Unimpressed with Raje letter, Gujjars intensify stir

May 27th, 2008 - 1:08 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Sahil Makkar
Bayana (Rajasthan), May 27 (IANS) Clearly unimpressed by Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s attempts at peace by writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, thousands of more Gujjars Tuesday joined the movement for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status by blocking roads and train tracks. “We will not give up the issue without getting the state’s letter of recommendation for the inclusion of Gujjars in the ST category. The letter that she (Vasundhara Raje) has sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh only carries the old recommendations,” Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla said.

“It is an another gimmick to cheat Gujjars. We want the state government to ensure SC/ST status for Gujjars under article 342 (of the constitution). We will not rest in peace until we get the letter. We are intensifying the movement,” said the retired army colonel, who leads the Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti.

In a bid to bring the rapidly escalating tension under control, Raje had written to the prime minister asking for a meeting of chief ministers of concerned states on the issue of Gujjar reservations and recommending four to six percent quotas for the community.

But her efforts to calm the situation had little impact with hundreds of Gujjars blocking all vehicular movement on arterial highways like Jaipur-Agra, Jaipur-Alwar, Jaipur-Kota, Jaipur-Dausa.

Gujjar leader Ranbir Chandla threatened to cut milk supplies to New Delhi in the next couple of days.

“We will intensify our stir as per the directions of our leaders. We have called a shutdown in 10 districts,” he added.

In Piplupra village, where Bainsla and thousands of Gujjars have been squatting on railway tracks for the past five days, community leaders could be seen formulating the future strategy of a movement that has already claimed 37 lives.

They spread out on either side of the railway track near the Dumaria railway station, in their white kurta-pyjamas and dhotis. The aggression is mounting and the determination to get ST status to enable them to get better jobs and employment opportunities is intact.

Holding sickles and sticks, members of the traditional shepherd community, shouted slogans like ‘Gujjar Ekta Jindabad’ and ‘Arkashan Lekar Rehnege’, and ‘Colonel Tum Aage Bado, Hum Tumhare Sath hai’.

Some of those from the three districts of Karoli, Bharatpur and Dausa who have been camping here say they have not moved for five days, when the latest round of the movement began.

Bainsla and his second in command Harprasad said they had not even take a bath since the beginning of the stir Friday.

“This is a final battle. I have come from Delhi to join my community,” said R.C. Chaprana, a Gujjar.

Gumar Singh, who has come from Himachal Pradesh, added: “We will fight with guns if needed. At the end of the day, this is not my fight, it’s the community’s fight.”

A large number of women have also joined the movement.

Flaunting a sickle, one such woman, Kausla, 55, said: “I will not hesitate to kill anyone who tries to come in our way.”

“I will not get up from here till the time we get a letter from Vasundhara Raje. It is a fight for our children’s livelihood. With reservation we will have better opportunities, like the Meenas,” added 55-year-old Rupanti, who has travelled over a 100 km, to join the protest.

While the Gujjars have been classified as other backward classes (OBCs), they want ST status like the Meenas and a share of the quota pie. Ironically, OBCs get 27 percent reservation and STs 7.5 percent, but the perception is that the community will get a larger share of the quota pie with ST status.

The community had held similar protests all over Rajasthan from May 29 to June 4 last year. Normal life was paralysed and at least 26 people were killed in the violence that seemed headed towards a caste war between Meenas and Gujjars last year.

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