Sunday, August 23, 2015

Gujarat OBCs warn BJP govt: Don't heed Patidar demand for reservation, lest you will be thrown out of power

By Hitesh Chavda
If things move the way they are moving, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Gujarat is heading for a major confrontation between upper caste reservationists and other backward castes (OBCs). This seemed clear enough from the well-represented OBC rally in Ahmedabad on Sunday, which warned the Patidars, wanting an OBC status, that their demand would not be taken “lightly”.
Held amidst loud slogans of "OBC zindabad, Dalit zindabad, Adivasi zindabad", the OBC leaders, mainly numerically strong Thakores, told the participants in the rally that " if Patidars come in their way they would not keep quiet” but “hit back.”
Claiming to have the support of Dalits and Adivasis in their fight to keep their OBC reservation status, which is 27 per cent in Gujarat, a senior OBC leader said, “Let him come and live a few days in Gujarat. He would know that his Gujarat has changed.”
“The OBCs are only following Dr BR Ambedkar”, he claimed, announcing, “We will go with our mission to districts and talukas.” Equating the condition of OBCs with that of the Dalits, he said, “Just like Dalits, we are not allowed equal housing rights. Like Dalits, we are also looked down upon.”
Alpesh Thakore, who was the chief organizer of the rally, in which around 15,000 OBCs participated, warned the BJP government that if it allows Patidars with OBC status, they should be prepared to face the worst. “In the forthcoming 2017 assembly elections, we will ensure that they do not return to power”, he added.
The OBC rally comes just two days ahead of the Patidars’ reservation rally, scheduled for August 25. Already, the OBCs have formed dozens of Save Reservation Committees across Gujarat in order to counter the Patidars’ tough demand for OBC status.
Last Friday, the Patidars held a reservation rally in Vadodara where over one lakh are reported to have participated. Earlier, Patidars held well-attended rallies with the participation of three lakh people in Surat and one lakh people in Patan.
According to OBC leaders, the Patidars constitute only 12 per cent of the population in Gujarat, and have always been upper castes and cannot be included in other category under any circumstances or any pressure.
“We will not allow our quota for OBCs to be cut for any other community,” said Alpesh Thakor, leader of the Save Reservation Committee. “The situation is volatile and will spill into clashes if the government does not intervene and control it,” he added.
In Gujarat, there are over 146 castes, including over a dozen Muslim castes, which have been recognized as OBCs. Well-known Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan believes, the way things are moving in Gujarat, things would move in a violent confrontation. “This is what I am afraid of”, he said, adding, “Unfortunately, people have increasingly begun thinking in terms of caste, which is very dangerous.”
Other experts say, the current agitation might turn into a violent OBC-upper caste clashes, as they happened during the Congress rule of Madhavsinh Solanki, who introduced reservation benefits for OBCs based on recommendations of Bakshii commission, which recognised 81 communities as socially and economically backward. Subsequently, others governments kept adding more communities in the list.
Solanki, who came to power riding on an alliance between Kshatriyas, Harijans, Adivasis sone as many as 149 of 182 assembly seats in the state assembly, highest ever. Among Kshatriyas he included both upper caste Rajputs and OBC Thakores, a community to which he belonged, and which are descendents of the foot soldiers in the pre-independence era, and Kolis, a fishing community along the coastline.
According to National Sample Survey Organization data, OBCs, who also include several other smaller communities as well, forms about 40 per cent of Gujarat’s population.

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