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Quota trouble brews for MP govt, Karni Sena protest enters 4th day

Fast unto death by 7 members to press 22 demands


After the resentment among a section of OBC (Other Backward Class) communities, another trouble is brewing for Madhya Pradesh government with Karni Sena – an organisation of Rajput community – leading a sit-in agitation in the capital Bhopal for past few days. They have put forth 22 demands including reservations solely on economic criteria (scrapping of caste-based quota) and stopping of arrests under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act without a probe.

The agitation is being organised under the banner of Karni Sena Pariwar Sarva Samaj and the organisers have claimed that it has the support of different communities, including those of the reserved categories. The agitators are blocking one of the busiest roads in the city since January 8, causing a lot of problems to citizens.

Seven persons including MP chief of Karni Sena Jeevan Singh Sherpur are on a fast-unto-death since January 8, seeking written assurance from the state government on their demands. The others on fast-unto-death agitation are Shailendra Singh Jhala Bhanwar Singh Saladia, Lallan Rajput, Chandan Bodana, Vinod Sunarthi, Manvendra Sengar.

Among other demands are regarding a law for protection of interests of general category and OBC persons on the lines of SC/ST Act, age relaxation in recruitments, early recruitments on vacant posts, not increasing retirement age of government employees, relaxation of criteria in economically weaker section (EWS) quota, retracting of cases against Karni Sena members who participated in agitation against movie Padmavat and in farmers' agitation. They are also demanding implementation of Swaminathan Committee recommendations for the farming sector and exempting common food items from GST.

One of the interesting demands is regarding giving cows the status of 'national mother' and arranging purchase of cow dung and cow urine by the government to support cattle rearers. Such a scheme by the Congress government in neighbouring Chhattisgarh has become popular.

Representatives of the agitators have met state government authorities including home minister Narottam Mishra and cooperatives minister Arvind Singh Bhadoria (who is a Rajput himself), five times for talks, but there is a stalemate regarding written assurance, organising secretary Shailendra Singh Jhala has told the media.

Home minister Mishra told media on Wednesday that the agitators were not outsiders but 'own people'. “There are no differences within us brothers. We will hold discussions with them and request them. They are our own and I am sure they will come to terms with us,” Mishra said.

However, the mood of the agitation, being held at the state capital when the BJP government in the state is busy promoting investment opportunities in the state through Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and Global Investors' Summit, looks worrying for the government.

The Karni Sena is a known right-wing organisation, considered supporter of the BJP. So, more worrying is the fact that during the agitation, there have been calls for not voting for the BJP ever and reminders of the 2016 'mai ka laal' statement of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan that had angered the general category voters.

On June 12, 2016, while addressing a convention of the employees and officers of SC/ST communities, Chouhan had said that till he was there no 'mai kaa laal' (son of mother) could end caste-based reservations. He had added that the government would continue caste-based promotions and will implement it for promotions as well as contract recruitments.

This statement had caused huge uproar in general category communities and after the BJP lost the 2018 polls, there were speculations that Chouhan's statement was one of the big reasons behind it. Thus, the slogans raised during the current agitation 'dekho mama (as Chouhan is popularly called) kaun aaye..mai ka laal .. mai ka laal' (see mama who have come – mai ka laal), are causing jitters to the government. Videos of people scraping off BJP stickers from their vehicles have also gone viral.

The agitation has spread to other districts, too, and effigy of Chouhan was burnt in Khandwa on Monday, while a similar attempt was made in Ujjain on Wednesday. Many organisations have supported the agitation and have joined the crowd in Bhopal.

The opposition Congress has taken a cautious stand on the issue with MP Congress chief Kamal Nath saying that the government should talk to the agitators and find out about their issues. He said that though the protest was against the BJP government, if they wanted to talk to Congress, the party was always ready to do so.

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