ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rajasthan: Gurjar Mobilisation

The gurjar agitation that affected most of Rajasthan and also other parts of north India brought to the fore the many connotations that notions of identity such as “caste” and “tribe” have come to acquire in post-independent India. Caste as a marker of identity was associated with notions of ritual hierarchy, while tribes or more specifically “scheduled tribes” under the Constitution’s fifth schedule were defined by specific and clearly identifiable characteristics. In recent decades, in the context of reservations being held up as a palliative for community backwardness, categories of caste and tribe, and indeed the very notion of “backwardness”, have become tools to ensure community advancement.

Rajasthan’s gurjars, otherwise classified as other backward classes (OBCs) in the state, launched their agitation, as the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party government appeared to have reneged on its 2003 election promise of declaring the community a scheduled tribe (ST). Election promises on their own can do little to ensure change in status, delineated as this is by already enunciated constitutional provisions. While the Constitution does not specify the criteria whereby a tribe is classified as “scheduled”, over time, these have been defined based on characteristics, ambiguous in themselves, such as backwardness, primitive lifestyle, inaccessibility, and culture. However, at a time when the OBC share of reservations is itself divided among numerous communities, and in Rajasthan, it is the jats who corner the greater share of such reservations, the gurjars insisting on a “downgrading” of their status has drawn the ire of the meenas, the numerically most dominant scheduled tribe, who fear a consequent division of their share of the reservation pie.

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