The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.
Tushant Juneja, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur
The government’s apparent willingness to give in to the violent protesters from the Jat community in Haryana is unfortunate. It has been reported that, after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh met some leaders of the protest, the Centre agreed to set up a committee to examine the demand, and that the Haryana state government – also led by the Bharatiya Janata Party – would introduce a Bill to grant Jats the status of Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the state. This followed an agitation in which legislators’ houses were burnt down, trains and trucks were attacked, highways in and out of Delhi cut off, and a canal that supplied water to Delhi taken over. Eventually the Army was called out, and the canal is reported to have been secured, with Delhi’s water supply expected to be restored soon. The agitation refused to peter out on Monday, with several roads into Delhi blocked, including National Highway 1. Over the 11 days of the agitation, at least 11 people have died and 150 have been injured.
Giving in to such demands when expressed with violence sets an unfortunate precedent. Such open confrontation with the forces of law and order should not be rewarded with an apparent victory. This is doubly important because the Jats are not alone in agitating for OBC status and the benefits in government employment that it provides. Of late, other castes and communities across the country have agitated for this status. Gujarat was brought to its knees last year by a protest led on behalf of the Patidar community, generally called Patels. Similarly, earlier this year the state of Andhra Pradesh was rocked by violence by the Kapu community demanding inclusion in the backward classes list in the state.
It is clear that a common reason dictates these similar demands – uneducated local communities living in socially disparate regions. The jobs that the private sector was supposed to create in order to replace farming have not materialized and where they have, locally dominant castes haven’t taken them in a positive stride. This underlines the need to expand employment opportunities in rural and semi-urban areas – which means the pro-industry reform agenda must not be abandoned. But till those jobs materialize, giving in to violent demands is a dangerous route to take.