The apparent success of Hardik Patel-led campaign for reservations seems to be emboldening other groups to start similar campaigns.
Shri Rajput Karni Sena, which was in the news for threatening have artists associated with the film Padmavati beheaded, has now warned the BJP government in Rajasthan that it will unleash a nationwide campaign to seek a system of reservation in jobs that will benefit forward castes as well. It also demanded a permanent ban on the film Padmavati.
Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi, the leader of the organization, also accused the Vasundhara Raje government of showing duplicity in its dealings with the organization so far.
He said the Raje government had promised to take legal action against the makers of the film, but has filed two cases against “Rajput leaders”.
“I want to remind the government that if you can go back on your word, we too can hurt you. We will campaign against you,” Gogamedi said.
Gogamedi said his organization is restarting its agitation from today, and will conduct campaigns in 19 states in India.
It remains to be seen if the Karni sena is able to generate the same kind of support this time as it was able to in the case of Padmavati, the film.
A month ago, protests spearheaded by the Sena hogged the headlines on TV channels for several days, forcing the government to clarify that Padmavati — a film on a Rajput queen from Rajasthan — was still under the certification process. The protests forced the producers to cancel the year-end release of the film.
Besides the issue of permanently banning the Padmavati — a film currently under review by the Board of Film Certification — the campaign will seek the extension of reservation benefits to the poor among upper castes.
“Even among the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, there are many people who have not got the benefits of reservations yet. Providing reservations on economic basis will help these people as well,” Gogamedi said.
Reservations were put in place by the Constitution of India to guarantee a minimum level of presence in government and higher education to those communities that were chronically underrepresented in these spheres.
Rajputs, the former ruling class of Rajasthan, were not covered by the protection as the community was found to be well represented in both government and higher education at the time.
Agitations by the Rajput community for reservations could compound the problems faced by the BJP in Rajasthan and nearby states like Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
The party barely managed to scrape through in Gujarat state elections after a powerful agitation by the dominant Patel community for reservations nearly spoiled its chances.
The demand for reservations from the upper castes is not new.
Many forward caste groups and organizations have been demanding reservations in government for years.
Such demands are based on one of two reasons — the presence of poor people in these communities or a dip in representation levels in government and higher education in recent decades.
They point out that being ‘upper caste’ is not of much use if their youngsters are not able to do well in competitive exams and secure the required number of jobs and seats to guarantee a proportionate representation for the community in jobs and education.
In particular, Rajputs of Rajasthan have increasingly fallen behind other communities in getting education and gaining government jobs.
The BJP, which was heavily dependent on upper caste votes before the Modi-era, has already tried to extend reservation benefits to forward castes in Rajasthan. In 2015, the Raje government passed a bill to provide a 14% reservation in government jobs to forward castes.
However, the move was struck down by the Rajasthan High Court, which argued that setting apart more than half of the total seats to specific communities will affect the overall quality of recruits and drag down the efficiency of the government machinery.