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The student who set himself on fire against Mandal would’ve approved of Modi’s new quota

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Father of DU student Rajeev Goswami, who self-immolated in 1990 to oppose quota for OBCs in govt jobs, says his son would be happy with quota for poor.

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government’s 10 per cent quota in jobs and education for the upper-caste poor has found an advocate in the father of the man who became the face of rage against caste-based reservations.

However, Madan Goswami, whose son Rajeev Goswami set himself on fire in September 1990 over the implementation of the Mandal committee’s recommendation to reserve 27 per cent of government jobs for other backward classes, added a note of caution.

“It will work only when it reaches the actual poor, and not the relatives of those implementing it,” said Goswami, 84, who now lives in Michigan, US, with his daughter Vijay’s family and Rajeev’s children.

Rajeev was a 20-year-old student of Delhi University’s Deshbandhu college in 1990, when he tried to immolate himself.

“I think he (Rajeev) would have been happy about the poor getting quota had he been alive today,” said Goswami.

Also read: Modi pushes upper caste quota ahead of Lok Sabha polls, but where are the jobs?

A generous man

Rajeev, who reportedly sustained 50 per cent burns in the self-immolation attempt, died in 2004, after years spent battling the damage inflicted on his health by the fire.

Goswami senior, a retired postmaster, said his son was a generous man always ready to give people the clothes off his back.

“There were days [during the winter] when he came back [from college] without a sweater or muffler,” he added.

“When we asked him about it, he used to tell us that he had met someone who didn’t have winter clothing and had given them his,” he said. “He used to feel for the poor irrespective of their caste or community.”

Asked whether quotas were a solution to poverty, Goswami said it was, but only when given without discrimination on the basis of caste and religion.

Garib ko support mil jaaye to kuch kar leta hai. Garib bacha padh likh jaaye to poore parivar ko garibi se nikaal leta hai. Brahmin bhi garib ho sakta hai, toh kya woh Brahmin hai isliye usse sahayata nahi milni chhaiye? (If poor students get an education, they can pull their whole family out of poverty. Even a Brahmin can be poor, but does that mean they don’t deserve support because they come from an upper caste?),” asked Goswami.

Also read: Why Modi govt wants quota for upper castes — their state is as pathetic as OBCs

‘Proud children’

Rajeev’s children — Simran, who turns 20 this January, and Aditya, pushing 16 — are conscious of their father’s legacy. “The children are proud of what their father stood for till the day he died,” said Vijay, their aunt and Rajeev’s sister.

The family still harbours resentment against the Congress, the biggest political force of the time that offered outside support to the coalition government that followed V.P. Singh’s, under which the Mandal recommendation was cleared.

“When he [Rajeev] was admitted to Safdarjung, not even a single Congress leader came to see him,” he added. “When a few of the other party leaders came, they were threatened by Congress leaders. No one supported us. Rajeev was then discharged without proper treatment.”

Asked if they had given up on Rajeev’s cause, opposition to caste-based quota, after his death, Goswami replied, “Not at all.

“We kept abreast of those fighting for the cause of equality. His mother Nandrani flew back to India in 2006 to lend support to the strike called by doctors and young students against reservation in medical colleges,” he added.

Nandrani passed away in 2012.

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  1. Goswami caste itself is in the OBC list of central and state lists – both. Not sure what was Rajeev Goswani protesting about. He himself was a OBC. Similarly Gosai, Swami , Jogi such Brahmins are alsi in OBC list.

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