) were held to discuss the issue of recommending the Centre to include Gurjars in the ST category. The districts collectors were directed to send reports on the socio-economic status of the community; 22 out of 32 sent their reports,” he says.
But the leaders of the Gurjar movement are bitter as they feel the present government sat on their demand for three and a half years. Colonel Kirori Singh Baisela, who is spearheading the movement, says: “The state government has ignored the genuine demand of the Gurjars and forced them to opt for direct action.”
“The government is scared of the Meenas, which is why it is dilly-dallying on our demand. The chief minister had promised to include the Gurjars in the ST category but forgot about it after getting our community’s votes. This volcano was just waiting to erupt,” he adds.
Sociologist Rajiv Gupta says the community has been driven to act by three factors: they see the Meenas enjoying the fruits of reservation; they want the special tribal rights on land given by the Centre; and they stand to gain politically if their demand is met.
Former member secretary of the Rajasthan Backward Commission, Sataya Narayan Singh, feels a survey should be conducted on the socio-economic status of Gurjars before any step is taken. “If the survey favours them, then the Centre can declare them scheduled tribes. But the state government has not done its homework on this front.”