Rajiv Goswami-The Burning Face Of Anti-Reservation Movement In India
Published On : 27 Feb 2017
Article Category : History
Mantriji Content Manager
In 1990, the then 20-year-old Rajeev, a commerce student of Delhi University’s Deshbandhu College, had poured oil and set himself on fire amid a crowd of supporters and spectators in one of the most divisive phases since Independence.
Like hundreds of upper caste students in northern India, Rajeev was protesting against the V.P. Singh government’s decision to revive the recommendations of the Mandal Commission, which had suggested 27 per cent quota for backward classes.
Till Rajeev lit the match, the agitation was being viewed as a campaign aimed at derailing social reforms and not many were willing to speak up in defence of the opponents of reservation — a political holy cow.
But Rajeev’s reckless act changed the tone and texture of the agitation, which overnight came to be viewed as a movement spearheaded by selfless youths. It also brought to northern India a mode of protest as well as mourning usually seen till then in Tamil Nadu — self-immolation.
Such was the polarisation over the reservation issue that it forced the hand of the BJP to step up the tempo of the temple movement to blunt the edge of V.P. Singh’s quota card. The strategy — captured in the slogan kamandal versus Mandal — eventually led to the demolition of Babri Masjid and the rise of the BJP as a party that can win elections.
Rajeev survived the self-immolation bid with 85 per cent burns but never recovered fully from the misadventure.
The anti-reservation movement eventually died down and the Narasimha Rao government, which succeeded the V.P. Singh regime, implemented the Mandal recommendations. It is said that later Rajeev used to lament that the self-immolation attempt did not have any impact.
Rajeev’s sole moment of glory since the self-immolation bid came when the human torch tag helped him win the Delhi University Students’ Union president post as an Independent. He later joined a factory owned by another brother-in-law.
The AIIMS intersection in Delhi was temporarily renamed by students to Rajiv Chowk in a celebration of his selfless act.
Rajeev’s parents, Madan Lal and Nand Rani, flew back from America after they learnt that his condition was deteriorating.
In the words of Shri Madan lal Goswami, ‘‘I stood by him during the Mandal crisis. Not for a moment did I think that he did anything wrong by immolating himself. The situation and the times demanded it. He did what was required.’’
Rajiv, a symbol of the anti-Mandal protests, died due to the health complexities aroused by the Immolation on February 24, 2004 at the age of 33.
The reservation system which was supposed to exist only till next 10 years after independence as was suggested by Baba Bhimrao Ambedkar, the Dalit activist and father of Indian constitution, still continues even after 66 years of independence .
Tags : Rajiv Burning Face Movement India