The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A sense of deprivation is one of the sharpest spurs to violence. The outbreak of violence in Jharkhand over the demand for quotas in recruitment has to do with the sense of deprivation of pro-domicile campaigners. Their demands are not the usual bickering over caste quotas with which India has become only too familiar. Instead, they relate directly to the search for identity and for a place in the mainstream of Indian society that had given birth to the separate state of Jharkhand. The occasion for the 48-hour bandh and the violence and disorder that have accompanied it was the recruitment examination of primary school teachers, for which candidates from other states, especially Bihar and Orissa, poured into Jharkhand. For the pro-domicile groups and their followers, this was a betrayal of the most cussed kind. Without enjoying a preference in jobs in their own state, the Jharkhandis would find it impossible to make of their state what they had wanted. The strength of their feeling can be measured by the fact that in spite of the strong police presence and the obvious preparedness of the Arjun Munda government, the violence, which claimed a ten-year-old boy among its dead, could not be prevented.

Yet, even if it is possible to understand the disappointment of the pro-domicile groups, there can be no doubt that their approach to the problem is a wrong-headed one. Reservations of any kind, of caste, race, language or gender, are self-defeating in the long run. Apart from creating ill-feeling among competing groups, they have a more insidious, possibly more damaging, effect. Quotas always encourage dependence, and expectations that are not matched by merit. In the long run, this acts as a dampener to ambition, to the desire to excel and to establish an independent identity. Jharkhand is a separate state, but it is still a part of India. All Indians have the right to sit in equal competition in a public recruitment examination. This is a reality that the pro-domicile inhabitants of the state cannot escape. Recruits from outside need not mean that the new-born state is being taken over by “foreigners”; this is exactly the kind of paranoia that has to be overcome. It is more important to examine whether interested political forces are not deliberately playing up divisions, for the purposes of which such paranoia is extremely useful. The fight for a state that will bear the distinctive mark of the majority of inhabitants there cannot be either brief or easy, and it is certainly not helped by the violent resistance to outsiders shown by the pro-domicile groups at this recruitment examination.

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