Time for Cong to grab Jat bull by the horns
13 May 2010, 0401 hrs IST,ET Bureau
CHANDIGARH/NEW DELHI: Congress may have asked Kurukshetra MP Naveen
Jindal to explain his support for Khap panchayats, which demanded a
same-gotra marriages, but it has been struggling to control
controversies created by the Jat community in Haryana.
The Khap panchayats, infamous for backing honour killings, had forced
Mr Jindal to say, "its not about right or wrong, they need to be
heard. We will take up the issue within the party and see what can be
arrived at within the legal framework."
Jat leaders of Congress from Haryana of late have been spectators to a
spate of gory incidents that can be attributed to social practices out
of sync with civilisation. The question in the Congress leadership's
mind may be whether the answer to the problem lies in a non-Jat
leadership, where 25% to 27% electorate comprise Jats.
With Jat politicians supporting Khaps and the recent attack against
Dalits, the political temperature in the state has gone up. In
Mirchpur, more than 20 houses of Dalits were torched by Jats,
resulting in the death of 18-year-old physically challenged Suman and
her father Tara Chand.
Caste barriers in Haryana are so strong that even an altercation over
a trivial matter like a pet dog of a Dalit can flare up into a
carnage. The incident at Mirchpur bears testimony to this. In the last
few months, such similar caste issues related to Khap panchayats has
pushed Haryana to the edge and put chief minister Bhupinder Singh
Hooda on a sticky wicket.
BSP has managed to keep the issue alive. The Khap panchayat's demand
that the Hindu Marriage Act be amended to ban same-lineage marriage
has only added fuel to the fire.
In the past four decades, the only non-Jat satrap to govern the
Jat-dominated state has been three-time chief minister Bhajan Lal. The
other leader to have led the state as its non-Jat CM was Banarsi Das
Gupta. Though he was catapulted to the coveted post twice, his tenures
were quite short.
Political scientists believe that with the changing socio-economic
scenario Dalits in villages have started asking for their rights. On
the other hand, Khaps mainly comprising upper caste landlords want to
maintain a status quo. Dalits constitute 19.3% of Haryana's population
and Valmikis 19.2% of the Dalit population. In UP, the community is
hardly 5% of the Dalit population.
"Today these Dalits want the land they have been tilling for ages to
be registered in their names. They are more aware about their rights
and want equality. Its also a fact Khaps came in existence to save the
Jat community from Muslims. Earlier it was a fight between Hindu Jats
and Muslims. Today its Jat Khaps versus lower castes," says political
scientist Dr Ronki Ram from the department of political science Panjab
Parties like Bhajan Lal's Haryana Janhit Congress and BSP are sure to
make gains. BSP had polled 15.73% votes, more than INLD (15.67 %) in
recent parliamentary elections. Together the vote percentage of
HJC-BSP was 25%. BJP had polled 12%. NDA partners had contested five
seats each, while BSP had fielded candidates in all 10 seats in the
Lok Sabha polls.
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