‘U-turn’ of Maharashtra government over quota to Gowaris irks Bombay High Court

Mumbai: The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday delivered a landmark ruling and granted ‘independence’ to the Gowari community. The HC in its judgment has teared into the Maharashtra government for dragging its feet for decades altogether in providing a separate and independent status for the Gowari community.

A division bench of Justices Ravi Deshpande and Arun Upadhye slammed the government for its ‘lack of seriousness’ over the issue and depriving the members of the Gowari community to avail the benefits under the Scheduled Tribe (ST) reserved category. It may be noted the Maharashtra government had in 1970s recommended the then Union government to include the community in the ST category. The government, surprisingly, took a u-turn and later refused to provide a separate status to the Gowaris – a community which has a dominant presence in Nagpur and nearby areas.

Having noted the approach of the government, the bench said, “We find the stand taken by the government is contrary to the information contained in the ancient records of Census Reports, the reports of investigation and enquiry by the Joint Committee and the Research Officers of the State Government and also the law laid down by this court as well as by the Apex Court.”

The stand of the State Government that the claim of Gowaris is required to be tested after they prove affinity with the Gond tribe, is anomalous, the bench observed. The judgment authored by Justice Deshpande also refers to the tragic incident of 1974, when nearly 114 Gowaris, mostly women and children, were crushed to death. The incident had taken place after the protesting Gowaris (against the u-turn of the government) were subjected to baton charge by the police.

The judges noted that the government has made a ‘monument’ labelled as ‘Gowari Shaheed Smarak’ to commemorate the tragic deaths of 114 members of the community. “So far as the monument – Gowari Shaheed Smarak at a prime place in the city and naming a flyover as Gowari Shaheed Flyover is concerned, it gives no solace for the lives of 114 people, who died, including the women and children, and 500 persons, who were injured in the course of baton charge. Instead, the government should have readdressed the issue with seriousness,” the judgment reads.

The judges further took into account the ‘excuse’ of the government that it has appointed a private agency – Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to study the community and provide a data to substantiate its claims to include it in the ST category. “Instead of appointing an agency, the government, if was willing and serious to address the issues, could have moved the Union government for revival of its earlier proposal to include Gowaris in the ST category. We feel that this is merely an eye-wash and a device adopted to project before this court hat the government is seriously looking into the issue,” Justice Deshpande observed.

The judgment authored by Justice Deshpande also states, “We find the stand taken by the government is contrary to the information contained in the ancient records of Census Reports, the reports of investigation and enquiry by the Joint Committee and the Research Officers of the State Government and also the law laid down by this court as well as by the Apex Court.”

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