12 killed in Gujjar violence in Rajasthan (Second Lead)

May 23rd, 2008 - 10:50 pm ICT by admin  

Jaipur, May 23 (IANS) At least 12 people were killed and scores injured in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district Friday when the police opened fire to disperse a violent mob of Gujjars demanding Scheduled Tribes status for their community. State Home Minister G.C. Kataria, while confirming that five people including a policeman were killed, said: “Gujjars have claimed that they have seven other bodies in their possession. We are trying to verify their claims”.

He said the police opened fire after a mob of Gujjars lynched one policeman and tried to damage railway track and government property.

Five persons died in the police firing, he added.

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

The minister said that Gujjar leader Colonel K.S. Bainsla, along with hundreds of his supporters, was squatting on the rail track near Dhumaria station near Bayana. “We are working out a plan to disperse the mob from there and to arrest Bainsla,” he said.

Bainsla heads the Gujjar Sangharsh Aarakshan Samiti, which has called for ‘Rail Roko Andolan’ - rail blockade.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of Gujjars marched towards the rail tracks to stop movement of trains on the Delhi-Mumbai route. There were reports of damage to rail tracks in Hindon and Bayana.

Some trains were rescheduled while others were diverted. In some places in Bharatpur district, the police fired teargas shells to disperse rampaging mobs.

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 Rajasthan government imposed orders prohibiting gathering of more than four people at a time and tightened security measures in four of the Gujjar dominated districts - Bharatpur, Sawai Madhopur, Arauli and Dausa.

A large number of policemen patrolled the district and personnel of the Railway Protection Force could be seen every 200-300 metres along the rail track.

Despite these measures taken by the government, and pre-emptive arrests of over 200 members of the community, Gujjars started gathering for the protest since early Friday. They put up barricades in their villages in a bid to stop the police from arresting their leaders.

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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