Interview on Jat violence: 'Govt has to be honest with caste census'

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Bengaluru, March 1: Violence broke out in the northern state of Haryana in mid-February over the demand of the Jats, a financially and socially forward community, for reservation in the backward classes. Thirty people were killed during the violent protests that also saw extensive damage to properties and deployment of army personnel to bring things under control.

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But what was the reason that saw this sudden life-threatening agitation breaking out in Haryana? Is it just a political problem or that had other socio-cultural dimensions? Oneindia spoke to Surinder Singh Jodhka, a professor of sociology in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, on the issue.

jat protests

Oneindia: What is the main reason behind this Jat agitation? Is it a political or a social problem?

Prof. Jodhka: The current problem is the result of a social and political churning in India. The Jats have been a politically dominant group throughout with a strong base in agriculture. But in the present times, they aspire to flourish in the urban lifestyle but cannot really compete with other groups and communities.

Once, they had controlled the political system but today, they are not being able to do so anymore. Hence, they are seeking a downward mobility to enable themselves to compete with the OBCs who are reaping benefits of reservation.

Oneindia: Is this an effect of liberalisation in India?

Prof Jodhka: Precisely so. In this era of liberalisation and privatisation, the Jats have faced an identity crisis since their once valued occupation of agriculture isn't the same anymore. Their landholdings are getting smaller and the dignity of a farmers' life is getting lesser in an era when more and more lucrative jobs have become popular. Reservation will help their children to get admission in prestigious institutions and prepare for the new-age corporate jobs.

Oneindia: Is the BJP government at fault for this current fiasco?

Prof Jodhka: Successive governments have kept this issue alive. The previous Congress government also planned to give quotas to the Jats, mobilising who pays off politically.

Oneindia: Is Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar's non-Jat background also a reason?

Prof Jodhka: Yes, it is one of the reason. The Jats had voted for Narendra Modi in the last election. But then they felt disappointed with the current government of Khattar.

Oneindia: Could a Jat CM have helped the BJP?

Prof Jodhka: Yes, it would have helped.

Oneindia: What could be a way out from this problem in your opinion?

Prof. Jodhka: The Government of India has to be honest about the caste census. The details of the census hasn't been revealed, There has to be a policy discourse involving academics and political leaders to find a way out.

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