Gujjars, Rajasthan government in stalemate over talks venue

June 7th, 2008 - 7:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Jaipur, June 7 (IANS) The stalemate between the agitating Gujjars and the Rajasthan government continued Saturday as both sides insisted on their choice of venue for talks. Colonel (retd) K.S. Bainsla, convener of the Gujjar Sangharsh Aarakshan Samiti (pro-reservation front), wrote a letter to the state government Saturday morning saying that the Gujjars were ready for talks in Bayana in Bharatpur district, where the community has been holding protests for over a fortnight demanding Scheduled Tribe status.

Rejecting the offer, the Vasundhara Raje government said talks could only be held in state capital Jaipur. Responding to this, Bainsla told television channels in Bayana that talks could only be held there and said the state government was only “increasing opposition” by insisting on Jaipuir as the talks venue.

Bainsla’s offer came after some of the Gujjar leaders from across the country met here for over two hours Friday to frame a charter of demands on which talks were to be held with the state government.

While Bainsla has maintained that the talks must be held only in Bayana, 160 km east of here, community leaders were likely to take a formal decision in response to the government stand.

On Thursday, Bainsla had said the Gujjars were ready for talks with the government. He was responding to a proposal from the government for a dialogue to resolve the issue.

“I have invited Gujjar leaders and intelligentsia from all over the country to Pilupura (Bayana) to frame a charter on which talks are to be held with the state government,” Bainsla said.

He also vowed to continue the agitation till the community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status was met. The Gujjars want this for better education and job opportunities. They are now classified among Other Backward Communisities (OBC) in Rajasthan.

For the 16th consecutive day, the Gujjars continued their agitation affecting trains and vehicular traffic on highways passing through the desert state.

At least 39 people, including a policeman, have been killed in the 16 days of agitation.

Bainsla and hundreds of his supporters have been squatting on the rail track near Dhumaria station, close to Bayana town. In adjoining Sikandra in Dausa district too, over 300 Gujjars have blocked the national highway connecting Jaipur and Agra.

The Jaipur-Agra sector has been the most hit while train movement on the Delhi-Mumbai sector has been hindered.

The army and paramilitary forces continued patrolling Bharatpur, Dausa, Sawai Madhopur and Karauli districts to check violence in some places as the standoff between the state government as Gujjars continued.

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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