Gujjars, Rajasthan government finally set to start talking

June 9th, 2008 - 3:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Jaipur, June 9 (IANS) The Rajasthan government was Monday set to hold talks with a delegation of the Gujjar community, which has been demanding Scheduled Tribe status, to bring an end to the agitation that has lasted over a fortnight and claimed at least 39 lives. Rajasthan Mines Minister L.N. Dave and Irrigation Minister Sanwar Lal Jat would hold a preliminary round of talks with Gujjar leaders in Bayana in Bharatpur district, about 160 km from here. However, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and K.S. Bainsla, convenor of the Gujjar Sangharsh Aarakshan Samiti (pro-reservation front), would not participate in the discussion.

“We would be going to Bayana as soon as the officials there ask us to do so,” Dave told IANS.

“The state government has agreed to hold preliminary talks with Gujjar leaders in Bayana today. We have not yet received a letter from the Gujjars confirming that they will meet the ministers. However, they have assured us that they will give us the letter soon,” S.N. Thanvi, principal secretary of the water resources department, told IANS over phone from Bayana.

Thanvi has been appointed negotiator by the state government and has been camping in Bayana for the past few days.

“We have agreed for final talks in Jaipur only if the first round of talks proves to be fruitful,” Bainsla said.

The decision to accept the Gujjar demand for holding talks in Bayana came after the chief minister discussed the matter with her colleagues in the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and senior government officials here Sunday.

Bainsla sent a letter to the government Friday morning that the Gujjars were ready for talks in Bayana but the government rejected the offer and said the talks could only be held in the state capital Jaipur.

Responding to this, Bainsla Saturday evening insisted on Bayana as the talks venue and said the state government was only “increasing opposition” by insisting otherwise.

Bainsla’s offer for talks came after some Gujjar leaders from across the country met here for over two hours Friday to frame a charter of demands.

The Gujjars, classified among Other Backward Communities (OBC) in Rajasthan, want to be included in the list of Scheduled Tribes for better education and job opportunities. Bainsla and hundreds of his supporters have been squatting on rail tracks near Dhumaria station, close to Bayana town.

Army and paramilitary forces continued patrolling Bharatpur, Dausa, Sawai Madhopur and Karauli districts to check violence.

Gujjars also 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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