Updated: February 24, 2021 11:13:57 am
The Karnataka government has been besieged in recent weeks by demands from caste groups asking to be included among beneficiaries of job and education quotas in various categories, or to be placed in a category different from where they are currently. Despite an upper limit of 50 per cent reservations for all caste groups together, there is a strong push for quotas from even sub-sects of caste groups that are considered to be dominant communities.
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa has promised to consider the demands of all caste groups — including his own dominant Veerashaiva Lingayat group, and a sub-sect called the Panchamasali Lingayats, who have been pressing for inclusion under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota. After a meeting on February 18, the state cabinet has said that the demands need to be studied in greater detail to see “what can be done within the framework of the Constitution”.
What is Karnataka’s current reservation policy?
Reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Classes, and Muslims are capped at 50% in accordance with an order of the Supreme Court. The quota break-up is as follows: Category I (Backward Classes) 4%; Category II A (OBCs) 15%; Category II B (Muslims) 4%; Category III A (Vokkaligas, etc.) 4%; Category III B (Lingayats, Marathas, Bunts, Christians) 5%; SCs 15%; and STs 3%.
A total 95 communities and their sub-sects are recognised as Backward Classes, and 102 communities and their sub-sects as OBCs.
What are the major communities in Karnataka in terms of population?
The Veerashaiva Lingayats are considered the single largest entity in Karnataka’s 6-crore population, making up around 17%. Vokkaligas are at 15%, Muslims 9%, and Kurubas around 8%. The Backward Classes block of various sub-castes minus the Kurubas make up around 25%. SCs are around 15%, and STs 3%.
What are the new demands for reservations in Karnataka?
The most pressing demands are from the agricultural Panchamasali sub-sect of the Veerashaiva Lingayats; the dominant Veerashaiva Lingayat community as a whole; the cattle-herding Kurubas; the tribal community of Valmiki Nayaks; and the agricultural community of Vokkaligas.
The Panchamasali Lingayats are demanding inclusion in the OBC category to be eligible to avail 15% reservations; and the entire Veerashaiva Lingayat community too, is demanding OBC categorisation for 15% reservation. The Kurubas want to be part of STs, who currently have 3% reservation, and the Valmiki Nayaks are demanding expansion of the ST quota from 3% to 7.5%. The Vokkaligas, who are a dominant community, are also demanding inclusion in the OBC category.
Which political forces are supporting these demands?
The demand of the Panchamasali Lingayats was initially propped up by BJP leaders who were not included in Yediyurappa’s ministry in 2019. It has now acquired its own momentum, and a few religious leaders have taken control of the protests, reportedly with tacit support from a group that is opposed to Yediyurappa’s leadership.
Some sub-sects of the Veerashaiva Lingayat community are in the central OBC list, and the community has been asking for more sub-sects to be included since 1994. Yediyurappa showed the intent to push the Veerashaiva Lingayat demand in November 2020 by bringing it to the cabinet — but subsequently dropped it on the request of the BJP’s central leadership.
The current demand for inclusion of all Veerashaiva Lingayats in the state OBC quota has arisen in the wake of the agitation of the Panchamasali Lingayats. The Kurubas’ demand has been spearheaded by the BJP Minister K S Eshwarappa, who is a Kuruba, and has been supported by Kuruba leaders in the BJP, Congress, and JDS, and by community seers.
The demand for raising the ST quota to 7.5% has come from Valmiki Nayak leaders like BJP Ministers B Sreeramulu and Ramesh Jharkiholi, and has been supported by community seers and leaders in the Congress.
The demand for reservations for Vokkaliga sub-sects has come from the main seer of the community in the wake of the demand from the Lingayats.
Can the BJP government fulfill these demands?
The state cabinet can clear the demands and forward them to the central government. But they must first meet the criteria for backwardness or tribal distinctions that are needed for inclusion in reservation categories.
The assessment of the Panchamasali Lingayats’ demand was ordered by the government only a few days ago. The tribal distinctions of the Kuruba community are being studied by the state Backward Classes Commission.
Assuming the demands are fulfilled, which communities will be impacted adversely?
Some leaders cite the example of Tamil Nadu, which has 69% reservation. But demands for quotas beyond 50% in several other states have not had success. With over 100 OBC groups already identified as OBC, the inclusion of Lingayats and Vokkaligas — who make up a large chunk of the state’s population — will hit the smaller OBC groups. Similarly, the inclusion of the Kurubas will pinch the other STs, who already think their share of 3% quota is too small. Kuruba leaders have demanded that the quota should be raised to 13.5% to facilitate their inclusion.
“If Panchamasali Lingayats are included in the II A category, then naturally the numbers of others will come down, and if Kurubas go to the ST category, then it could be difficult. But if the 6% available to Kurubas in II A is transferred to ST category, then it is possible,” K Virupakshappa, leader of the Kuruba ST categorisation movement, has said.
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