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Congress leader Gohil "misinformed" about the OBC caste status of Modi, contend senior Gujarat academics

Shaktisinh Gohil
By Our Representative
Did senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil display his poor understanding of the caste system in Gujarat when he declared that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi does not belong to the other backward class (OBC) but to an upper caste? At least two top senior experts, known for their proficiency in sociology and history of Gujarat, have wondered “how could Gohil go so wrong” on Modi’s caste status. Gohil, who all-India Congress spokesperson, has created a ripple by “disclosing” that Modi included his caste, modh ghanchi, into the OBC list three months after he came to power through a government resolution dated January 1, 2002.
Well-known historian and activist Achyut Yagnik, author of two major books on history of Gujarat and Ahmedabad, published by Penguins, has said that the caste to which Modi belongs – modh ghanchi – is “very much part of the other backward class, and there is little or no need to cite government resolutions about it.” Arguing against Gohil, who said that “modhs are rich people living in a particular village”, Yagnik said, “This is totally wrong. If a particular caste or a jati has a different name it doesn’t lose its social backwardness.”
Professor of sociology at the Gujarat University, Gaurang Jani, taking a similar view, criticized Gohil for making an issue out of non-issue. Expert adviser to the state’s OBC commission, responsible for recommending castes which should be included in the OBC list, Jani said, “Ganchis were always considered a backward community in Gujarat, and there is nothing new about it. They were, of course, not as exploited as the Dalits or scheduled castes were, but their status in social hierarchy is well known.
Achyut Yagnik
Jani underlined, “It seems that Gohil, who belongs to Saurashtra, does not properly understand the caste dynamics and traditions of North Gujarat. Even if modh ghanchis were included in the OBC category in January 2002, as Gohil claims, the fact is, it often takes up to a decade for a particular caste to be included in the list of OBCs after it applies for it, such is the bureaucratic procedure.”
Pointing out that the sub-castes which consider Modheshwari as goddess are referred to as “modh” in Gujarat, Yagnik stressed, “The ganchis of North Gujarat, who used to eke a living by churning oil from edible oil, are known as telis in Uttar Pradesh, who are also OBC. Historically, whether it is ghanchis in North Gujarat, or telis in Uttar Pradesh, they have belonged to the backward class. No conservative upper caste person – a Brahmin or a Bania – would ever enter into a matrimonial relationship with a ghanchi.” He added, “It is immaterial if they were not included in the OBC list – that’s just a legal issue.”
A known critic of Modi’s politics and ideology, Yagnik said, “What’s a fact is a fact. How can you seek to disprove a reality? Mahatma Gandhi was a modh vania or bania, Dhirubhai Ambani was a modh vania, and there are Brahmin modhs, too, because their clans considered Modheshwari as their goddess. Same is true of Hindu ghanchis. But they are known to be socially and educationally backward.” Yagnik was once part the campaign committee for reservation following the Mandal commission recommendation in 1980 that socially and economically backward sections too should be provided reservation.
Gaurang Jani
Meanwhile, bureaucrat-turned-politician RM Patel, who is BJP MLA from the reserved scheduled caste seat of Asarwa, told Counterview that the decision to include the Hindu ghanchis in the OBC list was taken in 2002 when he was Gujarat’s social justice and empowerment secretary. “Till then, the Hindu ghanchis were recognized in the Government of India list alone as OBC. In Gujarat, only Muslim ghanchis were included in the OBC category. The file came to me to include the Hindu ghanchis, too, and I decided to add them in the OBC list”, the former bureaucrat who resigned from the IAS to fight on BJP ticket in 2012 added. 
Gohil had alleged in his statement on May 8, “Of late Gujarat chief minister has been indulging in a low level of political gimmickry. He has been desperately trying to invoke his OBC status and garner sympathy. Modi does not belong to OBC as he has been claiming to exploit OBC votes. He belongs to rich and prosperous modh ghanchis who were never given any kind of reservation nor were included in OBCs before Modi became chief minister.”
Saying that Modi included his caste into the OBC list in January 2002, the Congress leader said, Modi indulged in “subtle manipulation… The Ghanchis who were muslims were among OBCs, but not prosperous Modh Ghanchis to which Modi belongs. Modi Government issued a circular onJanuary 1, 2002 that modh ghanchis are also included in OBC. It must be noted that Modi became CM in October 2001.”
Gohil quoted from the authentic Gujarati lexicon Bhagvadgomandal which says that modh are rich people living in a particular village. Gandhiji was a modh vanik, he said. “Modh is an adjective showing prosperity status of a particular caste or community”, he said, adding, “By acquiring OBC status for his selfish motives, Modi has in fact encroached upon the right of members of OBC.”

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