It was late in the night on December 17 when the Hyderabad police were taken by surprise as hundreds of activists from the Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti (MRPS) began marching towards Tank Bund in the heart of the city.
The MRPS has been demanding the categorisation of Scheduled Castes (SCs) to ensure judicious distribution of reservation among all SC communities.
The police, busy with the massive World Telugu Conference (WTC) being held in the city at that time, sprang into action and detained the MRPS activists.
Earlier in the day, the activists had held a meeting to commemorate Bharathi, an activist who died a month before, during a protest by the MRPS at the Hyderabad District Collectorate. When activists tried storming into the Collectorate, a melee ensued between the police and the activists. Caught in the chaos, Bharati allegedly suffered injuries to her chest and collapsed.
Among those arrested was MRPS leader Manda Krishna Madiga, who was shifted to the Kamatipura police station and later sent to the Chanchalguda Jail after being produced in front of a court.
Following this, several political leaders, from the BJP to the Congress, met Krishna in jail and demanded his release. He finally secured bail and was released from prison on Wednesday, where he was welcomed by hundreds of supporters.
The demand for categorisation of SCs is a long-standing one from the Madigas, who are considered the most disadvantaged caste among SCs.
In 2000, the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh government under Chandrababu Naidu passed the ‘Rationalisation of Reservation Act’ to categorise SCs on the basis of population.
The Act categorised SCs into A, B, C and D groups in accordance with each group’s relative backwardness and proportion of population.
However, the Supreme Court struck down the Act saying the state did not have the authority to disturb the Presidential List of SCs in the form of interference, rearrangement, regrouping or reclassification.
Following more furore by the Madiga community, in December 2004 the YS Rajasekhara Reddy led-Congress government adopted a resolution in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, seeking a constitutional amendment.
Following this, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment constituted the Usha Mehra Commission, which also favoured a constitutional amendment to classify SCs to meet state-specific demands.
However, the Centre never acted on the Commission’s report, even though it appointed a five-member commission headed by Delhi High Court’s former Chief Justice G Rohini to examine sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs). This decision was taken to ensure the more backward among the OBC communities to avail the benefits of reservation, the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry said in October this year.
The Centre’s stand
Meanwhile, pressure for the categorisation of SCs has been growing in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
The MRPS has been demanding that Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao lead an all-party delegation to New Delhi, to demand that the Centre table a constitutional amendment bill in Parliament.
While the Telangana Assembly has passed a resolution, the Centre is yet to approve it.
Addressing a massive a public meeting last year organised by the MRPS in Hyderabad’s Parade Grounds, then Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu had said he favoured the demand.
“I introduced Krishna Madiga to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. SC categorisation is on the PM’s agenda too. But it needs a law and Parliament approval, which I will work for. This is not a political movement or that of one community against another,” he was quoted as saying.