Gujjars in Himachal plan protest to support Rajasthan brethren

June 12th, 2008 - 9:27 am ICT by IANS  

Shimla, June 11 (IANS) Members of the Gujjar community in Himachal Pradesh Wednesday announced that they will hold protests to support their brethren in Rajasthan who are demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for better job and educational opportunities. A prominent Gujjar leader from Himachal’s Chamba district, Liyakat Ali, told IANS that they will hold demonstrations if the ongoing talks between the Rajasthan government and Gujjars in that state, who are currently classified as Other Backward Castes (OBC), failed.

At least 39 people have been killed in the past fortnight in violence associted with protests by Gujjars in Rajasthan. The Rajasthan government is holding talks with the community leaders to bring an end to the agitation.

Gujjars also held protests all over Rajasthan from May 29 to June 4 last year to press their demand. At least 26 people were killed in the violence then.

Himachal’s Chamba district alone is home to more than 25,000 Gujjars. Though they were given tribal status by the state government in 1988, a majority of them are still living below the poverty line.

The former member of the Himachal Pradesh Gujjar Kalyan Board said if the Gujjars of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal were considered tribals, then their brothers in Rajasthan should also be given the status.

“We are one tribe having the same socio-economic and cultural background. So they (Rajasthani Gujjars) too deserved the ST status,” he said.

Ali urged Rajasthan’s Vasundhara Raje government to end “atrocities” against the protesters and give them the ST status.

Harsh Mahajan, a former legislator from Chamba, said that though the Himachal government had granted the Gujjars tribal status, their economic situation had not improved. He added that the state government should start some programmes to help them.

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