31 killed as Gujjar agitation spreads (Second Lead)

May 24th, 2008 - 11:36 pm ICT by admin  

Jaipur, May 24 (IANS) At least 15 people were killed in police firing on agitating Gujjars in Rajasthan Saturday, taking the toll since Friday to 31, as the community continued with its violent agitation for the Scheduled Tribes status. Rajasthan Home Minister G.C. Kataria said Saturday at least 15 people were killed and over 15 people were injured after police opened fire on agitating Gujjars in Sikandara in Dausa district of the state, over 90 km from here.

Kataria said the police opened fire after a mob of Gujjars lynched one policeman and tried to damage railway tracks and government property. The government has ordered a judicial probe into the police firing.

“Initially, the police tried to control the violent mob by firing teargas shells and rubber bullets. However, it did not help and the police was forced to open fire,” he added.

The army was called in to control violence in some places as agitators damaged public transport buses, vandalized government property, and blocked roads and rail tracks, bringing movment of people between cities to a halt.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje late Saturday evening decided to invite Colonel (retd) K.S. Bainsla, head of the Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, for talks here Sunday to find an “amicable solution”.

Rajasthan’s Director General of Police A.S. Gill told newspersons: “The firing incident occurred at around 5 p.m. when a violent mob tried to torch a police station in Sikandara. At least four persons have been killed in the firing there.”

He said the mob blocked the road, damaged a bus stand, and tried to torch a police station.

“We would not tolerate such acts,” Gill said, adding that strict action would be taken against those found indulging in violence or damaging government or private property.

He said that a strategy was being worked out to disperse Bainsla’s supporters who have laid a siege to railway tracks near Dhumaria in Bayana of Bharatpur district.

“There are over 6,000 people blocking the rail track. We are working out a strategy to disperse them,” Gill said. The army has started to close in, he said.

The top police official said a violent mob torched a police post in Karauli district.

Almost all highways were cleared of blockades Saturday afternoon and the traffic on the Jaipur-Agra highway was diverted.

Gill said several Gujjar leaders, including Prahlad Gunjal and Attar Singh Bhadana, were arrested.

Gujjars tried to block highways connecting Jaipur-Kota, Jaipur-Agra and Jaipur-Delhi. In Rajsamand district near the lake city of Udaipur, some state highways were blocked by agitators.

The army was called to assist the district the administration in maintaining law and order in Bayana, about 170 km from here, after Friday’s violent clashes.

The state government has stopped running public transport buses in many areas.

The Gujjars, an ethnic group who rear livestock and earn a living by selling milk and other dairy products, are demanding that the community be included in the Scheduled Tribes list so that they get better education and job opportunities.

About 200 Rapid Action Force (RAF), 300 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and 2,000 army personnel have been deployed in the violence-hit area.

The Rajasthan government Friday imposed orders prohibiting gathering of more than four people at a time and tightened security measures in 10 of the districts including state capital Jaipur.

Gujjars, who belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), held protests all over Rajasthan from May 29 to June 4 last year, demanding Scheduled Tribes status. At least 26 people were killed in the violence then.

Bainsla said this time the agitation would go on till their demands are met. “We have been fooled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state for long. This time we want our demand to be accepted,” he said.

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