Talks with Gujjar leaders on Friday (Lead)

June 12th, 2008 - 9:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Jaipur, June 12 (IANS) Talks between the Rajasthan government and leaders of the agitating Gujjar leaders on their demand for a Scheduled Tribe status for the community have been postponed to Friday morning. The talks will be held around 10.30 a.m. in the state capital, said sources in the state government.

Earlier, the government Thursday released 24 Gujjar women who were arrested during the agitation, meeting a precondition the community had set for the talks.

The additional district and sessions court in Dausa district released the women on bail.

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

“As the Dausa court has released the women on bail, we have decided to initiate talks with the Vasundhara Raje government on our charter of demands,” said Prem Singh, a Gujjar leader.

The second round of talks between the Gujjars and the state government ran into rough weather after the Gujjars laid down preconditions - that the arrested women protesters be freed and murder charges withdrawn against 20 members of the community.

The preliminary talks between the Gujjars and the Rajasthan government over the community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status on Monday afternoonwere described as “constructive” - in the first sign of an end to a violent agitation for affirmative action since May 23 that has claimed 39 lives.

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 Monday at a government school in Bayana in Bharatpur district, about 160 km from here.

During the first round, the Gujjar leaders focussed on three demands - 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.

Earlier, the Gujjars had insisted on holding the talks in Bayana, the epicentre of the agitation where hundreds of Gujjars have been blocking rail and road traffic since May 23. However, the state government was adamant that the talks could only be held in Jaipur.

In a compromise, the two sides decided to hold “preliminary” talks in Bayana, followed by more talks in Jaipur.

The Gujjars, classified in Rajasthan among Other Backward Classes (OBC) , want to be included in the list of Scheduled Tribes as they feel it would offer them better education and job opportunities.

Gujjars had 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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