Since the current issue of reservation is affecting my state and community I would like to express my thoughts on the issue. I am not a celebrity or anything but it is precisely because I am an ordinary citizen that I think I have to convey my thoughts, especially when opinion of few celebrities not in touch with ground reality is taken for truth by the so-called “national media” which rarely bothers to venture out of their studios in Delhi (“tyranny of distance”!!!). I don’t know whether my opinion matters or not but I can’t allow people like Hardik Patel and Aakar Patel and lutyenites acting as the representative voices on the issue merely because of their surname and “stature”. Let me also clarify that these are just my genuine thoughts based on my own observations and not the arguments based on statistics or any such thing.
First of all let me specify that I am completely against reservation for Patels. By any standard Patels aren’t backward at all… neither socially nor politically nor academically. Yes in the past their condition wasn’t much different from the farmers of rest of the country. “Manavini Bhavai” (translated in English as Endurance – a droll saga) a novel written by eminent author Pannalal (a Patel himself) vividly depicts the tragic condition of farmers in 20th century rural Gujarat. Demand for reservation would have been justified at that time. However hard work of elder generation of Patels, along with strong emphasis on education of their children has yielded fruits and as of now they are a prosperous community by the standards of our country.It is also completely wrong perception that being in general category they are at disadvantage.
I studied in BJ Medical College, Ahmedabad and almost every batch has sizeable no. of students who are Patels (around 50 by very rough estimate). Almost every batch has one division invariably known as “Patel batch” since almost all the students of that division have Patel surname!!! It does include other castes like Kolis who also have Patel surname and enjoy benefits of reservation but Patidar Patels still have a sizeable presence. And situation was same even in 60s. Same scenario is probably applicable for other well-known institutes of the state including school level education. As such they are already doing well without any advantage of reservation. In fact rather than lamenting the lack of reservation they should feel proud of the fact that they prospered without any advantage of reservation. Not to mention that the reservation issue will actually weaken their political dominance even if accepted by drifting lower caste voters away from BJP.
Also I don’t completely agree with this “a person of SC/BC category with 45% marks can easily get admission in medical school while those in open category with 90% can’t get admission in well-known institutes” rhetoric that is being repeated in local newspapers. It is in fact one of the most potent propaganda tool being used to convince people to join their cause. I have many friends who got admission into medical schools via reservation and not all of them had low score. And even in college their performance is as good/bad as other students from open category.
Granted there are students who get admission with 45% marks but they don’t form the major bulk and their exclusion won’t change the picture drastically at all. Overall students from open category do have some disadvantage (including not getting any generous scholarship) but not all the people with 90% will get admission in their desired institutes even if reservation will be removed. Lets not live in any sort of delusion that only people in open category can achieve 90% score while rest are unable to do so. The root cause of that problem isn’t reservation but horrible deficiency of institutes for higher studies. In such situation reservation is rather an excuse or short cut approach for not developing proper education infrastructure. So lets agitate for better Education facilities in our country – a rather basic necessity that has been denied to poor citizens of this country for a very long time.
Another important point that I want to highlight is dubious role played by media. Normally any caste based politics should have been heavily criticized. But thanks to almost pathological obsession with Narendra Modi, they are glorifying this intellectually barren person in a hope to create a Gujarati Kejriwal. In a way it has always remained their fantasy to see the Patels shifting their support to somewhere else as it forms the significant portion of BJP votebank.It is because of the exact same intention that time to time they have come up with rumours that Patels are angry with Modi for the way he mistreated them by sidelining stalwarts like Keshubhai or are frustrated by a person like Modi from lower caste dominating them and other such funny things.
In reality however, Patels have remained loyal supporters to BJP. And in no way they have been sidelined in the party. Not only Anandiben but some 6-7 ministries of state are being controlled by Patels as of now. So they will keep supporting BJP irrespective of the current agitation since alternative is KHAM politics of Congress. While fortunately Gujarat hasn’t seen the horrible days of jungle raj of Bihar, KHAM politics created enough issuesin Gujarat and people still haven’t forgotten it. Let’s not forget that even in last state election when it came to choosing between stalwart Patel leader like Keshubhai and Modi they chose later. (I recall even at that time Anti Modi brigade from Delhi was encouraging Patels to leave BJP for Keshubhai). So there isn’t any reason to believe that they will rally behind some young goon in next election.
Most of the Patels that I have talked with are, either in favour of abolition of reservation or demand the reservation based on financial conditions or complain about “post mandal injustice” as mentioned in the recent blogpost of Mr. Rahul Roushan. It mentions how at one time Patels were agitating against reservation while today they are asking for reservation. It can’t be denied that there is indeed an element of truth in that observation but I personally think that even for the current agitation the root cause is same feeling of injustice as it was in the past. In the days of KHAM politics all the core members of the alliance except the Muslims were lavishly compensated by Congress with the reservation quota. Rather than any greed for reservation for themselves, it is the same feeling of injustice that other well to do communities like Choudharies unjustifiably got the advantage of reservation for political reasons, which is motivating Patels to support the cause. Unfortunately however when some mediocre person like Hardik Patel, who uses analogies with naxals and terrorists, is leading the movement, it is very hard to expect any proper articulation of the demand. Also many people are being delighted with the prospect of another agitation like Navnirman Andolan. It will just remain their fantasy. Navnirman was a result of genuine anguish of people against corruption aggravated by other factors like famine. Current agitation based of narrow caste based politics can not turn into such widespread movement in absence of any support from other communities especially when led by goons.
However the main issue that concerns me as a supporter of BJP government is rather worrisome reports of rowdy behaviour by police force of the state. I want to add or rather urge people not to discard the news of rowdy behaviour of police as rumours. I am not in Gujarat right now, but I was informed by my parents last night that police did indulge in vandalism at the night of rally. In my own housing society they came at midnight and in revenge mode broke cars parked inside the premises (half of the residents are actually not even Patels or even Gujaratis but apparently Police didn’t believe in caste discrimination I suppose!!!) and vandalized the private property while shouting “Who wants reservation?”. The same thing was repeated in many other societies in same locality. While punishment to those goons who supposedly assaulted police and damaged public property is desirable, it is completely unacceptable behaviour to harass normal citizens in such horrible.
Unfortunately Media has created such a bad reputation for itself, (especially when it comes to reporting Gujarat) that once media reports something, people tend to believe opposite. And that is exactly what has happened in this case. Since people like Rajdeep Sardesai has reported police breaking vehicles of ordinary citizens, people are now discarding it as rumour. In fact even I would have done exactly same thing. But these brutal steps taken by Police will hurt the reputation of BJP even more by creating bitterness among public than those hollow rallies of Hardik Patel, which would have been just a temporary affair otherwise. So it can’t be ignored merely for the purpose of saving face on social media. The government shouldn’t make hero out of Hardik Patel which is exactly what the government is doing right now. Rejection of demand for reservation won’t affect the prospects of BJP much but such injudicious use of power will certainly antagonize the people and may lead to serious repercussion. So it needs to be heavily criticized and thoroughly investigated before it creates more bitterness among people.