Recently, when a massive earthquake struck Nepal and some parts of India, Facebook came up with an amazing feature which allows one to mark himself/herself safe in the earthquake. Though ironically, majority of the people who marked themselves safe were from the areas which were least or not at all affected by the earthquake. But I feel that this feature should now be launched in the state of Gujarat also where the normal civilians, yes, the normal civilians, witnessed outrage by the Patel/Patidar community, the cops, etc. The situation got so worsened that the honourable Chief Minister of Gujarat, Anandiben Patel had to take the help of the army to maintain law and order. Curfew had to be imposed in most parts of the state. In fact, people had to even go a few days without the internet, and one can easily imagine a life without internet in today’s world. Talking about internet, even if Facebook had to come up with the above said feature, people would have been helpless. Schools and colleges had to be shut down for days. The protesters were brutally beaten up by the cops in form of the so called “lathicharge”. Things got even worsened when the people got so angry that they went on to torch buses, police stations, houses, vehicles, and what not. All those things happened that one wouldn’t even dare to think of. But the question that comes to everyone’s minds is, why did this all actually happen? Why, in a state, from where our honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi hails, law and order was brought down to this level? This is a matter of great concern because of several reasons, the most prominent ones being that, this is the state where our current Prime Minister, Mr. Modi had most efficiently worked as a Chief Minister for so many years, this is the state which is duly acknowledged for its tremendous development, this is the state which came out of the havoc and destruction caused by Godhra riots of 2002 in no time, and this is the state which is taken as a leading example in almost every policy making in India. In a state such as Gujarat, it is very unlikely toexpect something like this.
All of this started when a young 22 year old boy, Hardik Patel, the convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) mobilised a massive crowd in a rally at the GMDC ground, Ahmedabad on 25th August, 2015. Now talking about the rally first, Hardik Patel was able to influence a crowd of over 5 lakh people with his outrageous 1-hour speech, slamming some of the big political guns in the country. There is a huge contrast in what Hardik Patel, on behalf of the whole Patidar community, is demanding and what he is actually saying. The demand is, according to them, very simple: either give the Patels OBC status or remove the whole reservation system in the country. Now keeping in mind all the allegations that have been time and again levelled againt the whole reservation system and the instances of misuse, , this seems to be a very plausible idea. However, on a closer look at the speech given by Hardik Patel while addressing the colossal gathering, one could easily observe that his speech was totally inclined towards giving Patels the OBC status and was one-sided in this regard. There was not even a mention of the removal of the reservation system from the country. This clearly projects the actual intention behind such a movement. The entire episode and movement speaks volumes of vested interests of the people supporting it. Moreover, even if we were to talk about abolishing the reservation system from the nation, it is very unfortunate that the movement clearly failed to take into account the basic essence and the motive behind bringing reservation in the first place. I would like to go back to late 1970s, from where the whole politics behind reservation started. On January 1, 1979, when Janata Dal was in power and the Prime Minister was Shri Morarji Desai, he appointed the second Backward Classes Commission under Article 340 of the Constitution under the chairmanship of Shri B.P. Mandal to investigate the socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India and recommend steps to be taken for their advancement including desirability for making provisions for reservation of seats for them in government jobs. The Mandal commission submitted its report in 1980, identifying as many as 3743 castes as socially and economically backward classes and recommending reservation up to 27% in the government jobs for them. After the crash of the Janata Dal’s Government, Smt. Indira Gandhi took the seat as the Prime Minister, with Congress forming the government. Congress didn’t implement the Mandal Commission report till 1989. Congress lost in the parliamentary elections and Janata Dal again came to power at the centre, with Shri V.P. Singh as the Prime Minister. The Mandal Commission report was set to be implemented by the Janata Dal government, as a part of the promise they made to the electorate earlier. The Office Memoranda was issued, which resulted into various anti-reservation riots across the country for almost 3-4 months, leading to a huge loss to life and limb. The memorandum was also challenged before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, where it was heard by a 5-judge bench. The Janata Dal government again crashed in 1991 and Congress again came to power with Shri P.V. Narsimha Rao as the Prime Minister. He issued another Office Memorandum which had 2 changes in the memoranda of Janata Dal, namely: (i) introducing the economic criterion in granting reservation by giving preferences to the poorer sections of the Socially & Economically Backward Classes in the 27% quota, (ii) reserving another 10% of vacancies for other Socially & Economically Backward sections of higher castes. The 5-judge bench referred the matter to a special Constitutional bench of 9 judges in view of the importance of the matter so as to finally settle the legal position relating to reservations, as in several earlier judgements, the Supreme Court had not spoken in the same voice on this issue. The 9-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court by 6:3 majority held that the decision of the Union Government to reserve 27% of the government jobs for backward classes provided socially advanced persons i.e. the creamy layer among them are eliminated, is constitutionally valid. Since then, there have been very few protests by the Patidar community. It is a notable point that the recent and the major ones have all started after the BJP government came to power at centre. This short description clearly elucidates as to how frequently this whole thing has been misused for political gains.
Now coming back to what happened in Gujarat recently, the Patel Patidar community is demanding something that, if given to them, might lead to more social unrest in the country. A simpler explanation to the same would be that if this time the Patels are given the OBC status, other communities like Rajputs, Brahmins, etc. will also start demanding for reservation, which will actually kill the basic notion behind the reservation policy. This system was brought in the first place in order to bring those communities who are economically and socially backward at par with the other communities by giving them a special status. There would be no point left if all the communities ended up getting aspecial status. I am very sorry to say that there can’t be any ‘General Specific Status’ now.
Another most ironical fact is that in today’s world, people are getting so desperate to become backward. This is only possible because of one simple reason, i.e. they feel that being called ‘backward’ might prove to be more beneficial for them. This raises a big question on our country’s functioning mechanism as to whether we are blindly distributing privileges and benefits to the people and classes who are categorised as “backward”? I fail to find any other reason behind the same.
The voice of the Patidar community, Hardik Patel, asserts that there is no political power backing the movement. It is only the 25 lakh Patidars who are standing behind him. Now giving full respect to the emotions of Hardik Patel, I find that it is not practically possible to organise such a huge rally with proper functioning, getting all the necessary permissions, etc. without any political backup. My argument even becomes stronger when Hardik talks about various political leaders like Nitish Kumar, etc. in his speech who have nothing to do with Patidar community in Gujarat. And guess what, Nitish Kumar is in full support of the demands made by Hardik Patel. It is nothing more than a political goof-up.
How can I miss to throw some light on the acts of our worthy cops, who did everything to make every person feel ashamed? Be it going for a lathicharge without any orders for the same, or be it killing the young Shwetang Patel while he was in police custody, the cops made sure that they were no less than what the mad mob did immediately after Hardik Patel was arrested and was taken to an undisclosed location. They weren’t satisfied even after all this and went on to beat people by going into their houses, breaking glasses of several vehicles anddestroying property in the Patel dominated societies in several parts of the city. Several video clips of them destroying the property immediately went viral on the internet, indirectly portraying the actual image of the Gujarat police in front of the whole nation. And then Hardik Patel again comes and threatens to disrupt the milk and vegetable supplies if the policemen involved in all this are not suspended. But thanks to Amul, which has enough skimmed milk powder stock to meet the market demand for 3 months. Moreover,our farmers are smart enough not to listen to these frivolous statements as they would not want to go into further losses after spending so much on agricultural requirements.
Another interesting thing that has come to light is hints made by Hardik Patel to use women at the forefront of the stir. He has comeup with a very sexist remark, stating that if 22 lakh Patel women come out, no youth would be martyred. He actually believes that women can be used to get the demands of the community fulfilled just by generalising on the basis of one woman who came out and got justice, i.e. Shwetang Patel’s mother, as she was able to get a panel being set up to investigate her child’s death in the police custody.
Now this young leader of PAAS wants to organise rallies in New Delhi and other parts of the country. This looks more like his attempt to enter into the political arena with a remarkable and strong entry. Perhaps only time will be able to tell. His growing relations with several political parties, photographs with VHP leader Praveen Togadia, etc. may be interpreted to mean several things. If one goes on to connect the dots, he/she might be able to find some big political personalities behind all this havoc. Reservation is not bad, provided it is used and implemented in a way that is in consonance with its purported purpose. The Mandal Commission report needs to be considered again for the benefit of the country. There are and have been many flaws in the whole system, which are needed to be resolved. These few days have left the whole state with a great shock and a greater question: whether we are actually safe and consistent with what we are doing or whether all that glitter in the state is actually not gold!