Gujjars, Rajasthan govt inch towards solution

June 14th, 2008 - 8:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Jaipur, June 14 (IANS) The Gujjar community, demanding tribal status, and the Rajasthan govenrment Saturday held the third round of talks, raising hopes of an amicable solution after a 23-day violent standoff. “The third round of talks were held in a much better environment then the second round,” Ramdas Agarwal, who heads the government delegation, told a press conference here Saturday.

“We have again invited Colonel (retd.) K.S. Bainsla to be part of the talks,” he said.

Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Gujjar leader Bainsla have not attended talks so far.

“We are moving towards a solution,” Agarwal said.

Masood Chaudhary, vice-chancellor of a university in Jammu and Kashmir who is heading the Gujjar delegation, said: “A five-member delegation is going to Pilupura (near Bayana) today to apprise Bainsla about the talks held so far.”

He added further talks with the government will be held here after the delegation returns.

“We are moving towards final stages of our talks,” Chaudhary said, adding any final decision will be taken only by Bainsla, convenor of the Gujjar Sangarsh Aarakshan Samiti.

Bainsla’s organisation has been spearheading the community’s agitation for Scheduled Tribe status and therefore better education and employment opportunities.

Chaudhary said the community wanted tribal status and compensation for those killed in police firing.

Though both leaders refused to give details of the three rounds of talks, sources in the state government said Gujjars were being offered four to six percent reservation under the denotified tribe category.

Meanwhile, K.L. Meena, former cabinet minister in the state government and a Bharatiua Janata Party (BJP) legislator, resigned from the assembly in protest against concessions being offered to Gujjars.

Meena, who comes from the tribal Meena community, went to assembly Speaker Sumitra Singh’s residence with his resignation letter. As she was away from Jaipur, he left his resignation at her residence.

The Meena community has opposed any move to include Gujjars in the tribal list and have also threatened a mass agitation if the government made any changes in the existing Scheduled Tribes list.

The Gujjars and the state government began talks Monday in Bayana in Bharatpur district, about 160 km from here.

The Gujjar leaders had then focussed on three conditions - release of the Gujjars held during the agitation, restoration of power supply to some Gujjar-dominated areas, and a stop to police raids in their areas.

However, the secodn round had been stalled till Thursday, when the government released 24 Gujjar women arrested during the agitation, a precondition the community had set.

The women were arrested June 6 for squatting on the railway track near Bandikui in Dausa district as part of the agitation, which affected rail traffic on the Jaipur-Delhi sector for six days. They were charged with causing damage to rail property and indulging in violence.

The Gujjars are classified as other backward classes (OBCs) in Rajasthan but they want Scheduled Tribe status that would give them a bigger share of the jobd and education quota pie. They have been agitating since May 23. The violent protests have claimed 39 lives.

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

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