The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Two sides of the reservation divide
- Quota rivals hit the streets of the capital as protests spread across the country

New Delhi, May 2: Mirroring the divisiveness of Arjun Singh’s reservation policy, protesters hit Parliament Street in the capital today both in support of and against quotas.

“Anti-reservation is anti-national,” read placards held up by the All India Minorities’ Front. One even read: “Arrest and hang all anti-reservation elements.”

Medical and engineering students, who are against quotas, took the opposite line. “Mr. Arjun u r sick but how can I treat u wen dis is how u treat” (sic) read a poster.

To avert a possible showdown, the police dispersed the quota supporters, staging a dharna in front of Jantar Mantar, before the rival group reached.

The Minorities’ Front and the Panthers Party supporters comprised the elderly with their families. They were demanding that reservations should be extended to Muslims and Sikhs just as they would cover Hindu other backward classes.

They said the current policy is not uniform and does not provide for enough quotas in higher educational institutions to accommodate all backward communities.

The anti-quota students from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Indraprastha and Delhi Universities joined the march against the reservation policy from the Maulana Azad Medical College to Parliament Street.

The anti-quota group described the government’s reservation policy as an outcome of vote-bank politics that would help those in power divide and rule. “No to extended reservation” and “Reservation no solution” were among the slogans the students shouted. A student alleged that even politicians who were in favour of reservation did not sincerely believe in the policy. “No politician will agree to get treated by a reserved quota doctor. Look at Pramod Mahajan. They had to fly in a doctor from abroad to treat him even when there are plenty of qualified doctors in this country,” he said. The students were preparing an eight-point memorandum against reservations that would be submitted to the President.

Protest against reservation spread to various parts of the country.

In Calcutta, agitating medical students and interns said they planned to intensify the ongoing stir. Junior doctors at Chittaranjan National Medical College said they were in talks with students of all state-run medical colleges to join the agitation. “There has to be a rational explanation for reservations. You have to respect merit,” said Nishanta Deb Ghatak, house staff in the opthalmology department of CNMC.

In Mumbai, medical students of various colleges organised a demonstration at Azad Maidan, shouting slogans like “Arjun Singh hai hai”. Medical students of Banaras Hindu University also held a protest.

Students of several medical colleges in Ahmedabad decided to boycott classes for an indefinite period from today. In Patna, the protesters burnt effigies of Arjun Singh. Undergraduate students of Bangalore Medical College staged a dharna in the Victoria hospital campus.

Students of two medical colleges in Assam wore black badges.

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