Sunday February 18, 2018
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New caste group surfaces to counter Patels in Gujarat

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Ahmedabad: To counter liquor addiction in dry Gujarat, a group of OBCs, SCs and STs  held a show of strength under the banner of OSS Ekta Manch, telling the Gujarat government that it had not done enough for socially and economically backward people caught under the whip of illicit liquor and deprivation.

Starting as a trickle, the Vyasan Mukti rally grew into a huge gathering at the sprawling GMDC Grounds at here, with its spearhead Alpesh Thakore, who is his in 30s, claiming it was not a political show but one that aimed at bringing together deprived sections of Gujarat on a single platform for their rights.

“This is a rally to fight addiction indeed, but also for empowerment and unity of people neglected in Gujarat. Though dispersed without a support structure, the OBCs are aggressive here, and if the Thakore community opens a third eye, it could be lethal,” said Thakore, whose Thakore Ekta Sena has been quietly working in rural Gujarat for years.

Interestingly, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel wished well to the rally, as did Hardik Patel, the convenor of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti which is demanding reservation for high caste Patels in jobs and education under the OBC category.

The rally had a conglomeration of other backward classes with a majority of Thakore and Kshatriya communities joined by Dalits and tribals.

“We are not with the BJP or the Congress, but wish progress for the OBCs,” declared Thakore, a few months after a similar claim by Hardik Patel, whose father Bharat Patel is a BJP worker.

In his speech that lasted about half an hour, Thakore read out a pledge for the audience to fight addiction and come together to create a social and economic muscle that no one can ignore – like successive rulers have so far have.

“Social space, strong health and educational growth will be the result of de-addiction. If we have this no political party in Gujarat can give us the short shrift that we have been getting,” he said.

“This is the clarion call to you and this is my message to the political class in Gujarat,” he said to widespread applause.

Coming exactly four months after a massive caste rally at the same location by the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti demanding reservation for high caste Patels in jobs and education under the OBC category disrupted the political firmament, the OSS Ekta Manch gave out a strong message that they also intend to become a force in state politics.

With Patel and now Thakore, a new socio-political order is seen to be emerging in Gujarat with voices that political parties would ignore at their peril.

Political analysts like Vidyut Joshi and Achyut Yagnik say the major reason for this is that neither Patel nor Thakore are believed to have personal political ambitions, and so their support bases see them as genuine.

The new grouping can emerge as the counter to the Patel community, the youth of which has got together under the leadership of Patel, 23, over the past months – and sent the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party into a panic.

After nearly three decades, the BJP faced an unexpected debacle in the local self-government bodies, with a major role in this outcome of the Patel community, which had otherwise been the backbone of the party’s political strength in the state.(IANS)

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BJP Offers Christians a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Is Religious Pilgrimage A New Playground For The Political Parties?

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community

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In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
  • The political parties (BJP and Congress ) are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage in the coming local elections of the eastern states of India
  • The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively
  • After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022

The Campaign promises during the elections times are quite bizarre nowadays, from “I’ll cut your taxes,” to “vote for me, and I’ll set you free.”

In the coming local elections in the Christian- majority state of Nagaland in India the agenda by the rival BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and Congress parties are unique: “Vote for us and get either a free or a heavily subsidized pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

Yes, you read it right. The political parties are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage. The offer has been put up by the Prime Minister Modi- led BJP for the upcoming elections. Even the local partners of the Congress party are treading up the same path.

Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

The BJP has not made it clear yet if it is offering the scheme to all of India’s Christians, or only to Christians in the northeast, or only to Christians in Nagaland. The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively. Nagaland is one of smallest states of India, with the population of just under two million people.

Also Read: Muslim women can now travel for Haj without Mahram

As per the Tourism Ministry figures, around 58,000 Indian tourists came to Israel in 2017, a 47% increase from 2015.

The elections are scheduled for the February 27 in three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – later this month.

The AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also tweeted on the double standard of the government and lashed out at the government for its discriminatory decision, ending Haj subsidy but allowing subsidies to continue for Hindu pilgrimages like the Mansarovar Yatra.

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community. But recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. The government cited the reason for the subsidy withdrawal as they wanted to utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for the education of minorities, particularly girls. After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022.

Also Read: Government ends Haj subsidy as part of a new policy

The scheme is a clear cut example of hypocrisy and opportunism, especially considering the cancellation of Haj subsidies. It seems quite contrary, on the one hand, the government is cutting down the benefit scheme for one section of the society and on the other hand, some other community is been offered the same thing. Such moves bring out the double standards of the political parties just for the sake of vote bank. In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented.

In 2011, Nigeria also did something same as that of India. For many years, their government financed a trip to Mecca for Muslims, leading to some 42,000 Nigerians visiting the country. But with the change in the government, subsidies have been cut considerably and now a 12-day pilgrimage costs around 2000 dollars. The change in stance has resulted in 78% decrease from 2011.