The unending saga of Gujjar quota in Rajasthan

The unending saga of Gujjar quota in Rajasthan

The unending saga of Gujjar quota in Rajasthan

The issue of reservation for the Gujjars has been a serious bone of contention for four consecutive governments in Rajasthan.

 The decade-long ‘struggle’ by  the community for five per cent quota in government jobs and education institutions was accompanied by dozens of state-wide agitations, violent protests and 70 deaths in 2007 and 2008 agitations.  

Unfazed by such incidents and consequences, political parties have been using reservation as a safe bait to gain political and personal mileage in past assembly elections. Going a step ahead, both BJP and Congress, in the 2013 assembly elections,  promised reservation to Gujjars. 

The previous governments had cleared the five per cent quota to the community on two different occasions and each time the decision was challenged in the court. The Gujjar leaders are now demanding the BJP government in Rajasthan to introduce a fresh bill in state assembly and get it included in 9th schedule of the Constitution to escape legal hurdles. 

“The BJP government had passed the quota bill in 2008 which became an Act in 2009. Later, then chief minister Rajesh Gehlot of the Congress also gave nod to 5 per cent reservation on the basis of the recommendation of the Israni Commission in 2009.  Both decisions were challenged in the court because they exceeded the overall ceiling of 50 per cent ceiling imposed by the Supreme Court.

The only solution is to introduce a new bill and get it included in the 9th schedule,” said Himmat Singh, a Gujjar leader. But none of the governments ever wanted a permanent solution of this problem, he added.  

On the contrary, legal experts are of the view that matter can be solved and court stay can be vacated but none of the governments has ever taken the issue seriously.

 “According to the SC ruling, reservation beyond 50 per cent is permissible but under special conditions. The government needs to plead strongly and convince the court about those special conditions under which it is giving quota to the Gujjars,” said AK Jain, a senior layer of the Rajasthan High Court.

Despite constituting two commissions on the issue, the government failed to take decisions within the legal frame work and eventually failed to explain the special grounds for giving reservation, he added. 

The Rajasthan HC had earlier stayed the previous government’s decision to give quota to Gujjars, Raika, Banjaaras, Gadiyalohar and Gadariya communities as special backward class, as it will take total reservation in the state to 54 per cent.

Rajasthan had 49 per cent reservation in government employment and educational institutes, including 12 per cent quota to ST, 16 to SC and 21 to OBC classes. One per cent special reservation was later given to the Gujjar community taking total reservation to the 50 per cent ceiling. 

The demand for reservation dates back to 1999 when then chief minister Ashok Gehlot government received a letter from the Centre asking for a detailed report and data on whether Gujjar Raika, Banjaaras, Gadiyalohar and Gadariya communities can be given Schedule Tribe (ST) status. The letter fuelled the demand of Gujjar reservation with community leaders holding unorganised agitations at micro level. 

During the 2003 assembly elections, BJP leader Vasundhara Raje promised Gujjars of taking positive action if the party came to power in Rajasthan. However, despite coming to power, the BJP remained silent on reservation issue, which eventually invited the wrath of community. Leaders announced agitation but they were appeased by senior BJP leaders with the tall assurances.

 Irked over constant delay by BJP government, the community chose path of violent agitation in 2007 and 2008. Other ST communities came in direct confrontation of Gujjars to ensure that their reservation quota is not reduced nor Gujjars are included with them. 

Negative report

Moved by such protests, then BJP government announced setting up of the Chopra Commission, which was asked to delve whether Gujjars are eligible for the ST status in Rajasthan. The Commission gave a negative report and clearly mentioned that Gujjars do not qualify for ST status. At the same time, it said that guidelines to decide ST eligibility were obsolete and doesn’t hold any relevance any more. The panel also agreed that Gujjars were indeed backward but that they cannot be given ST status. 

“After the Commission’s report, the BJP government tabled the bill and got it passed. The bill declared that all the four castes including Gujjars were eligible for 5 per cent reservation under Special Backward Class (SBC). The bill also included 14 per cent reservation to the Economically Backward Class (EBC), regarding which there was no proposal,” said Himmat Singh. The government also passed the resolution to get it listed in the 9th schedule as total reservation was exceeding the 50 per cent cap, he added.

The bill was signed by then governor N K Singh in 2009 after Congress government took over rein in Rajasthan. The Act was later challenged in the court. The petitioner raised objection that the Chopra panel was initially formed to study the eligibility of Gujjars to hold ST status. Court stayed the SBC and EBC reservation and directed government to conduct a detailed survey and to collect quantified data that makes Gujjars eligible for reservation. The government was asked to take report from the OBC Commission about the status of Gujjars among the other OBC castes. 

After getting favourable report from OBC commission, Gehlot in 2012 announced 5 per cent reservation to Gujjars but decision was again challenged in court. Apart from the 50 per cent reservation rider, more objections were raised. It was alleged that survey and report was only focused on Gujjar community while other castes in OBC were ignored. Comparative study of all castes would have presented exact status of Gujjar community in state.   

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