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Caste based quota agitations in India

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Indian society has divided into religious and caste lines for several thousand years. But through the history a number of caste have been deprived of growth opportunities – in employment and education. Aiming to bring about a change, quota based reservation was introduced to scheduled caste. But over the years, more and more castes have started demanding reservation, leading to violence and agitations. With such protests, there has been a necessity to reevaluate the need for reservation.

Rise of quota based agitation

Gujjar Agitation

The Gurjars are classified as Other Backward Class (OBC) in twelve of India's thirty-six States and UTs. The Gurjars were demanding a lower scheduled tribe status, instead of their current OBC (Other Backward Class) status. As government refused to yield, they started to agitate. They held a series of protests in Rajastan state, India, during 2008. Violence erupted in the state when police fired on protesters belonging to the Gurjar caste. In retaliation, the protesters lynched a policeman in the Bharatpur district of Rajasthan. In response, police shot at protesters as they tried to damage railway lines and government property. At least 15 were killed on the spot. Once again, (24 May 2008), the Indian army was called in to help calm the violence as another 15 people were killed when police shot at a mob of protesters trying to torch a police station in Sikandra. Thousands of protesters blocked a rail route between Delhi and Mumbai. The highways had also been blocked, and state authorities cancelled many buses. Getting almost nothing from the government for their demand of a 5% quota for government jobs, Gurjars again went on to agitate in 2010. They jammed trains on the Jaipur-Delhi and Mumbai-Delhi routes. Unlike the unrest in 2008, there was no violence in 2010. In May 2015, a similar protest was organized and over thousands of Gujjars blocked railway tracks halting train traffic.

Jat Agitation

Jats are classified as Other Backward Class (OBC) in seven of India's thirty-six States namely Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.But However, only the Jats of Rajasthan – excluding those of Bharatpur district and Dholpur district – are entitled to reservation of central government jobs under the OBC reservation. In 2016, the Jats of Haryana organized massive protests demanding to be classified as OBC in order to obtain such affirmative action benefits. In 2016, Jat people of North India, especially those in the state of Haryana, which "paralysed the State for 10 days."The protesters sought inclusion of their caste in the Other Backward Class (OBC) category, which would make them eligible for affirmative action benefits. Besides Haryana, the protests also spread to the neighbouring states, such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and also the National Capital Region. The protests were estimated to have caused a loss of ₹340 billion (US$4.9 billion) in northern India. The total loss suffered by Railways on account of damage to property and cancellation of tickets during the agitation is about Rs 55.92 crore. By 26 February, 30 people had been killed in the violence.

Patidar agitation

Patidar community started a series of protest to demand Other Backward Class (OBC) status. In 2016, they organised a huge protest in Ahmedabad. Later it was followed by incidents of violence and arson across the state, resulting in a curfew in several cities and towns. Properties and vehicles worth crores of rupees were damaged and destroyed. The government announced a scheme which offered scholarships and subsidies to general category students on September 2015 and a 10 percent quota of spaces reserved for economically backward classes in April 2016. But the 10 percent reservation was quashed by Gujarat High Court in August 2016.

Where it went wrong?

One must observe that the main idea behind the reservation came widely existence after independence of the country is to improve the condition of under privileged people. Though it has yielded several benefits, still the conditions of the underprivileged sections through the country are the same even after several decades. How ? For example many students from lower caste have taken admission in college or any prestigious institutions but they belong to economically well off. Since, student’s parents have secured jobs which they have got through reservation. On the other hand, the children of many lower castes are unable to get proper education, since there economically poor. They can never enter these prestigious institutions with reservation or money. Besides, there are many poor people in upper caste who are marginalized with reservation.


Despite the fruits of reservation benefited many under privileged sections of the society. Many backward communities feel that reservation is working in the opposite direction to its main objective as is segregating the society further. Many have voiced that it is being used to uplift one section of the society at the cost of another, which is not good. Instead they maintain that there should equal opportunities for all. Since, many groups in forward and backward communities are still economically poor.

Further, from time to time newer reforms or laws must be framed by a government panel backed by expert views to evaluate the impact on the development of under privileged. This development must be compared to the overall society. So there is a need to re-evaluate the reservation system which should be based on the economic condition than by the caste lines. Calculation of the per capita income, poverty line must be standard forming the new policy for enforcing reservation and educational reforms. Finally, government mustn’t yield to the violent protests and other forms of passive force commanded by the caste based group in the country.

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