Gujjar leader Bainsla to float own party

May 28th, 2008 - 1:05 pm ICT by admin  

By Sahil Makkar
Bayana (Rajasthan), May 28 (IANS) Kirori Singh Bainsla, the former Indian Army colonel leading the protests in Rajasthan by the Gujjars demanding affirmative action, has decided to float his own political party since he feels both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have cheated his largely shepherd community. “We have been always cheated by all the political parties over the issue of reservation. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has cheated Gujjars at least three times. Like her, the Congress has also made false promises,” Bainsla, the head of Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (pro-reservation movement), told IANS in an interview.

“Floating a political party in the midst of the agitation would be immature. But it is in the back of my mind and we will definitely have our own party once we get the tribal status,” he added.

Seventy-year-old Bainsla, who served in the Rajputana Rifles, feels the democratic system in India doesn’t work to everyone’s benefit.

“Since ages our community has been neglected for the sake of the others by all the political parties for their own vested reasons. Do we call it democracy? Should we not be put on equal footing with others?” Bainsla asked.

For the past six days, Bainsla and thousands of Gujjars have been squatting on railway tracks near the Dumaria railway station in Pipalpura village. The area is just a one-and-a-half hour drive from the Bharatpur bird sanctuary, a major tourist draw.

On Wednesday morning, leaders of the agitation were seen discussing their strategy. The agitation has already claimed 37 lives, mostly in police firing.

Gujjars - who number about 50 million and live mostly in Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh - in white kurta-pyjamas or dhoti-kurtas have also camped in Sikandra in Dausa district, on the Jaipur-Agra Highway. The protest has crippled rail and road traffic in large parts of western and northern India.

In a bid to appease the Gujjars, Raje wrote to the prime minister asking for a meeting of chief ministers of concerned states on the issue of Gujjar reservation and called for four to six percent quota for the community.

However, the Gujjars are not willing to trust the Raje government. They feel cheated since the state administration had reportedly promised them last year that they would be included in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category and it was on the basis of this promise that they ended their agitation that had claimed 26 lives in May-June 2007.

In Rajasthan, the Gujjars are classified as other backward classes (OBCs), but they want ST status and a share of the quota pie. Ironically, OBCs get 27 percent reservation and STs 7.5 percent in government jobs and educational institutions, but the perception is that the community will get a larger share of the quota pie with ST status since in Rajasthan there is only one ST group - the Meenas.

The Gujjars have advised their leaders to ask for the resignation of Gujjar legislators in the Raje government. Nathu Singh Gujjar serves the state as minister for cooperative development, while Kalu Lal Gujjar is the Panchayati Raj minister.

According to officials, there are at least seven Gujjar legislators in the current state assembly, while there are 30 Meenas.

If Bainsla launches his own political party before the state assembly elections, it will eat into the vote share of the national parties like BJP and Congress and affect their chances of forming the next government, political analysts say.

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