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Who are the Sainis? Listed as OBCs, but some don’t want reservation

JAMMU: On the new political landscape post August 2019, as the Center and the Union Territory administration engage in a new social engineering, different groups are seen vying for their quota of reservation.

However bizarre it may sound, a vast section in the Saini community, recently included in the Other Backward Classes list, is intensively campaigning for its exclusion from the reservation list. This view on whether or not to get the benefits of reservation has left the community split with both sides describing the other as fringe.

Jammu is witnessing a very interesting development where members of the Saini community are staging protests on the roads, against the reservation benefits granted to them by the government!

The Jammu and Kashmir Government, on October 22, expanded the social caste list by including 15 new classes to it, providing them 4 percent reservation in government jobs. The social caste list was redrawn on the recommendations of the Jammu and Kashmir Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Commission which was constituted by J&K Government in 2020, with former High Court Judge, G D Sharma as its head.

One of the 15 classes was Saini’s of Jammu and Kashmir. While the first week passed by quietly, Jammu has witnessed a bizarre situation in following days, with a score of press conferences in support of the decision, and an equal number of protests opposing the same.


Traditional landowners -zamindars, and farmers, Sainis were chiefly engaged in both agriculture and military service pre-independence and diversified into white-collar professions post-independence. While Sainis profess in both Hinduism and Sikhism, they claim to be descendants of king Shurasena, grandfather of Lord Krishna and to be related to the ancient Shoorsaini clan, noted in Puranic literature.

Estimated to be around 75 thousand in numbers across Jammu and Kashmir, the Sainis are settled majorly along the International Border in Jammu and Kathua, besides some percentage of them in Samba district of the region. In the modern times, most of the community members identify themselves as Rajputs, while some believe they are Jatts, either wearing turbans or not.

While the community has been given representation in government jobs and educational institutes as an Other Backward Class (OBC) in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh since long, their struggle for the same in Jammu and Kashmir has been going on since the 1950s.


Supporting the decision is the Jammu and Kashmir Saini Sabha (JKSS), which claims to be the real and lone representative of the community. Registered in 1984, the organisation says, it holds timely elections and has prominent personalities as its members including current president Satpal Saini, who took over from Brigadier Surjit Singh Saini in September this year, former IGP Kamal Sainia, AJKPC General Secretary and Sarpanch Gurdeep Singh Saini among others. Brigadier Singh says that JKSS has been at the forefront of the struggle for the OBC category since long, with its members visiting villages across the Jammu, Kathua and Samba districts to garner support for the quota battle for many years.

A week after the community’s inclusion in the OBC category, JKSS organised a press conference on October 28, and thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha. Hailing the decision as ‘historic’, Satpal Saini said that the inclusion was a result of the sincere decades-long struggle of the community members.

Leading the protests against the grant of OBC category is All Jammu and Kashmir Saini Sabha (AJKSS) which is led by Pritam Singh Saini, a retired official of the J&K Information department. Pritam claims that his organisation, registered in 1982, is the real representative of Sainis, while JKSS is a group of ‘10 odd people working for their personal motives’.

On October 30, Pritam led a day-long convention at Arnia, strongly opposing the OBC reservation. “Our youth are in no way less talented than other youth of the country. The community youth are highly competitive and have already made our community proud by performing excellently in tough competitions. Such type of reservation may lower the morale of youth of our community though which we cannot accept at any cost,” he had said.

Two days later, Sardar Gurdeep Saini, General Secretary AJKPC and Sarpanch Panchayat Gandli held a press conference and strongly castigated those community members who are demanding withdrawal of this reservation ‘just for their personal interest.’

“The community must beware of some disgruntled people who are demanding the exclusion of the Saini community from the OBC status list just for their personal motives and at the cost of the whole Saini Samaj,” Saini had said.

As the divide within the community was coming to the fore, All Jammu and Kashmir Saini Sabha on November 5 constituted its youth wing- All Jammu and Kashmir Kshatriya Yuva Saini Sabha (AJKKYSS) and appointed Suksham Singh as its President. While nominating the youth wing functionaries, Pritam Saini stressed that the AJKKYSS has been constituted to fight against the OBC/OSC category granted to the community, even as Saksham asserted that the youth wing will fight tooth and nail for exclusion of Saini Sabha from the reservation lists of 15 communities issued by the government.

“We do not want any sort of reservation. The entire community is standing strong with us, especially the youth. This entire scheme of granting OBC status to the Saini community is a sham. Even on the technical grounds, none of the 11 parameters formulated to identify OBCs qualify for Sainis,” Suksham tells The Dispatch.

The Mandal Commission, or the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Commission (SEBC), was established in India in 1979 with a mandate to identify the socially or educationally backward classes of India. It formulated 11 parameters, broadly based on social, educational and economic indicators.

Pritam and Suksham got a shot in the arm on November 7, when their agitation received support from Yuva Rajput Sabha (YRS), which rose to fame after their successful struggle for State Holiday on Maharaja Hari Singh earlier this year.

YRS President Rajan Singh Happy met the protesting leaders of the Saini community and extended full support to their agitation against the OBC status extended to them.

Speaking to The Dispatch, Happy said that India is changing and moving forward very fast and it is time that reservations be given on the basis of poverty. “The government must provide the benefit of reservation to economically weaker sections of the society with an aim to provide equal opportunities. Diving the people on caste lines in the name of reservation should end now,” he said.


Despite being given representation in government jobs and educational institutes as an OBC in other parts of the country, Sainis’ struggle for the same in Jammu and Kashmir has been going on since the 1950s.

“While there have been no protests or agitations on the road in this entire period, the community has been making efforts in this direction for 5-6 decades,” says Brigadier Singh, who had represented the community during the meeting with G D Sharma commission.

“We gave a 90-minute presentation to Mr Sharma and apprised him of the issues faced by the community. In the 75 years after independence, only one person has risen to the rank of Brigadier and another to the rank of Inspector General. We have had no MLA, no MLC, no Minister or MP. You can literally count on the fingers the doctors and junior scale officers in our community. None of our community members run any industry, while our women folk are largely confined to house chores. We told the commission our plight in all honesty,” says Surjit, reminiscing how the panel members spent another 15 minutes with them after the presentation and assured them of the inclusion in the reservation quota.

Pritam questions the legitimacy of Brigadier and his team’s meeting with the G D Sharma commission.

“In what capacity did they meet the commission? No survey was held, none of the community members were informed. They are not the representatives of the entire community,” he tells The Dispatch.

“We were in for a shock when we read the news of our inclusion in the OBC category. They should have informed us beforehand. And even after meeting the commission, they must have discussed the same with us,” Suksham chips in.


Quota Diaries: KYSS meets Div Com, decline grant of OBC status

They claim that those members who met the Commission are a ‘dozen odd people, who seek support from other community members to show their fake strength’, a claim which Brigadier dismisses, calling Pritam and Saksham’s organisation ‘self-styled’.

Both the groups claim support of the entire community, and accuse one-another for pursuing their respective stand for their own political interests.

Pritam and Suksham, both believe that those supporting the OBC category are doing so to gain political power.

“They want to contest the upcoming assembly election from Bishnah constituency, which is going to be reserved for OBCs, and hence are celebrating the grant of OBC status to the community,” they tell The Dispatch.

Brigadier Saini found this assertion ‘comical’ and ‘immature’, however.

“I am a 75-year-old retired man. Both my kids are settled and we come above the poverty line. The IGP (Kamal Saini) is a rich man. Gurdeep is an elected representative as well. We are all doing great by the grace of god, and contesting elections is not on our mind,” he tells The Dispatch, adding that those opposing the OBC category are doing so to win elections at Panchayat level, besides for the pride they wrongly associate with the Rajput caste.


Brigadier says that those opposing the move are doing so primarily because they believe that they are Rajputs and hence cannot be classified as OBCs.
“Their association with Yuva Rajput Sabha proves the same. Sainis are Sainis and Rajputs are Rajput- two completely different classes. They must realise this and not put the entire community into the dark of ignorance,” says Brigadier.

Suksham says while they take pride in their identity, the protests are not because of this factor only.

“Our being Rajputs can be a secondary thing. But we oppose the OBC category because we don’t want sympathy of any sort. We are extremely capable and talented and we can serve the community and the country on our own. The reservation must be given to the deserving people who are deprived of reservation benefits,” he tells The Dispatch.


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