Mandal Commission protests of 1990

Mandal commission protests of 1990 were against reservation in government jobs based on caste in India.


Mandal Commission

Mandal Commission was set up in 1979 January by Morarji Desai government to identify the socially or educationally backward classes to consider the question of seat reservations and quotas for people to redress caste discrimination, and used eleven social, economic, and educational indicators to determine backwardness. It was chaired by B. P. Mandal.[1] The commission submitted the report to the president on December 30, 1980. It recommended 27% reservation quota for OBC resulting in total 49.5% quota in government jobs and public universities.[2] V.P. Singh, the Prime Minister at the time, tried to implement its recommendations in August 1990 which led to protests.


These protests were against giving government jobs to certain castes on basis of birth rather than merit of the candidate. These protests closed roads, highways, transportation services, government services, schools, and businesses of India. Anti-reservationists protested. Student protests were planned publicly, and in advance. Protest events were photographed for many published articles of newspapers locally and nationally.[3] Protests began during the year when the eleven-year-old Mandal Commission was opened to bring into effect new government employment opportunities, reservation for backwards classes.

Between the failure to effectively control the political cost of the protests escalating enough to close parts of the nation, and an eleven-year-old human rights improvement project, were causes that ultimately led to accepting the resignation of the Janata Dal party's Prime Minister of India, V. P. Singh. Most likely, the protests were comparable to a globally largest, unified national demonstrations of a labour union strike combined with a version of a race riot.

Culturally unique features of the protests and riots were bandhs (a version of a strike), hartals (a version of a municipal shut-down), dharnas (a version of swarming). Incidents of destruction of public property, looting, and intimidation for bandhs, hartals and dharnas were published and listed geographically as travel information in newspaper articles. Articles also highlighted politicians and victims of rioting during the protests. Although not advisable, late summer travel by airline and vehicle during the protests was possible without delays, between capitals New Delhi and Chandigarh, and Shimla for example. Police prevented extending the range and duration of the strikes, and some strike activity from even occurring. A national state of emergency was largely not declared to mobilize army units against any one demonstration.. The strike helped to give large popularity to Mandal Commission report and fueled the political grouping of the OBC castes, which later helped a lot for the strengthening of regional political parties and stronger parties other than Congress and BJP.

Self immolations

Rajiv Goswami

Rajiv Goswami was the first student to attempt self-immolation while a student at Deshbandhu College, Delhi University in October, 1990 to protest against Prime Minister V.P. Singh's implementation of the Mandal Commission laws for Affirmative Action (reservation) recommendations. His action sparked a series of self-immolations by college students and led to a formidable movement against job reservations for backward castes, as recommended by the Mandal Commission.[4] He was later made the President of Delhi University's Student Union.

Surinder Singh Chauhan

Surinder Singh Chauhan was the first student to perform self-immolation while an evening student of Deshbandhu College (Delhi University) on September 24, 1990 to protest against implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendation for reservation to candidates based on birth. He left a suicide note stating that "The responsibility for my death lies with those people who consider reservation a vote bank, people like V.P. Paswan, Yadav ..."


  1. "1990: Caste Cleft". India Today. July 2, 2007. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
  2. Ramaiah, A (6 June 1992). "Identifying Other Backward Classes" (PDF). Economic and Political Weekly. pp. 1203–1207. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 December 2005. Retrieved 2006-05-27.
  3. The Tribune newspaper, 1 September 1990, Chandigarh, India.
  4. "Pioneer of anti-Mandal stir Rajiv Goswami dead". The Tribune. PTI. February 24, 2004. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
  5. "New TV serial shows both sides of Mandal divide". NDTV. IANS. November 26, 2010. Retrieved 2013-04-08.

See also

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