The protest by the Jats in Haryana over demand for reservation has snowballed into a major problem, not only for that state but also its neighbours. What is the reason for this sudden uprising which has even led to loss of human lives.
Here are some points to know on the ongoing Jat crisis:
Who are Jats?
Jats constitute an agricultural caste group in Haryana and other states like UP, Rajasthan and Gujarat. They are a dominant group in Haryana and politically influential. Sir Denzil Ibbetson had defined the Jats as farmers who are happy to pay their revenue.
Two big Jat leaders were Sir Chhotu Ram and Chaudhary Charan Singh--- the latter who also went on to become India's prime minister for a brief period.
What is their demand in the current situation?
The Jats are currently protesting across Haryana demanding reservation in government jobs and educational bodies under the OBC category.
When did this demand first come up?
In 1991, the Gurnam Singh Commission report had included the Jats in the Backward Classes category along with seven other groups but the then Bhajan Lal government withdrew the notification which was issued for the inclusion. Two more panels for the backward classes were set up in the state and both excluded the community. In 2004, when Bhupinder Singh Hooda came to power in the state, he asked the Centre many times seeking the Jats' reservation.
In 2011, following protests, the state government set up the K C Gupta Commission to take up the issue. The commission recommended the inclusion of the Jats and four other castes under the Special Backward Classes (SBC) category. The Hooda government accepted the report and 10% quota was granted but it was set aside by the judiciary. Even the UPA notification of granting reservation to the Jats in 2014 was quashed by the Supreme Court next year.
Jats' position in Haryana politics:
Haryana has seen seven Jat chief ministers out of 10 since it was carved out of Punjab in 1966. The Jats make up 27 per cent of the electorate and a very influential group in a third of the state's 90 Assembly constituencies. The current CM Manohar Lal Khattar is a non-Jat.
The main centres of the current protest are Rohtak, Jhajjar and Bhiwani---three of the six districts of the state known as Jat belt.
In March last year, the apex court quashed the UPA government's decision to extend the OBC quota in central government jobs to the Jats. The reservation introduced for the community in Haryana and eight other states was set aside. The NDA government filed a review petition in the Supreme Court in April last year against the latter's verdict. A few months later, the Punjab and Haryana High Court stayed the Hooda government's
What are the Jats' socio-economic position, given their strong political clout?
As per the KC Gupta panel, Jats had just below 18 per cent representation in higher government jobs while it was as high as 40 to 50 per cent in the lower grades. In the educational institutions, the Jats' representation was over 10 per cent. The community's main occupation continues to be farming. Only 10 per cent of the Jats are without land. Around 10 years ago, the Jats had big landholdings but with changing times and shrinking families, that scenario has largely undergone a transformation.
Has the Khattar government goofed up in the Jat issue?
The government of Manohar Lal Khattar, the first BJP chief minister of Haryana, erred in not foreseeing the protest coming, perhaps because it is not used to the state's politics. Despite sweeping the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in Haryana in 2014, the BJP did not bother much about engaging the Jat bodies and their leaders over an issue that always remained a key issue in the the state's issue.
The government ignored the coming together of nearly 100 khaps of the state and backing blockades across the state from February 15 and identifying 50 locations for effecting blockades. The BJP also did a mistake in promising OBC reservation for the Jats when there were clearly legal complexities.
Position of Haryana BJP on the reservation issue:
While the Jat leaders of the state BJP supported the reservation plan, the OBCs were opposed to it. Kurukshetra MP Rajkumar Saini, an OBC, has been making strong statements against reservation while Jat and OBC supporters are clashing in different parts of the state. CM Khattar though has distanced himself from Saini's stand but the party's inability to rein him in has harmed it already.