Gujjars withdraw nationwide shutdown call after ‘constructive talks’ (Roundup)

June 9th, 2008 - 11:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Jaipur, June 9 (IANS) The Gujjar community withdrew a call for nationwide shutdown Tuesday in a first sign of a peaceful end to its violent agitation for tribal status, as its representatives and the Rajasthan government finally held “constructive” discussions Monday. 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 representatives of the Gujjar community at a government school in Bayana in Bharatpur district, about 160 km from here.

However, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and colonel (retd) K.S. Bainsla, convenor of the Gujjar Sangharsh Aarakshan Samiti (pro-reservation front), did not participate in the discussion.

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

“They have also assured to withdraw the call for nationwide shutdown Tuesday,” the minister said.

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

They said the talks would continue Tuesday but the venue - Bayana or the state capital Jaipur - would be decided only after they discuss the progress of the parleys with Bainsla.

Dave said the venue of Tuesday’s discussions would be decided by Bainsla, but added: “As the first round has been successful, the next round is most likely to take place in Jaipur.”

During the talks, the Gujjar leaders focused on three key demands - release of the Gujjars held during the 18-day-old agitation, restoration of power supply to some Gujjar-dominated areas and a stop to police raids on such areas.

Earlier, the two sides had remained adamant over the choice of venue. While Gujjars insisted on holding talks in Bayana, the flashpoint of the agitation where Bainsla and his hundreds of 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” round of talks in Bayana, followed by more rounds in Jaipur.

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 (BJP) and senior government officials here Sunday.

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.

In the second round of agitation that started 18 days ago, 39 people, including a policeman, were killed as Gujjars and police clashed at many places in Rajasthan.

Army and paramilitary forces, meanwhile, 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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