ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Political Economy of the Jat Agitation for Other Backward Class Status

The changing caste realities in Haryana and their links with economic processes became visible in the protests of the Jats for Other Backward Class status. The concerns of the Jats are embedded in twin processes initiated in 1991: the “Market” and the “Mandal.” Led by economic liberalisation, the job market demands certain attributes and levels of education and social skills to profit from its growth process. The implementation of the Mandal Commission’s report has facilitated the relative mobility of lower castes such as OBCs and Dalits through reservations in government jobs and education. The Jats have responded to this crisis by changing the discourse from one of domination to one that highlights their deprivation to bolster their demands for OBC status.

This is a revised version of a paper presented at the Conference on Political Economy of Contemporary India, held at Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, 9–10 January 2017. The initial ideas for the paper emerged from the authors’ conversations with R Nagaraj. The authors thank Vijayabaskar, Atul Sood, Edward Rodrigues, Prem Chowdhry, and Utathya Chattopadhyaya for discussions with them that were useful in formulating arguments. The authors are also grateful for the constructive suggestions received from an anonymous EPW referee.

The protests by Jats for Other Backward Class (OBC) status in Haryana have opened up a debate on the relationship between economic processes and changing caste realities in India (Jaffrelot and Kalaiyarasan 2017; Palshikar 2016). The mobilisation of the Jats and their concerns have to be understood in the context of twin processes initiated in 1991—the “Market” (economic liberalisation) and “Mandal” (the implementation of reservations for OBCs following the Mandal Commission). Together, these two processes have changed the economic and political reality of Haryana and are a significant cause for the current crisis among the Jats.

Market signifies two broad economic processes. Led by economic liberalisation, the market offers higher returns to those who have a better education and have acquired skills. The current economic growth in Haryana, led by the service sector, demands certain attributes and levels of education and social skills (Kumar and Subramanian 2012; Sood 2016). The castes positioned above the Jats have benefited from some education and skills acquisition, and have been able to profit from this growth process. Since networks play a major role in accessing these economic sectors, caste networks also constitute a significant advantage (Munshi 2016). Those who do not fall within this caste network get excluded. With a few exceptions, the vast majority within castes such as the Jats are excluded from this process.

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Updated On : 15th Feb, 2019
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