Jats and Reservations in Haryana

Stooping to Conquer

The demand for reservation by Jats has grown stronger in the past four months. Does this demand reflect the changing political economy of rural Haryana? A historical analysis.

Affirmative action policies have been typical to nations and institutions aiming to provide greater representation to marginalised groups and communities in various spheres of life. India has had a long tradition of affirmative action or “reservation” policy for the socially and educationally backward communities, a policy deeply resented and opposed by the elite/forward communities. While these policies have only been marginally successful in ameliorating the condition of the backwards, it is the socially “forward” communities which are now aggressively demanding reservation.

This shift in the elite discourse has threefold implications. First, it challenges the logic of reservation policy, which is now vulnerable to elite capture. Second, it also flexes its muscle in the electoral arena revitalising identity politics and patron–client relations. Third, the elite demand resurrects the idea of a welfare state in an economy which is rapidly liberalising. This article attempts to flesh out the policy and politics that drives the contemporary demand for reservation from the Jat community in Haryana.

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