At least five killed as Gujjars clash with police (Lead)May 23rd, 2008 - 4:39 pm ICT by admin
Jaipur, May 23 (IANS) At least five people were killed and scores injured when police opened fire in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district Friday to disperse a violent mob of Gujjars demanding Scheduled Tribe status. Eyewitnesses said at least four people were killed when police opened fire on a violent mob near Bayana, in Bharatpur district. The mob was trying to torch police vehicles.
Rajasthan home minister G.C. Kataria confirmed that five people, including a policeman, were killed in the violence. He said the police opened fire after a mob of Gujjars lynched one policeman. Four persons died in the police firing, he added.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of Gujjars were seen marching towards rail tracks to stop movement of trains on the Delhi-Mumbai route. Reports of damage to rail tracks have also come in from Hindon and Bayana. Some of the trains have been rescheduled while others are reported to be running late.
In some places in Bharatpur district, police fired teargas shells to disperse rampaging mobs.
Meanwhile, state home minister Kataria has called an emergency meeting of police and senior government officials to discuss the issue.
Earlier in the day, agitating members of the Gujjar community in Rajasthan gathered in Bharatpur district to block rail tracks even as police strengthened its force in the area.
The Gujjars, an ethnic group who rear livestock and earn a living by selling milk and other dairy products, are pressing for Scheduled Tribe status to facilitate better education and job opportunities.
The Gujjar Sangharsh Aarakshan Samiti (Gujjar pro-reservation front), which is spearheading the campaign for tribal status, had given a call for a ‘rail roko andolan’ (stop rail agitation) at Dumaria station near Bayana, about 170 km from here. Dumaria station falls on the important Delhi-Mumbai rail link.
The Rajasthan government has imposed prohibitory orders and tightened security measures in four of the Gujjar dominated districts of Rajasthan.
“We have imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 in Bharatpur, Sawai Madhopur, Karauli and Dausa. No one would be allowed to carry arms or to organise a public meeting,” Bharatpur Divisional Commissioner Niranjan Arya told IANS.
“We have also deployed additional forces, including Rajasthan Armed Constabulary and Railway Protection Force, in sensitive areas,” he added.
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 the measures taken by the government, including 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 police arresting their leaders.
Incidents of stone pelting against policemen were also reported from some areas of the district as police tried in vain to arrest K.S. Bainsla, head of the Gujjar Sangharsh Aarakshan Samiti.
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 thus giving them better employment and educational opportunities.
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.
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.