Rajputs: contemporary issues
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Marginalisation over the years
'As a community, Rajputs have been marginalized over the years'
From Ahmedabad to Gurgaon, from Jaipur to Indore and from Jammu to Lucknow, incidents of violence over the screening of Padmaavat have lacerated northern India. And it has left social scientists divided on the possible causes leading to the Rajput mobilisation.
Udaipur-based sociologist Rajkumari Ahir says that the Rajputs as a community have been marginalized over the years. "Once they were leaders and rulers in Rajasthan. Now a large chunk among them are struggling. They have been attempting to unite to assert their existence from time to time. But the Padmaavat protest is not just limited to the Rajput community or Karni Sena. Since the characters belong to their community, they feel more connected," says Ahir, who teaches at the University College of Law.
In the book "Democratic Dynasties", political scientist Kanchan Chandra demonstrates how most among the Rajput elites stumbled through the democratic process of post-Independence India. Since 1949, Rajasthan has seen 13 CMs; BJP's Bhairon Singh Shekhawat has been the only Rajput CM of the western state.
Before the zamindari system was abolished, sociologist Yogendra Singh says, Rajputs were landholders and rentiers. "Their status was jeopardised thereafter. The better-off among them rehabilitated themselves in other walks of life. But many from the lower economic rung were left in the lurch."
When the Karni Sena was founded in 2006 in Rajasthan, the outfit was primarily viewed as a grouping of unemployed Rajput youth. In 2013,Shree Rajput Karni Sena threatened to sabotage the AICC chintan shivir in Jaipur. Their main demand was reservation for the community's economically backward members.
In May 2017, Shree Rajput Karni Sena appealed to all Rajput bodies to unite in its bid to pressure the Union government to review the reservation system. Interestingly, the demand was made in Ahmedabad. In recent years, Rajputs in western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have also asked for quota in jobs.
However, Singh does not view these developments as the growth of a common Rajput consciousness across north India. "There is no uniform pattern. One must look into regional factors rather than draw generalisations. The condition of the Rajputs in east UP is different from that of Rajasthan. But historical memory of their past achievements and mythology can be used to generate a common consciousness," he says.
Currently, India has four Rajput CMs: Yogi Adityanath (Uttar Pradesh), Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh), Jai Ram Thakur (Himachal Pradesh) and Trivendra Singh Rawat (Uttarakhand).
Sociologist Dipankar Gupta says the Padmaavat protest is not a general "Rajput" reaction; but of a few who claim to be "professional" Rajputs. "Once lumpen elements see a chance to indulge in risk-free violence, all kinds of people want to participate in this orgy. State inaction rather than Rajput enthusiasm is the cause of this mayhem. When the state lets it be known that loot and violence are risk-free, then regardless of the occasion, or pretext, there will be masses on the streets, burning, looting, killing and maiming. They are frustrated little people longing for a moment when they might vicariously feel important," he says.
Political scientist Yogendra Yadav too says that what we are witnessing on news television is not the spontaneous reaction of a community. "These protests have been manufactured for petty political motives, abetted by high political functionaries," he says.
Some communities in urban life are anxious about losing kinship ties and are constantly looking for collectivity, says Yadav. "Organisations like Karni Sena feed on this anxiety. By giving free air time, we are making petty goons community representatives. The common Rajput reaction could be vastly different if they saw the movie without all this publicity," says Yadav, also founding member of Swaraj Abhiyan.
Nonetheless, the Padmaavat protests possibly signify something deeper: the frustrations of a community that perceives itself to be left-behind in enjoying the fruits of the country's changing eco-system.
(With inputs from Geetha Sunil Pillai in Jaipur)
2018: Padmaavat unites Rajputs split by politics
Rajput members of rival parties Congress and BJP in at least three states — Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan — found themselves on the same page on ‘Padmaavat’. There is a “consensus” among Rajput members of the two parties that “sentiments of the community cannot be hurt”.
Congress MP Digvijaya Singh virtually echoed the sentiments of fellow Rajput leader and MP BJP chief Nandkumar Singh Chauhan, who had said opposition to ‘Padmaavat’ related to “respecting public feelings in a democratic set-up”. Singh said: “History should never be distorted... Any film that hurts religious or caste sentiments should not be made.”
In Rajasthan, Congress spokesperson Pratap Singh Khachariyawas had demanded a ban on the film in November, much before Vasundhara Raje said her government wanted to stop the screening in the state. “The movie distorts historical facts and that is unfortunate. The movie should not have been released at all,” said Khachariyawas.
In Gujarat, justifying the government’s ban on the film, junior state home minister Pradipsinh Jadeja had blamed the film-makers for Tuesday’s violence, citing the “distortion of history”.
In November, Congress’s Shaktisinh Gohil had taken the same stand when he sought a ban on it ahead of the state polls.