Even a cursory glance at the list of the leaders who joined the agitations in support of and to protest the new reservation rules for appointment to Uttar Pradesh Civil Services in July-August 2013 is revealing. Whereas the local upper caste leaders of all political parties shed their political loyalties to join the anti-reservationists, the Dalit and OBC leaders of all political parties maintained a stoic silence.
Not only the Congress and the BJP, but leaders of Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj party (BSP), which claim to be great benefactors of the Dalits and OBCs, behaved in the same manner. And that is because the ‘party line’ was against the pro-reservationists. And that is why even the Dalit and OBC leaders of the BSP kept mum on the issue.
Pro-reservation lawyer Jai Singh says, “As soon as the pro-reservationists took to the streets, the SP leaders began working against them. They were thrown behind bars under serious charges. In contrast, the BSP MP Dhananjay Singh is not only helping the upper caste students from the streets to the Parliamentary but is also backing them financially. BJP heavyweight Kesarinath Tripathi is fighting the legal battle on their behalf”. As soon as the UPPSC results as per new reservation rules were announced. the upper caste students kicked up a big row. A delegation of upper caste students met SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, who assured them that the ‘interests of the General Category applicants would be taken care of. It may recalled here that when, in 2003, Mulayam Singh Yadav had taken over as chief minister after the resignation of Mayawati, he had travelled to Allahabad University straight from the oath-taking venue and addressing the students, had urged the OBCs to come forward and wage a battle for securing their rights. But when the pro-reservationists met his son, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on 31 July and demanded that the new rules should continue to be in force, he refused point blank to accept even a single one of their demands. After the failure of the talks, when the pro-reservationists started raising anti-government slogans, police rained lathis on them outside Raj Bhawan. In this lathi charge, many students, including Manoj Yadav, Vice-President of ‘Samajwadi Yuva Jansabha’, Allahabad sustained serious injuries. Manoj Yadav charged that on 8 August, when they were holding a peaceful demonstration, he was again targetted by the police. He was arrested and detained at the Cantonment Police Station and cases under half-a-dozen serious sections of the IPC were slapped on him in four different police stations of the city. When the OBC-Dalit students were being thrashed by the police, the BSP supremo Mayawati issued a statement saying that the ‘ “rules had been changed to benefit a particular caste. Poor upper caste members should also be given reservation’”. The idea was to appease the upper castes.
Dinesh Singh Yadav, President of the Allahabad University Students’ Union, who has been at the forefront of the pro-reservation agitation, says that while influential SP leaders Ramkrishna Yadav and Krishnamurti Yadav were making all possible efforts to suppress their agitation, none from the long list of OBC students’ leaders of Allahabad varsity (Former Vice-President Nirbhay Singh Patel, former President Hemant Kumar Tunnu, former general secretary Sangram Yadav) joined them. According to the pro-reservation student leaders of
Allahabad, “Former Vice-President of Allahabad University students’ union Nirbhay Singh Patel joined the protests on the first day but went missing from the next day onwards. It is said that he was instructed to keep away from the agitation by the top leadership of the SP”.
Of the 12 MLAs elected from Allahabad, 6 are either Dalits or OBCs and they have been elected on SP and BSP tickets. Not only that, the Allahabad division boasts of influential string of Dalit and Backward leaders, who are active in state-level politics but all of them scrupulously kept away from this agitation. Anupriya Patel, MLA and general secretary of ‘Apna Dal’ was the only exception. She gave company to pro-reservationists all through the agitation and emerged as their leader.
One pro-reservation students’ leader quoted the well-known lines of famous poet Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’ in the context of those who kept mum on a sensitive and long-term issue like reservations: ‘Samar Shesh Hai, Nahi Paap Ka Bhaagi Kewal Vyadh, Jo Tathastha Hain, Samay Likehga Unka Bhee Apradh’ (The battle remains to be fought; only the hunter is not the sinner. History will also record the sin of those who stood and watched).
Published in the September 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine
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