Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hardik Patel and the Anti Reservation Stir

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books Another political star is rising in Gujarat and this has the potential of halting the BJP Juggernaut. The Pattidars of Gujarat are essentially an agricultural community which transformed itself into a trading and entrepreneurial class in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and with the onset of Independence the Patels became a dominant political class with tremendous social and economic power. In the Mandalized world of Indian politics and employment opportunities, the tag of "backwardness" helps in getting jobs, admission in professional colleges and even in getting services from the Government. The implementation of the Mandal Report which was based on the Census of 1931, is best with huge empirical and theoretical problems. The criteria on which "backward" status was granted was never spelled out and dominant landed communities like the Yadavas and the cluster of Lagrangian castes like the Ahirs, Kurmis and the like were given backward class status. By giving the dominant caste the benefit of reservation, the poorer sections of the so called forward castes were very deeply affected. Given the social churning that has taken place since Independence, inter marriages have taken place and the children of such marriages bear the brunt of the Mandal discrimination as they are largely set aside by the social groups on both sides of the families. Even if "honour killings" are rare, the fact is that inter caste children are doubly discriminated. The Mandal Reservation has set back the clock as far as social progress is concerned and the rise of honour killings is directly related to the caste resentment engendered by Mandal. Gujart has always been at the forefront of the anti Reservation struggle as the huge economy of the state could provide employment without too much ado. However, the Madal Reservation tilted the balance in favor of the backward castes and the Patels though constituting 17% of the population were the main targets of Mandal Reservation. Though politically very powerful, the Patels began to lose out on the job front and educational opportunities. It is against this background that the agitation for Reservation has to be seen. It is certainly not politically feasible to extend reservation to Patels and by making that demand, Hardik is basically drawing attention to the discriminatory and arbitrary manner in which reservation policy is being implemented. I think Indian social scientists have played a negative role in all this when they embraced the post colonial identity based therms of Inquiry rather than looking at Indian society from the prism of political economy. It is necessary to determine the hard matrix of backwardness and not hinge definitions to identity. An economic criteria is necessary as India has changed a great deal in the last 70 years and old theories do not make sense any more. The violence during the Rally addressed by this 22 year old student leader was unfortunate. The Chief Minister of Gujarat did not handle the issue in a sensible manner partly because being a Patel she took her community for granted. It is unlikely that the Patels will desert the BJP but the economic issues of scial backwardness cannot be wished away.

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