The Uttar Pradesh government unleashed its full coercive might to somehow prevent the holding of the Mahapanchayat under the banner of Samajik Nyaya Morcha (social justice front) at Allahabad on 17 September. The permission for the use of the venue was cancelled and almost all the leaders coming to attend the meet were arrested on the way. The borders of the city were sealed and Allahabad was swarming with policemen on the day of the event. But despite all these repressive measures, not only did the pro-reservationists manage to show their strength to the Uttar Pradesh government but also succeeded in sending out the message of social justice. The mahapanchayat was organized to protest the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to withdrawing the amendments made in reservation rules of Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission that favoured the deprived classes (for details see the Cover Story ‘Mandal 3.0’ of FORWARD Press, September 2013).
Sharad Yadav, who was coming to attend the mahapanchayat was arrested in Ghaziabad while the Apna Dal’s Anupriya Patel was detained at Raebareli. Udit Raj was stopped at Bamrauli airport. The police picked up pro-reservation student leaders from their hostel rooms and houses on the night of 16 September. Despite the strict vigil mounted by the police, students from various parts of the city as well as from the neighbouring districts kept pouring in. They reached the Balsen square, from where they were arrested and taken to police lines. About 10,000 students courted arrest in the temporary jail at police lines and they held the mahapanchayat there itself. Dinesh Singh Yadav, the president of the Allahabad University Students’ Union and student leaders Manoj Yadav and Mukundlal Maurya, who were on fast-unto-death demanding that permission be granted for holding the meet, were arrested on the night of 16 September and taken to Naini jail. In their absence, Lala Ram Saroj, Surendra Chaudhary and Ajit Yadav, the second-line leaders of the movement, took the lead. They held the mahapanchayat in the temporary jail and addressed the arrested students. Before being taken into custody, the pro-reservation students shouted full-throated slogans against the SP government and vowed to teach a lesson to both the SP and the BSP. Banjara Ganwar, the FORWARD Press correspondent covering the event, was also taken into custody by the police and was let off after being detained for about two hours.
Anger among Bahujan intellectuals
The Bahujan intellectuals and social activists are extremely upset by the government’s efforts to thwart the mahapanchayat. Says former IAS Shriram Yadav, “This mahapanchayat was not aimed at creating trouble. We only wanted to open a dialogue with our community, which forms the majority of the populace. But this government is out to suppress the freedom of expression. The government is encroaching upon the rights of those who have brought it to power.” A senior functionary of the UPPSC (it was after the change in the reservation rules effected by this body that the upper-caste students created a mayhem) says, “We had only begun the process of ending injustice. The rule which the anti-reservationists are describing as new is not new at all. It was made by the then state government in 1994 but had had not been implemented till now. The rule is already in force in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.” A clause in Act number 4 of UP government dated 23 March 1994 says, “If a candidate of reserved category is selected on the basis of merit in open competition with general candidates, then he would not be adjusted against reserved posts, i.e., he will be adjusted against general vacancies even if he has availed of any facility (for example relaxation in age limit).”
Be that as it may, the SP government of Uttar Pradesh is facing an explosive situation. On one hand it has to contend with the pressure of the politically and socially vocal upper-caste community while on the other it has to face the OBCs, with whom it identifies and which is no longer ready to “swallow” its anger and keep mum.
Media plays it safe
There was a change in the attitude of the Hindi media towards the reservation mahapanchayat. On 7 August, a mob of protestors had attacked the Allahabad office of Dainik Jagran for carrying anti-reservation stories. A scared Dainik Jagran chose to be a bit circumspect this time. It carried stories favouring pro-reservationists but with adequate caution. The Allahabad editions of other newspapers too were behaved sensibly. But overall, they seemed to be interested in weakening the movement of the pro-reservationists by hook or by crook.
Jan Sandesh, which was opposing the pro-reservationists till the attack on Dainik Jagran, carried a report titled “Reservation tornado rises again” in its Allahabad edition. But in its Lucknow edition, the title of the story was “Reservation tornado subsides”. The media liberally published the opinions of experts, SC decisions and quoted laws that went against the stand of the pro-reservationists. Dainik Hindustan presented the Yadav, Kurmi, Lodh and Maurya castes as villains. Dainik Jagran took the lead in describing this agitation as the agitation of only the OBCs.
Shambunath Shukla, the former editor of Amar Ujala, which is considered a progressive newspaper, made fun of Anupriya Patel, a popular leader of pro-reservationists saying that “Someone who has no political standing is trying to take advantage of one mistake of the chief minister, which has angered the Kurmis.” Reacting to the write-up, Dr Lalji Nirmal, the president of Ambedkar Mahasabha made many disclosures about Shambunath Shukla on his Facebook wall. The next day, Shambunath Shukla apologized for his article and said that he was a supporter of reservation and also that in the future, he would not use his Surname ‘Shukla’. Subsequently, he regretted that it was not possible due to some technical reasons.
By writing and publishing these kind of stories, the pro-upper-caste journalists and media houses may win the admiration of the elite sections of the society but they are fast emerging as villains for the Bahujans, who have made entry into the field of knowledge in large numbers the recent past and who understand this intellectual deceit very well.
Published in the October 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine
Forward Press also publishes books on Bahujan issues. Forward Press Books sheds light on the widespread problems as well as the finer aspects of Bahujan (Dalit, OBC, Adivasi, Nomadic, Pasmanda) society, culture, literature and politics. Contact us for a list of FP Books’ titles and to order. Mobile: +917827427311, Email: email@example.com)
The titles from Forward Press Books are also available on Kindle and these e-books cost less than their print versions. Browse and buy: