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'You are using the Army against your own people'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
February 23, 2016 09:10 IST
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'You are sending the army to Rohtak? There are six paramilitary forces in the country. Why can't you use these people?'
'What is the need to call out the army? And that too at a place where there is an army man in every house.'
'Can you imagine how stupid this decision is? How insensitive?'

The army carries out a flag march in Rohtak amidst the Jat agitation. Photograph: PTI

IMAGE: The army carries out a flag march in Rohtak amidst the Jat agitation. Photograph: PTI

Ajay Singh, president of the All India Jat Maha Sabha, was a minister of state in the V P Singh government.

Speaking to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com, Singh, below, left, explains why the Jats are angry and why they need reservations.

Why are the Jats protesting now?

For the last 25 years the Jat community has been demanding that they be included in the OBC (Other Backward Classes) list. This happens sometimes, but the courts reject it. All this has been going on for the last 20 years.

Now some students were sitting on a dharna demanding that Jats be included in the OBC list. This demand is very justified as in north India, the peasant community and middle farmers are the Jats, Kurmis, Yadavs, Gurjars etc.

They have a hookah-paani relation. They come from the same social economic educational background. So, when the Mandal Commission was implemented (in August 1990), the Jats got left out whereas the others got included in the reservation list.

Why were the Jats were left out from the Mandal Commission list of OBCs?

I think there was a little bit of politics and they ignored the Jats.

But you had a strong Jat leader in Devi Lal, who was deputy prime minister in the V P Singh government which implemented the Mandal Commission recommendations?

There was a fight between Devi Lal and V P Singh and there was a falling out. Devi Lal had left the party (the Janata Dal) when Mandal was implemented in which Jats were not included.

The Mandal Commission was set up in 1977 in (then prime minister) Morarji Desai and (then home minister, later briefly prime minister) Charan Singh's time. By the time he (Bindheshwari Prasad Mandal) gave his report in 1980, the Indira Gandhi government shelved it. The Congress government ignored it.

There was lot of agitation against that and when the Janata Dal government of V P Singh came in 1989, I was a minister as deputy to George Fernandes in the railways.

At that time we implemented the Mandal Commission report, but before that we formed a Cabinet committee to see if there were any shortfalls and whether we could improve the report.

We made a list of 21 castes from Kashmir to Kerala. These castes were left out from the Mandal Commission (recommendations). We wanted these too be in the Other Backward list.

Therefore, we formed a commission on that, but unfortunately by the time (we could take action), our government fell.

So, Mandal was implemented as it is and the Jats were left out.

When the Jat students were sitting on dharna demanding reservation, they were beaten up. The situation got out of control as the government didn't do anything for eight days.

Was the fallout between Devi Lal and V P Singh the reason for the non-inclusion of Jats in the OBC list?

They fought for another reason and not the non-inclusion of Jats in the Mandal Commission. B P Mandal went around the whole country (1977 to 1979) and there was politics within the Mandal Commission too. Whether it was unfortunate or by design, I don't know.

The Mandal Commission went to two places in India to assess the backwardness of the Jat community. They went to Patiala in Punjab and Bharatpur in Rajasthan. Both happened to be places where Jats happened to be the ruling family.

The people they (the Mandal Commission) spoke to in Bharatpur and Patiala did not understand what this was all about.

When they were asked whether they were illiterate, the Jats said, 'Nahi, hum toh raje hain (we are the rajas). I personally feel there was political mischief in this.

Jat leader Ajay SinghIf the Supreme Court refused to include Jats in the OBC list, why is your community insisting on being included?

Before the state elections, the Congress government of Bhupinder Singh Hooda in Haryana took a decision to include Jats in the OBC list. They said at a public meeting that they would give Jats reservations and therefore they must vote for the Congress.

The opponents of Jat reservations went to the Supreme Court. They challenged this decision and the court said the reservation was done for political gain and not for social justice.

The matter then went back to the central government. The government had to set up a commission to examine this. Now there are reports that the Centre has announced a panel on the Jat demand for reservations. This they could have done five days back. This is the Haryana government's failure, for sure.

But Haryana Chief Minister Manohal Lal Khattar tried to reach out to the Jat community.

That is what they say. This is all politics. Our agitation has always been peaceful. We had one lakh (100,000) people who agitated in Delhi and it was always peaceful because promises have been made.

First, they provoked us and now you have a BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Kurukshetra, Raj Kumar Saini, who is publicly abusing the Jat community and talking against reservations for the Jats.

Jats protest on a Haryana street demanding reservations. Photograph: PTI

IMAGE: Jats protest on a Haryana road demanding reservations. Photograph: PTI

Are Jat youth left out economically because of no reservations?

A vast majority of the Jat community are from the farming community even now despite urbanisation. The parameter for OBCs is based on assessing which communities are socially, economically and educationally backward. On this basis you get reservations in the OBC category.

Jats have a reputation as patriotic men who serve the Army. Today, one sees them agitating for reservations.

I was aghast and I don't know who in government called the army out to Rohtak. Can you imagine? Firstly, we are totally against the army being used for civilian disturbances.

You are using the Indian Army against your own people. These people don't even know that Rohtak is the district where the maximum people (Jats) are sent to the Indian Army.

Every village has a soldier, army colonel or retired army man. First is Rohtak and the second is Jhunjhunu and the third is Alwar in Rajasthan.

You are sending the army to Rohtak? There are six paramilitary forces in the country. Why can't you use these people? What is the need to call out the army? And that too at a place where there is an army man in every house.

Can you imagine how stupid this decision is? How insensitive?

What are the reasons for the government's failure? Is it inexperience?

The BJP is handling the Jat issue very badly. They are teasing, provoking and insulting them.

But the Jats destroyed government property...

Whenever there is an agitation going on, all sorts of elements come in and they loot shops (and destroy property), which is an act of anti-social elements. You cannot blame this on the Jats.

We have always been peaceful in our protests. Why have they reacted violently? People should examine that.

Is it true that Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised reservation for the Jats?

The Congress gave Jats reservation earlier, but the Supreme Court struck it down. After that a Jat delegation went and met Modi and he committed (to reservations). He made a commitment and therefore the Jats were peaceful, but this situation has been provoked by the government in Haryana.

Please understand, this is not the BJP as their outlook is national. This is a local issue. Modi made a commitment and the government has to follow a procedure, you cannot just announce it. They have to set up a commission. This will take time and they will have to do in a manner that it cannot be challenged in court.

Won't other communities get upset with if Jats are included in the OBC list?

In Haryana, the anger of the Jats is that for one year they (the BJP) are instigating other communities to oppose the Jats.

Saini is a classic example. He is leading the anti-Jat movement. You cannot control of your own MP? Obviously he has got some backing.

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com
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