Assembly elections

Gujarat Adivasi protests over ‘misuse of quota benefits’ could hurt BJP's election arithmetic

The ruling party is counting on the tribal vote to compensate for the expected erosion in Patidar support.

Adding to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s anxiety in election-bound Gujarat, anti-government protests have erupted in the Adivasi belt over the alleged misuse of reservation benefits meant for Scheduled Tribes.

The ruling party has been trying hard to win over Adivasis ahead of next month’s Assembly election to make up for the expected erosion of support among Patidars, a community who have traditionally been the party’s core constituency. But for the better part of the last two years, the Patidars have been agitating against the BJP government to demand reservations in education and employment.

The Adivasi protests are related to the large number of Scheduled Tribe certificates allegedly distributed by the state government over the last decade to members of Rabri, Bharwad and Charan communities whose forefathers lived in the Gir forest and had been granted Scheduled Tribe status in 1956, said Pradip Garashiya, president of Samast Adivasi Samaj, who is at the forefront of the agitation.

However, he contended that the policy grants reservations only to members of the Gir communities still living in the forest and not to Rabris, Bharwads or Charanas who have moved out. These communities, he said, were not Adivasis but nomadic pastoralists.

“There was nothing wrong with the 1956 order,” Garashiya said. “It became problematic only when Gujarat government issued notifications – first in 2007 and then in January 2017 – allowing descendants of the forest-dwellers anywhere to obtain ST certificates, thereby threatening to dilute reservation benefits meant for tribals.”

The notifications did not attract much attention until about three months ago, when the state recruited 68 deputy superintendents of police and deputy collectors to posts reserved for the Scheduled Tribes. It turned out that 35 of them belonged to Rabri, Bharwad and Charan communities.

As soon as the news spread, the Adivasis launched a series of protests, forcing the government on October 11 to cancel both notifications, of 2007 and 2017.

But the protests have continued, with the Adivasis demanding that Scheduled Tribe certificates given to the descendants of Gir communities who no longer live in the forest be invalidated.

Now, 116-odd Scheduled Caste groups have jointly called a state-level Adivasi convention on November 18 to decide the “future course of action” as well as their “political approach” to the upcoming election.

“Besides representatives of 116 tribal organisations, the convention at Vyra [in Tapi district] will be attended by presidents of all 29 tribal sub-castes in Gujarat as well as office-bearers of district-level tribal bodies,” said Garashiya.

Shifting ground

The growing Adivasi unrest bodes ill for the BJP. The party’s MP from Bharuch, Mansukh Vasava, suggested as much. “It is true that the benefits of reservation for tribals are being misused by others,” the former minister of state for tribal affairs said. “Elected representatives of both the Congress and the BJP are responsible for this mess because the misuse is happening since 1956. If something is not done quickly, the agitation may engulf the entire tribal belt.”

The ruling party has been trying to cobble together a new electoral coalition ever since the Patidars took to the streets in July 2015, to demand reservations. Adivasis, who form nearly 15% of Gujarat’s population and have the decisive vote in 27 reserved constituencies, are central to the BJP’s social arithmetic.

In the last Assembly election, 16 of these 27 seats went to the Congress and 10 to the BJP. The other elected the Janata Dal (United)’s Chhotubhai Vasava. This was a near repeat of 2007, when the Congress won 16 of the 26 seats reserved then, BJP nine and the Janata Dal (United) one.

This election, the BJP is confident of taking a much bigger chunk of the reserved seats. Its confidence stems mainly from the work that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the party’s parent organisation, and its so-called cultural affiliates have done in the tribal belt since RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat addressed a meeting of swayamsevaks and pracharaks from the region at Vansda in Navsari district last December.

Meanwhile, sensing an opportunity to corner the ruling party, the Congress has thrown its weight behind the “traditional Scheduled Tribes”. “The unrestrained distribution of ST certificates by the BJP government over the past few years is at the root of this problem,” the party’s Gujarat Working President Tushar Choudhary claimed. “If this is not corrected, these cardholders will end up diluting the benefits that the genuine tribals should get.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.