The State-wide agitation by the politically and economically powerful Patidar community in Gujarat demanding reservation benefits and status of OBC (other backward class) may spur caste conflicts in the State as the OBC are now coming out openly launching their agitation against the Patidar’s’ movement.
Under the banner of “Save Reservation Committee,” dozens of the communities recognised as socially and economically backward castes (SEBC) and enjoy 27% reservation in the education and government jobs, is organising a huge rally in Ahmedabad on Sunday ahead of the Patels’ show of strength on August 25.
A 22-year-old Hardik Patel, who has become the face of the protest, has announced that more than two million Patidars would gather in Ahmedabad.
So far, the Patidars have held protest march or rallies in over a dozen towns including Surat where more than three lakh people joined while the Vadodara rally on Friday was attended by over one lakh people.
The OBC leaders have unanimously raised their concern that the Patels, who constitutes 13-15 % population of the State, 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, a non political platform created by the leaders of the various OBC communities.‘Situation volatile’
“The situation is volatile and will spill into clashes if the government does not intervene and control it,” Mr. Thakor added.
In Gujarat, 146 castes including over a dozen cases to of Muslims are recognised as SEBC or OBCs.
“The way things are moving and the way this agitation by the Patels gained strength from across the State, it appears that there may be castes clashes involving Patel Vs OBCs as had happened in the 1980s when the OBC quotas were introduced in the State,” said noted social scientist Achyut Yagnik.
It 1981, the then State government headed by Madhavsinh Solanki introduced reservation benefits for SEBC communities based on recommendations of Baxi commission, which recognised 81 communities under the SEBC. The move had triggered anti-reservation agitation led by the Patels and other upper castes and spilled into major riots in which around three dozen persons were killed.SEBC list expanded
However, the subsequent government have kept adding more communities in the SEBC list and at present, 146 communities are identified as such.
Subsequently in 1985 , anti-reservation agitation culminated into the riots killing over 100 people and also dislodging Mr. Solanki , who returned to power with a landslide victory of 149 of 182 assembly seats in the State. Mr. Solanki had used KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslims), formula while undermine upper castes like Patel, Brahmin and Bania.
“We are hoping that violence does not break out as the agitation from different communities are escalating making the situation very delicate to handle,” a BJP leader told The Hindu .