[A Jat leader, Satpal Singh Sangwan, a retired government official, said in an interview that officials had assured him that the Jat group would be added to a list of more than 2,000 other groups considered “backward,” making their members eligible for quotas in government jobs and university admissions.]
Despite securing a deal to be provided with more government jobs, Jat demonstrators
near New Delhi continued their protests, seeking a different caste classification
and more affirmative action. By REUTERS on Publish Date February 22, 2016.
Photo by European Pressphoto Agency. Watch in Times Video »
The protests by the caste group, the Jats, had blocked roads around the capital, set fire to railway stations and cars, and temporarily shut down a crucial canal that is a major source of the city’s water. Nineteen people were killed in the violence in surrounding
, and fears of water shortages
led Haryana State to close its schools to conserve its supply. New Delhi
The main thoroughfare in the area, Grand Trunk Road, which had been reopened on Sunday, was blocked again by fighting on Monday morning, the police said. Still, a state official said, 80 percent of the roads that had been closed were open again on Monday morning.
Roshan Shankar, an adviser to the
government, said the authorities had regained control of a
canal that supplied water to Delhi , though the canal was badly damaged. For
now, he said, the government was using existing reserves and other water bodies
to meet the need. He said severe, widespread shortages had not been reported so
far. New Delhi
Nevertheless, he added, officials were “trying to get people to ration.”
A Jat leader, Satpal Singh Sangwan, a retired government official, said in an interview that officials had assured him that the Jat group would be added to a list of more than 2,000 other groups considered “backward,” making their members eligible for quotas in government jobs and university admissions.
“We’re not 100 percent satisfied, but it’s a beginning,” he said.
A year ago, another relatively prosperous caste group, in the state of
Gujarat, also demanded,
unsuccessfully, to be part of the “backward classes.” Yet the latest caste
protests are only the most violent and visible in what has been a steady stream
of requests from different caste groups claiming to be “backward.”
It is one of the country’s major paradoxes that a population that has been trying for decades to rid itself of the caste system finds so many groups demanding to be ranked lower on the socioeconomic ladder in order to advance themselves economically.
Experts say the trend is being driven by increasing numbers of Indians who fear being left behind in the rapidly modernizing economy and who see government quotas as the only tangible way they can gain influence to help better themselves economically.
Vast numbers of Indians now “feel totally helpless with regard to the economy and private capital,” said Satish Deshpande, a sociology professor at
. Delhi University
“There’s a disillusionment,” said Harsh Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College in
, because “the private sector
is now passing them by.” London
Despite the economic liberalization that began here in the 1990s, many people still lack jobs and educational opportunities, intensifying the competition for the age-old staple of government jobs. Almost half of government jobs and university seats in the country are reserved for members of special groups.
India’s Constitution guarantees equality to all, but it also enshrines caste-based affirmative action for the lowest social group, the Dalits, known in legal terms as scheduled castes, and for indigenous forest-dwellers, known as scheduled tribes. In time, the government created a third group, the Other Backward Classes.
In many cases, groups flex their electoral muscles to induce the government to add them to the list of groups considered backward.
The Jats started on that path. In 2014, as national elections approached, the incumbent Congress party agreed to their demand for backward status. But the Supreme Court struck down the decision last year, noting that a commission set up to review the program had refused to recommend such a step for the group.
Even as the
government on Monday was
announcing its intention to allow the Jats to be considered among the “backward
classes,” P. K. Das, the additional chief secretary of Haryana, which adjoins Haryana State , said in an interview that the
path was complicated by the legal issues already raised by the Supreme Court.
But he said the government would have to try to draw up a plan that passed
legal muster this time around so the Jats could be included. New Delhi
Mr. Das said the decision was made in a meeting Sunday between the state and central government, both of which are run by the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
After the announcement of the deal, state and federal government officials said the violence that escalated over the weekend had subsided in most parts of Haryana, although sporadic episodes continued. Protesters on Monday set fire to the car of a magistrate in one area and burned several cars of a freight train, the Haryana police said.
The Jat protests became so out of hand over the weekend that the Indian Army had to be called in. Mr. Das said several protesters were killed in clashes with another caste group whose property was being burned. Other people were killed when law enforcement officials fired at protesters who had turned violent, he said. At least 19 people in all have been killed, Mr. Das said.
The riots also disrupted businesses. Maruti Suzuki
, the country’s biggest car
manufacturer, said over the weekend that it had suspended manufacturing at two
area factories. India
Suhasini Raj contributed reporting.