Thursday, August 27, 2015

Modi Cabinet awarded two Gujarat sub-castes OBC status amidst "violent" turn to Patels' reservation stir

Patel leader Hardik Patel with
VHP chief Pravin Togadia
By Our Representative
In an interesting turn, the Cabinet under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has "cleared" four sub-castes to be included in the Government of India's list of other backward classes (OBCs). The move, said to be largely symbolic, comes amidst the powerful Patel agitation, which rocked Gujarat, for reservation within the OBC framework. Two of the sub-castes given the OBC category are from Gujarat, while the other two are from Uttarakhand.
The Patel reservation agitation, which took place in Ahmedabad on August 25 with the participation of over five lakh people, turned violent soon after its young leader, Hardik Patel, announced that he had decided to sit on hunger strike for demands of his community. He was picked up by the police, and those who had gathered around him were lathicharged. On August 26, violence erupted amidst Patel call for Gujarat banch, leading to the death of nine and damage to public and private property across the state.
Modi, an OBC by caste, said observers, has moved to provide OBC status to the four sub-castes with a clear eye on the forthcoming elections in Bihar, where he dare not displease the Yadavs, the numerically largest OBC group in the state. This is said to be one of the major reasons why none of the BJP leaders have supported the Patel agitation, even seeking to “look into” the Patel demand that says that either they should be given reservation or there shouldn’t be any reservation.
The move also comes amidst flutter among influential circles about the way Hardik Patel is moving ahead with his future plans. While intelligence sources have told Delhi that circles close to Modi’s veteran former bĂȘte noire Keshubhai Patel are supporting the Patel agitation in every possible way, a photograph is circulating showing Hardik with Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia, known to be a top Keshubhai supporter. Togadia, incidentally, is also a Patel.
A Government of India’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) note said, Union Cabinet at its meeting presided over by Modi on August 26 “gave its approval for the amendments in the Central list of OBCs in respect of two states (Gujarat and Uttarakhand) for making suitable amendments in the Central list of OBCs by way of inclusion/correction of castes/communities as per the advice received from the National Commission for OBCs.”
Those who have been given OBC status are Sipai and Patni Jamat or Turk Jamat (all Muslims) from Gujarat, and Kahar and Tanwar Singhariya from Uttarakhand. "The amendments will enable the persons belonging to these castes/communities to avail the benefits of reservation in government services and posts as well as in central educational institutions as per the existing policy," the PIB’s official statement said.
The Gujarat sub-castes who have been awarded OBC status by Government of India have long been part of the OBC list in Gujarat, said a senior state official. "They have long been in the OBC list", said KG Vanzara, responsible for permitting individuals as OBCs. Critics have accused Vanzara of denying OBC status to those Muslim youth who claim to be genuine OBCs.
"They will also become eligible for benefit under various welfare schemes, scholarships etc. being administered by the Central government, which are at present available to persons belonging to the OBCs," the statement added. The announcement came around the time Modi was appealing to people for peace, and Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel coming down heavily on Gujarat police for attacking Patidars allegedly without provocation.
Meanwhile, political circles are speculating that the Patel agitation was triggered by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat after he visited Surat on August 14. Circles in Gandhinagar quote BJP leaders as saying that Bhagwat met Patel diamond merchants during his Surat visit, where it was decided to "fund" the Patel agitation in a big way, and take it across India. Former BJP MLA from Rajkot Siddharth Parmar said, "The agitation was initiated by RSS, but went out of control. Now the RSS is worried."

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