Gujjar, Rajasthan government talks run into trouble

June 10th, 2008 - 7:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Jaipur, June 10 (IANS) The talks between Gujjar leaders and the Rajasthan government ran into trouble Tuesday as the community insisted on the release of women protesters and withdrawal of murder charges against 20 Gujjars as pre-conditions to further talks. The Gujjar demands came as a shock to the Vasundhara Raje government, which was preparing to hold the second round of talks in the state capital here after Monday’s positive first round in Bayana, 160 km away.

Though no one from the government was ready to comment, sources close to the chief minister said efforts were on to persuade the Gujjar leadership to sort out the matter.

“Let the talks begin and these matters can easily be sorted out alongside,” said a source close to the chief minister.

In Bayana, Colonel (retd.) K.S. Bainsla, convenor of the Gujjar Sangharsh Aarakshan Samiti (pro-reservation front), told reporters: “We will only hold the talks after our women activists who were laying siege on the Jaipur-Delhi railway track are released and murder charges are lifted against 20 of our community members.”

He sent a letter to the government Tuesday detailing these conditions. The government in its reply maintained that the Gujjar leaders should come to Jaipur and these issues could then be sorted out.

The preliminary talks between the two sides over the Gujjar community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status Monday afternoon remained “constructive”, giving first signs of an end to a violent agitation for affirmative action that claimed 39 lives last month.

Rajasthan Mines Minister L.N. Dave and Irrigation Minister Sanwar Lal Jat along with irrigation secretary and chief negotiator S.N. Thanvi and the Bharatpur divisional commissioner met 37 Gujjar representatives at a government-run school in Bayana in Bharatpur district.

The talks were constructive and moved in the right direction, the Gujjar leaders told reporters after nearly three hours of discussions.

Dave said the parleys were held in a “conducive atmosphere”.

The success of the first round of talks prompted the Gujjar leadership to withdraw a call for a nationwide shutdown Tuesday.

During the talks, the Gujjar leaders focussed on three key demands - release of the Gujjars held during the agitation, restoration of power supply to some Gujjar-dominated areas and a stop to police raids in these areas.

The talks were preceded by adamant posturing by the two sides over the choice of venue.

While Gujjars insisted on holding the talks in Bayana, the flashpoint of the agitation where Bainsla and hundreds of his supporters have been blocking rail and road traffic for over a fortnight, the state government preferred Jaipur.

In a compromise, the two sides decided to hold “preliminary” talks in Bayana, followed by further discussions in Jaipur.

The Gujjars, classified among the Other Backward Communities (OBC) in Rajasthan, want to be included in the list of Scheduled Tribes for better education and job opportunities.

Army and paramilitary forces, meanwhile, continued patrolling Bharatpur, Dausa, Sawai Madhopur and Karauli districts to check violence as Bainsla and hundreds of his supporters continued to squat on rail tracks near Dhumaria station, close to Bayana town.

Earlier, Gujjars held protests all over Rajasthan from May 29 to June 4 last year to press their demand. At least 26 people were killed in the violence then.

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