Reservation in Employment and Education for Jats

Violence needs to be condemned, and the ongoing violence in Haryana needs to be condemned by all right thinking people.

It is most important in today's atmosphere to note that criminal justice is as important as social justice, rather to note that criminal justice is the most important component of social justice. There are reports from Haryana that shops and buildings of some people have been attacked and destroyed or heavily damaged because they belong to some specific community. Jats and others should unite to demand justice for these victims, otherwise this episode will become a festering sore. It will become another 1984, with never ending repercussions and never ending memories of injustice. People who gloated when members of certain communities were attacked in 1984 in Delhi, or later in Muzaffar Nagar, or in any other year in any other place will do well to note that injustice has remained constant ,and that only victims are changing. It is time to end this rolling cycle of random selection and victimisation of individual groups by larger or more powerful groups. To ensure criminal justice now is the only way to achieve this aim, as well as the broader aim of complete social justice.

Reservation for Jats was introduced by the UPA government at a time when it knew that it was on its way out, this is what many people are saying these days. It was done in a way which rendered the inclusion of Jats in backward castes highly susceptible to judicial quashing.

Later on this reservation under the OBC category was indeed struck down by the Supreme Court. Hon'ble court said that Jats are socially and economically advanced, and that therefore they cannot be permitted to get OBC status like Yadavs, Gurjars, Kurmis, Gowdas, and others who are socially and economically backward.

It is legal to criticise judgments on points of logic. Now leave aside the fact that many of the OBC communities named above have a strong grip on state level and national level politics, consider for a moment that there has so far not been any judge of the Supreme Court of India from the Jat community. At least I cannot think of any name, although I am fairly aware of achievements of Jats. The only name which comes to mind is Chief Justice Devi Singh Tewatia, who was chief justice of Calcutta and Punjab and Haryana high courts but was never selected for service as a Supreme Court judge. Even amongst high court judges Jats appear to have been underrepresented, considering the fact that there are crores of Jats in our country. In the armed forces too we have only seen a Jat chief of army staff for the first time in 2015. Look at the regal bearing of this poor farmer's son! This tiger amongst men became chief after overcoming departmental hurdles of a very difficult nature. Jats remain mostly in lower ranks.

We must accept the argument that appointments in judiciary and army are made on the basis of merit. The same is true in the case of chief secretaries, chief justices of high courts, secretaries to government of India and to various state governments, police commissioners and director generals, chiefs of paramilitary forces and intelligence agencies, and heads of major government owned corporations. The number of Jats who have been able to reach such merit based posts is negligible. Judiciary is one estate in our polity, and the executive is another one out of four. Is it not correct in the light of these facts to start leaning towards the assumption that Jats are educationally backward?

As far as economic backwardness is concerned, it cannot be considered as a barrier to entry of a caste into backward classes. Remember that only economically backward members of individual castes can be given backward class status. A few castes which presently enjoy OBC status are quite prosperous, and are much better represented in government than Jats.

The new Land Acquisition Act was sought to be repealed immediately after the fall of the unlamented UPA government. An ordinance was issued. Confirmation of any ordinance is a legislative process and the numerical strength of backward castes is such that the government was not able to do it. As mentioned above, the Supreme Court struck down backward class status for Jats, and this decision should be respected. However, the government and perhaps other parties have the right to file a review petition and even a curative petition.

It is objectionable that the phrase "non-Jats" has been invented and is being used freely today in Haryana. Jats are Indians like everybody else, and their contribution has been tremendous inspite of their general lack of education. In fact those parts of undivided Punjab which were dominated by Hindu Jats became a part of India, and those parts which were dominated by Muslim Jats became a part of Pakistan. Jats of Haryana are fully entitled to call themselves Punjabis, and this label is not exclusively apposite for some out of those groups which are being described as non-Jats in large sections of the media. In fact the rest of those non-Jats also have the right to call themselves Punjabis. Delhi too was a part of Punjab until 1911.

Let us leave individual castes aside and talk about backward classes and their struggle in general. Is it not true that many classes have been enjoying benefits in the form of laws like the Delhi Rent Control Act, the Land Acquisition Act (recently repealed), the Companies Act, and Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Acts of various states? Do you think that such people are overwhelmingly members of those castes which are commonly called backward castes? Highly unlikely, because a number of such laws are designed to transfer property legally from semi-literate farmers and landowners to sections of society which are able to get laws made in their favour. We often encounter discussions about hidden reservation for some caste types in social justice literature. Is this not a hidden type of reservation? We have read about the existence of hoarders of dals who manipulate prices every year. Which Act is protecting them from prosecution and imprisonment? We will probably never know details of such persons, and it is correct that caste be not used to identify such persons. On the other hand, how many producers of dals belong to backward castes? Most of them.

Social backwardness is not the exclusive domain of poor Jats, but the system is such that caste has been used as the sole indicator of backwardness. Change the system if you must, but you have no choice except to accept it as long as it exists. Hence nobody can justifiably say that the demand is wrong.

At the same time, Jats need to find a way to legally present their case in the highest court, or have discussions with the government to find a legislated route, while thoroughly abjuring violence.

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Published by Manish Udar

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last updated on 22nd February 2016
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