Sunday, 27 September 2015

Remembering the 1981 Anti Reservation stir in Gujarat through the writings of Bhanubhai Adhvariyu

Late Shri Bhanubhai Adhvariyu, Photo and Sketch Credit:Ashokbhai Shrimali and
Mr.P.K Lunechiya

Many theories have been making rounds about the parties/people behind the current agitation by the Patel community demanding reservations in Gujarat. Many theories have been floated about the reasons behind this agitation too.  One popular theory is that it is the RSS/BJP which is promoting this agitation to actually find a reason to do away with reservations all together. This theory seems plausible also because recently the following has been in the news: "Amid the continuing Patel quota stir in Gujarat, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Sunday pitched for a review of the reservation policy, contending it has been used for political ends and suggesting setting up of an apolitical committee to examine who needs the facility and for how long." (  )

At such a time it would be interesting to know what the respected educationist, social reformer and activist Late Shri Bhanubhai Adhvariyu has noted about the 1981 anti reservation stir in Gujarat and the role of different political parties and players of the time. These select writings have been taken from the compilation of Bhanubhai’s articles in the book, “Rudra Vina No Jankar”. The translation has been done by me. 

Article dated 10-2-981 titled: “Why such ambiguity over the issue of reservations?...The pledge that was taken near the statute of Gandhiji and at no other place to start a movement against reservations, is the saddest episode of the contemporary history...Had the Chief Minister (Madhavsingh Solanki) firmly told the agitating students right at the beginning of the movement that he would prefer to give up power rather than go against the constitution and the values established by Mahatma Gandhi, this agitation would not have spread so much...medical students and association of doctors...have quoted the CM and the Home Minister (Prabodh Raval) in newspapers that they are in agreement with their demands (demands of the anti reservation agitation and have quoted the leaders as having said:), “But considering the pressures of the  political scenario, our inner voice has been suffocated.” This is a very serious charge, and they (CM and Home Minister) should deny it. And if this charge is true, Prabodhbhai and Madhavsinghbhai should tender their resignations...

"...the silence of Bhartiya Janta Party which has been accused of having instigated this (1981) agitation is both mysterious and incomprehensible. They have not opened their mouths as much as to refute the allegations against them. The Secretary or the President of the party (BJP) has not said as much that they support the statement issued by the Harijan cell which is run with its (party) support...the only pleasing exception among the political parties is that of the Gujarat Marxist Party (CPM)...the State President of the party Chandubhai Patel has issued a statement. All those upper and lower caste students who desire for a collective development will stand in agreement with the sentiment behind this statement ...”

Article dated 17-7-1981: “In Gujarat there are 15% Adivasi, 7% Harijans, and 40% castes that fall under the Baxi Panch. If other deprived and resource less castes are included then in Gujarat, the high caste is mere thirty percentage of the population...nearly seventy percentage of the population of Gujarat is living partly as slaves due to blunted/retarded development and lack of resources...if this community arises and becomes fierce, they can bring to a standstill (and closure) the cultural hub of the upper castes- the cities, markets, shopping centers, societies...and when such a closure will come, will be a permanent closure and this should be noted by the upper caste capitalists and the conservatives...”

Article dated 24-2-1981: “The capitalist and conservative constituents of the anti reservation stir should be thanked in one way because their propaganda against the backward classes has helped automatically to unite as never before the large population of the Bahujan samaj (the masses) in Gujarat...” 

Article dated 24-March-1981, titled: “Various dimensions of the struggle: After the commencement of the anti reservation stir, Chatra Yuva Sangharash Vahini, Gujarat and Medico Friends Circle have together at Vadodara, published a special issue concerning reservations...

"...In the foreword of this publication, it has been stated that, ‘During the movement several questions have come to the fore, for example the aggressive struggle between the upper caste and the Dalits...the behavior of the police towards the upper caste and the behavior of the upper caste towards the police...the behavior of the police towards Dalits...Government policies...the role played by newspapers... the role played by professionals, business class... (and) all of this should be discussed in detail. However due to it being of primary importance and also because of limited space, we have mainly focused on one particular issue (in the publication)... Nevertheless the article titled, ‘Searchlight on the so called intellectuals’ covers our response to most of the other questions also.’

(Bhanubhai:) "... There are two special features of this publication. One is that the Chatra Yuva Sangharsh Vahini youths by taking the pro poor and pro backward class approach more than their sarvodayi elders have proved that in Gujarat even now,  new blood and new life is beating in the Gandhian thoughts/philosophy... moreover the youth of Vahini have discovered their area of work and are doing foundation/basic work. Ambrish and Kirit Shah are traveling/visiting the remote Adivasi villages of Baroda and Bharuch Districts that are going to submergence because of the Narmada project.They are raising voice against the exploitation of workers in the factory of Fluorspar at Kadipani...Ishwar Makwana along with his upper caste colleagues is organizing the Harijan youth in those villages of Mehasana where Harijans have had to suffer during the (anti reservation) movement... 

"...The second feature of this publication is of the two youths of Medico Friends Circle- Dr. Ashwin and Dr.Anil Patel. During the freedom struggle, doctors and lawyers had played a very creditable role. As time went by, like in every other sector, in this sector also, economic factors have become dominant. As a result, in this (anti-reservation) agitation one section, the doctors and lawyers instead of bending towards progressive thinking turned towards reactionary actions; the exception to this is that of the doctors of the Medico Friends Circle...these doctors are different from those doctors in the city who are engaged in treating rightly or wrongly the upper and middle class people. In Delhi, working in the slums is Dr. Imrana Zaheer, working among the Santhals of Madhya Pradesh is Dr Bang, and the doctors sitting at Dharampur, Gujarat (Dr. Ashwin) and Mangrol, Rajpipla (Dr. Anil Patel) are the doctors of the working class people...

"...There is a letter from a reader...he says that on 24th of February there was a rally on behalf of Jyotiba Phule Pratishthan in Pune by the Dalits against the (anti reservation) movement in Gujarat. This rally was lead by  Maharashtra’s Janta Party leader Shri S. M. Joshi. The other leaders who participated were Shri Nanasaheb Gore, Mohan Dhariya, etc...The Janta Party of Gujarat instead of taking such a clear stand (as in Maharashtra) seems to be waiting in anticipation for the power to fall from the Congress and come to them like a jackal waiting under a tree in anticipation of the puree to fall from the crow’s mouth sitting on the tree. Had Madhavsinghbhai and Babubhai (Babubhai Jashbhai Patel, who at that time was with the Janta Party and later became the Narmada Minister during Chimanbhai Patel’s Government) together made it clear that it was their collective responsibility to address this issue then this movement would not have arrived at such an unreasonable stand...

"...even if we admit that among all the Congress leaders in Gujarat, Jinabhai (Darji ) has the capacity to lead all the backward class communities by bringing them fearlessly together on this issue, then too, if he adopts the stand of his party, he will not succeed...He will therefore have to rise above his Party (Congress) stand...he will also have to consider the ambiguous and double meaning statements on this issue by his party supremo (Indira Gandhi) in Delhi  which are similar to all the other party leaders on this issue. Regarding the movement in Gujarat, the summary of what Indiraji has said is that reservations should continue, but by doing that, injustice should not be done to those who are intelligent. Therefore Indiraji believes that continuation of reservation does lead to injustice...”

Article dated 31-3-1981: “Movement: Three pictures...there is one interesting news in the newspapers dated 23-March-1981. There was a rally by upper class brothers and sisters in Dakor on the 25th when Gujarat Bandh (closure) was called. The rally entered the Ranchodji temple. They encircled none other but the God himself. They sang anti reservation songs for hours in the premises of the temple!...let us believe that all the upper class Hindus of Gujarat are with the anti reservation stir. Still, they are just 30% of the total Hindu population. Seventy percentage of Hindu population is in favor of reservations...just because they (upper caste) have the wealth and the status,  they have monopolized many temples such as the Dakor temple. Entry to Harijans is not allowed in the temple and other castes are allowed entry only as ‘second class disciples’...

"...(the monopoly of upper caste on temples is clear from the following incident narrated in the article by Bhanubhai) We had the need to look for a place for a meeting of 50 to 60 activists on the issue of redistribution of lands of a dam in Bhiloda (in North Gujarat). On meeting the trustee of a very famous temple to get the permission of holding the meeting in the guest house of the temple, he did not refuse but said that the permission of the board of trustees is required and to be able to just give a reply, he sought fifteen days of time. Just on the second or the third day of this incident, those who had vested interest in this land, the Patel cum Rajput cum Brahmin landlords held a public meeting at the same place without any permission. Two hundred landlords were present in this public meeting and they passed a resolution to collect fifty thousand rupees to fight against our movement in the High Court...”

Some more information on the caste system of Gujarat and the anti reservation stir of the year 1981 and 1985 in the articles by Bhanubhai Adhvariyu will be covered in the next blog post.