At a time when the clamour for Jat reservation at the Centre is growing louder, petitions challenging reservation for the community under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category in Rajasthan are up for hearing at the High Court on Monday.
The Jats were awarded reservation under OBC category by then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999, which was replicated a week later in November by the Ashok Gehlot government in the state. But eight writ petitions were thereafter filed in court challenging the move.
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The petitioners include Satyanarayan Saini, who has served as first member secretary of the state commission. The petitioners have placed before the court a study by Vikas Adhyayan Sansthan that states that Jats are a “socially, educationally and economically forward community” and “have more than their fair share of representation, politically and in government jobs.”
The report maintains that granting OBC reservation to the community is unjustified as it is also “a land owning community”.
In the May 2 hearing before Chief Justice Sunil Ambwani and Ajit Singh, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi appeared on behalf of the state government, suggesting that if the court wished, it could refer the matter to the state OBC commission for further survey. The hearings on May 21 and 22 were inconclusive, but the one on Monday could be decisive.
Senior advocate Jagdeep Dhankar, who appeared for Jat Mahasabha, submitted on May 21 and 22 that Jats were given OBC status only after National Backward Classes Commission conducted a detailed examination and held public hearings. “The representation of 1995 given by Jat Mahasabha was considered by the NCBC after public hearings were held two years later in May 1997. The report was made available to the Centre six months after the hearings and the Union government took another two years to consider the report. A representation made in 1993was pending for six years without any report in 1999,” Dhankar said. “The NCBC report shows that the Jats have suffered most at the hands of feudal forces.”
Meanwhile, the state government’s move to bring in Rohatgi, the country’s top most law officer, for the Jat hearings has upset the Gujjar community, because the government had promised to do the same for hearings in Gujjar reservation as part of the Special Backward Classes but failed to live up to the promise.
The Gujjars have been demanding separate reservation within the 21 per cent OBC reservation in the state, a move that the previous Ashok Gehlot or present Vasundhara Raje government has dared not make, apprehending massive protests from the dominant Jat community.
Of the 21 per cent for OBC, Jats take away a lion’s share despite sharing it with approximately 90 other communities. The dominant Jat community, on its part, has threatened the state governments led by Raje as well as Gehlot, of dire consequences if their OBC quota is touched. Over the years, the community on an average produces 30 MLAs while the Gujjars have roughly not more than eight representatives in the state assembly, which goes to show the dominance of the former. The Gujjars, on the other hand, have been emboldened since the Supreme Court’s decision to deny reservation to Jats in the central services.
While neither the Raje nor the Gehlot government have dared to initiate a restructuring of the OBC, they have only sought to pacify the Gujjars with a separate quota under SBC, which crossed the 50 per cent limit.