Agitating Gujjars damage buses, property in Rajasthan (Lead)

May 24th, 2008 - 10:11 pm ICT by admin  

Jaipur, May 24 (IANS) A day after 13 people were killed in clashes and police firing in Rajasthan, Gujjars in the state continued with their violent agitation for the Scheduled Tribe status for the community. The army was called in to control the violence in some places as the agitators damaged public transport buses, vandalizing government property, and blocked roads and rail tracks Saturday.

The Gujjars tried to block highways connecting the state capital Jaipur. In Sikar district, four buses were damaged and a violent mob tried to vandalize a bus stand in Sikandra on the Jaipur-Agra highway. The rail track was damaged near Dumaria railway station, affecting rail traffic on the Delhi-Mumbai sector.

Gujjars also 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 agitating Gujjars.

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

The state government has stopped running buses in many areas while there are reports of a number of trucks stranded on the Jaipur-Agra highway.

Traffic was affected on the Jaipur-Agra sector and the Jaipur-Delhi sector. “We are trying to disperse the mob from there,” a transport department official told IANS.

Meanwhile, tension continued in 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 they get better education and job opportunities.

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

“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.

The 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 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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