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

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On the Question of Backwardness

The demand by Gujarat's Patidar community for a share in the Other Backward Classes reservation quota is not just a demand to get wishes fulfilled but seems a strategic conspiratorial plan to get rid of the reservation policy. It challenges the foundational premises and determinants of backwardness, the grounds of entitlement to the benefits of the reservation policy.

The demand of the Patels or the Patidar community of Gujarat for inclusion in the list of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) is a potential threat to the constitutional basis of identifying a group/class as “backward”—a classification that leads to a community being included in the appropriate beneficiary list. Widespread and virulent public agitation with anti-reservation slogans is not a new phenomenon in India. But mobilisation at such a scale and organisation of mega rallies has been rare in the tumultuous history of the reservation movement. The movement of the Patels is also distinctive in another respect. It demands a share for the Patel community in the OBC quota, while not overtly opposing the reservation policy.

Given the publicly known fact that the Patels of Gujarat are a politically and economically powerful community, their demand for inclusion in the list of OBCs requires careful examination of the criteria of identifying backwardness. The proclamation of the Patel community about its backwardness, and its demand—that has taken coercive proportions—to be counted among the socially and economically weaker communities in Gujarat challenges the very foundation of the reservation policy: the criteria for identification of backwardness.

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