Gujjars’ quota war began in ’61
The Rajasthan Gujjars’ demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category has turned violent in the past year, as the community feels squeezed out of OBC quota benefits. Sources say that the demand — first put forth in 1961-62 — has to be seen in relation to the inclusion of Jats in the Rajasthan OBC list in 1999.
In recent years, OBC cut-offs in the state have sometimes crossed the general category cut-off. In this year’s RPSC civil services (preliminary) examination, the general category cut-off, 193.14, was 13 marks below the OBC cut-off. The difference between the OBC and ST cut-offs, however, was 41 marks.
In the 2006 Rajasthan PMT examination, the OBC cut-off was 770, while the general cut-off was 737, at the pre-counselling stage. This was because the RPMT results at the pre-counselling stage make separate lists according to the category the candidate chooses, while the final list is adjusted by considering the top 50 per cent candidates as general category and then filling up the mandated quotas. The state civil services result, however, considers all OBCs as reserved on the grounds that reserved candidates get preferential service allotment.
Political observers feel that the competition in Rajasthan’s OBC category has become acute after Jats were included by the Vajpayee government in 1999. This also helped the BJP win support from the traditionally pro-Congress Jats in the 2003 assembly polls, they say. “After 1999, OBC groups like Gujjars, Malis and Ahirs find it impossible to compete with the economically well-off Jat candidates,” says a former bureaucrat. Gujjar leader Bhim Singh says, “The living standard of Gujjars is quite poor. Meenas have more land than us. We want parity with them through inclusion in the ST quota. With new castes getting added, the Gujjars are not able to benefit from the OBC quota.”
Jats constitute 10-11 per cent of Rajasthan’s population. With a significant presence in about 100 assembly constituencies, and 36 MLAs in the state, Jats are politically and educationally more powerful than Gujjars — who make up about 5 per cent of the population — and other OBC castes.
Consequently, Gujjars want inclusion in the ST quota, where Meenas are practically the sole beneficiaries. Out of Rajasthan’s ST population — 12.6 per cent of the total — Meenas constitute 53 per cent and Bhils almost 40 per cent. The Meenas are dead-against the Gujjars’ demand, which lead to violent Gujjar-Meena clashes last year.