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Fury in Rajasthan: Gujjars Seek to be Considered as Scheduled Tribe

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Rajasthan teeters on the edge of a caste-based war following the Gujjar community's initiative to change their status from Other Backwards Classes to Scheduled Tribes, a move which is seen as a "demotion" in status. Civil society groups have been silent on the resultant violations to human rights and human dignity that has occurred.

Rajasthan has been tense for the past week and on the edge of a caste-based war between the Meena and the Gujjar communities. There is a clear political agenda at play in this conflict, as a result of which violations on human rights and human dignity are taking place.

In an unusual move, the Gujjars of Rajasthan seek to demote their caste category from Other Backwards Classes (OBC) to Scheduled Tribes (ST) in order to gain further benefits from affirmative action policies. This act has been violently opposed by the Meena community in Rajasthan who are currently in the ST list. Some 50,000 Meenas and Gujjars mobilized with arms, undoubtedly with the assistance of political motivations, as daily life in Rajasthan came to a virtual standstill.

The important questions which need to be addressed are why the situation was allowed to escalate to this level, why the government has issued band-aid responses which clearly favour one group over the other and, finally, where is the voice of civil society groups in protecting and promoting fundamental rights of marginalized people?

The question of whether or not Gujjars should be included in the ST category ought to be a secondary consideration. Rather, the issue should be viewed in relation to layers of exclusion and discrimination as it has become apparent that Meenas were pit against the Gujjars by vested interests. The level of conflict between the two communities in Rajasthan is reflective primarily of caste-based discrimination resulting from affirmative action policies; where caste and tribal communities are not considered for their unique positions but instead regarded as voting blocs by politicians. The silence of different civil society organizations bears a testimony to this.

In addition, it highlights that affirmative action and reservations have not necessarily been fruitful in improving livelihoods as opportunity itself has diminished. The government of India is urged to create more opportunity in terms of job creation so that minority communities may derive benefit while avoiding strategic reclassification of status and the conflicts that emerge from it.

See also:

"Gujjar’s Demand for Inclusion in Scheduled Tribes List in Rajasthan and Subsequent Violence: A Background Document " (in .pdf)