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Quota stir: Hardik Patel detained ahead of India-South Africa ODI in Rajkot after protest threat

Rajkot: Patel quota agitation leader Hardik Patel was on Sunday detained by police while he was on his way to Khandheri Cricket Stadium in the city ahead of the India-South Africa One day international (ODI) match in Rajkot.

Minutes before his detention, the 22-year-old leader, who had earlier threatened to stage protests at the ODI venue on their reservation demand, told reporters that he just wanted to watch the match like a common spectator.

File photo. Image courtesy: PTIFile photo. Image courtesy: PTI

File photo. Image courtesy: PTI

Following his threat, the Rajkot administration had last night banned mobile Internet services in the district.

“Police detained Hardik Patel from Madhapar cross road area today when he was on his way to Khandheri Cricket Stadium in the city, where an ODI between India and South Africa is scheduled to be played,” Superintendent of Police of Jamnagar (Rural) Pradip Sejul told PTI.

Hardik, the spearhead of Patel quota agitation and convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), and around four of his supporters were detained when he was going to the cricket stadium in the attire of a farmer, he said.

Rajkot (Rural) Superintendent of Police Gagandeep Gambhir said Hardik was taken to SRP headquarters in Ghanteswar area on the city’s outskirts.

“We have not come here to protest, but we just want to watch the match with our Patidar (Patel) brothers. Like many other spectators who have come here to cheer up Indian team. We have tickets for the match also,” Hardik said.

“I want to urge to the people to keep calm and not to do anything that will breach peace and law and order situation of Gujarat,” he said.

Hardik, the convener of the Patidar Anamant Andolan Samiti (PAAS), had earlier said that they will block the way of two teams and not allow them to reach the stadium and gherao the venue if he and his supporters were not allowed to go inside to protest.

He had also urged the Patel community members to remain present in large number during the Rajkot match to raise their reservation demand for which they have been agitating for couple of months.

As per the PAAS, they chose the cricket match as they want the “world to know how Patel community is being harassed in the so-called development model of Gujarat”.

In the wake of the threat and given the large scale violence the state witnessed recently over the quota stir, police have fortified the stadium, located on the outskirts of Rajkot city at Khandheri village, which will host the third cricket match under the Gandhi-Mandela freedom series.


Quotas, Art 370: Why BR Ambedkar would not recognise our Constitution today

It is perhaps just a coincidence that around the same time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the permanency of the quota system in India, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court claimed that Article 370 was not a temporary provision in the Constitution, but a permanent one.

Modi, possibly with an eye on the Dalit and OBC vote in the ongoing Bihar elections, said in Mumbai on Sunday, “We believe in the principles of Dr Ambedkar and his teachings of inclusive growth. The reservation policy is something Dr Ambedkar has given to the country, and no power can take it away.”

BR Ambedkar. AFP

BR Ambedkar. AFP

It is worth recalling that BR Ambedkar never intended the Constitution’s provisions to be cast in stone – especially provisions that are not central to basic values and fundamental rights. But even he may not have realised how making things super-flexible could end up subverting the core liberal ideas behind the original Constitution. With 100 amendments in 68 years, what we have today is not Ambedkar’s constitution. It is closer to Stalin’s ideals than Ambedkar’s.

It is one thing to focus on uplifting the poor and backward, quite another to presume that permanent reservations and continued extension of the quota system to more and more communities is the right, or even the only, way to achieve social justice. With every community now demanding quotas, including the Patels of Gujarat and even some Brahmins, in due course the quota system will soon become a monster at odds with the basic principles of social justice. Modi may not be able to tinker with the quota system much, but quotas cannot be the only medicine for social injustice.

The J&K High Court last week pandered to another political constituency – the Kashmir Valley’s fixation on Article 370, which gives the state special powers that other Indian states do not enjoy. “Article 370, though titled ‘Temporary provision’ and included in Para XXI titled ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’, has assumed a place of permanence in the constitution,” the high court bench said on Saturday (10 October). The court added for good measure: “It (article 370) is beyond amendment, repeal or abrogation in as much as the constituent assembly of the state, before its dissolution, did not recommend its amendment or repeal.” (Italics mine)

This interpretation is truly a travesty. If the word “temporary” can be equated with “permanent”, we might as well burn all dictionaries, as every word can be given the meaning any individual desires to give it. No one can then understand what anyone else is saying.

Just as Modi should not presume that any idea inserted into the original Indian Constitution – beyond fundamental rights – is inviolate, there is absolutely no need to think Article 370 is cast in stone. Of course, it is possible to argue in favour of more powers for all states, but a plain reading of Article 370 leaves us with no alternative but to assert that it was inserted only as a temporary measure.

Unfortunately in India, bad ideas – even when accepted temporarily – tend to become permanent in a constitutional scheme of things as even minuscule minorities have the power to block good legislation, but not the power to act positively in the national interest. The Constitution, as it now stands, thus needs a complete overhaul.

Much as we would like to pretend that whatever Ambedkar did with the Constitution was the last word in law-making, the great man himself had no illusions about what he had created. Speaking in a debate in parliament in 1953, he made it plain that much of what was written into the Constitution was the result of a broader consensus. His precise words were that he did what he was asked to do. This is what he said in reply to a member: “Now sir, we have inherited a tradition. People always keep saying to me ‘oh, you are the maker of the Constitution.’ My answer is I was a hack. What I was asked to do I did much against my will.”

Later on, he said quite clearly: “My friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody…”.

If Ambedkar could have said this barely three years after the Constitution was ratified, surely he would be the first one to take a matchbox to it. This is not to say he will want the Constitution or quotas to be dumped; just that he believed the Constitution could be changed when needed if it did not serve any purpose.

Ambedkar gave India a flexible Constitution partly because he felt that he should not tie the hands of future generations, when the needs of the country may be different from the one he was preparing the initial Constitution for. His mistake, if any, was possibly to make amendment of the Constitution too easy, and in just over 68 years of independence, we managed 100 amendments, with another couple of scores of them being lined up for the future. The US, after 240 years of freedom, has managed all of 27 amendments.

Any Constitution must be built on two ideas: a bedrock of values (like free speech, free association, freedom to carry on a profession, trade or business, equality before the law, etc) that must remain fairly unalterable over long periods in a country’s life; we can also have other (good to have) constitutional or legislative amendments that can be added or subtracted over time (right to food, education, etc) provided these do not transgress any of first set of basic values and fundamental rights of citizens. The right to quotas and free food belong to the latter category. They are not central to our constitutional scheme of things. The right to dignity and affirmative action to help the historically disadvantaged does not mean a permanent right to quotas.

But what we have seen is a consistent effort to devalue fundamental rights even while we have proliferated laws, including constitutional amendments, to further the cause of non-freedom and politically-induced freebie culture.

The first amendment to the Constitution, which put a limit on free speech, came even before the ink had dried on Ambedkar’s document. Since then, we have whittled down rights (privacy rights, property rights), even religious rights of the majority community, with the state meddling in the same. We are now a free Republic with little chains attached to every limb.

As Shruti Rajagopalan, Assistant Professor of Purchase College, State University of New York, noted, the pursuit of socialism has had the net effect of curtailing the rule of law and fundamental rights. In a paper titled “Incompatible institutions: socialism versus constitutionalism in India,” she says that the “formal institutions of socialist planning were fundamentally incompatible with the constraints imposed by the Indian Constitution. This incompatibility led to frequent amendments to the Constitution, especially in the area of Fundamental Rights. Consequently, pursuit of socialist policies gradually undermined the Constitution. The contradictory mixture of socialism and constitutionalism led to economic and political deprivations.” (You can hear her views on Youtube here.)

By passing 100 constitutional amendments in the name of socialism and the poor, what we essentially have today is not Ambedkar’s original tome, but a mish-mash of illiberal ideas masquerading as pro-poor law. It bears no resemblance to what was originally intended by our founding fathers.

Many of these amendments were carried out when the Congress party ruled both houses of parliament and in most of the states. They thus emasculated states, reduced the citizen’s rights to equality, and ground the rule of law to dust. The judiciary was thwarted with the creation of the Ninth Schedule (laws put into this schedule cannot be constitutionality challenged). During Indira Gandhi’s emergency, parliament even inserted two new ideas in the preamble to the Constitution – the words “Secular” and “Socialist.” Even if one need not quarrel with the word secular, surely socialism cannot be decreed to be an over-arching goal for the Republic? Freedom is incompatible with state direction of economic activities.

So what we essentially need today is a new Constitution that protects basic values strongly, and also realigns it to new realities. For example, it makes no sense to have a concurrent list where both Centre and state can legislate. The grey area of concurrent legislation ensures that only the worst laws will find a consensus between Centre and states – like the UPA’s Food Security Act, and Right to Education Act, the Land Acquisition Act etc – which are politically difficult to repudiate.

Our Constitution needs a complete overhaul from the ground up, with socialists mangling it out of shape. We should honour Ambedkar’s innate wish that new realities call for a new Constitution.

It will be a long, frustrating fight: What Patidar’s should learn from the ‘Rajasthan model’ on reservation

History repeats itself, sometimes as an agitation, sometimes as a package.

Events in Gujarat and Rajasthan have begun to mimic happenings in the two states after two reservation movements. It is likely they would converge at a point, but, if the denouement of the Gurjar reservation stir is an indication, the Patels should start getting ready for a long and frustrating fight.

On Thursday night, the Gujarat government announced a Rs 1000-crore package to support students pursue higher education. It also relaxed the age limit for government jobs from 28 to 33 years for the general category and from 33 to 38 in the reserved category.

Hardik Patel speaks at a protest. IbnliveHardik Patel speaks at a protest. Ibnlive

Hardik Patel speaks at a protest. Ibnlive

It can easily be argued that both the decisions contradict each other. On the one hand the government wants more youngsters to get trained for the job market, on the other it is increasing the competition by making older candidates eligible. The strategy of raising the age bar works only when the market is flooded with jobs and the number of eligible candidates is in short supply. But, in Gujarat’s case, the Patidars are agitating because of lack of opportunities. Making more yougsters queue up for non-existing jobs would only lead to more anger and frustration.

But, the Gujarat government seems to be worried more about nostrums, even placebos to counter the growing menace of casteism and the epidemic of quota-clamour. And it is relying on the ‘Rajasthan model’ of dealing with the reservation fever, which is based on the strategy of denying, delaying, obfuscating and then finally passing on the headache to the judiciary.

The Rajasthan model

Two days ago, the Vasundhara Raje government yet again passed a bill that allows 14% reservation to economically backward classes (EBCs) and 5% quota to socially backward classes (SBCs), mainly the Gurjars. Together the two bills take reservation in Rajasthan to 68%, a figure that violates the 50% bar on quota.

The latest bill is just old wine in new bottle. In 2008, the then Raje government had passed a similar bill to placate the Gurjars demanding quota under a separate category. Till then, the Gurjars were part of the OBC list, but they were demanding quota in a separate category because of their inability to compete with the other castes clubbed with them. Since assembly elections were on the horizon, Raje dangled the quota carrot also in front of the general category by introducing reservation on economic basis.

The Gurjars went home happy; their leader Kirori Singh Bainsla joined the BJP, contested (and lost) the Lok Sabha polls and everything seemed settled. But within days the courts stayed the new law, questioned the government decision of exceeding the 50 percent limit and forced Gurjars to launch a new agitation.

The latest bill passed by the Raje government is another attempt to pass on the quota benefits to SBCs and EBCs. This time it has separated the two quotas (5 percent and 14 percent) and is planning to get the new law included in Schedule IX of the Constitution by the Parliament. But, it is unlikely the courts will allow Rajasthan to exceed the 50 percent limit, which is waived off only under special circumstances.

The lessons for Patidars

The Gurjars did not get their reservation law easily. Like the Patidars of Gujarat, their demand was first rejected. But, when the stir turned violent, Raje, just like Anandiben Patel, announced a special package for Gurjars. Not impressed with the gimmick, the Gurjars intensified their stir and forced the Rajasthan government to pass a law, even if it ran violated the Constitution.

The Patidars must have noted the glaring dichotomy in the BJP politics on reservation. In Gujarat, the BJP government is denying them quota benefits arguing it is impossible to raise quota beyond 50 percent. In Rajasthan, the Raje government is doing the exact opposite, by making the state first in north India to breach the legal bar.

Another glaring contradiction is Rajasthan’s attempt to tweak the reservation criteria, an idea mooted recently by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Though the BJP central leadership has denied that it wants to re-examine the quota system, the Rajasthan government is doing the exact opposite. It is not only tinkering with the 50 percent bar, but also introducing reservation to economically backward classes.

The Patidars will be watching the developments in the neighbouring state carefully. They know that just like in Rajasthan, even in Gujarat the BJP can be brought to its knees by pressing hard for their demands and not settling for “lollypops” like packages.

In this fight, history is by their side.

OBC status row: Patel community leader Hardik detained, released after violence spreads

Ahmedabad: Police on Tuesday night detained Hardik Patel, who has been spearheading the Patel community’s agitation for reservations, as he launched a hunger strike after the rally at the GMDC ground without permission, officials said.

However, Patel was released by Ahmedabad police after violence over his detention spread.

Hardik Patel was detained after he launched a hunger strike demanding OBC status for his community. PTI

Hardik Patel was detained after he launched a hunger strike demanding OBC status for his community. PTI

“Vastrapur police station’s inspector MM Shaikh today went to the GMDC ground and detained Hardik Patel as he sat on dharna (and hunger strike) without taking police permission,” police station officer Pravin Solanki told PTI.

When asked where Hardik has been taken, Solanki said, “Hardik has been taken to the city police headquarters in Shahibaugh here as police suspected that if Hardik was kept at Vastrapur police station, people will gather there to protest.”

Hardik Patel’s aide and spokesperson of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti Chirag Patel alleged that the police beat up the protesters including some children and women before taking Hardik away.

“Police first switched off all the lights at GMDC ground and then took Hardik somewhere. Before that, police lathicharged and even beat up women and small children,” Patel alleged.

During the massive rally of Patels on Tuesday to demand reservations under OBC category, Hardik Patel made a sudden announcement that he will sit on a hunger strike, and demanded that Chief Minister Anandiben Patel should come to the venue to accept memorandum of the Samiti.

Ketan Patel, Nikhil Savani and Dhiru Mandaviya had joined Hardik Patel in the hunger strike. According to Hardik, Nikhil Savani was on indefinite hunger strike, while he and two others will be on hunger strike for 48 hours.

“We expect the CM to come here in two days. We will announce future course of action after that,” Hardik had had said earlier.


Gujjars call off agitation after Rajasthan govt promises them 5% quota in govt jobs

Gujjars called of their agitation late on Thursday after the Rajasthan government assured them of bringing a bill to provide them five percent quota in government jobs.

Given the strike has been called off, the Rajdhani route between Mumbai and Delhi could be restored soon.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The development comes after fresh talks between a Gujjar delegation led by Kirori Singh Bainsla and a committee of three Rajasthan ministers that began in Jaipur on Thursday evening to resolve the stand-off over the issue of 5 per cent job reservation as demanded by the community.

These were expected to be the final talks between the two sides as the ministers and Bainsla had indicated positive development.

“We hope to reach a consensus on the issue,” state Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajendra Rathore had said before the meeting.

Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla had said that the two sides had progressed on the issue and expected that the meeting would be fruitful.

On issue of Rajasthan High Court’s direction to the state government on Wednesday to clear tracks and highways that Gujjar agitators have occupied, Bainsla said the community respects the court.

However, the tracks have not been cleared so far.

Meanwhile, Centre had dispatched 4,500 paramilitary personnel to Rajasthan to assist the state government in handling the agitation that has hit traffic on Delhi-Mumbai rail route and Jaipur-Agra national highway.

The agitators had been blocking rail tracks and roads in three districts for over a week now to press for five per cent quota in government jobs.

Members of the community are squatting on the railway track in Pilukapura in Bharatpur, on NH-11 at Sikandara in Dausa and a state highway in Sawaimadhopur.

With PTI inputs

Govt will try to find solution for Jat reservation issue within legal framework, says PM Modi

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the government will try to find a solution within the legal framework on the issue of Supreme Court scrapping reservation for Jats.

He stated this to a 70-member delegation of Jats from various states which met him here to discuss issues related to the community, including the recent Supreme Court decision regarding reservation.

Narendra Modi. PTINarendra Modi. PTI

Narendra Modi. PTI

“The Prime Minister listened carefully to the issues raised by the delegation. He said the government is studying the Supreme Court decision and will try to find a solution to the issue within the legal framework,” a PMO statement said.

The top court on March 17 scrapped reservation for the Jat community given by the UPA government in nine states.

Setting aside the notification extending the OBC status to Jats, the apex court slammed the Centre’s decision to overlook the finding of an OBC panel that Jat is not a backward class.

“Caste, though a prominent factor, cannot be the sole factor of determining the backwardness of a class,” the bench had said, while referring to the historic judgement rendered by a larger bench on the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations on OBC reservations.

During the meeting with the Jat delegation, the Prime Minister urged them to take the lead in implementing his favourite campaign of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (save daughter, educated daughter).


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