More police firing deaths reported, Gujjars refuse talks

May 25th, 2008 - 12:55 pm ICT by admin  

Jaipur, May 25 (IANS) With four more deaths reported in police firing on agitating Gujjars, the toll in Saturday’s violence in Rajasthan has touched 35, authorities said Sunday. The Gujjars, who are demanding Scheduled Tribe status, have refused the state government’s offer of talks. Rajasthan Home Minister G.C. Kataria said Sunday that at least 18 people were killed and over 20 people injured after police opened fire on agitating Gujjars in Sikandra in Dausa district, over 90 km from here, Saturday evening. One policeman was killed by the agitators. “We now have information of 19, including a policeman, killed in Sikandra in Dausa district yesterday,” Kataria told IANS Sunday. The four new deaths were reported after midnight Saturday.

On Friday, 16 people, including a policeman, were killed when the Gujjars launched their ‘Rail Roko’ (rail blockade) agitation.

Kataria said the police had opened fire after a mob of Gujjars shot a policeman in the legs and tried to damage government property. “Initially, the police tried to control the violent mob by firing teargas shells. However, it did not help and the police were forced to open fire,” he added.

“We are open to talks with Gujjar leaders and have invited Colonel K.S. Bainsla for discussions today with Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje,” Kataria said.

However, Gujjars have rejected the government’s request for the talks, a community leader told IANS.

The army was called Saturday to control the violence in some places as agitators damaged buses, vandalized government property, and blockaded roads and rail tracks.

Kataria said that Gujjars continued to block the Jaipur-Agra national highway in Sikandra and had laid siege on the rail track near Dhumaria station, hampering the movement of rail traffic on the Delhi-Mumbai sector.

According to reports, a notorious dacoit, Jagan Gujjar, has joined the Gujjars’ rail roko agitation.

Director General of Police A.S. Gill said that over 6,000 people were blocking the rail track near Dhumaria. “We are working out a strategy to disperse them,” Gill said. The army has started to close in, he said.

Gill said several Gujjar leaders, including Prahlad Gunjal and Attar Singh Bhadana, were arrested.

Meanwhile, the state government has decided to take stern action against those indulging in violence. “We will not tolerate such acts,” Gill said.

Gujjars tried to block highways connecting Jaipur-Kota, Jaipur-Agra and Jaipur-Delhi. In Rajsamand district, near the lake city of Udaipur, some state highways were blocked by agitators.

The state government has stopped running public transport buses in many areas. The Gujjars, an ethnic group who rear livestock and earn a living by selling milk and other dairy products, are demanding that the community be included in the Scheduled Tribes list so that they get better education and job opportunities.

The Rajasthan government Friday imposed orders prohibiting gathering of more than four people at a time and tightened security measures in 10 districts, including state capital Jaipur. Gujjars, who belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), held protests all over Rajasthan from May 29 to June 4 last year, demanding Scheduled Tribes status. At least 26 people were killed in the violence then.

Bainsla said this time the agitation would go on till their demands are met. “We have been fooled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state for long. This time we want our demand to be accepted,” he said.

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