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

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Deepening the Social Divide

Deepening the Social DivideThe bjp

Hardly did the trauma of the tragic blasts in Jaipur abate when Rajasthan was up in flames following militant protests by the gurjars being put down with a heavy hand by resorting to unwarranted and excessive police firing, leading to a death toll higher than during a similar agitation a year ago. There is a clear lack of will on the part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government, despite the party’s election promise in 2003, to recommend the provision of scheduled tribe (ST) status to the community. Police firing against agitators has killed 39 people (as we go to press) and injured many more, provoking an escalation of the agitation and its spread to the national capital region and other parts of north India. The agitators are now demanding nothing less than the immediate implementation of their demand for the state government to recommend the bestowal of ST status to the gurjars.

Last year, the Rajasthan government led by chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia had found a way to mitigate the crisis by constituting a committee to address the issue. The Justice Chopra Committee recommended an economic package worth Rs 280 crore to deal with the question of the backwardness of the gurjars, but their leaders (representing organisations such as the Gurjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti, led by Kirori Singh Bainsla) have rejected the same and have reiterated their demand for the declaration of ST status for the community in Rajasthan. Currently gurjars are categorised as other backward classes (OBCs) in the state. They justify their demand to be provided reservations under the category of ST owing to associations of sections of the community (“van gurjars”) with pastoral work and as semi-nomadic cattle herders. Another reason is the fact that gurjars in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh are already designated under the ST category. However, the inclusion of gurjars in Rajasthan as STs is problematic as the ST category as mentioned in the Constitution’s fifth schedule is defined by certain specific and identifiable characteristics such as lifestyle, culture, inaccessibility and backwardness, and not just economic underdevelopment.

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