Tension in Rajasthan as Gujjar agitation continues

May 24th, 2008 - 12:14 pm ICT by admin  

Jaipur, May 24 (IANS) A day after 13 people were killed in clashes between police and agitating members of the Gujjar community, tension continued Saturday in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district where the Gujjars have laid siege on a stretch of rail track. 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 it gets better education and job opportunities.

The army was called in to assist the district administration in maintaining law and order in Bayana, about 170 km from here, after Friday’s violent clashes.

Rajasthan Home Minister G.C. Kataria Saturday said police opened fire after a mob of Gujjars lynched one policeman and tried to damage railway tracks and government property. The state government has ordered a judicial probe into the police firing.

“We have information of 13 deaths, including that of a policeman, in the violence so far. Senior officials, including the director general of police, will visit the area later today and work out future strategy,” Kataria told IANS.

“We do not have the exact figure of the injured as of now. Initially, the police tried to control the violent mob by firing teargas shells and rubber bullets. However, it did not help and the police was forced to open fire,” he added.

About 200 Rapid Action Force (RAF), 300 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and 2,000 army personnel have been deployed in the violence-hit area.

Meanwhile, Gujjars have called for a shutdown in Ajmer, Bhilwara, Kota and Jhalawar districts of Rajasthan.

Kataria said Gujjar leader K.S. Bainsla, along with hundreds of his supporters, was squatting on the rail track near Dhumaria station, close to Bayana town. Bainsla heads the Gujjar Sangharsh Aarakshan Samiti, which had called for the ‘rail roko andolan’ - rail blockade.

The Rajasthan government Friday imposed orders prohibiting gathering of more than four people at a time and tightened security measures in six of the 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 that the community be included in the Scheduled Tribes category. 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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