Backward march: Who are the Jats, what do they want?

Indian Express analyses the background and circumstances of the agitation for reservation that has Haryana on the boil.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Updated: February 22, 2016 1:28 pm
Members of the Jat community in Rohtak during the agitation demanding reservation in jobs and education. (Express Photo by Gajendra Yadav) Members of the Jat community in Rohtak during the agitation demanding reservation in jobs and education. (Express Photo by Gajendra Yadav)

Who are the Jats, and what are they demanding?

Jats are an agricultural caste group in Haryana, and seven other states in North India, notably Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. In Haryana, they are the predominant caste, and therefore politically influential. In his tome on the “Panjab Castes” following the 1881 census, Sir Denzil Ibbetson noted that “from an economical and administrative point of view [the Jat] is the husbandsman, the peasant, the revenue-payer par excellence… he is usually content to cultivate his fields and pay his revenue in peace and quietness…” The Jats currently out on the streets across Haryana are demanding reservation in government jobs and educational institutions under the OBC category.

When did the demand begin?

Discontent boiled over after the 1991 Gurnam Singh Commission report included Jats in the Backward Classes category along with seven other groups, and after the Bhajan Lal government withdrew the notification that had been issued for inclusion. Two more Backward Classes Commissions set up in the state excluded the group – in 1995 and 2011. Reservation for Jats was one of the poll promises made by Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who came to power in 2004; he subsequently wrote several letters to the Union government seeking their inclusion of Jats. After an agitation, in April 2011, the government set up the K C Gupta Commission to go into the question once again. In 2012, the commission recommended the inclusion of Jats and four other castes, Jat Sikhs, Ror, Tyagi and Bishnoi, in the category Special Backward Classes (SBC). The Hooda government accepted the report and 10% quota was granted, but this was later set aside by the Supreme Court.

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What are the legal issues involved in granting reservation to Jats? What is the policy in neighbouring states?

On March 17, 2015, the Supreme Court quashed the UPA government’s decision to extend the OBC quota in central government jobs to Jats, refusing to accept that Jats were a backward community. Consequently, the reservation introduced for Jats in Haryana and eight other states — Gujarat, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Bharatpur and Dholpur districts of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand — was set aside. In April 2015, the NDA government filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against the March 17 verdict. A decision on it is pending.

Where do the Jats stand in Haryana’s political hierarchy?

Since being carved out of Punjab in 1966, Haryana state has had 10 chief ministers, and seven have been Jats. Jats comprise 27% of the electorate, and are the state’s predominant caste group, who dominate a third of the 90 Assembly constituencies in the state. The leaders of the two main opposition political parties — Bhupinder Singh Hooda of the Congress and Abhay Singh Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal — are Jats. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar represents the Punjabi community, and belongs to the Khattar caste.

The Jat agitation is centred on Rohtak, Jhajjar and Bhiwani — the three districts that, along with Panipat, Sonipat and Hisar, are known as the state’s Jat belt. The three districts are mostly covered under two parliamentary constituencies — Rohtak and Bhiwani — and 18 Assembly constituencies. The BJP won 10 out of these 18 seats, while six went to Congress and two to INLD.
Watch video: Visuals Of The Jat Agitation, Rapid Action Force & Central Reserve Police Force

But if the Jats are so politically influential, should they not already be well represented in higher education and government jobs?

According to the K C Gupta Commission, Jats had 17.82% representation in Class 1 and 2 government jobs. In the lower grades, this representation is estimated at as high as 40 to 50%. The representation of Jats in educational institutions was 10.35%. The literacy rate among Jat men is said to be 45%; among women, about 30%.

The Jats’ primary occupation remains farming. The average landholding is 2-3 acres. Only 10% of Jats are landless. Over a decade ago, some sections of Jats were not ready to accept the status of “backward class” because at that time land was not fragmented, and most Jat landholdings were large. With changing times and dividing families, however, holdings began to shrink.

So, which are the castes that do have reservation in Haryana?

Out of 80 castes, only 16 — Ahir, Arora/Khatri, Bishnoi, Brahman, Gossain, Gujjar, Jat, Jat Sikh, Kalal, Mahajan/Bania, Meo, Muslim, Rajput, Ror, Saini and Tyagi — do not find mention in the lists of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes notified by the Haryana government. The Ramgarhia caste, which is synonymous with Khati or Barhai, also does not find mention in the list of Backward Classes of the Haryana government. The remaining 63 castes/communities have been notified either as a Scheduled Caste or Backward Class.

Did the Khattar government fail to anticipate the anger of the community?

The BJP is heading the government for the first time in the state, and the lack of experience could have led to an inaccurate assessment of the situation. The Jat agitation for reservations has been an annual affair around this time of the year (February-March) since 2012, but this year’s violence could have something to do with the BJP still being seen as an outsider in Haryana’s traditional Jat politics, its election victory notwithstanding. Of the eight cabinet ministers (including the Chief Minister), only two are Jats.

Where is this agitation now headed?

The Jats have trashed a government offer to include those with annual income of less than Rs 6 lakh under an Economically Backward Persons (EBP) category with a 20% quota, to be shared with four other castes: Tyagis, Rors, Bishnois and Jat Sikhs. The government has now announced it will prepare a draft Bill for reservation, and try to bring it in the Assembly session beginning March 17. However, such a Bill may not stand judicial scrutiny in view of the 50% ceiling on quota in government jobs imposed by the Supreme Court. This ceiling has been reached in Haryana, which has 27% reservation for OBCs, 20% SCs and 3% for the disabled. This is why the Punjab and Haryana High Court had struck down the Congress government’s 10% per cent quota for Jats, Jat Sikhs, Bishnois, Tyagis and Rors as Special Backward Classes.

Roiled Elsewhere

By: Satish Jha

Patidars in Gujarat
On July 6, 2015, Hardik Patel, 22, started an agitation under the banner of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti to demand the inclusion of Patidars in the OBC list. A mega rally in Ahmedabad on August 25 led to caste riots. At least 9 Patidar youths and one policeman was killed. According to police records, between June and December 2015, Patidars organised 1,251 protest meetings.

Patidars, who are farmers, are counted among Gujarat’s wealthiest communities. They have nearly 14% of the vote share, and are traditionally BJP supporters. They have applied to the Gujarat OBC commission seeking OBC status. Hardik is in jail, charged with sedition. He has been accused of trying to “dislodge a democratically elected government” by waging war against the state in order to force it to take an “unlawful decision” on reservation for the community. The charges under Sections 124A (sedition) and 121A (conspiracy to wage war) have been upheld by Gujarat High Court; an appeal is pending in the Supreme Court.

Kapus in Andhra

By: Sreenivas Janyala

On January 31, sidelined former TDP leader Mudragadda Padmanabham called a meeting of Kapus to demand the TDP government fulfil its poll promise to include Kapus in the BCs list. The YSR Congress Party extended its support to the meeting, held near Tuni railway station in East Godavari. The crowd turned violent, set a train on fire, attacked the police station and set vehicles afire.

The government has been dragging its feet in giving guidelines to the K L Manjunath Commission constituted to recommend the inclusion of Kapus in the BC list without disturbing the existing quotas. In 2014, Kapus, who constitute 23.4% of the population of AP, backed N Chandrababu Naidu.

After the unprecedented violence, a shocked Padmanabham withdrew the protest but warned the government he would sit on a protest fast. Naidu has assured that the Manjunath Commission would submit its report within six months.

Jats in Rajasthan

By: Mahim Pratap Singh

Before March 2014, Jats were in the central list of OBCs in Gujarat — Jat (Muslim) — and Rajasthan (except in the districts of Bharatpur and Dholpur). Jats also figured in the state lists of Haryana, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, UP, MP, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The UPA sought the advice of the National Commission for Backward Classes on including Jats from these nine states, and the two Rajasthan districts, in the central list of OBCs. The NCBC advised against it, “as they are not socially and educationally backward community”, but the government notified an amended list anyway. The decision was challenged in the Supreme Court, which in March 2015 scrapped the central OBC quotas for the Jats in question, including in the two Rajasthan districts.

Rajasthan Jat leaders have now expressed solidarity with the ongoing protests in Haryana. Some college students have carried out a protest in Bharatpur.

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  1. D
    dinku singh
    Jan 7, 2017 at 8:59 am
    India mein itne bade-2 joker hain mujhe nahi patta tha. Islam (1400) and Sikhism is just 400 year old, but jat have history of more than 7000 years old. For your information and knowledge, Supreme court of India and NCBC in cancellation of jat reservation has found only one substantial thing and that is lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;"History of Jat, is the History of India, they are the representative of vedic Aryan, the community to which Lord Ram belonged"
    1. V
      Vinod Mehta
      Jan 19, 2017 at 8:12 am
      Toilet cleaner kujatkhana can do no harm to us
      1. A
        Abhinav Gour
        Feb 22, 2016 at 4:13 am
        The idea of introducing reservation in the consution is to bridge the gap in social inequality. The reservation in economic and education sector are the instruments to bring out the social change in India. The recent demand for reservation from traditionally high caste communities across india is shortsighted. The govenment, researchers, policy makers and all other important stake holders to think twice on the socio-eco-political implications on dalits !!!
        1. P
          Feb 23, 2016 at 11:00 pm
          This article is misleading as it makes it sound like you are speaking about Jatts (Sikh caste) and not the different 'jaats'. Regardless, there shouldn't be discrimination or favouritism over castes in the first place.
          1. S
            Satendra kumar
            Feb 22, 2016 at 6:42 am
            I don't think any culture is left behind in government reservations job or one is justificfy just for ministerial job maybe people are too greedy for position so they make mockery of the civilised societies.
            1. M
              Feb 22, 2016 at 7:24 am
              Blessings of Congress will haunt India in one or other form for a long time!
              1. M
                Feb 21, 2016 at 11:18 pm
                Get hold of all their properties and distribute equally among them.
                1. A
                  Feb 22, 2016 at 11:12 am
                  If this issue has started ever since 1991, why this is becoming a major issue all of a sudden. It seems that there are forces with the help of some political parties who are trying to destabilize the country as our PM rightly mentioned yesterday.
                  1. I
                    Feb 22, 2016 at 9:45 am
                    I am no admirer of the Sanghies;they are facsists whom we shall have to endure because we are not intelligent enough not to have brought them into a position of power.But reservations will have to be looked into and reviewed from time to time,or we shall have more well heeled people like the Patels and Jats staking their claims.Originally reservations were proposed for the then untouchables. But alongside came pretenders like the OBCs who have reduced the w scheme to a farce. The Jats used to be the most exploited community in Rajasthan.At that time they did not demand any props.They worked hard, proved their merit and won people's hearts.They were among the first to educate their women.But having ascended the ladder, they were also tempted to demand this unnecessary thing.They have fallen in people's esteem about which they don't seem to care.They own the land, they control the armed forces and the Civil services, all on merit.But they will go to any extent to deprive other communities of even the basic amenities of life.The govt. having capitulated to violence, will not be able to resist anybody's demands now.Therefore I think a review of the beneficiaries is in order. However, in the case of the so called untouchables, it should continue.
                    1. A
                      Feb 23, 2016 at 4:44 pm
                      There should be no reservation at all. Instead, free education and scholarships should be given to the people below poverty line. Reservation creates mediocrity. Consider this: would you want a surgeon who secured his admission through reservation to perform a critical operation? Would you want a teacher who scored barely ping grades all his life to teach your kids? Government should help the economically weak, but merit alone should be the consideration in admissions to top schools and top jobs.
                      1. A
                        Feb 23, 2016 at 9:41 am
                        Taking reservation is like begging .
                        1. A
                          Feb 22, 2016 at 4:16 pm
                          It is amazing to see that one side of the country is fighting for metric based placements and ending any kind of reservations and then one community fighting to be enlisted as backwards to get ahead and find a spot.
                          1. J
                            Feb 22, 2016 at 7:54 am
                            Wake up Haryana Govt.... No strike ends without Pappu and Kejri meeting them...
                            1. A
                              Mar 12, 2016 at 3:30 am
                              Aryan invasion theory is false as per article in, there is no point in saying Jats arrived in Sindh.they are indian from the begining of time.From historical point of view it is possible that they moved to other parts of the world from india
                              1. S
                                Feb 22, 2016 at 6:34 am
                                In Gujarat it was the Patels. Jats are spread in many States and hence their agitation will not be restricted to Haryana alone. When somehow the government persuade them to settle down for an agreement, Jats of other States will take up their demands. Why the demand to be included in OBC ? Is OBC so lucrative a position for which several human beings can be sacrificed ? Can 4 or 5 percent government jobs be so important for the Jats and Patels? Absolutely not. These agitations are part of a conspiracy from Sangh Parivar whose ultimate aim on the issue of reservation is to abolish all Reservations and deny the facility to those who are enjoying it. This is to make them the darlings of upper cast Hindus who has been demanding for the abolition of reservations ever since it was introduced by the consution of India. While Parivar will work on their conspiracies, our PM will go on shouting from platform to platform that he is working for the poorest of the poor, he is tea vendor, he is OBC, his enemies are jealous of this poor OBC man working 24x7 for the country etc. etc. How the RSS is more interested in working conspiratorial mode was also exposed in the JNU incident. They had everything planned and the morphing of video and its transmission on TV Channels working hand-in-hand with them have now come to the day light. It is time for us to understand that Sangh Parivar will not stop here. Their ultimate aim is to establish a fascist government.
                                1. G
                                  ganesh kumar
                                  Feb 23, 2016 at 5:29 am
                                  its simple pdai hoti nai h in se hence reservation in education insutions and jobs as simple as that
                                  1. S
                                    Mar 31, 2016 at 4:53 pm
                                    Tolt;br/gt;The Prime Minister /The Chief Ministerlt;br/gt;Haryana,,;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Subject : Open letter in Public Interestlt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Respected Sir,lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;I Invite your honor’s kind attention towards granting of 10 % reservation to JAT community in Haryana. Now all reserved categories should be banned for applying against vacancies for general categories in public interest. Only Jat community falls in general category despite being reserved. Here are few instances which should be known to all and;br/gt;lt;br/gt;1. In Haryana t 20 % vacancies are reserved for Scheduled casts and 27 % for OBC’s leaving 53 % for general categories. Then how Jats have occupied more than 70 % jobs in every government department in Haryana?lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;2. Are Jats only competent in Haryana? Are people from other casts such as Brahaman, Bania, Punjabi and Rajput not competent?lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;3.When there are only 53 % vacancies which are reserved for general category ,how jats have occupied more than 70 % jobs? It means that reserved categories are also being cheated like general;br/gt;lt;br/gt;4. As it is open fact that all jobs were for till now and hefty amounts were being collected from people of reserved categories as well as from others. Jobs are allotted from reserved Kota against hefty amount. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;5. Reserved category posts are put in backlog only for record and these are sold in subsequent year against general category. That is why 70 % posts are being occupied by Jats in;br/gt;lt;br/gt;6. It is suggested in public interest that all reserved category people should be banned for applying against general category posts. There should be a written test for all government employees and officers according to their post so that only eligible and competent people can get government jobs and serve people. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Best Regardslt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Tilak Raj Tanejalt;br/gt;State Presidentlt;br/gt;National Janhit Congress(AB)lt;br/gt;Ph. 9194160-20029,92158-20029
                                    1. I
                                      Indian First
                                      Feb 22, 2016 at 6:44 am
                                      The Reservation needs to stop and be only based on economic condition for all. Is a Brahaman or Baniya or any other general cast person not poor at all?? Are they all so rich that their kids don't need any help or anything and they just get thrashed and thrashed by this reservation giantgt; The help should be given economically like offer 50-100% scholarships for economically backward people rather than than reservations. Day is not far away when these remaining humble casts will also take to streets and ask for their share of reservation for themselves. SUCH a simple way to secure future for your generations: Put some govt. buses on fire, burn the public property. Remember Taxes are all paid by Indian citizens only not just these 100 odd politicians, which is simply being burnt by some stupids motivated politically.
                                      1. J
                                        Feb 22, 2016 at 8:41 am
                                        Quota system is 'khota' system causing inefficiency of the insution.
                                        1. D
                                          Feb 22, 2016 at 7:29 pm
                                          This is very confusing. How many castes are there in India?
                                          1. P
                                            Feb 22, 2016 at 6:10 am
                                            This s is biased reporting. No mention that other similar castes like Gurjars, Yadav , kurmis, reddys, vokkaliggas have all got OBC status. What abt Yadavs? They too have many CMs
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