The Jat Reservation Agitation is a series of ongoing protests by Jat people of North India, especially those in the state of Haryana. The protesters are seeking inclusion of their caste in the Other Backward Class (OBC) category, which would make them eligible for affirmative action benefits.
The protest started on 12 February and violence was observed on and after 20 February. In Haryana, the protesters blocked highways and railway lines. They also blocked water supply to the neighbouring Delhi, resulting in a temporary water crisis in that state. The Government deployed Indian Army and paramilitary forces to control the protest. By 25 February 2016, 28 people had been killed and 200 more had been injured in Haryana; 127 people had been arrested.
The Jat agitation has left 28 dead and 200 injured in Haryana. The state police force has so far arrested 127 persons for indulging in violence during the 10-day agitation for reservation, and registered 535 FIRs.
The Jat people are a traditionally agricultural community in Northern India. In 2016, the total Jat population in India was estimated to be around 82.5 million. In Haryana, they form 29% of the state’s population. As of 2016, 7 out of state’s 10 chief ministers had been Jats. In Uttar Pradesh, the Jats form less than 6% of the population, but their concentration in Western Uttar Pradesh makes them an important vote bank in more than 50 assembly seats.
The Central Government of India as well as the various State Governments categorize certain socially backward castes as Other Backward Classes (OBC). The castes listed in this category have been eligible for affirmative action benefits since 1991. Collectively, these castes have reserved quotas in government jobs, admissions to educational institutes, scholarships and other areas. The communities which are included in OBC are different in different states. The OBCs have 27% reservation; in addition, there are other classes which enjoy reservation benefits: the Scheduled Castes (15%) and the Scheduled Tribes (7.5%). In all, 49.5% of the seats are reserved for these three groups. Some state governments have tried to create additional reservation quotas, but the Supreme Court of India has ruled that the reservation cannot exceed 50%.
According to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) guidelines, to be classified as OBC, a caste has to satisfy the following criteria:
- Social: The caste should be considered as socially backward by other castes
- Educational: The caste’s school non-enrollment rate should be at least 25% above the state average
- Economic: The assets of the average caste family should be at least 25% below the state average
Jats have sought to get themselves included in the OBC category in order to get the reservation benefits. Before the 2016 protests, they had already been given OBC status in 7 states: Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. However, Jats were not included in the Central Government’s list of OBC castes. Also, in Punjab and Haryana, the Jats did not enjoy any reservation benefits. In Rajasthan, the Jats from Bharatpur and Dholpur districts were excluded from the OBC list, as the former kingdoms of Bharatpur and Dholpur had been ruled by Jats.
We accepted their anger with humility and will make efforts for their rehabilitation and getting them full compensation for their losses. Due to carelessness and failure on the part of the state government, huge loss was caused to shops, showrooms, malls, dhabas, hotels, houses etc and innocent lives were lost.