OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.

The movement by Gujjars to get ST status causes more turmoil, while the Govt struggles for a peace formula. The BJP on Tuesday appeared divided on the police firing on Gujjar protesters at Dausa with a senior leader calling for an investigation. Accusing the BJP government in Rajasthan of adopting a “callous” attitude in handling the Gujjar reservation issue Sachin Pilot , Congress MP from Dausa, slammed the Vasundhara Raje regime. Police firing on protesting Gujjars claimed 13 lives on Tuesday. Adding fuel to fire is the underlying caste feud between the Meenas and the Gujjars which is further inflamed by rumors on what prompted the police firing. Groups belonging to the Meena community, opposing the demand of Gurjars for Scheduled Tribe status, today threatened to use force to lift blockades erected by the protesting Gujjars.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s senior leadership comprising Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh and party president Rajnath Singh met at the residence of the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on Thursday to discuss the situation in Rajasthan. Offstumped mulls over the grim developments in Rajasthan and their national implications.

 First some very interesting insights into the bone of contention here – the constitutional designation of entire communities to be the so called “Scheduled Tribes”. The politics of Affirmative Entitlement is such that one can become a Tribe and a “Scheduled” one at that if one is sufficiently voluble. It would astound many a reader to learn that when the founding fathers debated the Indian Constitution in the Constituent Assembly they had their sights on something very different. The Drafting Committee for Fundamental Rights led by B.R. Ambedkar referred to “safeguarding the interests of aboriginal tribes”. The reference was unambiguously to Tribes that lived outside the ambit of modern society through aboriginal means and the focus was on how to secure their interests and integrate them with the rest of the nation. Subsequently the Committee on Tribal Areas started to use the phrase “Scheduled Tribes” and to be consistent on1st December 1948 Dr. B.R. Ambedkar moved an amendment to substitute “Aboriginal” with “Scheduled”. Hence you have the phrase “Scheduled Tribes” making its way into the Constitution.

Now we fast forward to the present controversy. By no stretch of the imagination can the Gujjar community be deemed “Aboriginal” living outside the ambit of modern society to be entitled for any special treatment. In fact a cursory look at the wide spectrum of communities that refer to themselves as Gujjars reveals historical rulers and modern leaders, professionals. By no stretch of the imagination can this community claim centuries of historical discrimination either to make a legitimate claim for special entitlements. So when and where did the mischief begin.

The designation of Gujjars as a Scheduled Tribe in some states is of recent origin and interestingly enough is yet another example of the Communal Socialism in India. The Gujjars of Kashmir are Muslims with a nomadic lifestyle that subsists on Sheep Rearing. It was this community that earned the Scheduled Tribe status in 1991 under the Chandrashekar regime.

While the present day social conditions of the Gujjar community that have prompted these violent protests are understandable, the standoff calls into question the fundamental premise behind Reservations. The politics of entitlement in India has over the years while providing various justifications for doling out tax payer sponsored goodies to favored voting blocs has been consistent on Reservations. It was always been about “Righting Historical Wrongs”. The political argument for introducing Reservations during the Constituent Assembly Debates and subsequently to amend the Constitution was always about the Centuries of Social Discrimination. 

But now 60 years down the line that fig leaf of a pretext is being quietly discarded with all out politics of entitlement taking center stage. The political machine has latched on to two catch phrases “Social Justice” and “Affirmative Action” to market this all out entitlement. Subtly the rationale has been shifted away from Centuries of Discrimination to other considerations. The motive is quite clear – to expand the entitlement to caste a wider net. Hence you have on the one end the Communal Socialism of the Manmohan Singh, Rajinder Sachar variety that seeks reservations for Muslims. On the other end you have a very subtle move towards Communism where Wealth Re-distribution and creating equity have become State Policy. It is this second variety which is far more dangerous for it is being marketed with an intellectually respectable catch-phrase “Affirmative Action” by a new breed of social scientists. Offstumped had then argued why these measures were not Affirmative Actions as they were not about past discrimination limiting current participation but instead were about current economic conditions limiting current participation.

In either case the politicians and the social scientists have conveniently swept under the carpet the fact that it is no longer about righting historical wrongs. It is no longer about Centuries of Discrimination. It is about creating equity, wealth re-distribution and normalizing outcome through positive discrimination. It is about the state playing god. This folks is Communism via the back door. You can dress it up and market it as Social Justice, Affirmative Action or whatever but it does not change its fundamental character.

But here is the rub. Not everyone is entitled !

The selective application of this kind of entitlement with caste and not economic status as the basis is the root cause for the incendiary situation in Rajasthan.

Offstumped Bottomline: Extending ST status to the Gujjar community would Affirm Positively that in the 21st Century Reservations are about all out Entitlement and the State playing God. Beware the closet communists who will attempt to mask this as Affirmative Action, they are the strongest advocates for preserving the divisive identities of Caste and for the selective application of entitlement.

The War on Social Justice must start with the de-legitimizing the institution of caste.

Unless Casteist identities are deemed illegal and Unconstitutional, the politics of entitlement will tear apart the social fabric.

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