Gujjars, Raje government talks likely Monday

June 8th, 2008 - 10:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Jaipur, June 8 (IANS) The agitating Gujjars and the Rajasthan government were set to hold talks Monday over the community’s demands as the two sides diluted their adamant postures Sunday, the 17th day of the agitation. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Sunday agreed to hold preliminary talks at Bayana in Bharatpur district, over 160 km east of here, where Gujjars in large numbers have been camping and holding protests. The state government was earlier insisting that the talks could be held only at the state capital Jaipur.

“The state government has agreed for preliminary talks with the Gujjar leadership in Bayana. However, the government in clear terms has told Gujjars that the preliminary talks can only be held if they agree for final talks in Jaipur,” S.N. Thanvi, a senior Rajasthan government official, told IANS.

Thanvi, Rajasthan’s principal secretary for water resources, was camping in Bayana for the last few days.

“We are waiting for formal communication from the Gujjars on this proposal,” he said.

Raje took the decision after discussions with her Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) colleagues and senior officials here.

Sources close to Colonel (retd) K.S. Bainsla, leading the Gujjar agitation for a Scheduled Tribe status the community, said he was ready for preliminary talks in Bayana and would soon formally send his consent.

“Colonel Bainsla would form a delegation that will hold discussions with the government,” said Roop Singh, a prominent Gujjar leader.

Bainsla and Raje are not likely to attend the initial round of talks in Bayana, state government sources said.

On Saturday, the two sides were in a stalemate over the venue for talks.

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 only Bayana could be the 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.

For the 17th consecutive day, the Gujjars continued their protest, blocking trains and road traffic in the desert state. Bainsla and hundreds of his supporters have been squatting on rail tracks near Dhumaria station, close to Bayana town.

At least 39 people, including a policeman, have been killed in the violent clashes marking the Gujjars’ agitation.

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

However, with the first round of pre-monsoon showers hitting parts of Rajasthan, many of the protesters have started to leave the site, forcing Bainsla to urge community members to come to Bayana in thousands to fight for their cause.

“We have to be united in this fight. So please come and join our protest in big numbers,” Bainsla told his fellow Gujjars over a public address system.

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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