After Jats, Patels

Haryana's Jats and Gujarat’s Patidars or Patels have much in common: both are socially, economically and politically dominant communities in their states.

Haryana's Jats and Gujarat’s Patidars or Patels have much in common: both are socially, economically and politically dominant communities in their states. One thing more is common: both have protested violently to demand reservations. Going by the laid down norms, both are ineligible for reservations. Both Haryana and Gujarat are ruled by the BJP but the treatment of the agitators and the official response to their demand is starkly different. Instead of holding the Jat agitation leaders accountable for the destruction of private and public property, the Khattar government has appeased the agitators by passing, in undue hurry, a law on reservations for Jats.

This has led Gujarat's Patels to revive their agitation, which had been crushed last year after the Anandiben government reacted strongly, sending 23-year-old Hardik Patel and other agitation leaders to jail on sedition charges. Unlike Manohar Lal Khattar, Anandiben, despite being a Patel and facing an election in 2017, told the protesters clearly that she would not violate the Supreme Court's 50 per cent ceiling on reservations. Inspired by the Jat violence yielding positive results in Haryana, some 5,000 Patidars set government offices on fire and attacked vehicles on Sunday. Ahmedabad, Surat, Mehsana and Rajkot were affected. But there was a difference: policemen did not desert their posts. The government did not go on a holiday. It responded with lathi charge, tears-gas, curfew, jamming of mobiles and Internet services. The situation did not slip out of control.

No matter how irrational their demands, aggrieved sections have a right to peaceful protest and the government is duty-bound to uphold the rule of law. The real problem is the Jats, Patels and others dependent on agriculture are economically lagging behind and they see a better future in government jobs. The Gujarat model as well as the jobless economic growth elsewhere has sharpened inequalities and spread discontent in society. Two consecutive droughts have further hit rural incomes. Even the upper caste and better-off sections are turning to reservations, but where are jobs? Over to those who boast India is the fastest growing economy in the world!  

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